Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Breaking Free



I wanted to write a bit of a personal post here to all of my friends and clients I have met over the last several years of being on Facebook, having my shop, and through various other Pagan or conjure affiliated groups.

The muse behind this post is recent events calling out my past, my authenticity, my credentials, my culture, etc. As I said, that was the muse. This post is not about proving anyone wrong. Everyone is entitled to their own thoughts and opinions and they are absolutely free to express those and that's a beautiful thing! This post is for those who have supported me, my shop, and my family. I hope this helps you know a bit more about who you have been sticking up for:)

Here are a few tidbits;

-I am ordained and initiated in my family's tradition of Chalcedonian. Yes, I realize that sounds made up, and I don't care.
-I am not initiated in Palo, Vodou, Santeria, Lucumi. I am a spiritualist and spiritualists, like Pagans, can pray and work for anyone who will listen to them and their community. I do not need an initiation to hear the divine because I heard it before I was ordained or initiated.
-I was raised Pagan. It sounds exciting but, just as any other cultural or religious upbringing, it was boring and made me feel different from my peers. This led to a lot secrecy and lack of self confidence as I felt that I could not be my true self or express my values or beliefs among my peers. What most of you are going through now, I went through too, just at a younger age.
-I use the labels Pagan, witch, Hoodoo, herbalist, medium, and Spiritist (not in that order;)
-I have no other credentials because, at this time, no other initiations are necessary for me on my path. Though this can always change and probably will...I hope it will.
-I am all mixed up; Finnish, Hungarian, Jew, and Black.
-My family is from the Appalachian mountains. My great, great grandma Ruby was from Shady Grove, Kentucky. It's a dry county. We make moonshine. There is a general store, a motel, and a restaurant called Druther's. We all make fun and say it's called that because "you'druther not eat there". Ruby was a healer and my great grandmother (Lucy) was a seer. Then, they say, it skips two generations so my grandmother and mother got nothing, again, so they say.
-My secret dream and goal; to have either my business or my husband's eventually be a not-for-profit. We are on our way with my husband's carpentry/contracting business! Last year he worked nearly 50% pro bono. Our dream is to build and fix houses for those who need them, not just those who can afford them.

I've had a coven, (pictured above! That's me on the far right:) still with about 50% of it's original members, for nearly 13 years. 50% of your original members is a miracle after that long. Before I had children, I traveled giving lectures and workshops at Witch's Balls, women's retreats, Pagan Pride Days. etc. I try to be active in my Pagan community here and have been offered a position helping to run our PPD, which I am considering taking. So, for those saying that I "popped up of out nowhere". I guess I did...13 years ago. I wasn't old enough to participate in PPD and lead a coven before that...as I was only 17.

My thoughts on initiations;
Initiation of any sort-baptisms, etc-can be wonderful, life changing, path lining experiences. However, they are not necessary in all practices or beliefs. For instance hoodoo is a practice, not a religion. Therefore, you gain rank through experience, practice, serving your peers/community, and by simply putting in time. I do not believe one needs to pay hundreds of dollars for a course to learn rootwork. Those classes are fun and educational I am sure. If they help you, then they are wonderful! But not necessary to live this path.

So if everyone MUST be initiated, then who initiated the first priests and priestesses of a path, religion, or tradition? I've always been confused by those who tell me that I MUST be initiated into the path(s) of the items I sell in my shop in order to sell them. That it is "cultural misappropriation" to sell such items and not be of that culture or initiated into those religions.

The "cultural misappropriation" is apparently centered around the items I make and sell for my clients practicing Santeria, Lucumi and Vodou. Which, I might add, are REQUESTED of me to make. I serve my clients in their paths of servitude. However, I find it odd that no one ever makes a fuss over the Norse, Celtic, and Egyptian items I sell. No one from Norway or Ireland is harassing me about how I'm not initiated or from Ireland or Egypt, therefore, I can't sell items representing their deities.

This fuss is made without  actually knowing my race or culture, my families beliefs or practices. You know what they say about assuming...

