A Little Prayer For Sango
A few nights ago thunderstorms rolled through the city in the middle of the night. For some reason or another I was awake. I could see the silent flashes of lightening penetrating the curtains on the window in through the dark. The storm was still far away. It was hot that night. The apartment was literally steaming with the city’s first stab this year at eighty plus overnight temperatures. The apartment didn’t have an air conditioner. I got up and tried to strategically place a box fan in a window so that it could pull the steamy air out of the bedroom, through the kitchen and dining room, and out the living room window. The bedroom curtain billowed as the slightly cooler but fresh air from the outside began to move through the apartment. Mission accomplished, I climbed back in bed and moved the window curtains to the side so I could watch the lightening show with an unobstructed view. Shortly thereafter the wind began and the trees started to sway with the wind. The air got considerably cooler. Large globules of rain began to pelt the ground. Thunder began to follow the lightening.
I don’t know why but I had a sudden urge to try and recite the Yoruba prayer I was given to memorize when I joined my old Orisa house a few years ago. It had been months since I had last tried to recite the prayer. I wanted to see how much I could recall of the Yoruba words. I started the prayer. “Omi tu tu, ona tu tu, ile tu tu…” The words began to flow. There’s the part with all the tu tus dedicated to nature, the planet, the sky, the heaven, followed by the mojuba part dedicated to the Orisas. This is where I began to falter. I knew many more Orisas now than I did back then and I didn’t want to leave anybody out of my recital. I started to ad lib as I tried to make my updated Orisa roll call off the top of my head.
Suddenly the Orisa Sango made an appearance in the bedroom. He had a smile on his face, a clear sign of mischief. He started to give me a little static. Baba said it had been a long time since he heard that little prayer of mine and asked if I thought I could remember it. He was taunting me. To say Baba enjoys giving me a hard time is an understatement.
I made the mistake once of challenging Baba during a particularly heavy lightening storm once. It was about two years ago. At the time, there was a particularly intense storm with brilliant flashes of lightening actually running across the sky from horizon to horizon. The light show was truly impressive. It was actually kind of scary. I’m not always sure if Orisas know how truly fragile the human body is. Baba laughed. I had put on a false sense of bravado as my heart was trying to beat out of my chest and ask Baba if that was the best he could do. Baba Sango stopped laughing and with a big smile on his face responded with an, Oh? The kind of oh that’s like an abbreviated, Excuse me? Not quite a full minute later there was a lightening strike that turned night into day for a good second or two. I could not discern where it started or where it stopped. The whole sky just lit up like one big giant halogen light bulb. After a brief delay there was a loud crackle and then one of the most thunderous booms I’ve ever experienced. The power throughout the neighborhood was knocked off line. I ran back into the house. Sango just laughed.
Ever since then I don’t even try to get under Baba’s skin. He’s the man. One day in the future I may feel particularly brave again and give him a little static. But trust me, it won’t be any time soon though.
Anyway Baba had asked me about my “little” prayer. I responded that my little prayers came through in a pinch at the last initiation ceremony I participated in. The priestess performing the ritual at the time wasn’t exactly familiar with the Yoruba words and was having a little difficulty getting through the prayer that included the Orisa roll call. It was her first initiation and she seemed a bit nervous. I joined her in the prayer. She was grateful enough to let me do the prayer solo.
Baba Sango laughed some more. More thunder boomed outside. He told me to relax and reminded me that forgetting the prayers I was given so long ago was not a bad thing at all. In fact, there are a lot of prayers, rituals, ceremonies, stage props, good luck charms and religious trinkets that are little more than the equivalent of spiritual security blankets. Prayers are not automatic spiritual connections where a spiritual entity is just waiting to tune into your prayer vibe. Humans are not entitled to the attention of spiritual entities simply because we start talking with our heads bowed and our hands folded. No where else do we have such a high opinion of ourselves than when we spread the myth that god, or the gods, are always watching and listening to each and every one of us. As far as we know to Orisas and Olodumare our elaborate rituals and ceremonies can look like little more than when we see a child is playing tea party. We feel like we’re doing something serious. But Orisas may well think it all looks cute.
So why should anyone believe that I spend my time talking to Baba Sango or any other Orisa? In all honesty you shouldn’t. You have no guarantee that I or anyone else may have a spiritual connection at all. Each one of us should be taking personal steps to develop our own consciousness to a point where we feel comfortable knowing that we have our own spiritual connection. It should involve sincere, quiet meditation and a minimum of distractions. Clear the mind and the path to spirituality will open. Other than the Orisa pots and the ilekes from a trusted student of Ifa, I strongly suggest avoiding the purchase of any spiritual ornaments and ceremonies simply because someone says that they are guaranteed to help you win spiritual favor. No one has the ability to create anything that will make anyone more spiritual. Anything created comes from the Orisas and Olodumare and not from the hand of any man or woman.
This is not to say that there is anything inherently wrong with reciting prayers and performing ritual. Humans are nothing if not creatures of habit and many of us find old habits hard to break. Many of us have been taught to rely on prayers and ritual to enhance our spiritual awareness. If you feel you have such a need then by all means feel free to express yourself. However, keep in mind that there are no hard fast rules and there are no rights or wrongs. Do what drives your spirit and be sure to keep it a personal choice and avoid the temptation to impose your choice on others.
And above all else, whatever you do, don’t say anything to goad Sango into upping the intensity of any electrical storms. Not a smart move.