Updated: Oct 17, 2020
It is depressing to see the proliferation of what I call insta-babaloshas and insta-iyaloshas. Just like with the famous Instapots, some expect to magically obtain great results when all you do is put ingredients in the pot, press a button and food comes out in no time.
More and more people want to “crown themselves” and be insta-elders. Puppy-mill mentality godparents are dime a dozen and they reproduce like rabbits. The focus is on having status and followers, too many chiefs, and not enough members of the tribe. However, when push comes to shove, a great deal of those insta-elders can hardly deliver because they lack knowledge, training, experience. Their claim to fame relies on the expertise of others.
Santería is a religion with many 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 a room where initiation is about to take place.
Let me explain, the ways of the Rules of Osha are not learned overnight. Seeing a person with a couple of years of age as Lukumí oloshas already crowning others can be indicative of several things. One of them is that they heavily rely on the expertise of others to do the work while the insta-iya / babalosha serves as the administrator of the ceremony and the money to be made. Without sacrifice and learning, there is no knowledge. To be a good elder, a bona fide elder, one must have learned and practiced, at a minimum, most of the fundamental roles in a kariosha. It is shameful to see oloshas who do not make an effort to study and learn, yet they love to boast of having many godchildren. Paying others to do complex tasks is easy. Giving birth to iyawós for someone else to raise them is also easy, it is akin to being a deadbeat godparent.
Kariosha does not confer encyclopedic knowledge, it does not create insta-elders. The kariosha only provides a license to learn, to begin a long life of study and practice. Being adept in the many aspects and roles needed during a kariosha requires dedication, it requires working hand in hand with an elder who will show you the way, it requires long hours of study and a great deal of humility to accept that there is always more to learn.
Nowadays no one wants to be an apprentice. Few see with honor "working on the raw ashlar" as the freemasons would say, no one wants back-breaking work. NO. That is old-fashioned, nowadays there is an app for everything and if not, someone will invent it to cut corners.
Lukumí protocols exist to adequately prepare the new oloshas. When the appropriate protocols are not observed, it gives way to erosion in religious practices, the ilés or Orisha houses are thus affected and therefore, we all suffer because our collective global image declines.
From iyawó to insta-elder olosha
Beware of those who are in hurry. Haste is a bad advisor. There are no shortcuts from iyawó to elder. When a person finishes their iyawó year, they must meet certain requirements and subsequently and ideally begin to apprentice in their ilé.
The first step is to complete the ebbó meta— either three months after kariosha, if the person has the financial resources to do it at that time, or, at the completion of his year and seven days as iyawó. Another important step is to be introduced to the igbodu by elders or by a representative designated by one's elders. In this ceremony, the new initiate is showed to all the steps of the initiation process. The new olosha must also have to be presented to the drum or Anyá.
Even after having completed these fundamental steps, a person is not yet ready to become a godparent. I emphasize, to be a responsible and knowledgeable godfather or godmother. The person must have the blessing of his or her elders, and of course, with the blessing of the tutelary orisha. A responsible elder does not grant permits lightly unless said elder graduated from the Lukumí Insta-Olosha Academy.
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?
A long journey begins with one step
The simple phrase, “a long journey begins with one step,” is of great importance, but few mind its wisdom.
Unfortunately, the tendency is to see oloshas who justify their actions based on feelings and emotions and not supported by reason, training, and logic. The insta-olosha makes mistakes, hurries processes without due training and practice and those who pay are the ones coming to the Orisha with love, trust, and seeking to elevate their spirituality.
Deeply loving the orishas is no justification to initiate people being unprepared. The Lukumí religion tends to elicit strong and complex emotions. However, one cannot justify doing things simply because one feels empowered by a great feeling or strong emotion. The senses can deceive us, logic cannot. Knowledge is tangible, emotion is not. Although one must have the heart for the Orisha, one must also have the head in the right place, atop the body to lead in the right direction. Otherwise, there is a risk of destroying with feet what the head has diligently built up through intelligence.
It is sad to see godparents pressuring their godchildren to become godparents, even though they are barely leaving the igbodu as iyawó. They should be ashamed! When greed for power and money is what moves religion, we are passengers of a crazy train speeding up towards the abyss.
The lesson of Eyiogbe-Ogundá
The phrase "goat that breaks the drum, pays with its hide," is associated with the oddú Eyiogbe-Ogundá. Have no doubt, when things go wrong, there is always a price to pay. The key is who pays.
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 oftentimes 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 the 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 are not measured by the number 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 built 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