Saturday, December 19, 2009

Echu Eleggua in Kroger: an exercise for inner listening

For those who don't know... Kroger is the same as Ralph's, Grand Union, Price Chopper, Pathmark, Food Lion, or any other big supermarket.

Spirit-Led activities are an important part of any Yoruba's daily life. Especially for those past initiation, and training for Ocha, the days when you feel like your body is your own are few in number. The Spirits have no qualms about waking a person, giving them directions, and giving them hives if they hesitate. The same can go for things a person chooses to do that the Spirits didn't agree with, too, btw. Part of this is to reinforce a sense of obedience between Spirits and their Head. Another reason is that that line of communication is essential for all things Yoruba. It must be strong, trusted by the Head, and recognized as the 'real' thing or something that needs to be removed, as in the case of an inappropriate possession. This process is fundamental to becoming a Yoruba Child. It's one of the things you hear Santeros tell stories about when they get together.

For me, this extra-sensory information was with me from birth. I don't remember a time when I didn't hear those Voices. I didn't always obey them and I saw the consequences, immdeiately. There were times when listening to them meant physical harm, which either happened, or was averted at the last minute. Simply said, my childhood would have been greatly impacted without their influence at the times when they were trying to keep me alive. Those whose intentions weren't so life-preserving were a good lesson in sorting 'good' from 'bad' and that 'bad' did exist, which tempered me and has made survival of other things bearable. Thankfully, after my initiation, the negatives were cleared off my Head. I was reassured that I wasn't schizophrenic -as my mother warned I would be- or in need of holy water, which, for a raised-white child in the Bible belt, were sincere concerns. I am grateful for every aspect of that immersion in living. I am likewise grateful for my human teachers, Yoruba and not, for sorting these things out with me.

A Shaman's life. A medium's life. My life. Likely, a lot of your lives, as well. Regardless of your Path, the name you have for your Creator, or the ways in which you give Honor, this exercise might be useful to you. I must also add, that it may seem mundane or frivolous to 'waste' time with such an activity, but the lesson there is that we are always Created. Even when we're matching coupons with toilet paper, we have a greater purpose. Sometimes, recognizing the sacred embedded in the mundane is how we realize the power and grace of our connection with our Creator. Sometimes, accepting that we know very little about Creator's Plan is a blessing immeasurable in itself.

For you non-Yorubans:
Eleggua is the Yoruba messenger. No matter who you want to send a letter to, He owns the postal service. He's the one we 'pay' for taking our requests to the other Orixas, Spirits, Ancesters, or other people. He sometimes has a solution for us that doesn't require all the stamps and paper, and will help when he can. Sometimes, He's all we need. Eleggua also keeps maps, clears routes, removes blockages, settles small disputes and handles anything to do with travel. (Eleggua is a good patron for your cell phone for it's proper function, with Oggun being the patron of the physical contraption.)

Eleggua likes adventures. Despite his love for pathways and maps, he truly enjoys the thrill of a spontaneous jaunt. Eleggua, one could say, is the Yoruba embodiment of Synchronicity, and where better to see synchronicity in action than an unscripted visit to a Kroger store? Eleggua's colors are black and red, so carrying something, even a scrap of material with these colors on it, will be pleasing to Him, and will bring his attention to you, and help you focus yours on Him.

You can do this with any Deity, for those of you wondering if it translates. It does. Simply carry something representing your relationship with your Creator and substitute that Name for Eleggua's.

1. Represent to your store or place of choice.
2. If you have a question or problem in mind for the trip, focus on that when you enter the building. Invoke Eleggua by calling His name and thinking of His colors. Ask Him to plan your path for you. Remember that demands are not a good idea for any Creator, but sweetly proposed ideas might be happily considered. You can try to set a time limit if you need to, but remember, a Spirit's plan for you may differ from your own ideas.
3. Follow your instincts. You might find ideas for dinner. You might find a new friend, or something for a cough weren't thinking about. The answer you get will likely not be what you expected, which is exactly when you know you're listening to your inner Voice, but it will be what the Spirits wanted you to find.
4. After your trip, analyze what you found/learned.

Both the trip and the aftermath are the lessons in the exercise.

To consciously allow your Creator to shape your actions is a form of prayer. To be open to that Creator's will being different from your own is part of being shaped. Being able to see that that Shaping had an effect and what the outcome was, and accepting that your Creator's intentions are greater than your own is Faith. Too often, we lose these understandings, or don't find them at all.

This is why I tell my son that 'We are but clay.' The concepts of 'Service' and 'being shaped' are the same, though some Shaping must happen before Service can be effective.

Very little of my life has been light or funny, though I do try to bring it across whenever possible. This exercise can be as transformative as a person allows, though sometimes it's just fun to let someone else plan your menu.

