Where Worlds Collide…
Our ancestors had to mask our traditions when they came to the “New World.” They were a
precious commodity to the slave masters who did not want any traditional belief systems to get in the way of their new acquisition, therefore, they did not allow slaves to practice their own religions for fear that it might incite them to rebel. In Latin America and the Caribbean, it was a little easier for the slaves to integrate their traditions into their everyday life because the slave masters were more lenient and allowed them the time for prayer. The slaves took advantage of this by syncretizing the Orishas with the Catholic Saints. That is something that would prove to be difficult in the States because the slave masters were not only more brutal here than anywhere else in the world but they also didn’t practice Catholicism as widespread as many other places, they were mainly Protestants which is a whole different ball game.
Now, let’s fast forward to the present. We live in a time in which we still feel the effects of
slavery and some may even argue that we are still slaves to the system. The Western World
hasn’t been so kind to us and we have had to shift and adapt our way of life in order to survive. One way that we have done that is by still using caution when it comes to our traditional beliefs and practices. Although, we have seen a tremendous gravitation of people to African spirituality in recent years, there is still the need to protect it and keep its secrets close to our hearts.
I have experienced much when it comes to the intersection of Western Society and Eastern
Beliefs. It has been very interesting to say the least. I remember when I was initiated to Obatala back in 2011, the year of wearing white caused quite a stir at my place of employment. Everybody wanted to know why I wore white all the time and that was in a healthcare facility. It was amazing how wearing white scrubs could cause so much discussion in a field that used to require white uniforms. I’ve had people come up to me and try to analyze my physical body while I was at work….as if they were looking for something to be revealed to them. A shocking event even occurred while I was at work one particular day that caught me off guard. A white coworker of mine who discovered that I was initiated into the tradition came up to me and said, “Are you not speaking to me because you think that I am a devil?’’ Now, I never once treated her in a way that was less than respectful but she had been going through some mental health issues that led to some erratic behavior and had distanced herself from me so I gave her space to deal with it. It’s funny how people can take their own actions and then transpose them onto others.
Dealing with family was also a unique experience during my early days as an Orisha Worshiper and Initiate. There were some rumors that came back to me by a third party individual and I thought to myself….”Wow, I didn’t know that my family had these feelings about my beliefs.”
But what I came to realize is that it takes time for people to adjust and many times they come
around and see your perspective. It is not easy being the first person in the family to adopt a
belief system that isn’t initially understood and has been generations removed. But one thing you will see is that when people see your growth they become curious and when they run into hard times you will become the place of refuge for them. Family will start to turn to you for the answers they need to solve their problems.
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