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