For examples of my own results I give you these:

`My last 'guided' trip to Kroger led me to pork tenderloin on sale. YAY for the hubbie!
`On a fluke pass through the produce section (Yes, I was already stocked up! Imagine that?) I crossed paths with someone who needed advice about hot peppers.
`I found a shirt at Wal-Mart that nobody -but you- knows about. I liked the blue/black pattern, but I think I was supposed to hook onto the red/black one... Perhaps this is why it's still there?

Be Clay!

What did you find?

Monday, December 14, 2009

I've been assimilated?

I suppose this is a question anyone asks when they find themselves doing things that would otherwise be outside their sphere of activity. Trust me when I say, it can be asked of a great many of my activities, but for this blog we'll stick with decorated trees and nativities.

My evolution started with being in a house that vaguely reflected on the 'true' meaning of Christmas. I remember my mother mentioning somebody's birth, likely more than once, but this was couched in lectures about materialism, humility and avoidance of establishment dogma. Yes, we had a tree. It was decorated, with things my mother considered must-haves... glass balls, bubble lights and NO tinsel. These were in thought of, or in spite of our numerous cats, depending on which item you consider. These lectures were interspersed with descriptions of reincarnation, the death process and what a soul was -mostly from a Bhuddist perspective, so you can see where I got my ecclecticism? I was permitted to explore just about anything that wasn't going to send me to hell, which was a nebulous parameter, governed by my mother -again- who, I learned, knew a lot about some things, but didn't really understand Karma, or accountability for actions.

I think the most insulting thing that ever happened to me during my open and seeking years -when I was definitely NOT Christian was at my beloved Enchantments, when, after purchasing a pentacle for myself I was blessed, "Have a merry Christmas!" Ooh that boiled me! It's not like I hid my paganism, or that I was a cringing newbie in there, either. I held my own, rightfully, with the Adepts in that store from multiple traditions. That was where I was greeted by a Native Shaman as 'Sister,' too, along with many positive experiences which far outweighed this individual's insincerity. The public declaration that I didn't belong resonated along well-trodden nerves of disability, race and sexuality, which were, I felt, integral parts of the pagan tapestry I wove for myself. (A side note to this: that individual left the store a short while later. No one mentioned his absence, and I didn't ask.)

To be sure, race was more of an elephant in our house than any religious affiliations, but for me, the two were/are inseparable. I sign this blog 'Daughter O'Batala' because I am, in race, African, and in religion, a child of the Yoruba religion. At breaks, I'd bring home another part of myself to introduce to my shell-shocked family and just as happily board the plane before their senses returned. For years, my mother's greatest fear was me coming home with a black woman on my arm. All else paled. She referred to me as a 'witch,' but never as a bi or black woman. As it went with childhood teaching sessions edited for mom's comfort or purpose-of-the-moment, so it went with her descriptions of my adult life. I mentioned bringing home a live tree, and this was translated as "Gretchen's decorating for the holidays." to friends and family. She saw these as 'moments of sanity' in my otherwise Twilight Zone life.

I thought of these things when my husband mentioned the Christmas decorations. Being a Catholic, the Nativity is important to him. My opinions aside, it became my job to assemble the menagerie that is our holiday decor. I assembled the Nativity with the animals surrounding the babe and his parents, which seems more biblical than all these wise men gawking, while the animals wander in the yard and the barn gets cold. My Yule tree is as ecclectic as me, disobeying 'theme' for diversity. I love plants, and this year's poinsetta is basking in the window. She's also there for Guadalupe, who, before the Catholics assimilated her, was the Sun Goddess for the Aztecs. O'Batala is sincretized as Mary in Santeria, and the Virgin of Guadalupe is one of her manifestations, and thus, a form of my Father, so her candle can fill a place in both genres. I have candles for the dark month, too. I don't have anyone to celebrate Mother Night with or Solstice, but I will mark them as I always have, with prayers and flames and carefully chosen clothes. Certainly, my mother would find enough 'normal' in the picture to satisfy her demand that I comply with social requirements. Of course being married to a white man has civilized me, somewhat, as well.

My facebook page has 'a picture tells a thousand misconceptions' under my picture. This house is like that, too. You find what you're looking for, and nothing more than that. I am not as exclusionary as I once was. I am not so threatened by a crucifix that I refuse the placement of one at our door, nor is my husband offended at the African cross painting that hangs below it. Have I assimilated? No. Not by a long stretch of the imagination.

I'll put this to you, though. As you pass through the homes of friends and family, or businesses decorated for the season, holiday or Holy Days, what do you see? Do you assume their use of these age-old and rarely Christian-originated symbols represents the same things to them as they do to you, or are you willing to see things from a different perspective? How assimilated are you?

Blessed Be, all!
Daughter O'Batala

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Confessions of a Fly Swatter

I've got more than one part to this one, so bear with me.