I suppose I am only to make items for people who are Black, Jew, and Hungarian, since that's what I am. Since that is my "culture" and all I am "qualified" to do. Well, I guess that would just be me making shit for myself then. I want to SERVE not have a hobby for myself.

This is the deal; I make items for OTHER devotees to use. Because I'm a medium. I do not make items that ONLY my path would use. I make items to serve many devotees of many paths! That's your job as a medium. You are a go-between, making tools to aid others in their service to their deities and spirits.

As for culture and race. There is a lot going around about how "white" folks can't practice hoodoo and so on. Really? At this point in our history, and in this country no less, who in the hell can guess someone's race or culture?! We are all just big bags of mixed up mud from everywhere around this world. Anyone pontificating such things has no education in American history. No information of Maafa (the African holocaust), Marie Laveau, New Orleans Catholics, or New Orleans Vodou. Because once it all hit here, it melted with all sorts of new traditions, people, customs,languages, and colors. It's like saying that just because someone is from New Orleans that they know hoodoo, that they are the "real deal". Bullshit.

Religion only survives by evolving, changing, and borrowing. Every religion existing now has borrowed or stolen traditions (and people!) from other geographies and religions. There is no pure religion. To say someone can't practice mojuba because they aren't trained or initiated is bullshit. They may hear the voice of the divine plain as day in their ears. Besides that, then who initiated the very first person who put gris gris together?

NO ONE. That first person received divine information and messages and they listened and they put it together. Then they shared it. Then it worked.

They spent their years serving their community, helping, healing, and teaching. Decades in and decades out they served their people. Because the proof is in the pudding. Talk is cheap-people know who is "real" by who listens and helps out. Who prays for their sick mother or dying child. Who helps them find work and who celebrates health, births, and life with them. That's the damn initiation. That's "for real".

So who comes up to this first rootworker and says "Hey, who initiated you anyway?" I imagine that rootworker gave a perplexed look and then laughed. Only an earthly ego would try to trump divine message and service.

You don't have to prove shit to anyone. You don't have to defend your beliefs, your culture, your race, your gender, your sexuality, etc. However, the sharing of yourself with those you love and care for, the volunteering of information, IS the best way to defend yourself. Truth, love, and peace will offend those who ask you to defend. Shake them up. Only when we are stirred do we stop settling. When we are offended we stop asking others to defend themselves. We break free from our same old congealed ideas and beliefs; our hardened hearts and minds break loose. Only then do we grow. Only then are we fluid. Only then are we free.

Help them be free. State who you are and own it.




7 comments:

  1. Great post Sarah! I wish this society wasn't so judgemental or superficial and i think if everyone had the gift of communicating with the spirits that there would be no need to constantly backtrack to reeducate people about your spiritual practices. Because wouldn't those with the ears to hear and the mouth to speak to them not first go straight to the spirits to inquire of your authenticity prior to jumping first into a confrontation? Those who truly are aware know better than to offend spirits and those who aren't learn the hard way. Maybe it's just human nature or just easier to challenge first ask questions last. Well whatever it is it goes to show that even in spirituality politics often times takes precedence over worship. Take care and keep up the good work.

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  2. Thank you for writing all that up and posting it, it's nice to get to know you better! And ooh, yeah, I agree with you!

    I tend to lose patience with people who insist on "initiation" for everything. In some traditions, the ones I'm most familiar with being Catholicism and traditional branches of Wicca, a formal initiation ritual is a must. But let me tell ya, sometimes all that ritual goes out the window in an emergency. When I was a kid, I had a religion teacher who told us that when her newborn, not yet baptized granddaughter became suddenly very ill, she performed the baptism herself on the way to the emergency room, and that yes, it counted.

    I feel like some folks get carried away, acting like everyone needs formal initiation. True initiation can only ever come from the gods. No human being can know what divine initiation another person has undergone. Now, if you want to know if someone is trained, fine, but I think you can also kind of figure out for yourself whether or not someone knows their stuff. I think some folks just like having any excuse to rattle off their lineage. It's a shame, because every once in a while I'll go looking for information on hoodoo, just 'cause I'm curious, and inevitably I'll end up having to slog through blog posts about who said what about whom, people calling people out, making accusations or defending themselves against accusations. I end up just giving up. Some folks just seem to need the drama, but they make it so that the rest of us just have to ignore them.

