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1 THE OGBO CONNECTION: TRANSNATIONAL IDENTITIES, MODERNITY AND WORLD VIEW OF YORUBA AMERICANS IN SHELDON, SOUTH CAROLINA AND ALACHUA COUNTY, FLORIDA By AJANI ADE OFUNNIYIN A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLOR IDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2008
2 2008 Ajani Ade Ofunniyin
3 To My Mother Frances Elizabeth Porsche and My daughters, Nzinga, Bababi, Abeni, and Olabisi and Dr. Jacqueline Peterson
4 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Firstly, I would like to thank God and the spirit s of my ancestors for all of the blessings that have been bestowed upon m e in my lifetime and through this process. I thank my family for their continued love, support, and encouragement. I thank Dr. Allan Burns, Department of Anthropology University of Florid a for recognizing my commitment to what turned out to be an arduous task and for his willingness to serve as my advisor and Chair of my committee. He was always available for discussions and encouragem ent. I thank Dr. Robin Poynor, University of Florida Department of Art, for giving my academic interest direction and focus and for partnering with me on many memorable projects. While Dr. Poynor did not chair my dissertation committee, he was the member that I interacted with the most on several projects and who shared my interest in Yoruba communities in Florida and Sheldon, South Carolina. I also thank my committee members whose editorial recommendations and suggestions challenged me to make this a better dissertation: Dr. Faye Harrison, Anthropology Department, University of Florida and Dr. Vicki Rovine, Department of Art History, University of Florida. My attendance and research at the University of Florida would not have been possible without the funding that I received from the Ce nter for African Studies (FLAS Fellowships), under the leadership of Dr. Mi chael Chege and Leo Villianon, Florida Education Fund (FEF) McKnight Fellowship, the University of Florida Graduate School Gwendolyn Auzenne Fellowship, and a Fulbright-Hayes GPA fellowship. I thank the leadership and staff at these funding sources for their generous support of my graduate studies and field work. I am deeply grateful to the communities in which I conducted my field research. I offer a special thank you to Ifyem Elebuibon and his family in sogbo, Nigeria and to the Adediran family in Il-Ife, Nigeria, for their warm hospita lity and generosity. I also would like to thank my family and friends in ytnj African Village and in Alachua County Florida. Finally, I would
5 like to thank Yomi Yomi Awolowo, Dr. Kamari M. Clarke, Yale Un iversity and Dr. Robert Hall, Northeastern University, for encouraging me to return to graduate school for a Ph.D.
6 TABLE OF CONTENTS Page ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS.............................................................................................................4 GLOSSARY..................................................................................................................................13 ABSTRACT...................................................................................................................................18 CHAPTER 1 THE REINVENTION OF CULTURAL NATI ONALISM................................................. 22 Research Purpose/Objective...................................................................................................24 The Connector........................................................................................................................26 The Network...........................................................................................................................30 Self as Meaning and Self as a Site for Exploration................................................................ 39 Santeria in Harlem............................................................................................................. .....40 First Nigerian Experience.......................................................................................................51 Methodology and a Model for Examining If / rsVoodoo/Santeria Practices and Conducting Visual Ethn ographic Research........................................................................ 56 Ethnographic Bridges........................................................................................................... ..57 Front-Door Ethnography........................................................................................................ 61 Historical Overview............................................................................................................ ....66 2 MAGIC, IMAGINATION, AND MYTHOLOGY................................................................ 72 ytnj African Village and rs Vodoo in the USA........................................................72 Recasting Worshipping Practices...........................................................................................77 Growth and Conflict...............................................................................................................81 rs Conferences: Sites for the Shap ing and Renewal of Collective Memory.................... 83 3 CULTURAL PLURALISMS AND PARAMETERS.......................................................... 109 African Religion and the Media...........................................................................................109 Locating Visual Documentation...........................................................................................110 Elitism vs. Nationalism: Who Determines Traditions? ........................................................113 Three yws Pilgrimage, Rituals, and Kismetics................................................................ 115 A Lucumi initiation............................................................................................................ ...131 4 SACRED MILIEUS, TIME, AND INTERVENTION........................................................ 150 Spirituality vs. Religiosity................................................................................................... .150 ogbo Revisited: A Life with the Gods .............................................................................159 A Life with the Gods............................................................................................................171 Connections..........................................................................................................................177 Diviners Training................................................................................................................180 Additional Connections........................................................................................................ 181
7 The Kings Demise.............................................................................................................. .184 K W Kbys : the Making of ng................................................................................ 186 Day 1 of ng Initiation...................................................................................................... 189 Day 2 of ng Initiation...................................................................................................... 199 Day 3 of ng Initiation...................................................................................................... 205 Epilogue: Archiving the Sacr ed through Intervention.......................................................... 254 BIBLIOGRAPHY........................................................................................................................263 SELECTED FILMOGRAPHY....................................................................................................276 SELECTED DISCOGRAPHY....................................................................................................277 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH.......................................................................................................281
8 LIST OF FIGURES Figure page 1-1 Billboard advertising cell phones.......................................................................................701-2 Cell Tell retail outlet fo r cell phones and SIM cards, ogbo..........................................701-3 Nigerian Scam letter Sample............................................................................................. 712-1 The Old ytnj African Village Roadside Sign ............................................................ 882-2 The New ytnj African Village Roadside Sign .......................................................... 882-3 Raising Village Flag .........................................................................................................892-4 Adefunmi I and rsm ola Awolowo in Harlem............................................................... 902-5 Mama Keke, Queen Mother Moore, Efuntola, Sunta........................................................ 912-6 Chief rsmola Awolowothe first Alagba of ytnj African Village...................... 922-7 Efuntola Adefunmi I w ith Staff of Authority.................................................................... 932-8 ytnj Bt Drummers...................................................................................................942-9 ytnj African Village Egngn Seated in chairs ......................................................... 952-10 ytnj African Village Egngn dancing ..................................................................... 952-11 Chief Alagba in front of ng Temple, y tnj African Village ..................................... 962-12 Chief Alagba Chanting to Egngn, ytnj African Village ........................................972-13 ytnj Egngn dancing ...............................................................................................972-14 ytnj African Village adherent s and guests saluting Egngns .................................. 982-15 HRH Prince Ad blu and HRG Odfunda at Fune ral Rites for Adefunmi I, ytnj African Village ..................................................................................................................982-16 ytnj African Village un Temple ...........................................................................992-17 Statue representing un in front of un Temple, ytnj African Village ................ 992-18 Adefunmis casket draped with ytnj State Flag, ytnj African Village ............1002-19 Royal family in attendance at Funeral of Adefunmi I, y tnj African Village .......... 1002-20 Offerings placed in front of HRH Adefunmi I Casket, ytnj African Village .........101
9 2-21 Iconography attached to Royal Mausoleum.................................................................... 1022-22 Front View of Ad efunmis Mausoleum, y tnj African Village ................................ 1032-23 rsmola Awolowos Burial Site .................................................................................. 1032-24 HRH Adefunmi II Stands before the Kingdom at Coronation. Note the Beaded crown, Cane, and Horsetail whisk, ytnj African Village ........................................ 1042-25 HRH Adefunmi II with royal family, ytnj African Village ....................................1052-26 ba in the person of btl, y tnj African Village.................................................1052-27 Adefunmi II seated before his kingdom for the first time, ytnj African Village ....1062-28 Adefunmi II dances w ith villagers and guest, ytnj African Village .......................1062-29 HRG y ba Odfunda celebrates with villagers and guest at coronation, ytnj African Village ................................................................................................................1072-30 gbni Society Members, ytnj African Village .....................................................1072-31 yw Saluting y tnj African Village ...............................................................1082-32 ya Cult Women, y tnj African Village ..................................................................1083-1 Posters of Films................................................................................................................1373-2 Kunta Kinte of Alex Haleys Roots Film........................................................................ 1383-3 Ap t b escorting Three yws from spiritu al bath at Compound Iflola, Archer ....... 1393-4 Three yws with agogos (bells) at Compound Iflola, Archer, Florida ...................... 1403-5 Ifyemi preparing rs objects, Archer, Florida ............................................................ 1413-6 Ifyemi divining for yw at Compound Iflola, Archer, Florida ................................ 1423-7 Divination tray and b tray, Archer, Florida ................................................................. 1433-8 Preparing at Compound Iflola, Archer, Florida....................................................... 1443-9 Vessels for rs objects for three y w initiation, Compound Iflola, Archer, Florida ....................................................................................................................... ......1453-10 yw ytnj African Village .............................................................................1463-11 Two un and one ng initiates from the USA in Ab eokuta, Nigeria. Note yws holding pigeons that are to be sacrificed as an offering ..................................................147
10 3-12 rs objects, Abeokuta, Nigeria ..................................................................................... 1483-13 Bowls with rs objec ts, Abeokuta, Nigeria .................................................................. 1483-14 un yw presenting pigs head b to gn, Abeokuta, Nigeria ............................. 1494-1 Ifyemi greeting guest at OAU conference..................................................................... 2204-2 Signpost identifying Elebuibon Street, ogbo ..............................................................2214-3 Strolling down Elebuibon Street .....................................................................................2214-5 Doorway to Elebuibons Temple .................................................................................... 2224-6 Side view of Elebuibons compound ..............................................................................2224-7 Front gate to Elebuibons compound ..............................................................................2234-8 Inside wall panel at El ebuibons compound depicting story of ancestor Timis arrival at ogbo with elephant .................................................................................................2234-9 Another inside wall panel at Elebuibons compound depicting the same legend of Timis arrival into ogbo with elephant ....................................................................... 2244-10 If initiation at Elebuibons compound........................................................................... 2244-11 Shaving of the head before ng initiation ...................................................................2254-12 Ade with newly made on top of his head ................................................................. 2254-13 y ng carrying vessel to nearby b ody of water for yws bath............................... 2264-14 yw carrying vessel on retu rn trip from body of water................................................ 2264-15 Bt drummers perfor ming and yw dancing for ng..............................................2274-16 Bt Drums used in Sangodahunsis initiation................................................................ 2274-17 Sangodahunsis head being dressed after spiritual bath.................................................. 2284-18 Herbs for washings objects and bathing yw during initiation....................................2284-19 Herbs in Mortar........................................................................................................... .....2294-20 Sacrificial food for ng at Sangodahunsis initiation, 2007........................................ 2294-21 shrine at Elebuibons compound..............................................................................2304-22 Ifdapo divining for client...............................................................................................230
11 4-23 Ifdapo with his client Dola eating medicine.................................................................. 2314-24 Jjl at chieft aincy Installation, Ifonun...................................................................2314-25 rsnla and Priests of Ifonun.................................................................................... 2324-26 Drummers for Egngn Masquerade, Orolu Ifon ........................................................... 2324-27 Egngn Masquerade, Orolu Ifon I................................................................................. 2334-28 Egngn Masquerade, Orolu Ifon II................................................................................ 2334-29 Egngn Masquerade, Orolu Ifon III............................................................................... 2344-30 Egngn Masquerade, Orolu Ifon IV.............................................................................. 2354-31 Egngn Masquerade, Orolu Ifon V................................................................................ 2364-32 Adefunmi I, ytnj African Village............................................................................. 2374-33 ba rstoyinbo II, Ifonun.......................................................................................2374-34 t ja, ba Iyiola Oyewale Matanmi III of ogbo at 2007 un ogbo Festival.... 2384-35 ba rstoyinbo receiving books for th e library from Jjl in 2007...........................2394-36 Entranceway to bafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife................................................... 2404-37 Poster of Susanne Wenger (Adunni) locat ed at the front entrance of her home.............. 2404-38 An example of Sacred Artists ar twork forms a fence around Wengers home............... 2414-39 Figures on fence represent the egngn of a local prominent family.............................. 2414-40 One of the New Sacred Art Artist, Buraimoh Gbadamosi. This artist created the stone sculpture that is in Wengers yar d. His workshop and residence is adjacent Wengers home................................................................................................................2424-41 Sacred Artists Buraimoh Gbadamosis Sculpture on Front Porch of Wengers home.... 2424-42 Midtown in Il-Ife........................................................................................................ ....2434-43 Bell found at un Grove, ogbo.................................................................................2434-44 rb of ogbo and his grandson..................................................................................2444-45 If Temple, ogbo.........................................................................................................2444-46 If priests inside of If Temple, ogbo.........................................................................245
12 4-47 mound i n front of If Temple, ogbo.....................................................................2454-48 Children at If Temple, ogbo I, 2007..........................................................................2464-49 Children at If Temple, ogbo II, 2007.........................................................................2464-50 Stove Used for cooking medicine.................................................................................... 2474-51 Another stove used for cooking medicine at Elebuibons compound............................. 2474-52 Babalwo preparing medicine for client at Elebuibons compound, 2007...................... 2484-53 Client fanning the flames for charcoal stove at Elebuibons........................................... 2484-54 Stone utensils used for pounding and grinding medicine................................................2494-55 Herbs to be used in medicine on pounding stone............................................................ 2494-56 Babalwo removing feathers from bir d. The bird will be charred and used in medicine...........................................................................................................................2504-57 Babalwo Kneading herbal compound. The finished product will be added to medicine...........................................................................................................................2504-58 un Priestess dancing before procession at un ogbo Festival 2007..................... 2514-59 The votary maid carrying the sacrifice with other un Priestesses before leaving for the river at un ogbo Festival 2007..........................................................................2514-60 Doyin (right) and another un priestess at the front of procession at un ogbo Festival 2007....................................................................................................................2524-62 un priestess dancing for the t ja of ogbo at un ogbo Festival 2007.........253
13 GLOSSARY Aaje Head of all Obtl priests. bk Born to die, a child that dies and returns to the same mother. b r b y The greeting at the house of an If priest: May the sacrifice be accepted. dm Something that you hold on to. Agbigba Another If divination system. Popular in Ekitiland Agogo Bell; time, clock, watch, wristwatch; hour. j Witch, sorceress. gbn The one that takes you into Ifs grove lf Peace, well being. Ap t b The person that cured her mothers lepros y; title given to all If priests wives. rb Spiritual Leader of babalwos. Ar run Egngn. Command, authority, power to make things happen, for good or for bad, the inherent power that re sides in all things. As r day Another oriki for rnmla. t ja Paramount ruler of ogbo, Capital of un State, Nigeria. w e Traditional title, th e one that speaks the Bb Father. Babalwo If priest, father of secrets. Babal A Yoruba male priest. Bt drum The three sacred drums that are used in important ceremonies and to whom the newly initiated are presented. Th ey are divine and belong to Sango. The music produced by this drum. Bembe A drum festival accompanied by sing ing and dancing, during which the rss incarnate in believers and dance with them.
14 Botanica A store where religious items are so ld. Botanicas originally were stores that specialized in herbs and natural medi cines and which were opened in the United States by Puerto Ricans. Cuban exiles transformed botanicas into stores catering primarily to Sant erian customers. There they sell nonconsecrated ritual objects, images, b eads, and even animals for sacrificial purposes. Candomble Afro-Brazilian religion having Yoru ba origins and focused on the worship of many of the same deities; one of the source traditions for the Afro-Brazilian religion called Umbanda. Cowry Seashell once used as money. Dnsk African type of shirt, usually worn by men. b Sacrifice, propitiation, heali ng to all of mankinds problems. Egn Ancestral spirit, from eith er ritual or blood families. Egngn Ancestral spirit, a ghost masquerader. l d Creator, God; the spirit of an individual that resides in the physical head. l gb A deity in the Yoruba pantheon characterized as being mischievous. El rii-Ipin The witness of fate; a praise name for rnmla. m Life Breath, spirit. Sometimes called elegbara, the law enforcement agent. Eshu Same as HRG Her Royal Grace, the title of the wife of the king. HRH His Royal Highness, the kings title. bdn Yoruba city in y State, bdn. bor Cloth for covering the head; vi ctory (bori: to be victorious). I Ching Ancient Chinese divination system. If God of divination. Ifon un The name of the town that btl governs as king, th ere are two Ifons today, one at Owo in Ondo State, Ni geria. Another is at Erin un, near ogbo, Capital of un State, Nigeria.
15 Igb Forest, thick forest, grove. Ikn A sacred palm nut. Ikn If If palm nut. Il-Ife The city of Ife in un State, Nigeria. Il k A beaded necklace worn around the neck. p nr The back of your head. Ire Blessing. r k One of the If paraphernalia it is used to tap the If tray during the divination process. Ita The ceremony when the rs speaks to the newly initiated adherent; a divination ceremony whose results are considered to reve al the destiny of the individual. yl A Yoruba female priest (ylr y oloriya). yw Wife, bride, any married woman, newly initiated person. yw If A wife of an If priest; a newly initiated pers on is also called yw If. ynf A woman who studies the art a nd practice of If; a woman who has knowledge of If. Jjl Light complexioned woman. Jj Talisman or charm. K abys A Yoruba salutation to a king. Lucumi (Lukumi) From Oluku mi, my friend. Now used to mean the Yoruba in the diaspora; the liturgical language used in Santer ia with origins in the West African Language Yoruba; comes from the Af ro-Cuban ethnic identification for people and cultural elements tracing thei r roots to the region in Africa where Yorubaspeaking people live or lived. M rndlgn Divination with sixteen cowry shells. ba King Obtl A Yoruba deity celebrated in ytnj as its patron. Ob Kolanut or in Santeria a coconut.
16 Ocha This name is given to the re ligion of the Orichas or Santeria. Od The information that is revealed when If is consulted. Od If If scriptures which contains 256 chapters with numerous verses. The word of God sent to rnmla. Odduw The progenitor of Yoruba people. gbm gbni Elders that form a committee to disc uss affairs of a society, sometimes called a secret society. gn God of iron, patron of al l metal, iron and technology. Oggun Santeria spelling for gn. jji Shadow. j s The week day of If. Okara b To know how to make a sacrifice. Olod Those who are the priests of the Ki ng, regarded as supreme, but one proverb says that, both Elegan and Olod belong to the same ancestor. Olofin Otherwise known as Od, forbidden by a woman to see or receive as rs; otherwise known as Ajalay e, the King of Il-Ife. Olkn A deity in the Yoruba pantheon usually characterized as the god of the depths of the ocean. Olr rs Priest l orun Owner of heaven; one of the names given to the High God who created the earth. Oldmr Almighty God, also known as l orun. Omi Water. Omi r Water of remedy; a mixture of herbal pr eparations made for different rss. Oriate The diviner who performs the ita. Oricha Divinity, Supernatural force. The term is derived from the Yoruban rs. Ork Praise names of ancestral lineage poetry.
17 rs A Yoruba divinity or sacred object of worship. rsnl The same as btl. rs-Voodoo rnmla Ancient prophet, from heaven, he knows that will be safe in their lives. ogbo Capital city of un State un Water spirit, prominently worshipped at ogbo and many other places in Brazil, USA, and the Caribbean. un State pn If Divination board used to consult If. ya The wind, deified wife of ng. ynb Commonly used to mean the white man or foreigner. ytnj The Yoruba town in Sheldon, South Carolina. Pilon The mortar of ng that is used as a ritual stool in initiations of virtually all the rss except the Warriors, who use large stones or tree trunks. Regla de Ocha An Afro-Cuban religion with its primary origins in Yo ruba-speaking cultures in West Africa; also called Santeria; rules of the Santeria. ng The god of thunder and lightning, the perfect judge. Santeria An Afro-Cuban reli gion with its primary origins in Yoruba-speaking cultures in West Africa. Xango Same as ng. Yoruba A linguistic and ethnic identity popula rly identified as havi ng origins in the Southwestern part of Nigeria.
18 Abstract of Dissertation Pres ented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy THE OGBO CONNECTION: TRANSNATIONA L IDENTITIES, MODERNITY AND WORLD VIEW OF YORUBA AMERICANS IN SHELDON, SOUTH CAROLINA AND ALACHUA COUNTY, FLORIDA, USA By Ajani Ade Ofunniyin May 2008 Chair: Allan R. Burns Major: Anthropology Since the 1960s African Americans, Latinos, and Caucasian Americans have been traveling abroad to Africa, Sout h America, Haiti, and the Cari bbean Islands, in search of connections to African roots. Along the way many have turned to and acc epted alternative forms of religious practice. Some of these practices combine religi on, politics, and nationalism. The groups and individuals that I examined in Florida, South Carolina, and in ogbo, represent a small sampling of such practitioners. In their search for religious, cu ltural, and spiritual development, the practitioners that I examined have turned to the rs and If worshipping traditions of Yorubaland. This study is largely ethnogra phic and I situate myself as integral to the ethnography. I have been a practitioner of Yoruba Religion for nearly thirty years in the United States and have witnessed many changes in the religious and cultural practices as well as changes in the leadership. Many things have changed and information is more readily available due to internet access and a blitz of published materials produced by academics and practitioners. Some of the alterations have been the result of itinerant priests and priestesses visi ting or taking up residency
19 in the United States and African Americans tr aveling to Yorubaland, Caribbean Islands, and South America, to be initiated into rs societies. My research is a study of former y tnj residents, now residing in Alachua County, Florida, who are also practitioners that traveled to ogbo, un State, in Yorubaland to be initiated into rs societies and trained to work as priests and babalwos. It is also an examination of individuals that were instrumental in the development of ytnj Village, the Alachua County community, and what I call The ogbo Connection. As a part of the Yoruba revitalization movement, that began in the 1960s to reconnect African Americans to Yoruba religious and cultural practices in Yorubaland, these practitioners have rejected many of the Cuban originated Santeria/Lucumi practices and have turned to ogbo for spiritual guidance and leadership. I examine the ways that these prac titioners engage in Yor uba initiation rites in ytnj Village, Alachua County, and in ogbo. My research was privileged by my thirty year membership in the Yoruba American community and my relationship with Ifyemi Elebuibon in ogbo. With my insider credentials I was able to videotape and photograph rarely documented ritual s, ceremonies, sacred sites, objects, and discussions. I also uncovered severa l photographs during archival research and from informants personal collections. I have in cluded many of the photographs within this dissertation and a video documenting my research will be available at a future date. The photographs and video are intended to provide vi sual content that will demonstrate what has gone on in the past 30 years as well as what is happening at presen t in the researched communities. In several instances throughout my research I relinquished my role as investigator and participated in rituals and ceremonies as a prac titioner. During other times the roles became so
20 blurred until the distinctions became unclear. So wh ile this research is a quest into the religious practices of my communit y, it is at the same time a self por trait of a practitioner and proponent of Yoruba religious practices in the diaspora. In my interest in demonstrating Yoruba in itiation rites I have chosen to discuss an initiation in Alachua County of thre e women and my own initiation is ogbo. The initiation of the three women was performed by Ifyemi Elebuibon and his cadre of student babalwos in Florida and my ogbo initiation was conducted by members of his extended family. These initiations are not intended to be representa tive of all the ways th at initiations are done throughout Yorubaland or the Yoruba diaspora. The three womens initiations marked their en try into the orisa priesthood and connected each of them to Ifayemi Elebuibons ogbo community. The initiation and training that they must pursue also entitle each of them to acce ss to priestly knowledge and insights and the authority to participate in select priestly activities. Af ter training each of them should be able to conduct divination sessions and serv e others who may be interested in orisa practices. However, many people who are initiated are not trained an d do not serve or function in the priesthood. While it is my hope that my research topic adds to the current academic discourse about If/rs practices in the diaspora, it is also my hope that those outside of the academy will find direction and light as they em bark on their own journeys towards understanding the ways of the rs My goal in conducting and discussing my res earch was to add to the tremendous body of work, concerning rs that is currently underway. Fi nally, it is my hope that my observations as practitioner and scholar will provide an additional vantage point for viewing and understanding
21 some of the developments and connections that has taken root in orisa communities throughout the rs diaspora.
