Updated: Jul 15, 2018
Santería is a religion with a great deal of complexities, protocols and a rather systematic developmental approach related to the formation of its oloshas. However, ambition, communication trends and the hurried pressure of modern life are taking a rather dangerous toll on our communities.
The issue at hand is the hurry that new oloshas have to scratch the itch to ‘crown’ or initiate individuals when they have barely come out of their own iyawó year. There are steps that iyawós must complete in order to even show their faces inside of a room where an initiation is about to take place.
1. Be initiated as olosha
2. Complete Ebbó Meta (either at 3 months, if the person has the financial resources, or, upon completing the year and seven days of iyawó)
3. Complete the year and 7 days as iyawó
4. Be presented to the Igbodu (ceremony to present the new initiate the steps of the process he/she underwent during their kariosha)
5. Be presented to Anya (consecrated drums)
Even then, having these five fundamental steps completed, does not mean that a person is ready to become a godparent. I emphasize: A competent and responsible godparent. One must also count on the blessing of one’s elders, and of course, the blessing of one’s tutelary Orisha.
The blessing from the godparent to proceed with initiations is a seal of approval. To be allowed to proceed as an initiator means that the person has the mastery of religious knowledge to guide someone else’s spiritual life.
Let me pose a rhetorical question. Would a sane person place him or herself in the hands of a cab driver who barely knows the gas pedal from the breaks? Think carefully. Why trust your spiritual destiny in the hands of the ill prepared?
Furthermore, I am deeply concerned about the tendency to act upon emotions and not upon reason and logic. Santeria elicits powerful and complex emotions, but feelings and logic are oftentimes strange bedfellows as they find themselves rather often at odds.
Just because one person has a feeling, it does not mean the feeling is right or that it points to the right course of action. In the practice of Santeria there is certain latitude for intuition and for taking into account hunches and feelings. However, feeling deeply for an orisha does not mean that every act done in the name of that orisha will pan out. Logic must guide the head so the feet walk in the right direction. Or else one will risk destroying with one’s misguided steps what the head with its intelligent has built.
Feeling that one is ready to become a godparent does not make a person ready. Feeling that one must initiate John or Jane Doe because they have come and stroke one’s ego with the prospect of becoming a godparent, an ‘instant elder’, the new creator of a ‘town’ and so on an so forth does not make a person ready to become a godparent.
When we add to unruly new initiates yet another factor, money, the problem becomes even more complicated.
I have seen godparents pushing their just-came-out-igbodu godchildren to become godparents. Shame on them! When greed for power and money is what moves religion, we are passengers of a crazy train speeding up towards the abyss.
Is this the fault of the godparent or the iyawó? Well, it is a two way street. No one should push anyone to act against logic and reason, but when ego and emotion overrule reason, disaster often times follows. Experience has shown over and over again that someone will pay for mistakes. Be it the godparent of the person to become an ill-prepared godparent or the iyawó that places him or herself in the hands of baboons, or all. This is not a punishment from the orishas; this is a punishment to be harvested due to poorly thought decisions. The concept is simple and elegant: Stick an object in fire, the object will get burn.
What do we do to stop this trend? There is but one action, to educate people and to open their eyes to the fact that there is no hurry to become a godparent. It is not logical to have babies birthing babies.
The prestige and prominence of a good olosha is not measured by the amount of godchildren initiated. It should be measured by how the person applies its criteria and judgment to help others reach their spiritual destiny in the right hands, in the right house, be it his or her own hands or someone else’s. Trust me on this one. If an olosha steers a potential initiate to the right place, this act of kindness will never be forgotten.
A grand house build on a foundation of sand and water, will eventually collapse. When we help to build houses on solid grounds, we all benefit, we all grow, and we all endure.
Oní Yemayá Achagbá