My first introduction to Orisha tradition was through a book by Migene Gonzalez – Wippler, an author of many books on the Lucumi religion. I believe the book was called Elegua, it was in paper back and it had the image of a Lucumi made Elegua on the front cover. I did not know him as Esu back then, only Elegua, the cover was red. I have searched the internet for that book but it never came up in any of her catalog, yet I am almost certain that was the name of the book.
The book was a narrative of her life and her introduction to the tradition, which she referred to as religion. One story in the book was about her being taken to the Ocean to make an offering to what Lucumi calls Yemaya, in Africa this deity is known as Yemoja (which means mother whose children are fishes and it is her correct name, here in Nigeria she is a river deity and is worshiped as such, not belonging to the Ocean, however perhaps this is how she came to the diaspora by way of the African Holocaust, Slavery). While I read Migene’s recount of her childhood memories, I saw everything she wrote about in her very descriptive words, and so attractive was the image of the woman she described in her book, going to the Ocean with its foamy waters, having lit her white candles, praying to the deity and throwing her money in, I was drawn like a moth to a flame by the authors story, it all connected with me somewhere. The book was interesting, and I could not get enough of it, nor could I forget what I had read. I wanted to know and learn more about these magnificent African deities.
By the time I got to know one of my mentors, Mr. Mitchel, a christian man, who was one of the greatest diviners I have ever met, he read Tarot cards, and anything this man said, coming from the cards,was Law! He, like many most people had his short comings where although he was a great, and I do mean great spiritualist, he cursed the dead, any dead spirits who came around him, never mind of they were his ancestors, he would curse them and drive them away. He used them for his work, but refused to acknowledge them in the rightful way because of his Christian beliefs, he was conflicted and at the end of his life, he fell victim to Alzheimer disease, there is a correlation between high spiritual people who reject their gifts and this disease, one day I will write on it.
One day I asked Mr. Bible wielding Mitchel about Elegua, and to my surprise he told me that it was an African deity which was apart of the Santeria religion. (Santeria, being a popular name for Lucumi), he encouraged me to read further, saying that he did not know much about them, the deities, but that they were real and very strong. However the image of Elegua was daunting to say the least, but curiosity made the cat wiser, it was his nemesis who made up the rumor that it killed him!
I was curious of Elegua/Esu, the deity, he intrigued me and I feared him just a little, or rather, I feared the image projected of him. However it was the kind of sweet fear that played with a curious mind, such as I possessed, I hungered to know more, yet Christianity which was embedded deep into my mind, into my consciousness, its teachings, whispered to me an accusatory, “Heathen!
I laugh now but back then, I had a feeling of foreboding because of my curiosity of this new found information about African Spirituality. I was attracted to it mainly because it was dealing with nature and also it was being told to me by a very talented author in such a way which was not frightening like what I saw in the movies/Hollywood productions and also how society spoke about Africans, their spirituality, Obeah, Voodoo, all the stigma attached to these things, and also how the collection plate toting Pastors condemned anything which was not attached to the bible or in Jesus name.
Back then, I took the name of Jesus with me, as the christian songs reminded us Christians to do, and the thought of veering off his course was hard, but I needed to learn more, I yearned to know more, and so I prayed and I felt as if my God supported my desire, I was destined to become who I am now, I had found my path, so I searched for more, and I found it.
The first time My Lucumi Padrino divined for me with cowrie shells, I was intrigued by how much he knew about me from what seemed like simple shells, like Mr. Mitchel, he also was awesome. He spread a white piece of cloth on the table, sprinkled it with water, began a litany of prayers paying homage to his ancestors and the Orishas, while rubbing the shells methodically in between both palms (in doing this he is invoking the deities) , the recital was long and it sounded like Spanish words, which later I was to find out that it was what the Spanish people (he was Cuban) called Lucumi,which is a mixture of Spanish and Yoruba words. My heart pummeled while I waited for him to cast the oracle, in anticipation of what would be said.
I remember him telling me that the day would come when I would be doing as he and more, he told me that spirituality was my path, but I had to choose a house to belong to, meaning I had to choose whether I would be a part of the spiritual church, a part of the Voudon religion, a part of anything spiritual, because that was my way, I was born a spiritualist. All that the oracle revealed, has come to pass, my path led me to Africa, and here I am.
He was a very mysterious man, who oddly enough told me that he tried to run away from his calling. His father in Cuba was a strong Palero (Obeah man) while he was growing up, and it was revealed that he would follow into his fathers foot steps, but with his own words he told me that he did not want the job, he wanted to be “normal”, to go dancing, have many women and just live his life, this was not to be, and how fortunate for all people who knew this wonderful man, he was a true spiritualist gifted and kind. Iba Padrino, I continue to call your name!.
