I am interested in following the Path of Orisha, what do I do about it?

Jacob's work!
Artwork By Jacob V Joyce

This is one of the most frequent questions that I have been asked over the years. I would also like to say that the Lucumi Path is only one variation of what may be labelled as Orisha worship. Because it is my lineage, the Lucumi path is what I will be concentrating on, however please be aware that there are different traditions under the umbrella of Orisha worship and you need to find what is right for you. Also bare in mind that even within traditions there are variations.

  1. I would say, first and foremost. Do not hurry. My advice always is to start with a connection to your ancestors and spirit guides. Those that have made the time to connect, are better equipped to find the right home for themselves spiritually. Developing that connection requires, time and dedication but it is worth it. Going into a path that requires a degree of blind faith is not recommended without a connection and guidance from those that love you the most and want the best for you., ie your own ancestors and spirit guides. “How does one do that?” You may ask. There are various ways and resources in the UK and online, but I would say that it is important to build some kind of ancestor altar in your home. This could take form of what is known as a Boveda which is the vehicle that many Espiritistas use to communicate with Spirit.10892476_10153010216283410_1319491176_o Many but not all Lucumi Practitioners are also Espiritistas. I have found sitting and praying at my Boveda to be of utmost help in terms of guidance and connection. Regular Misa espirituales have also worked for me and many Lucumi Practitioners organise Misa Espirituales on a regular basis, but I would not say that this is the only option. I would say that you need to find what works for you. Those that practise Espiritismo in the UK Cuban style are far and few between and there are many other options that may be more appopriate.  In the UK there is also the tradition of spiritual church.  Information about Uk wide spiritualist churches            There are classes also that help you work on your mediumship and connection to spirit run in reputable places such as the College of Psychic Studies. Information about the College of Psychic Studies. At the end of the day, researching online, and reading books does not replace good old fashioned practise and when it comes to worshipping your ancestors, the best person to know what feels right is you. In addition to building an ancestor altar of sorts, researching things like your family ancestry and so on can be advantageous in addition to finding avenues that connect with your own traditional ancestry depending on where you come from. London, like many major cities in the UK is a melting pot and there is a lot going on.  Knowing where you come from is integral to knowing where you are going to. Here are some  resources and Blogs online, that you may wish to explore.  Good information and advice. Ancestral Essence Page.   Espiritismo, that has it’s roots in Allan Kardec’s philosophy  is very common in Cuba, Puerto Rico and also Brasil, it is practised however in a very different way to European Spiritualism. There are many resources that explain more online. See  Brujo Luis’ website  For Espiritismo Puerto Rican Style. The use of Prayers are very important and although I sometimes use Kardec’s prayers, I find some of them outdated. The following book resonates for me and I use it alot.   “Ancestor Paths” One of my favourite books for prayer and healing                                                                                                                                  What is really important to realise is that you have to do what is authentic and best for you. Sometimes, that takes a while to work out, but the important thing to realise is that there is not just one way. No one can tell you what feels right for you. YOUR ancestors are YOUR ancestors and you are better equipped to understand what is your way to worship them. Lastly, I have noticed that there is a confusion with newcomers to confuse Espiritismo as integral to Lucumi practise. I would say, that it is ONE way of connecting that has been extremely popular but it is a separate path with seperate roots and can be practised alongside a Lucumi way of life or on it’s own.
  2. Reading is a good start these days. There are many books that are good starting points. Here are some of my favourite introductory books and resources. I would steer clear of any book that teaches you to divine, ( as a newcomer, there really is no point) or that outlines “spells” and magical “works”. Not recommended. Our religion is a way of life, and there are no magical spells, or potions that are going to bring you in line with your destiny.  “Santeria: Correcting the Myths and Uncovering the Realities of a Growing Religion” Mary Ann Clark Is a great first book, in addition to the following two books. Santeria: African Spirits in America  Joseph M. Murphy  and Lukumi: Santeria’s Beliefs, Principles, and Direction in the Twenty-first Century.  By Christian Lopez   “The altar of My Soul” Marta Moreno Vega    A very touching autobiographical novel that is easy to read and that you can return to again and again  Finding Soul on the Path of Orisa: A West African Spiritual Tradition by Tobe Melora Correal  Good reading and sensible advise.

