If you have any questions on the Iyawo Experience, please feel free to email me at: MrOshun@hotmail.com
THE IYAWO EXPERIENCE IS BACK!!!!!
To my loving Mother, to all of my elders, to my Godmother, To my Godfather, and cyber-friends. Alafia...This is my original cyber journal from September 9th, 2000 until September 9th 2001, documenting the life of an Iyawo. I hope you enjoy.
* * * MONTH 1 Maferefun Ocana* * *
Wow, it is wonderful to be out into the real world. I just got out of the house where my Ocha ceremony was held. It was a wonderful experience being initiated into the cult of Oshun. In that week I went through all types of emotions; happiness for the most part. But now it is time for my first venture out into the real world as an Iyawo. (Iyawo-Bride of the Orisha).
My first experience into the “real world” was a trip. I was just getting things at the marketplace on the same day that I first exited the throne. People were looking at me strange. I had to just pay it no mind, but I found it hard when I was there with another Iyawo tagging along with my godfather and me. The funniest moment happened at the checkout counter when this large heavy-set woman on wheelchair yelled out: "LOOK MONICA, THAT MAN IS A SANTERO!" I wanted to laugh out loud.
So it is Fashion Week In New York City, and I’m only two days freshly out of my throne. People are not really looking at me too strange yet. Bright sunny afternoon as I walk down 5th Avenue while people are going "FASHION CRAZY" in the City’s Fashion district and this white lady looks at me and says, "Boy! You are really taking a fashion risk wearing white after Labor Day." Just my luck; I’m yet another Iyawo breaking the “no white after Labor Day” faux~pas. But who cares!
My first day back to work people looked at me funny. One of my co-workers passes me by and says "Oh my, you look like a little angel." I was told that I looked very young. I guess shaving the 3 little whiskers of hair on my upper lip makes a big difference. I am not hairy but people say I look like I am 12 years of age. * hahaha* I was a little embarrassed wearing white into my fourth day, so I ran down to the bookstore and bought myself a lab coat. You see, I work in a hospital, so with the lab coat on me, this Iyawo can get away with looking like a slick and sly doctor (minus the years of Med. School). Now, no one looks at me strange (until I get out of work) or when it rains and I’m tagging along with my huge white umbrella.
* * * MONTH 2 Maferefun Eyioco* * *
My first month flew by so quickly. I was hoping that my second month would pass my by just as quick. *YEAH RIGHT* My second month I started feeling like I was undergoing a drastic change. I no longer was happy working with the people I was working with. I started plotting my career and future and trying to get myself away and out of this glum of a job, as well as furthering my educational studies.
People are still staring at me but I think I am getting so used to that. I feel so normal among the crowd of people. One of my biggest thrills is to be on the streets of New York and see an Iyawo pass me by and greet me. Just the other day I saw an Asian Iyawo who told me that her guardian angel is SHANGO. All I have to say is Maferefun Ocha. I think it is so great seeing others who have been initiated as I walk the streets of New York.
I am more at ease, and ever so thrilled to share my home with the Orishas. Maferefun Oshun for bringing some sweetness into my ever-so bitter life. *hehehe*
Well it is now nearing the end of my second month and entering my third month as an iyawo. Wow, I can't believe I made it this far into my initiation. I hope that the rest of the year is as good as my first 3 months. So far I am really enjoying being an iyawo. I get so much positive feed back from the Santeria Community, as well as from Aleyos.
Within these first three months, I have noticed a drastic change in my being. I am no longer caring about small things; such as going to the movies or hanging out late. However I do miss the physical act of dancing. I hate the fact that even when I am caught up watching tv, I start dancing to the Diet Coke commercials. I love music and dance so I guess it is natural for me to get caught up in that, however my elders tell me that an iyawo should not dance. *RAISING THE ROOF*
In this short time of being crowned, I see many changes in people (or maybe it’s me). I almost could bet my life that I would have lifetime friends. Friends that I thought would be there for me thru thick and thin, however all I am left to say is Maferefun Eggun and Maferefun Orisha's Ashe. I have opened my eyes to see the true side of certain individuals, people whom I have had the most utmost respect. It is sad that I thought some of these people were my friends. I guess that I was friends with these certain individual to learn a valid life lesson, which is, learn to trust your intuition...and don't let other lead you to the road of your own destruction.
My mission in life is to help out anyone in need of assistance. A mere friend to anyone who asks for my advice (in or out of the Lucumi traditions). However as an Iyawo, I am to take this time to be as selfish as I can be, and maintain all focus on me and my Orishas. Making myself known to them. Taking this time to have them know what person of character I am and show them into my okan (heart).
I am learning more and more as each day passes by. I am learning about the importance of Orisha's energy in my life.
The importance of learning to choose which path I indeed need to take and have Eleggua be a witness to all my decisions.
The energy that radiates from Obatala is to be very calm, and patient. One has to be calm and have a cool ori (head) to be a positive person. Someone that people can look up to. It is the best lesson to learn from Obatala when one needs to make any sound decisions.
Yemaya is another lesson that I am learning each and everyday. Life is about give and take. Just like the ocean, which brings to us secrets from the depths of the sea waters, always takes back into her own waters. Yemaya is the world’s mother. Yemaya is beautiful. Some people may dare call her crazy, but Yemaya is not crazy at all. She is sometimes angry at the way humans have polluted her, and mistreat her, but the beauty of Yemaya is that water always cleans itself. Rejuvenating herself. Earth is mother, and we must look after the earth.
This is what I've learned so far. I am only a baby in the religion. I am fine knowing the little I know in the Lucumi traditions, and I hope to constantly learn more each passing day.
