Depending on where you are located, it can be very difficult in Ifa/Lukumi to find an Ile or godparents. There are many who are more than happy to take your money without actually giving you anything. They will sell you orisas, but not teach you how to care for them or work with them. There are also the overseas godparents, for whom there is a language and cultural barrier even when the best intentions are apparent. Distance makes learning and everyday situations more difficult as there may be a question without the ability for communication.
No matter what barrier you may perceive, find a house/ile that suits who you are, where you are accepted, feel comfortable and free to be yourself.
If your sexuality is not mainstream heterosexual, stop worrying and find the right house/ile for you. There are some houses that are intolerant; there are many more that are tolerant. There are some that allow homosexuals but do not allow them to progress in certain areas. Being anything other than heterosexual does not exclude you from tradition.
There is no rush, and taking your time to find out all these little details is significantly important.
This is not a standalone “religion”. If you meet a solitary priest who has no elders, run. Everyone has someone above them; the design is hierarchical. Your prospective godparents should be able to tell you who their godparents are, who their godparents godparents are, who their godparents, godparents of the godparents are and go through the lineage to where ever their lineage is from. There is also a community that surrounds the godparent, it can be a small one or a large one, but tradition is communal.
What to expect from godparents: Well, what do you want? What are you looking for? Are you interested in learning and growth? Do you do better under a more aggressive style of leadership or more subtle? Are you a “by the books” kind of person? Do you want to learn by observing or do you want formal classes? What is your learning style and what is the proposed godparent’s teaching style? Are they a match? Can you be totally honest, even when it hurts/shames you to do so? Are there times where you are made to feel very uncomfortable/insecure/belittled? Think about what you want to experience and observe the potential godparent to see if it aligns. Also consider if you may be more comfortable speaking about your most intimate questions or thoughts with a man or woman (if your godparent is not married).
If you think it is hard to pick a godparent, imagine the responsibility they have of getting new godchildren. They are going to be held responsible for your spiritual progress, actual behavior inside and outside the ile, your mouth (if you shoot it off to the wrong person), etc.. This culture is a smaller world than you think. Someone can very well be watching who knows who your godparent is, OR they can ask you who your godparent is so they can discuss your behavior with them (and you better tell them).
I am not going to comment on other lineages, but in my lineage you “present plate” to request a priest to be your godparent. A priest giving you collares, Warriors or Ikofa is not your godparent if you have not presented plate. A priest who continues to give you these things without teaching you how to care for or work with them may be having you “buy orisas.” Be cautious.
One way to be an asset to your godparents is to keep everything on the up and up as much as possible.
- Do not shop for answers.
- Going from priest to priest until you feel your questions were answered well enough.
- Going from priest to priest until you get the reading you wanted to hear.
- Do not hang around botanicas not belonging to your godparents.
- I call mine if I absolutely have to go to a botanica.
- I include what I was there for, what I bought, any problems or questions that came up during my visit and a synopsis of my behavior. The reason for this is that the community is very small and rumor mills are sometimes unavoidable.
- For the most part I avoid these entirely unless I am absolutely pressed.
- Pay your godparents for any supplies you may need or ask where would be the best place to obtain it if they do not have it available.
- I call mine if I absolutely have to go to a botanica.
Elders, as a general rule, are not particularly fond of inquisition style questioning. RESPECT is key. Do not forget you are speaking to someone with years of knowledge of secrets and tradition in that head you are disrespecting with your assault-like questioning. An elder can reject you as their godchild, especially if they sense something in or about you that is not jiving with them or their orisa. They can also reject you as a godchild if their orisa rejects you, so be prepared. Accept it and move on.
Asking appropriate questions but those above your level of initiation may elicit different responses from different priests. Some are gentle, some are informative in telling you that the question is above your level of initiation to know the answer to, some are totally evasive and act like they did not hear you, some are angry and yell because you asked a question. Again, what are you able to accept?
Intergodsibling relationships are forbidden. It is likened to incest, as is a relationship with a godparent. Cupid is not an orisa, but if he happens to strike you and someone in your ile, bring the matter to the attention of an elder (if it is true love) and see what steps need to be taken if you want to be with that person. This is best done before you sleep with him/her, not so much after.
Leaving an Ile
If your relationship with your godparent just is not working out, or you move and need to change iles, or whatever other reason pops up, communicate with your godparents. Some require you to return Warriors or other orisa, some do not. You should be able to leave in an environment of peace, love and mutual understanding. If you are threatened, you definitely need to be heading out and moving on. In my lineage, you will present plate again to attempt to end your pact with your godparent’s orisa.
No matter who you choose, you are looking for hallmarks in your life. Is your life improving? Are you progressing as an individual? Are you experiencing a draining of your finances and you are always broke while there is another fee required from you? Do you feel loved, welcomed, accepted or are you always fighting to be accepted? Are you told if you do not sleep with someone you are going to die, or the orisas say you should be the wife/husband of Xyz? (Run)
I have decided to add in that I have been through many of the negatives that I have listed above. I have been lied to, taken advantage of, was treated as a client, left ignorant, all of the above. This is the reason that I write this post. After having experienced that it has taught me the difference and I have learned to appreciate what I now have.