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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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

Merry Mithrasmas!

MITHRAS, God of the Morning, our trumpets waken the wall!

“Rome is above the nations, but Thou art over all!”

Now as the names are answered, and the guards are marched away,

Mithras, also a soldier, give us strength for the day!

–Rudyard Kipling, “Song to Mithras” (1922)

 

During my lunch break yesterday I went to the Christkindl Market in Daley Plaza, Chicago’s annual Yuletide celebration of Teutonic culture and the contributions of German immigrants to the city’s rich, culturally woven tapestry of history. Amidst the cheerful booths showcasing Bavarian woodcarvers’ wares such as nutcrackers and cuckoo clocks, and the food vendors with their mouthwatering apfelstrudels and warm and spicy glüwein to ward away winter’s chill, you’ll find a Nativity scene, the subject of many a tourist’s photograph. In front of it, stretched out on a fence, stands a banner from the Freedom from Religion Foundation brazenly wishing passers-by a “Happy Winter Solstice!” There’s a message below the headline, the first sentence of which reads: “At this season of the Winter Solstice, we celebrate the Birth of the Unconquered Sun–the TRUE reason for the season!” I smiled and applauded, then took the obligatory photo for my Instagram account. I thought warmly of the first Winter Solstice public ritual I’d ever participated in, way back in 1999, which honored the Unconquered Sun (Sol Invictus) as the god Mithras. I was obsessed with researching everything I could about the cult of Mithras, and I took it upon myself to write a research paper that I presented to the Gardnerian coven I belonged to at the time. I’d like to share the fruits of my research here, as Winter Solstice is imminent, and I like to muse on how this Persian import of a cult provided serious competition for a nascent Christianity in the Late Roman Empire. Oh, if only history could have turned out differently… Continue reading

Circles of Power: Reflections on Receiving My Elekes Initiation in Ifá

During my lunch break today, I swear I spotted an avatar of the Orisha Eshu. A young man skateboarding downhill on Adams Street in the shadow of the Sears Tower (yes, you read that right: as a native Chicagoan, I refuse to call it by any other name), weaving in and out of hordes of slow-moving tourists on this gloriously sunny and summer-like Monday. He sported a t-shirt that looked like a modified version of the Chicago flag: instead of the iconic series of four red, six-pointed stars, however, the word “Character” was emblazoned in large cursive script.

Ashé, ashé! I mentally affirmed as I read the t-shirt’s message and silently blessed the youth that whizzed past me. I pulled down on the collar of my shirt to expose my newly acquired elekes, and I said a prayer of thanks to each of the Orisha whose energies find manifestation in the individual necklaces ringing my neck, the necklaces I received this past Saturday night (the timing was interesting: Dark of the Moon and right on the cusp of the onset of a Mercury Retrograde period) in an initiation ceremony that lasted nearly four hours. Continue reading