My advise to the other iyawos out there: Stay true to yourself. Don't let the gossiping elders bring you down. Worry about your own spiritual growth, not gossip. Stay grounded, and levelheaded, and be very respectful to your elders (for some of them hold the key to wisdom). Oh and if you wear FUBU, LUGZ, TOMMY HIL, or PELE PELE make sure they're not loud like the Tommy Hil sneakers I sport cause santeros will scan you for colors of the logo-- like they've done to me. *hahahaha* Just keep it mad open and real. Santeros love to see Iyawo's look clean and looking proper....So as long as you look decent then that is all that matters.
I am glad that my godsister is finally crowned. Now it will be twice as funny to see two fly looking Iyawos walking the streets of New Yuck City. *hahahahahah*
ONE LOVE. Iyawo.
P.S. Do you know where they sell small white umbrellas? With the one I own I get MADDDDDD PEOPLE Staring at me. HAHAHAHA...
MONTH 3 ~ Maferefun Ogunda ~~~ AND I GOT MY LIL' UMBRELLA
There is a reason as to why I no longer play the board game "Monopoly". I used to love this game so much. I would play with my brother and sister all the time. Soon we added our own house-rules. Well, as I grew up and ventured out into the world I noticed that different people would have different house rules. Some rules that made no sense to me. C’mon now, you’re supposed to get the money if you land on Free Parking. *hahaha*
Parallel to Orisha worship, there are far too many "HOUSE-RULES". I think this is what can make or break friendships for people who belong to different Ile (house/temple of worship).
You constantly hear people in the religion talking *yin-yang* about people who do things "the wrong way.", but that is not true sometimes, it is simply different house traditions. HONESTLY, I wish we all would do the same things from house to house, but it is these house-rules that sometimes add the flavor for each and every ile out there. We come from many branches of the Lucumi/Yoruba faith. Several lines of the tradition exist (Matanzas, Havana, Pimienta, Efunche, Trapito, Pirana, etc...). Like I said before, I wish that we all followed the same rules only because there would be less confusion, and more unity thru out the Igworo (religious community).
My third month as an Iyawo was okay. I had some good moments and some bad ones. The best thing was when I was presented to the mirror. When I saw myself for the first time in 3 months, I wanted for my madrina to get me another mirror because I swore that the mirror she had given me was defective. I looked so pale, hairy and not myself. I really hated my Afro. It was a flat Afro that was making me look morbid. I know that as an iyawo I am not supposed to be vain, but DAYYYYYUUM I sure was ugly. I quickly excused myself and had madrina give me a super-duper cut.
Now I feel better. I have a low Cesar-fade, but I always keep my head covered, and even tho’ I am not supposed to allow vanity to rule me as an Iyawo, I now have the privilege to use a mirror and help aide me to shaving my face, and catching each and every patch of hair I was missing when I was shaving. Oh, by the way, SHOUT OUT TO AN IYAWO OUT THERE WHO TOLD ME ABOUT MAGIC FRAGRANT-FREE CREAM SHAVE RAZORLESS BREARD REMOVER. Now the razor bumps will be no more and my neck wont look like a pit bull bit my neck. Maferefun the mirror & maferefun Magic Cream Shave. LMAO
I don’t think that I make a bad Iyawo. I carry my estera, towel, mug, spoon and umbrella in my white Jansport knapsack. However one evening, while I was in the train station, this fat lady backed into me so hard that my plate broke. I had to go back to IKEA to buy a similar plate. My ile allows the iyawos to get a plate that corresponds to the Orisha’s sacred color. At IKEA they did not have in stock that deep golden yellow color plate that I first bought. Then, later that week, after a drumming for St. Lazarus (Babalu-Aye) my Godfather got me some Chinese food, and I accidentally had my nephew clean up my plate and can you believe that he actually discarded my OFF THE HOOK spoon, that had a yellow handle, down the incinerator (Bad Idea). So needless to say I’m on my second set new plate, new spoon, and new mug. *New mug: I won’t go into this story, but my new mug is a HUGE soup mug.
Now that I am over my 3rd month I am about to reveal who my father is in Ocha. As you guys know, Oshun is my blessed guardian Orisha. I will always and forever pay moforibale to Oshun, she is my heart, my strength, my passion and desire to explore the religion. During Ita (the reading of the initiates life) I found out that SHANGO, (my favorite Orisha) was not my father, nor was it Agayu-Sola. Instead my father in Ocha came out to be none other than Babalu-Aye. I knew very little about him. I’ve heard of St. Lazarus, and even people receiving the initiation to get St. Lazarus, so this was a huge surprise to me when it was announced by my Oriate (master of ceremony) that my father was Babalu-Aye. This was an orisha of adimu (offering) that people got when they needed Babalu-Aye’s ache when healing or for protection from illness.
TIME FOR ME TO PLUG THIS BOOK: On September 22, 2000, I went to a book signing for "THE ALTAR OF MY SOUL: The Living Tradition of Santeria" by Marta Moreno Vega who is a Puerto Rican studies professor at my college- Baruch College in New York City. I was so happy to attend this lecture. There were several olorishas present, but many more aleyos asking questions about Santeria/Lucumi. After the lecture I was approached by two olorishas. "Alafia Yabo. How old are you?" Said the thin priestess. With my usual grin, I crossed my arms in front of my chest and I replied "I am a week out of my throne." "Wow! ASHE!!! And who is your head?" I proudly said "OSHUN!!!!!" they both smiled so warmly, and so lovingly, but the conversation did not stop there. "So who is your father Yabo? Shango?" I shook my head and said, "NO, it’s Babalu-Aye!!!!"
