Nov ’01

Pre-Initiation

OK, so I am really going to start in October in the month leading up to my initiation. First off, October was all about running around like a chicken with my head cut off. It was a freaking nightmare to prepare for all of this.

Word of advice to all of you iyawós-to-be. START SHOPPING EARLY! My initiation was hurried by circumstances that came up in a reading I received. I really only had a month to get everything together. This same month, my company gave everyone a 10% pay cut due to the economic state of the country (thanks Dubya and Osama!) – recessions don’t go too well for someone who it trying to pay for all of the things they need to make ocha. My padrino and madrina were in town, visiting us here in California for a week before I was planning to leave for NYC, which severely limited my ability to purchase things because I was paying for ceremonies that I had to receive prior to the ocha. I managed to get some money from making paños (ceremonial coverings for the orishas) for a wonderful lady on the east coast and she was generous enough to pay me a little ahead of time, which ended up paying for the clothes I desperately needed.

In the last week of October, I left for NYC with all of the white clothes that I had with me (not enough) and arrived in NYC early in the morning with my godbrother by my side. It was freaking cold! We got off of the plane and it was something akin to 38 F, with a wind chill. I was wearing a short sleeve shirt, cotton pants and all I had was a white windbreaker. Fortunately we didn’t have to stand outside too long for our ride to take us to my padrino’s house. Needless to say, I already began worrying about my trip to the river.

The week before my initiation I was very close to an emotional breakdown. I didn’t have enough money to pay for all of the things that I needed. I still needed to buy 7 pairs of pants, 7 long sleeve shirts, 7 undershirts, 2 more t-shirts, 7 hats, white dress shoes and 7 sheets. Fortunately a store in West New York, NJ named “Waterloo” saved my butt, and I found everything I needed – including my white umbrella and a WHITE WALLET! (Yeah I needed a white wallet – how pimp is that!) When I went into my ocha I literally went in thinking I had no money in my account to spare. I had set aside just enough money to buy groceries when I returned, but that was sanctum sanctorum – I knew that I would return to an empty refrigerator from my trip so I was not going to touch that.

The Sunday after I arrived in New York, my madrina was putting on an Añá (sacred drumming ceremony) to my padrino’s Yemayá. The throne my padrino created was just stunning. And Yemayá looked beautiful. She was covered in 4 different mazos, she had her crown on, and her iruke (horse tail fly whisk) placed through the crown with the tail of hair cascading down her right side. In the iruke her had placed 77 red African parrot feathers, and she had a black and gold lace shawl that went down to the floor. Just stunning. Many people showed up and I enjoyed this as my last opportunity to dance before the sacred drums before I would be presented. I definitely enjoyed the music, and loved that so many people were there to honor this phenomenal Yemayá. One of the priestesses there, an Oni Shangó who is 85 years old even danced a little. Another priestess there, an Olo Oshún joked that she wanted to see Shangó take possession of that 85 year old lady just to see her jump all over the place. She proceeded to sing really loudly in the direction of this elder lady and she pounded the wall behind her to try to push her into possession – teasingly of course. I laughed my butt off, and I couldn’t even continue dancing from the laughter.

They also presented two Iyawós to Añá that day. One was a Shangó and the other was her son, made to Oshún. The son was in his early twenties, and when he was presented, instead of dancing traditionally for Oshún where a person holds up their left hand like a mirror, uses their right hand as a fan and steps side to side, he began to dance hula style. I have never seen so many people look around in embarrassment for this young lad. I don’t know what he was thinking or feeling, but I laughed hysterically when another priest of Oshún made the subtle side comment that he enjoyed the song better at 45 speed than at 33 because it sounds more Hawaiian. 😉 So bitchy, yet so freaking funny. God bless those iyawós, I had the benefit of being there the week they were crowned on my prior trip to NYC. They are technically my elders.

Next Chapter>>> During the Week of Initiation

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