I was initiated into Ifa in January of 2005. The ritual was held on a five acre plot of land about forty five minutes outside of downtown Austin, Texas. After I was captured I spent seven days in the wilderness fasting in little more than a doghouse about a hundred feet from my godmother’s house. A squall came through the very night I went down. In the time span of a couple of hours the temperature in Austin dropped like thirty degrees into the mid twenties Fahrenheit. All I had was a blanket to keep me warm and it was pitifully cold.
I didn’t start having my dreams until the second night. My first dream was from one of my ancestors and Yemonja and seashells. My second dream was with Sango and me dancing with fire. The third dream I had on the fourth night and it was with Osun and a river that ran through a very thick jungle. One day I’ll go into more detail about those dreams but those dreams aren’t the subject of this essay. But on the fifth night I enjoyed no dream.
During my seven days of fast I was separated from everything and everyone. The only person I made contact with for those seven days was my godmother for about fifteen minutes every day. I spent a lot of time meditating, a lot of time sleeping, and a lot of time thinking. My doghouse was pretty cramped so I didn’t do any walking. I was barely able to rollover comfortably. On the fifth night I woke up in the middle of the night without a dream at all. Not really surprising considering how much sleeping I was doing throughout the day. I didn’t think much of the fact that I couldn’t recall having a dream.
In the middle of the fifth night there were dogs howling from far away. I heard them every night. In this rural area a lot of people had dogs that would roam around freely. There were a number of strays as well that would feed themselves by penetrating the weak defenses of a chicken coop in somebody’s backyard. So hearing the howls in the dark was no big deal, at least initially. Normally there were just a handful of dogs howling at the moon intermittently.
But on the fifth night something strange began to happen. The number of dogs participating in the howl began to grow. The difference in the sound was very subtle at first. But it quickly became more noticeable and very eerie. A dozen dogs participated in the howl. And then it sounded like a hundred dogs. And then it sounded like thousands of dogs. The howling became deafening but it couldn’t drown out the thumping of my heart in my ears. I wished I was dreaming. If I was dreaming then it would’ve ended as soon as I could wakeup. But consciousness wasn’t going to come to my rescue on the fifth night. Dogs were wailing right outside my little house and I was terrified.
But that wasn’t the worst of it. Suddenly, through the howling, there was the sound of giant wings flapping in the night. The wings landed right outside the doghouse. Shortly thereafter, something was knocking outside the house. By now my heart felt like it was hacking away at my chest trying to get the hell away from me. My blanket that proved so inept at keeping cold away became my only line of defense against something I didn’t understand or could hardly comprehend even though I was smack dab in the middle of experiencing it. The blanket was pulled tightly over my head and amazingly the cold suddenly became the least of my problems.
I started trying to calm myself down by taking deep breaths. The knocking wasn’t stopping or slowing down. I tried to think the situation through. Whatever I was going through it was not intended to hurt me. People have been initiated into the spirituality of Ifa for millennia. Why would I be the first to suffer from some supernatural phenomenon that I didn’t understand? Whatever it was, it was here to help me, and it was not going to hurt me. It was here to help me. It was not going to hurt me.
I recited those two sentences over and over again trying to build up my courage. I really don’t know how long it took. But abruptly I threw the blanket aside and reached for the flap of thick plastic sheeting that was hanging over the door. But then, just as abruptly, the howling of the dogs was gone. The knocking was gone. And I was alone in the woods.
The next day my godmother came to speak with me for my daily fifteen minutes. I tried to explain to her what had happened. She really didn’t have much to say about the entire experience. I have no clue if she actually believed my story or not. But whether she did or not, whether anybody did or not, I knew what happened to me on that fifth night of my seven day of fasting before my final initiation ceremony as a formal student of Ifa.
It took a while, but Orisa finally clued me into what happened that night. It’s not often that people get a visit from Baba Osanyin the Orisa of the forest. Baba’s posse consists mostly of dogs. Baba is somewhat shy and reclusive and doesn’t make much in the way of manifestations. Baba Osanyin looks a lot like a dog with a muzzle. He has one normal looking ear and his other ear is smaller and gnarled. But that gnarled ear enables Baba to hear almost anything he chooses to focus on in or outside of olorun. Since his hearing is so intense, he is full of knowledge from happenings. It’s not Orunmila type of knowledge that enables him to know the fate of everything. But Osanyin’s knowledge is still pretty extensive.
Osanyin likes to work with all people and not just the ones who make ebos and follow him. Osanyin likes for his followers to visit the forests bringing an ebo, poking around, and spending some time in his domain. If you are lucky he will enlighten the visitor with some knowledge at that time. But exercise caution and come with a clean heart. Baba does not bestow his knowledge to the greedy, selfish or those out to abuse the teachings. He comes to the pure of intention as a shadow in the woods. But do not be frightened for the last thing Osanyin wants to do is frighten people. Baba will leave without bestowing anything to a cowering visitor. I just wish I knew this before I squandered my chance to be with Osanyin in the forest on that fifth night.
Why does this come up now? Last night I had a dream. I was playing tag with one of my brothers. I come from a family of six boys so I really don’t know which one I was playing tag with. We were playing in the alley way beside my mom’s house. I ran into an open garage and there was a man in the shadows with a bunch of dogs. I asked him not to be quiet and not give me away. The dogs ran to the opening and when my brother came they started barking at him and he ran away. The man in the shadows and I talked for a second when all of a sudden there was a voice emanating from a beam of light. I asked the man in the shadows did he hear that. He said yes and told me that it was Orunmila. I was excited and happy to hear that Orunmila was sending a message to the both of us. I woke up right after that. It was about two o’clock in the morning.
I didn’t realize that Osanyin was my companion in the dream until I had woke up. He scared me once and I regretted it. Orunmila told me that the night in the forest happened exactly the way it was supposed to happen. But I couldn’t help but think how different things would’ve been if I had known exactly what was going on and was prepared. I always told myself that if given another opportunity things would be much different. I look forward to the next time I run across my garage companion Osanyin.