You should have seen the faces of these two priestess. It went from a warm and loving look that quickly turned sour, almost as if they smelled a lingering smelly fart. I felt so horrible. Why did I get this reaction? Isn’t Babalu an incredible healer? Shouldn’t everyone think that Oshun with Babalu-Aye would be a great combination? Well let’s just say that this was not that last time that I saw people’s face cringe when I told them that Babalu-Aye is my father in ocha. The night of the lecture was almost ruined for me, but I thank Marta Vega for autographing my book: To Omo Ochun- May the honey of Ochun always sweeten your path. Ache- Your sister and mother in Spirit. Marta M. Vega.
I got very self-conscious about my father, I was about to deny my father and say that Chango was my dad, just to avoid people’s facial expressions and reactions, but then I stopped myself. Babalu-Aye may get angered if I lied to people. I made a vow to myself to let people know the truth (if asked, and deal with it. In all honesty EVERYONE needs to receive my father, for he is a healer. But why have I been getting this constant reaction from people. ~ Lets just say that for the last 3 months my luck has changed. I soon started meeting more people who complimented me for having Oshun & Babalu-Aye as a combination. I don’t know Oshun personally yet, nor Babalu-Aye, but it’s all good, I’ve got a long life ahead of me to understand more in depth on how my guardian Orishas work with me, my oddus and my ewes.
Ibae Omi Dina, Junito Yemaya, who was my Oriate who flew in from Puerto Rico to be the master of ceremonies for my initiation. You will be missed, especially since I had so many questions for you upon your return. Madrina and other people in my ile are in mourning. The best thing is that in his Itutu (funeral rites) his guardian angel Yemaya went with him.
See you next month.
MONTH 4 MAFEREFUN IROSO
So month four passed me by. BOY did I have some funny moments. Well let me start off by saying that being an iyawo is the most prestigious position in the religion that anyone can ever have. We are the sacred and most valuable gifts to the Olorisha community. We are the new generation of Orisha worshippers and In some way shape or form give new meaning to the Orisha religious traditions. Every generation adds some sort of flavor to the tradition. Just remember that as an Iyawo, you are sacred, the sacred is within you; not your ile, not the people surrounding you, not those who put you down, THE SACRED IS WITHIN YOURSELF.
One crazy experience I had was on the D Train on my way to Brooklyn. I just boarded the train, as all eyes start to slowly focus in on me to observe the white clothing. My eyes focused on this one lady who smiled warmly towards me, and I smiled back. She got up and out of thin air she began to preach towards me. In a state of shock I just looked at her and rolled my eyes. "REPENT THAT DEVIL WORSHIP, AND ACCEPT JESUS!!!" I was in no position to argue with her or get my head heated. I allowed her to continuously give me that public sermon. Contrary to popular belief, I am one Iyawo who still has room in my own practice of the faith to follow Christian rites. I believe in Jesus, and I believe in certain energies. To me Jesus is nothing more than Olofi himself. Olofi is God's son, so in that aspect I believe in Olofi as Jesus Christ, however that I just MY OWN Interpretation.
I find that many Protestant Christians want to come out towards me and "SAVE" me. I am an Olorisha, I am also an Eggun worker. I worship and/or pay homage to our ancestors.
We are here because others were here before us, and I as well as all Santero honor that. Many people will come into your life, even if it is for a brief moment in time and attempt to break you and your faith down. Hold on to your faith, renew your faith. Always make your faith stronger. I say that it is okay to even question some of the [things] that goes on in our own religion, REMEMBER: HOW STRONG IS YOUR FAITH IF YOU DON'T TAKE TIME TO RENEW IT?
Allow yourself to express yourself thru the manifestation of your Orisha. I'm not saying that YOU are the Orisha, but allow that sacred Ashe of the Orisha guide you in your new life, your sacred life. Being an Orisha worshipper is not some type of fad, it is a lifetime commitment. Being in this religion or even being an Iyawo is not a quick fix, it is a lifestyle. Just because you do Ocha, you don't live a life of fairytales. You still hurt, you still cry, you still are human. Madrina always says to me: "Los Santos [orishas] son alegria!" ["Orisha is happiness"] and so I as well as anyone else should use that element in our lives. This is a life long learning process. We live life according to our ITA (divine prohibitions).
PLEASE FEEL FREE TO SEND ME SOME FEEDBACK. LET ME KNOW IF YOU WANT ME TO ADDRESS ANYTHING IN THE IYAWO EXPEREINCE, who knows, maybe I can learn a something new. For example, a Santera/Iyalocha told me that two things that an Iyawo should have for stains are TILEX and GOOP. WHAT A LIFESAVER!
*West Indian accent* Email me now and let the power of the cards tell YOU what’s in store for you! *hehehehe* Love that CLEO.
SEE YOU NEXT MONTH.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ MONTH 5 Maferefun OCHE ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
This month I am getting a bit cranky. I have had the deepest desire to go to the movies. I LOVE HORROR movies. (even though some Olorishas will no permit their Iyawos to see movies in their homes with bloodshed, gore, and scary themes). I just LOVE the movies. Everyone keeps telling me about the movie HANIBBAL. As an Iyawo, I am not allowed to go to the movies, so my only two options are to either go to BLOCKBUSTER or get a bootleg copy of a movie, which does not have a great quality. But this is what I have been doing to catch up on the latest releases. So now you know what I do for entertainment. As sad as this may be I really miss the smell of popcorn, the wide screen, the surround sound, the damn baby that cries at the movie theatre cause the damn parents are too cheap to pay for a babysitter *hehehe* I MISS ALL OF THAT. You really learn to appreciate the little things. I love being an Iyawo and since it is still winter I can't help but feel like I'm under house arrest, but next month the time will spring forward allowing me to stay out a tad bit later.