Also have a look at these Online resources:

http://wemba-music.org/orisha_faq.htm   A fantastic resource with alot of good advise for new comers.

http://www.aboutsanteria.com/santeras-blog   One of the clearest Blogs regarding the Lucumi Path online

3. Visiting a Diviner; Having a reading. Finding a reputable Diviner, either of Ifa or the Dilogun can be a necessary step. It may be the first time that will connect with the religion and you may find it is a comfortable experience or you may find that it is not for you. Some people come only once to the divining mat. They take on board the advice and it serves them for that moment in time. Others may come on a regular basis and may never have to receive anything but may find that visits to a Diviner helps them on their journey. It is certain that with regular divinations comes more of a connection to yourself as a person and also to Orisha. If you have not yet begun a practise of connecting to your ancestors, more than likely this will come up in a reading, so I really recommend to visit the above advise first. Going to any Diviner, does NOT commit you to their Ile (house of Worship). You should never feel pressured by any Diviner to become committed to them as Godparent. Choosing a godparent, should take time and building up a relationship should also take time. The reason why there are so many fractured Orisha families is usually because of the lack of time taken to get to know one another, and also the fact that many relationships are long distance, which is very difficult to maintain.

4. Finding a Godparent and Religious house. Firstly, you need to be clear about which branch of the religion you want to commit to or you feel is calling you. I am a Lucumi Iyalorisha  and I am proud of my lineage. When you choose your godparents, you are also choosing to belong to a lineage and a way of doing things. It is important to realise and be conscious of the fact that it is a community based practise and receiving Orisha/Elekes etc is taking on the responsibility of belonging to a house and a lineage.  Things may change and at any point in time, you may feel that the initial house where you were introduced to Orisha may not be the house for you but this is why it is important to take baby steps and not to hurry before you make any commitments. Getting to know people before asking them to represent you within the religion is really important. Taking your time and being open to helping within the Ile is a good starting point. Seeing how you feel within the Ile, how friendly people are and welcoming, and generally how you fit in, is important. Be aware that there are houses that work with Ifa (whose priests are known as Babalawos) and houses that don’t work Ifa within Lucumi. Each way is fine; however I would beware of houses that are extremely anti one path or another. Fanaticism is never a good thing. Ideally, there should be mutual respect between different lineages/houses and ways of doing things. Educate yourself and understand that there are roles that Babalawos have that Olorishas don’t have and vice versa. Understand that you can have multiple Godparents within this religion. You can have for example a Godfather of Ifa, but within the domain of Ocha, and if you are destined to become crowned, you need to be represented by an Olorisha. If you belong to a house that works with Ifa, the role that the Babalawo has within Kariocha is minimal and you will rely on a community of Olorishas. The difference between the different roles are documented elsewhere. Have a look at the Blogs.

http://wemba-music.org/orisha_faq.htm   A fantastic resource with alot of good advise for new comers.

http://www.aboutsanteria.com/santeras-blog   One of the clearest Blogs regarding the Lucumi Path online

How do you know who is the right person for you? As I have said, time is of the essence, a spiritual practise will help you develop your senses and gut instinct, in addition, it should be confirmed by Orisha. Once you have chosen the Olorisha to represent you, the correct procedure would be to go to the feet of the tutelary Orisha of the person that you have chosen and ask. There is a small ritual that is connected to this procedure. The union should be blessed by the head Orisha of the Olorisha before making any commitment.

5. Long distance Godparents. There was a time in the UK, where the only option was to have godparents that lived in Cuba or the US. Now that there are a fair amount of initiates in the UK, this is no longer the case. The pros of having your godparents abroad are few. Ultimately, however there will be a connection with Cuba or the US, or other places  since so far (as far as I know) there have been no Kariocha ceremonies in the UK, although there have been less complicated ceremonies. In Europe, in general there has been a huge rise in the practise of the religion and the ceremony of Kariocha has taken place in some countries, amongst them Holland, and Spain. As time goes on, this will inevitably change due to the volume of practitioners and for  practical reasons. The pros of choosing godparents in the vicinity of where you live are simply because there is a chance to become part of a community. In addition, if you have a problem that needs addressing, or you want to be proactive and involved, and truly walk the path, finding local priests is a more sensible option. You will never be part of a community if you can only visit that community once a year, if that.  I have mentioned before that for some indviduals, that is a desired alternative and there is no real desire to belong to a community or to really learn or take part and some have problems with the hierarchical nature of Lucumi practise and prefer not to get involved within a community environment.

