The answer floated into my head out of nowhere…
©Photo by and courtesy of Frank Kee www.keesphotos.com
And the answer was wildflowers – wildflowers in the mountains. Akosua, my client, asked me for a ritual she can do in the mountains with her daughters, Christine and Jennifer.
Spirit told me to suggest wildflowers.
But I struggled with that answer. I was worried Akosua wouldn't think the ritual was African enough, or Yoruba enough, or complicated enough.
So I flipped through two books on Orisa-inspired rituals to see if something else spoke to my Spirit. When nothing else did, I went with the wildflowers idea.
“Get three packets of different wildflower seeds,” I told her via email. “When you get to the mountains, take out the seeds and pray to them. Then, toss them in the air and ask the universe to nurture them and allow them to germinate.”
“The seeds represent your deepest wishes,” I explained. “And when you release them, you are symbolically handing everything over to God and the ancestors. You've done your part. Now let God and the ancestors do theirs.”
I sent the email off to Akosua…
But when she didn't write back immediately I began to worry that my idea did not resonate with her after all.
There was no need to worry. This is what she said:
“Well now James…did you pick this up from me ~ or did I pick it up from you ~ or is it simply that our Ancestors and the universe is placing it in both our spirits as confirmation? Last night and this morning, the song, Wildflower was in my spirit. I have been humming it all night and even early this morning. I absolutely enjoy planting SEEDS! So this ritual is totally PERFECT in ways you can't begin to imagine!”
“The other reason your ritual choice is powerful, is because a few years ago (because I love flowers so much) one of my friends asked me which flower did I liken myself to? As with my nature, I had to do some research before I named one. After looking at pictures of flowers and reading about them, I chose one. It was the PROTEA that resonated with my spirit! It's a fascinating wildflower that originates in South Africa. The thing that made me choose it is the fact that even after forest fires, this flower will blossom again! Its seeds/bulbs are kept in a very strong stem and embedded deep inside the earth … the heat from the fire actually causes it to germinate! When I read that, I immediately said ~ “that's me! So yes, this ritual is intriguing for many, many reasons.”
Akosua's response blew me away. You see, we often forget: 1. The power of our own Spirit. 2. To let Spirit guide our rituals. 3. Rituals can be original. 4. We don't have to do rituals exactly the same way folks do them in Africa or anywhere else. 5. The Spirit of the land has something to say and should also inspire our rituals. Rituals can be simple yet powerful. Spirit has no limitations.”
Christine and Jennifer
In the end, the wildflowers ritual was not only for Akosua, it was meant for me. I had an important lesson to learn. Just like she needed to release the seeds and trust the universe would nurture them, I need to release whatever Spirit gives me to share without questioning it.
I know this ritual also has a message for you. Spirit has given you the answer you've been looking for. Listen to it – trust it! – James Weeks/ Producer Across The King's River
The fight is on…
A nasty battle in the Spirit World, but my elders in Nigeria say we’ll win.
That’s what my friend, Ade Kunle, revealed to me on a gorgeous Sunday in Oakland. “We have to fight the ajes (witches),” he told me in Yoruba. This was not the kind of conversation I was hoping to have on a lovely Sunday afternoon.
I just wanted a little exercise…
So there I was, getting ready to walk around Lake Merritt, soaking in the sun, the salsa music, the fresh air and BOOM – next thing I know, I run into Ade Kunle and he starts talking about witches.
On a Sunday afternoon — my Sunday afternoon.
But I suppose it was a conversation that needed to happen. At least, that’s what the elders say.
Well, according to Ade Kunle, who was speaking on behalf of the elders, who, in turn, were speaking on behalf of Ifa, the ajes needed to be appeased with a major sacrifice or they would retaliate against my family.
And things could get ugly, Ade Kunle added. Very ugly. In fact, “eniyan le ku (someone could die).
But why were the witches so pissed off that “eniyan le ku?”
Well, because I’m an Ifa priest and I’ve busy “undoing” the work of the ajes. See, some ajes are up to no good. They wreak havoc in folk’s lives. So whenever I help a client spiritually, though the power of Ifa, I’m basically undoing the work of ajes.
I mean, think about it. Put yourself in the shoes of the ajes for one minute. If you’ve been busy creating problems for folks, and some Ifa priest comes along and messes up your work, wouldn’t you be pissed off?