Alright, for those who are about to become initiated in the religion, this one is for you. This is a short list of what people may call you as an iyawo, and for those who have gone through your Iyaworaje, then this may bring back some memories:
CASPER, Ghost, Pillsbury Doughboy, Marshmellow Man, Puffy, Snowman, Frosty, Giant Sperm Cell (yep they called me that), nurse, doctor, painter, white boy, BLANCO, THE MAN IN THE WHITE HAT, Good-fella, Ice Cube, FREAK, Chicken Choker, cancer patient, Good Humor Man (ice cream guy), baker, POWDER, milkman, *Lechero*, Brujero, El Santero, wonder bread, poppin fresh dough..... Voodoo Priest (nothing wrong with the practice of Voodun), and a Witchdoctor.
Lately I’ve been hearing more about a radical group known as PETA, which is an acronym for the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. It bothers me to hear about this group because they pose a threat to our religious tradition. Animal sacrifice is very much part of our religious tradition, even though I am not going to go into details about this. However there are several reasons as to why animal sacrifice is used in our religion: for initiation purposes, for offerings to the Orishas and/or to our Eggun, and for ritual cleansings.
What is funny as well as insulting to me is that I have been hearing things from people who know nothing or little about the religion say things about Olorisha’s performing human sacrifice or even killing babies for ritual purpose. Do you think I would be in a religion that kills innocent children? NEVER!!!!!!! That is S.I.C.K. Yemaya is mother of us all, why would she want anyone in or out the religion to kill someone like a baby? BE REAL!!!! We are the seeds that help maintain the tradition alive, we are children of a living tradition. We are the manifestation of the orishas.
It is just absurd how many people outside of our religious tradition believe these crazy stories, or even worse, ask me as if I would or participate in any of these activities. Some of it is to be blamed on HOLLYWOOD. The portrayal of indigenous cultures and African culture has always been labeled as evil, demonic and occult. Which is on the contrary, Orisha worship is beautiful, and full of nature’s science. If there are cultures that kill infants, or even humans, TRUST ME I WOULD NOT BE INVOLVED. There is no way my good name is going to be associated with this practice.
The animals sacrificed in our tradition is also a way of us having fellowship. This is the way that we provide food for the religious community. We eat these animals, just like most people enjoy eating in Mc D’s or Burger King. Don’t be a hypocrite, if you do eat meat then you’re just as guilty. [America] is… “a culture that considers it just fine to throw a live lobster into boiling water and then eat it can’t claim any high-ground on Santeria’s treatment of animals. America is long way from going vegetarian; and recent plant research indicating that plants, too, can suffer makes even vegetarianism suspects. (Joseph Campell defined a vegetarian as ‘someone who can’t hear a tomato scream.” --Luis Manuel Nunez, “Santeria”
OKAY, so the damn GROUNDHOG lied on February 2nd. He did not see his shadow, but winter is still around. As an Iyawo I really don't dig the wintertime. I get dirty due to the slushy snow, and rain. RAIN and SNOW are an Iyawo's enemies, at least my enemy. I don't like looking dirty and I'm tired of washing my clothes and seeing them turn yellow as I continue to wash them. Maferefun Oshun, this is how Oshun was granted to color Yellow/Gold. Oshun was always trying to keep clean and so every day she would wash her dress at the riverbank. Her dress went from white to yellow, and Olofi assigned Oshun the color yellow because she was poor and only had one outfit that became yellow. Do you think if I wear my jeans long enough they'll turn dark blue? *wishful thinkin'*
THANK YOU FOR THE EMAILS....I really love reading them. Unfortunately I am not going to write about the secrets about the religion. This is a rite of passage that you must go thru to understand and value for yourself and your spiritual growth. I will say, this truly is a real challenging life experience. So if you see someone dressed in white from head to toe, just salute them by calling out to the "IYAWO" and crossing your arms in front of your chest, and then smile. I don't know about other iyawos out there, but when someone greets me as an Iyawo it makes me feel great, and appreciated for being a part of the religious community as a whole. So smile at the next iyawo you come in contact with. ASHE. ASHE. ASHE-O.
...SEE YA'LL NEXT MONTH....
* * MONTH 6 ~ Maferefun Obara * * *
I'm half way there!!!
My Madrina says that as an Iyawo, we all go through some rough times. Iyaworaje is a period in which there are many challenges that we face. During these crisis, sometimes we are being tested by the orishas and even our egguns. [The initiate] must at all times be an iyawo of good character, maintain Iwa-Pele at all times. Well, here is my situation. I have been unhappy with the job I have even before I did my ocha. I did try hard to get out of this job before Ocha but it was hard to find a job that would allow me to wear white on a daily basis. Wearing white, even to work, was very important to me. I did not want to be wear color clothing to work. I really wanted to challenge the experience of being an Iyawo 24-07, even though I did get permission from both of my godparents to wear light colors to work if I needed to dress a certain way for work.
My new boss and I never got along. I think she does not like the fact that I dress in white every day and have so many beads (elekes) around my neck. Well check this out: MONDAYS ARE FOR ELEGGUA. On a Monday morning, as I returned back to work from a week vacation, I was called over to a meeting in my boss’s office. As I entered the room, two Human Resources Representatives greeted me. This meeting was to discuss as to why I had my boss’s name written on a post-it, underneath a stone-head figure, which was nothing more, but a good luck charm I had purchased in a botanica.
