Sitting here on my couch, reading through what seems to be a never ending list of emails asking for spells, readings and my credit card number, I caught a glimpse of a faded cross on my foot. It seems like I was scratched into Palo ten lifetimes ago and last week all in the same moment. Some memories are fresh in my mind and others long forgotten. Looking from my foot to my various pots, I think of one of my last Lucumi ceremonies. The one where my spiritual grandfather became my god brother. Again some moments are a blur other things I can recall with such stunning accuracy how every hair on someone’s head looked at a particular moment.
Divine, Sacrifice, Initiate, Crown, Scratch, rinse and repeat.
I remember the first time I was mounted, the party where one of my god brothers danced without abandon, the night my god brother and I sat, held hands and cried, the afternoon my god sisters and I beat a bitch’s ass by shaking our pots, I remember these moments and I;
Divine, Sacrifice, Initiate, Crown, Scratch, rinse and repeat.
I look at my healed scratches and I remember sitting on my Madrina’s bed listening to her stories of Mantanzas and Miami, I remember my video calls with my Iya taking instruction for ebo, I remember that I tripped the light fantastic to go astrally wash my god brother’s head, I remember and I;
Divine, Sacrifice, Initiate, Crown, Scratch, rinse and repeat.
I take a moment to look at these badges of my spiritual journey on my body and I remember being wrapped in an energy so deep and vast that I had to give in and climb on its back to see the cosmos.
Divine, Sacrifice, Initiate, Crown, Scratch, rinse and repeat.
All of these memories and moments have been done with and in a community. An imperfect community filled with the ex-this and the I used to be that people. My community that I sometimes love and hate.
Loving and worshipping in Orisha and Mpungo traditions is far more than the personal politics and navigating the snake oil and get rich crowd. It is about family and community. Every scratch, every ounce of Asé on and in my body has a legion of blood and communal family members that support my alignment in this life. No one man is an island and this is true in the religions that have shaped me into who I am today.
I’ll leave the self-initiation, solidarity Orisha/Mpungo practice and ego house building to those who have yet to discover that the real power and joy lies in the reverence and worship that happens at the dinner table, in ceremony or on the phone with your tribe.
Did you hear the joke about the African, Native American and the Scotts-Irish men that went into a kitchen to bake a cake but instead of making a cake they made hoodoo? No, you never heard that joke? Well, you are not alone! The first time I heard that joke was when I came across a post online written by someone that was attempting to explain why he is entitled to eat a piece of the “hoodoo cake”.
Most times I’m amused and fascinated by the heated arguments online about who can or cannot practice hoodoo, etc.. Amused in the way a parent is when their sons are about to have a brother fight or when you discover an abnormally long chin hair growing all proud and strong for the world to see. However, something about the sense of entitlement and arrogance of the author of the “flour, sugar and eggs” puff piece had me all up in my feelings.
Why do people feel the need to define and question what is or what is not influenced by Africans and their descendants? There literally are thousands of people that genuinely believe that hoodoo is a hodgepodge of folk magic traditions. These very same people will at the same time draw clear lines that allow traditions such as Pow Wow, Appalachian and Native folk magic to have clear distinct boundaries that define them. The belief that Africans, once here in this land, somehow gave up their practices and just adopted to whatever they could find and/or mix and match to fit their needs, is at best ludicrous. In today’s online spiritual community there seems to be an unwillingness to acknowledge that what is now being touted as hoodoo actually existed and stood on its own in a totally different fashion within African American communities. People are out here telling other people, in particular African Americans, what their traditions are made up of. Trying to tell us that if the ancestors bless it then it’s ok for anyone to practice an African American religious tradition. If God or one of the divinities give someone the spiritual ok to practice a religion that is not native to their own ancestral lineage then who am I or anyone else to question that divine decision BUT, if you are talking about the ancestral spirits of Africans and African American descendants of this land blessing your journey and giving you permission to enter into their religions and learn their survival traditions, I say this to you;
Africans were slaves, stolen and stripped of everything they owned and the people they loved. Some slaves were beaten, starved and froze to death or died from disease due to lack of medical care. By law and under penalty of death or severe punishment slaves could not work for a doctor, dispense medicine without the supervision of a white person, could not read or write. Children born to a slave woman bore the condition of their mother. Slaves bodies were not their own, women were subjected to rape, men beaten, children stripped away from their parents. Those who harbored runaway slaves faced fines as high as $1,000 or prison. Any white person who intermarried and/or had children with a slave within three months of said union took on the same slave status as the spouse/parent, etc. These are just some of the laws of America that were imposed on a stolen people. The work as it is known in African American communities was not some admixture of folk magic practices and knowledge picked up along the way. THE WORK was African religion hidden in plain sight and adapted to the land in which Africans found themselves in. The exchange of knowledge and information with Native Americans happened as a natural product of two peoples living under the yoke of forced oppression, slavery and colonialism. The African ancestors of this land are under no obligation to accept you into the religions and beliefs of their land, neither are their descendants.