First. These flies. Now, I believe in reincarnation, and the Wheel of Life, and, really, I'm not going out of my way to find innocents to squash, but flies? What did that being have to do in his/her past life to warrant coming back as a fly? What horrors did one commit? Was Hitler thence a fly, for example, or did he do time as some other lowly creature? A lobster? A louse, perhaps? With this thought in mind, and the understanding that Tibetans believe that a physical life is supposed to be hard work, why not give flies their due? We know they're disease carriers and annoying, and sometimes even embarrassing. So it's my thinking that if you came back as a fly, your life should be hard, really hard, and if you're crossing my path, you're going to be reincarnating in that form a few more times before you've either worked hard enough to earn a higher incarnation, or gotten smart enough to stay away from me.

Next. This fly swatter. I have a complication to my efforts to 'help' my lesser-evolved brethren on their way to enlightenment. I can't usually see them. When I do, I'm further limited by bad reflexes, and an innate aversion to breaking things to get at them, so I'm just not the go-to if Mr. Fly has landed on the tv screen. This frustrates my husband no end because I sit closer to it, and could 'get there' and 'get IT' before he could get mobile. If Sir Fly is happening to be around the lamp, he's still lucky, because the light is a problem for me, and, again, I won't break furniture to 'get him.'

(This is where I should say that I'm a reformed pestilence decimator. In college, I was willing to cut a path of broken dishes across my fridge to get that one cockroach, or launch combat boots at the more common flying albatrosses (also cockroaches, but definitely enlarged for the visually impaired) that likely paid for their spaces alongside us in the dorm. I used traps, sprays, roach chalk (where's that stuff now, I ask??) whatever. I got it done.)

Now? Not so much.

So, in my house, the miscreants have a 'safe zone.'

This said, one must naturally consider that a place with a 'safe zone' must also have a NOT 'safe zone' yes? You would be correct.

The kitchen. More specifically the kitchen window.

These least of their flying lot land on the sill, the glass, or window frame and buzz at me, as though they WANT my attention. I can SEE them here in my killing zone. Sometimes they do 'fly bys' over the stove to let me know they're on approach, but sure enough, they'll drop in or parade or bounce across my limited field of destruction. I've come to think of these ones as those who really need to come back a few more times before going up the ladder. Stupid enough to get stuck in a clean house, but to flaunt yourself past the self-proclaimed Bringer of Death is well? Stupid.

Last? There's a process to my Fly Swatting activities. It's not merely a plastic waffle at the end of a wire handle. For one, that's impersonal, and another, it's too far away for any delusion of accuracy. No, I keep a paper towel handy. Usually, it's folded on top of the coffee maker, which btw is BLACK, and a perfect hiding place for my targets, who (again) don't seem to be smart enough to figure that out. I keep a census, too. This lets me know if I've gotten everybody, and whether the trespassers have stepped up their infiltration activities. Usually, we have one a day. If the screen is open on the porch, and the cat has been out there, we can get up to five, but this is rare, and I guess word gets out, because the day after a high number, nobody comes by for a 2D makeover. (See, psych stat has a use!!) Now, what would all this be without an entertainment component?

I've got one.

I needed a cover for my lack of reflexes, see, so I talk to my targets, while I get my paper towel in hand and plot my route of squash. Flies, on what has to be an instinctual level because they've got NOT MUCH ELSE, have strategies for avoiding impending DOOM. Scientists have studied this phenomenon long and hard, so I'll skip it here, but suffice to say, they're devious at the last moment. I talk to my little squishlings. Something like you'd do with the rabid dog eyeing your leg as you try to get your groceries into the house. I move slowly, deliberately, and cajole them with a description of what I'm doing, why, and where they fit into the scheme of my compressings for the day. I did this just because it was a 'me' thing to do -my friends will attest to this personality trait- but then my husband overheard me. After some assurances from him that I'm most definitely 'not quite right' and my agreement that we're well matched, I decided to continue with this sideshow to keep up the ratings. I will use this in my stand-up act, someday, I think. For now, though, it's simply the prelude to another lowly life ended, and the expectation that said miscreant will come back with enough sense to stay out of my kitchen window. I'm doing my part for the betterment of Life.

This is my story and I'm stickin' to it.

==Twenty three flies were deceased-isized to facilitate the inspiration of the making of this blog.
YAY!!!!! :)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

OK, so I'm new at this. It's not like I can't think of things to say, but are they things you want to read? :)

So, I'll start with today. It's raining. A half-decade ago, all this meant was dragging an umbrellla off the shelf in my hall closet, or making sure I had my 'shmoo suit' to put over me and whatever I was carrying. I was closer to the bus stop, but on a busy road, so getting there was easy, but staying unspattered? Timing. Of course, if I get it wrong, then I get it worse, because everybody can see the white cane, and that makes me more fun to soak. No worries, really. It's not like I'M gonna melt.

