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Flying Colors

I had a dream last night.  In the dream I was standing outside a thrift store and I was totally naked.  The building looked like one of the typical second hand stores you’ll see in a very urbanized area.  It was an old white building, a bit on the dingy side.  Weeds were growing through the cracks of the foundation in various spots around the structure.  I walked inside.

As I walked through the door there were a series of steps that take people down to the store floor.  There was a huge, homemade counter at the bottom of the steps.  People were milling all around.  I walked my naked self about halfway down the steps and sat down on them, trying to hide my nakedness.

I sat there for a while.  No one seemed to notice me in my birthday suit.  I was thankful for that.  Out of the corner of my eye I saw some oversized terrycloth towels.  I grabbed a burgundy one and wrapped it around me.  The towel was as big as a bed sheet.  With my nakedness now under wraps, I thought I could do my own milling about to find something a little more appropriate to wear.  All the people I saw before had disappeared.  The store was virtually empty.  Wrapped in my towel I ventured into the rows of clothes.

Like some thrift stores I’ve been to, this store wasn’t just one large open area.  It was an older building partitioned into separate rooms.  I walked through a doorway into a room that was filled with clothes made of the finest leather.  There were fine leather jackets with fur around the collar.  There were fine leather belts and leather shoes.  There were rows of pants made of the finest cloths.  I marveled at the unexpected, and rather out of place, clothing.

As I stepped into the room, I noticed a couple looking at the clothing.  It was a man and a woman.  All I saw was the back of their heads.  I never saw their faces.  They were doing their best to stay anonymous.  I stepped around them and went about my business trying to find something to wear.

In the corner of this room I saw some toys.  That was unexpected.  There was a ten pack of Matchbox cars sitting on a shelf.  I don’t remember what cars were in the pack with the exception of one.  At the very top of the pack was a green Matchbox station wagon.  I wanted the cars.  But I had to find clothing first.  I put the box of cars down and went back to finding something to wear.  This room was not for me.

As I walked out back into the main part of the store I looked down at my feet.  I was surprised to see that I had on a pair of gray bell bottoms.  The fabric didn’t feel very nice.  Around the zipper there were some weird decorative buttons.  These pants were clearly out of date and fashionably hopeless.  But at least my bottom was covered.  I felt a sense of relief.

When I got back to the front counter, a black woman told me that we had a problem.  I hadn’t been keeping my appointments.  I apologized, but then I said that I didn’t think that the counseling was mandatory.  I talked like I knew what she was talking about.  I know many thrift stores have counseling programs to help people.  I was thinking that I had been enrolled into such a program.  I just didn’t remember signing up for it.  The woman laughed and asked if I wanted to drop out.  I told her no.  I needed the counseling and would like to continue.  I promised to do better.

The woman then told me that I shouldn’t worry.  The store had an opening coming up.  If I wanted, I would have a job by the end of the week.  I smiled a sense of relief.

But then she looked at me.  My burgundy towel was gone and all I had were the gray bell bottom pants.  She said that I needed a haircut and she reached into a cabinet and pulled out a set of hair clippers.  I was instantly horrified.  I took a step back and told her with my most authoritative voice that she would not touch my locks.  She ignored me and told me to stay still.  I did as I was told and she put the clippers against my chest and shaved what little chest hair I had off.

Another woman suddenly appeared out of the clothes racks and made a beeline to the counter.  She was carrying a baby.  She walked up to me and told me that she heard that I was in a three way relationship and asked if it was true.  I said no ma’am.  I cheated on my significant other.  The woman laughed.  It wasn’t a mocking laugh.  It was the type of laugh an elder would give if her protégé was tested and passed.

And at that point, the woman behind the counter gave me a brightly colored jacket with a multitude of blues, pinks, yellows, and greens.  It looked like the kind of jacket someone would buy for a child or a baby.  I woke up right after that and started putting my dream to paper.  If I had to guess, whatever test I may have been given, I’d have to say that I passed with flying colors

Monday, August 30, 2010 Posted by | Ancestors, Ifa, Life, Orisa, Spirituality, Thoughts | 2 Comments

Five Years After My Ifa Initiation

I just had my fifth anniversary as an initiate of the ancient African tradition known as Ifa.  It was five years ago I paid the fee to be just a little closer to god on what I believed at the time was the true path to enlightenment.  It was five years ago that I paid good hard earned money for someone who had access to the Orisa’s inner sanctum to put in a good word for me and let me join the club.  One night five years ago, there was a ceremony and a ritual and a party ensued on my behalf.  It was five years ago that I woke up one morning changed for the world.

When I was initiated, the priestess who I selected to lead and guide me in my spiritual endeavors assured me that my relationship with the world had changed.  I felt like Neo in The Matrix when Morpheus offered him the red pill for true enlightenment, or the blue pill.  The blue pill was never an option.  With my heart pounding and without any experience on what was expected of me or what I could expect of an initiation ceremony, I swallowed the red pill and jumped into the unknown with both feet.

