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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


Anonymous said...

I agree with you whole heartly. But what happens to the loyalty to the godchild as well. Even if a godchild makes a mistake shouldnt the godparent be loyal to a god child well. From a very hurtful experience that wasnt my fault my supposed godparent disowned me and she is a priestess who supposed to teach and train me. In fact she even threw a lot of negativity at me to boot. So were is the justice in that. Not to mention she even turned her godfather who is a high priest against me too. And the funny part is its all because of her other godchild who is her favorite. To tell the story me and her other godchild were in a relationship. She did not want us to be together so she caused a lot of riff between us until it got to the point that he hit me numerous times. And I had him arrested. She was not angry at him for hitting me but was angry that I got him arrested and caused him to lose his job. So she chose his side over mine. And totally kicked me to the curb and disowned me but yet still with the other godchild. So I ask you where is the loyalty from a godparent to a godchild

Anonymous said...

To anonymous:

I certainly feel for you, and I feel for you horrible experience. That said if you read the article, I clearly state a few times, it's our responsibility as priests to HELP people, and guide them. In reality, it has nothing to do with loyalty, it has to do with ethics and respect. What your godparent did was unethical, and unacceptable, and has very little to do with loyalty. I hope the Orisa guide you to someone who will help you and treat you with respect.


Anonymous said...

Anonymous I am so sorry for your bad experience.

creatrix said...

aboru aboye...wise words.

the notion of extended family is one of the most african things there is. people have different gifts and personalities, and what one godparent can offer at a particular stage in the journey might not be what you need when you go to the next phase.

there is definitely something to be said for folks who switch iles like underwear...waiting for the "perfect" godparent who will tell them everything they want to hear vs. doing the real, deep work to get the results they seek.

however, as you said, if things are done with iwa pele and respect, sometimes that's just the way life goes.


Anonymous said...

I want to thank you for this particular blog entry.

It has definitely freed me.

I had to end a relationship shortly after my initiation.

It was a painful decision, but I had to do this in order to take care of myself.

I was continually disrespected during my initiation and in general. I also felt as though I was being manipulated/controlled and information was deliberately withheld from me.

When I met these people the female said to me that people often tried to steal "their initiates". I didn't think much of it at that time, but your article really puts things into perspective.

I felt so guilty after I stood up to this person. I don't think I was disrespectful, but I was firm. Basically she had asked me for more money a month after something was done and I told her no.

After that she kind of separated from me. Which was no loss to me as I found out more info on the internet than from the training she was supposed to give me - which was none. I was told that it would mean more if I found out on my own.

At any rate, I have a desire to go to Africa to learn. I have no idea as to how to go about it, but I know that sometime in the future I will make that dream come true.

Great blog, Keep up the good work.

BTW do you know that the Neimark's advertise on your blog?

Anonymous said...

ACK!! Thanks for pointing that out aphrodite. I had posted the "ads" up on the blog and it's all done key word. I'm not sure if I can "block" any ads from appearing so if it becomes an issue, I may have to delete the ads altogether, I DO NOT SUPPORT NEIMARK!!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this blog Awo! It was wonderful reading and very enlightening.

My experience is that if we follow orisha and their guidance - everything always works out according to plan. Maybe not my plan, and maybe not the plan of godparents, but it does work out according to some divine plan!! hahaha

I was introduced to Ifa from an Awo here in Las Vegas, a very noble, honorable man. He put my first set of elekes on me in a ceremony that was the most beautiful I have yet to witness. I was bathed by the women of the Ile under a waterfall in the mountains. He rogated my head right there in front of Oshun to witness. They sang to Oshun and drummed that day and we concluded it all in a wonderful meal in picnic style. The love and peace will always be with me.

I began studying Ifa and I was happy but I found that he could not crown me to orisha as he himself was crowned only to Orumilla. I come from a long line of santeros and my family gave me much grief about crossing traditions so to keep the peace I agreed to find representaiton in the Lucumi tradition.

So my search for a godparent began. I found a Shango santera, who probably was not the best choice (looking back - hindsight is 2020) but she did know here stuff and was able to bring my Kariocha to fruition.

But arguements in her ile with her husband and other godchildren left me with a bad feeling and after I completed my promise to play to Shango, I left her ile.

Since that time I have found many priests/priestesses who have had similar situations. This is not uncommon.

But all through my journey, I never forgot what the Awo told me. Always trust respectful and teachable...but trust Orisha.

May Obatala continue to guide us all to greatness!