I had explained to Human Resources, that it was a good luck charm I had purchased and I did that to sweeten my boss up because she is very bitter towards me. I wrote her name inside a red heart with some honey on just to sweeten her up.
Human Resources asked me politely if I could take the object home with me, only for the simple fact that my boss found it offensive and was concerned. I smiled, and agreed to remove it at once. *hahahaha* They told me that I was allowed to return to my desk and they will talk to me once they wrap up their meeting.
Once their meeting was over, the two representatives passed by my cubical. I showed them that I disposed of the stone-head with her name in it in the wastebasket. I also furthered explained to them that I had this for a good luck charm. I had asked my boss for a raise on February 26, since I really need the money, and I had bought this charm for good luck. The object was made of cement with cowry shells to make a face. Under that I had my boss’s full name written down in red ink, surrounded by a heart, and about 5 hearts, then I topped it with some honey to symbolize sweetness that I wanted to come from my boss, and I had 4 nickels stacked up on one another to represent a raise or some sort of monetary gain. I probably scared my boss into thinking I created a hex or curse on her for her to call Human Resources on me.
Well in any event, I am so glad for the turn of events. My only hope is that my boss will stop being so nasty towards me. There is no need for such a hostile work environment. I do welcome an open communication of positivity between her and myself. I am sorry if I did offend her, which that was not my direct intention.
However, I am offended that she was snooping around my desk to check on things that clearly were not hers. It was highly impossible for her or anyone to see the name written on that post-it, unless she or someone took it apart, which I’m sure my boss peeked at the botanica bought bootleg Eleggua charm out of curiosity. Let's just be thankful that it was not a real Eleggua. *hahaha*
Maferefun Mi Negra Cachita...She'll never let me down!
SEE YA'LL NEXT MONTH
Month 7 * * * * * * * Maferefun Oddi
I guess this month was a time in which I reflected on what I have done thus far. ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ I was initiated in September 2000. My experience, as well as every Iyawo, is very unique and personal. My biblical guru at one point in time was Migene Gonzalez-Wippler, who has written many books for the religion. I swore up and down that this was the one true way to the Orishas. BOY was I wrong and disappointed at some points into the religion. I wanted to experience things just as Migene described things in her books, but things were done so different, only causing confusion and anger on my behalf. However I would like to take this time to thank Migene Gonzalez-Wippler for her being my starting point into the religion. Ase to you!!!!!
I remember when I first read upon the religion I thought I was a child of Chango. I really wanted to connect to real people who practiced the religion. It was hard for me to meet people, I guess because of my shy nature. I remember that on September 8th, I went to the river to pay respects to Oshun on her feast day. I knew no one in the religion, and had no religious guidance. I went to the river with 5 oranges, 5 sticks of honey, 5 pennies and my POWERS OF THE ORISHAS book by Wippler. I spoke to the majestic force of nature of the river, and as if the river was human, I began to speak to her. “Please Oshun, place me in the path of the religion so that I can get to meet you soon.” Then I began to give her my offerings. Can you believe that same day, ON the day of La Virgen De La Caridad Del Cobre (Our Lady of Charity), I would eventually meet the first person that placed me into the religion, and a beautiful daughter of Oshun. TODAY, I am not with this same godmother, however I have to always thank her for all the wonderful and not so wonderful experience I have shared with her. If it were not for this Olo-Oshun, I would not be where I am today. KINKAMACHE to you Madrina. I miss the good times you and I have shared, and I hope one day our waters will unite once again. If not, just knowing you was a pleasure.
Early on I had started to develop a deep passion for the Lucumi religion. However I wanted to be an outsider. I really did not want to go thru the “embarrassing” year of wearing white clothes. I was turned off by the commitment, however my passion for the orishas became so strong that I decided to get initiated a year after I got my guardian orisha confirmed thru Orunmila. It was a small struggle trying to find another house (ile) to join but I would eventually meet the Madrina who would do my Ocha, also an Olo-Oshun.
The religion, from what I hear, has been changing dramatically. Several years back many Olorisha became initiated due to catastrophic event in a person’s life that was life threatening or health issues that the Orishas wanted to help the initiate. Young people were sometimes forced into becoming initiated at times. Nowadays, you find more and more young people, such as myself, who want to get initiated and only having Okan (heart) towards the religion and the Orishas. Many of us have not been placed in thrones nor have had a mazo thrown over us to pin us into being initiated. There are more people just interested in the religion and look for their Ocha to be performed.
I am a first generation Olorisha in my entire family (that I know of). My family religious history consists of Catholics, Jehovah's Witnesses and other protestant religions. My mom was not too happy to know that I was going to get initiated into the Lucumi religious tradition (blame it on the false rumors) and did not understand my passion toward the religion, but my faith was stronger than anything.
I recall speaking to my mother a week after my initiation. My mother was crying over the phone. My mother worried the neighborhood gossip, however now she totally accepts me as an Iyawo. She does not practice my believe system, however is happy to see that this is/was not a fad, and I can tell that my mom is proud to see that my faith is still strong.
Someone asked me “WHERE ARE YOU ON YOUR SPIRITUAL JOURNEY?” You know, I'm still a baby in the religion. Right now I am just taking life day by day. I have my days where I am wishing to get back into jeans and my Timberland boots, but overall I like being an Iyawo. It is such an amazing experience. I have my good days as well as my bad days but it is an incredible life experience, I would not trade it for the world. Spiritually, I am still evolving, that is all I can say for now....and I hope to become a better person.
I am now an Iyawo, writing about my experience, and also showing people that I can do it, as well as showing other Aleyos and Iyawos (and those preparing to be initiated that they are not alone). I try to keep my experience truthful, and bring some humor into my site, as you can see.
