Updated: Jul 18, 2018
“Unfairness is one of the things that bother me the most. However, I do recognize that life has always mysterious ways to impart lessons even to those who think themselves beyond and above teaching and reproach”.
Today has been a day in which I have thought long and hard about the concept of fairness and equality. When I think of fairness, the image of Shangó comes to mind. A king must always be fair to its people, and orisha followers should strive to follow in his steps. When I pledged my life to service of the Orisha, 12 years ago this winter, fundamental changes took place inside of me. Whereas in the past I could observe an unfair situation and remain simply an observer, after Kariosha I can’t remain impassive when I see situations that involve blatant unfairness.
Life is a continuous act of balance, the mere act of breathing brings balance to our internal environment. The life of an Orisha initiate is an act of balance between coolness and hotness. We strive to remain with orí tutu (cool heads) and to avoid acts that heat up our orí. But sometimes heat is necessary to achieve balance. Heat makes us go into motion, coolness helps us to direct the actions and make them purposeful.
This brings us to our fourth misconception when entering a house of Orisha.
4. I will be treated fairly and equally.
There is no inherent equality in a system where there are spiritual hierarchies. Your godmother and godfathers are not your equals they are your spiritual superiors and that is the end of it. A new comer is expected to respect this. However, in order for fairness to prevail in the interaction between godparent\godchildren there has to exist a constant, a dynamic of respect fueled by communications.
Sadly, this is not a model upheld by all elders.
The same way there are favorites in the average family, there is favoritism in ilés (orisha houses). I have seen this play up in numerous ways. Preferences are shown from who gets lifted (recruited) to work on initiations, to which tasks are assigned at them, to the time people get to interact with their godparents. Most times all of these have elements of favoritism interwoven one way or another.
Once I had to sit down with a new comer to our ilé who complained of being treated unfairly because this person was not allowed to proceed through initiations with the speed she wanted. This person was rather upset because she saw others who came shortly after her arrival received the Elekes (necklaces) when she was made to wait. In her mind the immediate availability of funds to pay for the initiation and her intense desire to get them where the equivalents to an inalienable right: I want them therefore they must be mine.
There was reasoning behind making her wait. Her Diloggun readings to that point did not call for Elekes, they called for working on issues of character and negative behaviors, mainly promiscuity and the abuse of alcohol. Those were truly the hindrances the Orisha was pointing out as areas of trouble to be corrected.
Why would a godparent-to-be care about promiscuity? When a person is too free with their bodies, this brings the dreaded word OSOGO (misfortunes). Anyone can see the logic behind this. A woman, who is willing to bed married men, will eventually create trouble for herself in more ways than one. Say the wife finds out and she decides to get someone to put a ‘working’ on the god-child-to-be. Who has to ultimately deal with that working? The future godparent! Cleaning after someone’s careless mistakes is not my idea of proper use of spiritual energy, time and talents. I would much rather invest my time in nurturing people who are willing to live productively and who appreciate the time and spiritual energy put in them.
Did she eventually wise up and amend her behavior? Yes she did. Did she get the Elekes in our house? No she did not. Ultimately that is up to the Orisha to decide as the new comer must petition to enter the house. If the Orisha in question refuses, the new comer must look for another godparent. Was she upset about this? She was disappointed but she was happy to have had the guidance she needed to surpass obstacles in her life. Ultimately we pointed her out to another olosha whose Orisha accepted her. Each person must seek the right fit in the house selected, and the same goes for the godparents with the people they represent.
I have seen oloshas accept godchildren left and right without bothering to even ask their tutelary Orisha. Even if the olosha has ‘a license’ given by the Orisha to accept whomever comes his or her way, is this fair to the new comers? I don’t consider it fair or wise. Each person brings individual challenges and character issues that may result in conflicts with the godparent or with other members of the house. Careful examination of new comers results in more balanced and productive ilés.
Granted, the Orisha’s approval does not mean the new comer will be a perfect fit. It may only mean the person belongs to the house with his or her lot, but this lot will be one that the godparent and house brothers and sisters will be able to deal with proper guidance, patience and nurturing.
There are many other examples of unfair and unequal practices; however, most of them can be resolved with tact and communication, except in cases as those explained in the prior post.
In the next article I will tackle a lovely issue: The entitlement mentality.
Omimelli Oní Yemayá Achagbá
4 Responses to Part 4: 10 Assumptions that New Comers to ATRs should not make
Maria says:September 13, 2010 at 2:49 amYour godmother and godfathers are not your equals they are your spiritual superiors and that is the end of it.
I just have to say I love your post. I agree with the above statement in the best of situations. Good Godparents are your spiritual superiors in an ideal situation. But in the ATR’s the prototype of an abusive Godparent is a cliche, (it’s so prevelent). These religions often give you the title when you get your initiation, before you learn anything. I for one do not believe that abusive, non-ethical grandparents should be respected-NO WAY-HELL NO! There are a lot of respectable elders in the ATR’s. But their also seems to be a lot of idiots. And in my book Un idiota con titulo is just that- an idiot with a title. Being a Godparent without working on you character and abusing your position does not make anyone a spiritual superior. Actually many Godparents are inferior to their God Children. Their are to many people wanting to get props without putting in the work. And it is dangerous to follow these people-Estan atrasao Y nos atrasan John Mason says, “We are the most popular now then ever before and the least sacred.”-How right he is….
Carol Fortune says:November 18, 2010 at 3:40 amI love the idea of finding lessons in life about Orisa, etc. because it enables one to stay in tune with the beauty and wisdom inherent in this great cultural ideology. The respect for Godparents that you speak of, well at least in my Ile,(Ile Osun) is earned and acknowledged without hesitation because the Godparents in this Ile are respectful, intellectual, dignified and nurturing to their Godchildren. Just being in their presence is the most awesome experience one could ever desire. You speak truth and I long to see your next lesson. Thank you so much!
Omimelli says:November 18, 2010 at 4:22 amCarole, Consider yourself blessed to be in an ilé like that, for each of us that is lucky to have a good spiritual house, there are dozens that struggle to find a place where to fit and grow. I am glad you are enjoying reading the blog. Omimelli Oní Yemayá Achagbá
Omimelli says:September 13, 2010 at 5:14 amDear María, Thank you for reading and for adding your opinions to this important matter. Indeed, we are in the public eye and under public scrutiny and thus we must be the first ones to do self analysis and to examine up close and without passion our practices and the guidance we offer as iyaloshas and babaloshas to those who come in times of need or looking for guidance to help them start working towards the fulfillment of their spiritual destiny. Those who do not understand the weight of Kariosha should not knock at the door of Igbodú. Those who have no empathy for the vulnerabilities of people in need or in search for spiritual enlightenment should not be godparents. NO ONE should be expected to have a ‘pueblo’ (lots of followers). But unfortunately it has become cliche to hear Oriatés say during itás “You are going to have lots of followers.” I have met many oloshas who love to study and who care to learn, but 75% of those out there are clueless about their origins, their cosmology and the theology behind our religion, yet they reproduce and reproduce like gigantic orisha mills. This leads us back to fairness…are we fair or not when we see this kind of irresponsible behaviour yet we say nothing? No, when one sees ufair practices yet stays quiet, he/she becomes as guilty as the one being abusive towards a godchild. Analyze the word ‘godchild’ a child given to an olosha by God…those who abuse godchildren, be prepared to pay the bill when the orisha finishes settling scores. Omimelli Oní Yemayá Achagbá