Discussion:
Advice to Newcomers to Orisha worship
(too old to reply)
Denise Oliver-Velez
2005-12-11 15:07:18 UTC
Permalink
Greetings,

If you are surfing newsgroups - looking for information and advice
about getting involved in Orisha worship, there are plenty of websites
and newsgroups, and discussion forums to be found on the net - lots of
books to read - and beware, plenty of crooks and charlatans out there
in cyberland (and the real world) ready to take you for a ride. This
is not peculiar to Orisha worship- any religion has members who are
unethical - but since this newsgroup deals specifically with Lukumi
(Santeria) and related traditions - my words of warning, and advice are
targeted to that tradition.

So how do you get started in Lukumi/Santeria?

My suggestion is to do some reading first. Be prepared - don't just
walk into the first botanica (ATR religious supplies store) you find
asking around, or send an email off to a purported priest (anyone can
claim to be an initiate on the internet). Some of the so-called elders
who spend a lot of time dispensing advice via cyberspace aren't
priests at all, and some folks who write books and say they are priests
aren't even initiated. Many are legitimate priests however - you
just need to learn how to tell the difference.

My suggestion is read two basic texts first - Four New World Yoruba
Rituals, by John Mason and Finding Soul on the Path to the Orisha, by
Tobe Melora Correal :
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1580911498/002-4429398-3703233?v=glance&n=283155

John's book is good because it covers the basics - and starts out with
the ancestors. Tobe's book is a spiritual guide - not a "how to book".
You won't find any crappy recipes for witchcraft (a la Wippler), just
solid advice on how to start your journey.

Another good basic introductory text is Santeria, by Joseph Murphy.

Second. After you have done some reading start looking for godparents
- or at least a godparent. Orisha traditions are communal and
hierarchical. These are not "do-it-yourself" traditions, and you
cannot self-initiate. This is a lineage based system - with levels of
initiation, and it takes time to move through these levels and be
trained. Not everyone has a calling to the priesthood. Some people
are content to join an ile and stay as simple worshippers. Some folks
don't even go that far - they are simply "clients" looking for
advice. Be clear about what level of interest or involvement you want
to have.

The godparent becomes your teacher and guide. They are not a
substitute for parents. They aren't medical doctors, therapists or
marital counselors. Nor can they "magically" solve all your
problems. What they can do is guide you through the basic steps of
Orisha worship, teach you about how to honor your ancestors and Orisha,
and guide your spiritual development. Nor do they have the answer to
everything - but they should be part of a structure where they can seek
spiritual advice as well. They don't have to be rich- nor do they
need to have a college degree, or to have written books. Are they
humble? Do they seem to be content with their own lives? Do they have
a sense of humor? Do they seem willing to teach? If they tell you not
to speak to anyone else - not to ever open a book (a better response is
that they can suggest what books are appropriate) be careful. I'd
like to digress here - not all elder priests read books - their method
of teaching is through demonstration - this is a" learn by doing
faith" (experiential learning), and cannot be learned simply by
buying up books. But they should be willing to teach, and answer
questions. Not all questions can be answered in the beginning - some
things are not appropriate for the uninitiated to explore. But there
are basic questions they must be prepared to answer which will provide
some credentials.

First - they should be able to tell you the names of who initiated them
- when and where. And who initiated the person who initiated their
elder.

They should be part of an ile (house) and know their lineage (rama).
If they are Lukumi (Santeria) priests they should be easy to check out.
There are only four or five major ramas in the U.S.

Pimienta (sub rama Pirana, Pimienta Coral)
Culo Verde
Efunche
San Jose Ochenta (incluyes Aina)
Trapito

For the history of all of these groups born in Cuba - get a copy of
David Brown's "Santeria Enthroned". This book is not a basic
text - but has a great index - and you'll find the names of all the
founding ancestors in it.

If the rama is African Traditional - not descended from a Cuban line -
I cannot comment here on methods of investigation since I am Lukumi
(Cuban lineage).
But they will have a lineage.

Find out who was the Oriate/Oba (Master of Ceremonies) for their
initiation. If the person tells you that everyone involved with their
initiation is dead (unless they are over 80), and you can't verify
anything about them - get a pair of Nike's and run - in the opposite
direction. The Church of the Lucumi Babaluaye has a list of legitimate
priests - whose initiations are verified.

Legitimate priests usually have godchildren and/or elders around. If
you meet their godchildren - and they look like they are Moonies or are
on drugs, and they start chanting "Nam myo ho rengay kyo" you
missed the Lukumi train and are on your way to either Tibet or
Woodstock.

A word of advice. All of these questions must be asked courteously and
with humility. Don't go in "interrogation mode". If the person
is an elder they may take offense. But - get answers - before
committing to a relationship. In these days of instantaneous internet
communication and the proliferation of websites - there are a few good
ones where you can begin to make inquiries. Be aware that there are
legitimate priests who may not be liked by other priests (it's kind
of like the rivalry between and among Protestant sects). Listen and
observe.

Some priests are members of organizations which are devoted to specific
Orishas called Egbes. There are also workshops and panel discussions
held in major cities. Some elders - and many younger priests (1 to 20
years of initiation) participate in online discussion groups like OLU
(Organization for Lucumi Unity) or Santeria Lucumi, or CLBA among
others (see websites list for locations).

If online priests take American Express or VISA for ceremonies - get
the sneakers out again. If they say they'll do them by mail or via
internet - run faster.

If they tell you they'll take you on a tour to Haiti or Cuba, or
Africa (along with a busload of others) to get initiated - get track
shoes.

If things they tell you sound like they come from a cross between
Wicca, Zen, Vegetarianism, Hare Krishna or an Ashram - you are talking
to the wrong person. Botanicas - places that sell religious supplies
to a variety of traditions - Lukumi, Vodou, Palo, Espiritismo, Hoodoo
may be a starting point in your journey - but beware. There are
Espiritistas (spiritualists) who are not santeros (priests) who are
wearing multi-colored bead necklaces (elekes) and who do readings
(consultas). Many people who are new can't tell the difference.
You can ask the person if they "have ocha made". Even if they say
"yes", if you are naïve, you could be in for a rude awakening down
the road. See later details in this post for more info on
verification.

For many people entering the religion - the first thing they do is get
a basic reading (divination). If the priest says it costs more than 50
bucks - keep your money in your pockets. The East coast average is 21
dollars. For some reason I can't fathom it's 50.00 out west -
probably because there are far fewer diviners.
When I mention readings here - I'm referring to cowry shell
divination. The costs of an Ifa reading with a Babalawo may be a bit
higher. If they say they are going read you with tarot cards - or
dominos - get out the sneakers again.

The first ceremony most folks go through, to join an ile is to receive
elekes (beads/collares). A person I know paid 1,000 a piece for his
(total $7,000). The crook in the Bronx (who claimed to be a Santera
and wasn't) who lifted his wallet this way should be jailed. The
receiving of beads - though not a must, is like a contract - or entry
into an ile (house) and the basic costs range from 121 dollars to
421.00 ( though I think 421 is way too high) - but - it's your
money. Some (mid-west and west coast) houses have a more elaborate
ceremony which can cost up to 600.00. There are regional and ile
variations.