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  3. Only an earthly ego would try to trump divine inspiration. I love it, and I know it. Thanks for posting this. Just put in an order, btw. You're products always feel so much more alive than the commercial grade supplies I still find myself purchasing. Initiations don't really matter too much to me. It's what you can deliver that puts you in high standards in my heart; And what you have sent me in the past has always given me something.

    Hope you and your family are doing great, sending my love your way.

    <3 Blessings,

    Michael

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  4. Hi Sarah,

    I almost never comment on blogs and I'm not on facebook, but I had to say something here. I am glad you are sticking up for yourself and the integrity of what you do. Way to go! It seems like the term "cultural appropriation" gets thrown around way too much and is usually used to try to shut someone down. Ethics and integrity go way further than a pure, initiatory 'lineage', in my opinion. I know some hoodoo 'doctors' out there with all the "proper credentials" that charge hundreds of dollars for their services. To me, that type of blatant materialism and mercenary attitude goes against everything a real spiritual worker of any tradition stands for. I think originally the cultural appropriation term was coined to stop that type of behavior. Now it seems to be used to tear down the competition and we all lose out because many gifted spiritual workers, who may not have the 'pure' bloodlines/initiatory lineages stop putting themselves out there due to the constant attacks on them from other so-called spiritual workers, who if they are for real...should know better.

    Spiritual work is a lot like music. Look at Rock and Roll, for example. It evolved from much the same melting pot that you are talking about, Sarah. Is it 'cultural appropriation' to sing the blues or play a guitar? I think the latest trend to keep spiritual work culturally pure puts an artificial control onto something meant to be shared and used for the good of all.
    Keep up the good work!

    Blessings,
    Shantih

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  5. All you have to do is read about the history of religions such as Lucumi/Santeria/Yoruba or Vodoun to understand why someone would dissmiss an aleyo (outsider) claiming they can invoke an Orisa/Orisha.As an Olorisha, Lucumi priestess, i have a pedigree. I know who initiated me and who came to Cuba with an Orisha crowned on their head from Nigeria from initiation.Yoruba religion is thousands of years old with preserved initiations. There is no easy way in and out of this religion. You dont understand the anger because you do not wake up every morning and give mojuba praising all the Olorishas in your lineage thru slavery all the way to Africa that gave you your Orishas.You are not initiated and have no Orisha pots.You have no Orisha and this is the issue.
    Pick up the book Santeria Enthroned.This is a scholorly explaination of our initiations, initiates,and religion. It will explain the history of this religion. Aleyos do not the same power as an initiated Olorisha.Aleyos do not invoke Orisha or know the mysteries. A book cannot help you. Its an oral tradition you learn from ceremonies only the initiated have access to.

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    1. I also wanted to state that our initiatians are long, tedious, in depth, and beautiful. Nothing is thrown together. If you go to Yoruba land the ceremony done in Cuba only differs 10% after 400 years of slavery. Slaves who came to Cuba had to validate their initiation once the religion started thriving in Cuba.This is a living, breathing religion. It it not Burger King where anyone can have it their way. Many Olorisha have sacrificed, studied, worked in Ocha rooms harder than aleyo will know or understand. This religion is blood, sweat, and tears literally! So yes its quite funny for others to sell Orisha products or claim to have access to Orisha.

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  6. I've been very disappointed in the few well known Santero's and Hoodoo practicioners who have "called you out" for selling what you sell. I've always intuitively felt you were genuine and had a genuine connection to these various spirits. I honestly think some folks have been biased against you because you look white, even though you have mixed heritage. I myself am totally European heritage, yet I had a reading by a well known and respected initiated Tata in the Palo tradition, who said I should get initiated in Palo. And, I definitely have no African or Latino heritage. But, Palo it's the right path for my soul. I haven't reached out to the Palo community to enquire about initiation yet, however, I suspect I'll receive lots of crap from others in the Palo faith, as I'm white.

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