Be honest, now. Not even a little bit?
To be fair, not all ajes are up to no good, so don’t get it twisted. In fact, some ajes are friends of humanity. My friend, Ade Kunle, says there many kinds of ajes. But in the interest of simplicity, (at least for now), let’s just say that “Aje funfun” are your friends and “aje alakita” are your foes.
Even though I’m sure it’s a waaaaaaaay more complicated than that…
In this on-line article, the well-known Iyanifa, Chief Fama, says there’s a “huge difference between the aje of Yoruba mythology and the witch of Western mythology. The analogy here can best be compared to Esu of the Yorùbá myth and Satan/Devil of the Christian mythology. Just as Esu wields a powerful influence in Yorùbá religion, Aje wields enormous power,” Fama says.
I suppose it’s great to know that ajes can be a force of good in our world. And who knows, maybe one day I’ll have the pleasure of meeting and working with them.
But in the meantime, the elders said we need to deal with the ajes that were threatening to kick down the front door and take innocent lives as they please.
And so the elders did an ebo in Nigeria that went on every day for three weeks. I’m told that a team of more than 10 priests worked on it. (It was hella costly too, ouch!) But I am grateful. I am free to continue Ifa’s mission while undoing the work of ajes without fear of retaliation.
When I told my Tulani, my 25-year-old daughter, about the spiritual battle with the ajes, she said: “Damn those ajes. Who the hell do they think they are?”
That’s a great question. Who do those ajes think they are?
What about you? Have you been dealing with any ajes lately? At work? At home? During your sleep?
Hopefully, you’ll never have to deal with the same brand of ajes that I had to fight off, but maybe your aje goes by a different name. Maybe your aje is fear that keeps you from being your true self and moving forward in life. Or maybe it’s the lack of discipline and focus. Or maybe your aje is your inability to forgive yourself or others for past mistakes.
Take your pick, then pick your battle. I’ll be in your corner praying for your success.
Producer, Across The King’s River
The email I received via Facebook sounded desperate…
“I need you to help me have financial freedom…pleaseeeeeeee,” wrote my new FB friend. He wanted me to consult Ifa to find out how he can be wealthy and successful in business.
The email bothered me a little bit. But I wrote him back right away and said I would be happy to divine for him and would tell him what Ifa says.
And he promptly wrote me back and said he couldn’t afford to pay me because he doesn’t have any money now.
I didn’t perform the divination. If my FB friend couldn’t even afford to pay for divination, how on earth could he possibly be thinking about launching and running a business?
And that leads me to a bigger question. Why does he even want a business?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for financial freedom and in Ifa, we do ebos all the time to help folks who are trying to expand their business.
But you need to have a business…
And having a business means investing in the business, working hard at the business, having a business plan and doing everything it takes to ensure it’s successful. In short, having a long term vision. Just doing an ebo isn’t going to cut it. Sorry!
And starting a business just because you want financial freedom isn’t a smart move – at least not in my book.
Instead of allowing money to lead you, I believe you should allow love to lead you. In other words, build a business around your passions. In tough times, the love for what you do will keep you moving forward even when you’re tempted to throw in the towel.
But if there’s no love for the business, you’ll abandon it long before it has the chance to take off. And if it does take off, you’re likely to be miserable because you had no love for it in the first place.
I didn’t explain all of this to my FB friend…
I know his business aspirations will quickly vanish. Anything that’s not motivated by love always vanishes.
We’ve just finished breakfast! And soon I’ll have the house to myself because Stephanie, my wife, and Malcolm, my son, will be taking all four grandchildren to the movies.
The little rascals (Malcolm’s kids) don’t live with us. They visit every other weekend. Jakari, 8, loves to eat; he also loves school and soccer. He almost scored in his last game, he tells me. And he’s still on the honor roll. Naya, 5, is an old soul: helpful, refined and sweet! Mai Mai, 4, is cute as hell. No doubt about that. She isn’t afraid of anybody, and she’ll give you a “beat down” if you mess with her. And Jadan, 4, is just coming out of his shell. He whines a bit too much (if you ask me), but who knows, maybe he’ll grow out of it soon.
