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Sunday, March 23, 2008

Taking the "I" out of Ori ...

Aboru Aboye Aboshishe,

I should start by saying, that though I try to help others, I probably don't do enough, and I'm certainly not perfect. That said, after spending several years online in various chat rooms, list-servs and websites, to this day it is a rarity to see people talking about community service, charity, the role of the Orisa traditions in helping others, beyond those questions meant to help themselves directly or in-directly. Sure, we see the occasional talk about a sick child/person being helped, even an osha done for "free", or someone in need getting a free reading, but they are overshadowed by what I think of as the Botanica 'buy your solution' mentality.

Perhaps buying our salvation is a self fulfilling destiny in our Botanica consumer culture, which is just an extension of the larger multi-billion dollar self-help industry. Go to the botanica, buy a love candle to get a lover back, don't move on... take a wealth bath and feed Esu, don't work harder and educate yourself...wear an Oshun ileke and attraction perfume to bring new love, don't get yourself out to meet new people and care for your growth...Receive the guerreros and feed Oshoosi to stop that lawsuit/police conviction, don't own up to what you did and lead a good life...kill your enemy using sarabanda, don't press charges or mind your own business or avoid them...The list goes on.

Have we simply created our own multi-million dollar Orisa salvation industry? We'll make you feel good, and give you the answers you want to hear, but not base any of it in reality and tell you the hard things that you yourself need to do? (because then you might not come back to us for more work). Now, Botanica's fill a need as suppliers, but have you seen some of the "candles", "oils" and "baths"? These items create a aura of quick fixes that insidiously and subtly invade our thoughts. Sure there are those that won't accept anything but the mystical help of the "other" to do things for them, but can't that be tempered with sound advice from the oracle like. Get a job...Go for job training...find a different lover...move out...leave your enemy alone, and if they bug you, press charges...find a hobby...better yourself...give to your community...

Certainly not everyone is like this, there are wonderful people in this tradition, some of them own Botanica's. But, has this mentality pervaded our tradition in so many subtle ways that we no longer realize it. Even amongst the priestly ranks the "me" or "I" is prevalent. We see it in these conversations: "my godchild isn't listening to me"...You have to do Osha..Respect my "crown"...I'm "crowned" with XYZ Orisa...I "gave birth" to you...In "MY" ile, this is the right way to do it... So the question needs to be asked, where has the community gone? Where has charity gone? Why are we so focused simply on "crowning"/initiating? To what end does that truly serve? Why is it that we believe that Ebo solves everything? and the most difficult question of all:

Where did we lose focus on development of the self? And when did we forget that we are part of a community and have a responsibility to help others, priest and layperson alike?

Ifa says we are a community, and we have a responsibility to our community. We are not unlike so many of the other religious traditions of west and east, we have a communal calling, we re responsible for more then ourselves, we have simply forgotten it, and as is so easy in our consumer culture, we have focused on our own problems. As priests, we have even more responsibility, not only to help others, but to help others understand that they too are responsible to their greater community at large.

In Osa Ogunda Ifa says:

The anthill is the place of deliberations of the eerun ants.
Asuwa, a grouping together in harmony, is the place of deliberations of human beings.
It was through the principle of grouping together, that the earth was created.
It was through the principle of grouping together, that heaven was created.
And it was in the form of collectivities that beings descended on earth.
All inclusive was the grouping together when beings were first created.
All embracing was the grouping together when beings were completed.
Formed into collectivities were beings, when they rained down on earth.
All goodness became a grouping together in harmony.
The grouping together of the strands of hair covered the head.
The grouping together of hairs on the chin became an object of attention.
The grouping together of trees became a forest.
The grouping together of the eruwa grasses became a savannah.
The grouping together of beehives hold up the roof of the house.
And the grouping together of the Ita ants led to their covering the earth.
Alasuwada, Great Being who creates all beings in groups, we ask you humbly,
That you grant us things gathered in groups
So that they bring together all things good for us.
Bees for swarms
Eeran plants grow together on the farm.
Brooms are formed from bundles of twigs.
Eeran grass grows in bunches on the plains.
And the elegiri birds form flocks

It is as a grouping together that we encounter the grassland
It is as swarms that the locusts consume the farm
It is in several colonies that we find termites in their mounds
It is in groves that we encounter the ekunkun trees on the water's edge
It is in clusters we find oore grass at the riverside
It is in schools that we find egbele fish in the ocean
It is in groups we encounter the dragon fly
And the adosusu leaf is never found alone

Dews pouring lightly, pouring lightly
Were used to create the world
And likewise was done to create the earth.
So that goodness of togetherness could come forth at once.
Indeed all goodness took the form of a gathering together in harmony.

Now, if one Ori encounters good,
It will spread out and touch two hundred
If my Ori is good
It will spread out and touch you
And if your Ori is good,
It will spread out and touch me
For if just one Ori experiences good
It will spread out and touch two hundred.

