16 May

Lately I've been contemplating the invasive role religion has played in my life over the last forty-six years.  Since the age of four, I was very much of aware of the importance of God, Angels, Hell, Being Good, Being Bad, Heaven.  The idea of either/or and constantly being watched by a Big and Heavy-handed Divinity that was always watching who was naughty or nice has been a pervasive concept that has played in the back of my mind and dictated how I dealt with others and how I feel about myself. This feeling of being a possible displeasure to this "Eye" that watches everything I do, weighing my actions, heart, words, and thoughts caused me to grow from childhood to teenage and adulthood resenting life, as well as, having a very low value of myself.  This large sense of condemnation and low self-esteem walked hand-in-hand with me, daily.

At twenty-five I decided to leave Christianity.  I was clear that for the first time, this religion that I was actively engaged in was no longer a fit for me. I began to study religions that explored a multi-dimensional perspective of God.  God, in this context, was a little more than just a triune. This God had many representatives of His Power. I joined a group that followed the Ausar Auset faith where the Neter (Ancestors) were venerated, along with this pantheon of Deities that could very much be touched with the infirmities of humanity.  They embodied power, sensuality, nurturing, and primordial force.  They managed the creation of the Divine.  They could be summoned through color, scents, foods, chants, and meditation.  And like the super spiritual practitioner I am, I sought to do it all to pull Their energies to me.  I wore the colors.  I did candle work according to the colors of the Deities.  I took baths in herbs. I made offerings.  At the same time, I was married to a strict Muslim man, and for him, I was doing nothing but entertaining Satan. And after all that I did, I was wildly unhappy and always felt like shit most of the time. My unhappiness was so deep that one day after a worship at the lake to honor Auset (Mother of the Waters) I came home and tried to commit suicide to later find myself in the hospital.  

Over the last fifteen years I have actively practiced Lucumi and am now a priest made to Eleggua.  When I first came into this faith it was my end all be all. I fell in love with these Divinities because for the first time I felt seen and heard.  Now as a priest of eleven years, unfortunately, like in all of the faiths I have practiced, there is still this sense of judgmental, punishing, damning and exacting Orishas. There is this loom and doom of bad things happening if you don't do what's right, and because this faith can include obligations to godparents, religious community, your Orishas of course, obeying your ita/reading, including just living life, there is always this fear of being found unworthy and below the bar.  Unfortunately, this is a feeling that other priests I know who echo the same sentiments. The relationship with these very active and involved Deities is stunted by fear and not buoyed by faith.

The other day, I looked at my Orishas and I whispered to Olofi (God) and Them that I was tired of the noose that religion with its books, readings, advice, stories, teachings, and bloviated ideas of who they are, are not, what they like and don't.  My heart's prayer was that They would help me to rediscover them anew, afresh, and authentically so FOR MYSELF. What I have witnessed, because I've done it, there has been a mad dash to my religion, and that's good. What I question, and I question for myself, is what are we really looking for? Are we clear? In my faith, with the help of celebrity public veneration of Orishas, it makes me wonder how much of this is faith or fad? And then, once emotional, spiritual, and financial investment is made, what is being taught and passed down to the practitioner?  Is it fear or faith? My experience is that it has been shrouded in fear, heavy on people and protocol reverence.  There is this way to "be" and "act". And there is less emphasis placed on what Divinity is pulling, prodding, and loving the practitioner into. And please understand I am not highlighting Lucumi, per se.  I am saying that ALL of the religions I've embraced have demonstrated this same treatment.

With that said, there will be some who will run back and tell my elders that I am denouncing and dragging my faith choice; I am not. I am simply saying that religion, as it is set up, does not accomplish what it should be aimed towards, which is the focus of guiding the practitioner to embrace the Divinity within to develop a deeper connection that brings change, evolution, inner peace, self-empowerment, self-mastery, and the experience of God showing up as us in ourselves.

For those of you that are in a crossroads of fear vs. faith, as I am, in whatever path you follow currently, here is what I am giving more into to deepen my love with God and My Divinities:

1. Practicing more quiet inner meditation with My Divinities so that "I see" and am "Seen".  There are times I do the whole mojuba, throw obi, say deep prayers, give adimus, and offerings.  But lately, with life lif'in, on Mondays, I'll start out with prayer and song to Olofi, and then I'll call out each Orisha and acknowledge their presence with short praise.  I'll then sit and give them an update on where I am.  I call it "the state of Jeanetta" meeting. What I am finding is that I get up from sitting with them feeling seen and heard by Them. On the other side, though, there is an energy of inclusion and appreciation from Them.  As a result, I feel covered by Them in a very intimate way. I am learning it does not always take bells and whistles. What is that all for anyway?

2. Giving place and space for my feelings. For me, I was taught by religion that I don't matter. My feelings don't matter. And because I don't matter, there is this emphasis on stringent obedience that can be like a task master that does not lend itself to a comfort.  In all of the faiths I've followed, I've experienced this strain. To be clear, I can't say that this is all the fault of religion- some of this is my upbringing that was heavy in denigration and judgement. Through journaling, I have become more in touch with my feelings in honoring that they matter, and should be heeded, respected, acknowledged, and bought to my Divinities when I need Their assistance. My favorite journal for this has been The Queen of Mindful Miracles Journal. It allows you the chance to do an emotional pulse check every morning.  The focus of this journal is to align you with you with gratitude and divine guidance. The most important person is you. You are the Holy of Holies housing God and Divinities.  Damn, that's a lot to consider.

3. Questioning and dismissing "stories" of the Divine that are experiential only.  I am one that ADORES the stories of the elders.  It's amazing to sit and witness my spiritual elders recounting their experience with God and Divinities. It is inspirational. But you know what? It is their idea based on their experience. I am learning that I can't take the experience of God from another and then try to force fit it onto my experience.  I am a different person. My life is not the same as theirs. One day I spoke to an elder about a reading that I received, and I was vexed because it simply did not fit. She encouraged me that if it didn't fit take it with a strong observation and questioning before accepting the advice. She submitted that the reader didn't know me, my inner feelings, or my heart. That was the most valuable advice I received, and I carry it with me to this day. Now, I listen to people talk and pontificate about what they know.  If something tracks for me, I take it AND STILL fit it for my appropriation. Other than that, everything is suspect until I test it by my own Spirit.  Please start to do the same.

The recommendations I am giving are light, and I guess that's the point, your path with the Divine is only yours, and no one else. Please be encouraged to walk your own path and be brave enough to develop a relationship that is nestled in trust, experiential love, and intimate discovery of the Divine!

Love Y'all to the Moon,


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