22 CHAPTER 1 THE REINVENTION OF CULTURAL NATIONALISM The world outside of Africa still has to wake up to the fact th at African traditional religion is the religion which resulted from the sustai ning faith held by the forbears of the present Africans, which is being practiced today by th e majority of Africans in various forms and various shades and intensities, nakedly in most c s; but also, in some cases under the veneer supplied by Westernism and Arabism; it is also a religion whic h is receiving a new vitality in certain areas in consequence of nationalism plus inspiration by other religions. (Idowu 1991: x) Over the past thirty years a substantial num ber of scholarly, profe ssional and middle class African Americans, Puerto Ricans, Jamaicans, Cubans, Brazilians, Australians, and Venezuelans have traveled to ogbo, un State, Nigeria, to be initiated into If or rs worshipping sects by Chief Ifyemi Elebuibon and his cadre of babalwos (If priests) and rs Priest associates Many of these sojourners to Elebuibons compound/temple are priests/priestesses and/or practitioners of one of the several types of di aspora rs/ If worshipping traditions. At the compound/temple several of his sons are babalwos in the making and work with him during initiations and other cultural-re ligious services. His wives and daughters are also initiates and serve in various official and supportive capacities during rituals, ceremonies, and festivals. The growing interest in Yoruba derived religious practices vis--vis rs-Voodoo and other traditional African derived religions in the United Stat es reflect a trend that has been emerging since the early 1960s. This trend emerged during the wake of the political and cultural activism that was associated with the civil rights movement, the rise of Black/Cultural Nationalism, and the widespread commodificati on and commercialization of items/ideas that represented black pride or Africaness. While it can be said that the development of these trends were an outgrowth of the PanAfrican movement of an earlier period, their proliferation and widespread acceptance did not occur until they were supported and popularized by mainstream political, economic and capital
23 interest. When entrepreneurs with financial intere sts and capital realized that substantial profits could be made through marketing ideas and pr odcts associated with blackness (cultural nationalism, black politics), black power themes became acceptable and was incorporated into popular music, films, literature, and a large mixture of commercial products. The broad appeal for the consumption of cultural knowledge a nd ideas was converted into schemes for pr odction and promotion and quickly became viable econo mic resources for individual entrepreneurs, visual and performing artists, and several mainstr eam corporations. During this period it became fashionable to wear an Afro ha irstyle or African styled clothing and sing songs that promoted pride in blackness. The late song writer, entrepreneur and pr oducer, James Brown was emerging in popularity and his h it song pronouncing the words, S ay it loud, Im black and Im proud could be heard blaring l oudly from record players a nd juke-boxes throughout African American communities, all across the world, and in many African countries. Although ideas about African and African Amer ican culture-production and black/cultural nationalism within the USA evolved from the botto m-up, within grassroots cultural/ political and performance groups, these ideas quickly took root a nd were transformed into commercial entities and products that were then mass-produced and devised to aestheticise and popularize concepts that became associated with blackness, African and African American heritage, and African derived religious practices. Three popular West African influenced religi ous groups that devel oped in the USA during this period were the late Oseigeman Adefunmis rs-voodoo, the late Nana Dinizulus Akan Society, and a new group, Ausar Auset Society, founded by Ra Un Nefer Amen. This group was founded in 1973 and is based in Brooklyn, New York, w ith chapters in several major cities in the United States as well as internationally. The organization was created to provide members a
24 social network through which the kimetic spiritual way of life could be observed. The practitioners syncretize aspects of Egyptian cosmology with orisa trad itions. Although members from these groups have migrated within and throughout the United States, each of the groups was founded in Harlem and Queens in New York. As a consequence of these developments and the intermingling of group members, religious knowledge and customs that were once considered to be secret and sacred within the If/rs-voodoo and Santeria circle s are now available to consumer s who can afford the cost of conferences, the many monographs written about the subject, initiation fees airline tickets to Nigeria or Ghana, West Africa, and/or Internet access. Cuba, Brazil, Trinidad, Puerto Rico, and Haiti are also sites that are frequented by many w ho are interested in gaining insight into the practices of these reli gious/cultural groups. Research Purpose/Objective This study examines current trends in fluencing If /rs-Voodoo and Santeria religious/worshipping practices in the United States from 1980 to the present. These emerging trends provide insights into how communities ar e developing localized histories and syncretic reconfigurations that are occurring within Yoru ba cultural/religious revi valist communities. They also signal various types of cu lture-production, and reflect processe s of cultural change that can be observed in the present and over the very r ecent past (Brandon 1993: 2). My research is principally qualitative and ethnographic. I am inte rested in investigating how adherents of these religious traditions are re sponding to processes that result from transnational movements, shifts in worshipping trends, ethos and customs, and th e alteration of socio-cu ltural nuances within their religious practices. I am interested in how these trend and processes influence the lived experiences, (socio-economics, environmen tal and bodily aesthetics, movements and interactions) of If /rs-voodoo and Santeria practitioners from Sheldon, South Carolina and
25 Alachua County, Florida. Because members from these communities have family members that have moved to other locale and into what Kamari Clarke (2004:4), has te rmed deterritorialized spaces, my research will include examining cultural/religious trend shifts within newly developed communities, that trace their roots back to ytnj African Village: African Theological Archministry and have also connected with Elebuibons ogbo community. Clarke (2004:2) writes, Understanding the making of transnational communities involves understanding how local communities are embedded in circuits of connections. Our ability to chart communities involves our ability to unders tand how peoples networks are both historically shaped and institutionally legitimated a nd globally interconnected (Clarke 2004:3). Towards my interest in demonstrating the global connectedness of these communities, my research will also focus on the strategies of Chief Ifyemi Elebuibon, a Nigerian born Yoruba If priest, and his involvement in a cultural-religious movement that has captured the attention of American and international sc holars and If/rs-voodoo/Santer ia practitioners. This new movement has as its aim the revival, reformati on, and promotion of traditional Yoruba culturalreligious practices and has se rved to connect residents of North Central Florida with Elebuibon in Nigeria and with other adherents from the Yo ruba diaspora. The study will explore the history development of Alachua County, Florida, residents and their connection to ytnj African Village in South Carolina and E lebuibons ogbo community. It will document the rationales and circumstances under which African Americans are making pilgrimages to ogbo, to be initiated into If/rs cultural and religious trad itions and how Elebuibons visit to the compounds of his Florida adherents is continuous ly expanding his network of internationally b d priests and babalwos. It will examine how ogbo ideology and traditions are becoming conterminous with or in some instances are displacing cultural-religious views that were
26 formerly held by these adherents. I also examin e how these transnationalists who have gained access to the ogbo community are affecting ogbo residents. The Connector In July 1998 Chief Ifyemi visited Ar cher, Florida, as the guest of Bb Onabamiero Ogunleye and Botanica Ifll. This event was co-sponsored by Ifa Culture Center in Meddletonville, North Carolina and Mahogany Revue Foundation, a Central Florida African American newspaper. At a naming ceremony for one of Onabamieros daughters, Chief Ifyemi lectured on traditional African Culture. The di scussion topics ranged from rites of passage, ancestral worship, destiny, and divination. Dancing, drumming, and story telling followed the lecture. During November 2002 Chief Ifyemi returned to Archer as a part of his North American circuit. Onabamiero Ogunleye arranged the visit to enable family members, adherents and clients to perform specialized rituals wi th a more experienced babalwo and to be a planning session for a more extensive visit to the area by Chief Ifyemi. Ifyemi remained in the Archer area for about five days and performed Ifa consultations and r ituals for twenty-two people, including a toddler, two teenagers, and seve ral adolescents and adults. Th e population serviced was from different ethnicities, genders, and nationaliti es, including white and black Cubans, a Jamaican, and African Americans. Three USA based baba lwos that were initiated at Ifyemis ogbo compound are being trained by him and assisted with the rituals. Ifyemi Elebuibon is without question the most popular and sought after babalwo of this era. Chief Ifyemi Elebuibon is an international religious-cultural broker that is involved in a number of intriguing projects. He is the w e (chief If priest) of ogbo, un State, Nigeria, where he resides on a family compound with his extended family, several tenants, and a group of
27 worshippers. Also situated on the compound are an If temple, a cultural center, and a now defunct Botanica that once sp ecialized in religious paraphernalia and other Yoruba gift items. The gift items and botanical products are currently being marketed by Ifyemis third wife, Mama Ll at her shop in the town of ogbo, and are generally sold to visitors and guests. Elebuibon practices traditional If rites, such as divination, initiation, traditional medicine, and sacrifices. He negotiates his practices on mu ltiple continents (Africa, Europe, North and South America) and in several c ountries (Nigeria, USA, Cuba, Br azil, and Venezuela). He is a celebrated authority on Yoruba cult ure and traditions. His relationshi p with If traditions in Cuba dates back to the late 1970s, wh en he initiated three white Cuba ns as babalwos in ceremonies unprecedented outside the African-American pipelin e, in which a group of Yoruba and CubanAmerican babalwos worked together (Brown 2003:94). Ifyemi in a 2005 interview remembered this experience as troubling and controversial. The controversy was largely centered on the fact that Ifyemi initiated women into the mysteries of If, including a Jewish-A merican by the name of Patri DhaIf in New York (Brown 2003: 96). These views about wo mens engagement in If traditions contrast with what is practiced in Nigeria. Susanne Wenger writes, Wom en may be initiated into the cult and recite od, but cannot perform divination for others, since they are not al lowed to enter the If grove, because the transcendental fo rces of If are inseparable from oro (Wenger 1983:76).1 Cubans likewise held the position that wo men could not be initiated to If. However, in September 2007, a Cuban woman was initiated to If in Miami, Florida. It is sp eculated that several more Cuban women are in line to become ynifs. 1 Susanne Wenger was born in 1914, in Graz, Austria. Her lifes work has been donated to the people of Nigeria. She was very instrumental in salvaging important rs groves that were faced with destruction and deterioration. She is a priestess in the cult of btl and resides in ogbo, un State. She is known by the name Adunni Olr
28 Ifyemi also stated that the Cubans advise d him against traveling to New York City to work with a group of black Yoruba Americans. According to Ifyemi, the Cuban group offered him a substantial sum of money and to build him a home for his family, if he remained in Miami. He declined the offer and went to meet with his people in Harlem. Elebuibon stated that the Cuban priests that were hosting his trip to Miami did not want him to travel to Harlem in New York City. He claimed that the priests advised him that the blacks in New York were troublesome and that they did not understand the true meaning of the religion.2 However, despite those remarks, Ifyemi did venture to Harlem and met with several African American practitioners. The remarks made by the Cuban babalwos reflect the view that was then held by the Hispanic Santeria/Lucumi community towards Adefunmi I and a growing group of African Ameri can priests, who had determined to alter and adjust how the African gods/rs would be worshipped and represented.3 Elebuibon is the spiritual advisor to the National Black Th eater of Harlem in New York City and Wajumbe Cultural Institution in San Francisco. His travels ha ve taken him throughout Africa, Europe, the Far East, the United States and South America. He is an International Scholar-in-residence at San Fr ancisco State University. Elebuibon has established hubs throughout the USA that are connected to Yoruba religious and cultu ral centers in New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Atlanta, Ch arlotte, New Orleans, and in Hawthorne and Archer, Florida. These hubs are centers that ha ve been organized by his disciples; they are primarily used as spiritual and cultural sites, where Chief Ifyemi meets with and performs If divination, consultations and initia tions for clients and adherents. He has initiated and trained 2 Personal interview with Elebuibon 8/3/05 3 This was the period when Adefunmi was leaving New York for Sheldon, South Carolina, to establish y tnj African Village.
29 several men and women from these communities, who now work with him as apprentices, as priests/priestesses, babalwos, ap t b, and ynifs. These supporters sponsor and organize Elebuibons lectures and talks around the USA, manage his itiner ary and facilitate his meeting with clients. Elebuibon frequently travels from Ni geria to the USA to visit his supporters and to meet and service new clients. His associates of USA based If priests co llaborate with him to organize and perform rituals that promote identi ty and ideological tran sformations (rituals of change) in individual pract itioners and local groups. These ch anges and shifts are observable in how his followers construct their ritual environm ents, organize and perform rituals, and in the objects they select to represen t rs and ancestral spirits (egn). My research documents Elebuibons travels to the USA to initiate neophy tes and as a cultural-broker and advisor. Chief Elebuibon is a poet and founder of Artists Magazine (1997); he has written eight books, produced two videos, several CDs, produ ced and performed in a newly released docudrama, and has a popular program (If Olkun/As r day ) on Nigerian National Television, bdn. The television program presents the cosmology of Yoruba belief in Ifa and situates If traditions as practical for contemporary societie s. His textual and audio-visual materials are marketed to a large and growing population of priests/priestesse s and worshippers throughout the diaspora. Elebuibons written and visual ma terials deal primarily with Od If (If narratives) and rs principles and practices He is central in the current discourses and debates about new initiatives and directions in Yoruba cultural-reli gious traditions. He is the current candidate in line to succeed the existing rb of un State. This transition will occur at the death of the existing rb. Ifyemi is a quiet and patient man. He is partic ular about his diet a nd acutely allergic to dust and pollen. He is always dressed in traditio nal Yoruba clothes and wears a hearing aid. He
30 speaks fluent English and over th e years has acquired a remarkable understanding of the nuances of western culture. His books are written in English and are deliber ately designed to appeal to an English speaking audience. He is an entrepreneur and is aware of the interests and needs of the market that he services The Network Elebuibons international network is faci litated through his us e of m ass media and audiovisual aids to stay in t ouch with his new and increasing p opulation of subscribers. This technology includes computers for Internet/World Wide Web access and email, cell phones, fax machines, and video recording cameras and equi pment that are used to create professional documentary films. Elebuibon has developed both editi ng and publishing connections on the East and West Coast, of the USA. Elebuibon also does telephone consul tations and will consult with If for clients in their absence. 4 He generally requires that clients wire the fee prior to any work being done, the money is usually sent vi a Western Union. He will conduct the reading and perform the prescribed b. His preference is to perform the work in Nigeria. If he meets with a client at one of his hubs and the ingredients for the ritual are available the services will be rendered at the clients request. If the items ar e not available the work will be done upon his return to ogbo. Cell phone usage and long distance client/pri est relationships have become popular and have increased ogbos connectedness to the Yoruba diaspora. During my summer 2007 field visit to my ogbo site, I discovered that Elebuibons fa mily and several other priests and babalwos employ cell phones and the Internet as a major means of staying connected with clients, friends, and family. In fact, cell phone usage is rampant throughout Nigeria, albeit the 4 Elebubuion constantly uses his cell phone and has two phones that are constantly ringing, with clients from as far away as Europe and throughout the USA seeking a dvice and/or trying to schedule a consultation.
31 service is generally costly, inefficient, and unrelia ble. At the time of my visit there were three competing internet servers, Cell Tell, MTN, and GLO (Rule Your World). Many people owned and carried with them at least two phones, so that when one ne twork failed, they conveniently used their second phone. I was informed that some people owned as many as four phones. The alternative to carrying many phones is to have in your possession several SIM cards that can be switched out upon discovering that any given network is faulty or that credits have expired. Cell phone stations are posted throughout Ife and ogbo and along the roadsides in smaller towns. Cell phone stations are also used for local people who dont own their personal phone or that has run out of credits; the user is simply charged for the calls at a discounted rate. Additionally, some people prefer to use this me thod of cell phone usage because the rates are cheaper than using a personal phone. Phone card (r echarge cards) credits are similar to phone card minutes in the USA. Cell phone usage has revolutionized how local people communicate and conduct business with each other a nd have given priests at Elebuboins compound greater access to a nationwide and intern ational clientele. This new Internet and telecommunication access has changed perceptions of how rs prac tices are to be performed and have become central venues for discussions and contestations An unconfirmed estimate of current cell phone subscribers in Nigeria is approximately thirty million. 5 (See figures 1-2 and 1-3). Internet cafes and cable TV progr ams are also important to the ogbo community. I visited three Internet Cafs in ogbo and waited at least one hour each time I wanted to use a 5 This estimate of cell phone usage in Nigeria was provid ed during a personal interview with A. Adediran, DVC, Director of Linkages Program, and Professor of History at Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile Ife, Nigeria on 7/27/07
32 computer, while I watched young boys hover around computers, browsing voyeuristically, staring at photos of scantily dressed young white women, sending a nd replying to text messages. At one of the Internet Cafs that I frequent ed near Elebuibons compound, I requested that Ifdapo (one of Elebuibons sons) negotiate with the owner on my behalf to allow me to take photographs of the caf. The owner was initially very reluctant and suspicious. He remarked about possible implications. His concerns were caused by past experiences with authorities. According to Ifdapo, his shop had been invol ved in some illicit activities by Yahoo-Yahoo Boys. There currently exist a group of Internet us ers that are referred to in Nigeria as YahooYahoo boys. They are alleged to be Internet scam artists and con men. They generally target Europeans and Americans and engage them in money schemes. These illegal acts have been termed by Nigerians; they generally i nvolve activities that us ually end up with the European or American person being the victim of a scheme that required the transferal of large sums of money from their bank account. I freque ntly receive email inviting me to respond to some invitation to collect a larg e sum of money by agreeing to th e terms set forth. For the past three years I have been collecting those mails and saving them for future use in an article that I intend to write. (See figure 1-3 for an example of a scam letter). Every evening when there was not an electri cal power outage, I usually had the company of several young people at Elebuboins guest house, where I resided while doing my field work.6 They enjoyed popular cable broadcasted music shows, football (soccer), and movies. The favorite of most of the boys seemed to be mu sic videos with light skinned and long haired women. Beyonc, a very popular young female, African American singer, was by far the most 6 Power outages were frequent and residents generally appeared to be adapted to the routine of alternate availability times for different areas of the city. I was advised by my hos t that electricity was being sold to Ghana, a neighboring country.