Now that I look back to that time with the hindsight of five years of personal development, I have to confess that I anticipated things that the people in the ile couldn’t really deliver.  When I was ready to discuss issues pertaining to spirituality, they wanted to discuss issues of the hierarchal order of the initiates, strict adherence to protocol, and unwavering conformity to the traditional ways that Ifa is practiced.  My first year as an initiate was full of disappointment.

But with each disappointment came true enlightenment.  In the first few months of my new initiate life, when I felt like my spiritual elders were neglecting my spiritual development, my spiritual understanding was allowed to take a divergent path.  While a typical initiate would spend their year learning rote prayers and ceremonies and how to conform to the traditional way of thinking under the careful tutelage of an elder quick to correct an unorthodox  thought, my conscious was free to develop without the interference of the traditional way of thinking.

The more time I spent with my spiritual elders and the rest of the family the more I realized that we were growing apart.  It seemed like I was always breaking protocol.  The house had rules that during any official activity, initiates had to sit in a specific order in a separate line away from non-initiates.  And despite my attempts to sit where I wanted away from people’s focused attention, people would pull me back into the thick of things.  It got to the point I really hated going there and putting up with such trifling issues like whether or not somebody wore an authentic African outfit to one of the official ile sanctioned events.

Eventually, one day I realized I was wasting my time.  While the initiation itself was all that some devotees were after, I realized I needed something else.  There were some initiates who were more than happy to simply gain the inherited enhanced hierarchal status that comes with initiation.  Such focus on personal social gain couldn’t be very good for the development of spirituality.  And it was my personal understanding that elders of any belief system who placed such emphasis on using a promise of enhanced spirituality for their own personal gain are no different than the average con man using snake oil to make a fast buck.

In the past five years I learned that there should be no such thing as paying someone to perform a ritual or ceremony to enhance somebody’s sense of spiritual strength.  There’s no such thing.  A flesh and blood human being cannot improve another’s spirituality.  At our current plane of existence the human brain is incapable of understanding the true depth of nature’s spirituality.  No dollar amount can change that fact.

But something else I learned in the past five years is that there are a lot of people who are looking for a quick fix to their real problems and are willing to pay good money for a spiritual solution.  A lot of people are willing to pay a lot of good money for spiritual enlightenment from someone else.  We will be willing to give our money to somebody in an authentic looking African outfit to tell us what we want most to hear.  But that’s not spirituality.  That’s more like making a wish and expecting magic to happen.

If I have learned one thing in the past five years it is that spirituality isn’t magic.  It isn’t something that comes from someone else.  Spirituality is something that comes from its own personal journey.  People can’t buy spirituality.  It is something that must be developed and nurtured on our own.  We can pay others to help us on our journey.  That’s totally logical.  We should be willing to show gratitude to our teachers.  But make no mistake, the journey is ours to make and it never ends.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010 Posted by | Ancestors, Ifa, Life, Orisa, Thoughts | 27 Comments

Silly Superstitions


One of the most frightening things about the old African traditions is its association with voodoo.  The word voodoo here is not a reference to the many variations of the African based religions that developed throughout both American continents and throughout the Caribbean islands among African slaves and their descendants.  Indeed, as a practitioner of a Yoruba based belief system, I have to confess that technically my family and I participate in this spirituality.

The voodoo I refer to is the more superficial based on silly superstitions without much in the way of facts to support such beliefs.  This bastardized and overly dramatized version of the African belief system gets played in Hollywood with such films such as the Believers, Eve’s Bayou, Serpent and the Rainbow, Skeleton Key, and the James Bond film Live and Let Die.  Playing on people’s fears of African spirituality, many people are quick to prey on our collective superstitious and are quick to portray African traditions as something evil and better left alone.  As a young Christian in Sunday school I was taught that anything African was to be avoided if you wanted to stay in god’s good graces.

As I grew older I began to realize that a lot of what I was hearing was just plain silly superstition.  But that was back in the early stages of me questioning what I was being told to believe and my relationship with Christianity began to wane.  As I started to grow in my African based spirituality, I began to earn a better understanding of how the honest reality of African traditions can be manipulated into the silly superstitions that became so popular.  While I may not believe the superstition that laying a broom at the door of your house will keep spirits out at night, I do believe that there are spirits.

I have to admit that there are things that I do not fully understand and yet I believe.  But it’s not fully necessary for me to understand how things work to believe in them.  I don’t understand how microwave ovens work but I believe that they will heat my food when I push that little button.  I have faith that someone else understands how they work and my personal experience with microwave ovens gives me faith that I can take to the bank.  The same thing is true with my beliefs in the Orisa based spirituality.

