Ori coming out (2)

September 17, 2013 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Ifalution: the larger picture 

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It is Ori, Ori alone…

In my article Ori coming out (1) I spoke about the unavoidable need for the various expressions of Ifa/Orisha in the West to change from imitated alien to genuine indigenous. That article, which was also published on various groups, created some sort of an uproar among Babalariwos and Oloonywos. As you may know, I’ve fully had it with that lot, so here comes the second installment which will annoy them even more (evil grin)!

I perceive quite a lot of Orisha worship especially in the West as melodramatically overdone. Dangerously overdone. I feel Orisha worship far too often inhibits spiritual development, instead concentrating on ceremonies and rituals which make the troubled practitioner snuff a bunch of chickens or a goat, and then sit on his ass to wait for the Orisha to solve the problem. The sad thing is that you can’t even blame them, because it’s what they’re told to do within “the system”.

PuppetsThe Orishas have become magic puppets, and the “Elders” have become the puppet masters. There’s less dealing with the infinite forces of Nature than with their mentally disturbed human projections… like Oshun who has deteriorated into a vain and horny bitch, a parody called Shango who fucks everything that moves and who is just about the rudest being you can imagine, the distorted image of Ogun who is dumb enough to make the perfect bouncer in a shady bar, and let’s throw in my own Oshoosi whose puppet turns out to be so irresponsible with bow and arrow that he shoots his own grandmother – he’s probably a Life Member of the NRA. Not a bunch one would want to associate with, would one?

The Elders are the puppet masters

Not fully, but yet to a considerable extend, this situation has developed out of the strict, rigid, hierarchical structure of Orisha worship in the West. The Elders are the puppet masters who know and control how the Orishas can be prompted to “do” something for their followers, and who insist that everybody knows their place in the pecking order of Ilé, Egbe or House. This is a recipe for abuse, which automatically develops when people obediently play their assigned roles within a system and strictly follow its prescribed rules… while remaining blind to, or at least ignoring and/or whitewashing, the nefarious moral consequences of what that system and those inside it are doing. The “religion” stinks; I believe that only when the present generation of Elders in the West has died, some true spirituality might find its way back into the circus.

Some of the rules in organized Orisha worship are:

  • You never go around, or over the head of, your Elder.
  • You tell your Elder what he wants to hear, even when he claims to want dissident views.
  • If your Elder wants an issue dropped, you drop it.
  • You are sufficiently sensitive to your Elder’s wishes to anticipate what he wants, and act accordingly.
  • Your do not report anything that your Elder does not want reported, but cover it up instead.
  • You do as you are told by your Elder, and you keep your mouth shut even when you have burning questions.

Now that’s pure guruism and cultism. What you see happen is that the Elders totally regulate your access to, and interaction with, what you have learned to see as “the Orishas”… which wouldn’t matter at all if you paid a bit more attention to your own Ori and a lot less to the puppets that the Elders are manipulating for you – including yourself.

It is Ori alone who accompanies his follower on every journey, without turning back

Head or OriAm I saying then that the Spiritual Forces don’t exist? Nope… I am not saying that at all, on the contrary… they do exist, and we (can) work with them every day! However, these Spiritual Forces (I like calling them the Forces of Nature) are far less “human” and far more “cosmic” than is even remotely expressed in your run-off-the-mill Orisha worship with all its ritual, ceremonies, hopscotch and hootenanny. In essence they are Irunmole… the Forces that came and existed before some of their emanations were called Orishas. And don’t forget the concept of Ori… which is the essential Orisha, even to the extent of existing without the “sha”! Ori-sha, after all, means something like “select(ed) head”, but the ultimate selected head is your own Ori which you chose (selected) already before coming to Earth!

The Odu Ogunda Meji says about Ori: Ifa, the question is: “Who among the deities accompanies their followers on every journey, without ever turning back?” Ifa said: “It is Ori, Ori alone, who accompanies his follower on every journey, without ever turning back.” When I have money it is my Ori whom I praise. My Ori, it is you. When I have children it is my Ori whom I praise. My Ori, it is you. All the good things I have on earth, it is my Ori whom I praise. My Ori, it is you. My Ori, I salute you, you, who does not forget his follower, you who blesses his follower quicker than any other deity. No deity blesses a human being without the consent of his Ori. Ori, I salute you. You who allows children to be born alive. One whose offers are accepted by his Ori has reason to dance and rejoice.

I’d say that this is a damn good reason to take your Ori very serious! In fact, Ifa repeatedly states that without the consent and cooperation of your Ori, none of the Orishas/Irunmole can do anything for you.

Don’t let your Ori allow abuse!

Neither can any human being do anything for, or against, you without the consent of your Ori… which is an essentially important fact in a religion that is saturated with abuse. Unfortunately, in more than fifteen years online I have noticed that it is almost impossible to break down the barriers of suspicion and paranoia, even to the extend that people don’t want to talk about their experiences, among other reasons on account of being scared shitless. Nobody trusts anybody. “Who is he?” “I don’t want to be in a group with her!” “I don’t trust him!” “She is a spy from another Ilé!” “He will tell my Elders everything I write!” “She only wants to hex me!” I guess you get the picture. Diasporian branches of Ifa and Orisha remind me very little of a religion or a philosophy, and very much of a mental disease. The fear is deeply rooted… and with some reason. You lot would be shocked out of your socks if I told you the horror stories that people bring to me. Or maybe you wouldn’t be shocked… a significant percentage of my readers has been raped, robbed or otherwise abused themselves… by so-called “Elders”. I really believe that only when the present generation of Elders in the West has died, some true spirituality might find its way back into the circus, and fear might make place for self-confidence.

