Iyaworaje 6 Month Update: Thoughts Before You Go

I have a quick update (on my lunch break from work) I would like to post to those who are paid up and going to make ocha within a few months to less than 1 year.

1. Take time off from work.  Do not plan to go right back after making ocha. If you ever had a bad idea,  the decision to go back to work a day or two after making ocha would be your worst idea ever.

2. If you have any doubts about your godparent(s) or padrinos, now is the time to let it all out.  Actually before you paid was the time, but this is the final chance right now before you reach the igbodu (sacred ceremonial space). Be honest with them and give them a chance to be clear with you.

3. Follow and focus primarily on all instructions given to you. Again,  speak frankly with godparents and find out all that is expected of you when they meet with you to present the instructions.  Now is the time to express any questions or concerns.

4. Get real clear about why you want to make ocha.  Even if the answer is super simple and not grand at all, at least you know what the importance is for you.

5. After ocha,  the people you think will support you can be a disappointment, while those you thought wouldn’t be supportive are your biggest cheerleaders. Don’t predetermine who you think will have your back.  You may be unpleasantly surprised.

6. Communication is key throughout the entire process.  Now is the time to increase communication and don’t fall into being an introvert (coming from an introvert). Your godparents and yugbona should not be wondering what you are thinking or how you feel.  Also,  give them space and time to respond.  They are very busy getting ready for your ocha. If you feel like you are being ignored,  read # 2 again.

7. You have to have absolute faith. If you thought you had faith before, this will be the ultimate test. You are going in blind, but will you allow yourself to be vulnerable in this process? This ties back into # 4 and what you will sacrifice to achieve your goals.

Image: Trust Fall found at https://www.slideshare.net/AIESECIntl/i-others-lead-euro-xpro/26-TrustFall
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The Beauty of Ocha Birthday Celebrations

I went to my yugbona’s ocha birthday tonight and it was truly an eye-opening, awe-inspiring experience.

All the usual aesthetics were there: the throne and panuelos beautiful, bountiful offerings, one of my godsisters made a gorgeous cake, and the overall setup. I’ve been to ocha birthdays before, and I’ve seen this many times.

What made it unique was the energy of love, support, caring, gratitude, and sense of family that I observed. I checked with other priests to make sure it wasn’t just me being new to the universe, and they felt exactly what I felt. It taught me something tonight.

In these modern times, we have all the super eye pleasing items, but on a few occasions we miss the soul pleasing things. We want to really show our appreciation to Orisa with all the lavishness, and we should. But we can also pay attention to the asé that we bring to the event as practitioners, from aleyos to beyond.

In making sure our energy is in-tuned, and with the unified thought of celebrating the anniversary of a priest being crowned, it gives way to the beauty I saw today. I am greatly humbled by this experience, and I pray to continue to witness the beauty of Lucumi tradition.

I’m at a loss for words to describe the experience in detail. All I can say is Maferefun La Regla de Ocha!

Tailor-Made

As Westerners, we grow up bombarded with a culture of commercialism. Everyone is looking for the new thing. Commercials show us either how everyone else has this and you are the only one who doesn’t, or they show you how you will have something no one else has so you want this. Our parents encourage us to grab and take advantage of everything we can. This may have a negative affect on certain aspects of how we approach African or African-American traditions.

It is not that the drive to have or do the next thing is necessarily “bad”, it all just depends on the context. African-based traditions are extremely personalized to each individual which is a unique concept when compared to religions that have broad rules that all followers are expected to follow. In Ifa and Orisha traditions, each message deals specifically with your particular energy, so that even if two people have the same odu they may manifest differently and invoke different rules.

The internet is a wonderful tool and YouTube has helped people accomplish many things, but this double-edged sword becomes an issue when someone sees a traditionalist doing something, and without direction and guidance of a godparent, this well-intended person begins to follow without knowing or understanding. What he/she is attempting to imitate may be in direct opposition with their own energy, may cause spiritual or even physical harm, or may delay him/her from taking real steps to reaching their destiny through distraction.

An example is before having people come over my house, I throw obi to make sure that they are able to stay and that their energy will work in my house. I could do a YouTube video on this, and there would be dozens of people who suddenly make it a priority to throw obi before having people over to their house. What they may not realize is that this need was a mandate specifically told to me through divination because I had issues in establishing proper boundaries for how long people could stay, and I would allow them to impose on my space. The mandate was necessary because of my inability to manage the situation so Orisha had to step in to help me out. Someone else may not have that issue, or even if they do, their energy may need a different resolution than throwing obi. Only divination with an experienced diviner would reveal what is needed.