Now, with all of that said, I had to laugh the other day when I saw my old landlord driving a rental car.  It seems the woman had an accident and her relatively brand new car was in the shop being repaired.  My first thought was karma.  We moved out of her apartment building at the beginning of September.  Because of a post office mix up, despite how many change of address forms will fill out, our mail continues to go to her apartment building.  The woman occasionally calls and tells us we have mail waiting for us to pick up.  Whenever she calls, we apologize and go pick up our mail.  Her house is practically in our backyard so we see each other often.

Well, last month we were expecting one piece of mail that was pretty crucial.  It was a notice regarding my son’s health benefits that needed immediate attention and quick reply.  We were trying to beat a deadline.  Instead of forwarding the mail to us as usual my landlord sent it back to the sender.  She said she thought it was too important to forward.  By the time we found out what happened we had missed the deadline.  Now, for the next year at least, we are paying an extra two hundred fifty dollars a month out of our pocket to replace his lost benefit.  That’s an extra three thousand dollars that we need.  The misses was upset.  I said she’ll get hers.

But the misses wasn’t content just knowing that karma would address the issue.  She took the case to Baba Esu and asked for some tangible justice.  She didn’t want anything drastic.  Just something that would make her life just as inconvenient as she had made ours.  Just a couple weeks later, we now see her driving her rental.

The misses felt bad.  I continued to laugh.  She said that she asked for something bad in a fit of anger and now regrets it.  I advised her in the future to make sure she’s calm and rational whenever she asks for such things.  She asked me if I ever wished for something to happen to somebody.  I said of course.  And if whatever I asked for comes to past I will simply say thank you.  If somebody pisses me off to the point that I’m asking Orisa to step in on my behalf and take somebody to the tool shed, then chances are pretty good that I felt that they deserved it.

Besides, there is nothing to support the fact that what happened to our landlord has anything to do with us.  It’s not like our old landlord has never wrecked a car before.  I think in the year and a half since we’ve been here she’s already had a couple fender benders.  This is just the latest.  Besides, I’ve been asking Baba to help us win the lottery and that never happens.  I’m pretty sure that asking for something bad to happen to somebody in a fit of anger doesn’t work either.

But nevertheless, I think I’ll buy Baba Esu something nice today.  You never know how the spiritual realm operates.   And I’d rather err on the side of caution.  Wouldn’t want to piss Baba off, even if I do think it might be nothing more than silly superstition.  I might want to do some more superstitious stuff sometime in the future and I would like to stay on Baba’s good side.

Monday, November 9, 2009 Posted by | Ancestors, Faith, Life, Orisa, Spirituality, Thoughts, Yoruba | 3 Comments

The Backyardigans And An Opportunity To Teach Spirituality


My two year old son loves the Nick Jr. show The Backyardigans. The show is a computer generated animation about five neighborhood kids who play in the backyards of their house. There’s Tasha the yellow hippo, Tyrone the orange moose, Pablo the blue penguin, Austin the purple marsupial, and Uniqua the pink spotted little girl with a couple of antennas on her head. Whenever this series comes on, baby boy stops what he’s doing and gives the show his full attention. If he doesn’t watch, something’s seriously wrong. Each episode runs about thirty minutes. I think he can go through about three episodes before he gets ready for something else. So the Backyardigans are good for about ninety minutes of distraction.

Not too long ago there was a new Backyardigans episode titled It’s Great To Be A Ghost. In this episode, Uniqua, Pablo, and Tyrone are pretending to be ghost and do their best to try and scare each other and Tasha, who is not a ghost. Tasha has no fear of ghost and the others are challenged to scare her with tricks of haunting. One turns invisible and wave things in the air. Another pops out of a painting. They imagine themselves floating through the air and going in and out of objects. But Tasha is true to her word and remains unfazed. Tyrone plays the most inept ghost. He’s running around trying to find something to scare Tasha with when he accidentally winds up under a sheet. He looks and sees himself in the mirror and finds the image pretty scary. He then has the idea to use his new look to scare Tasha. He sneaks up to her and says, boo. Tasha turns, sees the floating sheet, and screams. She runs away and Tyrone is right behind her taunting her with an occasional boo. Each time Tyrone goes boo, Tasha lets out a little scream.

I watched my son as he watched this particular episode. And while he loves the Backyardigans, this one episode has a unique affect on him. While he will watch the other episodes without much of any reaction, when watching this ancestor themed episode, he’ll watch it from the comfort of the reassuring arms of one of his parents. When Tyrone starts going boo, he starts to try and climb into our laps. He’s not comfortable at all with what he’s seeing. And I notice the subtle programming that is taking place.