If you are gay - and they are homophobic - exit stage left. If you are
white and they keep referring to "white devils" - get to
steppin'. If you don't speak Spanish and they hold conversations
with everyone around you without translating (or having someone there
who can translate) - either take a total immersion language course, and
come back later - or find a house where you can figure out what the
heck is being said around you. Rude is rude - no matter what language
it's in.

If they read/divine for you and pick up a mass produced book in order
to do the interpretation - beware. You can buy your own book and be
just as mis-educated. If they immediately tell you, "you are
cursed" and will die in three weeks if you don't cough up 12 to 20
thousand dollars for an instant initiation - take your money and get an
IRA. Or go out and buy the Brooklyn Bridge.

For some people an introduction to santeros or santeras (priests)
happens in spiritual masses (called misas). This is an outgrowth of
Kardecian spiritism which was grafted onto Lukumi in the last 40 years,
called 'Espiritismo" - and is often confused with Lukumi. They are
separate - but often practiced dually. Also grafted onto Lukumi
practice is a distinctly different faith originating not from the
Yoruba - but from the Congo - referred to as Palo or Palo Mayombe. To
honor your ancestors - you do not have to become Catholic (if you
aren't already Catholic) nor is it a prerequisite that you must be
"scratched or cut" in Palo in order to honor Orisha. Espiritismo
(Puerto Rican Spiritism) may attract you - and you may have a path in
Palo - but neither is a must. It depends on the ile you select, and
the godparent. If you don't feel this is your road - look elsewhere.

Another way people get introduced to the religion is through music
(drumming) or Orisha dance classes. They then wind up attending a
"tambor"(a drumming ceremony for Orisha) . If everyone is wearing
black - you've gotten the wrong address and are in a coven.

Women wear skirts (usually) and men wear pants. White, or light
colored clothing is predominant at Lucumi events (or African fabrics in
traditional houses). If everyone is wearing glitter spandex disco
pants -you are at Studio 54.


Once you think you have identified a potential godparent, get yourself
invited to events of the ile. Lukumi priests hold a variety of events
open to non-initiates. They celebrate their birthdays of initiation
each year. They hold drummings for the Orishas. Many have spiritual
masses for the ancestors. None of these events cost money to attend.
You may make offerings - fruit, flowers, small amounts of money (a
dollar) to contribute to the event, but this is not mandatory.
In fact at Ocha birthdays - you, as a guest are fed and given fruit
from the altar.

See how they deal with their godchildren, and elders. This is really
important. Chat with other attendees.

If you are in a major city like New York, Philadelphia, Miami, Tampa,
San Francisco, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Houston, Chicago, or Detroit there
are established iles - and elders around. If you are in a small town
no where near any of the aforementioned cities, you'll have to do
some traveling. Beware of solitary practitioners. This is a communal
religion. There are NO solitary practitioners. No initiations can be
done in this practice without a group.

When you get a reading - our tradition is one of reciprocity and
balance. In order to achieve balance there are sometimes "ebos" or
"cleanings" marked. These "ebos" or cleanings may involve
buying fruits, or herbs, or items necessary to complete the balance.
This in not a religion that is free. I am going to be blunt here. A
large number of people are involved in conducting every major ceremony.
The costs of ceremonies, as you become more involved can range from
simply buying candles and coconuts and flowers to thousands of dollars
- with over 20 to 30 priests participating for initiation to the
priesthood. People eat - and yes we sacrifice animals which are cooked
and offered to Orisha and then feed the participants (with a few
exceptions). The average college student in America these days spends
about 10,000 a semester for schooling. A wedding reception can be
10,000 to 20,000 dollars. Initiation to the priesthood is a wedding.
And costs. Be clear about this. But since I'm addressing entry
level here - I won't go into more detail. But keep this in mind.
All churches require tithes, offerings or monetary support from the
congregation to sustain themselves. This faith is no exception. In
the future I'll discuss more about this - but thought it would be
important to make clear from the start.

If you still feel you have been drawn to Orisha and want to go further,
let me offer a welcome. Many people who live in the modern world have
either been disillusioned by non-culturally sensitive faiths, are
seeking a connection to their ancestors, or alternative spiritual
paths. I love my faith and am proud to be a priest. But as a priest,
I feel it important to offer as objective an introduction - with
provisos, as I can.

The opinions I have expressed here are my own - based on 7 years as an
initiated priest, and 25 years as a devotee/participant. When I
started this newsgroup, I was an aborisha (non-initated devotee). I
am still learning - and will be as long as I live. I am not an elder,
I'm a very young priestess. I'm close to sixty in earthly years
however, and don't want to sit idly by and watch others distort the
faith that I have found to be so beautiful.

Welcome again,

Denise
Denise Oliver-Velez
2006-01-10 02:29:03 UTC
Permalink
I hope some other reader/posters here from other traditions like Palo,
Candomble and Vodou will offer some advice as well

Denise
Quimbisero
2006-01-10 20:06:26 UTC
Permalink
I'd like to offer a couple of remarks by way of adding my dos pesos
(allowing for exchange rates) to what you've said.

First of all, I concur. On the subject of preists who say "no books"
however, some elucidation may be helpful. If every other observation
lines up in favor of a priest or priestess, remember that this is
largely an oral tradition, albeit one mediated by text. There are some
very sound reasons for a priest to not want godchildren reading
published works, beyond the fact that the majority in print is best
used in the restroom and not for reading, either. It can be incredibly
frustrating and counterproductive if a priest has to answer to and in
some respects compete with information from books. Especially when what
the student reads is either out right wrong, or not pertinent to the
particular tradition at hand. Having to justify differences constantly
can be frustrating.

That being said, if you have read everything you can get your hands on,
including the poorly written and inaccurate, and have read them with a
very critical eye, you will be better able to intuit whether the
individual is legitimate.

On the matter of espiritismo, in addition to those who practice the Zen
of Santería, there are those who practice a home grown "mescla" of
various traditions, and someone coming to the tradition may mistake
these as legitimate. I suspect that on the West coast, this may be
esier to spot as it can contain elements of Mexican traditions. On the
east coast, there is likely to be a stronger influence from influences
culled from Puerto rican and Dominican traditions and this may be a
little harder, especially for non Latinos to identify. Read first, and
respectfully ask questions. If you find a lot of mixing, be leery.
These are not New Age traditions. In Wicca etc. mixing is the norm.
Here. it is bad news. If you want to follow 21 (Viente y uno - a
Dominican "versión espiritual" of Vodou) or Espiritismo, fine, but
when everything is mixed, it becomes a sloppy mess.

As for Palo, well, I will doubtlessly raise a few hackles, but there
are almost no houses I would trust in the US. Most have a form of Palo
Cruzado which while legitimate in Cuba, usually in the US is lacking in
any serious knowledge about the Congo origins of the religion. They
tend to fill in with Yoruba material what they lack in knowledge and
the result is not real Palo. Then there are the outright frauds, and
there are many of them. The real houses are deep in Cuban communities
and you will hardly get an invitation if youdo not have either a) Cuban
connections or b) get incredibly lucky. And in either case, you will
be well able to speak Spanish, or better yet, Cubiche (Español con
sabor Cubano).

