Aug ’02


This month I had one of my Ocha friends email me and invite me to her Ocha Birthday party – this is a celebration of the anniversary of a person’s Kariocha (coronation as a priest in la Ocha.) Although I could not make it in person on the specific day of, I knew that I could come by at some point during the month, since the altar that is erected to honor the orishas would be up all week. I know that I had made the decision to no longer be involved with the public aspects of the religion, but this is someone very special to me who I wanted to honor by being there. So I paid her a visit later in the week.

When I arrived I was able to see her again after many months and immediately I could feel her beautiful spirit and her compassion – the hallmarks of a true priestess. I was honored to be able to visit her on this event and pay my respects to her crowning orisha, Oshún. Her throne/altar was beautifully decorated with gold fabric artfully draped on the walls and behind the pillars that the orisha’s shrines sat upon. She even draped over each of the orisha’s containers, paños (cloths) that I had helped her make the previous year for her ocha birthday. That brought me much joy and reminded me of how much I love the orishas and of my dedication to the religion. She also introduced me to her new beau, a very kind and passionate priest of Obatalá. I stayed for a while and spoke with them and told them about my experiences in the religion, even the frank details, many of which I have spared you, the readers of this site, in order to avoid defaming my godfather. They were both offended and yet somewhat unsuprised by what had happened. My friend went on to share some of the issues that she was having with her godmother and her boyfriend went on to share some of the negative things that he had seen in the religion as well and it was then that I realized how common my story was, and how unfortunate it is that people are empowered to behave in inappropriate manners in the religion.

This brought to mind the structure of the religion’s hierarchy. There are many individuals in the religion who occupy higher positions due to the knowledge they have, or because of the role that they play. These people are served, deferred to and respected as one would do to an elder, yet it transcends common courtesy. Often times these people will let their positions of “power” go to their heads and they will begin to think that they themselves are the deities or that they are omnipotent and infallible. It is at this point that they stop functioning in a godly manner. Priests and priestesses should be acting as the ambassadors of the divine. Their sole work is to assist others in growing more connected to the divine and to empower them, not to repress them or to control them. Yet one thing I saw happen time and time again is that these “Elders” enjoy subverting others with their will. Sometimes it is overt like a Godparent punishing a godchild publicly for making a simple mistake – thus traumatizing the individual and suppressing their innate curiosity so that they will be subservient to the elder and wait until the Elder teaches them something. Or worse, the covert actions of gossiping about one individual to another, to make themselves seem like they are the sole possessors of secret information and thus indispensable. In either case, any spiritual leader, be it in Ocha or other religions, should be lifting their followers, empowering them and helping connect them to the divine source of all things.

The true manner in which one connects with the divine is through love; love for the self primarily for it is at that point that an individual recognizes that they are divine and then and only then can they connect with the totality of God’s power. This is true empowerment. This is true at-one-ment. This is not facilitated through guilt, control, subservience, restrictions, limitations, abuse or manipulation. A spiritual leader should be just that – a person who leads you to your spirituality. And NEVER should a spiritual leader consider him or herself as the sole connection you have to divinity. This was one of the greatest obstacles I had in Ocha – I was afraid to leave my godfather because I would not be able to complete the ceremonies that I “had” to do, either to “save my life” as he claimed, or because they are required by standard operation in the religion. Thus I had accepted him as my sole conduit to the divine – I could not have been more misguided.

Whenever you place someone between you and God, you are empowering them to do with you as they will. Thus you are totally disempowering yourself and placing yourself in the victim role for any kind of abuse, manipulation or other negative action. The only connection you need to access the totality and I mean the TOTALITY of all of God’s power is through love. The first step is in loving yourself, thus recognizing that you are truly pure and unconditional love and second, in loving everything around you – recognizing that it is perfect as it is. Thus you recognize God/unconditional love, surrounds you at all times. You are then a being of power in a place of power, empowered to create and experience your life as you see fit. That is a pure and total spiritual experience.

Someone wrote to me and claimed that I had separated my self from my connection to the orishas/divine by my actions of leaving the religion. Although he went on to explain that he meant that I was disconnecting myself from the ability to learn and perform my ceremonies, I understood that at a primal level both statements mean the same thing. That I needed my godfather to be more connected to God. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The day that I decided to leave my ilé (spiritual house) and the religion in general was the day that I reconnected with the divine more than ever. And now, I find myself having a constant connection with God.

Next Chapter >>> Prophets


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