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Differences between traditions

There are some stark differences between traditional Yoruba practices and post-diaspora modes of worship (Lukumi and Candomble, Umbanda etc.). These differences not only pertain to the religions structure and practitioners; but also to the day-to-day operations of an Egbe. Within all these traditions, the initial rites of passage which consists of initial divination determining one's spiritual path as determined via Ifa Oracle to initial preparations and subsequent receiving of Elekes (necklaces representing various Yoruba entities), receiving of orisa Ebora (" the Warriors"), various spiritual operations and cleansings not the least of which are varying number of rogations and appeasement to one's Ori (head) are the same and do not deviate from each other as set by ancient Yoruba tradition. The manner in which these ceremonies are done are basically the same. The washing of necklaces in herbs corresponding to each deity they represent and the manner in which the Orisa Ebora are received is essentially unchanged. The splintering off between traditions basically centers around the way in which one undertakes the gargantuan task of becoming a priest or priestess of a specific Yoruba entity.

In Nigeria and Egbes which practice traditional lineages a Babalawo determines via Ifa divination ones leading Orisa. After this is done an individual receives Orisa Ebora and directly embarks upon the complex ceremonies required to become a priest or priestess. Within post-diaspora Lukumi traditions an individual initially is seen by a priest or priestess who performs Merindiolgun divination or Buzos within the Candomble tradition in order to find out whether or not initiation is required, accepted and to what extent. This is then confirmed by an Oriate and ultimately illuminate in full detail by Orunmila through Ifa divination. In post-diaspora traditions it's more like climbing a ladder through the priestly hierarchy of the religion. Once this process is completed the ceremony to become an actual priest or priestess within these traditions is different wherein one does not receive only a leading Orisa which you specifically pertain to and represent, but also five others. This varies from individual to individual as the combination of these varies in relation to one's specific leading Orisa. But generally, in post-diaspora traditions one receives Obatala, Yemaja, Oshun, Shango etc. Both are completely acceptable but one is arguably more time-consuming as attending to five or more entities as opposed to three within traditional practices is something to consider and not take lightly.

It is worth noting that as with all things when a culture migrates or is displaced and integrates with it's new setting, a whole stew of issues emerge as the displaced culture assimilates to its new location. In this reality lays the difference between traditional and post-diaspora modes of practice as Lukumi in Cuba, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, United States annexed spiritualism as set forth by the intelligence and insight of Alan Kardec. In Brazil the tribesmen from the Ketu region of West Africa assimilated with pre-existing indigenous Amazonian tribalism creating Candomble. The ensuing variations in practice is the source of complex debate between traditionalists and post-diaspora followers. The discourse concerning how to maintain an ancient religion as it is practiced in various regions by different cultures is indeed a 20th-century phenomenon; as it pertains to Yoruba practices. While this process is a natural expression of globalization and the inter-connectivity of the Internet it can be destructive. Assimilation is natural and understandable but can completely destroy one's own traditions. Yoruba worship of specific entities of nature cannot be mixed with other cultures deities or Catholic saints. While there may be some broad similarities and lose correlations one can extrapolate or perhaps theorize, they are not the same. If one has an appreciation, calling, or simply wishes to venerate the Yoruba pantheon then one should take the time learn properly and practice it correctly. If for no other reason than a basic respect for the very Orisas in question. There are some dangerous trends taking place as some individuals mix Christianity,Palo Mayombe, and other deity worship altogether creating an odd hodgepodge of spiritual practice. Not taking anything away from those individual spiritual disciplines, but this simply should not be mixed. The tenants and processes by which one becomes an initiate and spiritual journey as set forth by ancient Yoruba tradition is steadfast and unchangeable. The notion that one's leading Orisa can be determined via spiritualism or card reading or any other Oracle other than the ones of the very religion the orisas themselves belong to is wrong and disrespectful. Performing and undergoing made-up ceremonies and shortcuts to worship is wrong and can be extremely dangerous. Going into a religious article store and purchasing necklaces with the basic and rough color scheme of specific entities and having them prepared with some cigar smoke and rum as opposed to tradition is improper. This is precisely how in the most grotesque example, gang members and youths of this country and various others use beaded necklaces which were once only seen on religious brethren as gang colors.

Slight ceremonial variations are understandable and varies from region to region but certainly a complete deviation from tradition amounts to nothing less than charlatanism and grave disregard for the religion itself. Dangerous trends notwithstanding with proper practice, the Orisas can assist in overcoming any and all obstacles. Most individuals initial contact with this religion is difficult in the beginning as finding reputable elders can be difficult. Secretism reguarding how and where egbes operate still exists due to the fact that the religion has no centralized church structure as with Catholicism, Judaism, Buddhism and Hinduism. Egbes operate from a mass of individual shrines which are only in the possession of individual priest and priestesses elected to represent the Orisas themselves. Inquiry and persistence along with Orisa guidance and a little luck are all certainly involved in finding a good spiritual family.

Oluwo Ifalasa Omolodun

By Appointment Only     NO WALK INS

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