I am fortunate to have had a great experience in this religion thus far, and I am greatful to all the people, who have encouraged me as an aleyo and as an iyawo. Ase to you all!!! *Smile*
*SEE YA’ll NEXT MONTH*
~8 MONTHS ~ ~ ~ ~MAFEREFUN EYEUNLE~
During my eighth month I was finally presented to the sacred drums of the religion, the Bata. It was a moment that I had been awaiting for since I first got initiated, since practically no one in my ile was presented to these sacred drums, now all of a sudden Oshun rocked the house and we all are presented. *smile*
The sacred drum is an important part of our tradition. A group of 14 Iyawos were getting presented for this religious festive event. After we all were presented Oshun mounted one her children and told us that what we had just undergone was a very sacred religious rite that allows the sacred drums to take our prayers through song and dance and take them up to Olofi. We can now dance in front of these sacred drums and use our bodies as vehicle for prayer.
Speaking of prayer, well a dear close friend of mine that is not in the religion was going to church one day, and I decided to join her. I will not get into the way I was treated by the ushers at the church, if you want to hear that story I’ll send you a private email. *hehehe* However as I tried to get into the spiritual aspect of the church experience, I tried to find something to link my religion with Christianity. Some people in our religion believe that they are in a sub-Christian religion, which explains the reasoning as to why so many people have Christian imagery in their altars. So here I was in this big nice church, and as the organ began to play as the air filled up with music. The song that they started to sing was an old Negro Spiritual that I was taught to singing during Martin Luther King, Jr’s Day when I was in elementary school, and I started to laugh and then sing the words as I arose from my chair and clapped and sung the words to this song. "I’m going to lay down my burdens down by the RIVERSIDE. Down by the RIVERSIDE, Down by the RIVERSIDE. I’m going to lay down my burdens down by the RIVERSIDE. I don’t want to study war no more." I like to be considered eclectic when it comes to my religious relationship with God because I celebrate the GOOD that people’s philosophy celebrate when it comes to God, and this is the reason I chose to go to church with my friend and witness Orisha’s manifestation (to me Orisha’s energy is nothing more than a simple/complex manifestation from Our Creator) God is Good! Maferefun Olofi!
I laughed and even screamed out "Yeye-O!" when I heard these words fly out the choir’s mouth. We always have to remember that the enslaved Africans knew that Oshun would be one of the Orishas to take their sorrow and sweeten up their lives. I was so glad that this song helped break the ice and allowed me to make the connection with the ancestors who manifested themselves in the church. The enslaved African people used music to hide their beliefs, and to me, I interpreted this Negro spiritual as to when a person goes to visit IBU KOLE (Oshun) and let her know that he/she is ready to commit to the responsibility of being initiated and become an iyawo, only because of this one line in the text: "I’m going to trail my long white robe, down by the riverside." C’mon now, is that the beginning of Iyaworaje or what?!!!!. All I could do was rejoice that the first song that the church sang was to my Iya, Oshun! ORI YEYE-O!
Our religion is an oral religious tradition, and if you listen closely to our music, the ancestors, and your intuition you can hear these people who are still very much connected to us. The hymns used in the church made up by the NEGROS have lot of meaning behind their simple words. Dancing, stepping (such as seen in most African American Fraternity/Sorority Groups) Negro Spirituals, art, and storytelling all celebrate the African Pride. Not everyone in the religion is African, but we all pay respect to our motherland located in Ile Ife, Nigeria, or was that in Brooklyn, New York? Just kiddin' HAHAHAHA...See you guys next month!!!
SEE YOU ALL NEXT MONTH
<><><> 9 MONTHS <> <> <> Maferefun Osa<><><>
Summer is here and I am not liking the fact that all my friends are out and about, while I am stuck at home watching sitcoms or staying up late at night watching episodes of XICA (Brazilian Soap opera that touched upon the religion). My daily routine has been going to work in the morning and arriving home early evening (nothing else really in between). Sometimes I look forward to the weekends because summer is the core of religious activities. I am constantly hoping that there is a drumming or someone’s ocha birthday so that I can just be around the religious community.
I had the opportunity to attend a listening party for Baba Karade and The Karade Ensemble. It was a very nice experience and I learned a nice word which is great to add to my Yoruba/Lucumi vocabulary: "Asuwada, (pronounced A-SHU-WA-DA) is a Yoruba term that means community and all the peace, togetherness, and harmony." This is a religion in which you gain an extended family, and develop close nit relationships. The Africans were separated during the enslavement period, and through the Yoruba/Lucumi religious practice, many enslaved Africans were able to create new families, such as the pseudo families we create in our religion. This religion is about strengthening and re-creating family and a sense of belonging. Sometimes our natal family isn’t as understanding as our spiritual family. Creating strong and meaningful relationships is so wonderful when you have a close network of people to relate to within the religion.
