Orishas fighting for your head???

November 30, 2012 by · Comments Off on Orishas fighting for your head???
Filed under: Apparently burning questions 

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Every now and then I get a question like: I am on the shortlist to be initiated, but there are three Orishas fighting for my head: Oshun, Yemoja and Oya. In which of these three should I be initiated?

CockfightSuch question is pretty easy to answer: I’d say in none of them. If they can’t even sort out their differences among themselves, none of the sorry bunch would be any good to you (wide and wicked grin)! How on earth can you expect anything from such a bickering crowd? Of course there’s more to the issue than the above irreverend remarks. Contrary to common Western belief, Orishas do not “fight” for your head. Geez, they are forces of nature, and your tiny little bonce isn’t even remotely important enough for these cosmic forces to fight over! What do you think the realm of the Orishas is like? A fuggin’ cockfight? C’mon, be your age!

The whole idea of “Head Orisha” or even “Guardian Angel” (yuck!) is vastly overrated in the New World; it’s a relatively modern invention. In Africa whole families, sometimes even whole villages, were (and sometimes still are) dedicated to one single Orisha, and initiations almost automatically took place into that local Orisha. No divination at all about “what Orisha” to be initiated into; the question in for instance a Shango family/village simply was: “Should this person be initiated like everybody else into Shango?” If the answer was “no”, no initiaton took place, and if the answer was “yes” the initiation into Shango became a fact. Nothing more, nothing less.

The Western confusion about this matter results from lack of knowledge about the way the Religion worked/works in Africa. Not only is initiation not desperately sought after like in Cuba and the United States, but also the worshipper has a relatively great freedom to shift allegiance from one Orisha to the other. If Shango fails to “deliver the goods”, his worshipper is totally free to give let’s say Oshoosi a try. And when Oshoosi happens to deliver the goods instead, he has won a worshipper and Shango has lost one. This takes place regardless of whoever might be the worshipers “Head Orisha”. It always comes as a surprise or even a shock to Lucumis, that in Traditional Yoruba one can get initiated into (many) more than one Orisha!

The Yorubas are a very pragmatic people, and they want results. That’s what their religion is for. It is not traditional in the religion to desperately seek initiation, on the contrary: unless one is kind of automatically initiated as a family tradition, most try to desperately avoid it, on account of initiation bringing lots of heavy responsibilities towards the community, and costing a packet to boot!

As for your “fighting” Orishas Oshun, Yemoja and Oya: which of the three “delivers the goods” to you? Which one do you want to be initiated into? Or is it any other Orisha that brings you the most benefit? Figure all this out for yourself, and when you’ve found the Orisha that you have the best connection with, only then ask if you should be initiated into him/her. If the answer is “no”, just sigh with relief for it relieves you from becoming yet another “chief with no indians”, and if the answer is “yes”… well… you may act accordingly.


Selling and buying shit

November 29, 2012 by · Comments Off on Selling and buying shit
Filed under: All that does not fit elsewhere 

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Silly“All those filthy religious people are fooling themselves and fooling everybody, living on the gullibility and credulity of people, making an easy living, selling shoddy pieces of goods and promising you some goodies that they can never deliver. But you want to believe all that nonsense. It’s a reflection on your intelligence that you fall for all that crap to which you are exposed.”

Now sadly and to my great chagrin I can’t take credit for this quote… it’s by U.G Krishnamurti. But since he never took credit for anything, there may not be any credit to it anyway. Which might be the exact thing that makes it creditable (wide and wicked grin)!


Preparing cowrie shells

November 28, 2012 by · Comments Off on Preparing cowrie shells
Filed under: Ifa divination general 

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Prepared cowrieIn order to prepare cowrie shells for divination, you need to do a few things, like opening up the back. Place the shell with the back on a fairly hard but not too hard surface. Wood will do nicely. Then put the point of a knife in the slit (mouth) and hit it firmly but not too hard. This will perforate the back. Then you can with f’rinstance a pair of needle nose pliers break the perforation further open. Next time my apprentice is here I will demonstrate it and have her make a little video of it which I will post.

Consecrating them is simple. Clean them under running water (a tap would do nicely), cup them in your left hand with your right hand on top (if the other way around feels more comfortable, that’s alright too), hold them in your hands against your solar plexus, and say something nice to them (grin)! Tell them what they’re for (what you will use them for), and afterwards you might want to “feed” them with some red palm oil (epo pupa). That’s all there is to it!


Are some Orishas dead?

November 28, 2012 by · Comments Off on Are some Orishas dead?
Filed under: Apparently burning questions 

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Some Orishas didn’t make it to the New world; does this mean that they are “dead” there? Others have lost their worshipppers, like Orunmila in Brazil. Is he “dead”?