An exchange of ideas and teaching one another about each others’ cultures and traditions is how we build bridges. Acknowledging and giving respect to those that came before us for their contributions as well as not attempting to impose a very colonial mindset to who deserves a slice of cake is how a person can come into someone else’s tradition as a guest and be invited to stay by the ancestral spirits and their descendants.
Showing up to a dinner party with a dozen of raw eggs and demanding three to-go-plates along with the deed to the house is one sure way to insure that you are shown the door, especially when your hosts have made sweet potato pie for dessert.
What if I told you that I was going to design a folklore educational course and start a for-profit business based of the research and writings of Zora Neale Hurston and Harry Middleton Hyatt but, I was not going to give them credit or pay their respective estates royalties. What if I built this business and created an alternate universe where the lines of what is real and false are blurred, where I kept information on perspective people who I wanted to collect and rivals alike. What if I listened to the heartfelt stories of students and colleagues and, leaked skewed bits of their truth to paint anyone of them who challenged me as ungrateful souls who no longer deserved to be pitied. Would you still want to do business with me? Still follow me and listen to my shows?
What if I creatively crafted social media posts that would purposely draw the ire of animal rights activists against a single person and/or an entire religion just to get back at someone who did business with a potential competitor? How about if I created a colorful past of doing apprenticeships with people in places, pre-internet, that would never have me in their homes much less train me? Would you still fly, drive and spend your money with me? Come to my defense when I cry for long dead animals, lie about Caribbean cultural exoticism all while I sell parts from animals on the endangered species list and walk past a full human skeleton literally in my closet?
What if you did a public search to see if I had ever been sued in court and found that I had been and lost, would you still love me then? What if you talked to dozens of people who had to literally and figuratively, walk away from me with the clothes on their back, and they all called me a manipulative bitch, would I still be the sage and elder in your eyes?
What would you do if you read ‘Of Mules and Men’ and Volumes 2 & 3 and realized you could have saved yourself time and money?
What if all of the above was true but it wasn’t me, what if it was your idol? Spiritual leader?
What would you do when things are laid bare and you are left to decide? Would you remain part of the exclusive club of silent detractors who are either too scared to speak out pubicly or too disgusted to ever want to feel the funk on their skin again? Would you ignore what you have truthfully seen and been told or, would you take your business elsewhere?
I’m asking for a friend.
The past few weeks I have been a whirlwind of trips, workshops, lawyers, ceremonies and clients. I’ve spent my time traveling between time zones and making airport waiting areas my personal playground of potential material to write about. I also spent my days fantasizing about doing nothing during my much-needed mini-vacation during the last few weeks of 2017.
Finally home and able to take off my semi-public persona, I turned my attention to several projects, dinner menus and being mom-in-charge. Having time to decompress and slow down my oft busy mind was just what I needed and I welcomed the chance to do nothing other than be my happy-go-lucky self.
Now that I was back at home, I found myself restless and felt out-of-place in my own skin. My dreams with Obatala, Oshun and Olokun pushed me to discover why. My waking prayer on one of my last business trips was directed to Obatala. I asked him to show me what one thing I needed to change about myself to move to the next level. Well true to form, Baba did not disappoint and he showed me the ‘right now’ item to work on, forgiveness. Obatala used Facebook to show me my heart.
A friend posted a picture of himself and a few other people. One of the people in that picture I had not laid eyes on in almost 28 years. It wasn’t until I saw this person in this particular picture did I realize that for almost 30 years I had been holding on to a deep rage and had not forgiven the friends of my cousin. I was still angry and if he had been standing in front of me in that very moment, I think my immediate reaction would have been to spit in his face. He would not have been met with an enlightened greeting but with a real guttural response.
