topic posted Thu, September 13, 2012 - 10:32 AM by  Unsubscribed
Good Morning,

A small post about some types of people in the religion or coming to the religion. For any aleyos (uninitiated) please be aware as you meet people in this realm of those who are in everything. The dabblers as I like to call them are in Santeria, Palo, 21 Divisions, Vodun, Espiritismo, Wiccan, etc. Now a days people treat these spiritual systems like a 711, a one stop shop. Every spiritual system requires a large amount of energy and time along with training. The "jack of all trades" approach is very dangerous. Each system requires many years of training to begin to understand and unfortunately everyone wants to be a prodigy. I can tell you that there is no such thing as a prodigy in any of these systems and they all require ceremonies.

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    Sat, September 15, 2012 - 4:27 PM
    This is a great blog post from Eni on this very topic. If you join this Tribe please try to read the blog:


    07/26/20120 Comments

    Can you just take what you want?

    Some people like clearly defined traditions, and they get comfort from doing things the way their ancestors did them. They follow the religion of their parents and grandparents, which contributes to their spiritual identity and growth. Sharing customs and rituals with others of the same faith is part of who they are as people, and it gives them a sense of belonging. But, not everyone finds the answers they're looking for in their inherited religion, and it's not uncommon for people to set out in search of new spiritual practices in adulthood. In the modern world, family structures and traditions can break down pretty easily, leaving individuals spiritually lost and alone. To fill the void, some people start creating a grab-bag of individualized beliefs and customs to create a made-to-order systems of reference to guide them through their lives. This is a deeply ingrained idea in our modern culture, that ideas and beliefs are there for the taking, and we're entitled to take them and use them however we want. There's nothing inherently wrong with an individualized approach to spirituality; in most cases, people do it with the best intentions in the world. It seems innocent enough to take what you want from the buffet of religious and spiritual beliefs that the world offers you, and incorporate it into your life in whatever way you choose. But because so many religious and spiritual beliefs are tied to specific historical, cultural, and social conditions and to a specific set of ancestors, it's worth taking a moment to consider these beliefs as the intellectual and spiritual property of other people.

    Take Santería for example. Santería is an established religion with roots in Western Africa. Does that mean that white people shouldn't practice it? No, absolutely not. Santería doesn't exclude anyone on the base of race or ethnicity. Santería has roots in Cuba, where it was originally practiced in black communities, but that doesn't mean that only Afro-Cubans have the right to be part of the religion. Many Santería practitioners do speak Spanish because of their ancestral ties to the Hispanic Caribbean, but Santería isn't confined to one geographic area, one language or even one culture anymore. It's truly a global religion. But, it is still a religion. That means it has sacred ceremonies, liturgical language, and rules about how things need to be done. The rules aren't invented by individuals, but come down from the ancestors. They reflect a desire and a need to adhere to tradition, as a way of honoring the ancestors and all they did to keep the religion alive, sometimes in very harsh circumstances and against fierce pressure to let it go. The belief system that's the foundation of Santería is ancient and sacred. The Lucumí people believe that it was given to them by God. They feel a responsibility to keep their traditions sacred because of their close connection to the ancestors and to the Orichás, who are God's messengers on earth. This is one reason that the religion is based on initiation. Initiation rituals are complex, costly, and reserved only for those who have been chosen by the Orichás through divination to enter the religion in a formal way. Other religions have rituals that bring individuals into the church, such as Baptism, Confirmation, and Communion, and marriage and funeral rites. But most westerners these days aren't really familiar with initiatory religions that require such complicated (and to some degree) secret ceremonies.

    Beaded necklaces must be consecrated
    People can practice some aspects of Santería without being initiated in the religion. For example, many people in Cuba go to a Santero when they have a problem, but they don't necessarily think of themselves as members of a religious congregation. Others attend ceremonies on occasion and receive some of the lower level initiations such as receiving elekes (beaded necklaces), an amulet for protection, or perhaps even Eleguá and the Warriors. As they become more deeply involved in the religion through these smaller initiations and with continued consultas through divination practices with consecrated Priests and Priestesses of the religion, some eventually will become fully initiated themselves, and others will not. It's not the aspiration of most Cubans to be fully initiated Santeros/as because that represents a full time commitment to the religion that not all people can take on.