Asuwa ni toyin
Asuwa leeran nhu ninu oko
Asuwa ni to susu owo
Asuwa leeran nhu ninu aare
Asuwa ni ti elegiri

Asuwa laa bodan
Asuwa lesu nfiijoko
Asuwa opo suu laa ba ikan inu ogan
Asuwa laa ba ekunkun let omi
Asuwa oore lodo
Asuwa laa ba lanilani
Asuwa laa beja egbele lokun
Ewe adosusu kii duro loun nikan

Iri tu wili, tu wili
Lfi dale aye
la bu da ile
kire susu ko wa su piripiri
ire gbogbo d'asuma

Nje, bori kan ba sunwon
A ran igba
Ori mi to suwon
lo ran yin
Ori yin to sunwon
Lo ran mi
Bori kan ba sunwon
A ran igba

Certainly Ifa believes that all beings need to be in groups to survive, that was how they were created. Which means, we are not only responsible to ourselves, but to the group that allows us to survive in the world. So what does Ifa say is our responsibility? Ifa lays out for us in Irosun Iwori, not only our path to ending the cycle of re-incarnation, but what Olodumare sees as our goal in this world.

Irosun Iwori says:

Let us do things with joy.
Those who want to go, let them go.
Those who want to stay, let them stay.
Surely, humans have been chosen to bring good into the world.
The All-knowing One, priest of Orunmila, divined Ifa for Orunmila.
He said the people of the world would come to ask him a certain question.
He said that Orunmila should sacrifice.
Orunmila heard and complied.
One day all kinds of people, good and those who do not allow good in other people's lives gathered.
They then went to Orunmila
They said: "Coming back and forth to earth tires us, Orunmila.
Therefore, please allow us to rest in heaven."
Orunmila said: "You cannot avoid going back and forth to earth,
Until you bring about the good condition that Olodumare has ordained for every human.
After then you may rest in heaven."
They asked "What is the good condition?"
Orunmila said: "The good condition is a good world:
A world in which there is full knowledge of all things;
Happiness everywhere;
Life without anxiety or fear of enemies;
Without clashes with snakes and other dangerous animals;
Without fear of death, disease, litigation, losses, wizards, witches or Esu;
Without fear of injury from water or fire;
And without fear of poverty or misery.
Because of your wisdom, your compelling desire for good character and your internal strength.
The things needed to bring about the good condition in the world then are:
Wisdom that is fully adequate to govern the world;
Sacrifice; character; the love of doing good for all people, especially those who are in need,
And those who seek assistance from us;
And the eagerness and struggle to increase good in the world
And not let any good at all be lost.
People will continue to go to heaven;
And they will go back and forth to earth after their transfiguration,
Until everyone has achieved the good condition.
Thus, when the children of Oduduwa gather together,
Those chosen to bring good into the world are called human beings or the chosen ones

K'a fi'nudidun see
Eni maa lo ki o maa lo
Eni maa dehin ki o maa dehin
Dandan eniyan ni a yan ki won mu're lo saye
Morantan awo Orunmila l'o difa'f'Orunmila
O ni awon omo-aye nbowa bileere oro kan
A niki Orunmila rubo
Orunmila gbo; o rubo
Nijokan oniruru eniyan, awo eniyan rere ati awon eniyan ma jeki l'eniyan sunwon gbarajo
Won to Orunmila wa
Won ni ipaara aye yi su wa Orunmila
Nitorinaa ki o jowo jeki a simi si orun
Orunmila ni eyin ko le sai maa paara ode-aye
Titi eyin yoo gi de ipo rere naa ti Olodumare ti yan fun gbogbo eniyan
Lehinnaa ni eyin yoo simi si orun
Won ni: kini ipo rere?
Orunmila ni ipo rere naa li aye rere:
Aye amotan ohun gbogbo;
Ayo nibi-gbogbo;
Wiwa laisi ominu tabi iberu ota;
Laisi ija ejo tabi eranko buburu miran;
Laisi iberu iku arun, ejo, ofu, oso, aje tabi Esu;
Laisi iberu ifarapa omi tabi ina;
Ati laisi iberu aini tabi osi,
Nitori ogbon yun iwarere ati agbara inu.
Ogun ti yoo gbe wa de ipo rere naa
Ogbo ti o po to eyiti a le fise akoso aye
Irubo, iwa, iferan oore-sise fun gbogbo eniyan, ni pataki julo awon ti ise alaini,
Ati awon ti o nfe iranlowo lodo wa;
Itara fun ati sisa ipa lati fi kun ire ti o wa ni aye
laijeki ire eyikeyii ti a ti ni lo.
Awo eniyan yoo maa lo si orun.
Won yoo si maa pada wa s'ode aye lehin iparada won,
Titit enikookan yoo fi de ipo rere naa
Nitorinaa nigbati awon omo Oduduwa pe jo,
Awon ti o yan lati ko ire wa s'ode aye ni a npe ni: eniyan

Ifa is a communal experience. Ifa expects us to respect our community. Ifa expects us to help those around us in need as much as we help ourselves, if for no other reason so that we may reside in Orun with our ancestors, our celestial community.