Initiations in Palo, whatever branch, are also very communal affairs.
They must have representatives of other houses there, and preferably
also of other ramas. A Yayi, or Madrina is an absolute necessity for
legitimacy. And although it will raise objections, it must be said that
the legitimate Palo community has strong religious prohibitions on
homosexual participation. If a gay is rayado, he or she, if open about
their preferences, must be prepared to live with the fact that the
large majority of traditional Paleros will view them as illegitimate.
However you feel about the subject, that remains a social reality. It
is not likely to change in a hurry, nor for a variety of obvious
reasons, is the larger Palo community likely to succumb to pressure to
bow to the pressure to be politically correct. Palo is not, on the
whole, interesting in changing with the times.

If you find a Palo house, and it consists of a solo practitioner who
will initiate you and send you off with a prenda, you have not found
Palo. Also, it must be noted here, unlike in Ocha, Palo initiations are
more often than not, not individual affairs. A rayamiento quite
commonly is held for a group of initiates rather than a single person.
This is not a matter of economics or greed. This goes back to the Congo
roots of Palo which were initiation schools were frequently dozens of
students would attend an "initiation school." I have attended
rayamientos where there was a solo initiate and others with as many as
ten. Both extremes are completely traditional and neither is in any way
less as a result. There are benefits in both. If anything, the group
initiation results in stronger experiences as it forges a strong sense
of community and shared experience.

Also, it should be stated, in Palo one doesn't usually get a prenda
right away. If someone is offering you a package rate, get those
sneekers on and hoof it away. A ngeyo, or pino nuevo, a mwana nganga,
or new initiate usually waits some time before advancing to receive a
nganga or prenda. This is almost totally lost in my observation in the
US these days. And it is in my view damaging. It takes years to learn
what is needed to be a tata nganga. You do not get it in a weekend.
Also, most legitimate lineages do not give prendas or ngangas to women
who are still menstruating. There are very sound metaphysical reasons
for this. Again, Palo, real Palo, does not bend to social trends,
however we may view issues of equality outside of religious contexts.
This is not a tradition meant for everyone, or more accurately, the
roles of all people within the tradition are not equal by outside
standards. Each has their place and is respected, but not everyone has
the same path within Congo religion. Some will receive ngangas, some
never will, nor should they. Women usually receive them after
menstruation has ceased although they are quite often initiated well
before that.

A last remark, do not be in a hurry with any of these traditions. You
cannot imagine what continual and incresing obligations you will be
taking on before you have done so. They should not be made lightly.

Eoghan
Denise Oliver-Velez
2006-01-11 11:59:21 UTC
Permalink
Modupue Tata Eoghan,

Your "dos pesos" are worth far more. :)

Thank you for this thoughtful introduction to Palo, a subject about
which I know next to nothing. Though my husband plays at Palo events -
I am not, and will never be a practitioner, though I do - as a priest,
need to have more precise information in the event that I have a
godchild who for whatever reason is drawn there. I have resisted for
years the assumption that all Lukumi practitioners "must" be rayado
prior to making Ocha, just as I have had strong reservations about
various spiritual hybrids found here on the East Coast - which you
identified in your post.

I agree that this is an oral tradition and there is no substitute for
learning with elders and through practice. I am however engaged on
two levels - as practitioner and scholar - and as such have attracted
godchildren who have the same leanings. We spend time doing critical
reading - and I have a collection (small) of valuable texts as well as
a plethora of junk, and am clear to point this out to both my
godchildren and to my students. Two years ago, when teaching a course
on the Caribbean I discovered that my University library had only one
book on "Santeria" (several copies of Wippler) on the shelves and had a
long discussion with the head librarian about this - which resulted in
the library purchasing a better range of materials for student
research.

This has made me think that it might be wise for those of us who have
had some experience with bibliographies of quality material to check
into our local libraries and book stores and see what they have on the
shelves, and if they have only a skimpy selection of dubious material
to offer alternatives to the librarian or buyer.

The problem with many books focused on the "how-to" (spells and magic)
rather than the history, ethnography, theology or cosmology of belief
systems is that these texts feed into a prevailing tendency of "instant
fixes" instant initiations, instant expertise that has become rampant
in today's world.

Ache to you for advising folks to slow down and take time in whatever
tradition they espouse. And to be very aware of the obligations and
responsibilities that are an integral part of the process.

Addng my 7 cents to your 2 pesos :)

Denise
Quimbisero
2006-01-11 18:18:21 UTC
Permalink
Kiambote iya Denise,

Like you, I am both practicing academic and priest. I also place a lot
of importance on critical reading, and count a few copies of Wippler
and worse in my collection. My observation was only to note that some
priests have their own style and prefer that students read other
material after they have come to understand and respect the tradition
into which they are entering. I was anxious to emphasize that not all
who discourge their students from reading do so out of questionable
motives. It requires some introspection an inquiry to determine those
motives, though. My own students are encouraged to read everything, so
long as we discuss what they've read. I also am, like you an
information activist. I encourage difference of opinion an debate.
intelligent debate can only help us. I also am eager to see more people
involved with the religions to seek academic training. I have
encountered a lot of "anti-intellectual" bias from time to time and
feel that we need to embrace and develop more of an academic and
intellectual "cadre" within the traditions, not for elitist reasons,
but because that can do much to advance our reception n correct
misconceptions among the general populace. In short, we need to take
control as much as possible of the literature an the media
representations to improve the information out there.

Eoghan
Orlando Enrique Fiol
2006-01-12 02:51:35 UTC
Permalink
Post by Denise Oliver-Velez
The problem with many books focused on the "how-to" (spells and magic)
rather than the history, ethnography, theology or cosmology of belief
systems is that these texts feed into a prevailing tendency of "instant
fixes" instant initiations, instant expertise that has become rampant
in today's world.
Unfortunately, many unscrupulous "priests" reinforce this idea of
instant initiations, instant fixes and near instant expertise. They
present the journey into ocha as something taht only takes $5,000 and a
week of one's time, with the "slight inconvenience" of yaworage for the
first year. Part of the problem in those cases may be commercial in
nature. If someone depends on new initiates to earn a living, he/she
will not likely encourage potential initiates to hang around the ile and
learn as much as possible before making such a momentous decision.

