When I met my ex-husband, I was not initiated in Santería. However, our passion for religion became a common ground that helped us to start our relationship and down the line, to raise our children to be oloshas. I was fortunate to meet a Tata Nkisi to whom I am married, thus, explaining and navigating the Orisha-talk was not an issue.
What happens when one of the partners in a relationship is an olosha and the other person is not a believer?
Dating is a natural process of discovery which in the case of people who do not share the same faith can become even more interesting and pose additional challenges and opportunities. Not everyone is particularly gifted explaining basic facts about the Orishas and the Orisha way of life.
Let's see a few instances where grace and finesse are needed to navigate difficult subjects. take for example trying to explain the subject of animal sacrifice as an integral part of the Orisha way of life. It is hard enough to illustrate this practice, but matters can be a bit more complicated if your intended happens to be a Vegan or a Vegetarian.
Normally a good way to illustrate a religious way of life would be to include your intended and even parents to visit your church. Well, the Lukumí does not really have fixed regular Sunday services to invite the parents of your significant other so they can meet your congregation and experience what being an olosha is all about.
How about explaining to your date and that at some time or another you may need to dress in white from head to toe and wear a bunch of beads around your neck making it impossible to stand inconspicuously in a crowd, or that you may be invited to participate in things that will be off-limits to aleyos (non-initiates).
What are the things that a non-Santería believer should consider when dating an olosha, otherwise commonly known as a santero(a)?
1. R E S P E C T. There is no sweeter word than respect when a couple is starting out, in the middle off, or about to finish a relationship. If you do not share the same faith, do not try to proselytize, criticize, or talk them out of it, it will eventually backfire on you.
2. T O L E R A N C E. This reinforces respect. Understand that there are events that will be closed to you and that your partner may have to devote a full day or more of backbreaking work when he or she is ‘lifted’ (invited) to initiations. Do not hound the person with cell phone calls, text messages, and requests for live-chats if you do not hear from them. Religious events should not include a person with a mobile phone glued to their face.
3. C O U R T E S Y. If you are invited to attend a religious open ceremony make every possible effort to inform yourself about the protocol to observe, what sort of clothes are appropriate, and what you need to bring if anything. If you go to a batá review the article on this blog post on the rules of behavior so you make sure not to embarrass yourself or your partner.
4. S E X. Know that the body of an olosha is imbued with ashé, it flows through our veins and it is present in every bodily secretion. To take this ashé into your body in any way also brings you closer to his or her orisha. Know that this may in due time provide an incentive to the orisha to claim a stake in your life in one way or another.
5. S P I R I T U A L H Y G E N E. Santeros must strive to balance forces in their lives, mainly of heat and coolness. These forces can be manifested in many ways, but mainly we achieve balance through a regimented system of adimús, ebbós, kaworí eledás, ebbó misís, and so on, all of these lead the olosha to remain tutu or fresh. If your life is disorganized, filled with turmoil, and does not include any sort of spiritual regime, that state of unbalance will impact your partner’s efforts. Likewise, an olosha with a clean life should help to stabilize a willing partner.
Let me share an anecdote to underscore the importance of tolerance and respect. As a godmother, I have had the distinct pleasure to have to come running in the middle of the night to support a godchild that got mounted with a spirit guide. The partner of my godchild is a devout Catholic, to this person Spirit possession is pure evil. In reality, it was just a spirit guide needing to deliver a crucial message. Explaining what was going on and dealing with a chatty spirit guide was a rather interesting experience, fortunately, the couple has managed to learn from each other and reached a point of balance to allow the marriage to succeed. They are the lucky few.
Of course, there is much more to dating an olosha, this is meant to be a conversation starter and to highlight some fundamental aspects to ease communications. There are many other considerations when opening up your life to an olosha, and those include that a practitioner of an Afro-descendant religion has a different perception of the material and spiritual world, of the interaction between creator and creation. If you add factors such as nationality, age, cultural diversity, and language you then realize why it is important to analyze matters carefully due to the additional complexities religion brings to the mix.
I wish you good luck. Love is worth pursuing, always, just keep your eyes open.
Oní Yemayá Achagbá