Updated: Mar 27, 2021
How are fishermen and olorishas alike? Some olorishas can be seen as deep-sea trollers with huge nets. Others fish for sport and trophies. And then, some have a profound respect for the treasures that the ocean can lay at their feet. Those tend not to raid our Mother’s domain; they accept with a sense of great responsibility their role as teachers and earnestly want to serve the Orisha, for they cultivate the deep ocean's true treasures.
Not long ago, my sons and I were having an interesting after-dinner conversation. The guys were expressing their profound disdain for olorishas, who are veritable osha-mills. Sadly, instead of knocking at the door, I stated that now we have ilés with revolving doors. Religion has become a commodity in countries where more affluence and credit lines ease cash flow for initiations. Sadly, with enough credit, anyone can pay their way into a Lukumí ilé.
However, even osha-mills have a function in our community as they grease the wheels of the hungry machine. They also create a broader base of Oloshas; some will be destined to greatness, some not.
Initiations require tools, products, clothes, livestock, and working with people with specialized ritual knowledge. Thus, those olorishas who carry on several initiations per year contribute to the local economy. Those olorishas are like the fishermen trolling the ocean and catching huge loads of fish. They do not discern; they catch and initiate.
I am always thankful for these conversations after dinner. I extended it for as long as I could, and we went deeper into those things I would like them to be and not to be. For example, I would be deeply disappointed if they chose to exploit the Orisha for personal gain.
We see that on olorishas, whose sole purpose is to fish for sport. Every new head made is a feather in their cap; it makes them bigger, bolder. It makes them Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and TicToc stars. These olorishas are smarter, younger, and hustlers. They are experts at exploiting their cultural background, be it from the Caribbean or Afro-descendant. They position themselves as powerhouses, carefully cultivating their public image. Some may be earnest in their beliefs and yet manage to create a lucrative business out of religion. It befalls those seeking to learn about the Orisha to identify who is driven by money, ego, and power from those who are not.
Our conversation wrapped up with a common view. Olorishas should try to be like an experienced fisherman who has learned to harvest sea-treasures at the right time. Not every person who knocks at the door needs to enter. Discipline as an olorisha is fundamental, so is the art of catch and release, of being selective. There should never be urgency or greed to reproduce, to create more olorishas. There should be patience, a sense of thankfulness for the bounty of a good godchild, one that is ready for a lifetime journey of service.
There is a lot to be learned from the sea.
Oní Yemayá Achabá