Orlando
l***@gmail.com
2017-08-30 06:19:22 UTC
Permalink
Thank you for this group. I wish I was more active.
a***@gmail.com
2017-08-05 04:21:28 UTC
Permalink
Thank you this has been so helpful...I am from trinidad and Tobago...
m***@gmail.com
2018-05-26 21:36:57 UTC
Permalink
Post by Denise Oliver-Velez
Greetings,
If you are surfing newsgroups - looking for information and advice
about getting involved in Orisha worship, there are plenty of websites
and newsgroups, and discussion forums to be found on the net - lots of
books to read - and beware, plenty of crooks and charlatans out there
in cyberland (and the real world) ready to take you for a ride. This
is not peculiar to Orisha worship- any religion has members who are
unethical - but since this newsgroup deals specifically with Lukumi
(Santeria) and related traditions - my words of warning, and advice are
targeted to that tradition.
So how do you get started in Lukumi/Santeria?
My suggestion is to do some reading first. Be prepared - don't just
walk into the first botanica (ATR religious supplies store) you find
asking around, or send an email off to a purported priest (anyone can
claim to be an initiate on the internet). Some of the so-called elders
who spend a lot of time dispensing advice via cyberspace aren't
priests at all, and some folks who write books and say they are priests
aren't even initiated. Many are legitimate priests however - you
just need to learn how to tell the difference.
My suggestion is read two basic texts first - Four New World Yoruba
Rituals, by John Mason and Finding Soul on the Path to the Orisha, by
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1580911498/002-4429398-3703233?v=glance&n=283155
John's book is good because it covers the basics - and starts out with
the ancestors. Tobe's book is a spiritual guide - not a "how to book".
You won't find any crappy recipes for witchcraft (a la Wippler), just
solid advice on how to start your journey.
Another good basic introductory text is Santeria, by Joseph Murphy.
Second. After you have done some reading start looking for godparents
- or at least a godparent. Orisha traditions are communal and
hierarchical. These are not "do-it-yourself" traditions, and you
cannot self-initiate. This is a lineage based system - with levels of
initiation, and it takes time to move through these levels and be
trained. Not everyone has a calling to the priesthood. Some people
are content to join an ile and stay as simple worshippers. Some folks
don't even go that far - they are simply "clients" looking for
advice. Be clear about what level of interest or involvement you want
to have.
The godparent becomes your teacher and guide. They are not a
substitute for parents. They aren't medical doctors, therapists or
marital counselors. Nor can they "magically" solve all your
problems. What they can do is guide you through the basic steps of
Orisha worship, teach you about how to honor your ancestors and Orisha,
and guide your spiritual development. Nor do they have the answer to
everything - but they should be part of a structure where they can seek
spiritual advice as well. They don't have to be rich- nor do they
need to have a college degree, or to have written books. Are they
humble? Do they seem to be content with their own lives? Do they have
a sense of humor? Do they seem willing to teach? If they tell you not
to speak to anyone else - not to ever open a book (a better response is
that they can suggest what books are appropriate) be careful. I'd
like to digress here - not all elder priests read books - their method
of teaching is through demonstration - this is a" learn by doing
faith" (experiential learning), and cannot be learned simply by
buying up books. But they should be willing to teach, and answer
questions. Not all questions can be answered in the beginning - some
things are not appropriate for the uninitiated to explore. But there
are basic questions they must be prepared to answer which will provide
some credentials.
First - they should be able to tell you the names of who initiated them
- when and where. And who initiated the person who initiated their
elder.
They should be part of an ile (house) and know their lineage (rama).
If they are Lukumi (Santeria) priests they should be easy to check out.
There are only four or five major ramas in the U.S.
Pimienta (sub rama Pirana, Pimienta Coral)
Culo Verde
Efunche
San Jose Ochenta (incluyes Aina)
Trapito
For the history of all of these groups born in Cuba - get a copy of
David Brown's "Santeria Enthroned". This book is not a basic
text - but has a great index - and you'll find the names of all the
founding ancestors in it.
If the rama is African Traditional - not descended from a Cuban line -
I cannot comment here on methods of investigation since I am Lukumi
(Cuban lineage).
But they will have a lineage.
Find out who was the Oriate/Oba (Master of Ceremonies) for their
initiation. If the person tells you that everyone involved with their
initiation is dead (unless they are over 80), and you can't verify
anything about them - get a pair of Nike's and run - in the opposite
direction. The Church of the Lucumi Babaluaye has a list of legitimate
priests - whose initiations are verified.
Legitimate priests usually have godchildren and/or elders around. If
you meet their godchildren - and they look like they are Moonies or are
on drugs, and they start chanting "Nam myo ho rengay kyo" you
missed the Lukumi train and are on your way to either Tibet or
Woodstock.
A word of advice. All of these questions must be asked courteously and
with humility. Don't go in "interrogation mode". If the person
is an elder they may take offense. But - get answers - before
committing to a relationship. In these days of instantaneous internet
communication and the proliferation of websites - there are a few good
ones where you can begin to make inquiries. Be aware that there are
legitimate priests who may not be liked by other priests (it's kind
of like the rivalry between and among Protestant sects). Listen and
observe.
Some priests are members of organizations which are devoted to specific
Orishas called Egbes. There are also workshops and panel discussions
held in major cities. Some elders - and many younger priests (1 to 20
years of initiation) participate in online discussion groups like OLU
(Organization for Lucumi Unity) or Santeria Lucumi, or CLBA among
others (see websites list for locations).
If online priests take American Express or VISA for ceremonies - get
the sneakers out again. If they say they'll do them by mail or via
internet - run faster.
If they tell you they'll take you on a tour to Haiti or Cuba, or
Africa (along with a busload of others) to get initiated - get track
shoes.
If things they tell you sound like they come from a cross between
Wicca, Zen, Vegetarianism, Hare Krishna or an Ashram - you are talking
to the wrong person. Botanicas - places that sell religious supplies
to a variety of traditions - Lukumi, Vodou, Palo, Espiritismo, Hoodoo
may be a starting point in your journey - but beware. There are
Espiritistas (spiritualists) who are not santeros (priests) who are
wearing multi-colored bead necklaces (elekes) and who do readings
(consultas). Many people who are new can't tell the difference.
You can ask the person if they "have ocha made". Even if they say
"yes", if you are naïve, you could be in for a rude awakening down
the road. See later details in this post for more info on
verification.
For many people entering the religion - the first thing they do is get
a basic reading (divination). If the priest says it costs more than 50
bucks - keep your money in your pockets. The East coast average is 21
dollars. For some reason I can't fathom it's 50.00 out west -
probably because there are far fewer diviners.
When I mention readings here - I'm referring to cowry shell
divination. The costs of an Ifa reading with a Babalawo may be a bit
higher. If they say they are going read you with tarot cards - or
dominos - get out the sneakers again.
The first ceremony most folks go through, to join an ile is to receive
elekes (beads/collares). A person I know paid 1,000 a piece for his
(total $7,000). The crook in the Bronx (who claimed to be a Santera
and wasn't) who lifted his wallet this way should be jailed. The
receiving of beads - though not a must, is like a contract - or entry
into an ile (house) and the basic costs range from 121 dollars to
421.00 ( though I think 421 is way too high) - but - it's your
money. Some (mid-west and west coast) houses have a more elaborate
ceremony which can cost up to 600.00. There are regional and ile
variations.
If you are gay - and they are homophobic - exit stage left. If you are
white and they keep referring to "white devils" - get to
steppin'. If you don't speak Spanish and they hold conversations
with everyone around you without translating (or having someone there
who can translate) - either take a total immersion language course, and
come back later - or find a house where you can figure out what the
heck is being said around you. Rude is rude - no matter what language
it's in.
If they read/divine for you and pick up a mass produced book in order
to do the interpretation - beware. You can buy your own book and be
just as mis-educated. If they immediately tell you, "you are
cursed" and will die in three weeks if you don't cough up 12 to 20
thousand dollars for an instant initiation - take your money and get an
IRA. Or go out and buy the Brooklyn Bridge.
For some people an introduction to santeros or santeras (priests)
happens in spiritual masses (called misas). This is an outgrowth of
Kardecian spiritism which was grafted onto Lukumi in the last 40 years,
called 'Espiritismo" - and is often confused with Lukumi. They are