Where I grew up at, every day that you made it home safely was a good day. My family, from the oldest to the youngest, lived by a code that you do not abandon your people. You leave together and you come home together. That was what we knew and lived by. One night my cousin went to hang out with his friends and he never made it home. He was murdered and the court testimony of his friends revealed that when things escalated, they left him alone. Surrounded by his soon to be killers, alone to defend himself and to die alone. It was quite easy for me to forgive my cousin’s killers because they were the bad guys, the demons, if you will, of the story. But what about his friends, the ones who were just teenagers themselves and scared? The good boys that got to grow up, have families and memorialize their dear departed friend every year on his birthday. For my own sanity (and probably their safety) I had to isolate my feelings, the names and faces of my cousin’s friends. I had to bury that part of me that wanted to move these young men, at the time, into the demon category. Logically I know that they were all young and scared, had no idea the streets had real killers walking and waiting for church boys to happen upon them but emotionally, I said fuck them. They were cowards who did not deserve an ounce of my sympathy or forgiveness. Cowards hold a special place on my list of things not to be, and there they were after all this time at the very top of my fuck you list. All this came rushing to the surface the instant I saw that picture on my timeline. At that exact moment, my son walked by my workspace and knocked over a stack of books. We both went to pick up the books and the book that I touched was a book on African proverbs which was opened to a page with the following in bold print “he who forgives ends the argument“.
Well played Baba, well-played! So, I need to unpack this decades old baggage, forgive and end my internal arguement, message received.
Honestly, I don’t want to forgive them because my rage is like an old favorite sweater, I like it and am used to it. It feels good to put back on after all this time but, I feel Baba’s gentle hands on my head and know that if I could forgive the real monsters that have crossed my path during my life, I could be my brothers’ keeper and forgive them. Not just for me but, also for them. What a burden it must be to wonder and ask yourself ‘what if’ everyday of your life. As I sit back and let Obatala pull out the dead weight of anger and figure out how to move these men off of my fuck you list, my skin is starting to feel a little less uncomfortable.
I came across this link earlier this morning, and after reading about this virtually unknown hero on the date of his execution, I got to thinking about a colleague of mine who hates anything related to Christianity. One mention of the word God, Jesus or of a church or person affiliated with Christianity, she launches into a tirade about “What kind of God do you serve?”.
Hatuey’s last statement to the Franciscan friar that attended him right before his public execution, was that he’d rather go to hell than to be in heaven with the Christians that had come to his land to conquer and enslave. Based on his experiences, I don’t blame him for wanting to be in any place where there were no Christians. Indeed, what kind of God do I serve?
When I look around me, watch the news, read an historical accounting, etc…. I have to wonder what kind of God sits back, indifferent, to the cries of the very beings he created? What kind of God allows the self-righteous to rule with the cruel hands of greed, murder, oppression and the ability to deny basic human rights to another (or an entire group) all in his name? Really heavy thoughts on a Saturday morning… I was all geared up to play a game on Facebook, then I saw this post, clicked on the link and now I am here wondering about the God of my choosing.
I honor my ancestors and work with my spirit court daily. It is through interacting with them, that I have learned 3 key things (among others);
#1 The God of my choosing is beyond my very limited understanding. Only God can understand God.
#2 The spirits that I choose to interact with are complex and come with their own sensibilities.
#3 There is the physical and the spiritual. In this physical life, men and women have free will and direct access to the Divine Universal Spirit. It is the choices of men and women that can bring joy or tears to the world. It is the cowardice of these men and women to hide behind the name of God (or whatever deity they subscribe to) instead of coming right out and saying, “I want your shit, I’m taking it and along the way I am going to indulge in my lust for violence.
Is the God of my choosing indifferent? I can’t answer that, because I am not God, nor have I elevated to such a state that I would dare answer that question. On the other hand, whether God is indifferent would depend on whether a person measures God by the chick up the block, by the antics of hate-groups posing as messengers of the Lord or by the daily miracles and blessing that unfold by the actions of Angels, deities, saints, ancestors, spirits and humans who dare to be different by living a life that serves and builds all that is around them.
