I recently read a great article by Omimelli. She's a blogger at the site, The Mystic Cup. The article is entitled: Is There A Future for Santeria? Ominelli writes eloquently about issues that many of us know or have experienced in some way.
Like the impact of the internet on our traditions: “The power of enhanced communications and the availability of all sort of information without a system of check and balances has created the perfect breeding grounds for merchants of the religion and con artists to flourish and prosper. Before finding shysters was limited to the communities they inhabited and perhaps to the occasional ad to be found on newspapers or word of mouth communications. Now, any so-called initiate can set up shop on the Internet, troll on sites like Facebook looking to insert themselves as experts in conversations and forums, establish a blog or a website and drum up a hefty Santeria business,” writes Ominelli.
She also writes about initiation mills – priests and priestess who are willing to initiate just about anybody for money. “When people set themselves up to initiate anyone who comes through their door, we end up with initiation mills. Initiation mills feed pockets, swell heads with godparents who compete to see how many heads they have managed to incorporate in their ranks; undoubtedly initiation mills feed egos. Overall, the results are detrimental because more often than not, such godparents leave a scattered trail of poorly raised godchildren and oloshas. These new initiates know no better because their so-called elders neglect to do what godparents must do: Teach selflessly,” says Ominelli.
I’ve been thinking about Ominelli’s article because almost every point she raises can be applied to those of us who practice traditional Ifa or other branches of African spirituality. There are awos in Nigeria and other parts of the world who will initiate just about anybody for money. Then, there are those who sell bogus spiritual products on-line or off-line. And let's not get started talking about the outrageous and depressing behavior of some priests and priestesses who lack basic manners (and common sense).
And while we ponder the abuses in Ifa and Santeria, we might as well talk about the abuses in Islam, Christianity, Buddhism and other spiritual paths. Because wherever you look, I promise you'll find it. You'll also find it in every single profession on earth too – from international finance to sports, and who knows, maybe even ballroom dancing. Alas, it's the human condition.
So why even bother starting your spiritual journey? And if you've started, why stay on it? Well, I firmly believe we can't live without Spirit. We are Spirits ourselves. Hoping to thrive without Spirit is like a fish hoping to swim without water. How far do you think you will get? Sure, I've had ups and down along the way, but I've also discovered that when approached with the right motives and when working with the right people, the spiritual journey can be magical, inspirational, a great source of inspiration and strength.
I've met sages and I've met fools along the way. I'm pleased to say that I've also grown an lot. Ifa has empowered me, and I've been given the tools to empower others.
Regardless of what spiritual path you're on, I believe your journey can empower you, too. Find what works for you. Align yourself with people who inspire you and empower you. Trust the intuition that comes from within you. Go where it takes you. Be open. Be brave. Be confident. And be yourself.