Orishas are man-made, Irunmole aren’t

There’s far too much hopscotch, hootenanny, fancy dress and “shut the fuck up” in Ifa/Orisha. Rituals and ceremonies rule so strongly that for asking one or two quick questions from cowries or obi, lengthy ritualistic introductions and invocations must be performed: the bullshit takes much longer than the questions and answers themselves. And I don’t even mention what comes afterwards… when the puppets must be satisfied or they will “make your life a misery”.

So much, so very much of all this is completely unnecessary! What does the metaphysical spirit of iron care whether you snuff a rooster or not? What does the metaphyscial spirit of the river care if you throw in a pigeon? With only a few exceptions the answer is: “Nothing”! To an astonishing extend our “religion” has turned the Orishas into the Punch and Judy’s of the Spiritual realm: man-made puppets that represent somewhat recognizable archetypes… but the archetypes themselves they are not! It took me a bit of time to recognize this simple fact, but eventually I started veering away from Orishas towards Irunmole, meaning that the little “puppets” (Orishas) are beginning to mean less and less to me, while the forces they represent (Irunmole) are becoming increasingly important… at least to me.

In Orisha(-worship) there is too much “humanization” for me to effectively work with. Although in 1982 (geez… 31 years ago already… I must be getting old – grin!) I started out on my Ifa path by studying the Orishas as they are usually seen, that is in some sort of a humanized way, during the years I began to find out that they aren’t.

Orishas are man-made, while Irunmole aren’t. The names of the Orishas, and their attributes, are sort of “convenient conventions” to help us kind of imagine what it’s all about, and to a certain extend that works. But… butBUT…: it has taken over so much of what the forces of nature and the related spirits really are!

Shango prancingJust a single example. One of the many shifts in my attitude arose from a range of videos showing possession. I vividly remember Shango (or at least something that was supposed to be Shango) tarted up like an 18th century Spanish poofter, prancing about as if doing ballet lessons with a cactus up his ass. What I saw was neither a powerful virile king nor a spirit of fire, thunder and lightning, but just some idiot going through the motions he thought he was supposed to go through: an actor, a man-made puppet acting out some symptoms from DSM-IV.

Another revealing situation arose when OLU (Organization for Lukumi Unity) disappeared from the face of this earth after a conference they had (finally) managed to organize. It’s a bit simplified, but essentially this was what happened: crowd A went into “possession” of which the validity was denied by crowd B, while the validity of the “possessions” of crowd B was emphatically denied by crowd A. Result: after the whole hullabaloo everybody went home and various Babalariwos began to cast Ifa in order to retrospectively decide which “possessions” had been genuine and which not. Ifa must have laughed his spiritual ass off… and within only a few weeks OLU, once the largest Lukumi organization and forum, was no more.

The risk of puppeteering the Orishas

I’m not the only one who sees the risk of humanizing the Orishas too much. Years ago, my late internet-friend Afolabi (Clay Keck) wrote: “Too often Orisha worshipers begin to confuse themselves with their patron Orisha. Priests will explain away the flaws in their character as archetypal behaviour. Yemoja eats too much, Shango sleeps around, Ogun is rude and abrupt, and Oshun is a bitch. It is true that because character flaws exist, they must indeed fall under the auspices of a specific Orisha. The point, however, is to be aware of these flaws as pitfalls within the realm of one’s Orisha and move beyond them, rather than rationalize that, because they are part of the domain of one’s guardian divinity, they should be embraced.”

All that humanizing and anthropomorphizing of the forces Ifa works with (even of Ifa itself!) is not my piece of cake… and it’s certainly not what I have experienced the Ifa way of life to be about. At least not my Ifa way of life.

I experience Ifa as an independent entity, although closely connected with my own Ori. Sometimes I wonder whether “my” Ifa is literally my Ori, and when divining for clients also the client’s Ori. I don’t wonder very hard though… it’s important neither to myself, nor to “my” Ifa.

Now mind: I have not totally veered away from the “puppets”, like I enjoy giving some food to my “stone” which seems to be pleased and amused when I call him “Eshu”. And there are a few other things: as an Oshoosi priest it suits me to think of whatever it is I was initiated into as “Oshoosi”… but you can be sure that, whether we realize it or not, “my” Oshoosi is quite different from his, or hers, or yours, or theirs… and all these Oshoosi’s amongst themselves are also different from each other, for they are the puppets that we make in our own heads. Or let’s write that as Heads with a capital H… for in the end it is our Ori who arrived with us, lives with us, and remains with us till the end.

In short: I enjoy working with the forces of nature, of the cosmos, of reality… not (anymore) with the little mannikins we made out of them. And when all is said and done… I think there’s nothing truly real but our own Ori.

Back to Ori coming out (1)!