For me, the God of my choice is El-Olam, not some man or woman.
I don’t know where Hatuey’s spirit ended up, but I hope that wherever he crossed over to, he decided keep fighting for those who are oppressed and marginalized in the name of God. AW/ALC-6/2016
There have been several times when I have had to miss watching NFL football games. A few of these days were;1) The day I was born 2) The day my 3rd child was born 3) The day I was in Germany and realized the NY Giants were not going to be shown on any tv, anywhere in the country.
This year I will be missing several games, as a matter of fact, I will be missing the entire season. I love football, I wanted to be a quarterback when I was a little girl. One of my first jobs was as a secretary at the NFL’s NYC office, then years later another job gave me the opportunity to see some of the inner workings of the league. Football is a tough sport, sometimes brutal. The men that choose to be players are almost machine like and have wills of steel that push through some unimaginable pain and injuries. For decades, domestic abuse, drug use, depression, suicide, murder, murder attempts, rape, rape allegations, etc. have plagued the NFL. The league has done a poor job as a whole helping players and their families deal with the all of the things that I’ve just mentioned. There have been owners, managers, coaches and team members that have, in back offices and in the privacy of locker rooms and homes, have tried to help players who were violent, depressed, etc.. One thing that I’ve learned about the NFL is that there is a brotherhood of sorts that has a code of silence, denial and ignoring far too many issues for the sake of image and profit. I as a fan, have ignored some of these very same issues. When I worked at the ****** I had an opportunity to ask about some of the things that troubled me over the years. I learned that the NFL is now making an honest attempt at dealing with violence, depression, drug addiction and use in earnest (mostly behind closed doors with a few public sacrificial lambs) but, the one thing that the NFL has not and is not addressing is racism. While there are a few African Americans that are part of the NFL senior leadership, the lack of diversity in this organization is just a mirror image of diversity at most Fortune 500 and large non-profit organizations (you do know that the NFL is one of the nation’s largest non-profits, right?). Many of the owners, if not all of them were alive when it was legal to suppress and oppress Black Americans. Many of these same owners can recall the days when there were virtually no Black, Latino, Asian, Bi-Racial players on the field on any given Sunday. A submissive Black man or a violent one is acceptable, a familiar false narrative for some. A Black man or a bi-racial man that speaks up against the atrocities that have been put on, done to and used against Black Americans is somehow a threat and unpatriotic. Unpatriotic?? Isn’t it unpatriotic to rape a woman, murder in cold blood? Is it not unpatriotic to value the life of a dog over that of a wife who has been beaten bloody and whose children live in fear during the off-season? Why is the NFL so taken aback by a young talented man that has exercised his right as an American to highlight the injustices in our system? Why can players like Ray Lewis and Ben Rothenburg be given second chances or get the “boys will be boys” pass and then, be sought after to be the voices of reason? Much like the people that chose the criminal on the cross over Christ, far too many are choosing to walk past their own reflection in the mirror rather than to deal with America’s racist past and present as well as, their own fears of Black Americans demanding equity, equality and safety. Violence vs. taking a knee. This should be a no-brainer but, alas… humans are messy.
I am going to sit out this upcoming NFL season and will be boycotting the sponsors all while holding onto the hope that the NY Giants can make it to the Super Bowl this year and win. AW/ALC 10/2017
The passage of time is a funny thing. In my mind, there are events that seem to have taken place ‘just yesterday’ when in fact years have gone by. The way I can recall with crystal clear clarity events that happened well over 40 years ago but, can’t remember why I walked into the kitchen is often a source of silent amusement for myself.
Time and its passage, in the online spiritual community, has its own unique cadence. What happened and who said what years ago is usually only remembered by sites like Wayback and those who were the pioneers, silent witnesses and/or rebels of the moment/movement. It is the silence of the witnesses to fuckery, high turnover of the witch/wizard/worker/Baba/Iya/Sage of the moment and the newly woke that make a way for the repentant and powerless to emerge as leaders of what is not new.
Today while reading about a particular intellectual theft by an up and coming self-appointed sage and, a new spiritual position by one who has changed their ways, I was inspired to write.