33 popular. The clothing, hairst yles and imagery that are depicted in these programs are having a profound affect on the younger population of Nigeria. The affect is apparent on the campuses of Nigerian colleges and Universities and on the streets of Nigerian cities, towns, and villages Many young women prefer to wear Western styled clothing, have extensions or wigs on their heads and manicured fingernails Young men are beginning to wear their clothing in the sagging style and are beginning to refer to each other as n igga. Nigerias younger generation is being tantalized by the flashy hip-hop lifestyle and is assu ming values that are misplaced, misunderstood, and lacking in contextual accurac y. Western ideals are inva ding villages, towns, and larger metropolitan areas vi a television programming and the internet. The message that is apparently not being conveyed to young Nigerians is that, African Americans are now protesting against the types of programming that are be ing Broadcast by networks such as Black Entertainment Television (BET), some of the same programming that these young people are now beginning to celebrate and mimic. Cable and television networks that are looking to expand their viewing audiences into th e world-market are now reaching into Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Nigerias interest in modeling its fi lm and television programming in the likeness of Americas motion picture industr y is further evidenced by its use of the hybrid construct Nollywood, imitating USA Hollywoods film industry icon. These shifts reflect the power of the media to influence negative and narrowly focused imaginations. None of the programming that was being viewed reflected the current discussions that are occurring in U.S.A. African American communities that are dealing with this stereotypical and negative imager y. Additionally, this new imaging th at is taking place in Nigeria and other areas on the African continent is crea ting an opening for the wholesale marketing of Western clothing, cosmetics, and Western ideals. One day as I was walking across campus at
34 bafemi Awolowo University; I stopped and as ked a group of students, why they preferred wearing Western styled clothing. Th e reply that I got from two of the students was that Western clothing is more comfortable. Imagine that, something that is foreign and genuinely uncomfortable, because it is identified as si gnaling popular culture, is now more comfortable than what is native. What will be the cost to the younger generation of Nigerians who seem to be so willing to throw away their cultural aesthetics? How are these shifts in self perception and the incursion of Western values affecting the socia lization patterns of Ni gerias youth? What has been the response of government to Nigerias generation X and hip hop culture? George Brandon (2002: 163) wr ites about the employment of Internet technology by Priests and subscribers, The orisha have colo nized cyberspace. Curre ntly there are several hundred Internet sites that focus on vari ous aspects of If/rs-voodoo and Santeria traditions. Many of these sites represent commercial/entrepre neurial ventures that market a plethora of spiritual and secular products to an expanding multi-ethnic, multi-national, and international audience. Members from within these Internet networked religious, cult ural, and/or spiritual conclaves move across groups, practice multiple and intra-religi ous/spiritual traditions and incorporate Eastern and/or new -age philosophy and ideologies into their worship practices. There are commercial sites setup by religious products manufacturers, book dealers and authors, and the organizational sites of Orisha associations of priest and priestesses (Brandon 2002: 163). Both www.youtube.com and www.myspace.com are intern et sites th at are frequented by visitors searching for informati on about If/rs in the USA or from other areas of the rs diaspora. Visitors to these sites can view vide o clips of ceremonies from the USA, Nigeria, Brazil, Haiti, and Cuba. I recently visited myspace.com and viewed infomercials about ytnj
35 African Village, and ogbo, un State, Nigeria. I was also able to view and listen to a newly initiated un priestess as she elucidated aspects of her initiation in ogbo. The video clips provided footage of some of the ceremonial por tions of the initiation of a group of African American women to the goddess un and their trip to the un grove. The ytnj Village infomercial provided the space for two of y tnjs chiefs to discuss several of ytnjs current projects and to invite support and participation from the public. Entry into cyberspace has allowed priest and practitioners to have access to an international a udience of adherents, clients, and potential supporters. Viewers can also offer comments and/or participate in a network of bloggers. Website discussions posted on rs related site s frequently concern id eological and ritual matters, political issues, and private spiritual c ounseling sessions. Websites where identities can be masked by pseudonyms reveal indirectly some of the fault lines and strains of the social organization of a religious transmission that was primarily an oral tradition learned by direct apprenticeship to an elder (ibid). Clarke (2004:7-8) writes, The key players in the proliferation of rs practices in the Unite d States sport sites that not only produce knowledge about rs rules and practice, but provide services that can be procured and consumed Any approach to understanding the globalization of Yoruba religious practices not only must recognize the various geopolitical zones of inte raction within which these practi ces have taken shape: it must also examine new institutional mechanisms, propelled by electronic technologies, by which new forms of practices continue to change over time (ibid). The phenomenal increase in websites, altern ative publishing houses, published writers of books about If/rs practices, and the referenc ing of rs influenced concepts by popular
36 artists (musicians, film and visual artists) further substantiates th e publics ground-swelling interest in African base d religious practices. Public and professional users of the Internet have access to the flow of information and ideas in an unprecedented way. While searching on th e Internet for websites that were If/rs related, 639 sites with the word If were found. Some of the head lines of sites that I visited featured such items as, If Divination Poetry : Excerpts of translations of od If by Wande Abimbola; Ijo rnmla: a compendium of tales th at present the spectrum of Yoruba beliefs and cosmology, with selected prayers to the rs; J aap Verduiins Dutch Church of If: African Traditional Church of If/rs in Holland; The oracle of If and the verdict of the court: English version of an article by Wim Haan, examining a court case in Holland around a failed attempt to deprogram practitioners from th e African If religion; Ita If rs : Anago is a path of If/rs that seeks the veri fied truth by the sacred od, a pa th for orthodox seekers of iwa pele, most of whom are African descendants. An ago refers to those ancient Yoruba who, when removed from their homeland, steadfastly held on to traditions, customs, and ethics of their ancestors. The menu of online subjects and inte rests is expansive and offers a variety that includes something about If/rs for almost everyone. One site that I found particularly interesting is that of the If Foundation of North America. The site description states that, IFNA integrates West African If, Candomble, and Lucumi into a logical, useful religion for We sterners. The site features week ly class updates on divination and the rs, rs art gallery, and notification a bout workshop and initiations. Already prompted by my interest in looking at how If/rs is experiencing global expansion, I was particularly anxious about visiting this site and learning about this seeming i nventive process of integrating
37 the many distinct aspects that I perceived as existing in the practices of the many If/rs derived religions. Philip Neimark and his wife Vassa are the sites authors and the f ounders of If Foundation of North America. Both Americans a nd white. Neimark is also a babalwo is called by the name Fagbamila and holds the title Oluwo of Ifa Neimark states that he discovered If in 1974 (1993:3); when he was thirty three years old, rich, and successful (4). Neimark also states that before his conversion to If/rs practices, that he had been tr ained in an eith er-or notion of reality in which (or so I thought) I could choose to be material or spiritual but not both. After a reading from a Yoruba babalwo in Miami, where If forewarned him of impending calamities, and seeing the foretold circumstances manifested a y ear later, he decided to take a closer look at If/rs practices. He phoned William Bascom fo r a further explanation about the possibilities of If/rs; and was he was later initiated to btl and then to If by babalwo Afolabi Epega from Lagos, Nigeria. Epega states the following about Neimark, Fagbamila is a dedicated If worshipper who has really e xperienced the way of the rs as reflected in thoughts, words, and good deed s. His rs-inspired teachings will help individuals develop self-respect and an elevation of character in the United States and other areas of the world. As a Western man he understands those areas in the ancient teachings most important to individuals w ith backgrounds similar to his own (Neimark 1993: xvi). Neimarks book The Way of the rs: Empowering Your Life Through the Ancient African Religion of If is read by If/rs practitioners as a primer text for understanding the potential/power in the practice of the reli gion; and provides for some a philosophy that incorporates methods that by learning the inst ructions for accessing that energy, we can make the most dramatic changes in our lives-real, objective changes (4 ). Neimarks message seems to appeal to many Americans who are engaged in s elf help and motivational systems of thought for personal development. Neimark calls his philosophy American If and states that it is the
38 result of twenty five years of study and exam ination of the ancient philosophy of the Yoruba culture of West Africa. In an unpublished article Robin Poynor states, The Neimark state that they started their exploration of Yoruba religion partly out of need, partly out of curiosity, and partly out of dissatisfaction wi th what Western Spirituality seemed to offer. Dissatisfied with their ventur es in Lucumi because of its secrecy and their objections to racial, sexual and gender discrimi nation they perceived in that tradition, they made a conscious effort to seek out its African roots (Poynor 2007:3).7 The Neimarks currently operate the If Foundation and the Ola Olu Retreat from Coastal Florida. A more comprehensive examination of his Foundation and ideas can be had through a reading of his books and visiting his Internet website. When Neimark phoned Bascom in 1974 to discuss his concern and disbelief in the reading that he had received from the babalwo, he was surprised by Bascoms reply, Mr. Neimark, all I can tell you is it work s (Neimark 1993: 4). Neimark states that it was that res ponse that changed my life (ibid). This trend of Internet usage, the movement by individuals and groups to multiple worship sites, and the reconfiguration of popular religious ideas and tr aditional notions about African religious practices are demonstr ative of contemporary and ongoi ng synergetic processes. Some of which have resulted in new types of intra/in ter-racial, intra/inter-religious and intra/intercommunal relationships. Clarke sugg ests that, What is popularly re ferred to as globalization of cultural production is taking place not just on the le vel of shifts in the po litical economy of state power, but also in relation to shifts in commonsen se approaches to place, practice, and identity (Clarke 2004:3). This examination and analysis of thes e current trends, processes, and the individuals/communities that are engaged in an d affected by these developments can provide 7 Unpublished paper titled, Visual If in Ormond Beach, Florida Presented at the 14th Triennial Symposium on African Art on 9/19/2007.
39 additional evidence of how and why New World Yor uba religious practices continue to spread, merge with, and influence the religious ideolo gies and configurations of individuals and communities of If/rs/Santeria worshippers an d practitioners throughout the African diaspora. Self as Meaning and Self as a Site for Exploration Although many people in the United States became aware of Candomble, rs-Voodoo, and Santeria/Lucumi through music, art, cinema tic and theatrical perf ormances, there is no formal way of being introduced to indigenous African culture. Many of the early priest/priestesses and devotees were performers and artists and received their initial exposures to African culture through their inte rest in artistic development. For some the theatre and performance provided the venue to locate and ex press an African ethos. Individual interests evolved into the formation of study and soci al groups where African indigenous language, drumming, dancing, and literature were principal areas of conc entration that connected the cultural renaissance of the si xties and seventies with the Black Power movement and its nationalist agenda. Although the movement appeared to have had its greatest impact in the USA, it was in fact transcontinenta l, and reverberated throughout the African diaspora. African-Based religion has been and continues to be a vital aspect of Black movements across the diaspora. It has remained a potent f actor in the political organization of diasporic communities. The ideological dimensions of religious narratives have indeed played a motivational and inspirational role in social movements such as during the Haitian Revolution, the establishment of the African Methodist Church, Garvey's movement, the Nation of Islam, and during the Jamaican and U.S. civil rights movement of the 1960s and 1970s. During the 1970s, the Movimento Negro Unifica do (MNU) in Brazil took ideological cues from liberation movements in the U.S., the Caribbean Islands, Lusophone Africa, and Latin America (Pagano 2002:36). In 1974, black activists in Bahia founde d Il-Aiye, giving priority
40 and attention to the importance of cultural manife stations in order to arrive at the political (Silva 1988: 13). As was the case with Adefunmi I and his group of artists, intellects, and performers in New York City and then at ytnj African Village, Cultural performances and productions by Afro-Bahians groups, African/Afro Brazilian tradi tion plays a powerful role and provide venues for group interaction (Pagano 2002: 37). Cros Sandoval states the following about the Yoruba religion and its growth in Cuba: The changes experienced by the Yoruban religion in Cuba enabled it not only to survive but to serve as a vehicle fo r the retention of aspects of Yoruban language, music, mythology, and dance within the framework of a partially retained Yoruban worldview. Its evolution also facilitated its acceptance by Afro-Cubans of non-Yoruban descent. Many of them, attracted by its richness and complexity, abandoned the practices of their forefathers and made the Yoruban religion and its practices their own. For similar reasons the religion attracted ma ny Cubans of non-African ancestry. Santeria provided economic, moral, and emotional nourishment by offering membership in supportive religious lineage, a sense of control thr ough magical manipulation of supernatural forces, and the alleviation of sy mptoms of ill health by reassuring the afflicted through the engagement of supernatural pow er for healing purposes (Cros Sandoval 2007: 323). Cros Sandoval continues: Santeria was also able to br eak through social, class, and racial boundaries. It attracted a significant following and was able to influen ce the cosmology, worldview, and behavior of a variety of sectors of the population (ibid).8 Santeria in Harlem The Harlem and South Bronx comm unities that I grew up in during the 1960s and 1970s always had residents from all over Latin Am erica and the Caribbean Islands. Many of my childhood, teenage, and adult friends were Hispanic or West Indian. Because of this blend of diverse ethnic and cultural groups I was exposed to and develope d an appreciation of diaspora phenomena at a very early age. It was not uncommon for me to visit the home of one of my Latin 8 For a more detailed account of Cros Sandovals research findings and analysis regarding Santeria in Cuba and the diaspora see Mercedes Cros Sandoval, Worldview, the Orichas, and Santeria: Africa to Cuba and beyond.
41 friends and see candles and incense burning or to hear discussions about pan-African issues at the homes of my West Indian fr iends. We lived and played toge ther; I ate food and listened to music from an assorted and kaleidoscopic menu that reflected the convergences that resulted from the mixing of the various groups. At the time nothing struck me as strange or different. It was simply the way that things were. During the 1970s, Latin, Calypso, and African music became very popular in the U.S.A. Musicians were breaking ethnic and cultural barri ers and, concurrently R&B and Jazz music was influencing the new sounds that were being popularized. Musici ans such as Mongo Santa Maria and Celia Cruz from Cuba, Bob Marley and Peter Tosh from Jamaica, Fela Ransome and Babatunde Olatunji from Nigeria, and a plethora of American born black musicians were all pr odcing music that provided a distinct African base-line, all heavily punctuated with percussion instruments. Bob Marleys music sp ecifically pointed to Marcus Garveys panAfrican notions and redemption fo r the children of the enslaved Africans. Fela, Mongo and Celia Cruzs music spoke of the Yoruba gods of Afri ca and provided rhythmic beats that inspired body movements that approximated African dance. It was during those historical moments in time and the atmosphere of change that was occurring as a result of the ongoing political and Cultural Revolution in urban centers that the rs took center stage and b ecame central to the movement. These developments within my community must be set against the political climate of the era. The Black community still had not fully reco vered from the loss of Minister Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Both men were assa ssinated and the details of their demise were questionable and largely unanswe red. The Black Panther Party, which started as a community self-help effort, took up fire-arm s and promoted a platform of self defense within African American communities throughout America. Angela Davis, a professor at UCLA, was tried for
42 allegedly purchasing the guns that were used in a foiled attempt by Jonathan Jackson to free his brother George Jackson and the Soledad br others from Soledad Prison in California.9 African American, Latino, and white youth were organizing against what they viewed as injustices and hypocrisy within the American system. The or ganizing was at the grass-roots level and on college and university campuses across America. The Black Panther Party took up the banner to free Angela Davis and organized a Free Angela campaign. The campaign added more fuel to the already agitated and aggressive counter intelligence campaign that was being organized against the Black community, especially party members. The Black Panther Party was viewed as a communist organization by the United States Government. Under the leadership of J. Edga r Hoover, COINTELPRO was organized, the party was infiltrated, and several false allegations were made against the partys leadership. Several of the partys leaders were harassed and or killed, and some were sent to prison. Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seal, two of the main organizers of the party were constan tly embroiled in legal battles against the United States Government. Huey Newton left the country and held out in China as a guest of Chairman Mao Se Tung for a short while. The Black Panther Party had a weekly newspaper that featured stories a bout what was happening in Black communities throughout America. It also listed and discussed several of the items that the Panthers were attempting to adjust and a list of demands fo r the U.S. Government. Through the partys propaganda machine Americas youth were being exposed to Karl Marxs communism and Chairman Maos Little Red Book, The Communis t Manifesto and was being taught how to think critically about political issues, freedom, and justice. 9 See George Jackson, Soledad Brothers: the Prison Letters of George Jackson 1990 and Angela Y. Davis, If they Take You in the Morning, 1971.
43 The United States Government expended great efforts and resources to shut the Panther Party and all other progressive grassroots organizations down. Since that time, several reports and commissions have exposed the general public to some degree to the governments actions. On the streets, we say that the United States government is to blame for the guns and drugs in our communities. We also say that government agents killed Huey P. Newton and were behind his alleged drug addiction. For me, the things th at were happening during the early 1970s were very alarming and painful. Black and poor peopl e stood up against a monstrous government that demonstrated grave intolerance and a willingness to commit murder to protect its interests. In 1977, the honorable Elijah Muhammad, the leadership for the Nation of Islam, died at the age of 77. Mr. Muhammads death posed a new set of problems for many black Americans who found strength and encouragem ent in the Nations teachings. Th is was especially true for many African American and Hispanic youth, both male and female. The Nation of Islam, with its hard line of racial divide and its weekly publication of Muhammad Speaks, its weekly newspaper, was a voice and a refuge for many refo rmed addicts, criminals, and others who felt rejected by U.S. society. Although some had le ft the Nation after Malcolms assassination, many stayed in the Nation and continued to be gui ded by Mr. Muhammads teachings and politics. After Mr. Muhammads death the Nation did split, many chose to stay and follow the leadership of Minister Louis Farrakhan, wh ile others chose to follow Mr Muhammads son Warif Dean Muhammad. This was another telling time for Bl ack leadership in America. This was another trying time for Black youth in America. Many of my friends, who found the change in management disconcerting, took off their suits an d bowties and returned to the streets, some continued to seek guidance and solace in an African identity.
44 My first encounter with rs was in 1976. I was taken to a botanica located in the neighborhood in which I lived by a business partner. I was twenty-four years old and was in a business partnership with an African American man who was ten years older than me. Together we were building a health food store in the North Bronx in New York. The botanica was owned by a Hispanic woman and offered sundry items and statuettes used in Santeria/Lucumi ceremonies and rituals. The woman performed consu ltations/readings at the re ar of the store for a five dollar fee. I dont recall the specific details of the reading, but I do recollect that the things that she said struck me as oddly accurate and prophetic. She used Tarot cards and possessed a sense of knowingness and authority. Several months later, my business associate intr odced me to another group of people who owned a botanica in Brooklyn, New York. This e xperience was quite different from the first in that the owners of this botanica were two bl ack men, an African American and a Panamanian. They had just returned from a three month stay in Nigeria and were dresse d in African clothing. This consultation was also performed with Tarot cards for a five dollar fee. Again, the accuracy of the remarks made about my life was stunning. It was during this readin g that I was informed that the rs btl was calling my head and that I should be initiated. At the time I was not at all clear about what all of this meant, but in tuitively I knew that I ha d embarked on a new life path. The two men and their families were associated with ytnj African Village and were planning a trip to Sheldon, South Carolina, to participate in a un festival. My business partner and I were invited to accompany them. At the time when I participated in these two consultations, I was a Muslim, following the teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. In fact, my business partner was also a Muslim. We were both malcontents and displeas ed with the internal conflicts that had arisen within the
45 Nation since the death of Mr. Muhammad. I ha d been attending services and training at Mosque Number Seven in Harlem since I was ab out twenty years old. I had moved to Harlem when I was seven years old and was influenced by Black Nationalists and their cultural pedagogy. As a young boy, growing up in Harlem duri ng the early sixties and seventies, I was exposed to the influences of the intellectual and spiritual home of the African people in the Western World (Clarke 1971: xiii). Even at such an impressionable age, I was deeply moved by the occurrences within and around my community. So despite the great chasm between what I had seen and done as a Muslim in the Nation of Islam, I was primed for my new experiences within an African centered religion. Hunt notes that the Yoruba Temple organized by Adefunmi I had a powerful effect on the Black Muslims of Harlem: There was some contact between the Yoruba a nd the Black Muslims in Harlem while they were both in their developmen tal stage in the 1950s and ear ly 1960s. They attended and participated in a number of rallies, and someone from the Temp le attended all of Malcolm Xs rallies even after he left the Black Muslims and formed the Muslim Mosque Incorporated. After Malcolms break with the Muslims, a few of his followers came over to the Yoruba Temple. Few of them remained, however, because most came only to get African names, and those who were interested in the occult went to the Cubans (Hunt 1979: 31). 10 Although the woman who gave me my first r eading never mentioned that what she was engaged in was African influenced, she sold Sev en African Powers candles and the Gods that she alluded to had the same names as the Gods of my y tnj contacts in Brooklyn. I felt as though I had made another turn in the direction that she had foretold that I should travel. I accepted the invitation to visit y tnj and a few weeks later with my partner and my three year old daughter Nzinga, I drove my 1969 Peugeot station wagon to South Carolina. The trip to South Carolina was especially good for me and my daughter. I was born in Charleston and spent the first se ven years of my life there. The port city of Charleston is 10 Malcolm Xs Yoruba name was Omawale.
46 approximately fifty miles from Sheldon. It is the home of my maternal and paternal ancestors and is where most of my family still reside s. Since leaving Charle ston as a boy, I had only revisited once, when I had decided to return to New York after a stay in Jamaica by way of a train trip from Miami, Florida and Charleston. The trip to Sheldon provided me with an opportunity to return to Char leston with my daughter. The visit to Charleston was pleasant. My fa mily was happy to see me and Nzinga. We stayed at my grandfathers home for a day and traveled to ytnj the following day. By the time we arrived at the village th e festival had already begun. We were greeted at the gate and a messenger was sent to inform our hosts of our arrival. Our hosts names were Alade and unkunle. We were welcomed into the village and were given white sheets to dress ourselves in. In 1976, ytnj was still in its early developmental stage and village edicts demanded that everyone in the village wear Af rican-styled clothing. So, for us to be in the village and participate in the festival it was essential that we relinquish our western attire. After changing our clothing we were ushered into a pageantry of Yoruba centered performances for the goddess un. It was a beautiful sunlit day and everyone seemed familiar. The women who were dancing for un were bare breasted, while most in attendan ce were dressed in bright yellow and orange Yoruba styled clothing in honor of the rs of wealth, prosperity, a nd fertility. Somehow my subconscious took control as I joined in the danc ing, instinctively moving my body to the rhythm of the drums and voices. My soul was overjoyed with this new e xperience, this new feeling of Africanness. After the Bembe was over, I was introduced to members of the community and taken to the compound of Bbls rsmola Awolowo A wolowo performed my third reading and reiterated some of the same things that I had heard from the first two readings. This was more
47 than coincidence; a pattern was beginning to perform. Consistent in each reading was the revelation that I had to be initiated and that btl was claiming my head. At the time of this reading, I still was using my Muslim name, Kh alid Sharif. Unlike my previous readings, Awolowo did not use Tarot cards. Inst ead he used sixteen cowry shells (m rndlgn). He concluded the reading by divining for a new Yo ruba name for me. My new name became Ajani Ofunniyin. Ajani means one who struggles for what he acquires in life and Ofunniyin means, one that is worthy of praise. With my new name and new sense of being, I left ytnj committed to exploring this way of being that I had discovered. I returned to New York, shared my experiences with my wife and started givi ng away my entire wardrobe of Western styled clothing. Wearing dnsks (shirts) and okt s (pants) was a big break from the suit and bowties I had customarily worn in the Nation of Islam. My dream of becoming a Nation of Islam minister was dashed by my new interest in the Yoruba priesthood. Achieving this goal would be the focus of the next five years of my life. In 1978 I dissolved my partnership at the hea lth food store in the Bronx. I took my share of the inventory and equipment and relocated to Suga r Hill in Harlem. I loved Harlem. I remember my mother saying after she saw me crying when she announced that we were moving to the Bronx, that she didnt understand why I was crying because we were moving out of that nasty ba s ement apartment. She was right, the basement apartment was nasty, but my love of Harlem was about something else. Something greater than my childs mind could explain. So in pursuit of my destiny, I moved my business a nd family back to Harlem, USA. By this time there wasnt much of a cultural revolution go ing on in Harlem. 125th Street had given way to a State Office Building comple x and many of Harlems celebrated people had died and joined the ancestors. As for me, I joined the ranks of the cultural nationalists that were
48 continuing the struggle for just ice and equality. I named my ne w health food store Harlems New World Food Center and dedicated it to the enrichment of the health and lives of the people in my community. In the sevent ies and eighties African American people living in Harlem had very little interest in health food and so my business was somewhat of a misfit. My personal interest in a healthy lifestyle was the result of my experiencing migraine headaches and ulcers in my early twenties when I was an undergraduate student at Fordham University in New York. I was living what I now consider to have been a double consciousness lifestyle. During the daytime, I attended my scheduled classes and excelled. At night and on the weekends; I hung out with my crew and family, who all seemed to have detested my interest in academics. Despite their spoken and unspoken sentiments, I managed to graduate in 1975 with a B.A. in Social Science, with a concentration in early childhood education. However, these conflicts, internal and external affected my health gravely. I discussed my condition with one of my African American instructors and was advised to see a man named Dr. John Moore at the Tree of Life bookstore on 125th Street in Harlem. Dr. Moore suggested that I s hould stop eating meat and that I should drink sage tea. I followed Dr. Moores advice and within weeks be gan to notice a marked improvement in my condition. Afterwards, I began attending workshop s at the Tree of Life and began reading profusely about herbs, diet, and wholesome altern ative lifestyles. The transition from eating meat to vegetarianism was not that difficult because in the Nation of Islam I was already eating from a restricted diet. As is usually the ca s e with me, I developed my personal interests into a bank of knowledge and conceived it as a pos sible tool that could be used to aid in my communitys survival. There remained many people in Harlem that had worked with ba Oseigeman, Adelabu Adefunmi I, during the development of the Yor uba Temple in Harlem, before he migrated
49 to South Carolina (see Carl Hunt, y tnj Village: The Yoruba Movement in America (1979), Gregory Steven, Santeria in New York City: A Study in Cultural Resistance (1987) PhD Dissertation). Some of these cultural icons supported my growth in understanding what was happening in this unfamiliar world of Yoruba/Santeria cosmology and politics. Two terrains that I quickly learned to navigate safely and with some degree of efficiency. When I returned to New York after my first visit to ytnj Village, Alade and unkunle introduced me to the African American Yoruba community. Many of their activities had moved to Brooklyn and there was usually an initiation or Bembe happening every weekend. Although the adherents were Africa Americans, the trappings of the ceremonies/rituals were still Santeria/Lucumi influenced. Cuban priests and ba balwos were still central figures and were relied upon to conduct the most important aspects of the rituals. The dr ummers and musicians were mostly Cuban with a scat tering of African Americans who had been taught some of the rhythms and songs at Bbtunde Olatunjis school in Harlem. L iterature about the religion and culture was scarce and all of the available r ecordings were by Haitian and Cuban artists. Being under the tutelage of Alade and unkunle proved to be taxing financially and chauffeuring them around to these events required a great deal of my tim e, time away from my business and my family. Since I was a novice and was trying to learn my way around, I was expected to meet their demands. I received from them my first spiritu al bath and set of il ks (beads). I recall that the rituals that they performed in my beha lf were shrouded in mystery and were always costly. Some of the rituals that they performed, I have never seen done anywhere else by anyone else in all of my y ears of practicing Yoruba traditions. Uncomfortable with this relationship, I began to correspond with Awolowo in South Carolina. On his visits to New York, I met with him and drove him to the places that he needed to visit. His method for transferring knowledge was more thoughtful and we were always welcomed wherever we went. I once wrote him to discuss the possibility of attending law school.