separate - but often practiced dually. Also grafted onto Lukumi
practice is a distinctly different faith originating not from the
Yoruba - but from the Congo - referred to as Palo or Palo Mayombe. To
honor your ancestors - you do not have to become Catholic (if you
aren't already Catholic) nor is it a prerequisite that you must be
"scratched or cut" in Palo in order to honor Orisha. Espiritismo
(Puerto Rican Spiritism) may attract you - and you may have a path in
Palo - but neither is a must. It depends on the ile you select, and
the godparent. If you don't feel this is your road - look elsewhere.
Another way people get introduced to the religion is through music
(drumming) or Orisha dance classes. They then wind up attending a
"tambor"(a drumming ceremony for Orisha) . If everyone is wearing
black - you've gotten the wrong address and are in a coven.
Women wear skirts (usually) and men wear pants. White, or light
colored clothing is predominant at Lucumi events (or African fabrics in
traditional houses). If everyone is wearing glitter spandex disco
pants -you are at Studio 54.
Once you think you have identified a potential godparent, get yourself
invited to events of the ile. Lukumi priests hold a variety of events
open to non-initiates. They celebrate their birthdays of initiation
each year. They hold drummings for the Orishas. Many have spiritual
masses for the ancestors. None of these events cost money to attend.
You may make offerings - fruit, flowers, small amounts of money (a
dollar) to contribute to the event, but this is not mandatory.
In fact at Ocha birthdays - you, as a guest are fed and given fruit
from the altar.
See how they deal with their godchildren, and elders. This is really
important. Chat with other attendees.
If you are in a major city like New York, Philadelphia, Miami, Tampa,
San Francisco, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Houston, Chicago, or Detroit there
are established iles - and elders around. If you are in a small town
no where near any of the aforementioned cities, you'll have to do
some traveling. Beware of solitary practitioners. This is a communal
religion. There are NO solitary practitioners. No initiations can be
done in this practice without a group.
When you get a reading - our tradition is one of reciprocity and
balance. In order to achieve balance there are sometimes "ebos" or
"cleanings" marked. These "ebos" or cleanings may involve
buying fruits, or herbs, or items necessary to complete the balance.
This in not a religion that is free. I am going to be blunt here. A
large number of people are involved in conducting every major ceremony.
The costs of ceremonies, as you become more involved can range from
simply buying candles and coconuts and flowers to thousands of dollars
- with over 20 to 30 priests participating for initiation to the
priesthood. People eat - and yes we sacrifice animals which are cooked
and offered to Orisha and then feed the participants (with a few
exceptions). The average college student in America these days spends
about 10,000 a semester for schooling. A wedding reception can be
10,000 to 20,000 dollars. Initiation to the priesthood is a wedding.
And costs. Be clear about this. But since I'm addressing entry
level here - I won't go into more detail. But keep this in mind.
All churches require tithes, offerings or monetary support from the
congregation to sustain themselves. This faith is no exception. In
the future I'll discuss more about this - but thought it would be
important to make clear from the start.
If you still feel you have been drawn to Orisha and want to go further,
let me offer a welcome. Many people who live in the modern world have
either been disillusioned by non-culturally sensitive faiths, are
seeking a connection to their ancestors, or alternative spiritual
paths. I love my faith and am proud to be a priest. But as a priest,
I feel it important to offer as objective an introduction - with
provisos, as I can.
The opinions I have expressed here are my own - based on 7 years as an
initiated priest, and 25 years as a devotee/participant. When I
started this newsgroup, I was an aborisha (non-initated devotee). I
am still learning - and will be as long as I live. I am not an elder,
I'm a very young priestess. I'm close to sixty in earthly years
however, and don't want to sit idly by and watch others distort the
faith that I have found to be so beautiful.
Welcome again,
Denise
I am just embarking on my search towards initiation. This information is priceless.
m***@gmail.com
2018-07-06 01:22:25 UTC
Permalink
Post by Denise Oliver-Velez
Greetings,
If you are surfing newsgroups - looking for information and advice
about getting involved in Orisha worship, there are plenty of websites
and newsgroups, and discussion forums to be found on the net - lots of
books to read - and beware, plenty of crooks and charlatans out there
in cyberland (and the real world) ready to take you for a ride. This
is not peculiar to Orisha worship- any religion has members who are
unethical - but since this newsgroup deals specifically with Lukumi
(Santeria) and related traditions - my words of warning, and advice are
targeted to that tradition.
So how do you get started in Lukumi/Santeria?
My suggestion is to do some reading first. Be prepared - don't just
walk into the first botanica (ATR religious supplies store) you find
asking around, or send an email off to a purported priest (anyone can
claim to be an initiate on the internet). Some of the so-called elders
who spend a lot of time dispensing advice via cyberspace aren't
priests at all, and some folks who write books and say they are priests
aren't even initiated. Many are legitimate priests however - you
just need to learn how to tell the difference.
My suggestion is read two basic texts first - Four New World Yoruba
Rituals, by John Mason and Finding Soul on the Path to the Orisha, by
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1580911498/002-4429398-3703233?v=glance&n=283155
John's book is good because it covers the basics - and starts out with
the ancestors. Tobe's book is a spiritual guide - not a "how to book".
You won't find any crappy recipes for witchcraft (a la Wippler), just
solid advice on how to start your journey.
Another good basic introductory text is Santeria, by Joseph Murphy.
Second. After you have done some reading start looking for godparents
- or at least a godparent. Orisha traditions are communal and
hierarchical. These are not "do-it-yourself" traditions, and you
cannot self-initiate. This is a lineage based system - with levels of
initiation, and it takes time to move through these levels and be
trained. Not everyone has a calling to the priesthood. Some people
are content to join an ile and stay as simple worshippers. Some folks
don't even go that far - they are simply "clients" looking for
advice. Be clear about what level of interest or involvement you want
to have.
The godparent becomes your teacher and guide. They are not a
substitute for parents. They aren't medical doctors, therapists or
marital counselors. Nor can they "magically" solve all your
problems. What they can do is guide you through the basic steps of
Orisha worship, teach you about how to honor your ancestors and Orisha,
and guide your spiritual development. Nor do they have the answer to
everything - but they should be part of a structure where they can seek
spiritual advice as well. They don't have to be rich- nor do they
need to have a college degree, or to have written books. Are they
humble? Do they seem to be content with their own lives? Do they have
a sense of humor? Do they seem willing to teach? If they tell you not
to speak to anyone else - not to ever open a book (a better response is
that they can suggest what books are appropriate) be careful. I'd
like to digress here - not all elder priests read books - their method
of teaching is through demonstration - this is a" learn by doing
faith" (experiential learning), and cannot be learned simply by
buying up books. But they should be willing to teach, and answer
questions. Not all questions can be answered in the beginning - some
things are not appropriate for the uninitiated to explore. But there
are basic questions they must be prepared to answer which will provide
some credentials.
First - they should be able to tell you the names of who initiated them
- when and where. And who initiated the person who initiated their
elder.
They should be part of an ile (house) and know their lineage (rama).
If they are Lukumi (Santeria) priests they should be easy to check out.
There are only four or five major ramas in the U.S.
Pimienta (sub rama Pirana, Pimienta Coral)
Culo Verde
Efunche
San Jose Ochenta (incluyes Aina)
Trapito
For the history of all of these groups born in Cuba - get a copy of
David Brown's "Santeria Enthroned". This book is not a basic
text - but has a great index - and you'll find the names of all the
founding ancestors in it.
If the rama is African Traditional - not descended from a Cuban line -
I cannot comment here on methods of investigation since I am Lukumi
(Cuban lineage).
But they will have a lineage.
Find out who was the Oriate/Oba (Master of Ceremonies) for their
initiation. If the person tells you that everyone involved with their
initiation is dead (unless they are over 80), and you can't verify
anything about them - get a pair of Nike's and run - in the opposite
direction. The Church of the Lucumi Babaluaye has a list of legitimate
priests - whose initiations are verified.
Legitimate priests usually have godchildren and/or elders around. If
you meet their godchildren - and they look like they are Moonies or are
on drugs, and they start chanting "Nam myo ho rengay kyo" you