When Tasha reacts with fear to the sight of a ghost in a sheet, she is teaching my son to react with fear to supernatural manifestations and unnatural aberrations. This is troubling to me. As a practitioner of Ifa, the ancient African spirituality that embraces the supernatural, this is a potential conflict. The ghostly characters in the show have only one concern and that is to be as scary as possible. But the African tradition teaches that our enlightened ancestors, the people who have passed on from this plane of existence, are part of our lives to help guide us and develop our spirituality so that when we can become enlightened and when we pass on we will help lead our descendants to true enlightenment. When we respond to our ancestors with fear and suspicion, we cut ourselves off from their assistance thereby making it much more difficult for ourselves to get through this thing called life.

In order to counter the messages this particular program is giving my son, we started our own little game of ghost. Baby boy will come up to us and say, boo. But instead of reacting with outright fear, his mother and I act with surprise. Instead of a little scream of fear, we’ll respond with an exaggerated, Oh! And right after our dramatic surprise we will smile and reach down and give him a big hug. We’re trying to teach him that it’s okay to be surprised when we see something that we don’t know or didn’t expect or didn’t recognize. But we shouldn’t respond with fear. It is a subtle difference and it might be a little too nuanced to be picked up by a two year old. But we have to start somewhere.

We like The Backyardigans. Although I really appreciate the fact that the show can grab my son’s attention for a few minutes, I have to admit that I find the episodes pretty entertaining myself. The episodes feature music and some very imaginative songs expertly executed by some very professional musicians. My all time favorite episode is Pirate Camp. I don’t know who the drummer is when they do the song titled the Scalawag. But if you ever get a chance to see it or hear it, you’ll understand when I say he or she really earned his or her pay that day.

And I like the way the show teaches lessons of cooperation and listening from the perspective of five unique youngsters without making it so obvious that it’s trying to teach cooperation and listening. There is no race. Everybody is a unique color and shape and nobody is associated with any race, although it is pretty hard not to notice that Tyrone and Uniqua are indeed voiced by black people. And with a name Pablo it’s a sure fire bet that he’s Hispanic or Latino. They do an excellent job of not putting one type of person or race ahead of the other.

But even the people who develop this show can slip every now and then. When it comes to showing how we should interact with the supernatural I think they missed the boat on this one. It isn’t helpful to teach children to fear that which we might not fully understand. And one thing that is easy to misunderstand is our relationship with our ancestors and other spiritual entities. It’s not something we should automatically fear. Hopefully, this will be one lesson from this program that my boy won’t learn. Regardless, I still love those Backyardigans. Those animated characters are allowed to get it wrong every now and then. Although they look like colorful animal characters, in all honesty they are only human.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009 Posted by | Ancestors, Faith, Ifa, Life, Spirituality, Thoughts, Yoruba | 2 Comments



Not too long ago I was driving down the highway during a particularly strong thunderstorm.  The rain stopped for a brief moment and the sun managed to find a break in the deep, dark, rolling clouds.  But on the other end of the horizon, I saw the most intense rainbows I’ve seen in my life.  Not only did the ends touch the ground, the typical arch going from ground arcing through the air and returning back to the ground was matched with a faint opposite that started way in the clouds, arced down and then went back into the clouds.  I had never seen such a setup before.  And didn’t think a rainbow with a mirrored image floating in the sky above was even possible.

The clouds gathered once again and the sunlight’s contribution to the rainbow disappeared.  But five minutes later the clouds dissipated once again, the sunlight came back, and the rainbow came back, stronger than ever, with its mirror image in the clouds.  I started to get suspicious.  A couple minutes later the sun went away again.  But a few minutes after that the rainbows came back for a second encore.  I got the message.  It was time to do a little something about Oshumare.

To listen to some people describe Orisa you’d swear they were more human than anything else.  Orisa are supernatural beings that cannot be described in human terms.  Even terms like Iya and Baba, mother and father respectively, really don’t do the Orisas justice because many of us have a tendency to take such terms too literally.  Many people want to think of Iya and Baba in terms of sexuality and little else.  Most people will use vague terms like paternal energies and maternal energies and other vague sounding nonsense to try and put these things into perspective.  But really, to try and wrap human consciousness around the meaning of sexuality for an Orisa is a fool’s game.

Nowhere does the misapplication of sexuality is more evident than when we try to describe the Orisa Oshumare.  Some describe him as androgynous and others might go so far as to say that he is bisexual.  What the hell?  Bisexuality refers to a biological condition where sexual behaviors manifest as an attraction to both genders, male and female.  People who have a bisexual orientation will have an attraction to both people of their own sex and people of the opposite sex.  But what does that mean for an Orisa?  Is there such a thing as a homosexual Orisas as well?

Like most of the things we’ve been we’re taught about Orisa and the rest of Ifa, the ancient African spiritual tradition rooted in the Yoruba people, we simply accept what we’ve been told about Oshumare without really thinking about what we’re being taught.