50 I had taken the LSAT and had applied to several schools. In his reply lette r, he advised that I forego going to law school, that I would not be ha ppy as an attorney, and th at the life ahead of me was more colorful and world ly. I didnt have a clue about what he meant, but I followed his advice and did not pursue my interest in la w. I have never regretted this decision and I continue to keep a picture of Awolowo on my ances tral altar. I consider him to have been my first godfather. Although they are beginning to show signs of decay, I still maintain the object that he presented to me nearly thirty ye ars ago. In 2005, I was performing with Iflolas drum and dance troupe and Bb Onabamiero lent me the conga drum that was left to him by the late rsmola Awolowo. Awolowo was also a very talented artist and perf ormed the role of the priest that circumcised Kunta Kinte and the flute player, in the te levised version of Alex Haleys Roots series. I first met Yomi Yomi Awolowo when I was ei ghteen years old at a rehearsal for Chuck Davis Dance Company.11 I was accompanying a female fr iend who was a member of the company. Yomi was one of the companys prin cipal drummers. At the time I knew nothing about the Yoruba religion and had no interaction with Yomi be yond our introduction. I met him again several years later, when I was taken to his home in 1978 by another friend, Eisha. Yomi gave me a reading and confirmed many of the things that I had heard from other priests. In one of my readings, Yomi advised me to begin collec ting the things that I w ould need for initiation, as my time was drawing near. Again, I could no t see what was coming, but as he advised, after reading the cowry shells, I bega n to collect the towels, clothi ng, and other items that were essential for initiation. Yomi was and continues to be a family centered man. He possessed many of the qualities that I aspired towards. He was a black nationalist and ha d a broad appreciation of 11 Yomi Yomi Awolowo was not biologically related to Orisamola Awolowo. Yomi informed me in a 2005 interview that Orisamola Awolowo influenced his selection of Awolowo as his surname.
51 religion. He worked as a mechan ical engineer for the New York City Transit authority, owned properties in the Bronx, and had an incredible work ethic. Yomi was a master builder and seemed to be able to fix anything mechanical Unlike many of the other priests that I had encountered, he did not rely on his work as a priest for his income and was never condescending or overly demanding. He had his own life and tr eated others as though each had a life. There were many occasions when he would be at the ho mes or apartments of his godchildren, repairing their cars or something else that was in disrepair. Yomi is a musician who has performed internat ionally. He learned his craft from some of the drumming legends that include Babatunde Olatunji, Chief Bey, and Bolaji. He also plays the piano, saxophone, and flute. He is connected to rs houses throughout New York and has godchildren all over the USA and in Sweden and Switzerland. At the time when I started working with Yomi he had only goddaughters. He had initiated several women and no men. I would be Yomis first godson. First Nigerian Experience I traveled to Nigeria for the first time in 1979 and again in 1980 to work as a photographer with Lolafad Production Company. I met Lola in New York City in 1979. He was from Ijan, Ekiti in Southwestern Nigeria. Ekiti is in the heart of Yorubaland and at the time of my visits many people still adhered to traditional Yoruba religious/cultural practices. Lolas deceas ed father had been a very well known babalwo and Lola had considerable knowledge and understanding about the ways of the rs. Lola and I were very close in age and in many ways our lives paralleled each other. So much so that hi s mother always said that we were twins. This notion of Lola being my twin spirit became quite interest ing after I was initiated, because one of the things that the oriate (officiating priest at ita) stated to me, during the ita pha s e of my
52 initiation rituals, was that I was born a twin an d that my twin was on the other side. We were both entrepreneurs and co mmunity activists, Lola in his hometown of Ijan and I in Harlem. At the time of my visit to Ijan, the town did not have an adequate sewage or sanitation system. Water for bathing, cooking, and drinking was retr ieved from a local well and the homes did not have toilets. Electricity had ju st reached the area and was unreliable. The Nigerian government had begun to make improvements, but the pro cess was slow. Lola was involved in several improvement projects, including completing the cons truction of his familys home, a project that had been started by his father before his untimel y demise. Lola was extr emely committed to and loved by his community. He traveled to Amer ica to earn money to support some of the developments in which he was engaged financially. To earn money he brought products from Nigeria to be marketed in the U.S. Although the needs of my Harlem community were distinctly different, the need for improvements centered on quality of life and soci al/economic development was quite similar. In Harlem, I had been working on building an institution that was committed to healthy life-styles; my project was grossly underfinan ced and seemingly unappreciated by the local residents. I had submitted funding proposals to banks and federal agencies, and had been denied. The denials consistently cited my lack of sufficient collat eral or experience to undertake and successfully complete the project or pay back the loan. Desp erate for the financial means to pursue our goals, Lola and I agreed to create a partnership, Lolafad Productions Company, committed to earning the necessary money to do our work. I was already connected to the Harlem music and art scene and had people who proved to be very intere sted in the merchandise that we marketed. Some of the items that we sold were contra band that Lola bought on the Nigerian black market and smuggled into the country. At our firs t meeting, I inquired about how he was able to
53 get those items into the US. He explained that he used African Science, jj. I was familiar with the terminology jj; it is language that I knew from South Carolina and from my association with Santeria/Lucumi religious tradit ions. But the reference to these practices as a brand of African science was novel and intriguing. Lola was fascinated by the fact that I had a Yoruba name and was interested in knowing about the rs. Through my conn ections we quickly sold the fi rst supply of products that he provided, so Lola returned to Nigeria to replenish our inventory. Seve ral weeks later he returned to Harlem with a new supply of products. Once again he had successfully navigated his way through customs, undetected, with an exceptiona l collection of items. To my surprise and delight, he also had a round trip ticket for me to return to Nigeria with him. He stated simply that he was about to be engaged to marry and his mother wanted me to come home for the ceremonies. He brought African medicine for me to take that had been prepared by priests and herbalists that he claimed would give me the n eeded power to carry out our business. Within a few weeks we successfully sold the items that he brought with him the second time and together we boarded a Nigerian Airways flight to Lagos, Nigeria. Those were magical times, life was fast paced and the medicine made me feel invincible In Nigeria, Lola and I traveled to several different states and cities in search of items that we could market in America. Many of our contacts worked in the Black Market and exud ed an underworld presence; a presence that was not unfamiliar to me, having grown up in Harlem. We also were constantly meeting with babalwos, priests, and medicine men for consu ltations and to provide me dicine to protect our lives, while we were engaged in our risky endeavors. Understa nding rs and what was possible through rs and traditional practices be gan to take on new meanings for me.
54 Some of these new revelations came with seve ral ironies. For example, Lolas family was Christian and Lolas Christian name was Samuel. Although he was affectionately called Brother Lola many greeted him as Samuel. Lola and his cr ew of young supporters (of which there were many) all wore Western clothing and many had Christian names. Although electricity was scarce, Lola managed to have rigged some supply of electricity and Bob Marley, Fela, Marvin Gaye, and the Commodores could be heard blasting from the la rge speakers that Lola had brought from Lagos to his almost inaccessible community. We stayed in Nigeria for almost five weeks a nd returned to New York with a fairly nice collection of items. Many things had shifted in my mind about rs and Yoruba traditional practices, in the five weeks that I had spent in Lolas world. I had seen with my own eyes that there were no obvious conflicts in practicing what is cons idered traditional Yoruba religious/cultural prac tices and Christianity or Islam. All of these seemingly separate ideologies appeared to coexist and feed off of each other. In my experiences in the U.S., one had to choose one over the other. The African American Yoruba communities that I had been exposed to demonstrated intolerance for other religious practices. The same could be said about my experiences with Elijah Muhammad s brand of Islam. African American Muslims, particularly those who ascribed to the teachings of Elijah Muhammad, existed as a separatist organization and projected intolerance for Christianity. This projection of intolerance has changed over the years since Mr. Muhammads death and under th e leadership of Louis Farrakhan. Today it is politically incorrect to de monstrate religious or et hnic intolerance publicly. After my first stay in Yorubaland, I returned to the U.S. and refurbished my wardrobe with blue jeans, Tee-shirts, and ba s eball caps. This was also the pe riod in my life when I befriended rstolu, the eldest of the three yws that I will be discussing in another chapter. When we
55 met, her name was Omilana (Omi) and she lived in the Bronx. At the time of our meeting, I was a street vendor selling costume jewelry, straw hats, and incense, beneath the elevated train station on White Plains Road and 224th Street in the Bronx. Soon afte r our meeting, she to a four story brownstone building on 140th Street and Convent Avenue, immediately across the street from City College in Harlem. She was an art student at City College. She created and sold jewelry and braided hair to support herself and her young son, Ade. Ade is my godson and coincidentally has the same name I have. Omi wa s my reference for getting the apartment. She lived on the third floor, and I lived on the first floor. By the time that I first met Omi she had already been involved with Yo ruba traditions and had an l gb object at her front door. She usually wore il k beads and African styled jewe lry and clothing. Her patron rs was un, the sweet goddess of beauty, wealth, and majestic feminine grace. Omi exemplified these qualities and had an ancient presence. She and Ade traveled to ogbo, Nigeria, and visited the un Grove several months before my first trip to Nigeria. The owners of our Brownstone were an Afri can American couple, Catherine and Charlie Simmons. The Simmons were both from South Ca rolina and owned severa l apartment buildings in Harlem. It was known in the community that they had accumulated a portion of their wealth from the illegal numbers operation that they we re still operating when I knew them. They also owned the three storied Brownstone build ing on St. Nicholas Avenue that I le d for my second Health Food Store-Restaurant, Ha rlems New World Food Center. Omi was and continues to be an exceptionally ta lented artist. She works in several different media and was/is connected to the New York ar t scene. I credit her w ith my having so much access to visual artists, theater people, and mu sicians. She was well known for her celebrated parties where all types of artists would be in attendance. Just as Lola had his crew in Nigeria I
56 had my crew in Harlem and Omilana was a part of that crew. The brownstone building in which we lived had a ba s ement apartment that she and I turned into an after hour night spot, that featured up and coming musicians and poets. All of our party events were usually overflowing with artists, poets, playwrights, dancers, performers, and hip folks from all over New York City. Methodology and a Model for Examining If / rs Voodoo/Santeria Practices and Conducting Visual Ethnographic Research Nevertheless, we have to face the ultim ate fact that the best interpreter of Africa is the AfricanThe African with a disciplined mind a nd the requisite technical tools. Here, however, we are confronted with an embarrassing situation. For a very long time, as we have seen, researches into African cultures and beli efs have been by Europeans. Almost all that the outside world knew about the continent of Africa was in consequence of the writings and stories and tales by explorer s, investigators, colonial government civil servants, and missionaries. During this period and even larg ely till now, it is the stranger who has the pride or honour of showing th e African round in his own home ( Idowu, 1991:98.) In recent years researcher s and scholars across disciplines have published studies examining the ritual practices and ideology of Santeria and rs-voodoo worshippers in the diaspora (Blier 1995, Brandon 1993, 2002, Clarke 1997-2004, Clark 2000, Cortez 2000, Dismantles 1994, Elebuibon 2000, Gleason 1987, Hagedorn 2001, Holloway1990, Hunt 1979, Idowu 1991, 1994, Mason 1985, 2002, Murphy 1989, Murphy and Sandford 2001, Neimark 1994, Sangode 1996, Teish 1997, Thompson 1984, Wippler 2000) My interest in this research is to investigate and expand upon the research that was conducted by my predecessors and colleagues and to elucidate what Brandon termed, ongoing processes of change and structuration (Brandon 1993: 107) within the practices of adherents of rs-voodoo/santeria. These formations points up how Santeria take s on the coloration of subcategories of ethnic groups which, in the context of ethnic, ideological, and economic competition, make decisions affecting the content of their religious ideology and practice (107). Furthermore, the exchange has taken place during the emergence of new ethni c identities (ibid). These new identities include Yoruba-Americans and indigenous Yoruba Both designations are used by blacks who
57 have selected to not be identif ied as African American. Many of these newly defined Yorubas have traveled to Nigeria and despite their not having Nigerian citizensh ip; they now refer to Nigeria as home and to Yorubaland Nigerians as family. Some have taken up residency in Nigerian communities, while others make frequent visits. Ethnographic Bridges The me thodology for my research was larg ely participant-observation and included structured and semi-structured in terviewing of babalwos, priests/ priestesses and adherents. I did a considerable amount of photography, audio and vi deo recording, an extensive literature review, and an examination of archival records of meetings and consu ltations that were conducted by If/rs priests with their clients/adherents at multiple sites. The model for my methodology grew out of my interest in the pioneering research work of Zora Neale Hurston in Haiti and Jamaica during the 1930s. In 1938 Zora Neale Hurstons Tell My Horse: Voodoo and Life in Haiti and Jamaica was published in the United States. Hurston describes voodoo as a religion of creation and life. It is the worship of the sun, the water and other na tural forces, but the symbolism is no better understood than that of other religions and consequently is taken too literally (113). Tell My Horse was the result of Hurstons research in Jamaica and Haiti, where she examined the cultural and religious practices of the local residents. Although Hurston was an anthropologist utilizing knowledge and methodologi es that she gained while attending Columbia University in New York City under the directorship of Fran z Boaz, her work went unnoticed until the 1980s. Hurstons Tell My Horse calls attention to some of the ways that African religion was being practiced and transformed in the diaspora by the descendants of enslaved Africans. It also provides a historical interpretation of events that shaped the development or underdevelopment
58 (depending on your perspective) of 2 countries that continue, to this day, to struggle with identity crisis, poverty, marginalizati on, and political turmoil. I utilize Hurstons examination of life for the natives of Jamaica and Haiti as a model for my own research for several r easons. Firstly, Adefunmi I, y tnj African Village founder and first king selected to incor porate the word voodoo and the Haiti an Damballah Quedo deity as important aspects of the voodoo/r s practice that he was engineering for North American practitioners. Adefunmi I visi ted Haiti during the 1950s and saw how voodoo functioned and the ways in which the descendants of enslaved Afri cans reinvented an African centered religion to meet their needs (albeit his visit was short a nd the conclusions that he drew were his own interpretation). It may be that Hurstons work influenced Adefunmis decision to appropriate Haitian cultural/religious con cepts during the production of ytnjs Damballah Quedo mythology. Secondly, Hurstons immersion into the religious practices of her Haitian subjects, her decision to be initiated into the religious my steries that she was obs erving ; her deliberate attempt to reflexively examine he r interpretation, inspired and mirrors my own decision to situate myself as a subject in my research and to f unction as evidence of my research findings. Her research methodology crystallizes what Idowu (1991:17) meant when he s uggested that religion needed to be studied from the inside and that th e truth of what is being studied must be allowed to reveal itself, so that the genius of what is being practi ced can be appreciated. Finally, Hurstons employment of the phot ographic eye to provide eviden ce of her research left an impressive and lasting visual reco rd of some of the people, places, and objects that her research documented.
59 Although Hurstons work does not specifically identify Nigeria as the site of origin for the religious practices she studied, her consistent references to the gods of West Africa, the linguistic similarities of the names given to the Haitian gods, and contemporary scholarship linking Haitian voodoo practices wi th many of the nativ e traditions of Yorubaland, including Benin and Nigeria, strongly sugge st a Nigerian/Benin origin a nd rs cosmology for the Haitian voodoo practices that Hurston investigated. The para llels are sometimes stri king as is evident in the description provided by Drewal of a devotee being seized by a trance, during a ceremony in the Egbado town of Igbogila, Drewal writes, There was a transformation of her attitude: from outgoing an d playful to concentrated, serious, and inwardly focused. As if bound to the spot, she stopped moving her feet: her upper torso veered to the side ; her head dropped; and her left knee quivered, causing the entire body to tremble. A priest in this state is called the horse of the god (esin rs). Attendants rushed to straighten the clothes of those who became possessed, binding their waist and breasts tightly in much the same way a rider saddles a hor se, pulling the straps tightly to secure the saddle in place, for the deity mounts (gun) and rides the medium. The Ogun medium became fully transformed into the deity, repeatedly licking her lips in an agitated fashion. Her upper torso dropped forward, her head fell back, and her eyes rolled upward into the sockets. Attendants quickly closed th e eyelids and brought the head forward (Drewal 1992: 183). Hurston was not the only American woman exam ining the impact of African religion in the diaspora during the 1930s and 1940s. Ruth Lande s, conducted research in Brazil and Maya Deren in Haiti. Landes, an anthropologist, was also influenced by Franz Boas and worked with Ruth Benedict. Her Choice of a Ph.D. dissertati on topicthe social orga nization of the Ojibwa of northern Ontario, Canadacan be traced dire ctly to Benedicts influence (Landes 1994: XV). Initially Landes wanted to do research on th e African American population in the USA, but decided to work in Bahia, Brazil. Ruth Landes was the daughter of Russian Jewish Immigrants to the United States and was raised in Brooklyn. Her father was the cofounder of the American Clothing Workers of America. The family ci rcle included Jewish and African American
60 intellects. Through her family she met W.E.B. DuBois, Alain Locke, James Weldon Johnson, Walter White, and Zora Neale Hurston. She developed an interest in African American culture at an early age. Landes worked investigated Candomble in Brazil and resulted in the publication of The City of Women in 1947. It is a personal and descrip tive account of Landes encounters with Candomble leaders and of her own participati on in and observation of cult ceremonies (1994: XXI). Although Landes book was controversial at the time of its 1947 publication, it has resurfaced as a model for examining Afro-Brazilia n religion utilizing an alternative framework (XXII). In writing, The City of Women, Landes wrote in a style that was, New and experimental ethnography: reflexive writing about ones subjective experience in the field of ones situated posi tion as an author; acknowledgement of the role of friendship; the naming of friends as pers ons in ethnography rather than keeping them nameless informants; and attempts to redu ce othering and object ification through the writing of multivocal ethnographies that seek to provide other people, the ethnographic subjects, textual space to represent their su bjective experience in their own words and voice. (XXIV). Ruth Landes also employed the voyeuristic eye, her photographic images, albeit they are not the focus of her book and are fixed in ti me, provides positive proof of some of the cultural/religious and aesthetic nuances of her re searched population. Maya Deren was born in Kiev, Ukraine in 1922. Although, not an anthropologist by profession, her work in Haiti and th e resultant publication of her book, Divine Horsemen: the Living Gods of Haiti has contributed enormously to anth ropological interpretations of Haitian Voodoo. Deren was an artist and filmmaker who went to Haiti to make a film a film in which Haitian dance would be a leading theme (Deren 1953: XV). 12 However, like Hurston and Landes, she became enraptured by the mystical powers of the African gods and the ways in 12 It is believed that Katherine Dunhams Masters thesis on Haitian dances (1936) may have influenced Derens interest in filming dance in Haiti. Hurstons work in Haiti might have influenced Dunhams Masters Thesis. Dunhams interest in Dance in Haiti could have influenced her student Walter King (Adefunmi I)?
