What Have I Done? And Other Answers to Your Questions

I've had quite a few questions come my way in the last few weeks, especially after my last post.  Honestly though, the questions began as soon as I started sharing about my experiences growing up and my return to something that has been a part of me for so long. Since my initiation at the beginning of the month, there have been inquiries, hesitations, people not knowing what to say because they were unsure as to what happened, etc. So, I wanted to provide a quick little reference. I started some of this on my last post but, let's continue it here.

On February 2nd, I went through a ceremony called ocha/regla de ocha/kariocha/crowning. Here's what it means:

Ocha (Kariocha, making Santo)The initiation of a new priest or priestess where his/her tutelary Orisha is put on his/her head (crown) during a seven-day ceremony. The newly initiated priest/priestess then enters their Iyaworaje, their year and 7 days of purification, rejuvenation, transformation and learning.

This ceremony is part of the African Traditional Religion lucumi (lukumi). It is more widely known (thanks to the efforts of wanting to demonize and further stigmatize the religion and the Black practitioners) as Santeria.

Lucumi (Lukumi)African Traditional Religion (ATR) as practiced by the slaves and their descendants starting in Cuba and now expanding across the Americas.

As you can imagine, I ain't saying nuffin' about the ceremony other than it was beyond beautiful and above what I imagined. One of the ceremonies that I can share with you is my saraza. A saraza is the layout of 109 plates in honor of my ancestors. These plates are filled with goodies of all kinds including some African dishes in honor of my eggun (ancestors). I was wowed when I saw it in person but, my girl Negra with Tumbao captured this image so I can continue to stare in wonder.

This is a learning year for me. There are some restrictions on my life, for varying reasons. Here are some (but not all):

  • Wearing white for the year and 7 days after my initiation.
  • No make up, no adornments outside of the bangles I wear for my orishas - also called manillas- and my elekes - religious beads.

  • My head is always covered. For the first 3 months, it is covered even while I am inside of my house.
  • I cannot take photos or videos (outside of what has to be done for my work i.e. pics/videos taken at conferences, videos taken for ambassadorships, etc - all of which is cleared with my godparents first). A lot of what I will share on social in the coming year will be older images of myself, when an image of me is required.
  • I'm not able to look at myself in the mirror for these first 3 months. Which made wrapping my head today super fun!
  • Within my spiritual house, I am known as Iyawó. Everywhere else, I'm still Sili.

Iyawó means bride of the Orishas and it is what the newly initiated priest/priestess is called within the Lucumi community during that year and 7 days.

  • I cannot be touched by anyone that has not been initiated. This means that I can't take receipts from people's hands, give hugs, etc. Exceptions to my offspring because cuddles.
  • I am to keep my body free from any chemicals so I'm only using natural products on my hair and skin (which I was kinda doing already). This also means that this will be a dry year for me so, no mimosas at brunch.
  • Speaking of brunch, I won't be going out to brunch this year. Or any restaurants during this time (feel free to bring me a plate, though).

Some of the reasons for the clothing and the restrictions have to do with the process and new life that I've moved into. It is about the maturing spiritually and leaving behind the ego, the material things, the attachments that do not serve me.  As I deepen my relationship with my tutelary Orisha (Oyá), the expectation is that I evolve beyond the physical/material as I look to grow emotionally and spiritually.

With regards to the touching, it might seem odd but, during this time, Iyawoses are more sensitive to people and their vibes/energy due to the ceremony that we have undergone.

Restrictions are a little tighter during the first 3 months. Right after the crowning ceremony, you're considered a baby within this religion (helloooo born again!). Some of those restrictions lighten up a bit after the 3 month ceremony but generally, the restrictions above stay for the entirety of the year and 7 days.

After that time passes, I will transition to an Olorisha which means I'll be a full fledged priestess within this beautiful African Traditional Religion.

I think that covers some of the questions I've received. As an FYI, I won't always be readily available to answer the questions you send my way. Don't take it personal, this is a time where I have to concentrate on myself and my spiritual growth and might not be as open as I had been in the past. It will be challenging since my instinct is always to help others but, this year of disruption brings with it the disruption of habits in an unexpected way.

Allow me to say that I felt like I've been living my anchor words during my ceremony week. I felt empowered, balanced and loved in ways big and small and I will forever be grateful to the many people that were a part of those days. Thank you does not seem to be enough.

*Here's a list of some books that my godparents have suggested for further learnings.