The rainbow is a manifestation of Oshumare.  He’s often referred to as the serpent and the rainbow, but he is no serpent.  Caring and attentive he’s the messenger that carries communications back and forth between our plane of existence and olorun, or heaven.  When people need some assistance getting their messages to any Orisa, Baba Oshumare will be there to help facilitate a dialogue.  However, more often than not these days, people are ready to send a message but all too often have deaf ears to hear the response.  These days, business is pretty slow for Baba Oshumare.  The number of people who are ready to listen as well as they are ready to talk dwindles almost on an hourly basis.

These days, more people see the rainbow in the sky and the last thing they think of is an Orisa let alone Oshumare, and the children of Ifa are no exception.  If it is not one of the most popular Orisas such as the Babas Ogun, Sango, Obatala, Orunmila, or Esu or one of the Iyas Yemonja, Oya, or Osun then most people don’t know much of anybody else.  Oshumare is part of that obscure majority of Orisa.  And if people think they do know him it is as an example of some spiritual sexual perversion.

Baba Oshumare is the Orisa recognized as a manifestation of the rainbow.   It’s not to be interpreted as a judgment of his masculinity, at least not in our basic human terms.  Orisas aren’t so limited and we really should learn not to transfer our ideas and experiences to them.  Baba Oshumare is as prime an example as any Orisa for how we as humans misinterpret nature’s manifestations into the most incorrect terms.  And some of us wonder why we’re out of touch with our spirituality.  We experience the rainbow and yet we still do not see.

Sunday, September 27, 2009 Posted by | Affirmative Action, Ancestors, Faith, Ifa, Orisa, Religion, Spirituality, Yoruba | 5 Comments

Burr Oak Cemetery Grave Robbers


Emmett Till must be spinning in his grave.  At least he would be if he was still in it.  Who knows for sure with all the happenings at the Burr Oak Cemetery in Alsip, Illinois, a close suburb of Chicago?  Three grave diggers and their manager are accused of digging up bodies and reselling plots at the historic black cemetery in order to make about three hundred thousand dollars on the side in a scheme believed to have stretched back at least four years, authorities said Friday.

It is feared that hundreds of graves have been disturbed with corpses being evicted from their resting place and either unceremoniously dumped in the nearby unkempt weeds on cemetery grounds or double-stacked in the graves of others who were simply pounded deeper into the ground to make room for others.  Thousands of black families have descended onto the cemetery for answers about their ancestors.

Police first learned of the allegations when Trudi Foushee, an attorney for the cemetery, alerted authorities about skeletal remains and the fact that the facility was unable to account for some funds.  Mr. Foushee had been acting cemetery manager after the previous manager was removed from her post because of allegations she stole money from the cemetery.  Illinois Comptroller Daniel Hynes said that the process of revoking the cemetery’s license has been started and said that his office is investigating whether past monies received from for the perpetual financial needs of the cemetery is still safely held in a trust.  The cemetery is owned by Perpetua Holdings of Illinois who started an investigation by calling Cook County authorities to report suspicions of financial problems by the cemetery staff.

The love of money drives despicable people to do reprehensible things.  The violation of the human remains entrusted to a cemetery is about as low as human nature gets.  These people weren’t pharaohs or the well to do from some bygone era.  Many of the people in this cemetery were common black folk who were buried at Burr Oak Cemetery when no other cemetery would have our ancestors and elders.  You would think that living in modern America we would make us all more respectful of humanity.  The emotional trauma for the families associated with these desecrations is only beginning.  Old wounds, scabbed over by time, have been ripped opened by the serrated edge of personal greed.  No soul can rest in anything resembling peace at this place of such wickedness.

Records have been destroyed or altered or never made in the first place.  As various law enforcement agencies try to piece together what remained of the cemetery’s paperwork, a small army of forensic anthropologists will try to assess the entire scope of this crime.  The identity of all the human remains has to be established.  And given the size of the open grave out back, an area measuring about a quarter million square feet, it will be a daunting task.  It was reported that the grave robbers focused on older graves that were believed to have received few if any visitors.  The combination of older grave sites and the lack of complete records and the desecration of remains mean that DNA testing would probably be the only way, if any, to identify the deceased.  And even then, without DNA from descendents to use for comparison the effort could be useless.  The DNA test will identify their genetic string but we may never know their identity.  This is truly a crime without measure.

In African spirituality, ancestors hold a special place in the belief system.  Ancestors rank right up there with the Supreme Being Olodumare and the Orisas.  And of these three entities, only ancestors have the residual of earthly vessels, bodies held in graves.  Like funerals, the choice of the perfect grave is for the living.  Earth is earth and ground is ground to the deceased.  Nature has a very practical way of looking at things.