61 which the common people that she observed interacted with and were servants for those gods. Also like Hurston and Landes, Deren had to suspend her own professional agenda and allow the reality of what she was experiencing in Haiti to be illuminated. Deren writes, I had begun as an artist, as one who would manipulate the elemen ts of reality into a work of art in the image of my cr eative integrity; I end by recording as humbly and accurately as I can the logics of a reality which had forced me to recognize its integrity, and to abandon my manipulations (Deren 1953: 6). Hurston, Landes, and Derens research and subsequent publications were marginalized and received harsh critiques from th e leading anthropologists of their era. Both Hurston and Landes were never able to gain a reputable position in the academy and Deren was never able to acquire the needed funding to complete her film documen ting her experiences in Haiti. However, I have elected to invoke their work, to model their willingness to implant themselves into their research, and to fashion my own efforts in the spirit of their reflexive nature and humility in interpreting the realities of my experien ces with the gods of Africa.13 Front-Door Ethnography When the anthropologist arrives, the gods depart. (Haitian Proverb) The perspective that I br ing to this research is that of an insider who has been engaged in practicing Yoruba religion/culture and who has an inte rest in photography, film and video pr odction for almost thirty years. I hope that my observations from within and my efforts to document ethnographic material that has remain ed secreted from the public will add to the growing body of knowledge about Yoruba derived reli gious practices in the diaspora. I also hope to provide an analysis of how cultural-religious knowledge is pr odced, manipulated, and 13 Maya Derens unfinished Haitian film footage ( 1947-55) was assembled by Teji and Cherel Ito as Divine Horsemen: the Living Gods of Haiti (1981).
62 circulated to meet local needs and to promote th e transformation and propag ation of If/rs and Santeria worshipping practices in a global context. The forging of Yoruba derived ideologies and methods of practice points to what Mintz and Price (1992: xiv) termed process in the development of African American cultures and suggests the need to examine the different kinds of blends and mixtures (ibid) that are inherent in the formation of cont emporary New World Yoruba culturalreligious practices. Furthermore, these blends and mixtures represent prevalent retentions and shifts in Yoruba / Afro-Cuban synergetic processes that continue to merge with, conflate, and impact Yoruba religious ideology. At the same time these blends and mixtures speak to the emergence of new mixtures of cultural and religious ideas. So me of these innovative mixtures incorporate knowledge that is believed to have originated at th e source, Yorubaland. My research discloses that much of what the public assume is foundational and/or authentic knowledge was in fact contrived notions that evolved out of the current trends in the reli gious practices of some the men and women who situate themselves as priests and/or religious lead ers. I believe that an examination and analysis of these processes may provide clues about various types of cultural-religious agency that is at work in the present and that affected change in the recent past. At the same time it can te out distinct kinds of culturalreligious overlaps that mi ght have occurred in diasporic settlements, as enslaved Africans struggled to understand and fo rmulate new languages, new religions, and new cultures. Videos, photographs, and archival material s collected during my research provide additional visual, audio, and textua l data and add clarity to seve ral issues surrounding historical and contemporary Yoruba derived life-ways in the diaspora. This data is important in that it may serve to support the current initiative and move towards transparency in the religion and the
63 creation of teaching and learning environments. This interest is being fostered and promoted by several North American and intern ational babalwos and priests. The intent is to create an informed public and at the same time preserve the integrity of what are deemed sacred rites. An anticipated outcome of my re search is an ethnographic vide o production that documents and highlights some of the current features of rs/ If aesthetics and cultural-religious practices in ytnj Village, North Central Florida and ogbo, Nigeria. It is my hope that the completed project will be useful as inst ructional materials in academic settings and as a general introduction for anyone interested in Yor uba religious/cultural studies. While the scholarship and research concer ning santeria/rs-voodoo/ If performance and ritual has been increasing over th e past decade, only a few research ers are able to record rituals and processes that are deemed secret and sacred vi sually. This is primarily due to strict religious protocol in the Western hemisphere which forbid s the uninitiated (outside rs) from viewing and participating in rituals that occur within the room or sacred spaces/groves. These rites and practices are central to understanding the proces ses of proliferation and transference of power ( ) within the communities of worshippers. Priests who participate in these ceremonies perform elaborate rituals that are representative of collectiv e memory and institutionalized customs. Even though many of these rites have been practiced for centuries and in several locals in the New World, they are fundamentally consis tent and include similar kinds of practices, nuances, and processes. At the same time, many of the rites have also been altered or adjusted to suit shifts in environment, resource availa bility, and the needs of the adherents. Visual ethnography allows for an analysis of these processes and enabled me as a researcher to return to the video recorded expe riences to locate nuances that may have been overlooked in the rush of fieldwork. In these instan ces I was able to use the recorded information
64 as text for my analysis and as visual corroborat ion/representations of my research observations. This technique is suggested by Sarah Pinks: App ropriate application of visual images and technologies in ethnography may develop as a fo rce that will bring new meaning(s) to ethnographic work and social sc ience (2001:13). In many instan ces this type of ethnographic research is sensitive and requires the consen t and cooperation of the subject community and oftentimes community elders or leaders. Pinks wr ite the following about he r research in a Guinea Bissau community: Since my research engaged subject matters th at were sensitive to the communities that I worked with, it was critical that I gained th eir support. The work did not advance without their consent and participati on and was essentially collaborative. Working in this manner created the environment for a less complicated documentation process that facilitated and enabled me and my research associates to produce visual images and specific types of knowledge through technological procedures and discussions (Pinks 2001:40). My research is also informed by the scholar ship of E. Bolaji Idowu. Idowu was a Yoruba born scholar, who committed his re search and teaching to informi ng the world about traditional Yoruba religion. In his second treatise on Yoruba religion Idowu provides what he terms rules, In the study of religion, the second rule in the Highway Code for scholars should be openness and sympathy. Religion cannot be proper ly studied unless it is studied from the inside; and only those who are prepared to al low truth to reveal its elf to them, and those who are prepared to enter into the feelings of the worshippers, as much as possible sit where they sit can make any profitable study of religion. It is only in this way that the scholar can appreciate the ge nius of religion as known to the worshipper. Thus, each religion must be seen in terms of its own pers pective; otherwise what is studied cannot be the real thing (1973: 17). Openness and sympathy presuppose a mind which expos es itself to reality, whatever place reality may happen to have chosen as one of its earthly habitations; a mind which accepts without inhibitions the revelation in the actual situation (ibid). My research is deeply sympat hetic and engages issues that I have been involved with for the past thirty years. During this time, I have b een an adherent and priest of santeria/rs/ If traditions and have participated in many of the rituals and performances that are highlighted and discussed within the scope of this project. I have spent a considerable amount of time within the
65 communities and with several of the individuals th at I investigated during this research. In many ways my participation has privileged me as an insider and has accommodated my access to important institutions, individuals, and primary resear ch materials. It is my intention to utilize this sensitive position to explore, analyze, and document for academic and public scrutiny, ethnographic and historical evidence that may pr ove central to our understanding of how African descended people who live in the diaspora partic ipate in movements that propagate identity formations, culture and knowledge production. Thes e movements often serve as interventions and promote the preservation of idea ls that are central in the lives of adherents as they struggle to practice traditions that are not popular and continue to orga nize forms of resistance to inequalities and neglect by state agencies. My research sites included Alachua County, Florida and Shel don, South Carolina, in North America and ogbo, Nigeria, where I worked at the temple /compound of Ifyemi Elebuibon. During my stay in Nigeria I also conducted archival research relative to Yoruba history at the library at bafemi Awolowo University (OAU). I accomp anied Elebuibon when he visited his affiliates at the American sites and participated in rs World Conferences, where he continues to be one of the principal organizers. Examining the processes involved in the types of initiations that I discuss was engaging, messy and unprecedented in anthropo logical research in the USA. The types of rituals that are performed during initiation into th e priesthood are regarded by many priests as secret and sacred and are not to be observed by the uninitiated or rev ealed to the public. This is particularly true of priests in the Lucumi/Santeria tradition. However, because of the Internet and the considerable amount of published literature about If/rs practices in an d outside of the academy, access to and interest in information about If/rs practices has increas ed and is appealing to an
66 international cross-section of individuals. Furthe rmore, itinerant babalwos, priests, practitioners, and merchants from Yorubaland who profit consider ably from the money and political currency created by an informed public provide increa s ed access to products, information, and knowledge about traditions in the home land of Yoruba culture. Historical Overview According to Yoruba belief, If is the system of divina tion given to rnm la (the deity of the oracle) by Oldmar (Supreme God), to serve as a method of communication between humans and Oldmar. If is a system of divination ba s ed on sixteen basic and 256 derivative figures (od) obtained either by the manipula tion of sixteen palm nuts (ik n), or by the toss of a chain (opele) of eight half seed sh ells. The worship of If as the God of divination entails ceremonies, sacrifices, tabus, paraphernalia, dr ums, songs, praises, initiation, and other ritual elements comparable to those of other Yoruba cults. (Bascom 1991:3) If narratives are considered to be true stories that yield historical knowledge that is applicable to current situations. If presumes and promotes the view that there is nothing new beneath the sky and that all signifi cant events are the replication of past events that may be found in the b abalwo's recitation of If ods. If is the system of divination of five to ten million Yoruba in Nigeria, with several millions more in neighboring countries and in the African diaspora. The rss are the deities of the Yoruba pantheon (divinities of the Yoruba people of Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Ghana, parts of Sierra Leone and throughout the African diaspora). They are generally personified as the forces of na ture (energy) and patrons of activities and occupations. According to these beliefs, un represents sweet waters, love, money, and conception; ng represents thunder and lightning, strategy, and is the warrior; is messenger to Oldmar, owner of road s and opportunities, and owner of (spiritual energy);
67 Yemonja/Olkun represents the ocean, motherhood, and is believed to be the provider of wealth; btl represents the head, clarit y, and is the arb iter of justice; ya represents the marketplace, tornadoes, change of fortune, and is the female warrior; gn is the owner of all metals, he is a fierce warrior, and represents honor and integrity. There are many other rss that are worshipped, but those listed above are th e most prominent in the diaspora. Santeria has integrated the cults of the Yoruba orisha into a single comprehensive structure which has itself evolved an d changed over time (Brandon 1993: 137). Santeria/lucumi, the syncretism of Yoruba religious ideas (as practiced by ensl aved Yoruba who were transported to Cuba during the Middle Passage) with Catholicism, and Kardecan spiritism came to the USA with Cuban and Puerto Rican immigrants in the forties and fifties. This population of Yoruba practitioners incre d during the sixties with the migration of refugees from Cuba following Castros revolution. In addition to this influx of rs-influenced immigrants into the USA, Haitian refugees then brought Voodoo, a mixture of Yoruba, Fon, and Hueda deities with Kongo gods and magic. Santeria is the popular name associated with the Afro-Cuban polytheistic religious tradition that, during the almost f our centuries of the slave trade in Cuba, gradually developed by the nineteenth century into a seri es of religious practices born of mostly West African and some Spanish Catholic roots; more formally known as the Regla de Ocha (the laws of the orichas); focuses on oricha worship (Hagedorn 2001:253). Santeria traditions include European Christianity (in the form of Span ish folk Catholicism), traditional African religion (in the form of orisha worship as practiced by the Yoruba of Ni geria), and Kardecan spiritism, which originated in France in the nineteenth centu ry and subsequently became fa shionable in both the Caribbean and South America (Holloway 1991:120). In Cuba the religion was known in a myriad of
68 identities, La Regla de Ocha, La Regla If, La Religion Lucumi, and La Santeria Lucumi refers to language, culture, and religious aspects of Afro -Cuban expressive culture associated with the descendants of enslaved Yorubas (Hagedorn 2001: 249). David H. Brown (2003:5) provide s a summary of the historic al significance of Lucumi traditions and how lucumi ideas continue to aff ect politics and policies in the diaspora. Brown states that, lucumi sound and motion have recro ssed the Atlantic once again, and Santeria has been reiterated as a potent marker in transna tional Black Atlantic cultural currents. Although there are some striking differences, Candomble groups in Bahia, Brazil (especially in the city of Salvador), Xango groups in Recife, and the Casa das Minas in Sao Luis continue to practice Yoruba/Afr ican derived religious tradi tions and are also looking to Yorubaland/Nigeria and to the Yoruba dias pora for a broader understanding of Yoruba cultural/religious heritage (Leacock 1975:285). Pagano (2002:13) notes Afro Brazilians culture is a trade mark and a source of great pr ide for the City of Salvador. Afro Brazilian cultural elements pervade the discourse of baianidade (Bahianness), or the hegemonic ideological discourse informed by elements of culture and personality that make up a baianos (Bahians) way of being (jeito de ser) (see Araujo Pinho 1998). Visual representations of baianidade abound in images produced by bahiatursa (the official state tourism board) as well as by the media and in artistic production. For a more detailed treatmen t of AfroBrazilian religion in Salvador see Anna Paganos Masters thesis, Religion and the politics of Racial Identity: The relationship be tween Candomble and the Movimento Negro in Salvador, Brazil On an analogous note, Matory states the following about similarities in thes e distinct traditions that connect the practices of th ese groups with commercial networ ks that navigated the Atlantic diaspora,
69 Conventions of ritual salutation in Ocha (or Lucumi nation of Cuban Santeria and its diaspora) are virtually identical to those in Candomble. Moreover, these conventions in Cuban Ocha and Candomble are different in iden tical ways from the cognate West African practice. These are among the many similarities between Cuba and Brazil that lead me to believe that communication among Lagos, Brazil and Cuba has significantly shaped New World ritual practice in many ways from which the y interior of Yorubaland was largely exempted, due to its distance from the comm ercial networks that continuously united Lagos, Brazil, and Cuba (Matory 2005: 27-28). Different aspects of these diverse Yor uba influenced cultural-rel igious practices took root in large urban areas such as Mi ami, California, New York Cit y, and proliferated throughout the USA and on to other Caribbean Islands and South America. Over the past four decades the Yoruba religion (as it is widely known by its USA adherents) has experienced an extraordinary global rise in recogn ition and is undergoing a metamorphosis in the United States. Priests and religious leaders in Santeria, Candomble, and Voodoo are now seeking to detach the Yoruba re ligion from Catholicism and have turned to Yorubaland/ Nigeria for a renewed and refreshed understanding of If/rs religious practices (Neimark 1993: xii).
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72 CHAPTER 2 MAGIC, IMAGINATION, AND MYTHOLOGY ytnj African Village and rs Vodoo in the USA There is no tragedy, which has caused a deeper personal conflict in th e m ind and spirit of the black American than the question of his pre-American origins. Nothing fills the average American born black w ith more discomfort and embarrassment than a discussion about Africa. The two basic reasons for his severe attack of inferior ity on these occasions is firstly his complete lack of accurate know ledge about the regions of his pre-American origin, and secondly his even greater ignorance of any of the aspects of his ancestral civilization. Thus it is unthi nkable that real, honest progress and purpose can be brought into the lives of a people who have no idea or measurement to judge their progress by. Briefly stated, it is impossi ble to know where you are going, if you do not know where you have been, or you cannot tell whom you can become, if you do not know who you are. For years therefore, Africa a nd people derived there from, have been subjected to every conceivable ridicule and humiliation. With no society to defend its culture, it is inevitable that for every person of African origin, Africa became a badge of shame. It is therefore the purpose of this booklet and the Yoruba Temp le to begin the re-endowment of every African born-in-America with confidence and appreciation of his origins and culture. Oseijiman Adefunmi Efuntola I (1962) wrote the above as the foreword to one in a a series of pamphlets that was published as the Great Benin Books. This pamphlet was titled, Tribal Origins of the African American. The publication of pamphlets, prodction of staged performances, and the creation of sculptural works, paintings, and the development of a body of literature, all marked the development of the new Yoruba American Cultural Nationalist Movement. The leader of this movement was the late HRH Oseijiman Adefunmi Efuntola I, born Walter King. Formerly a classical ballet da ncer, he was born in Detroit and performed internationally. As an art student he joined Katherine Dunhams Tropical Dance Revue in 1950 and traveled with the troupe to Europe in the su mmer of the same year. At the age of thirty he traveled to Haiti and learned of the Haitian sy stem of Vodn worship. Upon returning to New York he organized the Order of Damballah Ancestor Priests. In 1959, Adefunmi was initiated into the worship of btl or rsnl at age thirty-one in Matanzas, Cuba, in accordance with Santeria traditions. He became the first Afri can American to become initiated into the btl
73 priesthood by Afro-Cuban descendants of enslaved Yorubas. This trip to Matanzas was made with a Cuban-American named Christopher Oliana. Oliana introduced Waslter King to Santeria. This marked the beginning of the spread of Yoruba religion and culture among African Americans. Upon returning to the USA, they founded the ng Temple in Harlem in 1959. Disenchanted with Afro-Cuban religion, Efuntola founded the Yoruba Temple in 1960 and called his religious sect rs -Voodoo. Orisha-Voodoo retains the Yoruba framework encapsulated in Santeria but rej ects the identification of Orisha with Catholic saints and the symbolism that goes with it (Holloway 1991:123) Orisha-Voodoo represented a direct return to the sources of Yoruba religion (ibid). In the early 1970s, the group of African Americ ans rejected Yoruba/Catholic syncretism as an outdated compromise to a slave religion (H unt 1979) and moved their Yoruba Temple away from Harlem, New York, to Shel don, South Carolina, to build ytnj African Village. The village was to serve as a commune devoted to the practice and st udy of African religion (Holloway 1991: 123). It was also designed to be a space for the initiation and training of priests and adherents, to establish an independent African society, a nd to recreate Yoruba culture within the United States (Hunt 1979: xii). As the spiritual center fo r this movement, residents of ytnj were to rebuild a new life for themse lves and create a Yoruba Kingdom in South Carolina, b d on Yoruba traditions, i ncluding patterns of work, marriage, language, dress, and social organization (ibid). During the 1960s and 1970s, Black American s, who had maintained a sentimental attachment to Africa wanted to gain more knowledge of their past. This th irst for knowledge had been stimulated by African independence, the ability of larger numbers of Blacks to travel to
74 Africa, and the showing on national te levision of a series of films b d on the best-selling book, Roots, by Alex Haley. (Hunt 1979: 12) Adefunm i was installed as the King ( ba) of ytnj, and was the first African American to be initiated to If in 1972 during a visit to Nigeria to attend the first rs conference held at Ife University (now bafemi Awolowo University)(Hunt: x ii). Films depicting the Yoruba cultural development at ytnj brought him acclaim at the conference and he became a candidate for coronation by the Ooni of Ife. On June 5th, 1981, Adefunmi I became the first nonNigerian to be named a Baale (Chief of a town). Adefunmi and his followers have recreated in ytnj Village, with some accuracy, several aspects of Yoruba culture. Although the Yoruba elements at ytnj reflect some aspects of Old World Yoruba culture/religion, there are a number of notable diffe rences. Let me offer a few illustrations of the distinctions. The word ytnj mean, y again awakes ( y-tn-j) and was chosen to express Efuntolas desire to see Yoruba culture revived and recreate d in the United States. The city of y is in Nigeria and is the capita l of the kingdom of the same name. y is said to have been the largest and most powerful Yoruba ki ngdom (see Johnsons His tory of the Yoruba, Clarkes Mapping Yoruba Networks). An important distinction is btl as the Patron deity of ytnj, whereas ng is the patron of old y. Other differences that are evident in y tnj include the use of cigars and candles in ancestral ritual s, and coconut instead of kola nut for divination. These ritual elements are New World/Cuban infl uenced and are prevalent in many y tnj ceremonies. The Damballah-wedo Temple that is located in the village derives from Haiti and ultimately from the Fon of Benin. Hurston (1990:118) writes that, Damballah is the highest and most powerful of all the gods and that, He is the father of all that is powerful and good.. He never does bad work. ytnj hosts an annual festival dedicated to th is spirit-force. The festival devises rituals and performances that are unique to ytnj and that are not known to be practiced by
75 adherents outside of the village. The festival invo lves the construction of an elaborate altar by the villages elder priests. The alta r constructed during my visit to the village in 2003 consisted of a table draped with white fabric. The table top and the space surrounding the table were embellished with native/locally grown herbs and pl ants, African styled masks and statues (these objects were from various countries in Africa) white candles, incense, and food and beverage offerings. Hurston continues, Around Damballah is grouped the worship of the beautiful in nature. One must offer him flowers, the best perfumes, a pair of white chickens; his mange s ec (dry food) consisting of corn meal and an egg which must be placed on the altar on a white plate. He is offered cakes, French melons, watermelons, pineapples, rice, bananas, grapes, oranges, apples, and the like. There must be a porcelain pot with a cover on the altar, desserts and sweet liquors, and olive oil (ibid). During the ceremony at ytnj the officiating priest re ceived attendees at the altar according to age and rank. Members of y tnjs gbni Society were received first. Priests were then received, then adherent s, and finally visitors. Each was invited to kneel before the shrine, make an offering, receive the blessing of prayers from the elder priest, and prostrate before the objects that represented the spirit of Damballah-wedo In ytnj, offering gifts to the rs and ancestors, and prostr ating before the shrines and elde rs signifies the recognition of hierarchical structure and order. These types of display serve to further authenticate notions about traditionalism, authority, and knowledge pr odction. Priests in ytnj are believed to be custodians of traditional Yoruba cultur e and have sworn allegiance to the ba and the ideals of ytnj Clarke notes, In recreating y in ytnj the leadership establishe d strategies of governance that were aligned with the prestige of the past a nd forms of community that were embedded in the premodern hegemony of the nation-state. As such, ytnj is hierarchically divided into various levels, ranging from a political leader, the ba (King), to chie fs, priests, and nonpriest practitioners. The ba, sophisticated and learne d, is more commonly known by his followers, both in and outside the village, as ba Adefunm i I, the Yoruba father of dispersed Africans. He claims a constituency of thousands of African Americans in the United States, hundreds of whom have lived and trained in ytnj (Clarke 2004: 70).
