by Madre La Osa
(Now, a disclaimer: If you are crowned or in these traditions, I am in no way shape or diminishing your standing or your Orisha, and come to you with the utmost respect, these are my observances, after over twenty years as an aleyo)
It was either the tail end of 2001 or the beginning of 2002, but I was about 20 or 21 years of age and walking into my first igbodu to have my first ever consultation with a babalawo. Now, I was not by any means alone, because I was with the other three members of my then ile, and everything I had heard or read beforehand has prepared me for a “deep and truly profound personal experience.” We all took our places on the mat, and I held my breath as he threw the opuele. He sat up straight and after literally half a second of looking at the opuele he threw, he looked at us all, in one big sweeping glance and announced, “You ALL must receive elekes, warriors, your one hand of Ifa, Ocha, Ibeyi, and Olokun, and you must do it fast!”
That sounded like (and to this day over ten years later) still is an enormous amount of money, time, energy and ashe, however that is not what cooled my enthusiasm like ice on a swollen knee. It was looking at all of his present godchildren and seeing at least thirty people, all crowned; the three iyawos in the corner; and the two people in the living room chatting excitedly about their own impending Ocha ceremony in less than a week.
After about another year or so, I had to sever ties with that ile, and had moved on looking for a new one, and I happened upon an Ifa house. The members themselves were fantastic (and I still to this day keep in touch and consider them to be my spiritual brothers and sisters), however after the first consult with the head priest, it was once again made clear that I had been called to priesthood. This time around, I had in fact received my elekes and my warriors, unfortunately however, the head priest decided to close down the ile at short notice, and took my warriors away claiming that Eshu told her that I had more money in my pocket at the time of my receiving them, so they were never truly paid for in full, and I should have given the money when I had it. (I was $50 short, but still bought all the supplies, items, and animals. I still paid $400 cash for my warriors. The “extra” money in my pocket was for my gas and tolls on the way home.)
So, about six years later, I got into another ile, and was once again told that I needed to be crowned at nineteen or twenty years of age, so it needed to (once again) happen as soon as possible. I got to know the head priest, her husband, and kids over the course of about two years. She seemed really sincere and it seemed that I was her only godchild, so when she made the suggestion for me to move out to LA, live in her ile, and learn first hand from her and her godfather who happens to be a VERY well known priest and drummer, I jumped at the opportunity. I took my savings of a couple grand, consolidated my belongings and jumped on a plane within three days of being invited. Within eight months and after running completely through my money, she and another devotee she had living there (who had the trust fund money readily available for his $35,000 initiation) chased me out with threats, knives, and broken glass because I had outlived my usefulness, but that full tale is a story for a different day.
See a pattern?
All of them claimed that I was to be crowned for it was DESTINED. . .as it was for every. Body. Else.
So now I ask: Where are the crown-less?
Where are those who are destined to be uncrowned devotees? Where are the custodians and helpers? The ones whose destiny is not to wear a crown but to be the hands, legs, heart, soul and backbones of these iles in these traditions? The ones whose love of the God, the Orisha, Eggun, and Egbe is enough for them. They are not called for beads, warriors, or anything else but are still thoroughly embraced by the love of their spirits, God, their ancestors, and their godsiblings.
I have yet to find yet a one in my travels.
Granted, I know that I may find a house that has them, and I myself am a proud Palo Kimbisa devotee and priest, however I know one thing:
I am still called in some way shape or form. It feels as if one would have a reminder from an unknown yet beloved spouse in the back of their head to stop at the store and get milk before you come home from work, but you keep forgetting. For years. And the reminder is getting louder every day.
It’s just that every ile I have seen, visited, danced with, worked in has all had EVERYONE called for a crown, especially if they have money, but that’s not what a crown is for, and for that reason, I have remained a “professional aleyo”. I am being the change I would like to see in these traditions, by not chasing after the beads, not counting pennies for something I know that without severe financial help I will never attain. However, I will dig the dirt, pluck the chickens, entertain the children, crack the coconuts and sing the songs until I am out of breath.
Because I am the Change, and you can’t answer your spiritual calling without Change.
Be blessed, thanks for reading.