But it is the living that wants the perfect shade under the tree or a scenic view from the grave site.  We the living want those who go before us to be in the most scenic part of the most beautiful cemetery available.  Such an emphasis on what we believe to be the more beautiful location brings an emphasis on value into the picture.  And in human terms value equates to dollars.  Those who can pay the higher dollars will get the better plots.  Like real estate for the living, other than money the three most important factors are location, location, and location.  And whenever money gets added to the mix there will always be someone who will be willing to throw human decency out the window and submit to their most sordid nature.

Monday, July 13, 2009 Posted by | African Americans, Ancestors, Black Community, Black Culture, Black People, Life, Spirituality, Thoughts | 5 Comments

Remembrance For The Ones Relatively Few Remember


A couple days ago I had a dream.  I was walking through a house with my family.  But across the yard there was an abandoned house.  I crossed the yard to the empty home.  When I walked inside the house and looked outside the window, the previously empty yard I walked through had a few trees with black people hanging from the limbs.  Thinking I was seeing ghosts I ran back outside.  But the vision didn’t go away.  There were even more black people hanging from the trees.  They were not hanging from a noose around the neck.  They were upside down with their feet tied together and arms outstretched to the earth.  As I tried to walk back to my family, I saw a white man in white robes looking like the pope sentencing more black people to their deaths.  I woke from my dream after that. I spent the rest of that day, and the next, thinking of our African ancestors.

Today is the day that we are supposed to spend in remembrance of our fallen ancestors who were drafted or volunteered to serve this country and paid the ultimate sacrifice to help make this country great. I think more of us ought to spend more time remembering all the unremembered enslaved ancestors who were forced at the end of a whip to serve this country and make it great without so much as a dime in compensation. Where is our national memorial to recognize the sacrifice of all the enslaved Africans and all the Africans who died in the middle passage?

Sunday, May 24, 2009 Posted by | Ancestors, Life, Thoughts | 2 Comments

Adherence To Tradition Not Adherence To Stagnation


OK…I totally stumbled across this site haphazardly and I feel a little lost. What in the world are you talking about? I’m really curious about this now.

But as someone on the outside, knowing nothing about this sect of people or thoughts, I think it’s rather sad to be that caught up in anything outside of self. Any institution, any tradition, any unyielding static cultural remnant is, in my opinion, disastrous to our progression as human beings. I’m glad that you questioned the significance of your actions, though.

Would you mind writing me and filling me, though? I am always interested in anything spiritually enlightening!” – Comment by Sophia

Thanks for the feedback Sophia,

People and people’s behavior run the gamut. While some people are rooted to the past, others are prone to look towards the future. While some people enjoy tradition and hierarchy and strict adherence to structure, others would prefer a more open and flexible environment. Ifa has a strong and long history of being a tradition strongly rooted to the past with strict adherence to spiritual law and hierarchy.

While some people are happy to follow spiritual traditions rooted in other cultures, others would like a spiritual connection to their African past. Unfortunately, there are few options for people to develop a spiritual link to their African past without the strict adherence to African tradition. And while that adherence to tradition served the African community well for thousands of years, in the age of capitalism and materialism, there is a stronger focus on developing wealth than there is on developing spirituality.

One can read about Ifa. There are plenty of books with people’s interpretation. But there are some concepts in Ifa that must be experienced. Even though the motivation of the teacher might be more geared towards earning a comfortable living, the student with a sincere desire to develop their spirituality will find their way. Spiritual entities like the ancestors and the Orisas and the Supreme Being Olodumare are more than ready to reach the student trying to reach them.

The spiritual entities do not have a list of regulations and rules and laws that each individual must adhere to in order to pass some test to earn spiritual enlightenment. A lot of people insist that the only way this can happen is if we spend our days in complete submission to tradition. People need to understand that spirituality runs the gamut just like anything else.

My time with my spiritual house was time well spent. These days I may not follow the traditional tenets that say people must shave their head to prove their devotion to spirituality, but in order to truly understand I sacrificed my hair to learn it. No one else needs to. If they want the significance or the symbolism of a head shaving to be associated with their initiation then more power to them. I just don’t think people should go around saying that adherence to tradition is absolutely necessary.  It is a choice.

Adherence to tradition is not necessarily a bad thing.  For example, I come from a family of ten children and we are spread across the country.  Like many families, my family has a tradition of attending family reunions.  Ever since I could remember when always made a pilgrimage to see our mom and dad’s old stomping grounds to celebrate Grandparent Peacemakers.  Because my immediate family is so focused on keeping our parent’s traditions going, we can’t seem to focus on getting our own immediate family reunion jumpstarted.  My brothers and sisters and I would have more flexibility in our plans to get together if some of us didn’t feel so obligated to continue our parent’s tradition.

But if we ever successfully make the transition to making our new tradition a priority, we run the risk of losing touch with our extended family through the disconnection from old traditions.