So, then comes the eye surgery, and I don't need the cane anymore. No, not driving. Not 'un-legally blind,' just seeing that little bit better that the cane is not needed -enter snow disclaimer here. I'm liking this development! Wouldn't this have been a gift-send when my son was in day care, and I had to carry his soy milk, diaper bag, nebulizer, HIM -no feather-weight belt for HIM- AND my briefcase. I have a whole nother free hand! I can carry more home from Wal-Mart foraging, or can flip-a-person-off without hesitation. I now have to keep the Disabled ID handy because I'm not 'obvious' and now I get "Retard!" muttered under their breath rather than the exaggerated smile (that I nearly always returned) because nobody 'blind' could be doing the things I was doing, right? That summer, having this success to open doors, my sweetie gently tells me I should get my hearing checked.

OK, but why? I've been using my ears to protect me for years! They're my supersense, now that I can see, the ears can rest, but they're not deficient! Dutiful student I was, standing with my mother, listening for whatever might come our way, and telling her when it was safe, so she could check my work. So, my ears? My knees, my back, yes, but my ears?

Imagine my shock when I saw the audiogram. It wasn't quite flat-lined, but there weren't any high points. My official diagnosis, since we crips must keep this information close to our persons at all times, is 'severely to borderline profoundly deaf.' I scored really well on voice recognition, or they'd have passed by me on the feasability of hearing aids. (Guess all those language classes paid off?) The audiologist said I've been 'filling in the blanks' of what little I've been hearing for years, and got really good at it.

OK, so to build on this point, I've been intuitively sensing the bus coming to mow me down, and my brain has been 'filling in the blank' where the sound was supposed to be, and I've been running from something I didn't really hear? Or, the kids were raising the dead with their noise for hours before my mind thought to input some hint of their activities, leading me to rein them in, and therefore restore peace to my neighbors? Or the time when I called the police because the upstairs people were vibrating my furniture with THEIR stereo was 'just another filled-in blank'?

On the flip side, I really must track down all my former neighbors and beg pardon for listening to my own stereo in what I thought was a 'low' volume, but was more likely an air raid siren on Tornado Day.

Flash to now, and I'm thinking myself 'adjusted' to my 'new' disability. I think, as one lives with a disability all their life, the addition of another, or change in status of the 'original' is something we almost expect. I grew up hearing 'Be thankful for what you have, because you don't know when God will take it away." I resented this vehemently. Why not take from the kids who laugh at what I already don't have? This did get me thinking about what I'd 'prefer' get taken, though, since those same tormentors' parents would call me 'blessed' and let me 'bless' their babies as a ward against 'evil visiting them'. I spent hours thinking about wheelchairs, or prosthetic arms, or iron lungs -for a claustrophobic, that one was a doosey. I even tried to learn sign language, 'just in case.' You can't predict God's agenda, so might as well cover the bases, eh? As if surviving cancer, being blind and having radiation-related side-effects wasn't enough?

Now, it's a joke, I tell with relish. "This is how I've kept myself alive all these years! Using nearly useless ears to compensate for a slightly better-functioning eye!" It sounds better with the whole telling, but you get the point. Truth be told, I'm amazed that I'm here. Not because I was deaf all those times I was listening for traffic, but because all that 'filling in the blanks' was something I didn't know I was doing. The 'from where' and 'why' of that is awesome.

Oh, and officially the etiology of the hearing loss is 'unknown' though they suspect it was from all my headphone use in early years. (Another blog, that.) But I didn't have problems until my last pregnancy. A midwife I consulted told me that it was 'not unusal' for women to lose hearing during pregnancy and that it 'would come back' -usually- after delivery. Mine didn't. So, I've traded my hearing for my son. I didn't think of that during all those childhood 'what if's.'

Not bad, really. If I can presume to say such a thing about a process of which I am merely the recipient. Hearing for a whole new Life. Blindness for my own. And with the 'miralces' of modern medical Lifeplan Management, I have slight gains in both, which I can use to see to the graceful raising of my son.

So, it's raining, and there are school supplies to herd into a cart at Wal-Mart, but the hearing aids are sensitive little boogers, and cannot even tolerate what little sweat I produce at the gym, so going out without special care is a no-no. (They WILL melt. :( ) So, shmoo suit, or umbrella, and a box for the hearing aids, because I have never minded getting wet, and forget about the $3ooo I'm carrying in my ears. Then again, I have the luxury -and I do know the heft of that word- to stay in. School doesn't start until the 12th, right? I've had two really close calls -Gretchen vs. pool pump, for one- that have put the Fear of Wet in me good. Seriously, though, we all know it takes a while to fully realize the implications of a 'new' disability. Find the humor in it, as soon as you can, and the work will be easier.

Ziplocs are great, too.