Before adopting a practice based on something that was seen on the internet, make sure there is full understanding and guidance before adding the practice because it may not be for you or work with your energy. Don’t forget that the Odu Ifa divination system is a language that established the binary code used today to build rich computer programs. This same language carries a wealth of instruction, just as rich, for each person’s benefit with the end goal of reaching your highest destiny. There’s no need to follow something seen on the internet or something your friend does. Reach out to a godparent or a trusted diviner and get something tailor-made for you.

 

Image found at https://photoworks.org.uk/eye-feels-leah-gordon-tailors-port-au-prince/#close-no
Photographer Leah Gordon
Picture titled ‘Jean Bernadin’, 2013

Try-Try Again

I received my life reading (ita) and it discussed me being angry and nagging. An angry, nagging woman did not fit within my self-image. Although irritated at hearing this, I held the reading in the front of my mind and waited. 
 
I waited wondering what am I supposed to do with this? I heard what Oba and the Orisha said, but I was confused where to go and how to start to understand what I received. I was unsure how I am supposed to swallow this bitter pill. Then as I began swallowing it, it came to me little by little, and I discovered a few things.
Angry is anger, but anger in a larger context includes aggression. I have lots of that being an Army veteran. Some of the aggressive streaks were trained in me, but there are a few that I had before my military training.
 
When I found that I defined my anger as aggression, I was able to see instances where other people were being aggressive. Mild instances, that as an isolated event, would be readily dismissed as a time where someone showed poor behavior. However, when you begin to add together all the instances of small aggression and the numbers pile up, you think “whoa! this is a bitter, angry person!” and that is what the Orisha said to me. 
After realizing this I was able to reflect and to begin to see instances of my aggression; how and when it occurs. Then I was able to get in touch with this aggression and investigate what I was really feeling when it happened. Now I am in the place of how do I stop this? The readings tell you what the issue is, but I had to work out the how.
 
The best weapon I have used for this lately is just stopping everything. The knee-jerk reaction likely started as a coping mechanism for me to protect myself, but it no longer serves me. I need to really live and deal with these issues where I react like this. I recognize that I don’t have to feel threatened, and what’s more, I don’t have to react to the threat negatively. Actually, I don’t have to react at all.
 
I now pause. I take some breaths, I wait, I hold my tongue, I don’t move, I don’t respond, and sometimes I do this for days until I have checked-in making sure. I check my feelings, I check why I was triggered, I speak to my Ancestors and Ellegua about it, I look to see if I had a wrong perception, I go to my god-sister to discuss it (and she is wonderfully and brutally honest)… but I check-in. After check-in, then I take my time to respond, and I find that there are times I wasn’t required to respond at all. I could just let the moment pass and move on, especially when it is something that will make no difference 5 years, 5 months, or even 5 minutes from now. When I do respond, the situation has been well-thought through and most times that removes the heat from it so I can do so without the aggressiveness that harms other people and myself.
 
Does this work perfectly? No, because I am not a perfect being. Sometimes I see what I am doing, know it is negative, and do it anyway. If I wanted to be perfect I would have stayed with Olodumare and not come back to earth for a human experience. But since I did return to earth to live as a human I allow myself to be fully human and I don’t beat myself up about it. I make a note, find that new trigger, work on myself some more, and next time try again to be better.

Plan for This Blog

The elders were right, as usual, in cautioning me against abandoning this blog. 
 
What helped me to see that is the ignorance I have been experiencing now that my exterior appearance makes it extremely apparent that I am not the same as the average person walking around. Once people ask what “religion” I practice and I tell them, they then begin to express the thoughts birthed by the ignorance of Hollywood movies or TV shows. 
 
In fact, what most people do not realize is that each step of Orisha tradition is concerned with awakening and elevation (or the term enlightenment is a word most understand). It is concerned with improving a person’s humanity by which the entire world is improved. It is dealing with our own demons and breaking family patterns that some people have recognized as family curses: women who never seem to be able to get married, drug abuse, promiscuity, damaging interpersonal behavior patterns, physical abuse, and so many more patterns that people observe within their own families and in themselves.
 
African tradition was horribly demonized by many of the countries that participated in the Transatlantic Slave Trade. The former enslavers had no choice because while enslaving people their own barbaric tendencies were exposed. They also had to break the spirit of the slave by destroying their beliefs to prevent other slaves from fighting to free themselves. Slave owners all over the world looked on in horror at the Haitian Slave Revolt that liberated the slaves from France ending January 1, 1804. The secret weapon of these people was they held tightly to their beliefs, religion was the same as breathing.
 
Our culture is rich and strong, our tradition is valuable. It is sad to see the closed-minded people who fail to see the beauty in other cultures. I will continue to write, what I can, to honor the tradition I love so much. Maferefun Egun! Ase!
Featured image found at eveyo.com

Final Public Post

This post will likely be my last public post although I’ll be going back through my earlier posts and editing and deleting some of those. The tradition I practice is Orisha/Ifa tradition. I am Lucumi. As a practitioner I have to deal with misunderstanding and misconception of what this tradition is about. Our African traditions have been demonized, made into fetish, and made to be viewed as something that is wicked at worst. At best, people think all the practitioners of this tradition do is sit around and plot on others and throw witchcraft. Some think they will become the most powerful (whatever they had in mind) ruling over all others. I have even had ignorant comments from people feeling they had to ‘watch their hair’ around me for when I wanted to do something.