The bottom line tradition and innovation need to be balanced.  Unfortunately, many organized spiritualities, such as Ifa which is wrapped up solely around tradition as practiced by the large number of members, do not lend themselves to the side leaning towards originality.  The only thing traditional Ifa lends itself to is tradition.  In the end innovation loses and stagnation triumphs.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008 Posted by | Ancestors, Ifa, Life, Orisa, Religion, Spirituality, Thoughts | 1 Comment

Transformation Dreaming


I used to have dreams of death that would literally scare me awake.  In my dreams, I have died a variety of ways.  I’ve fallen to my death.  I’ve been peppered with bullets.  I have been attacked by vicious wild animals from rabid squirrels to grizzly bears that were far from being a gentle Ben.  But for the last couple of nights I had a couple of dreams of death that gave me a new perspective on my relationship with the universe and my relationship with my spirituality.

Two nights ago, I had a dream that I was driving down the street in a Jeep CJ.  I pulled up to the red light of an intersection getting ready to make a left turn.  Two men were crossing the street in the crosswalk in front of the Jeep.  They stopped to talk to each other right in front of me.  I thought they were being jerks.  When the light turned green they continued to stand in front of me holding their conversation.  I turned the steering wheel a little harder and made my left by going around them.  As I continued to go on my way, two men appeared in the middle of the street again.  I drove by them as well.  Like the first pair of men I just went around the second set.  I looked up into the sky and there was a contrail of something headed straight down into the ground.  Suddenly there was a huge explosion.  It looked like a nuclear device detonated.  A few seconds later it looked like the horizon was growing.  A huge, fiery wall of sheer force was fanning out from the explosion point.  Escape was impossible.  I had only seconds to live.  I blew a kiss to the sky and thought to myself, I’m coming home.  When the wall of furious fire hit I was immediately consumed by the flames.  I had an out of body experience.  I could see inside the flames and I watched as my skeleton was charred to black inside the Jeep.

Last night I had another dream.  It started off inside what I believe to be a Home Depot.  I was in a gigantic home improvement store.  I remember walking through the paint and wallpaper department.  I was pushing an empty shopping cart.  As I walked out the store the shopping cart was able to follow me.  It was dark and kind of cool outside.  The parking lot was sloped and as I walked down it the shopping cart hit me in my back.  At the edge of the parking lot, I saw there was no place to park the cart so I turned around to push it back up the slope.  Suddenly I heard two gun shots.  I hadn’t noticed before but there was a young black teenager pretty close to me and he started ducking.  Not wanting to be a target I started ducking as well.  Two more shots rang out.  I turned and across the street from the parking lot was an angry young man with a pistol pointed in my direction.  He was wearing an oversized, red hooded sweatshirt and white sweatpants.  He was yelling.  He yelled at me that he hated my punk ass.  I did not know who he was or why he would be angry with me.  I fell to the ground.  A bullet from his gun grazed my left shoulder blade and left buttock.  The shooter was running towards me with the pistol extended and pointed at me.  By this time I’m lying prostrated on the ground with my head his best target.  His aim is bound to get better.  I am about to die.  My last thought was how much I loved my son.

At the end of both dreams I woke up.  The typical reaction to me dying in my dreams would be a racing heart from a sudden rush of adrenaline.  But instead of a racing heart I woke up as if I had experienced one of the most pleasant dreams ever.  From what I understand death is a symbol of profound change.  Death is nothing if not the most transformative change humans will ever experience.  All we know from this side of the life/death portal is that people mourn when loved ones die.  It’s typical to fear the loss of communication that comes with death.  No one knows what, if anything, lies on the other side waiting for us.  And fear of the unknown is one of the biggest fears of all.  If I had these dreams a few years ago I would have been waking up with my heart racing and head pounding and gasping for air as if I had ran a marathon.  But in these dreams I stayed calm.

While I am far from living with a death wish, I do understand that death is inevitable.  It is a common law of nature.  If something has a beginning, it too will have an end.  Nothing at our plane of existence is forever.  Everything changes.  To resist change is to resist growing.  To resist change is to resist progress and to resist proceeding down one’s spiritual path.  Growth doesn’t happen without change.  Transformation doesn’t happen without change.

No doubt my subconscious is trying to tell me something.  At forty six years old, I’m probably going through some sort of midlife crisis.  Like a lot of people, like many men, I’m probably trying to come to terms with the loss of my youth and the fact that there’s a good chance that the majority of my life years are behind me.  Unable to turn back the clock and redo parts of my life already done I really have no choice but to look forward to my life.  While others might don a leather jacket, bling, and a new sports car, I guess it appears that I might be ready for something a little more transformative in my life.

Saturday, November 22, 2008 Posted by | Ancestors, Life, Philosophy, Religion, Spirituality, Thoughts | 6 Comments

Biblical Proof That Ifa Is The Way

Being a practitioner of an African tradition it’s inevitable to be asked for proof that that my belief system is valid.  As if anybody’s spirituality can be, or even has to be, proven.  And without doubt the people who ask for proof are Christians and that will ask for some biblical proof that my African tradition is indeed a legitimate spirituality.