76 The festival that I attended was held on Halloween night, which fell on a Friday. In Haiti Damballah-wedos day of the week is Wednesday in the afternoon and his s acrifice is a pair of white chickens, hen and cock (Hurston 1990: 119). I call attention to this temporal alteration because it serves to signify y tnjs time/event fluidity. y tnj operates within its own temporal and spatial boundaries. Newcomers to the village may experience this as they sit around anxiously awaiting the start of a festival or to be servi ced by a priest. The experienced observer will quickly note that when the event finally commences it will unfold in accordance with the villagers sense of time. Th e thing to always recollect while in ytnj is the sign that sits on the village roadside. It reads, You are now leaving America. This statement of detachment from America prompts a reorientation and an adjustment towards the unexpected and the unknown. The attendance at the 2003 festival was meager and included mostly village children and about ten adults. Also attending the festival was a group of five visitors from Guinea along with their white American chaperone. The group was visiting y tnj as a part of a tour of the United States. According to the groups leader, th e tour was sponsored by the State Department in Washington, DC. The five visitors and their chaperone were all invite d to participate in the ceremony. Each visitor was called to the altar, where each presented a small white candle that was lighted on her/his behalf (the candles were provided by the o fficiate priest). Prayers were also sung for each visitor as she/he knelt and prostrated before the altar. The group appeared to be genuinely impressed with the ceremony and lodged at the village overnight at the compound of a senior priest. At its inception ytnj had over 100 reside nts. Over the years ytnjs population has declined hovering around 5-9 families for the past ten years. Despite this decrea s e in residency,
77 the impact of lineage is felt throughout the rs diaspora via a grow ing number of devotees, chiefs, and priests. Recasting Worshipping Practices Santeria/Luc umi practitioners th at reside in large urban ar eas such as New York City arrange their rs objects and pots in different spaces throughout their apartments and homes. Because urban spaces are so small and often crow ded with family members who may or may not be practitioners, rs are sometimes forced to take up re sidency in a closet or bathroom. rss such as and gn, that are known to be outside rs, live indoors. Urban dwellers are also faced with the problem of how to get the livestock needed for their sacrif ices to their homes or apartments. Also included in this re-configuration of traditional Yoruba practices was the revival of the cult of the ancestors (egggn society) (Brandon 1993:114). At ytnj, temples and shrines for the rs and ancestors are constructed outdoors, in various temples, in close proximity to each other. Currently there are five local ancestors (egn) that are entombed at ytnji. These ancestors are founding members that include Adefunmi I, rsmola Awolowo, and Mama Keke (see figures 2-1, 2-2, 2-3). These ancestors are celebrated as progenitors of African American -Y oruba traditions and are viewed as collective/common ancestors. Li ke the Yoruba of Ni geria, villagers in ytnj believe that the spirit of the ancestors materializes in the egn. The egngn (masqueraded performer) is the embodiment of the spirit of the decea s ed person who is believed to have returned from orun (the spirit world). The purpose of the re turn is primarily to visit his children. He/she is called ar run, which translates as citizen of heaven. As in Yorubaland, ytnj citizens believe that,
78 The role of the ancestors was not to insu re individual achievement and satisfaction, although they remain interested in the fate of their descendants: it was to undergird the continued existence of society and of a just social order at all levels (Brandon: 1997). The only individual among the entombed y tnj ancestors that resided at the village at the time of his death was the ba, Adefunmi I. The bodies of the other decea s ed priests were transported from different areas in the United Stat es to the village for bur ial rites to be conducted according to newly formulated y tnj-Yoruba burial rites. At ytnj the egngn society organizes these rites and egn sacraments. This society is headed by a chief and comprised of priests and priestesses as well as adherents that must undergo a fo rmal introduction to the society and initiation. The number of such burials with their sp ecialized rites will increa s e as the communitys elderly and extended members join the ancestors. These ytnj ancestors are called upon and enlivened during annual festival s/ceremonies, where egngn masqueraders are dressed in elaborate, colorful costumes and are paraded throughout the village. New evidence suggests that Yoruba-American communities outside of ytnj are becoming more engaged in such funerary rites and/or egngn practices (See figures 2-31 thru 2-36). Dissimilarity worth noting is that Yoruba city/states of Nigeria were traditionally urban centers, while ytnj Village is situated in a rural sett ing on a ten-acre tract of land. Thompson notes, The Yoruba are the most urban of the traditional civilizations of black Africa. Yoruba urbanism is ancient, dating back to the middle ages, when their holy city, Il-Ife, where the Yoruba believe the world began, was flourishing w ith an artistic force that later provoked the astonishment of the West (1984:3-4). The Yoruba are a West African ethnic group, living mainly in the South western part of Nigeria, parts of the Republic of Benin, Ghana and SierraLeone. The Yoruba people also have a long history of a high level of social organization. (Olomola Isola, Bade Ajuwon, Dayo Omotoso, editors, 2003: xviii)
79 Although residency at the village has declined, ytnj Village remains a repository of diapora cultural-religious knowledge that is represented in artistic monuments that stands plainly and accessible to the public. These symbolic representations speak loudly to the transfiguration of rs/santeria religious practices in the United States It is fair to say that ytnj provoked the astonishment of the West, a nd continues to function as a hol y city both for its population of citizens and expatriates who return for festivals, rituals, funerals, and pe rsonal reasons. The dichotomies that emerged during the formation of y tnjs tenets for practicing Yoruba American cultural and re ligious traditions can be partly attributed to Adefunmis struggle to reconfigure traditiona l practices and disassociate hims elf and his followers from the Cuban Roman Catholic Church. It is important to note that ba Adefunmi I was studying and learning to speak the Yoruba language and learning about Yoruba culture and traditions while developing the necessary understanding to perform th e first village initiations, training adherents, designing and constructing the village infrastructure out of available materials, simultaneously. Ideas that were framed as tradition were in fact notions that were orga nized to meet conditions and circumstances that were unfamiliar a nd without precedent. The development of ytnj foundational precepts included initiation and funerary rites, social and economic stratifications, and iconographic and aesthetic formulations. Adefunmis break with Afro Cuban practices was not without conflict, and the es tablishment of the new settleme nt in Sheldon, South Carolina, presented multiple problems for the residents of ytnj, with the neighboring residents, and with state and local government agencies. Many of these problems had to be negotiated and oftentimes resolved as they occu rred. Not all of them were resolved to the satisfaction of all of the villagers, some of whom were dissatisfied with the move to South Carolina. According to Hunt,
80 The road that led to the final settlement at y tnj Village was strewn with many problems that ended in some successes and some failures. One of the major problems faced after the Yoruba Temple was established wa s whether they should remain in New York, move to the South or leave the United States Over half of the me mbers did not choose to establish their village in South Carolina. They originally wanted to go to Western Nigeria, and failing that, to the Caribbean or South America (Hunt 1979: 35). African American history is re plete with such examples of heroic efforts by organizations and individuals to return the de scendants of enslaved Africans b ack to the African continent and to free Africa from the control of the colonial rulers. These traditions were well known in the Harlem from which Adefunmi I took his followers. According to ytnjs archival documents, the village has contributed more than four hundred priests and priestesses of the rs trad ition to the Africa American community. It has exposed Yoruba style, custom and religion to th e vast American televi sion audience and in 1994, commenced the initiation of babalwo at ytnj. Yoruba culture/religion as propagated by ba Adefunmi I was attractive to black cultural-nationalists scholars, professionals, and artists. The collaborative skills of this group proved useful in the development of ytnjs institutions and to the fabrication of Yoruba-like aesthetics. As an arm of the black nationalist movement, Orisha-Voodoo differed from other black nationalist groups in that its ethos and cultural ideal derived from Yoruba religion (Brandon 1993: 114). Even though Adefunmi I claimed to have broken away from the conventions of Cuban Lucumi, many of the practices of ytnj Village still resembled the Lucumi way of doing things. Adefunmi also borrowed practices from Haiti, Brazil, and Old y in Yorubaland. While many of Adefunmis adjustments to his practices were influenced by his travels to Cuba, Haiti, and Nigeria, some of his ideas were from books a nd articles about Yoruba people in the diaspora. This creative borrowing from numerous cultural traditions encouraged individual expressiveness
81 and allowed for the ever changing landscape of practices, people, and environment at ytnj Village. Matory in his study of Candomble in Brazil writes the following about such borrowings, The ongoing 19th to 21st century dialogue among the massive urban populations of the Atlantic perimeter has, to my mind, done as much to constitute the Africanity and the creativity of these populations as has any ancestral African or plantation culture. The social contexts of not only Candomble but also Dahomean/Beninese Vodn, Cuban Ocha, West African and Cuba If divination, Rastafar ianism, North American Jazz, and black Protestantisms all over the Anglophone Americas (to name just a few famous instances of Afro-Atlantic folk culture) have always had important supralocal, interethnic and crossclass dimensions. In all thes e traditions, African-American practitioners borrowed from, studied, and communicated with Africa (and stra tegically manipulated Africas image) as they institutionalized their own African-American forms of solidarity an d social hierarchy. An African-Americanist cultural history need not assume, even in the context of plantation slavery, that African-Americans lacked a means of access to Africa. And they never lacked their own strategic priori ties (Matory 2005: 15-16). Growth and Conflict In several instances y tnj villagers did not agree with Adefunmis worldview or his methods for discipline an d/or resolving village conflicts. In a few cas es the disparity resulted in the opposing person being expelled from the vill age. This was the situation for rsmola Awolowo, who left ytnj after an internal conflict with Adefunmi and migrated to Gainesville, Florida.14 Awolowos departure was followed by an exodus of people from the village. Some of these individuals joined Awolo wo in Gainesville; some traveled to Miami, Florida, Atlanta, Georgia, while others went to Los Angeles California. Cl arke writes about this mass exit, In the mid-1980s, the population of the co mmunity plummeted from two hundred to seventy, but this led to an expanding constitu ency of thousands of urban affiliates with growing loyalties to the community. Duri ng this period, as in creasing numbers of practitioners left for better opportunities in urban America, th e community laid the seed for 14 Awolowo is credited with the influx of former y tnj Villagers into Gainesville, Florida during the 1980s.
82 the spread of new institutional forms of urban Yoruba communities within a larger network of practitioners (Clarke 2004:57). The villages impact on Yoruba American ar tists is noteworthy. Ar tists who experienced ytnj were able to view for themselves how art objects and Yoruba st yled aesthetics were used in the worship of rs. As this move ment exploded, artists produced objects that were installed on their altars/shrines, used during rituals/ceremonies, ador ned their bodies, displayed at galleries and museums, and sold to an expanding consumer market. This movement also influenced the wearing of West African styl ed attire by African Americans and others. The dnsk shirt became a symbol of Black Nationalist pride during this era. John Mason, a Yoruba American priest, scholar, and prolif ic writer, states the following about ytunjis influence on the Yoruba American art movement: ytnj served as the focal point in the Unite d States for the renaissance of traditional Yoruba art from earlier times. There was a conscious, all-out effort to remove Catholic/slave vestiges from Yoruba worship and to reclaim the best parts of an ancient and valued past in order to build a free a nd enlightened future. Oseijeman and Babalosa rsmola Awolowo, professionally trained artist s, spearheaded this art revival and were responsible for creating the vast majority of art that was cr eated in the early days at ytnj. They served as inspirational models for a host of young artists who visited, studied, or lived at ytnj. Thousands of African Americans, Puerto Ricans, Cuban Americans, and white Americans who followed rs were influenced by the art/cultural statement presented by ytnj (John Mason 1994: 214) While many of the early settlers of ytnj Village have spread to and settled in other parts of the USA, others have traveled to Yorubaland in Nigeria to be initiated into If/rs cults. An increasingly popular de stination for several former y tnj residents and other diaspora adherents is ogbo, Nigeria, the city of the river goddess un and her now fam ous grove .15 They go there to be initiated and trained by Chief Ifyemi Elebuibon and his associates of babalwos and rs priests/ priestesses. 15 In 2006 UNESCO recognized the un Grove on the list of World Heritage sites.
83 rs Conferences: Sites for the Shap ing and Renewa l of Collective Memory During my fourth visit to Yorubaland in the summer of 2001, I frequently visited Elebuibons temple/compound in ogbo and met several If priest s, rs cult priests and visitors, both male and female, from the Yoruba diaspora, including the USA, Venezuela, Jamaica, Brazil, Cuba, and Australia. Most of them were in Nigeria to attend the th rs World Conference that was convened at Odduw Hall and Conf erence Centre, on the campus of Awolowo bafemi University (OAU) in Il-Ife. Chief Elebuibon served as the conference Host Committee Chairman. Six of the visitors to Elebuibons temple/compound had made the journey to be initiated into the If cult; two came to perform their annual If festival and others came to participate in the wedding ceremony for Elebuibons eldest daughter The atmosphere at the compound was continuously and simultaneously festive and ritualistic. Conferences such as the one held at bafemi Awolowo University during the summer of 2001 are being organized by cultural -religious groups and academic departments in a number of American and international unive rsities, and have become central venues for the examination and display of diasporic Yoruba religion-culture Yoruba art and aesthetics, and Yoruba systems of values, ethos, customs, and traditions. Sc holars and students attending these conferences include artists, art historians, museum professionals, educators, sociologists, and anthropologists. Conferees and presenters include scholars, babalwo s priests/priestesse s, adherents, and members of the general public. Most of the participants are intere sted in examining some aspect of Yoruba diaspora cultural-religious practices. Participants are generally multi-ethnic, multinational, and have recently moved towards representation that is gender sensitive. They are also representative of leadership from the intern ational rs community. Many are cultural-brokers who are engaged in influencing th e direction and policies of santer ia/rs/If religious practices.
84 Conference sites are also spaces th at facilitate the formation of new networks and the circulation of what Clarke termed, new pedagogies of Yoruba doctrine. At these sites new tenets of Yoruba religious practices are dialogued and set the basis for the modern production of new transnational subjectivities, s ubjectivities that we are now onl y beginning to understand (Clarke 2004:46). Conferences provide arenas for the staging of cultural-religious and artistic performances by local and international cultural troupes and individual artists. The programs usually include video/visual presentations to support researcher s textual documentation. These conference sites have become central spaces where transnational Yoruba identities and ideologies are negotiated, performed, and transfigured. Conferences now se rve as sites where collective memory about traditional and New World Yor uba religious practices are be ing shaped and renewed (Brandon 1993: 137). The conference theme for 2001was Time is Ripe the rs Tradition in the Twenty First Century. The organizers included The Internat ional Congress of rs Tradition and Culture and the Institute of Cultural Studies at bafemi Awolowo University. Professor Wande Abimbola, a babalwo and professor at Boston Un iversity Department of Religion, and former Vice Chancellor of bafemi Awolowo University, served as the International Steering Committee Chair. The conference objectives were to celebrate the orisa traditions, culture and spiritual experience; demonstrat e unity, coherence, and interconne ctedness of rs traditions worldwide; work on organization, propagation and re-orientation of notions about rs practices; and to prepare for challenges and prospects of the rs traditions in the 21st century. Participants included devotees, practitioners, and others interested in orisa and related religious traditions from Africa and throughout the African diaspora.
85 According to the conference brochure, the theme of the c onference was arrived at after spiritual validation and propitiator y rites by priests, priestesses, and eminent scholars in the area of African traditional religion a nd spirituality. Sub-themes importa nt to the conference agenda were trends, policy issues and strategies for orisa cultural development; ethics, principles, scripture and values of the rs systems; revita lization of the source; ed ucation, training and the orisa traditions; rs traditions in the world spiritual and healing pr actices; technological heritage of the rs tradition; and youth developm ent and gender issues in the rs tradition. Wande Abimbola discussed aspects of these t opics during his keynote address, while other dimensions were discussed duri ng the presentation of severa l topical papers and planning sessions. Abimbola specifically called for the creation and development of institutions, from primary school through higher education, organized for the training of priests/priestesses, babalwos, and ynifs. He stated that these inst itutions should award di plomas and degrees that would account for the achievements, credibility, a nd proficiency of If/rs practitioners. He suggested that these institu tions should be situated th roughout the Yoruba diaspora. For Abimbola and other Yoruba scholars, Ifa remains a vast cultura l/religious repository of the Yoruba philosophy of life, to be drawn upon to back up interpretations of Yoruba practices and institutions. Several languages were spoken and translated at the conference including Yoruba, English, Portuguese, Spanish, and Fren ch. The opening and clos ing sessions took place at Il-Ife, while other activities were held at y (the relic of Old y Empire) at the Alaafins Palace. The reception included a session with the Alaafin and ng celebrations. An important feature of the conference was the annual un festival held at the un Grove in ogbo. Conferees participated in what was described in the brochure as a Royal reception at t jas Palace. Various rs cult groups performed oriki (praise poetry), dance, egngn masquerades,
86 and skits throughout the conference. The outside plaza was pregnant with local artists performing and merchants selling art, Yoruba/rs religious and cultural para phernalia, clothing and books. ba Adefunmi I, the king of y tnj African Village and an entourage of village chiefs, traveled to Nigeria to be at the conference. ba Adefunmi was schedule to address the conferees, but due to health problems he was tr ansported to the Republic of Benin. The th rs World Conference convened in Havana, Cuba from July 7th to 13th, 2003 and was sponsored by the Yoruba Cultural A ssociation of Cuba, and the Global Yoruba Congress committee. The 9th International Congress of rs Traditio n and Culture (rsWorld 2005) convened from August 1-6, 2005, at the Universidade de Es tado Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The theme of the Congress was rs Religion and Culture in the 21st Century. rsWorld was founded in 1981 and claims to be the worlds larg est organization of practitioners and scholars that re search or teach topics related to rs tradition, religion and culture. The rsWorld charter states that rsWorld promotes cooperation, understanding and excellence in a world where rs tradition and culture plays a central role in the day-to-day lives of over 100 million people. It is estimated that rsWorld have members, individual s and institutional, from over 50 countries. The Aims and Objectives of the organization as listed in the Charter include: To revitalize and rejuvenate the or isa culture and all its traditions. To organize periodic meetings so as to eval uate, promote and encourage dialogue on various aspects of orisa trad ition and culture. To hold regular cultural festivals. To issue publications on the activities of the Congress. To rotate the venue of meetings from one place to another so as to increa s e knowledge of cultures and to generate mutual understanding amongst members of the Congress.
87 To serve as an umbrella to all ot her Yoruba Cultural Organizations. The principal organizers for this c onference were, Grand Patron: HRH the Ooni of Ife, ba Okunade Sijuwade (Olubuse ll), President: Professor Wande Abimbola (Nigeria and USA), Vice-President, Africa: Chief I fyemi Elebuibon. In attendance at the conference were delegates for the Caribbean, Europe, North America, Sout h America, and Trinidad and Tobago (source: http://www.rsworld.org ) (see figure 2-10).
88 Figure2-1: The Old ytnj African Village Roadside Sign (2004) Figure2-2: The New y tnj African Village Roadside Sign (2007)
89 Figure 2-3: Raising Vi llage Flag (2005)
90 Figure 2-4: Adefunmi I and rsmola Awolowo in Harlem (1969)
91 Figure 2-5. Mama Keke, Queen Moth er Moore, Efuntola, Sunta (1982)
92 Figure 2-6: Chief rsmola Awolowothe first Alagba of ytnj African Village (1976)
93 Figure 2-7: Efuntola Ad efunmi I with Staff of Authority (1976)
94 Figure 2-8: ytnj Bt Drummers
95 Figure 2-9: ytnj African Village Egngn Seated in chairs (2005) Figure 2-10: ytnj African Village Egngn dancing (2005)
96 Figure 2-11 Chief Alagba in front of ng Temple, ytnj African Village (2005)
97 Figure 2-12: Chief Alagba Chanting to Egngn, ytnj African Village (2005) Figure 2-13: ytnj Egngn dancing (2005)
98 Figure 2-14: ytnj African Village adherents and guests saluting Egngns (2005) Figure 2-15: HRH Prince Ad blu and HRG Odfunda at Fune ral Rites for Adefunmi I, ytnj African Village (2005)
99 Figure 2-16: ytnj African Village un Temple (2004) Figure 2-17: Statue representing un in front of un Temple, ytnj African Village (2004)
100 Figure 2-18: Adefunmis casket draped with ytnj State Flag, ytnj African Village (2005) Figure 2-19: Royal family in attenda nce at Funeral of Adefunmi I, y tnj African Village (2005)
101 Figure 2-20: Offerings placed in front of HRH Adefunmi I Casket, ytnj African Village (2005)
102 (a) (b) Side view of Ad efunmis Mausoleum Figure 2-21: Iconography attached to Royal Mausoleum (a) Royal Symbol for Reign of Adefunmi. (b) Royal Symbol on side of Mausoleum (2005)
103 Figure 2-22: Front View of Adefunmis Mausoleum, y tnj African Village (2005) Figure 2-23: rsmola Awolowos Burial Site (2004)
104 Figure2-24: HRH Adefunmi II Stands before the Kingdom at Coronation. Note the Beaded crown, Cane, and Horsetail whisk, ytnj African Village (2005)
105 Figure 2-25: HRH Adefunmi II with royal family, ytnj African Village (2005) Figure 2-26: ba in the person of btl, y tnj African Village (2005)
106 Figure 2-27: Adefunmi II seated befo re his kingdom for the first time, y tnj African Village (2005) Figure 2-28: Adefunmi II dances with villagers and guest, ytnj African Village (2005)
107 Figure2-29: HRG y ba Odfunda celebrates with villagers and guest at coronation, ytnj African Village (2005) Figure 2-30: gbni Society Members, ytnj African Village (2005)
108 Figure 2-31: yw Saluting ytnj African Village (2005) Figure 2-32: ya Cult Women, y tnj African Village (2005)
109 CHAPTER 3 CULTURAL PLURALISMS AND PARAMETERS African Religion and the Media The important question of what is the indige nous religion of Africa has becom e an urgent one. The question expands itself to include wha t is the nature of religion? and of what elements is it made up? Experience has revealed that this is an area in which there has been much perplexity and confusion, whic h have resulted in the coinage of wrong descriptive nomenclatures for the religion. The eyes of African peoples, especially African scholars are being ope ned to the fact that they have a certain God-given heritage which has its own intrinsic values with which is bound the destiny of their racial soul. These valu es they are seeking to recover or refurbish. This is the meaning of the philosophies of identity known as n egritude, African personality, etc., w ith their counterparts in Black Power, Black Religion, etc. African scholars are beginning to engage th emselves in serious researches into the indigenous beliefs of their peoples; African traditional religion is now a recognized course in African Universities, training colleges, and seminaries. Recently it has been listed among courses to be taught in the upper classes of secondary schools and examined for the General Certificate of Education (Idowu 1991: x). Although ideas about African and African American culture-production and African American-cultural nationalism within the United States evolved from the bottom-up, these ideas quickly took root and were transformed into co mmercial entities and products that were then mass-produced and created to aestheticise and popul arize concepts that be came associated with blackness, African and African American heritage and African derived religious practices. Three popular West African influenced religious groups that emerged in the United States during the last four decades were Adefunmis rs Voodoo and ytnj African Village Nana Dinizulus Akan Society. A newly formulated group founded by Ra Un Nefer Amen, Ausar Auset Society, syncretizes aspects of Egyptian cosmology with rs traditions. 1The founder of this organization is believed to have received in structions about rs worship and the rs 1 For more details about Nana Dinizulus Akan Society an d/or the Ausar Auset Society visit these websites: Ausar AusetSociety, www.uaia.org/aas/aboutaas.htm USA Akan Society, www.dinizulu.org/
110 cosmology from Adefunmi I, during the time in which he was establishing the ideological precepts for his group. Although members from th ese groups have migrated throughout the United States, each of the groups was founded in Harlem and Queens in New York. As a consequence of these developments and the intermingling of group members, religious knowledge and customs that were once considered to be secret and sacred within the If/rsVoodoo and Santeria circles are now available to consumers who can afford the cost of the many books written about the subject, in itiation fees, airline tickets to Nigeria or Ghana, and/or Internet access. Cuba, Brazil, Puerto Rico, and Haiti are also sites that are frequented by many who are interested in gaining insight into the practices of these reli gious/cultural groups. Although each of the above menti oned groups require initiation into its priesthood, not all of the groups designate a period of time for initiates to live as yw or priest in training, but each group does have a proscribed trai ning program. For example, the Akan Society requires a three year training period. This time is marked by its associated r ites and ceremonies. Locating Visual Documentation The mo st informed visual documentation of these rites that I have been able to locate is a 1978 documentary film Iawo directed by Gera ldo Sarno. The film was made in Brazil and examines the Candomble traditions of Yoruba descended Afro-Brazilians. It shows the initiation of a group of women into a temple and provides a glimpse into the nuances of one of many local groups that practice a variation of African derived religions. The forty minute film examines the religion, its ideology and soci al meaning. (For a contemporary account of Candomble in Brazil see J. Lorand Mator y, Black Atlantic Religion: Tradition, Transnationalism, and Matriarchy in the Afro-B razilian Candomble, also see, Ruth Landes, The City of Women).