These are interesting questions, for the answers would be both “yes” and “no”. The Yoruba deities, to a very large extend, are man-made. In this they are not different from f’rinstance Jesus who is almost entirely fantasized into being by Christians, and who would be completely unrecognizable to his mom who in turn got her own “working over” by the Church and also became a product of fantasy. Several authors have elaborated on this matter in the Yoruba religion, Karin Barber being one of the better-known among them.

Although the forces of nature in our religion are quite independent from us, their humanlike representations that we call “Orisha” are products of our own imagination and creativity. Attributes and characteristics of Orishas are freely exchanged depending on whom you worship and where you live, and the “same” Orisha may be rather different to worshipers living in different countries or even villages. Orishas have come and gone at an incredible rate. They proliferated, merged and disappeared to their worshipers’ needs and heart’s desire. It’s only relatively recently that new Orishas don’t spring up a dime a dozen; travel, communication and the printing press have more or less stabilized the present lot.

An Orisha that is not worshipped, “dies”. The forces of nature don’t die, but the particular “humanlike” image they once were given by humans, fades out of existence. In traditional African terms an Orisha can be compared to a “Great Man”: he’s only great when he has followers. Without followers no Great Man comes into being, and when an existing Great Man loses his crowd he ceases to be great. He eventually dies as a small man, and will not be remembered. Many Orishas have died “small”, and are not remembered.

Orunmila divining - by Brenda BeekLet’s take Orunmila, who indeed doesn’t have a prominent place in Brazil, a country where the Ifa priesthood simply faded away during the twentieth century. This doesn’t mean though that Orunmila in any general sense is “dead”, for he has worshippers in many other places in the world. Yet in those places where he is not worshipped, in a sense he could indeed be considered “dead”. I wouldn’t go that far myself, for if even one worshipper remains, there’s some life left in his anemic Orisha, but I guess you understand the essence of what I’m saying.

Interesting about Orunmila is that he isn’t necessary or even indigenous to Ifa at all. Most African peoples and ethnicities who use the divination system called Ifa, Fa, Eva, Eba and such, have never even heard of him. Quite likely his name is simply a mispronunciation of the Arab “ErRaml”, and poor old Orunmila can’t date back earlier than when Arabs and Yorubas began to exchange divinatory techniques. That doesn’t make him “fake” though: Orunmila is alive and well in the minds, rituals and divinations of his worshipers, which is all that counts. But we should always bear in mind that ninety percent of everything is bullshit, and in this sense Orunmila is no exeption: most Ifa, Fa, Eba etcetera priests, with the almost sole exception of the Yoruba-derived ones, divine happily without him.

In our own branches (the Yoruba-based ones) of African religions, Ifa has been reduced to the “Orunmila system”, and we find it hard to realize that it’s just a local Yoruba thing. The vast majority of Ifa diviners on the African continent are not babalawos, i.e. guys initiated into “Orunmila”: they are diviners that do not worship or even know Orunmila, and may or may not have another tutelary deity for their divination system. You don’t have to go far away from “Yorubaland” to realize how limited our concept of Ifa/Orunmila is. To the many Fa diviners and their clients in Benin f’rinstance, the whole hullabaloo around Babalawos and Orunmila simply doesn’t exist, and also in other African countries outside “Yorubaland” he is simply unknown, and does not play any rol at all in their divination systems.

The Orisha Orunmila was man-made, and the vast majority of Ifa diviners are not among those who “made” him. So not only is he “dead” to them: he actually never existed. I myself am not initiated into Orunmila and yet I’m a bloody good Ifa diviner – if I may be so bold as to do a little bit of self-praising (wicked grin)! I am in good company: it’s my rather educated guess that at least three quarters of all Ifa, Fa, Eba etcetera diviners are not intiated into Orunmila, nor do they feel the need to be, for to them Orunmila is not an existing deity.


Odus coming online

November 28, 2012 by · Comments Off on Odus coming online
Filed under: Using this website 

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After long, loooong thinking I’ve decided to put an online version of “my” Odu Ifa texts on this site, of course for members only. Non-members can only buy the more extensive and much nicer books (which I sure hope members will do as well – grin!)… the first volume “Ika” is already available!

Non-members can of course see the main introduction to the Odu Portal in the main navigation bar, but the links in the portal itself are only accessible to members. The texts here online are kind of a “bare bone” version of the texts in the books… the most obvious things missing are the brilliant illustrations by Brenda Beek!

If you check every now and then, you’ll see that the collection online will be growing before the series of books does… the reason being simple: I’ll be adding existing translations to the website all the time, regardless of Odu, while the books by necessity are published let’s say “Odu-wise”. A silly term, but I gues you get the gist. And while we’re at it: the second volume in the series, the book “Irete”, will be published in paper form in april 2013. It won’t be long, it is not far away!


