Yesterday, I received my elekes and experienced spiritual initiation for the first time. It was one of the most joyful and blessed experiences of my life, and it has grown my perspective on the traditions of Lucumi in ways I couldn’t have imagined. While there is a lot about this experience that I won’t write and can’t share, I want to speak a little on how my perspective has shifted.
The very first time I learned about the Orishas, it was in a classroom at my university for a class on Africana diasporic religions. Like many others after hearing about the Orishas at first, I was so intrigued and felt such a strong pull that I couldn’t help researching on my own as much as possible. I bought books, I read articles and interviews, I watched YouTube videos. At a certain point, I thought I had a strong understanding of the main Orishas, who they are in the universe, and what they represent. I had read and listened to the words of so many both academics and initiated priests of different Orisha traditions… I felt comfortable that I had a solid basic understanding.
Now I finally understand how much I was missing when I looked at it that way… because there isn’t anything basic about the Orishas at all. There is no way to summarize about them. Every one of the Orishas is so complex, so full of depth and divinity, so interlinked with different aspects of the universe, that there is nothing I could say in a single sentence or a thousand page book about them.
It is not enough to talk about Oshun’s sexuality and beauty. It is not enough to explain Shango as the energy of fire and lightening and drums and dance. It is not enough to talk about Obatala as peace and intelligence. They are so much more, and the wisdom of that is for godparents to share with their godchildren in many ways spoken and unspoken across decades.
The children and closest friends and family of the Orishas are the ones who know them best. That is why godparents and priests and other folks in your ile are the only people who can truly teach you who the Orishas are, how to see them in the universe, how to speak to them and develop relationships with them. Over time you develop your own personal relationship with the Orishas and the Orishas themselves may reveal to you and show you who they are in your life, but you can only start this relationship through the help of godparents. Every connection to Orishas is birthed by godparents.
I never deeply understood this until now, but it motivates me not to write too much about the Orishas going forward. Because it is not for me or anyone else to try to teach about the Orishas online outside of that bond within an ile. If you want to know them, honor them, love them, and understand them, you want to seek out your ile and godparents, your spiritual family and home. It is in that home, as a part of that family, where you will find them.