There is no perfect way to select godparents when entering any African Traditional Religion. But I am a keen observer, a student of the University of Hard Knocks, and, since the idea of this blog is to share lessons learned from all sort of spiritual practices, here are my two cents on how to select outstanding godparents.
When a religion become a commodity, the truly devoted tend to suffer. I have seen over and over again how people that come with a true calling to be part of the Orisha community are let down by unscrupulous iyaloshas and babaloshas (mothers and fathers of the orisha). Neophytes are rushed through stages, intimidated and even coerced to receive initiations that can simply wait, because everything, everything is a process.
Long time ago, I took the time to type some of this material on an e-mail for a person looking for an Ilé Orisha (House of Orisha). Ever since, when someone approaches me for information on initiation, I dust my old e-mail and press foward.
What is a godparent and why do we need one? A godparent is an olosha (initiated priest/ess of the orisha) who has the attitude and maturity to teach an aborisha (outsider) how to worship the orishas. The godparent is there to protect and guide you, but above all, to keep the traditions alive and hand them over as intact as possible.
Not every olosha makes a good godparent. Being initiated does not mean that one must hurry and reproduce mindlessly. Quite the contrary, it means that there is a duty to learn to keep the rules and traditions, mature and allow the energies of the orisha that was lodged in that person’s head to settle. Perhaps after ideally at least 5 years of active practice and training, and under the tulelage of his or her own godparents, should they consider having religious offsprings.
However, there seems to be a generalized belief that everyone is meant to be an initiator and that an olosha has to accept every John and Jane that comes to the Ilé in search or initiation. Big NO. If you see an olosha that has more godchildren than he or she can responsibly educate and raise, stop and think. Do you want to be one more in an osha initiation mill? Or do you want to have godparents who are willing to devotes time to train you and help you develop?
Here are some things you could consider as you evaluate who is to become your main godparent and the second godparent known as oyugbonakan.
Godparents should be:
1. A bonafide initiate with no less than five years of experience.
It usually takes time for an initiate to integrate the orisha energy with their own. It takes a lifetime to learn the rest. Ask who their godparents and oriate were and what is his or her relationshio with their elders.
2. Willing to be patient with you.
3. Willing to teach you what you need to know when you need to know. In other words, a person who understands stages of spiritual development and does not keep you behind or willingly or puts the cart before the horses and overteaches you, thus heating your head and bringing you close to initiation before your time.
4. Respectful to his/her elders and to younger members of their own ile (house).
5. Stable both emotionally as well as economically (someone broke, needy or simply greedy might sucumb to the temptation of seing you as a meal ticket). It is even better if the godparent-to-be holds a regular job and does not make a living off the religion.
6. Devoted to his/her orishas.
7. Kind to his/her family members (bloodline).
8. Honest enough to admit when he/she does not know something.
9. Resourceful enough to seek the right answers to your questions, preferably from his/her own elders.
10. A fair judge of character and a detached and respectful observant of individual situations.
11. Someone who adds a value to your life.
12. Upfront and steadfast about how things are done in the ilé.
13. Upholds the Otrisha traditions and does not have the tendency to invent and change the legacy that has been handed down from countless generations.
14. A tireless student of Orisha.
15. A person with Iwá Pelé (sound moral character).
I could keep going….but then you would be looking for Super Olosha. However, it is prudent to pay attention to details. Is this person clean and organized? Do they keep their shrine in order? What sort of godchildren are members of the Ilé? Do you think you have other things in common with them other than religion? Is the ilé peaceful or is there constant gossips, strife and drama?
Finally, before you commit to selecting a godfather/godmother and an oyugbonakán, follow the rules, ask the head orisha of each of them if you are fit to be part of that household. You may like what you see, you may feel comfortable, but Orisha always knows best.
More on protocol on the selection of an ilé osha coming soon. In the meantime I leave those of you who are actively seeking an ilé osha with a few questions:
1. What has brought you to seek the Orisha?
2. How long have you been interested in it?
3. Why do you find it appealing?
4. What Orisha do you identify the most with yourself?
5. Are you willing to be disciplined and takes things step-by-step to learn?
6. Are you willing to respect and follow spiritual elders while still keeping your own identity and communicate openly and respectfully with them?
Or course the answers are for you to keep… or share as you wish.
Oní Yemayá Achagbá