It’s all bullshit

November 16, 2012 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Finding your way in Ifa-Orisha 

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Way outReligions, spiritualities and related life philosophies tend to have one thing in common: their adherents are looking for something, they are searching. People want their lives to get better, in other words: they want to escape from the “here and now”. If only this or that…, if I only could…, if only this would not… that kind of thing. In fact each and every religion or spirituality seems to revolve around the concept “if”.

This may be (at least partly) caused by our quite unconscious habit of thinking of reality in a linear way… I mean: only within the boundaries of cause and effect do the words “if only…” have any meaning.

I can (or rather will) only speak about/for myself, and from my own inside out. To a very large extend my mind works totally non-linear… although on a small level I am aware of stuff like cause and effect and time sequences, on a larger level I seem to live “outside time” (and space, for that matter).

To many questions in and about Ifa-Orisha I don’t have the answers, because… I don’t understand/grasp/grok that there’s a question! I operate almost fully outside the structure of Ifa-Orisha, because I don’t understand/grasp/grok that there’s a need for structure.

I have much more difficulty with thinking of the religion/philosophy in a linear way than in a non-linear way. Going to the supermarket is a linear activity for me… I need coffee, creamer, food… and I fully understand that in order to get that, I need to go get it. That’s a linear thing: go to the supermarket with an empty bag, buy things, go home with a full bag.

Spiritually though, there is no empty bag! That’s why I don’t visit our religious supermarket, staying away from the bullshit of people who want to buy what they already have, and others who want to sell what people don’t need. The religion (with Lucumi as the saddest example) has become a fugging market place.

BullshitThere are many so-called “secrets” in the Ifa-Orisha complex, and the number grows daily… on account of one “secret” being unveiled, the former owner of that “secret” immediately creates at least two new ones, otherwise he will lose his linear advantage over the Hoi Polloi AKA the Great Unwashed. These are so-called “secrets”, but of real secrets I know only one: there is no secret. There’s only blind people.

Not too long ago I rephrased that one and only secret in a very provocative way (I like to be provocative – wide grin!): “Our whole ‘religion’ is bullshit. Period”.

If we think (Members: click to read on)


Olofi(n) over here and over there

November 11, 2012 by · Comments Off on Olofi(n) over here and over there
Filed under: Apparently burning questions 

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The Orisha Olofi(n) isn’t very prominent in Nigeria, but in Santeria/Lucumi he certainly is. Some Santeros even say that he’s part of a “Trinity”: Olodumare, Olorun and Olofi. Elevated out of every decent proportion he is, from a relatively obscure sun-spirit (just one among dozens of more or less related sprigs and sprites) in the odd region in Africa, to a fully-fledged trinity position in the “Creator cluster” in Cuba/America! Not a bad career at all, and fine proof that heresy works (wide and wicked grin)!

OlofiThe basic principle of any good heresy (like the well-known example of Akhnaton with his spectacular Aton experiment) is to pick a relatively insignificant but clearly legitimate deity, and then slowly and carefully attribute to him/her an increasing number of qualities and characteristics that formerly belonged to other deities. The original relative obscurity is a definite prerequisite, because it makes it very hard for opponents of the new Savior, Messiah, top-Orisha or Creator-God to prove that the newly attributed qualities are not originally connected with the newly appointed Spiritual Marvel… for nobody knows.

In fact this same process has happened hundreds of times in traditional African Ifa-Orisha. In contrast with common belief, the immense variety of expressions of Ifa-Orisha in Africa is firmly based on thorough heresy, the busy worshippers constantly making, merging and destroying Orishas. Some newly made or recently elevated Orishas enjoy a splendid career, while others simply fail and in a very literal sense disappear.

Although cosmic forces and elements of nature exist quite independently from us, when it comes tho their worshipped expressions or aspects, it is man who makes, merges, proliferates and destroys Orishas. In Africa mankind traditionally makes and changes their own gods, and it pleases me to see that this time-honored tradition of institutional heresy has survived in the Santeria/Lukumi branch in Cuba and the United States. Lukumi is a fine heretical tradition, quite well in line with the ancient African practices of growth and development it was born from. It’s not the heresy that I object to in Lukumi, but its unwillingness to admit that it’s a heretical religion in boiling and creative turmoil.

Olofi in his present day Lukumi perspective is a legitimate Orisha in his own right, but boy oh boy: if ever in recent days an Orisha was literally made by man, then it’s him!


Animal sacrifice… necessary?

November 5, 2012 by · Comments Off on Animal sacrifice… necessary?
Filed under: Apparently burning questions 

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The question “Do I have to sacrifice animals to practice Orisha traditions?” is a pretty sore spot when it comes to discussing our religion with “outsiders” Time upon time again we have to defend our position on this subject, for yes: although probably not absolutely necessary, you’ll hardly find an Ifa-Orisha, Santeria or Lukumi House that does not sacrifice animals, either frequently or not so frequently.

