Day: May 28, 2015

On Not Answering the Call

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.

Form and Substance

I have in my possession a small bag of magical tools.  I made it nearly ten years ago and I rebuild its contents on a semi-annual basis.  Occasionally I bring it with me when I feel I need to go into a situation “armed for bear”, so to speak, but for the most part I leave it at home.  It is linked to me in such a way that I am able to call on the virtues of the tools it contains from any distance, and so I do not really need to have it on my person.  A few years back I was going through a very rough time in my life for reasons that I won’t get into here.  I started carrying my bag of spiritual tools with me all the time because I needed its presence there as a reminder that I was strong enough to get through the problems that were facing me.

Two years later, when I had made it through those troubles and been strengthened by them and my life was looking much better all around, I no longer carried my bag with me.  I made regular offerings to the gods and spirits that work with me, I was deepening my interaction with my own ancestors and incorporating the ancestors of my partner into that practice, I was studying new forms of magic, I was learning about local trees and herbs, I had embarked on a new spiritual path, and I was even learning a new language specifically to study some magical texts that were not available in english.  But these were things I largely did in private, or at least didn’t broadcast.  And I no longer had my bag at my side.  So imagine my surprise and bemusement when, at a time when my practice was more vitalized than it had been in years, I was told by fellow spiritual workers that I needed to rebuild my practice.

Fast-forward a few months, and a new set of problems had cropped up in my life that took up much of my time and attention.  My offerings had become irregular.  My studies had greatly diminished.  But I had my bag with me.   So things had clearly gotten better.

You might think that those of us who walk occult or spiritual paths would understand the difference between form and substance in matters like these.  That there is more to a person than just what meets the eye, and that appearances can be deceiving.  After all, our work concerns itself so much with the intangibles of essence, virtue, and spirit.  But I find that’s often not the case.

A few months ago myself and a (former) friend who considers himself a spirit-worker were driving up to an occult convention several states away.  Along the way we stopped at a highway rest stop for some food and drinks.  My then-friend looked disdainfully at the other people who had stopped there and began an extensive commentary about the “Muggle-ass Bitches” he saw.  This commentary continued for most of the way up, every time we saw a group of people who appeared ordinary–even though my own attire had more in common with them than with him.

Nor did this commentary stop when we reached the convention itself.  In a hotel full of occultists, I continued to hear at length about how he was surrounded by “Muggle-ass bitches”.  Apparently occultists need to dress a certain way, outside the norm, in order to be taken seriously?  The high point of the evening was when we headed outside for folks to grab a smoke, and he starts to rant about the “Muggle-ass looking bitches” he sees outside the doors we’re approaching.  I couldn’t have laughed harder than I did when the doors opened and we found the group outside the doors were our own friends and fellow spirit-workers who were also attending the convention.

But now, thinking back on it, it doesn’t seem as funny.  Shouldn’t spirituality be about more than mere costume?  Shouldn’t occultism be less about how one dresses, accessorizes, and applies makeup and more about what one knows and what one can do?  How many of those “muggles” we passed on the drive from Virginia to New Jersey had a richer, deeper, and more powerful spiritual practice than the one who was criticizing them?  I’d wager at least a few.

Of course, none of these observations are confined to those I know personally.  My partner touched on this a bit in his recent post, On Being Feral, when he talked about people in the occult communities posting pictures of their altars, ritual spaces, tools, luceros, prendas, etc. on Facebook or Tumblr or other blogs and social media.  This may have the outward appearance of spirituality, but is there any actual substance to it?  Or is it simply a fashion accessory?

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