I think that sometimes many Iyawos are very emotional during thier year, and we have every right to be. Some Iyawo's also go through the "MADRINA/PADRINO DOES NOT LOVE ME ANYMORE PHASE, but you always have to understand that your godparent is to look out after you, but your godparent also has a life outside of the religion with other duties/family as well. I am grateful for having good understanding godparents. Madrina is very understanding and when I am around her she can spoil me and make me feel better, in which makes me feel so much better. My Padrino is very nurturing, every time that he and I converse I feel so much better about myself. I think one of the blessings I have gotten from this entire experience is having my Adjubona (your second godparent) be there for me, I only met Padrino a few weeks prior to doing ocha, and I can honestly say that I am blessed that Yemaya said yes for him to be my adjubona because he indeed is my perfect choice as an adjubona. ~ Aside from having my godparents I have gained a new spiritual family. I have two hospitable Grandfathers who always welcome me into their ile with open arms. A Grandma who just loves to get hugs from me. I also have a host of spiritual uncles and aunts in the religion who are always my backbone to just joke around and have a good time. I call them the "Iyawo Clan" and each iyawo has been a great support. Being around many iyawos has motivated me more to write this journal as well because we all experience the similar situations. Some of them have already started to complete their year. Then there are other people in my ile that are a bit distant from me, but that is just they way the cookie crumbles. (For those Iyawos who do leave their godparents during their iyaworaje or shortly after they complete their year: Don’t worry about it, sometimes you’ll find your true spiritual family after you’re crowned.) Then there my big brother who is always hooking me up with computer supplies, and always asking me how I am feeling which is very important and I am grateful to him for that. You see, IYAWOS are very emotional people during this entire year, people in the religious community should constantly check up on their iyawos and make sure that they are having a level-headed year. I CANNOT STRESS THIS ENOUGH, YOU HAVE TO CONSTANTLY CHECK UP ON YOUR IYAWO. REMEMBER: this also allows the Iyawo of today to learn from his/her experience, and if he/she becomes a priest/priestess that will be a godparent to someone else, then he/she may respond with the same care and nurturing that he/she once got from his elders and the religious community.
During my 9th month I was lifted because my godmother was crowning an Oni-Yemaya. The only way I can describe being lifted is this: Thus far I am the baby of my ile/house/temple. When Madrina crowns this other person then this new neophyte iyawo become the baby, and I automatically am an older brother to her. It is the same dynamics of having a child. You will be your parent’s child, but no longer the baby. SAME THING WITH CROWNING. Everything seemed to go smooth for the new iyawo who’s dad came out to be Ochossi. However, sleeping for so long on the hard concrete floor, on estera, gave me a pinched nerve on my right arm. I saw a doctor but he told me to rest my arm, and gave me a sling. It was funny when I went to a tambor for St. Lazarus and I had on my sling. Hearing the drums and seeing people dance only made want to dance for the Orishas. As I danced for Oya, I had stopped and laughed really loud because I looked like a chicken flapping my wing. At least I got to be in a tambor, instead of looking out my window watching the kids from around my way having fun as they run thru the fire-hydrants cooling off in the summer heat. It’s going to be a LOOOONG HOT summer; The Trick is to keep breathing…
* * * SEE YOU NEXT MONTH * * *
MONTH 10 ~~~~ OFUN
Prior to becoming an Iyawo I had so many plans...I was going to make mazos for all my orishas, I was going to sew my own fabrics, I was going to learn how to speak to each and every orisha...This was my plans...YEAH RIGHT!!! C'mon now, there are other priorities in life that must get its due respect and it's due time.
Every Iyawo complains that he or she "missed" a birthday, a christmas, a summer at the beach, a summer BBQ at a park, but hey, it is just a small sacrife...Just ONE year of your life, that is all...Once you complete your year you have all your life to go back to these things (that is if they were not taken away from you in your ita).
Month 10 is sort of boring for me, I'm just in an out of fabric stores looking for materials for my orishas, especially a beautiful fabric for Oshun's alter piece. And once the sun sets I just stay home watching tv shows, piggin' out...OH YEAH!!! Iyawos BE EXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXTREMELY careful on what you eat this year because you can grow 10 sizes larger...You see, when you're home and bored you may get entertained by food. I actually lost weight for the first 4-5 months...then I ballooned up...So word to the wize leave them WIZE chips alone...hahaha OKAY I mean BE WISE AND LEAVE THE WIZE ALONE. And when you go to tambores they always feed you...Come to think of it in a misa you are fed, in a tambor you are fed, in an ocha you are fed, in the itutu you are fed...FOOD IS BIG IN OUR RELIGION, just eat healthy...and remember your ita...
Month 10 ain't "all that", so see you next month....
MONTH 11 ><><>< OJUANI
I FINALLY HAD MY EBBO DONE
Yep!!! I finally had my "three month ebbo" done (eleven months later). Traditionally the Ebbo de Meta is performed on the third month, however due to financial obligations I had to set back the date until I got my finances together. NOTE TO OTHER IYAWOS, You DON'T have to stress yourself to believe that your ebbo has to be done on the exact third month. From what I have been told, this ceremony is performed allowing you to give adimus for the Orishas to receive (maybe there is more to this, but for now, this is all I know). I am GLAD that I got it done within my year, because I know of several people who don't do thier ebbo until way after thier own ocha birthday, which may not entitle them to celebrate thier ocha birthday, however that is not wrong, just done differently.
I am almost done with my iyaworaje, and all I can say is that I have never been ever so proud of myself. I can feel so proud of myself for undergoing such a totally dedicated period in my life. I am also greatful to learning that this experience has changed me in a way that I am more open with myself, and able to seek the truth and be a leader in my life. I'm just a shy kid from NYC, however this experience has allowed me to realise that I am a voice in the world and I need to be heard. The IYAWO EXPERIENCE was a project that I undertook because I wanted to share this personal part of my life with the world.
