Announcing the Call for Submissions for the Winter Issue of Isis-Seshat Journal

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

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Spiritual Cleansing in Ifá: “Sour” and “Sweet” Baths

Last Friday night, towards the end of my Ifá oracle session conducted by my Oluwo (godfather), the Orisha Orunmila declared that in order to remove the ibi (negativity) associated with the signs uncovered in my reading, I needed to take a series of spiritual cleansing baths. Many religions advocate the removal of spiritual pollution (what the ancient Greeks called miasma) through a variety of methods; in Ifá, as in related African Diaspora Religions (ADRs) like Vodoun and Santería, ritual baths comprised of sacred herbs and other organic ingredients are commonly prescribed for the removal of negative energy from one’s head (the locus of personal destiny) and home environment. While some baths are for initiates only, meaning they are comprised of blessed ingredients arduously prepared–under the benevolent auspices of the Orisha Òsanyìn, Lord of the Forest and Master of Plants and Herbal Medicine–over a span of days by one’s godparents and other trained clergy in the religion, the ones the Orisha prescribed for me last Friday were ones I was meant to prepare myself, and ones anyone could easily do, whether they adhere to any of the ADRs or not. Since they’re easily adaptable to any religious tradition and made of readily available ingredients (i.e., they’re probably already in your kitchen pantry), I thought I’d share with you how you go about preparing for the series of ritual cleansings known as “sour” and “sweet” baths. 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

It’s All in Your Head: Orí as Indwelling Divinity, Locus of Consciousness, and Roadmap to Destiny in Ifá

Wednesday’s felicitous news that the U.S. will begin normalizing relations with Cuba has me hopeful that 2015 will be the year I accompany my oluwo in Ifá to the island so that I can finally become fully initiated in my guardian Orisha’s mysteries–in Cuban Lukumí/Santeria terms, I would be undergoing asiento, “making the saint.” Not only has that been a longstanding dream of mine, it’s part of my destiny. That is what Ifá, also known as the Orisha Orunmila, revealed to me in 2008 when I received my Warriors–Los Guerreros. Continue reading

The New World Wyrd: Polytheistic Pagan Practices, Cultural Contexts, and Defining Boundaries in Pursuit of the Limitless

A photo taken of me and fellow members of the Ifá house, Ilē Ayó (The House of Joy), at a bembe for the orisha Oyá. October, 2012

A photo taken of me and fellow members of the Ifá house, Ilē Ayó (The House of Joy), at a bembe for the orisha Oyá. Chicago, October 2012

I was 18 years old when I came out of the broom closet to my Serbian immigrant parents, announcing that the Serbian Orthodox Christian faith in which they’d raised me was irreconcilable with my expanding consciousness that came to understand Deity, humanity’s relationship with nature, and human nature itself in ways that were markedly different from the catechism of my upbringing. While my parents weren’t wholly surprised–despite being devout Christians they (especially my mother) always encouraged openminded inquiry about world religions; furthermore, it was commonly accepted in my family that I was “weird”–there was an air of sadness to near elegiac levels in the kitchen of my childhood home that September day when I made my announcement. Continue reading

For the Love of Eshu

By way of editorial comment: In the Yoruba-derived West African religion of Ifa (which is also the name of an Orisha of divination as well as the system of divination that He governs–still with me?), every person, regardless of race or station in life, is said to have her head “ruled” or “crowned” by a guardian Orisha. That Orisha’s influence will more than likely have manifested in the individual’s personality, as well as in shaping the person’s True Will, or Ori in Yoruba, in her lifetime. I wrote this praise poem (oriki in Yoruba), “For the Love of Eshu,” in honor of my guard and guide, my Baba (“Father”) Eshu, also known as Elegbara. In Santeria, He is Elegua. Ago mo jubara, Baba!

Eshu, Opener of the Ways!

Eshu, Opener of the Ways!

For the Love of Eshu

Eriwo-Ya!

I received your calling card—red on one side, black on the other—

three times seven times

O Akánle,

Paá paá wàrà

You who conduct your business in fast motions

Ever hurrying, ever sudden

And just this week, on the Washington Street bridge at Wacker Drive,

the grinning old man,

Omokùnrin,

Son of the Sons of Africa

Skin the color of the repository of secrets

curly white hair

red t-shirt, black pants

protruding Styrofoam cup with the jingle of coins, rattled like a call to order

Eriwo-Ya! Continue reading

Go to Hel, Part 3: Bound by Bone—Deepening My Devotion to Loki’s Daughter

The wallpaper on my work PC is a stunning 1905 painting by the German artist Emil Doepler. Entitled “Loki’s Brood,” I find throughout the course of any given workday that I completely lose myself in reverie as I look at Hel. It’s almost as if Her distant gaze, surely focused as it is on Other/Inner Worlds, mirrors my own as I gaze at Her and think on Her glorious Being. Is it possible to truly love—with all the inner reserves of affection and devotion that your heart is capable of squeezing out—a Goddess of Death? Continue reading