10 Years in Ifa

Today, 13 December, 2019, which many peoples of (northern) European descent celebrate as St. Lucy’s Day (which I dedicate to the honor of the goddess Hekate as Phosphoros, “Light-Bringer”), marks my exact 10-year anniversary of receiving my Hand of Ifa (the culmination of a three-day initiation ritual) and of being crowned with my Guardian Orisha. Today marks a tremendous milestone in my life.

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My Experiences at Paganicon 2019–Part 1: The Workshops

Have you ever had the wonderful opportunity to travel some place totally new, by yourself, for the express purpose of recharging yourself at every level–physically, mentally, emotionally, but especially spiritually? That’s precisely the kind of restorative experience I recently had at my first-ever Paganicon, which took place from March 22-24, 2019, just outside of Minneapolis. Continue reading

Getting Started in an ATR: Letter Written to a Friend

I thought I would share verbatim my email reply to a friend I’ve only ever known on Facebook, one who knows I am an adherent of the African Traditional Religion (ATR) of Ifá. She reached out to me via email last night, asking my advice on how she can get started as she’s read a lot of books and has an affinity for several of the Orisha and Lwa but she wants to go about things the right way. This is how I replied to her questions this morning; her name, the state where she lives, and the name of a mutual acquaintance she and I share have been removed for privacy purposes. I’m sharing this correspondence here as this is something I get asked quite often and I would give the same advice to anybody. Continue reading

“Tending to the Ancestors”: The Winter 2018-2019 Issue of Isis-Seshat Journal Is Now Available!

It gives me great pleasure to announce, after several days of intensive copy editing and graphical layout, that the 48-page, full-color Winter 2018-2019 issue of Isis-Seshat journal has officially been released! With its theme of “Tending to the Ancestors,” the issue features various Polytheists’, Pagans’, and Witches’ perspectives on the importance of  cultivating and maintaining ancestor veneration in their daily devotional practices, how they do it, or why they abstain. Hailing from no less than 3 different continents, this issue’s contributors reflect a world of culturally contextualized traditions, from the Heathenry/Teutonic Polytheism of Northern and Central Europe to West African and Afro-Cuban Diaspora religions. I’m so deeply thankful to the gorgeous and deeply personal original works of art, poetry, and essays that were sent to me as submissions! This issue would not have been possible without so many peoples’ support.

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Honoring Eshu, Making Ébo

“You’ll simply never understand the true nature of sacrifice.”

—The Wicker Man (directed by Robin Hardy), 1973

A fundamental principle in the West African indigenous religion of Ifá is that of ébo, or sacrifice. That which is offered is of great value both to the one offering as well as to the Recipient, be it one or more of the Orisha or the giver’s Ancestors.  Continue reading

Virgin Death Goddesses: Hel, La Santa Muerte, and Yewa

Editorial Note: This is the transcript of a talk I gave at the 24th Annual Fellowship of Isis Chicago Goddess Convention, October 28, 2017, at the North Shore Holiday Inn in Skokie, Illinois.

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Introduction

Good morning and thank you all for coming to our 24th Annual FOI Chicago Goddess Convention! For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Anna and I’ve been proudly serving as legally ordained FOI clergy since 2012, though I have been active in Chicago’s Pagan community for 18 years and counting. I’m the executive editor of Isis-Seshat, a quarterly publication of the Fellowship of Isis, and I’m the founder of the chartered Iseum of the Rekhet Akhu, whose mission is to highlight the interrelatedness of the communities of the living and the dead and to cultivate transfigured spirits (akhu in ancient Egyptian) in human form.

So why did I choose this topic? We’re in the season of Samhain, the Celtic reckoning of the end of summer and the liminal time between one year and the next, and during this time our thoughts often turn to ones of our own mortality, as well as to remembrances of those who have gone before us. More than any other time of year, the honoring of the Deities and Spirits of Death is top of mind for most of us.

As a show of hands, who here honors a Death God or Goddess in their personal devotional practices? (Pause.)

I’m a Polytheist devoted to such Holy Powers, and I’d like to spend some time with you discussing three in particular: the Norse Goddess Hel, Mexico’s La Santa Muerte (the Holy Death), and the Nigerian Orisha, Yewa—Who They are, Why They matter, and how you can cultivate a devotional relationship with Them if you feel Their bony hands laying claim on you. What’s striking about these Death Deities of various cultures—northern European, North American, and West African—that I’m going to talk about is that They’re gendered female and They’re regarded as virgins, so we have a lot of intersectionality to examine when we focus on what we know about each Goddess historically and what we know about Them in contemporary worship.

But before we start discussing each of these three Cosmic Femmes Fatales, I’ve got a few thoughts I’d like to share on what significance gender bears as well as historical notions of the concept of “virginity” and how these impact the mythologies and the cultic practices surrounding the worship of Hel, La Santa Muerte, and Yewa.

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Spiritual Cleansing in Ifá: Bribing Away Evil Spirits

Should Oyekun Iwori surface as the main odu (sign) in an Ifá reading, you may want to resort to the spiritual prescription that my oluwo (godfather), who is also a Babalawo, advised for me: bribing away the evil spirit or spirits currently wreaking havoc in your life. Mind you, this odu is a marker of serious negativity, and battling it requires a major cleansing in addition to the magical working I’m about to describe, but this latter activity is a necessary prequel that will hopefully give you a better sense of control as you prep for the major cleansing (rompimiento in Lukumí) that needs to happen immediately afterwards. Continue reading