The nature of God is unto God, and God alone. The beauty of being teachable and growing in one’s spiritual paths makes for life changing moments that spark growth, creativity and a deep appreciation for life. It allows God to use whatever means, be it deities, our parents, or a shell to help us develop and live our best lives possible. I am always gripped by momentary anger when I see the latest online post, book, podcast, etc. that outright steals the works/words of a priest/priestess that have dedicated their lives to following their path and, truly teaching with no expectations other than the hope that those that learn from them grow, expand and elevate. Why be an intellectual thief when we all have the capacity and capability to teach where our gifting lies? Why steal word for word, from the very same people that you have condemned as racists, radicals and/or heretics, then have the nerve to publish what you have stolen as if divinely inspired.
The Grace of God, in all traditions, allows for each of us to learn and change. Some call it repentance, others growth. But online, it can be seen as and called, who the fuck does this person think they are? The self created and inflicted drama that was stirred up years ago is oft times forgotten by the time an individual’s resurrection comes about. It is usually the disciples from the other camps that remember the fuckery and are amazed at the new found religion of the latest incarnation of he/she/it.
Do I dare call out the thief and start an online fight with their minions? Do I turn my back on those who have, through their own journey, changed? No is the answer to both of these questions. The difference that a day makes is vast. The difference is knowing how to turn your anger into fuel for teaching those that are finding their way as I once did. The difference is using grace, patience and understanding to help gently guide as well as, teach those who have found a new and better way to do things.
While my memory may be long for certain things, forgiveness will always out live the acts that so deeply offended and/or angered me. With the state of the world today, there are too many things that must be focused on and fought against to expend energy on those that opt for momentary glory as the latest ‘it Sage’. Time definitely is its own force and for those that seek to stay stuck in riverbeds of molasses while posting pictures online of yachts they have never been on, there will be true teachers/authors/priests/priestess/corner prophets out here in the world ready to welcome those that have been lied to, broken and/or ready for real change. AW/ALC-7/15/2017
My family has a tradition of taking pictures. Pictures, as my grandmother once told me, are the perfect way to capture a moment that time will rob the memory of. Visit the home of any one of my relatives, you will see pictures of the living and the dead. Whether realized or not, there isn’t one house (mine included) that places pictures of the living with the dead unless it is a group photo in which the deceased happens to be a part of.
Recently, I was in bed reading and my other half was asleep, nothing out of the ordinary except that his son “dropped in” to check on his father. I respectfully remained quiet so that the visit between a son and his father could happen. When my better half woke up he was in a semi-somber mood. Rather than ask what was wrong, I gave him a long hug filled with as much love as I could. Later on that day, I went to my Aunt and Uncle’s house for dinner. As is my habit, I passed each picture in the hallway and greeted my departed family members silently. It wasn’t until I got to my cousin’s picture did I begin to think about my uncle.
My cousin was murdered for walking on the wrong side of the street. My family was devastated by this loss and in some ways we are all still grieving his passing. When a child passes, no matter what the circumstance, most people tend to think about the grieving mother. As I stood in front of my cousin’s picture I tried to recall if anyone went to my uncle or my grandfather to comfort them. My cousin was named after my grandfather and uncle, was born on my grandfather’s birthday and died the night before his father’s birthday. I remembered the look of deep anguish on my grandfather’s face the day of the funeral. My grandpa’s silent love was intertwined with his grief. As I stood in front of my cousin’s picture, it had occurred to me that I could not recall one time in 30 years that I ever checked to see how the men in my family were coping with their grief when a loved one passed.
I stood in front of that picture for quite sometime thinking about my grandfather, uncle, lover, male friends, men whose names I only know from media accounts, etc. who probably grieved in silence, found healthy and not so healthy ways to cope with burying a child. We live in a society that penalizes our men for displaying emotions that are deemed too feminine and for crying. Many good men, and probably the bad ones too, suffer in silence because of societal stigmas. This needs to change.
One of the most rewarding aspects of being a reader and a medium is getting to tell someone that their loved one is okay and loves them dearly. The majority of the time, I get to tell this to women but hopefully one day I can begin to tell more men that they were/are loved beyond measure by the child that they helped raise.
This morning I pray and cry for all of the father and father figures that have publicly kept up appearances while trying to keep themselves from crumbling inside after they have had to bury a child.
If you by chance are reading this, call your father/father-figure and let them know that they are loved and appreciated. AW/ALC 2017