missed the Lukumi train and are on your way to either Tibet or
Woodstock.
A word of advice. All of these questions must be asked courteously and
with humility. Don't go in "interrogation mode". If the person
is an elder they may take offense. But - get answers - before
committing to a relationship. In these days of instantaneous internet
communication and the proliferation of websites - there are a few good
ones where you can begin to make inquiries. Be aware that there are
legitimate priests who may not be liked by other priests (it's kind
of like the rivalry between and among Protestant sects). Listen and
observe.
Some priests are members of organizations which are devoted to specific
Orishas called Egbes. There are also workshops and panel discussions
held in major cities. Some elders - and many younger priests (1 to 20
years of initiation) participate in online discussion groups like OLU
(Organization for Lucumi Unity) or Santeria Lucumi, or CLBA among
others (see websites list for locations).
If online priests take American Express or VISA for ceremonies - get
the sneakers out again. If they say they'll do them by mail or via
internet - run faster.
If they tell you they'll take you on a tour to Haiti or Cuba, or
Africa (along with a busload of others) to get initiated - get track
shoes.
If things they tell you sound like they come from a cross between
Wicca, Zen, Vegetarianism, Hare Krishna or an Ashram - you are talking
to the wrong person. Botanicas - places that sell religious supplies
to a variety of traditions - Lukumi, Vodou, Palo, Espiritismo, Hoodoo
may be a starting point in your journey - but beware. There are
Espiritistas (spiritualists) who are not santeros (priests) who are
wearing multi-colored bead necklaces (elekes) and who do readings
(consultas). Many people who are new can't tell the difference.
You can ask the person if they "have ocha made". Even if they say
"yes", if you are naïve, you could be in for a rude awakening down
the road. See later details in this post for more info on
verification.
For many people entering the religion - the first thing they do is get
a basic reading (divination). If the priest says it costs more than 50
bucks - keep your money in your pockets. The East coast average is 21
dollars. For some reason I can't fathom it's 50.00 out west -
probably because there are far fewer diviners.
When I mention readings here - I'm referring to cowry shell
divination. The costs of an Ifa reading with a Babalawo may be a bit
higher. If they say they are going read you with tarot cards - or
dominos - get out the sneakers again.
The first ceremony most folks go through, to join an ile is to receive
elekes (beads/collares). A person I know paid 1,000 a piece for his
(total $7,000). The crook in the Bronx (who claimed to be a Santera
and wasn't) who lifted his wallet this way should be jailed. The
receiving of beads - though not a must, is like a contract - or entry
into an ile (house) and the basic costs range from 121 dollars to
421.00 ( though I think 421 is way too high) - but - it's your
money. Some (mid-west and west coast) houses have a more elaborate
ceremony which can cost up to 600.00. There are regional and ile
variations.
If you are gay - and they are homophobic - exit stage left. If you are
white and they keep referring to "white devils" - get to
steppin'. If you don't speak Spanish and they hold conversations
with everyone around you without translating (or having someone there
who can translate) - either take a total immersion language course, and
come back later - or find a house where you can figure out what the
heck is being said around you. Rude is rude - no matter what language
it's in.
If they read/divine for you and pick up a mass produced book in order
to do the interpretation - beware. You can buy your own book and be
just as mis-educated. If they immediately tell you, "you are
cursed" and will die in three weeks if you don't cough up 12 to 20
thousand dollars for an instant initiation - take your money and get an
IRA. Or go out and buy the Brooklyn Bridge.
For some people an introduction to santeros or santeras (priests)
happens in spiritual masses (called misas). This is an outgrowth of
Kardecian spiritism which was grafted onto Lukumi in the last 40 years,
called 'Espiritismo" - and is often confused with Lukumi. They are
separate - but often practiced dually. Also grafted onto Lukumi
practice is a distinctly different faith originating not from the
Yoruba - but from the Congo - referred to as Palo or Palo Mayombe. To
honor your ancestors - you do not have to become Catholic (if you
aren't already Catholic) nor is it a prerequisite that you must be
"scratched or cut" in Palo in order to honor Orisha. Espiritismo
(Puerto Rican Spiritism) may attract you - and you may have a path in
Palo - but neither is a must. It depends on the ile you select, and
the godparent. If you don't feel this is your road - look elsewhere.
Another way people get introduced to the religion is through music
(drumming) or Orisha dance classes. They then wind up attending a
"tambor"(a drumming ceremony for Orisha) . If everyone is wearing
black - you've gotten the wrong address and are in a coven.
Women wear skirts (usually) and men wear pants. White, or light
colored clothing is predominant at Lucumi events (or African fabrics in
traditional houses). If everyone is wearing glitter spandex disco
pants -you are at Studio 54.
Once you think you have identified a potential godparent, get yourself
invited to events of the ile. Lukumi priests hold a variety of events
open to non-initiates. They celebrate their birthdays of initiation
each year. They hold drummings for the Orishas. Many have spiritual
masses for the ancestors. None of these events cost money to attend.
You may make offerings - fruit, flowers, small amounts of money (a
dollar) to contribute to the event, but this is not mandatory.
In fact at Ocha birthdays - you, as a guest are fed and given fruit
from the altar.
See how they deal with their godchildren, and elders. This is really
important. Chat with other attendees.
If you are in a major city like New York, Philadelphia, Miami, Tampa,
San Francisco, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Houston, Chicago, or Detroit there
are established iles - and elders around. If you are in a small town
no where near any of the aforementioned cities, you'll have to do
some traveling. Beware of solitary practitioners. This is a communal
religion. There are NO solitary practitioners. No initiations can be
done in this practice without a group.
When you get a reading - our tradition is one of reciprocity and
balance. In order to achieve balance there are sometimes "ebos" or
"cleanings" marked. These "ebos" or cleanings may involve
buying fruits, or herbs, or items necessary to complete the balance.
This in not a religion that is free. I am going to be blunt here. A
large number of people are involved in conducting every major ceremony.
The costs of ceremonies, as you become more involved can range from
simply buying candles and coconuts and flowers to thousands of dollars
- with over 20 to 30 priests participating for initiation to the
priesthood. People eat - and yes we sacrifice animals which are cooked
and offered to Orisha and then feed the participants (with a few
exceptions). The average college student in America these days spends
about 10,000 a semester for schooling. A wedding reception can be
10,000 to 20,000 dollars. Initiation to the priesthood is a wedding.
And costs. Be clear about this. But since I'm addressing entry
level here - I won't go into more detail. But keep this in mind.
All churches require tithes, offerings or monetary support from the
congregation to sustain themselves. This faith is no exception. In
the future I'll discuss more about this - but thought it would be
important to make clear from the start.
If you still feel you have been drawn to Orisha and want to go further,
let me offer a welcome. Many people who live in the modern world have
either been disillusioned by non-culturally sensitive faiths, are
seeking a connection to their ancestors, or alternative spiritual
paths. I love my faith and am proud to be a priest. But as a priest,
I feel it important to offer as objective an introduction - with
provisos, as I can.
The opinions I have expressed here are my own - based on 7 years as an
initiated priest, and 25 years as a devotee/participant. When I
started this newsgroup, I was an aborisha (non-initated devotee). I
am still learning - and will be as long as I live. I am not an elder,
I'm a very young priestess. I'm close to sixty in earthly years
however, and don't want to sit idly by and watch others distort the
faith that I have found to be so beautiful.
Welcome again,
Denise
Greetings Iya Denise:-)
I have a question for you. I have received my elekes over 1 year ago. I have a wonderful Godmother. However, I sometimes feel that she does not take many things very strictly. Sometimes, I'm not sure if it may be because of lack of knowledge.
We have been talking about receiving the Warriors this year.
When she describes what the "Reception of the Warriors" entails, I felt like there might be something missing. She said it is not really a ceremony. Warriors are given by a Babalawo in our ile. She explained what the details of the event were. Not sure if it is appropriate to write the details of the "receiving the Warriors" here. Are you able to explain the details? Or maybe tell me if the "Reception of the Warriors" is a "ceremony" and how long the ceremony is approximately? I was told that it just takes a few minutes. And I'm just not sure if this is something that is done correctly.
Thank you so very much for any help that you can give me in this matter.