Recently I was asked to list scripture and verse that would prove Ifa is legitimate.  I was taught that to question the Christian doctrine is to show a lack of faith which is a sin in god’s judgment.  And the slightest trace of fickleness is enough to condemn a person, especially an impressionable young kid trying to take his spiritual development seriously.  So it stands to reason that I’d have great difficulty finding the bible verse that says Ifa is the true faith and Christianity is not the way.

Instead of wasting time trying to find such a bible verse, I asked for biblical proof that requires a non Christian to provide the Christian believer proof and I asked for non biblical proof that the bible is truly the word of god.

My Christian questioner admitted that there is no biblical requirement that the non Christian believer prove their beliefs.  Everyone is entitled to believe whatever they see fit.  But my second query, the one asking about non biblical proof that the bible is the word of god, received a number of bible verses as a response that would have made any Christian proud.  The only problem is that a Christian already believes in the bible so it would be a moot point.  I was asking for non-biblical proof that the bible is the word of god.  If one already believes that the bible is the true word of god then it isn’t a problem to believe that everything written in it is the word of god. But on the other hand, if you are trying to convince someone who may be skeptical about the authenticity of the bible as god’s word then someone quoting scripture may not actually be the best way to convince the nonbeliever.

The way I understand it, the bible is a history book filled with excerpts from a number of writers. I would expect a history book to be accurate. If its not then it is a work of fiction and we must ask ourselves why are we bothering to study it so much?

There are other writers of ancient verses who have not been added to this list of bible authors. For example, the scripture according to Judas is not included in the bible.  The same is true for the scripture according to Mary Magdalene. While it is a common belief that Judas betrayed Jesus and then ran off to kill him self as depicted in Matthew 27:5, the scripture according to Judas appears to be evidence that Judas not only survived the crucifixion of Jesus but wrote about the event from his own perspective. The fact that Judas had time to put pen to paper and spread his own verses should be one example of some of the human influence to manipulate scripture.

To add insult to injury the bible has gone through translations and through many interpretations and reinterpretations so that the accuracy of the original scripture may not be as correct and free of translators prejudice as it should be.

I find if difficult to be inspired by a book written three thousand years ago about things that happened two thousand years ago. I would be much more impressed if the bible was making more timely prophesies. And if the ability to predict prophesy is a factor for inclusion then why not added the gospel according to Nostradamus? Many people claim that Nostradamus predicted many events such as the collapse of the World Trade Center. But nobody is saying that Nostradamus is man of god and his writings should be added to the Christian bible. Therefore, I can only conclude that there is a specific and narrowly defined set of criteria of what is acceptable for inclusion.

For me, the bottom line is that there are many more authors with spiritually inspired writings that are not included in the bible than those who are included. I believe I would be severely limiting myself if I only accepted the writings of the bible as the only source for spiritual inspiration.

Back in Sunday school, I learned that the Christian god knows all. He is omniscient. But for some reason the bible is full of examples where god has to test the devotion of various bible characters. Genesis 22 tells the story of Abraham and Isaac where god wants to test Abraham’s devotion by telling him to sacrifice his son. Coming from a god that is supposed to know all and a god that is supposed to love people and provide for people, this sounds seriously cruel. Imagine what you would feel, how you would feel, if god came to you and told you to murder your only son. Imagine how heavy that burden would feel. And then you discover god, who already knows your heart, wants to put you through unnecessary grief. If god knows all why does he have to subject people to such cruel testing? Why is god so insecure that he requires such confirmation and assurances?

In my own talks with god, I have found him to be anything but the insecure Supreme Being that I learned of in Sunday school so many years ago. The god that I have had the pleasure of communing with is quite comfortable in the knowledge of who he is and what he is. The god I know isn’t addicted to praise and prayer, especially not from anything as fickle and deceptive as the average human being. God isn’t about proving his sovereignty over anyone. That would be like somebody going around trying to prove to ants how sovereign he or she is. It’s truly not important for anybody to rule ants that are just trying to go about their day. By the same token it’s not important for the Supreme Being to rule over us.

If someone believes in the Christian bible and that truly works for them then they are truly fortunate. However, the conversation with god didn’t stop when that last period was made in the book of Revelations. I believe that spirituality continues to inspire us on a constant basis if we would just take the time to remove all distractions, sit still, and open our minds to it. I find it difficult to develop spirituality when I allow myself to be relegated to the spirituality of the words in the bible written three thousand years ago and translated over the years into various languages by various mindsets. Those words are proof of somebody else’s spirituality put to paper in a totally different time. What does spirituality have to say about the now?

Friday, September 12, 2008 Posted by | Ancestors, Life, Thoughts | 9 Comments