A client recently asked what type of offering he should make to the orisas: Ifa and Ori. He wanted a clearer spiritual connection to the orisas, he explained.
I told him something he probably wasn't expecting to hear. I told him he should offer trust because if he doesn't trust himself or his connection to the orisas he can make offerings all day and night and he'll never make any progress.
And I've seen many people go down that road, and they have nothing to show for it. No peace, no progress, no direction, no real conviction. The forces of life blow them around like a leaf in the wind.
Don't get me wrong. Rituals and offerings (ebo) are important. Perform them whenever divination indicates they are necessary.
But ebo is not a substitute for hard work, character development and trust. You are already connected to the divine. You are Spirit. It's part of your DNA. You are connected to the orisas and to your ancestors. I don't think many awos drive these points home. They should.
There's no way to grow if you don't trust your own connection to the divine, or if you think the answer is always outside of yourself, or that the only way to connect with the ancestors is by doing yet another ritual or by performing yet another ebo.
The orisas and the ancestors don't only speak through divination. They also speak through your intuition and your heart. They speak through nature. They speak through your loved ones and in your dreams. Your connection to the spiritual realm is already there – you just need to listen, feel, and act to access it.
“I have to remember to trust myself. I felt it with every atom in my body.” That's what my friend, Tahira, said to me recently. She kept seeing a butterfly hovering about, and somehow she knew it was a sign from Spirit that someone she knew was going to pass.
And boom! That's exactly what happened.
Tahira got the news this morning. Turns out, it was the sister of one of her mentors. Tahira wasn't alarmed, though. The butterfly had already prepared her. Plus, the woman who died had an on-going battle with drugs for many years. Her time was up.
The story of the butterfly and the sudden passing made me reflect on the infinite power of Spirit. You see, the Spirit world sends us signs, symbols and messages all the time. Just about every day! And every night!
Most of us miss these messages because we're not paying attention. Or we're too busy regretting the past and/or stressing about the future. Does this mean that if you see a butterfly someone is about to die? No. Not at all. It could be a good omen. Could mean your luck is about to turn for the better, or new love is about to come into your life, or you're on the road to spiritual transformation. Who knows?
Theres no right way or wrong way to interpret messages from Spirit? Just go with the first feeling you get. It will often be correct. You just need to trust and get out of the way.”
“I'm doing The Lord's Work.” That's what my friend, Ifagbemi Fasaye, said recently. Then we both bust out laughing. And the more I thought about it, the more I laughed. I'll be laughing for a very long time. And who knows, maybe I'll start telling folks I'm doing The Lord's work too. Sounds like a noble thing to say.
It's funny to me because Ifagbemi Fasaye is a babalawo. We are both babalawos. Ifagbemi is a Seattle-based Ifa priest who is deeply committed to his calling. Each month, he performs Ifa divination for an average of 40 clients and loves sharing what he's learned about the Orisa tradition over the years. He's a humble brother.
Like most African-americans, Ifagbemi was raised as a Christian before destiny called him to Ifa. The comment about doing The Lord's work struck me as a bit revolutionary and ironic because it challenges centuries of religious bigotry and arrogance. It caught me off guard and made me reflect too.
We are all used to Christian saying they're doing The Lord's Work. But Orisa folks? No. But why not? Since when do Christians have a monopoly on the use of the word “Lord”? Does it belong to them?
And even if they think it does, don't you think someone ought to tap them on the shoulder and correct them once and for all? It's 2013 – isn't it time for other spiritual traditions to lay claim to “The Lord” too? Just saying!
The sacred verses of Ifa sometimes refers to Orunmila, the orisa of wisdom, as Lord. In the Holy Odu, Osa Otura, Ifa says: “What is truth? Orunmila says: Truth is the Lord of Heaven guiding the earth, the wisdom Olodumare is using, great wisdom. Many wisdoms.”
As priests and priestesses of Ifa, we too are in the business of shaping lives, helping souls to heal. Ours is a rapidly growing global philosophy. We are here to stay. If we feel like saying we're doing The Lord's Work, then so be it – because we are. The Lord Orunmila, that is.
I'm not sure what my Mom will have to say about this. But then, again. She doesn't have to know and I don't plan to ask her. She's Roman Catholic and I went to church with her every Sunday as a kid – against my will. Mom was upset when I sent her a letter saying I was going to Africa to be initiated into Ifa.
That was back in 2002 and she still hasn't accepted it. “When are you going to go to church in Oakland?” she sometimes asks. I ignore the question. It ain't gonna happen. I'm an Ifa priest and I'm working on a film. I'm busy doing the Lord's Work.