Good day to each and everyone who will pass through this blog today. I greet you in the name of Oludumare (the name for God in the Yoruba language). I greet you with the might, power and strength of Orunmila (IFA), my mother Osun and all Orishas. I salute the “Mothers” (elders of the night). I salute Èṣù the world police and messenger of Oludumare. I salute Egunguns (ancestral beings) and all beings, malevolent and benevolent which are apart of the universe and who also participate in lighting the way for human evolution and consciousness. To all initiates of IFA/Orisha tradition I greet you in the language of Ifa, which was brought to us through the holy scripture/Odu IFA , Ogunda Meji….Aboru Aboye Abosise.
This blog was submitted by long time “peeper” and “sometimer” Brian, also known as Babalorisha Aboyade, who is an initiate of the great and powerful warrior, Oya, Orisha of the winds, mistress of change, powerful huntress, who is also the hurricane, storm and the tornado…Nuh ramp wid she at all. This Orisha has done a lot for me. There was a time when a very terrible hurricane was coming to New York where I lived. I went to check IFA (cast the oracle) and I believe the odu “Okanron Meji” came down. I was told to go outside and perform sacrifice to the mighty Oya, which I did. The storm passed through and devastated New York. On my street, all cars were smashed/destroyed by fallen trees and light poles. My car was the only one untouched, although a light pole fell right by the drivers side, nothing touched my vehicle. Oya accepted the sacrifice and saved me and my children from the devastation others felt. Bwoy, mi have a story fi everything, ah whey mi come from man!
Aboyade, I thank you for this well written post, which took me on the journey with you, it was a good walk. While traveling through life, there may be many stops, places that you may think you want to settle, but until your ori (head), your inner consciousness is satisfied, you will continue your journey. People always ask me, “Obara, how do I begin my journey?” The moment you begin to inquire, you have already begun. The next and very important step is to set up your ancestral altar, this is very very important. They (your ancestors) will guide the way for you, they will show you your path.
I am very proud of you my dear for finding your path, accepting it, and sharing it. Once we as elders (this means, we who have passed through the fire of life, by finding our paths, no matter the journey, and it can be cruel/harsh/jarring to say the least) have gained some footing, in the pathway of life, then it is our responsibility to hold the lantern up and light the way for others to follow, as I am doing with this blog. In sharing this post with us, Brian, you have provided a great service to your fellow beings, because many will read this, I am sure, but if only one person is inspired by your words, and this leads him or her into higher consciousness, or sets them on their path to enlightenment, then your soul group (your spirit family) in the realm of time and space (the realm where you came from) will rejoice, because you have done your part in lighting the way for another, therefore lifting your soul group into greater consciousness in the continuum of light throughout the ethereal/cosmological world. God bless you my friend.
PS: The reference to Iyanifa in the last paragraph is to me, Obara Meji.
I often hear people say, “I am spiritual, not religious”. I get it. Organized religious institutions have fallen into disrepute. For instance, the resumé of Abrahamic religions (that is, religions derived from Abraham, the Old Testament character: Judaism, Christianity and Islam) are drenched in blood. In fact, I don’t think you can find any other institution – religious, political or governmental – that can match the body count of the ‘Abrahamic religions’. Ironically, it is these same institutions that give the greatest lip service to notions such as love, peace on earth, goodwill to all and yet are so willing to label the religious expressions of far less violent cultures as demonic and evil.
This awareness was partially responsible for leading me, a first generation uptown black yute from Kingston Ja, to cast aside the Anglicanism I was raised in to seek something different, something more…spiritual. I grew up with siblings who were older than me by 15 or more years and they were involved in the black power movement and left wing politics. In those impressionable years I was marinating in social justice issues and concerns
Riddle mi dis, riddle mi dat, guess mi dis riddle and paraps not: Where would a rebellious Jamaican yute seeking spirituality, social justice and an upful black identity turn?
