Last Year an initiative started in the United States called Oloshas United for Peace and Healing. The initiative involved wearing white for a certain number of days and organising and attending various ceremonies and other events for all of us, including the wider community. Last year I organised an open rehearsal with the London Lucumi Choir. We concentrated on singing songs to Obatala and Babalu Aye. I also organised for my Ile, a prayer meeting for healing and a Agbwan in front of Babalu Aye. This year as the 16 days drew to a close, esteemed Oba Willie Ramos asked us all “what have you done to advance the cause of OUR religion? Not on a personal level, but on a community level, to benefit us all, regardless.”
That question made me think quite deeply about a lot of things. The answer to the question on a personal level I found interesting. I never felt cause to promote this path that I am following believing quite strongly that everybody has their own path and their own way of connecting ( or not ) to the divine. However in the light of so many things, I do believe that there are reasons why we should be very careful how we carry ourselves and what we do in our communities in general and also on a spiritual level. I believe that this religion and way of life has survived, partly because of secrecy and people’s protection of this way of life. This has been necessary due to prejudice and negativity. Even today, media articles concentrate on denigrating our way of life. Priests are still harassed and persecuted all over the world. Meanwhile within our belief system there are unscrupulous priests who feed off the ignorance and unawareness of individuals. Priests get caught up in politics, ego and a lot of meaningless rubbish instead of concentrating on the real importance of this way of life. Therefore, I think it is fundamental that we choose to address these issues in order to balance negative connotations associated with our much misunderstood way of life.
I would like to answer Willie Ramos’ question on a personal level and ask you all to do the same.
- I believe it is important as Olorishas and Aborishas, to check ourselves if we choose to go public regarding the path we follow. Being a good person, first and foremost is important ( I know this should go without saying) and treating all individuals with respect is paramount. Personally, checking myself on a regular basis, questioning my interaction with people, trying to understand dynamics and not taking things personally is an ongoing challenge but of vital importance as an Iyalorisha and also as a human being on this journey we call life. If you are guiding people, you must also be prepared to be guided, checking yourself on a regular basis and self improving and looking at ways to do this all the time.
- Personally, I have always worked in the field of community music. Working within the community organising and administering various musical projects over the years has meant that I am always interacting with people of all ages. For me, endeavouring to use my skills to share is important to me. I believe in the empowerment that music brings. Working with community members, old and young and very young alike using music as a tool has brought me a lot of pleasure, not only because I enjoy it, but I have seen the magical effects it has on people as a whole. Over the last ten years I have been using my love of music and singing in conjunction with my faith within the project I co founded. ” The London Lucumi Choir”. About the London Lucumi Choir. There is so much documentation regarding the positive impact singing together has, and I have witnessed this within the Choir. Although the Choir is a cultural representation of our faith, the magic of singing together is obvious and the spiritual benefits also of communal singing connected with the drum has been documented by all participants. The Choir is open to all regardless of religious persuasion, and mutual respect is asked of all individuals whether they follow this path or not. The Health Benefits of Singing. So I ask you; what is your Ashé? And how can you make a difference?
- Religiously, I have always thought it was important to practise as much as I can within the country that I live. This has been a massive challenge. The fact that unlike Cuba, West Africa, and even the United States, most countries in Europe are very new to this way of life, and this entails that there are challenges on a daily basis. One thing that I have done over the last ten years on a very conscious level, is invite other Olorishas to work within my Ile. This has not always worked for many reasons. Ego and resentment and other human failings has made working together very difficult. The fact that people are initiated elsewhere has been problematic when it should not have to be the case. However I continue to find ways of working this beautiful religion as much as I possibility can and that involves continually learning myself, continually finding ways to connect with like minded individuals, going to Cuba on a regular basis to learn and participate from elders, learning how to divine also so that I can be efficient as an Iyalorisha in my own community.
- In 2009 I hosted the very first Tambor de Fundamento in the United Kingdom. Documentation of who attended and the details of the Aña In 2011 My Ile was open to host the first Juramiento of 4 Omo Añas; History of Aña in the UK I have opened my Ile for various other priests to carry out various Plantes since I have had the space to do so in the past. Now my priorities have changed as circumstances always change. I have found that the number one problem that individuals from a Western background have when entering this religion is the community and hierarchy aspect of this spiritual path in addition to spiritual discipline on a community level. I have faced resentment at times and hostility in the past when trying to organise community events. The challenge for me has been to keep going and not allow anyone to destroy what I am passionate about.
- Over the last year I decided to host regular Ile meet ups ( inspired by the suggestion of one of my youngest goddaughters). Once a month we get together and discuss books, films and concepts related to this spiritual path. The meetings are open to anyone who has a general interest, not only godchildren, but those who are searching. We also get together on a regular basis for misas. Over the last three years we have had an Ile reading of the year as my Ile grows, and any work that has to be done we do communally. I have found over the last year, that this process has ensured more and more community discipline and respect for how we can work together as a team. Ensuring the involvement of all on a regular basis, despite the ups and downs that life brings has meant that people have started to learn on the job. This has been a great challenge, only because it has meant a concerted effort to make this happen. It is not like the scenario in Cuba where I was ordained, where there are ceremonies on every corner, and that in small areas people are all related to each other in Ocha. In addition, as an Iyalorisha I think it is important to teach by example. Teaching mutual respect to those that come to my Ile no matter what position each individual holds in the hierarchy. I think it is absolutely fundamental to understand that not everyone is meant to be ordained and not everyone is meant to receive Orisha. This does not mean that those that are not crowned nor have received anything, deserve any less respect. Everyone should be welcome and everyone has their own Ashe. Circumstances in the UK are unique, and the fact that culturally everyone comes from a really diverse backgrounds has also been challenging. However finally as this year closes I have found that the hard work that I have put in and the experience of thirty years of following this path including ten years crowned with Oshun is finally paying off.
- Lastly I believe that as Olorishas we have a responsibility to empower those who come to us and help them align with their destiny. Supporting all those who have amazing talents no matter what they do. This is one reason why I love to promote all those that I meet, whatever their Ashé. This is why I love to feature others on this Blog and typically as a daughter of Oshun, I have a passion for Artists and those that are creative with their hands. I also believe that it is important to be transparent in practise and understanding of everyones individual circumstances. Not everyone has the same economic circumstance. In addition in a community where it has been very much a “monkey see, monkey do” tradition and there is a lack of understanding why we do what we do, it is important to find out and ask elders in order to teach with confidence and respect to one’s lineage.
- Lastly I do have a long history of skills associated with organising my own projects. It is something that is very natural to me and I am comfortable with, however I truly believe that we are all different and it is up to all of us to find our place and to be comfortable with what we do. All those, no matter what role they have, that take part in anything communal should be acknowledged and respected. This also means that whatever I do here, does not exempt me from doing tasks such as cleaning, plucking and other jobs when I go to Cuba. Every situation is different and we must all be prepared to be humble. So I would like to conclude by saying that it is a challenge to all of us to find where our talents lie in the participation of communal events, and those of us that are skilled in organisation, should encourage and help those find their way. This is my last Blog for 2015. It has been a very harsh year for many. I pray that 2016 will be easier on all of us and that the Peace and Healing initiative goes from strength to strength.