The time had come for me to go to Africa for my initiation, I had been aware of the Orishas since I was a teenager, when I had found the book on Elegua, (Elegba or Esu in Africa) but I had not realized, but for a long time that all this came from Africa, which the Cubans have been great custodians of, to some extent. After they, as slaves were dropped off in Cuba during the trans Atlantic slave trade, the African holocaust. The Cubans have developed their own system of worship and have even infused Yoruba words with Spanish words within their practice or religion which is called Lucumi or as it is commonly known, Santeria. Santeria is also referenced to as Saint worship.
When the slaves arrived in Cuba, many were Yorubas and they brought with them their religion, their way worship, being slaves they could not practice their religion openly as they had to worship as their en- slavers did and so in order to preserve their practice they had to hide the Orishas into the catholic saints of their slave owners and worship them secretly there.
The Orisha they called Elegua, became Saint Anthony, Ogun became Saint Peter, Obaluaye became Saint Lazarus, Sango became Saint Barbara and so on. This allowed the Cubans and also the Brazilians who did the same thing, (theirs is called Condomble) to serve the Orishas without being punished by their slave masters and it also helped them to cope with the horrors of slavery and being stolen/kidnapped away from their home. There are many variations to how the Yoruba religion is practiced in Cuba and Brazil as opposed to how it is done in Nigeria, and now that slavery has been done away with for however long the Cubans still have left theirs as is.
Where Brazil has abandoned to use of calling the Orishas Saints, Cuba has continued and have no mind to change or even connect with Africa so that proper correction can be added to their way of practice, affording them to practice the tradition the correct way, so for now we say they do not practice our tradition, it is only similar. For better understanding of what I am saying please read this: Very Interesting Read.
I was excited when it came time for me to go to Africa, the whole affair was very expensive, but I did not care if it cost me the world, I knew I had to get there and I had found the person with whom I was comfortable with to take me. He had talked a good game to me, explaining to me that he would be there on the compound with me and that whenever he took anyone to Africa for initiation he watched over them and saw that they indeed got what they were supposed to without being short changed. By this time I never knew which Orisha I was to receive.
A Lucumi Oriete (a male preist within the Lucumi system who did initiations), had told me that I belonged to Yemaya, which is really Yemoja (mother of fishes) the former being a Lucumi word, while the latter a Yoruba word. This turned out not to be so when I went to Nigeria. I arrived in Nigeria a day after I was supposed to, having being stuck in France for a day due to missing the plane to Nigeria the day before, the journey, if I had not missed the plane would have taken almost 18 hours. It was a very long trip.
As we arrived at Murtala Mohammed airport in Lagos Nigeria, the air was hot and sultry, and there were people bustling around looking for their luggage and I, although tired was very happy to be in Africa. The Jamaican Babalawo told me as we were on our way to the hotel where we would stay, that he could just imagine how happy my spirit family, my ancestors, were for me to be in Africa, having been the only one from my family on both sides to ever come back home. I was touched by that. I was brought up in Jamaica where Reggae music was born out of our need to go back home to Africa, out of protest and resistance by the poor and oppressed, and all my life I felt close to Africa because of how our musicians sang of the mother land, and how our elders referred to themselves.
I was a proud African, but from where I had no Idea and so I only dreamed of the mother land, I never knew that is was within my destiny to one day go, but here I was driving through the streets of Lagos, I wanted to shout “Africa, I am here!” The Rastafarian’s looked toward Ethiopia as their home, we heard stories of Nanny of the maroon one our national heroes who came from Ghana. Marcus Garvey, another of our national hero referred to himself as an African and all of us in all his speeches and pointed us there, urging us to never forget where we came from, teaching us that we were from a great race and of that we should be proud.
We in Jamaica were still connected to Africa and it was heard in our music, how we danced, our actions, even our language or rather dialect, also our foods, Dukunu (other wise known as blue drawers, the name is a Yoruba word and the food is prepared the same way). Labalaba is a Yoruba word which means butterfly, in Jamaica the word Labalaba means, you talk too much, which actually describes the flapping of the lips while talking and the flapping of the butterfly’s wings, “Yuh too labalaba”. In Jamaica we have Yabba pots, clay pots, Yabba is a town in Nigeria known for their making and distribution of clay pots.
Red Igbo (redibo, patois for a browning, someone of light complexion), red for the complexion of a person, Igbo which is one of the major tribes of Nigeria, and also in Igbo land which is the Eastern part of Nigeria, the dirt there is very red. Poto Poto (patois, meaning muddy, or mushy), Yoruba word which means muddy or sticky. My mother is from a place in Jamaica called Hanover and there you will find descendants from the Egba people from Nigeria who still celebrate to this day Yam festivals, and in neighboring Westmoreland, Jamaica you will find a place called Abeokuta which is the name a town in Ogun State Nigeria, the word Abeokuta means Under the rock and this is the very town where I received my Ifa.
As we drove through the streets of Lagos, I looked at the faces of the people, trying to see myself in them, some of them stared back at the obvious Oyinbo (white person or foreigner this is how we are refereed to regardless of skin color) who they saw passing through. We arrived at the Hotel, which looked rather like a haggard motel here in America, but it mattered not to me.