111 Another informed account of the yw experien ce is an Internet site titled The yw Experience. At this site a newl y initiated priest journals his y ear long tribulations, after having been crowned with un in New York City in accordance with the Cuban Ocha traditions. This chronicle offers an example of how the Inte rnet and its cyberspace channels are allowing onlookers to access the rs experience. ( http://www.angelfire.com/my/ yw Experience/ ). While the documentary film and the Internet j ournal differ in their focus and approach to discussing the experiential importa nce of being initiated, they de monstrate visual content that could be useful for anthropological or interdisci plinary research, observation and analysis. This content includes display of objects and paraphernalia that the initiates are made to wear and/or ingest. It also includes filmed images of ritual s, ceremonies, costumes, socialization processes, and segments of ceremonial songs and dance performances. This type of cinematic emphasis on African and African-American cu lture production took root with the publication and subseq uent broadcasting of Alex Haleys Roots: Saga of an American Family (1976) Clarke (2004:114) wr ites that the film was the most significant event in the ideological transformation of black American identities in the twentieth century. Its inclusion of members of ytnj African Village as ritual performers during Kunta Kintes manhood rites of passage initiation spawned the intr odction of a genre of f ilms that highlighted rituals, language, performance, and experiences that were obvi ously Yoruba influenced. Since that time several independent film makers have produced documentaries and docu-dramas that have explored the historical dimensions of what Clarke termed Ideological transformations.2 2 It is important to note that while these film makers we re working with limited budgets to re-focus the emphasis placed on African religion and ideologue, Hollywood producers were continuing to release films that sensationalized and demonized African originated cult ural/religious experiences. The Serpent and the Rainbow was a popular film during the 90s.
112 Two important films that were produced subsequently were Daughters of the Dust by Howard University trained filmmaker Julie Dash, and Sankofa by Haile Gerima, an Ethiopian faculty member in Howard Universitys film department. Both of these films demonstrate identity transformations and employ Yoruba influenced iconography, language, rituals, and performances. In the case of Sankofa Gerima selected Yoruba names for his principal characters and implanted initiation rites as essential to the pr ocess of transformation from a consciousness of servitude to one of liberation. Julie Dashs f ilm incorporates songs and iconography that are popular in the transatlantic Yoruba diaspora. These songs and imagery serve to connect coeval knowledge with historical events and points ou t how movement away from the old ways represented a form of initiation and rites of passa ge into modernity and a turn away from ideas that were African originated and deemed outmoded and essentially malevolent. The development of this genre of films o ccurred simultaneously in the United States, Brazil, and Cuba. Two Brazilian b d films that depict ideologica l and identity transformations are Tenda Dos Milagres (Tent of Miracles) by Ne lson Pereira (1977) and Quilombo directed by Rodolfo Brandao (1991). These films focus on pe rsecution and resistance and situate Yoruba derived practices as central to their themes. The films also highlight the concourse that exists between Catholism and Indigenous African religion provides viewers with a sense of the internal conflicts experienced by enslaved Africans, and the complicity of the Roman Catholic Church in the slave trade. Cuban born filmmaker Gloria Rolandos Ogunns Eternal Presence (1992) opens with a recounting of the pataki (myths) of the Yoruba gods Ogun and un. The film features an interview with Lazaro, the famed Cuban singer, scenes from a toque (Yoruba ceremony) in Havana with members of the Conjunto Folklorico Nacional). The film captured the
113 imagination of an internationa l audience of viewers who were able to identify with the iconographic associations made by this artist. (For a list of films see Filmography section). Other docu-dramatic films pr oduced during this time include Voice of the Gods filmed in the United States, produced by Akuaba Productions and directed by Al fred Santana (1985). This film highlights ytnj African villages foundation days and includes interviews with Adefunmi I and Nana Dinizulu, founder of the Akan temp le. It also provides a glimpse into aspects of an Akan initiation ceremony. Another important film is Cuban produced, Voices of the Orishas (1994) directed by Alvaro Perez Betancourt. The films cast performers and narrators that include priests and adherents, who bring experiential knowledge to the narratives and performances. These types of cinematic and Internet displays are important to transnationalist, identity, cultural, ideological and transformation theory an alysis, and provide data that allow viewers to witness practices and possibly incongruities in the types of experiences, situations, and environs that are essential to the processes that initiates and adherents must undergo. Furthermore, the films and Internet sites are arenas that may provide new terrain, scope, and imagery and may prove useful in recasting how anthropological in quiry and research methodology is informed and utilized in research that examines transnationa lism and popular notions about Africanisms in the diaspora. (See figures 1-1 and 1-2). Elitism vs. Nationalism: Wh o Determines Traditions? There is not a singular way of being an initiate or to prac tice indigenous Af rican religions. The disparities that exist between Candomble, rs-voodo o, and Santeria/Lucumi practices and the debates about traditions and authenticity can be heard at academic conferences, viewed on Internet sites, and in the communities of worshippers and priests. For some who claim to be practitioners of Yoruba religion, initiation and tradi tion are not important. Recently I was
114 informed that some individuals who never we re initiated, who are claiming to be priests.3 Currently several internet sites advi se and inform newcomers to rs practices, covering topics that include how to find a priest how to join an rs family, and how to recognize whether or not someone has the credentials or ex perience that they claim to have. Why would anyone make false claims about in itiation and priesthood credentials? Priests do earn an income from the services they prov ide to clients. These services may include initiation, divination consultations and/or making an offering or an imal sacrifice to the gods or ancestors. The cost of these items may vary and ca n be substantial. Cost and the need to pay for these services are always points for discussion and debate by adhe rents and outsiders. There are no standardized fees and there have been reports of people being mislead, falsely advised, or in several instances robbed of th eir money by priests and others claiming to be priests. These kinds of incidences and adverse media coverage place the religion in a nega tive light and create a religious milieu where practitioners are discontented and transient. Adverse media coverage of the religion occu rs in Nigeria, the cradle of Yoruba civilization, as well as in the United States. Cros Sandoval (2007: 331) states the following about the media and Santeria: Since the beginning of the Cuban Diaspora, Sant eria has enjoyed as well as suffered from much media attention. In the United States, television program s, newspapers, and popular magazines have been fascinated by Santeria. The phenomenon of white santeros has been especially puzzling to the press. While repo rting on Santeria in the United States and elsewhere the media have also reported on what were perceived as bi zarre sacrifices of animals. With increasing appearances of sacrif iced animals in rivers, by railroad tracks, at intersections, by sacred trees, and in other places in Miami and elsewhere, some alarmed residents have contacted the Humane Societ y. Others have called the local police to denounce the practice of Santeria. The interac tions between the police and santeros have also brought frequent, though not positive, visibility to Santeria because the press has been eager to cover these esoteric practi ces and inform the public about them. 3 Inauthentic initiations and priests integrity are popular discussions in the Yoruba religious community and on Internet sites. The information that I received was during a private discussion with Elebuibon in 2005.
115 During the course of this research proj ect, I have heard numerous accounts from informants and friends about treatments that resulted in some form of abuse or inappropriate use of power. There were several instances in whic h someone was initiated to serve the wrong rs and had to be initiated a second time. For those that I interviewed the ex perience was financially costly and psychologically debilitat ing. There have also been reports of suicides by priests and of priests who discarded their objects of worship. It was for these and several other reasons, that the three yws discussed in this dissertation select ed to turn to Yorubaland and the tutelage of Elebuibon. Three yws Pilgrimage, Rituals, and Kismetics On Thursday evening, August 5th, 2005, three women from distinct backgrounds became three yw. They were to remain ywo for varying lengths of time. The literal Yoruba translation for the word yw is wife, bride, spouse or any married woman. In the context of rs/If practices yw means brid e of the rs. Every person that is initiated in to any one of the traditional rs sects must be an yw This designation stands regardless of gender or age. However, newage groups are emerging that perform initiation rite s that deviate from conventional practices. The event in which these three became yws took four days and ended on Sunday evening of the same week. This ph of my research examines the processes that the three yws engaged in during their initiations and looks at wa ys in which their worldviews are transformed as they interact with and are instructed by their godfather, Ifyemi Elebuibon. It also looks at how their choice to be initiated moved each of them to particular sets of actions or inaction, decisions or indecision. My inquiry is privileged by the fact that I am an insider-participant. Being an insider I became involved in several situations where it be came necessary for me to suspend my academic
116 focus as an objective observer-par ticipant and immerse myself into the process, as practitioner. While it is not my intent to call into question the merits of scien tific objectivity, it is my hope that this research demonstrates the impor tance of up-close, front-door scholarship. Historically, scholarship and re search has been the domain of financially or politically privileged academics that possessed the wherewithal to buy access to and favors from informants. Insider scholarship enables researchers who have ga ined capital through long years of engagement and participation in closed comm unities to observe, part icipate in, and provide analysis to subject areas that were formerly unapproachable. It also enables and cultivates a collaborative research environment in which the community being investigated is aware of the researchers agenda and intent. It contributes to the breaking do wn of barriers that prevent upclose observations and in depth analysis. In the ca s e of this particular research with my insiders passport, I was able to film and record segments of rituals that provide visual and audio evidence of ceremonies, rituals, and processes that makes possible the transformati on that is experienced by new initiates, and oftentimes the silent observer While much has been written about If/rs-voodoo/ Santeria/Lucumi over the past thr ee decades, very little has been documented in the way of visual evidence of the processe s surrounding initiation and/ or worship. This is especially true in diaspora communities that c onstructed walls of secrecy when it was necessary to keep African religious practices out of the purview of plantation owne rs, enslavers, and law enforcers to avoid pers ecution and castigation. In July 1998 Chief Ifyemi visited Archer, Florida, as the guest of Bb Onabamiero Ogunleye and Botanica Iflola. This event was co-sponsored by If Culture Center in Meddletonville, North Carolina and Mahogany Revue Foundation, a Central Florida African American newspaper. At a naming ceremony for one of Onabamieros daughters, Chief Ifyemi
117 lectured on traditional African Culture. The di scussion topics ranged from rites of passage, ancestral worship, destiny, and divination. Danc ing, drumming and story telling followed the lecture. During November 2002, Chief Ifyemi returned to Archer, as a part of his United States circuit. Onabamiero Ogunleye arranged the visit to enable family members, adherents and clients to perform specialized rituals wi th the more experienced babalwo and to be a planning session for a more extensive visit to th e area by Chief Ifyemi. Ifyemi remained in the Archer area for about five days and performed Ifa consultations and r ituals for twenty-two people, including a toddler, two teenagers, and seve ral adolescents and adults. Th e population serviced was from different ethnicities, genders, and nationaliti es, including white and black Cubans, a Jamaican, and African Americans. Three U.S. ba s ed babalwos that were initiated at Ifyemis ogbo compound and who are being trained by him assisted with the rituals. Elebuibon returned to Iflola Compound in Archer and Il rsnl Center in Hawthorne, Florida during the summer of 2005. This visit was scheduled so th at he could in itiate the three women and a man. Two of the wo men were initiated into the un priesthood. One woman and the male were initiated to the rsnl/ btl sect. The male initiate was one of the babalwos that had been initiated in ogbo. He had been initiat ed and crowned with un earlier in his life. This recent initiation to btl/rsnl was the result of an Ifa consultation. The initiate stated that he was not comfortable with the integrity of th e people who did the un ceremony and that the If consultati on confirmed his assumption. During this visit, Chief Ifyemi also presented me with the object that represents or (inner head or super-ego) and performed th e annual feeding of my ikin If ( consecrated kola nuts ) and met with several visitors who had traveled from as far away as Atlanta and New Orleans for If
118 consultation. Two of the visitors were Ba balwos who had also been initiated in ogbo by Ifyemi. The visiting babalwos came for c onsultations for themselves and each brought someone for consultation with If. Both of the uninitiated visitors were male. All of the initiations, If consultations, r ituals and ceremonies were performed at Onabamiero's Iflola compound. Ifyemi is a master teacher and brings his vast knowledge of Yoruba traditions, performance and history to his international cadre of students and clie nts. His pedagogy reinforces and strengthens the African Diasporas interest in Yoruba culture and traditions. By placing emphasis on what he terms traditional, Ifyemi aids his students a nd clients in making connections with an endemic past. For many New World Africans, this past has been largely situated in slavery and the descendants of thos e who were enslaved have for the most part experienced an expansive void in their connection with an indi genous African-inspired ethos. At the heart of this ethos is a re verence for ancestors, biological a nd imagined, and a worship of a pantheon of spirit forces that resembles th e life sustaining elements of the universe. Individuals are drawn to consultations for any of a number of reasons. Some come seeking advice about health issues; others come for concerns that may involve finances, legal matters, relationships, and /or cultural/spiritual upliftm ent. No matter the reason or reasons for the consultation, most attendees are informed that some ritual that may include an offering or sacrifice must be performed. The oblations may be as simple as a presentation of fruits or it may involve the sacrifice of an animal. The animal is usually a fowl or a goat. For ng it could be a turtle or for gn a dog. The formulation of th e offered ingredients is determined during the consultation and are usually concocted and administered by the attendant priest or babalwo. However, there are several publications and Internet sites that prescribe co ncoctives that are not
119 standardized and that can be self administered. I recently purcha s ed a book authored by Shannon R. Turlington (2002), The Complete Idiots Guide to Voodoo The author claims that the book will provide the reader with insights into the history and mysteries of this misunderstood religion, ancient wisdom on the meaning of voodoo rituals, and expert guidance on making your own protective charms. The book is written to appeal to a lay audience and lacks the integrity a nd experiential elements that ar e essential to building the kind of good character (iwa pele) that If demands and that disciplined priests must adhere to. The formulas that are prescribed in it are generic and are of the types that appeal to a growing body of individuals and groups that look for packaged easy to apply, solutions to their concerns. While it may be reasonable to suggest that these remedies provide emotional and psychological recourse for some subscribers, they lack the fey a nd potential that is inhere nt in the relationships that exist between adherents and priests. Ceremonies and rituals that are performed dur ing initiation are inte nded to disrupt and disorientate the initiates consciousness and to reinstate her/him as a newly created being. For most of the millions of priests/priestesses in th e Yoruba diaspora, this disruption usually begins with an If consultation with a babalwo or a m rndlgn (sixteen cowry shells) reading with a priest. At these sessions, the person being c onsulted is sometimes advised that they must participate in some level of initiation. Priests are agents of transformation. The good ones are committed to the people they serve and members of their families or house. The bad ones add stress to lives that are already stressed. I dont personally know any of the bad ones, but I have heard many reports from informants and friends. In my almost thirty years of involve ment, I have interacted with many priests from throughout the diaspora. I have ha d several godfathers and have e ngaged in several stages of
120 initiation. My godfathers were all cultural pedagogue s, artists, entrepreneur s, deeply entrenched in the struggle to bring Yoruba cultural expressions into their families and communities. The relationship that yws must have with their godparent(s) and the initiation rites that they must undergo are simultaneously demonstrative of agency and acquies cence, resistance and conformity. This relationship usually begins with a consultation or reading. The instruments used to perform the reading may vary dependi ng on rather the reader is a babalwo ( If Priest) or a priest in any one of the rs sects. If priests use an opele chain or ikin If; other priests generally use m rndlgn (sixteen cowry shells). There is no standardized cost for a reading; the fee may range from $25.00 to $100.00. It is usually determined by the priest that is doing the work. The time that it takes to condu ct a reading also varies; it could be very brief or it could last for several hours. The cost and the time depend on the skills of th e diviner and/or the relationship that exists between the diviner and the person being read. Professional diviners are oftentimes very busy and have client/priest relationships. Many priests are not diviners; some serve in other ritual or ceremonial capacities. While most in itiates aspire towards the priesthood, some never serve in the body of priests. Instead they live th eir lives privately, servi ng only their rs. How one should live out their lives after initiation is rev ealed during the ita ceremony, which is an important part of the initiation rites. The choice to have Ifyemi initiate the three yws was influenced by the babalwo/priests that were being trained by him. The tw o women that were given to un had made a previous pilgrimage to ogbo and visited uns grove, bathed in her sa cred river, and propitiated her to enhance their lives. One of the two women had spent time at Ifyemis compound; Ifyemi performed If divination and made several sacr ifices and offerings to various
121 rs for this woman. In fact, we met Ifyemi at the same time and performed several rites together. It was during this time that I was initiated to If. The third woman had never been to Yor ubaland and had never met Ifyemi. Her introduction to Yoruba culture and Ifyemi was sponsored by Onabamiero Ogunleye, Ifyemis godson and spiritual father of Iflola Compound in Archer. Onabamiero is also the person who directed me to see Ifyem i during my stay in Il Ife, Nigeria. Like me, the three women wanted an initiation experience that was disconnected from the Cuban Lucumi rites that are practiced in the USA and at the same time, they wanted a more authentic Yoruba investiture. Despite the fact that an increasing number of people are selecting to have their rites performed in Yorubaland or by a babalwo or priest from home, this choice does not come without controversy and concerns. Cuban styled Santeria/Lucumi rites do minate the USA rs worldview. (For more on this system, see David H. Browns, Santeria Enthroned: Art, Ritual, and innovation in an Afro-Cuban Religion ). For some African Americans the break with the Santeria/Lucumi practices began during the 1960s with Adefunmis refusal to continue to include worship of the pantheon of Catholic sa ints that are associated with the Afro-Cuban practices and his establishment of temples in Harlem, New York, ytnj African Village in Sheldon and his development of an African styled aesthetics, iconography, and use of the Yoruba language and institutions (see J. Lorand Matory, Black Atlantic Religion 2005, Kamari M. Clarke, Mapping Yoruba Networks: Power and Agency in The Making of Transnational Communities 2004, David H. Brown, Santeria Enthroned: Art, ,Ritual, and innovation in An Afro Cuban Religion 2003, Carl M. Hunt, y tnj Village: The Yoruba Movement in America 1979).
