Oct ’02 – entry 3

A Year Ago

This has been a very emotional time for me. Here I sit at my computer on October 30, 2002, a year after my initiation into the priesthood of Shangó. It actually started to hit me on October 27, because that was the day I arrived in New York City. I was already dressed in white, having already received my reading for the ebbó de entrada (the preparations for entry into the initiation.) I landed at JFK airport at 6am, with a heavy suitcase, a Navy issued duffel bag, my backpack and not nearly enough clothing to protect me from the 30 mile per hour winds and the 34 degree F weather.

All this week, I have been looking back and processing all of the emotional turns that this year has brought. It is the perfect time for that according to the Wiccan calendar, as the sabbat (high holiday) of Samhain is tomorrow. This is supposed to be a time of final releasings and new beginnings. How appropriate that my Ocha birthday should fall at this time of year. A year ago, I was eager, a bit frightened, exhausted and emotionally frayed but hopeful. I arrived in NY early so that the preparations could take place ahead of time for my ceremony. I was still beading my elekes (necklaces), I still needed half of my white clothes and I had $200 total in my possession. I remember the feeling of falling backward with no knowledge of who would catch me at I approached my Ocha. I quite literally went into the ceremony with not a dime left to my name. I didn’t even have any money to pay for the cab fare back to the airport after the ceremony. Little would I know that this would foretell much about my relationship with my Godfather.

One of the things that happened at my Ocha that I did not speak much about, was my Itá (my life reading.) I was always told the superstition that this information should never be shared with anyone because it could be used against you. Now that I have discovered that much of what I was told was inappropriate or the creations of a manipulative Godfather, I now realize that I can discuss much of that openly with all of you. The itá is supposed to be a very important day for a new initiate because it is where their entire life is foretold to them, where all of the restrictions that they will have to uphold for the entirety of their life are given and where they are supposed to receive uplifting information to assist them in their personal growth. My itá was not only delayed two days because it was inconvenient for my Godfather’s bizarre sleep schedule, but was injected with his superstition, personal agenda, manipulation, fear-slinging prophecy and insulting accusations in an attempt to continue to control me as a person, as a gay man and as a godson. I have not discussed any of this to this point because I wanted the experience of what I was living each day to be pure in all of your minds, but now I realize that I need to share this information with all of you so that you can see the full truth of my experience and hopefully bring those of you who have chastised me to this point, to a place of compassion.

At my itá, my godfather, who is a very intelligent and clever person, manipulated the meanings of the letters that came up as he cast the shells, to twist my qualities to their negative sides. He publicly brought out personal information that was sacred and secret and flipped it in such a manner as to make my positive traits and decisions sound like the very tools of my undoing. In other words, he was taking the very power that God had blessed me with, turned it around to suit his ends, and then threw it back at me as something to avoid, never to approach and never to question. One of these things that caught my attention was that he tried to play my sacred relationship with my mother against me. He attempted to play me against her and vice versa, in order to bend us to his will. He attacked my very secure and confident sexual identity and threw prohibitions on me that, if adhered to, would forever relegate me to a life of chastity. He took one of the most beautiful things in my life, my spirituality, and twisted it in such a manner as to force me to abandon in and never return to the practices that I had learned before. And he piled upon me great responsibility to accomplish EVERY ceremony in Ocha, and to receive EVERY orisha there is, and to receive the most supreme orisha there is within a year (a prohibitive cost that equaled more than 70% of my annual income.) Why would someone do all of this? The answer is simple: money. My godfather was timing the ceremonies that I was required to do, and the readings that I was supposed to have in such a manner as to continually secure $700 a month – the amount of his rent. How did I come to this conclusion, you might ask? Simple math and following my intuition.

My godfather rushed me into my Ocha. While I was genuinely interested in the religion’s beauty and I wanted to EVENTUALLY make Ocha, I had no rush. I wanted to earn and secure the money on my own prior to that. I originally went to him to find out about Palo – another Afro-Cuban religion. When I arrived and received my first reading I was told that I needed to be initiated to the highest levels in that religion. I had been guided to do so by my spirits so I did. Once that was done and I received my life reading in that religion, I was told that I would have to make Ocha to save my life – I was out of balance. I said ok, since I already had a desire to do that but I wanted to do it in my own time. My godfather on each subsequent visit to California insisted that we (his godkids) needed readings because “Yemayá came down at a tambor and said you needed one.” or “Sarabanda came through and said that he wanted everyone to receive a reading with his enkobos (shells.)” With each subsequent reading, there were greater and greater ceremonies that had to be done. More and more orishas that had to be received, or rebirthed because the prior godparent birthed them incorrectly, etc. Each ceremony cost more than the last, culminating with his telling me that I had to receive Oddua at my itá and that I had to receive him as an iyawó – this is a ceremony that costs $10,000 according to him, in addition to a billion other things he said I had to do. When I figured out the costs – after asking him how much all of these supplies cost, the end amount that was left over (his derecho – or fee for services rendered) was always around $700. When I went to visit him in NYC at the time of my Ocha, I saw a notice on his door for potential eviction if his past due rent was not paid. I asked him how much it was and he told me that his monthly rent is $725. Well, I kept that figure in my mind and every time he said that we (his god kids) needed to get some ceremony desperately done to save our lives because we were either going to get sick and die, or have an unexpected explosion and die or the like, it was right around the middle of the month and the amount left over always came out to $700 more or less. The only months where he did not ask for a ceremony were the months where there was either his Ocha birthday or his Palo birthday, both of which require the godchild to bring an offering of a plate, two coconuts, two candles and some money to represent the deity he is initiated to (typically, for a Yemayá it would be $7 or some multiple there of.) He demanded that we pay $127, each!!! There were five of us godchildren out here in California, I did the math, and 5 x $127 = $635 – plus the one or two godchildren he had in NYC, would easily get him his rent money. I have not yet mentioned that my godfather did not work for a living, he solely lived off of what he made in the religion through ceremonies. He also often pretended to be possessed by his guardian spirits, and would then “give us advice” that really consisted of him spreading accusations at others and sharing personal information that was said in private conversations with him prior to the possession. He would use this information against others, and then insist that they had to perform some ceremonial cleansing or the like to rid themselves of the spirit of death which surrounded them. He would then snap out of his “possession” and act like he had no idea of what happened, but a month or so later, he would recall exactly what his spirit said in detail and use it as leverage to trick us into another ceremony. All of these, of course, cost derechos – money.