Anywhere else in the world no one could have forced me into staying at such a run down looking place, here I did not care. Looks mattered not to me, I was here for initiation and that was where all my focus was. We arrived in the Lagos in the evening so it were to be the next day that I was to be taken to the compound where I were to be initiated. See the workings of the ancestors? We arrived on the compound in the night and as we drove up, there seemed to be hundreds of people waiting for us.
When I stepped out of the car I began to feel slightly nervous, the energy was high, almost frenzied, people were singing and the drums were loud. Immediately as I stepped from the car a bunch of people all dressed in white came and held my hands with drummers and singers in tow, singing and dancing in Yoruba as if I were a long lost child who had finally returned home.
They led me into the compound, where there were more people who met me at the entrance of the compound, they threw water at my feet and told me to mash it (step in the water, this is how Osun’s children are welcomed, I had no Idea), I did as I was told and was led to stand in front a very dark skinned woman dressed in pristine white clothes, she was heavily pregnant. Standing beside her were other women and some men, all dressed in the whitest white I had ever seen. She raised her hand and the drumming and singing stopped. I stood before her and waited to see what was to happen.
A white basin filled with water was placed before me and someone had a bunch of green herbs close by. I observed men and women fully possessed and were being attended to by others. The energy was very high, and the breeze was cool and felt good upon my person. I was amazed of how calm I felt, the nervousness had left, it was as if I was in a familiar place and I had gone through this already. The pregnant woman who was to be my God mother began to Pray in Yoruba, and as she prayed the woman with the herbs and three others bent down and began washing my feet, while my God mother prayed all in attendance shouted ‘Ase’ and I was told to also say Ase which I did.
My god mother broke Obi Kola nut, which we know in Jamaica as Bisi, (but the nut form), Kola is used as an oracle within our tradition, after the washing of my feet other things were done which I cannot say here or to anyone who is not an initiate. This first step of my initiation went on for a while, after which I was brought into a room, which was also pristine white the walls, the floors, the seats, the shrines, this was Osuns room, and I was dressed in all white by the mothers and prepared beautifully with all sorts of markings.
In Africa Osun is represented by white, her color is white. I then was taken outside to Esu”s shrine. In our tradition whenever anything is done, Esu has to be attended to first, this is so by the order of God who is called Olodumare (Olo-do-ma-ray). I did not sleep that night until morning, the night was filled with the first part of the initiation and I had nine more days to go. While I cannot go into all that was done it was the most amazing thing, beside my first initiation that I had ever been through. I was never left alone and all the mothers and Babalawo’s were very attentive and kind. The Jamaican Babalawo left me on the compound, he was not there but for one day, but God and my ancestors saw me through and it was all well.
I was surprised when I saw that I was being initiated to Osun, since Lucumi had told me, Yemoja was my omo orisha. My God mother told me no I was Osun she had made sure, she said I should be glad because while Yemoja was unforgiving, Osun was very forgiving and so we proceeded. On day nine when they had to give me my Osun name, and also know the path in which my Osun came, Obara Meji came out.
I was shocked at the name, because I had heard it way before I came for my initiation, except the word Meji was added, Meji is the Yoruba word for the number two. Obara Meji fell to the earth twice, I will explain this in another post on Odu’s or our destiny, or life path. All in attendance shouted out, happy for me, as the Babalawo’s sang Obara Meji’s praise.
I wondered why everyone was so happy for me and so I asked, they told me that if a thousand people came for initiation maybe one would get Obara Meji. My God mother who over saw what was going on seemed to be very happy for me also, but I was to later find out that she would become an enemy, all because of Obara Meji. Within the Odu Obara Meji, it is warned that anyone who was born of Obara Meji would eventually be separated from their God parent or parents, of which the woman initiating me was and also the Jamaican Babalawo, bare in mind that he was not there at the compound with me while I was being initiated and I will one day post his story.
The woman has since died, almost two years after I was initiated she died. I was given an Osun name and also Obara Meji was now my Osun. Padrino I did it, Yay! I then went to Abeokuta for my initiation to Ifa, where I would receive my Ifa which is the name of my destiny. This name, my Ifa name I cannot make public, I was told why I came to earth the reason I came into being, who my parents were to me and I to them, why I had chosen the family I had, and also the role of which my children played into my life, I was given the do’s and don’ts in my life called my taboos and more.
I was given a life reading called an Ita, many Sacrifices were done during this initiation to remove a lot of bad which had been done to me throughout life and sacrifices done to clear my way in life. It was a great Journey, and I am happy that two of my children have already gone through it, this is my gift to them, their legacy, something worth more than gold or trillions of dollars, I fear for them not in life, they have Ifa!
The story continues of my journey. Here in Abeokuta I met my God father in Ifa, his name was Oluwo Okegbemi, he was 126 years old when he initiated me and never looked a day over 70 years old, a great Babalawo and what he did for me he did well, he has since made his transition, he did so at age 130, but he came to tell me after he left. Iba Oluwo Okegbemi!
He watches over me, this I know. I will speak more about him in another post, but a kind and sweet person he was. I salute him where ever he is in time and space.
Ẹni tí ò gbọ́ tẹnu ẹ̀gà, ló ńsọ pó ńpàtótó, tẹnu ẹyẹ, lẹyẹ kúkú ńsọ. / Those who didn’t hear out the palmchat bird would deride it as a noisy bird; but it no doubt has its point – Yoruba Proverb!
All religion are valid as long as it teaches peace and love – Obara Meji