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.
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
On the night of Saturday, November 3, 2018 into the wee hours of the morning of Sunday, November 4, I had the pleasure of experiencing my first official paranormal investigation at the Old Joliet Prison, courtesy of the paranormal investigation groups Chicago Hauntings and the Joliet Paranormal Society as well as the Joliet Area Historical Museum. My friend Edward and I joined 48 hearty souls for the 5-hour-long investigation, including renowned psychic medium (featured on the long-running Travel Channel series, Ghost Adventures) Chris Fleming, who happens to be a Chicago native.
TENDING TO THE ANCESTORS: A CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS FOR THE WINTER 2018-2019 ISSUE OF ISIS-SESHAT JOURNAL
Seeking Submissions for the 2018-2019 Winter Issue of Isis-Seshat Journal on the Theme of “Tending to the Ancestors, Propitiating the Dead”—Deadline: Friday, January 18, 2019
“Iba se Eggun.”
(“I pay homage to the spirits of the ancestors.”) — Start of a Yoruba prayer recited in Ifá at the outset of certain rituals
I paid a visit to my Oluwo (Godfather in Ifá) last night and we had a chance to catch up on the whirlwind of life events I’ve been experiencing since my father’s cancer diagnosis two months ago. We consulted Ifá, and the voices of my own Orí (Destiny/True Will) and my Eggun (Ancestors) resonated strongly in the oracle’s spiritual prescriptions. The restless spirits of the dead, teeming hordes of the Eggun Buruku, were also vying for my attention, a fact confirmed by my lived experience of increased spirit activity at both my home and my parents’ house, where I recently (and totally by happenstance, and during a thunderstorm, no less!) made contact with the spirits of a young woman and children that had drowned in the river marking the northernmost boundary of my parents’ property. By their clothing, they appeared to have lived during the mid-nineteenth century. The children (blond-haired fraternal twins aged about seven or eight years old), unrelated to the young woman, were lost and crying out for their parents. The sight of them made my heart ache. But I couldn’t focus on them as I quickly realized the other spirit posed actual danger.
“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
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.
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.
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
For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, Spring Equinox is a little more than three weeks away. Many of us partake of time-honored rituals this time of year that have to do with purging and purifying our homes, from thorough physical scrubbing and scouring of our living spaces to donating old clothes and housewares that no longer meet our needs. As we discard the old and unwanted, we open our heads, hearts, and homes to receiving the new, as it should be.
As invigorating as a good housecleaning can feel once you’ve finished, I don’t believe in resting on your laurels. Better to follow up work done on the material plane with a thorough spiritual cleansing of your home, which should occur during the day and not at night (morning is ideal, but anytime after the sun has risen). I have a recipe my Oluwo (Godfather) in Ifá recently shared with me in person and which I have permission, in turn, to share with the aleyo (non-initiate) community. Continue reading
As the Executive Editor of Isis-Seshat journal, the quarterly publication of the worldwide Fellowship of Isis, I’ve decided that I want the Winter issue to focus on divination as the nexus of cultus, community, and culture. As the etymology of the word denotes, the purpose of divination is to reveal “the will of the Gods.” In our postmodern Western societies, of course, the concept has largely been divorced from its polytheistic impetus and has become co-opted by (or, if you prefer, degraded to) a secularist impulse for “fortune-telling,” largely for its entertainment value. Continue reading
Death. I’ve been acutely reminded of its omnipresence in many ways lately. Seeing the low angle of the sun at this time of year has begun to trigger my seasonal affective disorder. My nightly cemetery walks have been tinged with greater pensiveness and even despair. It’s a gloomy, cool day here in Chicago as the Sun gets ready to enter the eighth sign of the zodiac, Scorpio, herald of the mysteries of death and rebirth. I’m still processing the devastating news I received on Tuesday when I took my 11-year-old cat, Thor (a feral kitten rescue from Hawaii), to an emergency veterinary clinic for an abdominal ultrasound and other tests. My regular veterinarian had performed an X-ray on Thor to determine the cause of his misshapen stomach and elevated liver levels revealed from recent blood testing. The X-ray indicated a mass protruding from Thor’s liver–one so large it had actually pushed Thor’s stomach at a 90-degree angle. No wonder Thor’s lost 9 pounds in a little over two months. Was it a tumor? If so, could surgery be an option? I was referred to the emergency clinic, which is equipped with an advanced radiology department, to find the answers. Instead, the main veterinarian there stunned me with the diagnosis: advanced pancreatic cancer that has metastasized to his liver and lungs. And then those horrible six words, laden with the iron weight of finality:
“There is nothing we can do.” Continue reading