As I was talking to someone about Oshun this month, I was also made aware that Oshun is really an incredible orisha. Can you believe my homegirl Oshun is one of the first Orishas who wore a weave? Also the orisha of cosmetology!!! There are several patakis (stories) that speak about Oshun and her hair. One story states that Oshun was suffering the lost of her lost child, Idowu, and became ill. Because of this she started losing hair due to her malnutrition. However when Oshun started coming out of her depression, she wanted to disguise her sadness and look radiant for the next town event, that she grabbed indigo and dried grass and started to weave this into her scalp to give the appearance was real hair. Not only her hair looked good, but Oshun also used the natural berries and shea butter to create natural forms of cosmetics to apply to her skin so that when she arrived into the town, people would stop dead in their tracks to admire at how beautiful Oshun looked. So now when I see girls with their hair braided with synthetic hair I always think of Oshun, *hahaha* Maferefun Beyonce from "Destiny's Child"...
In this life on earth we have the good and the bad. The yin and the yang. The positive and negative. The Orishas are very much reflect dual forces. Oshun represents love, happiness, wealth, fertility in her positive aspects, however on the flip-side Oshun does represent jealousy, vengeance, poverty, and infertility. People tend to think that Oshun is only positive, however we all must understand that orisha is frequencies of energy that manifest positive and negative charges. A good example is my father, Obaluaye who represents diseases, plagues, and homelessness on a negative aspect, however BABALU-AYE also represents good health, cures, richness, prosperity, wealth, humility and grace. WELL GUYS, SEE YOU NEXT MONTH....
* MONTH 12 – MAFEREFUN EYILA*
It is my last month. My best friend and I spent most of our free time looking for beautiful fabrics and fancy things to prepare for my Ocha birthday. So many fabric, I just want things done right. I want my birthday to come out special. I want everyone to see how nice my throne would look…But I was not happy. Instead, I was more worried about pleasing others, and the way that they would look at me. It took me a while to focus in on myself and my inner voice. “Stay humble…” and that is just what I had to focus on, staying humble and stop trying to out do myself…this was my experience, not anyone’s but my own.
Thinking back at my involvement in the religion, I recall thinking of how hard it would be for me to join this initiation. Thinking that I could not wear white for a full year because people would make fun of me, and people would look down upon me and people would just not understand. Once upon a time, a santera told me that I would get initiated, and I spoke too soon saying “Nah, this is not for me, just give me warriors, and Olokun, but ME? Do Ocha? Nah, that is something I respect and I can’t see myself doing a whole entire year in white.” But look at me now…I have wore white for an entire year but the clothing is NOTHING, it is the spiritual lesson behind all of this. This initiation gave me inner strength and the courage to tackle some fears and gain self respect. In all honesty it was a rites of passage in which I no longer was the young boy I was a year ago, I was now Oshun Niye, priest of Oshun.
HAPPY OCHA DAY TO ME!!!
My Ocha birthday was here. I woke up that morning with so much anticipation and anxiety. The Orishas were going to speak through obi letting me know if they are happy or not. Where was madrina? Where is my padrino? It’s 10 AM and I am just fixing up my home so that when visitors come they can be comfortable and feeling welcomed. Madrina strolled into my home very relaxed and looking happy. In some way I could tell that she was proud of me. I felt her hug to be very genuine, I could almost feel her heart palpitating against my chest as we embraced. That I how deep my love for my madrina is, and the love from her to me is. I was happy that I had involved myself with a good godfamily. Padrino was a little nervous as he prepared to cast obi at the thone because it was his first time, and all eyes were on him. Not for nothing, I was padrino’s first godson that he was being the ajubona and I must commend him. He was there for me in the times of need. Although he is shorter than me, I still looked up to him. Thanks Padrino!!! * * * * * Obi was done, every Orisha gave me good letters ranging from EYEIFE, ALAFIA and Itawa-Meji. Oshun gave me Eyeife, which made my day. Maferefun Oshun everyday.
In my humble beginnings of this religion, I really wanted to be a son of Shango. I loved Shango and still do. He remains to be a respected Orisha that I admire. Shango gave me complete Ire in my own Ita, and spoke to me as if he would protect me from danger, from violence, from those evil forces who sought to destroy me. Before I could be destroyed, Shango would fight all of my battles. In Shango’s eyes, I was his little child, and he was the first Orisha that I learned about and it is no surprise that the first Iyawo that was about to pay moforibale to me was a child of Shango. Wow, Shango brought forth to my home his child so that my hands could be the hands that lifted this iyawo. I did my Mojuba and presented her with a plate, two coconuts, two candles and a small donation. For the first time in my life, I felt that this experience was rewarding as well as challenging. I was very much dedicated to my spiritual progress, learning about myself as well as my capabilities, fears and strengths. I felt so happy coming in full circle.
Agbo ato. Gbogbo Orisha Agbe O. Dide!
May You Live Long and In Good Health. May All of The Orishas Bless you. Arise!!!!
Kinkamaché Iya Mi, Kinkamaché Baba Mi, Kinkamaché Olochunde, Kinkamaché Omi Feremican, Kinkamaché Omitocunbi, Kinkamaché Afolabi, Kinkamaché Assinabi, Kinkamaché Orifade, Kinkamaché Iyakeremi, Kinkamaché Oshun Funké, Kinkamaché Omi Lekun, Kinkamaché Oloyuilla, Kinkamaché Obaquellesi, Kinkamaché Oba Ileun, Kinkamaché Adewale, Kinkamaché Folosade Kinkamaché Ade Kola Oñi, Kinkamache AdeYemi, Kinkamache Obabi, Kincamache Okikilo, Kinkamaché Eshu Omi Lecun, Kinkamaché Oba, Kinkamaché Oluo, Kinkamaché Babalocha, Kinkamaché Iyalocha, Kinkamaché Gbogbo Iworo kale ilé...
MrOshun and La Lupe
Thank you for sharing this once in a lifetime experience with me. ORI YEYE O!!!!!