Ifa has a message beyond money, beyond self-aborption, beyond power and beyond politics.

Ifa is a way of life.

If we choose to listen, Ifa can teach us how to live with ourselves as a part of a larger community for the betterment of all.

Marcos Ifalola Sanchez

Thursday, March 6, 2008

"Stealing" godchildren, loyalty and other claims...

Aboru aboye aboshishe,

In a recent conversation I had with a friend, I heard someone talk about one santero (olorisa) "stealing" godchildren from another person. I've even heard this said about me. In fact, in all the years of this tradition, I've heard this claim over and over again from a variety of people, some who surprised me. The reason I found this such an interesting, and almost absurd claim, was that "stealing" implies ownership. I would go one further, in that this same conversation is also heard not just about godchildren, but also about "clients" (which is also another word I've always found odd, as if we as priests are simply selling our religious services). Again, there seems to be some implied sense of ownership which I've always found uncomfortable. Are we as adherents simply some type of chattel to be held on to or collected by priests?

Further, there's the person who may do their Dosu/Kariosha ceremony with one godparent, and then leave for whatever reason and do other ceremonies in another Ile. Godparents get riled and appalled they may choose to leave, and get up in arms saying they must according to some "law" do their additional ceremonies with them. Perhaps it's tradition, but I see no theological foundation. It's as if they think the Orisa will be offended that they have left their godparent. We have our Ori, we have freewill, for good or for bad, but Orisa will never be upset with us if we choose to take a path that might separate us from our godparent, as long as it's done respectfully. I have yet to hear one person point out an Odu Ifa that says you have to do everything with one godparent, nor have I heard one decent logical argument for it. In fact, at least in the traditional yoruba experience I've had so far, it's common for Awo Ifa to travel to other cities even, to learn from Awo Ifa that are not their Oluwo or Ojugbona. But that is only traditional Yoruba Ifa.

I find all of this odd, and disconcerting, though certainly very human. As priests, it seems to me, our obligation is to caring for the Orisa, to give good counsel to those who seek it in the name of Orisa, and to our own health and welfare. It doesn't seem to me that there's anything in our initiations, theology, or life, that gives us any right to claim someone else. Whether that be as a "client" or as a "godchild", everything is based on freewill. Certainly we might hope that someone will continue to come to us for support. And if we extend our support to them beyond simple initiation and divination, to more personal areas in their time of need, we can hope that they will also support us as well. That doesn't, however, seem to me to imply that there is any requirement on their part except to be a good human being, and be respectful, even if that means leaving respectfully.

The other thing that concerns me is when I hear folks ranting about bad students who leave them, or aren't "loyal". Is wisdom meant to be passed only based on loyalty? or to people that will forever remain with one person? Certainly loyalty is a good and important trait, but you can be a loyal person, and also an evil one. Isn't it our obligation as priests to pass on our knowledge to those that will use it to do good? to service people in a charitable and fair way? with loyalty being only of secondary importance? What does that mean anyways, if they disagree with us, or decide they have different ideas, that doesn't make them less of a priest.

I guess I talk about all of this because this sense of ownership behind words like "stealing" the veiled implications of words like "loyal" and the sense that someone can only work with their godparent or they're bad, concern me. They seem to place the focus in the tradition on possession of assets. Aren't we as priests supposed to help others and give our knowledge and wisdom without expectations? To be very clear, I'm not suggesting we train people we think are unethical or evil. We also have a responsibility to train other priests to pass on that knowledge to others for good, and to help as many as possible. It just seems that people need to stay out of a sense of love, not out of a sense of obligation.

In the Odu Oturupon Obara Ifa says:

Ola silo n'ile; ola dehin s'ile
A difa fun Iyamooke
Won ni omo naa ti o bi ko nii ku ko nii lailalaafia
Sugbon omo naa ko nii gbe odo re nigbati o ba dagba
won niki o wa rubo ki omo naa baa ni aye rere
O gbo; o ru

Honor goes forth from the house, and honor returns to the house
This was the teaching of Ifa for Iyamooke, the mother who knows how to nurture
They said that the child she gave birth to would not die or be unhealthy
But the child would not stay with her after she grew up
They said she should practice sacrifice so that the child might have a good life
She heard and she complied

Ifa says, we don't even have the expectation our own child wil always stay with us, but we must sacrifice for them regardless, so why would a godchild be any different...

Marcos Ifalola Sanchez