Enter Rasta far I. Under the influence of herb, reggae music, firm reasonings wid elders, as well as a strong desire to try on the dreadlocks image I embraced Rasta. From the start though, I must admit that never really fit into Rasta Orthodoxy. I love the way of life but mi neva hug up the bible like most of my bredrins an sistrens in the movement. I was strongly influenced by the overstanding conveyed by Mutabaruka, rasta dub poet and radio personality and the spiritual literature that nourished my Soul/Ori were the actual speeches of the I Majesty Haile Selassie together with the Metu Ntr, an exposition on ancient Egyptian (kemetic) spirituality, written by Ra Un Nefer Amen, spiritual leader of the Ausar Auset society headquartered in NYC. I did not feel the need to justify Haile Selassie thru reference to biblical passages. For me it was simple: the pioneer generation of Rasta had chosen (with spiritual sight) Haile Selassie as the emblem/logo of African Divinity and the rallying point of African solidarity. After all, in 1930, black people all over the world were colonial subjects/second class citizens except in this one black nation Ethiopia, which was presided over by a king whose sat on a throne that was way older than that of our colonial masters and whose ancestral lines could be traced all the way back into misty prehistory.
Furthermore, on the world stage he was the embodiment of righteous diplomacy and advocacy as he made his case for justice and equality before the savage European politrixters. In the I Majesty was reflected the majesty of my own Royal African Self (RAS). Case closed.
Anyway, I believed at that time that I was rejecting religion and embracing spirituality because I had moved outside of the boundaries of established organized religion. In retrospect I can admit that I was still stuck in the mental games of comparing and rating beliefs. Abrahamic religionists style themselves as ‘believers’ exactly because – for them – their particular belief/theology (and only theirs!) is the passport to salvation. However, I was growing in my understanding that Spirituality was based on embracing the responsibility of growing ourselves from spiritual infancy to spiritual maturity. Yes! Spirituality is a program of CONSCIOUS EVOLUTION which can transform us from our human “caterpillar” state to a divine “butterfly” state of being…if we put in the work. Different cultures have produced different approaches to this task.
Lack of skill in managing our emotions, urges and desires which lead to evil actions or errors in living are features of spiritual immaturity and is not due to lack of belief nor is it due to some entity competing with the Creator for our Ori. The prescription for such diagnoses is not acceptance of a belief. It is the application of knowledge… as in spiritual science and technology….with the intent to produce growth and transformation.
Thus far, I have been fortunate to meet enlightened Christians, Muslims, Rastas, practitioners of indigenous African spiritual traditions etc. I have also run into the superstitious and the fundamentalists of the previously mentioned. It appears that people plug into religious institutions in one of two ways which I call the broad road and the narrow road. The broad road is the road of theology/belief. The narrow road is the mystic path – the way of spiritual science and technology. The late Sarvapelli Radhakrishnan, a former prime minister of India was famously quoted by the I Majesty during a state dinner in which the I Majesty was conferring on him a honorary degree:
“…in the mystic traditions of the different religions we have a remarkable unity of spirit. Whatever religions they may profess they are spiritual kinsmen. While the different religions in their historic forms bind us to limited groups and militate against the development of loyalty to the world community, the mystics have always stood for the fellowship of humanity,”
So there you have it.
I was part of a movement that had restored my cultural identity and I was clear that my purpose was to intentionally or deliberately evolve but I felt I lacked a spiritual practice/spiritual technology that would propel my growth. Being the restless seeker I became interested in the internal arts such as yoga, tai chi, qi gong. All these systems acknowledged a ‘life force’ also known as qi (pronounced ‘chee’)or prana (in yoga). [our Nile Valley Ancients referred to this Life force as Ra] The techniques sought to encourage the harmonious flow and accumulation of this life-force energy in our being so that we could experience greater health, vitality and most importantly, a deeper sense of who we are beyond these physical vehicles which so many of us had identified ourselves with. Eventually I spent several weeks at a Hindu ashram immersing myself in yoga technology and earning a yoga instructor’s certification along the way.