I was reborn in Cuba eleven years ago. My first reading took place almost thirty years ago, when the religion was illegal, Cuba was not a popular tourist destination and circumstances were very different. In addition I have family connections in Cuba. This meant that for me it was the only place to make Ocha. Times have changed. Many may think that Cuba is the Mecca of the Lucumi Faith, however there are definite obstacles and the opening of doors to more tourism, and lack of economic resources has meant that there has been an increase in religious tourism and all that entails. Visits to Cuba over the last few years have left me disappointed and confused when I see how the process of Iyaworaje is not respected, in addition to other things. This seems to be the case in Havana more than other places in Cuba. It is disheartening to visit tambors where Olorishas don’t understand protocol, how to salute Anya, or the singing of the songs etc. In addition the growth of the ownership of smart phones has meant that there are more and more photos and filmage going on within ceremony. Those that have made a stand, find themselves outnumbered and follow the general way that things are going.  There are more initiations and less real knowledge or awareness. Please see this very important article by Willie Ramos: Diplo and Pseudo Orishas  This is why it is very important to educate yourself and build up relationships. Personally I have witnessed bogus ceremonies, extortionate derechos and the receiving of suspect religious items from unsuspecting individuals in the UK who have not educated themselves or spent time getting to know those that they have received ‘ceremonies” or “initiations” from. Trips to Cuba now are more and more expensive and if you can afford to go on a regular basis, then consider that economically there will always be an imbalance of power between yourself and those that you choose to guide you. I have seen too many instances that money will buy you any ceremony that you wish to “purchase”. People are buying their crown, buying the right to play Aña in ceremonies without necessarily following the spiritual path, and buying Orisha that actually are NOT part of our tradition. In addition culturally there will never be an understanding of your every day life in the UK. Asking for an understanding of your circumstances is a tall order if the majority of your Ocha family have never left the street they have lived in all their lives. Please don’t get me wrong. My intention is not to tar everyone with the same brush, but times are changing and it is important not to be under any illusions when going to Cuba.

  1. Initiation. What is it and is it necessary? There are various types of initation within the Lucumi way of life. Usually any type of initiation would be marked in the process of divination. Initiation should not really take place on a whim or because you want to be initiated. As I have mentioned elsewhere, the path to Kariocha is different for everyone. Not everyone needs to be crowned and not everyone needs to receive Orisha. It would be easy to say to you, Let the divine choose your path. It works so much better that way; however in my experience and what I am seeing now days is that even within divination there are instances where receiving Orisha and going through the ceremony of Kariocha is marked too easily. Although only Elegua and Orunmila are witnesses to your true destiny, and it would be wise to let go of what you believe you want and need and allow them to pave the way for you to reach your destiny, it is also true to say that your Ori and a deep connection with your Ori and ancestors will ultimately dictate the course of your journey. So please revert to the beginning of this article.
  2. Things that should sound alarm bells! (1)Beware of mass initiations. As far as I am concerned, this is a way of cutting corners and making money. If you are marked for receiving anything or you are going to take part in any type of initiation, make sure that there is not a whole load of people accompanying you. (2) Make sure you have been told why it is necessary for you to receive anything. Instilling fear should not be a tool to make you feel that you need to receive anything or make Ocha. There should be no pressure ever. Trust and instinct are important here. If you are in doubt, feel that you are left in the dark and have not received explanation, then walk away. (3) I think it is important to ask questions, although Olorishas and Babalawos cannot go into detail about certain things, I think it is reasonable to expect explanations when it comes to important things like initiation. Remember that the most important Orisha is Ori and a connection with your own personal Orisha will lead you to where you need to be. (4) There are many “celebrity” Olorishas and Babalawos! Those that perhaps have made their living as musicians or dancers, for example. Sometimes they can be the public face of the religion, whereas there are many not so public individuals, simply getting on with it and saving people’s lives. Don’t be blinded by talent! Not all that glitters is gold. Somebody’s expertise as a dancer, drummer or singer in a cultural context is not necessarily going to make the best godparents, although at the same time, there are many that are fantastic godparents. It is certainly true that for many, the exposure to the religion may come via the arts and those that are also performers. Sometimes the combination of ego on the stage with a religious title can potentially be double trouble. ( I say this with a large degree of experience since I am myself a musician and have spent most of my life in that ambience!). Being introduced on a dance holiday, to someone who is also a practitioner is probably not the best introduction to the religion. BEWARE! Educate yourself and take your time, time is the key and getting to really know someone outside of a social environment is absolutely vital. (5) All ceremonies should be conducted by at least more than one other Santero or Babalawo. It is important that there are witnesses to everything that is done and that dates and who are present at every ceremony are noted. A lone practitioner cannot and should not give Elekes, Orisha or any other initiation ceremony.
  3. What to look for in a Godparent or Guide? I think it is different for every individual. Everyone’s needs are different and unique. I would suggest that the individual in question has time for you. You should be able to feel that you can go to that person for whatever reason and for whatever problem you may encounter on your journey. You need to trust that person one hundred percent because they will get to know you on a deep level. Someone that has time to answer questions and to teach and guide. Someone that can also organise and help guide you onto the next level or next step. Ultimately, we are here to help people realign themselves with their destiny and that should be the motive of every potential Godparent. I know this sounds silly, but make sure the person in question is initiated. Believe it or not there are people that are masquerading as one thing and they are not what they portray. It is hard to verify anything if the practitioner in question is doing things on his/her own, however there are some guidelines that may help.  The information here should be useful.
  4. TRUST:I mention trust again because Trust is of the utmost importance. If there is a lack of trust, then walk away. Take your time. You will find what is right for you.

GOOD LUCK ON YOUR JOURNEY!!!!