Blending different practices and traditions with African tradition-based cultures is increasingly problematic. An example would be an individual who attempts to blend Wicca with Lucumi/Ifa, or attempts to blend different African traditions, such as blending Vodou with Palo.

In an article written by Dr. E. titled Cultural Appropriation of Lucumí Religion by Non-Initiates (2013), there are two components to appropriation: lack of permission and use of cultural symbols taken from another’s culture. In Yoruba/Ifa/Lucumi traditions, “permission is granted through initiation, and culture is transmitted and preserved through participation in the tradition, or through cultural immersion in the religion and its practices.”

Important points to pull from this statement is that Lucumi relies on levels of initiation and there are very closely guarded secrets to working with and caring for Orisa that are not known by non-initiates. Another point is that this is a tradition and not a religion. This is a system that is lived daily, not once per week or a couple of weeks per year. Our practices are day in, day out, whether I am in the mood or not, feeling prepared or not. To a degree, some knowledge is gained in this fashion of living the tradition. The guidance for how to live it comes from the one(s) charged with guiding your spiritual path, your godparents. Your godparents’ guide for how to live tradition comes from their godparents; their godparents’ guide for how to live… .

The point is there are no sole practitioners and permission to perform certain works is granted based on level of initiation and final approval from elders who have tested your ability to safely and properly perform a work or action. In many African traditions, several years of apprenticeship under an elder is required after initiation into priesthood before permission to practice as a priest is granted; so working with energies for another person is not something that is taken lightly.

One of the other points well made by this article is that many people are combining traditions that would never have been practiced combined by the adherents who live these traditions.

“…the tribes from where these practices originate were often mortal enemies and at war with one another in Africa and would not blend their traditions nor cross their practices. Even Vodou which does include elements from Fon, Ewe, Yoruba and Congo people (who often warred with one another) has a fixed “reglement” or traditional order that is followed in their religious practices, and it is not a free-for-all religion. Simply put, these are distinct practices and religious traditions. Someone can certainly be initiated in multiple traditions but is rare to find anyone who is initiated in more than two of them.”

(My add-in is that whether these tribes warred or not is not necessarily the issue. These are different traditions and practices that, quite frankly, are just not transferable or intermingled, period.)

Even though I have practiced Akan tradition before coming to Lucumi, it would be grossly improper for me to decide to make a make-shift shrine to Nana Esi and proclaim that this is how I am going to channel her energy to work with her. It would be disrespectful to the Abosom, Orisa, the priests of both traditions, and all the Ancestors who have died and sacrificed to preserve those traditions as I am not an initiated priest of Nana Esi; and disrespectful to my godparents and elders. It would be egotistically driven to assume I have the power to wield the energy of an Abosom or Orisa that I have not been initiated to, especially when I have no knowledge of the mysteries involved.

My advice would be if you are practicing a path and are validly doing so, then stay in your lane and stop trying to blend in another tradition for which initiation has not been received. I will stay in mine and not proclaim to work Ares with Ogun’s instruments. If you are genuinely interested in the mysteries of a tradition, find those practitioners who are verified priests and begin to earnestly study. The bottom line is that it is grossly inappropriate, disrespectful, and ignorant.

For more explanation, you can refer to

Cultural Appropriation of Lucumí Religion by Non-Initiates by Dr. E

One African Traditional Religion is Not the Same as Another

“Well simply put, we as actual initiated priests and priestesses who entered igbodú (the sacred room), who went through initiation, who paid our dues and sacrificed our lives for the orishas, are the culture bearers of this religion. We practice it as the priests who initiated us practiced it. We have verifiable lineages that are a testament to our initiation, to the preservation of our culture and to the perseverance of our ancestors in the face of adversity. We honor their sacrifice by practicing our religions the way they did – not by inventing stuff because “we feel we have the right to”.” – quoted from Dr. E’s article referenced above.

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