Yoga, undoubtedly, is an effective spiritual science and technology (folks ,it’s not just stretching!) which I have incorporated into my life to this day. What it could not do was affirm my culture, my Africaness. My yoga mentor stated that the yoga science transcended culture yet the walls of his studio were adorned with East Indian men, women and gods. The meditation music gently playing in the background was Indian sitar music. Where was the African Spiritual science and technology?
For me, it has been priceless to recognize that spirituality is a journey towards enlightenment. The realization has put my whole life in perspective. However, there is a supplementary way of looking at spirituality which offers a stark contrast with its opposite, materialism. This way simply acknowledges that there is an unseen dimension of life which influences and impacts (positively or negatively) the physical realm. Akan priestess Nana Oparebea Bekoe describes it elegantly in her book, ‘Akom: The Layered World’. She says,
“We believe in the existence of a word of spirit beings that co-exist with the physical world and that the earth is layered or there are realms and portals within the earth that house the many other creations of Odomonkuma Oboadee [God] that we don’t always see. The entrances to the layers can be accessed through particular caves, rivers, sacred groves and trees or within layers of the atmosphere. The entrance into the spirit world also has gateways through the human mind. Each of the layered realms has guardian spirits assigned to protect the entrance to that realm and each realm is governed by a hierarchical system of spirit entities as diverse as the races of humanity”
The materialist, on the other hand, lives his or her life thinking that the five senses, the telescope and the microscope provide a full accounting of life. Indeed one of my great joys is knowing that Life is magical. African spirituality did this for me. The mainstream Western worldview, while giving lip service to religious/spiritual beliefs, actually relegates the experience of the magical and mystical to Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, science and horror fiction movies while officially denying the magical and mystical in real life.
The initial stages of my spiritual journey had been propelled mostly by mental/intellectual efforts, that is, by reading, reasoning, contemplation etc. This is in contrast to others who have had profound spiritual and psychic experiences which left them with no doubt that there is an unseen realm of life. On one level I was envious because, as stated before, I did not want to be counted among the believers – I wanted to be a knower: someone with tangible experience of the Unseen. As I reflect, this perhaps was the strongest urge driving me towards the path of the traditional African Spiritualist. This urge in me was turbulent. It brought disillusionment with the Rasta movement. I felt stuck in ‘Judeo-Christian’ prison. I felt like I wanted to dive fully into the pre-Christian, pre-Islamic wisdom of Africa and I was being held back. By then I had set up an altar to the ancestors and was actively petitioning them with prayers, food and drink. I didn’t really know what I was doing. I had no one to show me. I was guided by what I read from various books and internet sources. Long story short, I ended up cutting my locks and withdrawing from the Rasta community (I had been an active and outspoken member). There was some social repercussions but it wasn’t devastating. People’s judgement and disapproval was more often felt than seen or heard.
Fast forward two years: an acquaintance of mine had just come forward from Louisiana. He had an interesting story to tell. He said he had met an Eshu priest at a crossroads in New Orleans who was also a babalawo. This Babalawo happened to be from St Croix, USVI (where I had been living for several years). Anyway, the acquaintance had convinced a group of us that we could further our trod in Yoruba spirituality through this baba. We complied. We established a relationship with him. We would sponsor his trips from Louisiana and he would divine for us as well as instruct us in Isese (Ifa-Orisa tradition). And we were initiated. Seven of us. I was initiated into the mysteries of Oya, the divinity of the Niger River, the mother of Egungun,(the collective ancestral spirit), owner of the Market place and favorite wife of Shango (eepa Oya!). Ogun is my secondary Orisa. July 2nd2016 marked my 10 year anniversary as an initiate. A lot has happened in those ten years. I have not functioned in a priestly capacity because my formal training was stalled at some point…but I have grown and I feel I am in greater alignment with my destiny. While there is a positive anticipation of the next chapter in my journey I have learned to savor the present moment. The destination is the journey.
Give thanks Iyanifa for providing the opportunity to share. It made me reflect on this, the early stages of a journey which prayerfully is far from complete. Give thanks to all the readers for your indulgence. It is my hope there may be some small thing in this narrative with which you can relate or which inspires. Haile Bless.
– Babalorisha Aboyade, aka Brian