I’ve been overwhelmed lately with emails, private messages, and phone calls. Day after day my facebook.com email box piles up; my myspace.com email box fills up, and, both of my email boxes are inundated with letters. I’ve tried to answer most of them. Usually I focus on the ones that seem most urgent, cries for help and advice that are heartbreaking.
But no matter how hard I try I can’t address all of them. To clear my email boxes, unfortunately there are times I just have to hit the “archive” key to move them out of my box.
It’s time for a bit of honesty here, folks. I am a very active santero, and as a santero I have to prioritize. I’m one of the luckiest santeros around because I have two wonderful godparents, Checo and Coquí, and each embodies the concept of what a priest should be. My godfather is a skilled oriaté who has not only scraped hundreds of heads but has crowned no less that 25 and he’s been the yubon for countless santeros in our house. My yubon works by his side and has a well of knowledge just as deep as my godfather’s. Because we have a strong relationship, bit-by-bit I learn mysteries the average santero not an oriaté will never know. I’m very blessed. Oyá promised to lead me to a good house and she did.
It’s sad that others don’t share that blessing.
I feel bad for santeros who want to learn about odu and divination but don’t have godparents who can teach them. I feel bad for santeros who want to actively participate in the religion but come from houses that aren’t that active. I feel bad for santeros whose godparents simply do not teach. I feel bad for santeros whose itás are no more than a paragraph long in written form. I feel bad for santeros who want to learn more about our customs, mysteries, rituals, and secrets but for whatever reason don’t have access to those through their own godparents.
I feel bad, but outside the books that I write and publish, or the occasional blog that I write, or the occasional radio shows that I do (and for the record, H2O Network is my ‘home away from home’ now), or the occasional workshop at Sacred Space Spiritual Center and Botanica, I simply don’t have time to teach those who are not my godchildren. I barely have time to answer the simple questions that flash through my mailboxes on an hourly basis. And by hourly, I mean just that – my blackberry bings and dings all hours of the day and night with the emails that come through.
I have a wonderful group of godchildren who pay their small derechos to have their readings, make their ebós, and receive their orishas; and once they’ve paid their derechos and received their religious objects from me, I spend countless hours in my home, in their homes, online, and on the phone teaching them what they need to know to take care of them. Probably I teach them too much, from the odu they are born in to the little secret things that are done to flesh out their ashé. But, that’s what I do. The email requests I’ve been getting – which are more like demands (and often very impolite) – take away from the time I have to spend with my own godchildren and their lessons. It’s not fair to them for me to give away my time to people I’ve never met, and it’s not fair to expect me to teach those who will never sit on my mat or receive so much as an eleke from me.
So it’s time for a bit of honesty here: If you’re in an inactive ocha house where you’re learning nothing, you’re probably in the wrong ocha house. That doesn’t mean that your godparent should spend hours upon hours giving you instruction as if you were in a high school class (because not all santeros enjoy teaching the way I do – and education in this faith is a privilege and not a right), but if you’re paying derechos and receiving orishas that you never learn anything about, well, you need to reconsider your choice in godparents. Period.
So this blog is an open apology to all those aleyos, aborishas, iyawós, and santeros in other houses who have been writing me the past few months asking questions and expecting answers. I’m sorry, but I don’t have the time to offer a one-on-one education to anyone who is not my godchild. Yes, I write, and, yes, through my books I teach, but individual religious education is the responsibility of one’s godparent, not me.
Only those who become my godchildren get the benefit of one-on-one time with me; and only my godchildren who fulfill their religious obligations to my orishas have the right to expect a religious education with me.
But I will give everyone this bit of advice: when you pick a godparent, make sure you pick someone with a strong knowledge base who has knowledgeable godparents, and make sure they have a strong, respected oriaté of good character backing them. If those things aren’t in place, in the end you’ll end up lost and confused like so many others in this religion.
But, that’s just my opinion. What do I know?