I can only speak for my tradition although there are thousands of others, because it is what I practice daily. The true goal of Orisha tradition is enlightenment  to translate what is happening using a familiar term most people can understand. This is the most boring answer to some people who may be disappointed, but each step is meant to bring you closer and closer to being open to receiving fundamental truths that change your perspective. First, about yourself, then about the people surrounding you and the world at large. You discover where you fit, and for what reason you are here. This tradition is no different in goal than many other religions. It is one of many paths that a person can walk if you are seeking that level of spiritual awakening.

One reason this tradition has been assigned this negative light is due to the systematic oppression of Africans and African-Americans, both in the diaspora and on the continent. The Africans (-Americans) have been viewed as savages, uncultured people who required intervention and Christianity to save themselves. In order to get someone to accept what you have to offer as being better, you first have to get them to think what they have is bad. To keep someone else from coming by and saying how good that thing is, you have to give them the bad message too or else they will ruin the game. That message was sensational in story-telling and even more sensational on film. It did a wonderful job sending the “bad” message to entire cultures of people with indoctrination of the “bad” from very young so that by the time they become adults their minds are made up without questioning why and the ignorance self-perpetuates.

What about sacrifices? I would first pose that question to other religions/traditions. How do you get halal meat if there is no butcher who can make it halal? How do you get kosher meat if there is no place to buy kosher? The answer is they have ritual slaughterers: those trained in the ritual slaughter of religiously appropriate animals. For kosher meats, this person is called Schochet. Within Orisha/Ifa tradition, only certain priests have been trained, tested by elders, and given the right to slaughter animals for religious purposes. Not every priest can do this. Another question is what about store-bought meat? How was the meat handled that people eat from local grocery stores? I can guarantee that the animal was not cared for, talked to, sung to, kept as calm as possible before slaughter. The mass slaughter process does not even make sure unconsciousness or death are instantaneous. The pig slaughterhouse near me is a prime example that the public performs worse at this process while remaining condescending when it comes to African traditional practices. All the while, other religions mandating religious slaughter get a free pass from judgement.

If you do not like praying, this is not the tradition for you. Prayer is done at a minimum of daily starting with your own head (Ori), if not most of the day in different forms. If you like denial and the false self-image you have of yourself, this is not the tradition for you. Ifa will strip away delusions and expose issues that you lie to yourself about to promote healing and improvement. If you think you can fix a problem by doing witchcraft, this is not the tradition for you. Go in front of Ifa for divination and you may be surprised to find that you are the problem and they have prescriptions of work for you to do for that as well. If you don’t like discipline, this is not the tradition for you. Not only must we be disciplined enough to adhere to taboos and spiritual laws when no one is looking, our tradition is also hierarchical so that no one is without an elder to answer to for missteps. If you are 120 years old and have no elders, then there are societies of elders (egbes) who may still have the last say.

This tradition is rich! There is not one thing that is done without a reason as I am learning, even down to the way an elder may tell you to sit. The history and culture are deeply intertwined and this tradition is ancient. It is amazing that the wisdom it has have remained relevant for thousands of years. It predates Christianity and many other modern religions. Within tradition there is instruction and training on society, leadership, civilized rule, the binary code, ethics, guides for child-rearing, guides for being a good husband or wife/father or mother, an entire corpus on humanity that would be impossible to cover in any post. It is so vast that no one person has knowledge of all the mysteries, ever. The truth is this tradition is oral, so you cannot get it from a book, YouTube, or a blog. You get it at the feet of an elder. That is one part of the reason for discontinuing public posts, because if you are still reading and not out doing, living, and learning at the feet of an elder then I am adding to the problem, not helping it. Ase O! Odaabo.

[Featured image: Ochossi by Nelson Garcia Jimenez. Found at https://www.artelista.com/en/artwork/6815104997043237-ochossi.html%5D

3 months old: A Short Look Back

October 1, 2018

… .

Looking back, I remember a time when I felt making it to this point was impossible. I don’t have the money, I don’t have the time, etc.. I thought Madrina was out of her mind when she said if you just take steps toward making ocha earnestly, you will find that things come together.

I started saving any change I had and could find. Sounds crazy but I was that lady that stopped to pick up a penny from the ground. I thought, that’s going towards my ocha and I squirreled away everything I could get my hands on. I was holding on so tightly, when I drew tarot cards for my situation I came out with the 4 of Pentacles.

