In the belief system of Ifa, a person who is initiated in a ceremony that recognizes an Orisa is referred to as an iyawo which can be literally translated as bride of Orisa. It is a spiritual process meant to heighten our awareness and social consciousness. As a fresh iyawo initiate we are to don all white clothing from head to toe and wear an all white bag, white hat, and all white accessories when we venture out into the public. This will help the community identify the iyawo in their midst so they can pay their respects.
But I have come to believe that the wearing of all white is a crutch to make things so obvious for even the most dense in our community. The white clothes makes the recognition of the iyawo so plain and simple that a moron can pick him or her out of a crowd. But I’ve developed a theory that if the Ifa community wants to know who is the new initiate in our midst, if the iyawo wants the community to know that he or she is the iyawo in our midst, their behavior and their character will be a much more accurate measure of their spirituality. Anybody can put on all white clothes and say that they are a student of Ifa. But when you take the principles of Ifa to heart, when the principles become imbedded as part of your conscience, those people who themselves are truly aware of good character will know that you are a student of Orisa and ancestors. White clothing is little more than window dressing giving people who want the expediency of being instantly recognized as a new student of Ifa as well as others who want to be able to see the new students of Ifa, a way to recognize each other.
In the short time that I have been aware of Ifa, I have been severely disappointed with the character of some of the iyawos I have met. More often than not their character is not one of being an integral part of and in service to the community at large, but their character is more one that expects to be served by the community simply because they wear white. The principles of inclusion and of community that should be an integral part of our spirituality and our sense of insignificance in this wondrous universe take a back seat to the promotion of self importance by learning rituals, prayers, dancing, singing and language so we can impress others with our immediately recognizable, spiritually driven, Ifa specific but ultimately trivial talents. It’s good to know how to dance. It can keep a community entertained and distracted. But in the grand scheme of things dance does not supersede the need for good character.
I am reminded of people’s desire to rely on the obvious but trivial when I look at people questioning presidential candidates for not wearing a lapel pin in the shape of the American flag. It is mind boggling that we will choose a presidential candidate over wearing such a useless trinket, more often than not, made in China. Donning a flag pin is by no means an ironclad sign of somebody’s patriotism. In fact, I would make the supposition that having somebody point to the flag on their lapel as evidence of their ability to run the country as evidence of their inability to run the country. Such a person would probably think he or she could solve social issues just by giving everybody a pin. A lapel pin is proof of what? All it proves is that somebody likes for others to see them wearing a pin. Somebody’s lack of a pin is evidence that they don’t want to be seen wearing a pin. To assume more is to significantly misunderstand the issue at hand.
If we as a people judge a candidate’s ability to run this country based on who wears a pin or who bowls better or who drinks beer better or who can stay in denial better or who used the word “bitter” or who used the word “typical” or who appears on Leno or who appears on Ellen or who appears on Oprah or who will shed a tear when he or she thinks of a dead soldier then we truly have a problem. It’s no wonder we now have the problem of a lack of political leadership when such trivialities are considered when making the choice as to who will be President. There are serious social and economic issues that must take precedence over who wears a pin or how big their pin is.
But then again, some of the issues that we push to the forefront are truly some of the most narcissistic and demeaning to others. Some people who vote for the next President aren’t concerned about the affects of global warming on the planet or the plummeting value of the dollar against other world currencies or the affects of higher gasoline prices because the Middle East is destabilized or the affects of asininely high oil prices on the economy or the affects of so many people across the nation are losing their homes and these foreclosed homes are glutting the real estate market and some many of our fellow citizens are falling into financial disaster because of a lack of adequate medical coverage or the affects of a war that continues to decimate our national treasure and brings our soldiers home in caskets because somebody wants to destroy our freedom.
To some people the issues that are most important are things like who will keep people in the homosexual community from being able to have their devotion to each other recognized by the state or who goes to a Christian church most often or who wants to deny a woman the right to control what happens to her body or who wants to make the ten commandments the official golden rule of the country or who wants to keep Latin American immigrants out of the country or who listens to FOX or who is the Democrat regardless of their position or who is the Republican regardless of their position.
If the most important issue on someone’s list is which presidential candidate will keep people who owns a cat versus who owns dogs then by all means vote for the candidate you feel will best satisfy that concern. But don’t forget that you might be passing on the candidate that would protect the planet, protect human rights, or do something simple like funding more research to make cancer truly a thing of the past. If what’s truly important is a two dollar lapel pin then by all mans vote your conscience. Just remember that when you focus on the person’s pin, you just might overlook the person’s character.