My own experience is that ritually snuffing the odd chicken or such raises an enormous amount of Ashe, that would be rather difficult to raise otherwise. Yet I don’t do it very often, for the simple reason that, when I divine on the subject, my Orishas hardly ever ask for blood sacrifice. Their tastes seem to change, or rather adapt to the culture and circumstances one lives in.

Goat sacrificeEspecially in rural parts of Africa it was, and to a large extend still is, customary to slaughter ones own food, and the blood and some parts were more or less automatically offered to the Orishas. That means meals for humans and for Orishas were kind of “integrated”: when the humans ate, the Orishas ate too. In the West this has been turned inside out: an animal is sacrificed to the Orishas, and almost as a second thought the meat is eaten by the human family. In Africa on the other hand, an Orisha asking for a blood offering was part of normal kitchen procedure: the family had to eat anyway, and if there was any good reason to slaughter an animal and eat meat, this was reason for enjoyment and for stuffing ones face with relatively rare delicacies.

We, in the West, don’t eat that way. Slaughtering an animal is out of place here, instead of the “normal” thing to do. Which might indicate that making a blood offering too has ceased to be the “normal” thing. There’s another side to this issue as well. Until not so long ago, at least deep into the nineteenth century and quite likely even into the twentieth, human sacrifice was not unheard of in the religion, and earlier it was even fairly common – in the mid-nineteenth human sacrifices were still often made in the Yoruba Ifa-Orisha tradition.

However, this changed somewhere in time. There are many texts in the Ifa Corpus that say: “And from that moment on no humans were sacrificed anymore to Orisha So-and-so, but only sheep. Or goats. Or whatever”. So human sacrifice, once considered an indispensable part of our religion, kinda went out of fashion when public opinion began to frown upon it on account of cultural ideas and customs changing. I have the feeling that something similar may eventually happen to animal sacrifice.

It seems quite possible that divination will increasingly indicate that animal sacrifices are no longer required, on account of ritual slaughter being so much out of place in our cultures that it has become a very artificial act and even “unnatural”. Orishas are not fond of “unnatural” things. They disposed of human sacrifice, and every worshiper goes happily along with that. The time may come when they dispose of animal sacrifice too. I dunno; I’m not an Orisha.

Right now I would say that many ritual sacrifices need not to be done, but I won’t go as far as to say that NONE of them should be done. In other words: when the Orishas tell me that they accept something else, I’m not going to snuff a rooster just because that would be the “traditional thing”. But when in exceptional circumstances they insist on having a rooster or so, I’ll snuff the beast without any qualms.

My personal perception is that animal sacrifice is kind of on the wane, and mainly propagandized by those who haven’t yet found out that there are changes all around us. I for one wouldn’t be unhappy to see it go completely in any culture where one wouldn’t normally slaughter ones own food anyway. But I guess it’s up to the Orishas to decide.

Update

A couple of years after I wrote this article, I think it must have been in the summer of 2014, the Orishas did decide… at least as far as I myself and my “omolette” Brenda are concerned. During a quite profound divination Ifa clearly stated that for Brenda and me animal sacrifice had become a blanket taboo, i.e. that it is a taboo unless in an individual case Ifa clearly states that for that particular occasion the taboo has been lifted. This makes sense – this sort of thing is part of the very nature of Ifa’s concept of “taboo”. Many (food) taboos are imposed because the “taboo stuff” might in future save the person’s life, like f’rinstance a certain kind of mushroom.

If you have such a taboo and still regularly eat that mushroom the body gets used to the stuff, sort of creating an immunity to it… and when suddenly the need arises for using that mushroom as a life saving medicine, the body doesn’t react to it anymore. It’s a bit like antibiotics… if you use these too often or too long the body becomes resistant to them, and on the next occasion you might need them they won’t work anymore. Likewise, if you keep snuffing animals for every tiny shitty “problem” you have, the forces you deal with may kinda develop an immunity. I dunno, it simply seems to make some kind of sense.

Something like that might be the case for Brenda, me, and those who consider themselves part of my “non-Ilé”… “non” because I formally don’t have one, there just are other Independents scattered around the globe who might or might not want to occasionally follow some of my examples, even if it were only to save themselves the trouble finding everything out for themselves (wide grin)! As for myself, it is not impossible that sometime in future a really serious situation will arise that cannot reasonably be solved without the strong energy/ashé of some animal sacrifice, in which case Ifa will undoubtedly inform me that the taboo has been temporarily lifted. We’ll see. I’ve never encountered even one single really serious situation in my seventy years of life yet, but you never know.


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