I am watching with concern and alarm the growing trend to offer consultations, initiations, seminars and introductory workshops on African Traditional Religion (ATRs) on Social Networking sites dedicated to lure newcomers into the ‘mysterious and fascinating’ world of Santería, Voodoo, Kimbisa, Palo, Macumba, Umbanda, Candomble or whichever other ATR you can list.
In my times, if you were interested in becoming part of an ATR, it was your spirits that guide you to the right place. Now, the new ‘spirit messengers’ are social networking channels such as Facebook, Websites and even Twitter that gather the spiritually curious.
On one hand I do understand the need to make a living; on the other hand, it sits like a rock on my stomach to see folks plunder the sacredness of African Traditions Religions to make a buck from every spiritually hungry person they can get their hands on.
My mother says that a fool is born every minute. So I guess the planet with its ever-growing social networks are filled with potential new business for elders and newly initiated priests and priestesses alike who are out there fishing for godchildren.
The worse part of it all is that a lot of the people that do show up to these events and that meet their godparents on-line are honestly seeking spirituality. But in the end a good deal of them become no more than a number in the initiation mill, are abandoned and even worse conned. Others will join a house but continue to be clueless, emulate their initiators and go about replicating like spiritual viruses on the Internet after receiving a couple titles. Perhaps some blessed ones will strike gold and truly find their way in this social network ATR maze.
What will be the impact for ATRs in a generation or two? That is to be seen. However, partial glimpses of the future are clearly laid out on the tendency for mixing neo-pagan practices with fragmented and commercialized houses of ATR worship, the results are simply catastrophic.
By the way, not all is bad in Social Networking-land and the blogosphere, these vehicles do present a great way to open people’s eyes, applaud what is good and expose what is wrong.
May the Orisha protect those who are out there stumbling in the dark looking for their path.
Oní Yemayá Achagbá