As yall know, I haven’t posted much this year. There are many reasons for this, and one of them is that I’ve been meditating on and practicing the power of silence. In many ways, it’s caused a huge shift in my perspective, and I want to share that experience with you because it’s part of how practicing Lucumi has changed my life.
In spirituality and magic, we talk a lot about the power of putting out one’s energy or ashe. When you pray, chant, sing, light candles, mix oils or baths… you’re making, doing, speaking your energy into the universe. We focus on that so often that we don’t discuss much of the opposite: controlling and directing energy by not spending it. Just as writing a petition or sealing a jar when done with intention contains ashe, so does choosing not to say or do something with intention.
Exchanging Ashe Wisely
In Lucumi, there is a seemingly endless array of herbal medicines, healing techniques, spiritual baths, prayers, ways to work juju… the curious part of me wants to learn it all and understand it all. But the reality is that most of the time as a practitioner of Lucumi, unless you are a very active priest, you probably won’t need or actually even learn the majority of them. That’s because we are very particular about when, where, and how we use our ashe. Our spirits – Egun (the ancestors), the Warriors, and the rest of the Orishas – guide us and inform us when it’s time to do work spiritual work to help restore balance in someone’s life and align them to their destiny. They also let us know when not to do anything at all, because there is a wisdom and power in knowing that, too.
We speak to the spirits through our traditional forms of divination – Obi, diloggun, Ifa – and learn what is needed or not at any given time for someone. This can be as simple as a brief cleansing with ewe (herbs) that lasts only seconds or as complex as making Ocha, the initiation to priesthood that lasts many days and can take years of preparation. All of our traditions involve exchanges of ashe between spirits and people, usually with the mediumship and assistance of a priest and their ashe as well. When the ashe is exchanged, the relationships between the people and spirits involved may deepen and healing, destiny-aligning balance is brought to the person’s life to empower and uplift them in the way that they need at that time.
When it is not needed, then we do not engage in these traditions. We do not spend or exchange our ashe if it isn’t necessary. As someone who likes to go, go, go and do, do, do and learn, learn, learn – this lesson in stillness and restraint has been a challenging one for me. I’ve had to really meditate on what it means to completely follow the guidance of the spirits and my godparents. It means letting go of my own agenda, which used to be my own direction for my path many years ago when I was a witch and solo practitioner. As I’ve learned more deeply what this means for me now, the practice of silence has spread throughout my life in ways I never expected.
Guarding the Threshold
Across many different spiritual, religious, and magical traditions, there are concepts similar to what is commonly known as a “taglock.” I imagine taglocks as doors, pathways, roads of connection from one point to another. That could be from person to person, object to person, location to person, or spirit to person. When you call on a spirit or deity by name, when you use dirt from a specific location, when you use a person’s photos or a lock of their hair, when you use a piece of an object or a color related to it… you’re drawing on that connection to something through something related to it. Not all traditions call this a “taglock,” but the basic concept is there. As I began to practice and learn more about Lucumi, it was like I was suddenly awakening to the fact that I had been leaving a breadcrumb trail of taglocks to myself and my practices.
So it began when I felt compelled not to publicly share the intimate details of my workings, my spiritual development in Lucumi, or what I was doing with my ile. Even as a rootworker, I stopped sharing as much (or anything at all) about my hoodoo workings. Every time I would be tempted to tell someone in a public space online, my ancestors would whisper in my ear. They kept telling me that if I share it, the information is out there for someone to use in ways I can’t control. It’s like the feeling I get when I leave my purse or wallet on a table, but immediately feel compelled to grab them before walking away. It’s not that I expect anyone to steal them. It’s that I never want to create an opportunity for them to be stolen, or for my workings to be disrupted.
Next, I found myself unable to take photos anymore of anything I owned that I used for spiritual purposes – not my altars, not my candles, my workings, my elekes, or anything else. It was like my ancestors were urging me to keep all the windows and doors and roads and paths to my sources of protection and ashe closed to the outside world wherever possible. Like how an iyawo (new initiate in Orisha tradition) is not allowed to be photographed, which is specifically for the iyawo’s spiritual protection. I had begun to protect all the sources and tools of my ashe in ways I never had before.
Last, I learned the most powerful kind of silence – to not share my ashe with those who hurt, provoke, taunt, disrespect, threaten, or anger me. In the past, I’ve been known to speak up online and engage in dialogue even with those who appropriate cultural practices or spread racism and other types of prejudices and hate. Those dialogues are important, and I don’t regret standing up for my culture and my peoples. Now I’ve been learning to be more careful and thoughtful about which exchanges of ashe are productive and lead to growth… and which ones may only fuel more hatred and pain on all sides. Though she may not know it, @afrocentric-divination has been a role model to me in this particular practice of silence, as someone who is very selective and thoughtful about when she speaks up on something or not and how she engages with trolls.
The Power of Potential
Ever since I’ve started practicing silence in these ways, I’ve noticed some changes. There is a lot more peace and quiet, a calmness, a sense of privacy around what I do spiritually. It has become more meaningful in new ways when I do share certain things with friends and family about my practices and spiritual development. Overall, I feel much safer and more protected.
I can feel the ashe that is kept just for me, the special air of quiet around that power that is only channeled outward when it feels just right. There is a joy in that and a stillness. From that quiet, I find it easier to pray, chant, and sing my ashe. From that peace, I find more clarity to divine and to direct my ashe. I discovered the power of the silence is in its potential as a blank canvas for me to color with manifestation.
Thank you for reading, and I hope that this little piece of my journey from this year is helpful in one way or another! Ashe.