Malcolm and Mai Mai
All in all, I enjoy their visits! They’re affectionate and they make me happy! “Papi,” that’s what they call me. I love it – it’s a cool name. And when Stephanie asked what I wanted for my birthday, I didn’t have to think about it. What’s there to think about? The answer came right away. Cake and ice cream with my grandchildren, I blurted out. Shouldn’t every birthday be this way?
And while I ate with my little ones, I couldn’t help but reflect on the power and promise of Ifa.
We’ve come a long way!
You see, 10 years ago I couldn’t imagine that there would be peace in my family. That’s because Malcolm was giving us hell night and day. He was 16 at the time. And to say he was merely in a dark place would be more than an understatement – it would be misleading.
Back then he was an aspiring thug who ran with gangs in the streets of Oakland. He was arrested numerous times and spent months in Juvenile Hall for stealing a car.
And we didn’t know if he would live or die.
But Ifa turned things around for us.
I took Malcolm to Nigeria with me when I went to be initiated into Ifa. There, the elders performed ebo (ritual) to help him. They also assured me that I would see “good things in my family”.
The changes in Malcolm didn’t happen over night, but they happened. And the changes are still happening even though 10 years have passed since our trip to Africa. I’m grateful because some of his friends are in jail and others have long been buried in the cemetery.
These days, Malcolm, 28, works two jobs and stays out of trouble. He still has important life lessons to learn, but so do all of us.
As for me? These days I’m a busy filmmaker and Ifa priest. As an Ifa priest, I help clients facing a wide range of challenges.
And if you come for divination, I’m sure I can relate to you because I’ve had my share of problems too. But I’ve learned there are solutions. Maybe you can’t see them but the orisas can.
Amazing things have happened for some of my clients. Miracles. And when I witness them, I get on the phone to tell my mentors in Africa all about it.
Though we can’t always predict when the change you seek will come to your life, have faith that it can.
Then work hard and never give up. The power of Ifa is no joke. The orisas for me and can work for you!
And that’s a promise…
Producer, Across The King’s River
So you’ve set up an altar (or shrine) for your ancestors, and you make regular offerings to them. Yet, you find yourself wondering if you’re truly connecting with Spirit or merely going through the motions.
Here are some tips that I’ve found helpful for building a stronger connection with your Egungun (ancestors).
MAKE IT A PRIORITY: Your relationship with your ancestors is just that – a relationship. And like any relationship, you need to be fully committed in order to make it work. You also need to make sure that you are available if you want them to communicate with you. This means spending time in silence, prayer, meditation or any activity that uplifts your spirit or slows down the rhythm of your life so that meaningful spiritual communication can take place.
BE GENEROUS: Yes, the ancestors can guide and help you in ways beyond your imagination. But never approach them with a list of demands. Your loved ones in Spirit work with you but not for you – it’s a partnership. Be prepared to give, not merely receive. Remember, your ancestors are not “dead”; they are alive in another dimension and are still learning and growing. The Egungun are fully aware of your thoughts and feelings, so be sure to send them positive energy and love to support them on their spiritual journey too.
BE OPEN: Despite what some people might have you believe, the ancestors have no limitations
when they want to communicate with you. They can use anyone or anything to deliver a message: they can communicate through dreams, feelings, inspiration, nature, literature and music. And they are not stuck in the past. They are fully aware of modern technology and can manipulate lights, television sets and even cell phones to get your attention. Be open and alert. They know you well and will use the best method to get through to you.
BE TRUSTING: Don’t expect a lightening bolt from the sky. Messages from Spirit are often subtle, soft. So subtle that you might miss them. Pay attention to your feelings because ancestors often communicate through feelings – not words. Pause for a moment. How do you feel right now? Where is it that feeling coming from? Is it coming from you or from Spirit? What inspired you to read this article? Was it your idea or did your ancestors inspire you to read this? Spirit is all around you and guide you more than you realize. Trust what you feel inspired to do.
TAKE ACTION: Don’t waste Spirit’s time. One of my mentors said this to me one day. It takes a lot of energy for your ancestors to communicate with you. And you’re wasting their time if you never listen or do anything to move your life forward. Are you living in fear or faith? Are you taking steps to empower yourself? Are you empowering others? Are you leaving a legacy that others might aspire to follow? Take at least one step each day to move your life forward. Your ancestors are alive and well. Make them proud by living your life to the fullest.
Producer, Across The King’s River