Maria
o***@gmail.com
2018-07-27 04:20:28 UTC
Permalink
Hello Denise, thanks so much for this helpful information. I see it's been written 12 years ago. Of you're still active in this post, please let me know.
y***@gmail.com
2018-08-06 15:24:17 UTC
Permalink
I am interested in the spiritual practices of my African ancestors because I feel lost spiritually and the Christian religions have never fulfilled me or made me feel a balanced and at peace(I was raised Catholic and moved on to become Protestant in my teens). I started reading your advice and Inappreciate the reading suggestions and everything else. There is a lot there, so I will start with the readings you suggested and re-read your post. Thank you again! Hope I find what I have been looking for.
h***@gmail.com
2019-10-08 01:06:48 UTC
Permalink
Post by Denise Oliver-Velez
Greetings,
If you are surfing newsgroups - looking for information and advice
about getting involved in Orisha worship, there are plenty of websites
and newsgroups, and discussion forums to be found on the net - lots of
books to read - and beware, plenty of crooks and charlatans out there
in cyberland (and the real world) ready to take you for a ride. This
is not peculiar to Orisha worship- any religion has members who are
unethical - but since this newsgroup deals specifically with Lukumi
(Santeria) and related traditions - my words of warning, and advice are
targeted to that tradition.
So how do you get started in Lukumi/Santeria?
My suggestion is to do some reading first. Be prepared - don't just
walk into the first botanica (ATR religious supplies store) you find
asking around, or send an email off to a purported priest (anyone can
claim to be an initiate on the internet). Some of the so-called elders
who spend a lot of time dispensing advice via cyberspace aren't
priests at all, and some folks who write books and say they are priests
aren't even initiated. Many are legitimate priests however - you
just need to learn how to tell the difference.
My suggestion is read two basic texts first - Four New World Yoruba
Rituals, by John Mason and Finding Soul on the Path to the Orisha, by
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1580911498/002-4429398-3703233?v=glance&n=283155
John's book is good because it covers the basics - and starts out with
the ancestors. Tobe's book is a spiritual guide - not a "how to book".
You won't find any crappy recipes for witchcraft (a la Wippler), just
solid advice on how to start your journey.
Another good basic introductory text is Santeria, by Joseph Murphy.
Second. After you have done some reading start looking for godparents
- or at least a godparent. Orisha traditions are communal and
hierarchical. These are not "do-it-yourself" traditions, and you
cannot self-initiate. This is a lineage based system - with levels of
initiation, and it takes time to move through these levels and be
trained. Not everyone has a calling to the priesthood. Some people
are content to join an ile and stay as simple worshippers. Some folks
don't even go that far - they are simply "clients" looking for
advice. Be clear about what level of interest or involvement you want
to have.
The godparent becomes your teacher and guide. They are not a
substitute for parents. They aren't medical doctors, therapists or
marital counselors. Nor can they "magically" solve all your
problems. What they can do is guide you through the basic steps of
Orisha worship, teach you about how to honor your ancestors and Orisha,
and guide your spiritual development. Nor do they have the answer to
everything - but they should be part of a structure where they can seek
spiritual advice as well. They don't have to be rich- nor do they
need to have a college degree, or to have written books. Are they
humble? Do they seem to be content with their own lives? Do they have
a sense of humor? Do they seem willing to teach? If they tell you not
to speak to anyone else - not to ever open a book (a better response is
that they can suggest what books are appropriate) be careful. I'd
like to digress here - not all elder priests read books - their method
of teaching is through demonstration - this is a" learn by doing
faith" (experiential learning), and cannot be learned simply by
buying up books. But they should be willing to teach, and answer
questions. Not all questions can be answered in the beginning - some
things are not appropriate for the uninitiated to explore. But there
are basic questions they must be prepared to answer which will provide
some credentials.
First - they should be able to tell you the names of who initiated them
- when and where. And who initiated the person who initiated their
elder.
They should be part of an ile (house) and know their lineage (rama).
If they are Lukumi (Santeria) priests they should be easy to check out.
There are only four or five major ramas in the U.S.
Pimienta (sub rama Pirana, Pimienta Coral)
Culo Verde
Efunche
San Jose Ochenta (incluyes Aina)
Trapito
For the history of all of these groups born in Cuba - get a copy of
David Brown's "Santeria Enthroned". This book is not a basic
text - but has a great index - and you'll find the names of all the
founding ancestors in it.
If the rama is African Traditional - not descended from a Cuban line -
I cannot comment here on methods of investigation since I am Lukumi
(Cuban lineage).
But they will have a lineage.
Find out who was the Oriate/Oba (Master of Ceremonies) for their
initiation. If the person tells you that everyone involved with their
initiation is dead (unless they are over 80), and you can't verify
anything about them - get a pair of Nike's and run - in the opposite
direction. The Church of the Lucumi Babaluaye has a list of legitimate
priests - whose initiations are verified.
Legitimate priests usually have godchildren and/or elders around. If
you meet their godchildren - and they look like they are Moonies or are
on drugs, and they start chanting "Nam myo ho rengay kyo" you
missed the Lukumi train and are on your way to either Tibet or
Woodstock.
A word of advice. All of these questions must be asked courteously and
with humility. Don't go in "interrogation mode". If the person
is an elder they may take offense. But - get answers - before
committing to a relationship. In these days of instantaneous internet
communication and the proliferation of websites - there are a few good
ones where you can begin to make inquiries. Be aware that there are
legitimate priests who may not be liked by other priests (it's kind
of like the rivalry between and among Protestant sects). Listen and
observe.
Some priests are members of organizations which are devoted to specific
Orishas called Egbes. There are also workshops and panel discussions
held in major cities. Some elders - and many younger priests (1 to 20
years of initiation) participate in online discussion groups like OLU
(Organization for Lucumi Unity) or Santeria Lucumi, or CLBA among
others (see websites list for locations).
If online priests take American Express or VISA for ceremonies - get
the sneakers out again. If they say they'll do them by mail or via
internet - run faster.
If they tell you they'll take you on a tour to Haiti or Cuba, or
Africa (along with a busload of others) to get initiated - get track
shoes.
If things they tell you sound like they come from a cross between
Wicca, Zen, Vegetarianism, Hare Krishna or an Ashram - you are talking
to the wrong person. Botanicas - places that sell religious supplies
to a variety of traditions - Lukumi, Vodou, Palo, Espiritismo, Hoodoo