I cleaned out a sopera I was going to use for Obatala and started collecting my change in there. I would count what I had weekly, roll coins, and make deposits into a separate account small amounts at a time. My husband saw me up late many nights sitting on the floor doing all of this. Next thing I know there were dollars in my Obatala pot my husband had put there along with his change.

While all of this was going on, other people were giving me things randomly, but they were things I could cross off my list and add in my basket like t-shirts and socks. There were also other little curio items friends would give to me that I could use for my Orishas whenever I got them. They didn’t know about Orisha. Someone trimmed their horse and thought I could use the hair from the tail, someone else thought I could use a bell. They would give it to me and say they didn’t know why, they just thought I could use it.

Next thing I know I had businesses that said I overpaid on something and I was getting checks coming in from unexpected places. I’m sure my Ancestors had a hand in those types of checks that I received. Once I talked to Egun about what I was working towards doors started opening.

I drug my feet about making ocha. I can’t be upset about it because there was a process I had to go through. I never came to Lucumi to be a priest. As I told Madrina, I was enjoying my childhood and wasn’t ready to “grow up”. I had to learn (the hard way) more important than my desires is doing the ebo that I was called to do. “Trust the process” Madrina would say, but I couldn’t truly understand what that meant until after everything had been done.

Brief Thought: Devils

The biggest lie that ever existed is the one man told himself.

Within the theological constructs of ATRs there is no devil. The evil present in the world is by man’s own design. It is the result of imbalance within one’s own self that causes pain. It is misalignment with the spiritual mirror image of one’s essence that lives beyond this realm. It is challenges presented meant to elevate that have been misinterpreted.

Having worked in a prison I have met some truly evil people, yet my belief holds firm.

Imagine if there was no devil to blame? The only option then would be that man would be forced to accept responsibility for his or her own actions.

Praying Aloud

There was an idea I carried for many years concerning prayer that God knows everything and knows how I feel, therefore I should not have to say it aloud. There is even a gospel song that says when you can’t say anything else when praying because the pain is so great, just say “oh!”

Being brought up in an African-American household full of strong women, we were taught to “be strong.” Sometimes being strong meant not acknowledging the pain. It will be over before you know it. God knows what you need, just move on. So I used to feel having to verbally acknowledge this pain was a form of weakness. It showed I was not strong enough and a poor example as a servant.

Since beginning to practice tradition many years ago, I found this ideology contradicted the traditional requirement that you say your prayers out loud – not in your head, not in your heart. At first this was very uncomfortable to me. I believed I was losing some (self-imagined) benefit by doing this. My weakness would be known to all spirits, elevated and low alike. However through daily practice, what I found was there was more power and healing than I could have imagined in speaking prayers aloud.

There is power in calling a thing a thing.

In other cultures where praying aloud is the standard, and people have been taught from very young different ways to describe their experience whether they use chanting, singing, or some form of prayer that is done aloud and uses vibrational energy they seem to have the strength to be able to describe very distinctly what their pain is even if they do not care to take any action to change their situation. Just being able to express a situation allows you to be able to playback the message and begin to uncover its source and make-up. It may not be external but an internal issue in its origin, or perhaps it is a mixture. Regardless of the source, it provides space for the ability to pick apart the different components which can lead to far better resolution than keeping the concept of it in your head.

There was some pain that I had about a situation that had emotions, it had gravity, it had feelings, but it did not have words that allowed me to fully express what I was enduring. When emotions are that deep it is critical to find the words in prayer. Finding the words, in itself, is an act of beginning to heal. It gives the pain definition, it provides a framework that includes the boundaries of that pain. It brings awareness to what that looks like and where it is so that an intangible emotion can be held, looked at, examined and analyzed. It removes the veil from it and makes it so you can see this thing and address it clearly. In this way you expose it, “shaming the devil” (as the expression goes) which will give you power over the situation or challenge.

You can and should go to Olodumare (God Almighty), Orisa (divine energies created by God), and Egun (Ancestors). As an added feature praying aloud allows you to take steps to begin resolution of the issue for yourself to begin to heal. While Olodumare, Orisa and Egun are working their end of the situation, there is always a “your end” of the situation where you have work to do within tradition. This form of active awareness and healing is the true basis of tradition.

There have been times that in praying aloud I realized I was completely wrong about a situation. Having the ability to call a thing a thing, and name it has given me power over the situation I was praying about. It removes delusions. If you are struggling to describe something as a rabbit, but your description is a dog, the delusion is exposed.

The vibrational ase (energy) in praying aloud can diffuse an issue by taking the heat from it or amplify an energy when needed. Once the issue or pain has a name and is defined, you can do whatever is needed to bring about the resolution, dissolve delusions, and start healing. The vibrational ase of praying aloud helps to expose it; to tell the truth to the universe about what this thing is. This is the wisdom of being required to pray aloud.

© 2018 Danielle Mayo

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