He also asked me for the money for my three month ebbó in advance so that he could buy the supplies and have them ready for me, but he insisted that I go to New York to have it done. The three month ebbó is a ceremony done to awaken your orishas after they are birthed at your initiation and this usually takes place three months after the Kariocha ceremony. I paid him $2000 for that ceremony. When the time came for my three month ebbó he said that we should postpone it until the next initiate (the one that lifted me after my initiation) was ready for hers and that he would do them both together. To this day he has not performed that ceremony for me, he used the money to pay his past-due bills and has not returned the money to me even upon my direct demand that he do so.

The final straw was on his Ocha birthday. One of my godsisters sent him his derecho and when he received the box, he claimed that there was no money inside of it. She clearly put the money in an envelope and put it inside – he claimed that there was no envelope in the box and that he even broke the box down completely to be sure. I believed him until he said one thing that tipped me off, “What will my goddaughter think? I don’t want her to think that I took the money and am asking for more.” That was the last straw. It was very clear that he was lying, and was only involved in all of this to make money off of us.

He still maintains in his possession: all of the cowries for my orishas – their mouthpieces, my book with my life reading in it and the tapes from my life reading (claiming that I was not to receive them until after my three month ebbó.) He also has not repaid me the $2000 I gave him. I have been tempted to call him on several occasions to have him return that to me but I have not, because I know that he will say that he has no money with which to send them. Perhaps after my Ocha birthday I will contact him to do so.

While I am sure that he did our ceremonies correctly, his motivations, practices, lying, manipulation, cajoling and purposeful instigating of arguments and such between the godchildren were not only totally inappropriate but despicable. I understand that he was just trying to survive, but the irony of it is that we, his god kids, were also trying to survive. This is only one aspect to all of this. He also publicly ridiculed his godchildren, me included. He would dredge up past mistakes, twist them into offenses toward the gods, then require us to do ceremonies to reconcile and cleanse us afterward – for a fee of course. He made sexual advances toward one of his godsons, he made many suggestive and lude comments toward me and when I did not return his interest in affection, he publicly humiliated me, turning my blessings that God had given me and my hopeful, dutiful nature against me. His sole motivator was power, and obviously, no amount of ceremonies, degrees, initiations and number of priesthoods could ever lend him that, when deep inside, he perceived himself as worthless, small and unwanted.

If the Kariocha initiation is supposed to bring someone spiritual elevation, uplifting and advancement, then it certainly did that for me. But that initiation was something that happened from within my own heart and soul, when for the second time in my life, I asserted that I am wonderful and that I am love and that there is nothing wrong, nor anything outside of me that I need to be complete. The search for happiness and God lies within ones’ self, in the simple statement “know thyself.” Hopefully, one day, the sad person I once called my godfather will know himself and see that he is special, beautiful, blessed and perfect as he is, and there is nothing outside of himself that he needs to prove his worth. Then and only then will these illusions of fear, need, superiority, control, requirement and the like dissolve and he can see that he is, like God, total unbridled joy.

As We All Are.

Next Chapter>>> Finale



  1. Hello, my name is Asiel and I found your article by mistake and read it. I was so close to crying! ( I didn’t because I was at work). I know it is none of my business my I wanted to apologize to you for that horrible experience you had with your ex-godfather. Although he will forever be your godfather and you should always have respect and pay foribale to him I congratulate you in moving on and away from him. There should always be respect between godfather and godchild, and money should never be the “deity”. Sadly, it is true that many people use the religion as their sustain and I understand it a bit but I am a firm believer that if something is going to get done it should be done correctly. No one should use the Orishas in the way your godfather did or does. I pray that you are doing well and that hopefully you found another godfather/mother who will teach you and guide you. I also pray that I never come across your godfather. 🙂 I’ve had Oshun crowned for 11 years and have been on my own for 10 since something similar happened with mine, but not to that extreme. Many blessings to you abure! and may Shango bless you always! Asiel.

  2. Hi,

    I stumbled onto your website from Google and i am in the process of questioning why Ocha is so much as well. I cannot, CANNOT place the security of my family in jeopardy (being a Yemaya (my guess) BUT being told that I am guarded by Chango but will be made Obatala because I “can’t handle the energy”). $7000.00 cash money (above and beyod) the fact that I am charging soperas, clothes, tools, and other items on the credit cards is getting me to think I simply cannot afford it. I have been waiting to make ocha for 14 years while I raised my kids and now I am not sure if I can do it at all

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