He ran as far as he could until he reached twenty one years old, according to him, he was in New York City one day, in his apartment sitting down watching the television, when he heard someone call his name. He looked around, because he knew that he was the only one home. He said the voice called his name again, he heard it distinctly, he looked around, slightly apprehensive, and began a silent prayer, he heard it again, and he ran to the fire escape and climbed down to the streets. He was afraid, because he knew that ‘They” had come for him. The prophecy was coming through. This happened a few more times along with other signs, and he found himself one night speaking to a man who called him by his government name, Fernando. The man told him that he could not run any more, and that to show him that he was serious, he was giving him twenty one days to see the real deal, his running days were over.
Padrino said when he woke up, he found that he could not walk, and had to be hospitalized while they ran test on him. He stayed there for exactly twenty one days, nothing was found to be wrong, and he walked out of the hospital fit and healthy, he immediately got initiated, his Omo Orisha (he was a child of Elegua) was Elegua/Esu! Twenty one being Elegua’s path or number in Lucumi.
He Padrino took me on many trips out in nature to honor and sacrifice to the Orishas, before I became initiated. He took me to the Ocean, to honor Yemoja, and after he had left my life I continued to go, often times taking my children with me, or people who wanted to come. When went to pay homage to Yemoja/Olokun, I would pray and offer her fruits, drinks, flowers and perfumes, no matter how calm the sea was before I began my prayers, as I began to pray, the waters would rush up to me, as if excited to see me, wanting to pull me closer in. It was amazing. While there, praying and singing, I always saw big white swans, two of them appear, they would stay there in front of us on the waters, never leaving until we left. This happened always. Padrino, always told me, that when I go out into nature and feed the Orishas, I will always see their sign, he taught me never to rush, but to spend time after I had finished my rituals, I have seen the benefits. He told me that I should pay attention and make what I saw, I listened, and have experienced and learned many things, and have also taught from them.
When ever I went to the river, honoring Osun, the river deity, while I prayed the leaves around would begin to blow up all around me and whoever was there with me, as if there was heavy winds and there was none! Beautiful birds wold gather around, frogs would jump in and out of the water and so many lovely signs, she had arrived to take her gifts,she was glad to see me.
Once I took my daughters to the woods to honor Ogun there, there was a river was close by, as I placed the offering to Ogun down, seven big burly black ducks, which seemed like men (don’t laugh) walked strongly up to where we stood praying at the tree, we had to back away, the birds looked mean, they certainly were not Daffy my favorite duck. The ducks then proceeded to eat everything we had placed at the root of the tree, they ate it off clean. The sacrifice was for my oldest child to get a job she had hoped to get, the moment we got home, the phone call came that she got the job, she is still there today! Ogun Yayyyyy!
Everybody has their purpose here on earth, and over time man has tried hard to understand why is he here. Self realization is important to all but focus is lost because our lives is fueled by the desire to make it. The house and the cars, the moon and the stars, and then we give one day out of the week to visit a religious institution, whether it be a Church, Mosque or the Temple. Our destiny has been laid out for us before we came into being, whatever reason we chose to reincarnate has already been set. The bulk of us has no idea or thought about our life’s purpose nor do we care to know, and so we live on until we die only to turn around and do it all over again.
I have served the Lord of the Christian faith with gladness and have come forth in presence with singing, as psalms 100 writes. I have honored my Grandmother and my mother who were Christians, (my mother was not a practicing one, but that was her belief). When I became an Adult or rather, on becoming an adult who could think for myself, I began to search my own life and I found it in this remarkable tradition.
While I explored this tradition, with the help of my earthly mentor Padrino, and with the assistance of my head, I realized that this was and is my way.
I have seen the inner workings of Osun the Orsia to whom I am an initiate of and what she has done for me, I have access to my God in a very personal way. I worship my Orisha everyday, just not a specific day, and my worship often times is with me and my deity alone who communicates with me thorough Oracle.
My belief in Orunmila can never be swayed, and I am forever in love with His/their benevolence. I find solace with them, whenever worry wants to draw near, they are my source of comfort.
My respect for my tradition goes without saying, I am an Initiate of Osun, who represents the sweet river water and more, and my name Obara Meji belongs to one of the 16 major Odu’s of Ifa, sacred binary codes of life, (Obara Meji stands in the 7th position). I have also initiated into the sacred order of Ifa, having done Itefa here in Nigeria.
I believe in my tradition, and I know that I have found my way!
I LOVE YOU ALL
Everything comes when it must, and everything happens for a reason, do not hurry your life, what is destined for you, cannot escape you, just keep the faith, be patient and be prayerful, filled with compassion, kindness and respect for all, let these qualities be among your name, God will fill in the rest…..Obara Meji!
There are no disappointments in life, only lessons learned!….Obara Meji
It is a lazy man who says “it is only because I have no time that my farm is overgrown with weeds….Yoruba Proverb