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