may be a starting point in your journey - but beware. There are
Espiritistas (spiritualists) who are not santeros (priests) who are
wearing multi-colored bead necklaces (elekes) and who do readings
(consultas). Many people who are new can't tell the difference.
You can ask the person if they "have ocha made". Even if they say
"yes", if you are naïve, you could be in for a rude awakening down
the road. See later details in this post for more info on
verification.
For many people entering the religion - the first thing they do is get
a basic reading (divination). If the priest says it costs more than 50
bucks - keep your money in your pockets. The East coast average is 21
dollars. For some reason I can't fathom it's 50.00 out west -
probably because there are far fewer diviners.
When I mention readings here - I'm referring to cowry shell
divination. The costs of an Ifa reading with a Babalawo may be a bit
higher. If they say they are going read you with tarot cards - or
dominos - get out the sneakers again.
The first ceremony most folks go through, to join an ile is to receive
elekes (beads/collares). A person I know paid 1,000 a piece for his
(total $7,000). The crook in the Bronx (who claimed to be a Santera
and wasn't) who lifted his wallet this way should be jailed. The
receiving of beads - though not a must, is like a contract - or entry
into an ile (house) and the basic costs range from 121 dollars to
421.00 ( though I think 421 is way too high) - but - it's your
money. Some (mid-west and west coast) houses have a more elaborate
ceremony which can cost up to 600.00. There are regional and ile
variations.
If you are gay - and they are homophobic - exit stage left. If you are
white and they keep referring to "white devils" - get to
steppin'. If you don't speak Spanish and they hold conversations
with everyone around you without translating (or having someone there
who can translate) - either take a total immersion language course, and
come back later - or find a house where you can figure out what the
heck is being said around you. Rude is rude - no matter what language
it's in.
If they read/divine for you and pick up a mass produced book in order
to do the interpretation - beware. You can buy your own book and be
just as mis-educated. If they immediately tell you, "you are
cursed" and will die in three weeks if you don't cough up 12 to 20
thousand dollars for an instant initiation - take your money and get an
IRA. Or go out and buy the Brooklyn Bridge.
For some people an introduction to santeros or santeras (priests)
happens in spiritual masses (called misas). This is an outgrowth of
Kardecian spiritism which was grafted onto Lukumi in the last 40 years,
called 'Espiritismo" - and is often confused with Lukumi. They are
separate - but often practiced dually. Also grafted onto Lukumi
practice is a distinctly different faith originating not from the
Yoruba - but from the Congo - referred to as Palo or Palo Mayombe. To
honor your ancestors - you do not have to become Catholic (if you
aren't already Catholic) nor is it a prerequisite that you must be
"scratched or cut" in Palo in order to honor Orisha. Espiritismo
(Puerto Rican Spiritism) may attract you - and you may have a path in
Palo - but neither is a must. It depends on the ile you select, and
the godparent. If you don't feel this is your road - look elsewhere.
Another way people get introduced to the religion is through music
(drumming) or Orisha dance classes. They then wind up attending a
"tambor"(a drumming ceremony for Orisha) . If everyone is wearing
black - you've gotten the wrong address and are in a coven.
Women wear skirts (usually) and men wear pants. White, or light
colored clothing is predominant at Lucumi events (or African fabrics in
traditional houses). If everyone is wearing glitter spandex disco
pants -you are at Studio 54.
Once you think you have identified a potential godparent, get yourself
invited to events of the ile. Lukumi priests hold a variety of events
open to non-initiates. They celebrate their birthdays of initiation
each year. They hold drummings for the Orishas. Many have spiritual
masses for the ancestors. None of these events cost money to attend.
You may make offerings - fruit, flowers, small amounts of money (a
dollar) to contribute to the event, but this is not mandatory.
In fact at Ocha birthdays - you, as a guest are fed and given fruit
from the altar.
See how they deal with their godchildren, and elders. This is really
important. Chat with other attendees.
If you are in a major city like New York, Philadelphia, Miami, Tampa,
San Francisco, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Houston, Chicago, or Detroit there
are established iles - and elders around. If you are in a small town
no where near any of the aforementioned cities, you'll have to do
some traveling. Beware of solitary practitioners. This is a communal
religion. There are NO solitary practitioners. No initiations can be
done in this practice without a group.
When you get a reading - our tradition is one of reciprocity and
balance. In order to achieve balance there are sometimes "ebos" or
"cleanings" marked. These "ebos" or cleanings may involve
buying fruits, or herbs, or items necessary to complete the balance.
This in not a religion that is free. I am going to be blunt here. A
large number of people are involved in conducting every major ceremony.
The costs of ceremonies, as you become more involved can range from
simply buying candles and coconuts and flowers to thousands of dollars
- with over 20 to 30 priests participating for initiation to the
priesthood. People eat - and yes we sacrifice animals which are cooked
and offered to Orisha and then feed the participants (with a few
exceptions). The average college student in America these days spends
about 10,000 a semester for schooling. A wedding reception can be
10,000 to 20,000 dollars. Initiation to the priesthood is a wedding.
And costs. Be clear about this. But since I'm addressing entry
level here - I won't go into more detail. But keep this in mind.
All churches require tithes, offerings or monetary support from the
congregation to sustain themselves. This faith is no exception. In
the future I'll discuss more about this - but thought it would be
important to make clear from the start.
If you still feel you have been drawn to Orisha and want to go further,
let me offer a welcome. Many people who live in the modern world have
either been disillusioned by non-culturally sensitive faiths, are
seeking a connection to their ancestors, or alternative spiritual
paths. I love my faith and am proud to be a priest. But as a priest,
I feel it important to offer as objective an introduction - with
provisos, as I can.
The opinions I have expressed here are my own - based on 7 years as an
initiated priest, and 25 years as a devotee/participant. When I
started this newsgroup, I was an aborisha (non-initated devotee). I
am still learning - and will be as long as I live. I am not an elder,
I'm a very young priestess. I'm close to sixty in earthly years
however, and don't want to sit idly by and watch others distort the
faith that I have found to be so beautiful.
Welcome again,
Denise
Thank you Denise. I am taking my son to a reading in Atlanta, Ga to Mama Toki.
b***@gmail.com
2020-01-01 14:29:55 UTC
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May I get a statue and build an alter before being initiated

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