    In Latino communities in the USA, that same way of thinking applies, and people practice the religion on different levels, under the supervision and with the guidance of an established (and, hopefully, reputable) Santero/a. People who really understand Santería from a cultural perspective know that it's not a do-it-yourself kind of religion. Whether the individual truly believes in the tenets of Santería or not, most people who have been raised in communities where Santería is actively practiced by people they know and trust understand that you don't play around with the Orichás, Santería is a religion and it must be respected.

    True, Santería is described as a syncretic religion, and has borrowed elements from other sources like Catholicism over the years. But these were organic changes brought about over time by a community of people. It wasn't an individual choice, but a natural process geared toward the survival of an established religious system in a new setting.

    People who approach Santería from the outside often come at it with a totally different idea of what it is, what it can do for them, or how they can make it part of their lives. They're attracted by the exotic, magical and mystical qualities they associate with non-European religious traditions. They embrace superficial (and often incorrect) notions about what Santería is, and they declare that they practice Santería, without understanding the underlying metaphysical foundation, the history, philosphy and culture of the religion. They think they can appropriate the aspects they like about Santería, ignore or change the aspects they don't like or don't understand.

    The Orichás' aché is present in nature
    The Orichás are willing to interact with anyone who approaches them with sincere intentions, but they communicate with humans through established ceremonies and rituals under the guidance of initiated Priests and Priestesses. The Orichás' aché is everywhere, especially in the elements of nature, and it's possible for anyone to have a deep spiritual experience while contemplating the immensity of the sea or the majesty of a tall mountain or the cool beauty of the forest. The aché of Yemayá and Obatalá and Ochosi are found in those places, and people can sense it, even if they don't know about the Orichás. If they do know about them, it's possible they feel that the Orichás are reaching out to them in those natural settings, enveloping them in love or giving them strength. Such a thing is possible, because the Orichás can be very generous and their aché can move people in the spiritual direction they need to go in. Sometimes such a spiritual awakening leads the individual to reach out to the Santería community and make connections with elders who can guide him into the religion.

    But, sorry to sound harsh here, the person who reads about Santería on the internet or in books, and who tries to bypass the steps that will lead him into the religion in the proper way, is only fooling himself if he thinks he's practicing Santería. Santería requires community. The community must be led by people who are initiated in the religion, understand the traditions, and are committed to seeing that the traditions are kept sacred. Santería doesn't permit shortcuts. Individuals can't pick it up like a new hobby and expect to connect to it in any meaningful way. And people certainly can't pick and choose the parts they like, throwing the rest way, and claim that they are practitioners of the religion. The religion requires acceptance of the traditions, and respect for them.

    Religion has historical context
    Most importantly, in honor of the ancestors who brought the religion to the New World from Africa, in honor of those who devoted their lives to keeping the religion alive in hostile new environments, those who taught and trained others in the religion so that it wouldn't be lost, we owe it to them to acknowledge that the religion belongs to them, it is their cultural heritage and patrimony. We can share it with them, if we enter into it with humility and accept it as it was passed down to them, if we agree to become part of the community that practices it in their time-honored way. If we put ourselves in the role of students and listen patiently to elders who teach us in their own time and in their own way, we become integrated into the community little by little, as it's meant to happen. We can't take a crash course and learn all there is to know in a few months or even a few years. There's always more to learn and more to know, and there are always those who know more than we do, who will teach us if we're humble and patient.

    These are aspects of the religion that are hard for some people to grasp in our modern take-charge world. If you're used to being in charge of everything and making all your own choices and decisions, if you want to be the one who calls all the shots and does everything the way you want, if you think you're entitled to reject the teachings of religious elders if their teachings don't gel with your established worldview, you're going to have trouble with Santería. The religion doesn't call for mindless obedience, but it does require you to go with the established program. It requires you to follow the lead of others, to respect the traditions of a community, to let religious elders guide you.

    What's the best thing to do if you want to be involved in a Santería community and you don't know how to find one? Depending on where you live, this can be easy or hard. Try looking for music festivals that include African drumming and dancing. See if there are botánicas in your city, and check them out. If there's a Puerto Rican, Cuban or Dominican community in your city, go to events they sponsor, check out lectures, films, or workshops that focus on Afro-Caribbean culture. Ask around. Above all, don't be in a hurry. Don't jump into anything without knowing who and what you're dealing with. If your desire to be a part of Orichá worship is genuine, the Orichás will guide you where you need to go, and put you in contact with people you need to meet. It may take time, but it will happen. In the meantime, it's good to educate yourself, using reputable sources of information like this website, to understand the principles of the religion, and to know what you can expect from involvement in the religion, if you decide to go down that path.

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