122 The controversies that existed between Adefunmi and the Cubans were many and included a threat on Adefunmis life by Cuban prie sts and a disassociation from Adefunmi and his followers by Santeria / Lucumi priests and practitioners. As stated previously, Ifyemi claimed that during his earlier affiliation with Cuban babalwo in Miami, he was warned against going to Harlem and working with the blacks. He also stated that he found this interdiction to be odd and offensive. At one point during our discussion he pointed to his arm and exclaimed, The people that I was being warned against, look just like me. For the most part, these types of rifts betw een Cubans (mostly white Cubans) and African American priests no longer exis t. However, the contestations and disparities in practices, aesthetics, and iconography stil l points towards a compelling difference in worldview and relationship with Yorubaland for African-American and Cuban adhere nts. These differences play themselves out significantly in initiation rites, ceremonies, and cultural performances. They are also apparent in the ways that yws are orientated and in th e ways in which yws conduct themselves during their pedagogic period. Most of the people who are brought to the grove or room to receive r s have no idea of what the rites will entail. This unknowingness is partly due to the fact that the uninitiated are forbidden to enter the sacred spa ce and because what goes on in that space is regarded as sacred and secret. The mysteries of these traditions ar e the reserved privilege of only the priests and officiates that are conducting the rituals. Access to this specialized knowledge is what distinguishes priests and is in large part the reason for the aforementioned controversies and contestations and exorbitant expendi tures associated with initiation. Except for extraordinary ca s es, neophytes are required to pa y in advance the full cost of initiation. The price usually amounts to several thousand dollars. Santeria/Lucumi initiations
123 might cost as much as ten thousand dollars ($10,000). In a few exceptional ca s es, priests perform initiations at no cost or for whatever amount of money the initiate can afford. In some ca s es, remuneration is worked out in service to the community. This method of payment was popularized during the establishment of y tnj African Village. In rare ca s es the rs will demand that a person be initiated at no cost to the initiate. Ifyemi allows for some payments to be made in installments. Because he is bas ed in Nigeria, payments are usually sent to him via Western Union money trans actions. In addition to this and several other shifts in direction, Ifyemi only gives a single rs or the rs that guides the head of the yw. This is another practice that was executed by Adefunmi at ytnj and disputed by the Cuban priest s. In the Santeria/Lucumi tradition, initiates are given seven rs (for more details on Santeria/Lucumi initiation customs see J. Lorand Matory, Black Atlantic Religion ) and are instructed to care for and serve the seven rs. Adefunmi and If yemi give additional rs to initiates at the command of If. Some rs requi re initiates to receive more than one rs to balance their lives or to aid in the wo rk that their kismet dictates they perform. Deference for their personal destinies and socio-cu ltural heritage are at the core of the three yws rational for being initiated. For them initia tion signifies a return to the ways an ancestral past and a connection to Yoruba gods that are situated at the forefr ont of the creati on of all life. Tales and allegories that allude to creation and the beginning of humankind in Il Ife are woven into the od and If myths that are given to initiates and adhe rents during divination and more recently in the volumes of literature that ha ve been published about Yoruba mythology. Even though many of these tales are seemingly fantasti c and epigrammatic they are the substance of Yoruba cosmology, theology, and phenomena. Divi nation, ceremonies, and rituals provide access to an experiential understandi ng of this triadic composition.
124 During the initiation of the th ree yws, I was able to pa rticipate in and observe the processes that enabled the women to gain entran ce to the gateway of self discovery, personal transformation, and historical knowledge as If yemi divined for each of them, while his assistants performed the requisite rituals. The three women who came to this experience were hoping for and expecting transformation. They knew coming in that they were about to see and learn some things about themselves and gain acce ss to another level of consciousness a sense of being present to an unraveling of innate knowledge, which is also about themselves. They came to be directed to a path that le ads to a clearer understa nding of some of the mysteries of the rs. The hopes and expectations of these women were ba s ed on their own life experiences and observations of other people who they knew who we re involved in some form of rs practice. The ritual space in which the lives of the yws would be transformed was small, and the instruments used to perform the feat we re few. The space was created by Onabamiero and approximates Ifyemis temple room in ogbo. His familys spiritual shrines, objects for ancestral spirits, If, and rsnl are kept in it, along w ith an assortment of ritual paraphernalia. He attached an adjacent room for the yws initiation and expanded the space to accommodate the ritual and ceremonies. It also served as a space for the yws to sleep, meditate, and receive instruc tions during the four days. This was the most important initiation that On abamiero had hosted at his compound. It is a telling story of the growth and potential of Iflola compound and of the vision Onabamiero and his wife Olapatun have for establishing the sp iritual hub in their home. At compound Iflola,
125 they have transformed a two acre area, on a seven acre tract into an enchanting and sacred space.4 Organizing the event took several long distan ce interstate phone calls to the women, their sponsors, and Ifyemi, who was at the time, ba s ed in Los Angeles, California. Ifyemi owns and carries with him at all times two cell phones that he uses to keep him connected to family members in several different countries and his ne twork of priests/students, and clients. His phone is constantly busy as he nego tiates consultations, arranges rituals, and settles payment arrangements. His travel and living arrangements are managed and paid for by those who commission his services. In the ca s e of this initiation th e sponsors and three yws were responsible for paying his expenses and ma king all of the travel arrangements. The three women traveled from their homes in New York, South Carolina, and Florida, to Compound Iflola to be initiated. Although they had been communicating with each other via telephone, the meeting in Archer would be their first face to face encount er. In fact, I was the only person present who had previous expe riences with the en tire group of women. yw Tolu (rstolu rs is king) and I have been friends for almost thirty years. Her son Ade is one of my godsons; yw Wembe (rswembe) and I were graduate students at the University of Florida and traveled to Il Ife together to study the Yoruba Language at bafemi Awolowo University (OAU). yw Talabi (rstalabi) an d I both taught at Santa Fe Community College in Gainesville, Florida. All three are prof essional women and are affiliated with academic institutions. The transformation that they are seeking thr ough initiation includes enhancements in their professional and private lives. In addition to their interests in the healing arts, these women are 4 see article The Sacred Space of Compound Ifal ola and Baba Onabamiero Ogunleye by Robin Poynor and Ade Ofunniyin for additional Information about Compound Ifalola and the Ogunleye family
126 cultural teachers. They have created lives for themselves that pe rsonify and display their intent on an African presence. The clothing that they wear, how they accessorize their bodies, create their living environments and express their moral and social values, speaks to their focus and commitment to personal well being and the well bei ng of others. These ideas are at the heart of what If teaches. Engagement in some form of arti stic expression and/or the healing arts is a common point of interest with many of the a dherents in the various communities in which I conducted my research. I will revisi t the topic of art and healing mo re extensively later in this work. Initiation for these women began the moment they agreed that it was time for them to receive rs. Because of my long standing relationship with yw Tolu and yw Wembe, I was involved with helping them to work out the logistics and resolve some of the issues that determined their decisions to be initiated at this time. I had previously discussed the possibility of traveling to ogbo to Ifyemi Compound with both women. yw Tolu and I had determined to make our journey dur ing the summer of 2006. Ifyemis presence in the U.S. seemed providential and pushed ever yones initiation agenda forward. Preparations for the three yws involved s hopping for clothing to be worn in the room and clothing to be worn during the coming out ceremony. They also had to purcha s e white sheets, towels, and vessels that w ould be used to house their rs objects and contain water. All of the items had to be new, the clothing items had to be the color th at corresponded with the color associated with each yw s particular rs. For exampl e, yw Tolu and yw Wembe decided on two outfits, one yellow, and the other green for their coming out attire. Those colors correspond with uns colors. Since yw Talabis guardian rs is rsnl/ btl she wore white clothing for the entire affair. All of the women wore white during the two nights that
127 they stayed in the room. The coming out cerem ony was on the third day of the initiation. The women formed their own network and divided th e tasks of locating a nd acquiring the various items that they were responsible for providing. Preparations also included a rranging leave time from wor k, making travel arrangements, and a conference call with Ifyemi to determine which rs will guide each of the yws fate. After getting the necessary information from the women, Ifyemi was able to ascertain this through consulting If. The women also made arrange ments for the finances to cover the expense of traveling, the cost of the act ual initiation, and the co st of any other services that might be required or desired and not c overed in the initiation cost. Additional services sometimes include rituals that come up during any one of the several readings that are performed during initiation or receiving multiple rs An example of this is the receipt of ikin If by yw Wembe and yw Talabi, immediately following their initiation to un and btl. yw Wembe also wanted to receive or but decided instead to do it at another time. It is often the ca s e that during the ita ceremony that If advises that additional work must be performed and/or additional rs must be received to fortif y the life of the recipient Ifyemi usually advises that time and long life is the favor of If. The final cost paid by each yw for the services rende red during this initiation wa s approximately $5,000$6,000. The money was parceled out to Ifyemi in cash during the several different pha s es of the ceremonies and was paid to him in cash. The three sponsoring babalwo were responsib le for providing the animals, condiments, and several of the objects that were to be used. Although it is not nearly as difficult as in urban areas, locating and procuring an imals always takes special planning. Because we had never initiated anyone at this site before, we had no real idea of the exact number of pigeons, roosters,
128 hens, guinea fowls, goats, and snails that woul d be required. The best that we could do was estimate ba s ed on previous rituals that we had perform ed. We knew about the items that the rs that we were working with usually requested or accepted. Between the th ree of us we had many of the necessary things. Our approximations were inaccurate and we had to go in search of animals and items several times during the actual initiation rites. Ifyemi was to bring the items that were unavailable locally from Nigeria. There are certain rituals that Ifyemi refuses to perform outsi de of Nigeria. His claim is that the needed ingredients are only available in Africa and in some instances exclusively in Nigeria. However, items that were rare and difficult to acquire are becoming increasingly available through online purcha s es, from itinerant vendors specializing in indigenous African products, and in specialty shops. An assortment of objects, condiments, livestock, herbs and food items are essential to the formulation of the sacr ed initiation rites. The inventory of four legged animals and fowls required for the rituals necessitate d several trips to vendors that were as far as fifty miles away. Many of the required initiation ritu al condiments are items that might be suitable for general household use and the food items ma y be found in the diets of people who practice indigenous religion or people from South America or the Caribbean Islands. In the cinematic representation of Alex Haley s Roots Kunta kinte was veiled by his father, led away from his familys compound, and delivered into the care of the priests that were to perform his initiation rites. This experience mimi cs what initiates into the Lucumi/Santeria and ytnjs rs-voodoo must undergo. It is often the ca s e that the new initiate is visited at their home on the scheduled evening of their designate d time to go under.Their eyes are veiled and they are led away from their homes and taken to a river or body of water and stripped of the clothes that they were wearing. They are then ba thed with soap (preferably Yoruba black soap)
129 and herbs (omi r ) that are selected for th is ritual. This first phas e of the initiation signals the yws departure from her former life. The yw is then taken to the site where the remaining segments of the ritual will occur. She/he is sequestered in a room, apart from the priests who are busy with the preparation of the formulae that are to be used during the rituals. There she/he is expected to sit quietly and await the experience. The priests that are chosen to work initiations are usually members in the house/community of the yws godparent(s) and are often g odchildren of the same godparent(s). Initiation rites organized by Ifyemi and his American godchildren depart from these practices and are designed to be efficien t, to meet the needs of a metropolitan, working class clientele. Attention to economy, efficiency and working class intere sts is a constant in Ifyemis pedagogy. Noting his attention to these values is important in that they are reflective of his own interest in upward mobility and his understanding of and attention to the myriad of situations from which his clients are drawn. He states that, the ways that Santeria rituals are organized are what Africans had to do when they were in bondage. (This remark was offered to the yws during one of the instructional segment of the initiation, in response to a question posed by one of the yws). With belief in their impending transformation, the three yws began their rituals a little after dusk on the de termined evening. The three women gathered in Olapatun and Onabamieros home and waited their turn to be summoned into the temple for their consultations with If. Olapatun served as the Ap t b for the yws for the entire event. She worked nonstop as she was responsible for food preparation for all of the rs and the participants. She also
130 attended the needs of the women, escorted th em to and from the bathroom, and sometimes accompanied them as they placed their offerings a nd sacrifices at the designated destinations. Compound Iflola is situated in a fairly secluded rural environment and proved to be an ideal site for the rituals. Ther e are several places in the neigh boring woods where the slaughtered animals and offerings can be placed. Ritual anim als are not always slaughtered; If sometimes decrees that they be set free. The most frequent destinations for the placement of the offerings and sacrifices during these rituals were at crossroads, at the side of roads, in the woods (Igbo), at the railroad for gn, and at the local cemetery for the ancesto rs (egns). The Iflola compound location was also suitable because animals that are about to be slaughtered are noisy, and goats can sometimes sound like a wailing baby. Even though animal sacrifice is no longer illegal in the State of Florida, discretion is still the rule when performing these type s of cultural/religious activities. yw Tolu, being the eldest of the three women, wa s the first to come into the room for her consultation. She was senior to the other wo men in age and in her involvement with the religion. yw Wembe was second in line and yw Talabi being the youngest, was last. The three women came to the experience with their ha ir in dreadlocks that had taken a number of years for each to grow. The If consultations were pe rformed to determine what hecatombs and/or food items had to be given to the rss and ancestors before the commencement of the formal initiation rites. Although the order of the read ings was similar, the results were different for each yw Ifyem i recited the If od in the Yoruba language. He then interp reted the reading and the prescribed remedies into Eng lish. The yws and sponsors on ly understood a small portion of what he said in his native langua ge. The focus was on the intended results. Each of the yws
131 was instructed to make her prayers to the anim als and objects that were being presented. Their prayers to the Yoruba gods were in English. Some prayers were uttered and some were said in silence. Ifyemi stated that there is no language that rs does not understand. The consultations and subsequent rituals lasted into the night and ended around midnight. A Lucumi initiation As ethnographer I am using m y personal e xperiences as primary data/ and narrative material as a way of demonstrating historical connections between characters and events that were and continue to be cen tral to the development of Yoruba American/ Santeria / If worshipping communities. Catherine Russell (1999: 280) discusses autoethnography as a technique of self-representation, The autoethnographic subject blurs the di stinction between ethnographer and Other by traveling, becoming a stranger in a strange la nd, even if that land is a fictional space existing only in representation. As a diary of a journey, the travelogue pr odces an otherness in the interstices of the fragmented I of the filmic, textual self. As the memory of the trip become enmeshed with historical processes and cultural differences, the filmic image becomes the site of a complex relations hip between I was ther e and this is how it is. Michael Fischer has argued that ethnic auto biography should be re cognized as a model of postmodern ethnography. Autobiography is a tec hnique of self-represen tation that is not a fixed form but is in cons tant flux. He describes contem porary autobiography as an exploration of the fragmented and dispersed identities of late twentieth-century pluralist society. In this context, ethnic autobiogra phy is an art of memory that serves as protection against the homogeni zing tendencies of modern industrial culture. Moreover, autobiography has become a powerful tool of cultural criticism, paralleling postmodern theories of textuality and knowledge. Fisc her describes the writing tactics of autoethnography thus: Contemporary ethnic au tobiographies partake of the mood of metadiscourse, of drawing atten tion to their linguistic and fictive nature, of using the narrator as an inscribed figure within the text whose manipulation calls attention to authority structures (276). I argue that these accounts of my experiences and my interpretation demonstrates what Kristina Wirtz discusses in her examination of some of the ways in which Cuban Santeria practitioners from the city of Santiago de Cuba in eastern Cuba dealt with and interpreted what it
132 means when a promise is made to an rs and the rs seemingly respond by making possible a situation that may have appeared impossible or unattainable: The very idea of the promise as a category of religiously relevant activity circulates because practitioners persist in identifying cer tain of their own and others acts as being promises a promise is a religious interpreta tion of an act that, on the surface, may not appear to be religious (or that may even have been silent an d hidden until being revealed as a promise). To label something as a promise reinforces the idea of divine communication at the core of Santeria and related practic es, because it is keeping ones own end of a bargain, presumably after the divine being has kept its end too. Promises arent in themselves experiences, but are about narrativ izing a series of experiences to become a sacred story: An intractable problem presents itself, so the victim makes a promise to an oricha. If the problem gets resolved then the promise must be fulfilled lest another, worse problem return. The promise as a genre takes on its own circulation, as something we can apply to a situation in order to construe the actors intentions in a religious sort of way. The promise, as a cultural act and as a m eaningful interpretive category is about faith (Wirtz 2007: 204). The conduct of the priests and the o fficiating babalwo at the three yw iniation was distinctly different from the Lucumi initiations that I have witnessed. My recollection about my own initiation is that it was a very solemn and in tense situation. I was initiated in an apartment in the South Bronx in New York. Even though my godf ather was an African Am erican, most of the officiating priests were Cuban a nd/or Puerto Rican. As a neophyte, I was kept in a room that seemed more like a closet and separated from th e priests. I was uninformed about the processes. Like the three women, I was reliant on my sponsor for an interpretation of the events. In my c this was not forthcoming. I remember my initia tion as an out of body experience. I can say the same about most of the experien ces that I have had with rs influenced transformations. I left my initiation with very litt le understanding about what had occurred. Also in my ca s e the rituals and ceremonies were imbued with objects, fa shion and accessories that are customary in Lucumi / Santeria initiation rites (for an examinati on of these accoutrement s and rites see David H. Brown, Santeria Enthroned 2005, The Yoruba Diaspora in the Atlantic World edited by Toyin Falola and Matt D. Childs, 2004, Migene Gonzalez-Wippler, Santeria: The Religion 1994,
133 Miguel A. De la Torre, Santeria: The Beliefs and Rituals of a Growing Religion in America 2004, Miguel Barnet, Afro-Cuban Religions 2001). In my own ca s e, during my initiation, I stood at th e door blindfolded, knowing that my life path had already been laid, and that initiation would be my an chor, that it would enable me to keep my promise to has been described as the trickster, the keeper of the crossroads, and the divine messenger. Many ascribe a malicious and deviou s connotation to the deeds of this rs. Herskovitz state the following about Eshu is also the divine enforcer, punish ing those who fail to make the sacrifices prescribed by the babalwo and rewarding thos e who do. When any of the deities wishes to do good for those on earth, he sends Eshu to do it for him. His role as the messenger who delivers sacrifices to Olorun and does good deed s on behalf of the ot her deities, and his remarkable even-handedness in his role as the divine enforcer are hardly consistent with his identification as Satan by Christains and Muslims, which can only be understood as the result of a failure to find the equivalent of the Devil in Yoruba belief (1969:79). .Regardless of what deity they worship, ever yone prays frequently to Eshu so that he will not trouble them; and everyone sacrifices to him since a bit of every sacrifice to Olorun and to the other deities is set aside fo r him. In addition, he has his own worshippers and priest, who are identified by a string of opaque maroon or black beads worn around the neck. Palm kernel oil, which is used to make Eshu fight is his strongest taboo, and his worshippers must not eat it, rub their bodies w ith it, or have it near them; and no one can whistle at his shrine. His favorite foods, whic h are offered to him as sacrifices, are palm oil, boiled corn and beans, male animals a nd fowl, palm wine and other kinds of liquor, and many other foods (ibid). kept me safe and guided me back to my family at a time in my life that I was struggling to be a young entrepreneur in my Harlem community. When I was in the throws of my troubles I pleaded with my ancestors and btl/rsnl for my safety and eventual freedom. I was granted both and I promised and btl that I would be initiated as soon as possible. I was initiated in 1981 in the house of Yomi Yomi Awolowo and was given the crown of btl/rsnl to wear.
134 In the case of the three yws the women were not blindfolded. Each was called to the shrine room in the order of th eir hierarchical position. Each wa s instructed to knock at the door and answer Ifyemis call to them. Who are you? Why are you here? Each was asked to state her name and to offer her reason for knocking at th e door. Invariably, the answer is different for each of us, as is the destiny that each of us is given to serve. At the heart of each of the womens supplications and sacrifices (spiritual as well as carnal) are their faiths that the acts, which were performed in their behalf, would bring them to a new degree of consciousness and well being. Through their actions, they have gained access to a body of knowledge that was essentially unavailable to African Amer icans a half century ago. Much of the information that is currently av ailable is oftentimes only reachable through a willingness to search within the many systems of if/rs practices; to glean from them useful insights into areas that are metaphysical in nature and are not easily understood. What do I mean by that? Firstly, let us consider the three women that were initiated at compound Iflola. Each of the women brought with them to their init iation an individual set of opinions b d on experiences outside of the consci ousness of deep-rooted African Tr aditional Religion. I refer to the deep-rooted-ness of the experience for the women, because for them to engage in it fully entailed a submission to unfamiliar viewpoints, cu stoms, languages, and ethos. Their perspective and sensorial perceptions of their private worlds shifted to include influe nces from forces of nature (rs) and ancestors. These ancestors were situated as members of their biological, as well as, their spiritual families. If divination and their eventual initia tions opened a way for the women to be in dialogue with the spirits of their ancestors. Divination and initiation also connected the women to religious/spiritual ideas that were developed over a long span of time, in multiple sites, and in
135 various cultural contexts. Perpetuation of th e channels of communica tion and developing the kind of relationship that rs and ancestral reverence encomp asses, required that the women be open to building relationships ba s ed on exchange, supplications, a nd devotion. For the initiates, the notion of devotion includes service to the larger body of worshippers and continual commitment to their sponsoring priests and Elebui bon; as initiates are always forewarned against forgetting what was done for them during their in itiation. Furthermore, the women are expected to symbolically return to thei r initiation experiences annually at their anniversary celebrations. The exchanges that occurred during their initiati on rites are to be reenacted with degrees of moderation for the balance of their lives. Each of the women will have to offer to their respective rs and ancestral spirits those items that were id entified as preferred foods drinks, or objects of the particular rs and ancestral spirit. Additionally, each of the women was instructed to make changes in areas of their lives that would result in object ive as well as metaphysical shifts in their external circumstances. I am not at liberty to discuss in more de tails the revelations that were made to the women. I will only state that the tran sformations included dietary restrictions that were associated with individua l taboos; shifts in occupationa l and personal relationships; and adherence to coded, complex, and visceral precepts. Several years have passed sin ce the initiation of the three yws at Compound Iflola. rstolu and rstalabi, whose dreadlocks were cut and head s shaved, have re-grown their locked-hair and have with some challenges incorp orated their new life styles into their work environments and personal relationships. Both of the women continue their work at academic institutions and are furthering their interests in spiritual and health related projects. rswembe has decided to keep her hair cropped low and is currently pursuing a doctorate degree in history. Her research focuses on Yoruba traditional medi cine and its usage in the diaspora. rstolus
136 life changes has forced her to eliminate items th at she had been attached to for many years and has prompted her to be more mindful of her need for constant supplications and faith that in the end her prayers are answered. rswembe is also working on a project with her godfather, Elebuibon that seeks to create a directory of the many people th at he has initiated and bring together all of his godchildren. (Figures 3-1 thru 3-7 provide a view of th e three yws, ritual objects, and Ifyemi performing divination at Compound Iflola; figure 3-8 is an yw at ytnj African Village); and 3-9 are of yws that were initiated in Abeokuta, Nigeria; figures 3-10 and 3-11represe nt some of the objects that were given to yws at Abeokuta; figure 3-12 yw presenting b at Abeokuta.
137 Figure 3-1: Posters of Films
138 Figure 3-2: Kunta Kinte of Alex Haleys Roots Film
139 Figure 3-3: Ap t b escorting Three yws from spiritu al bath at Compound Iflola, Archer (2005)
140 Figure 3-4: Three yws with agogos (bells) at Compound Ifl ola, Archer, Florida (2005)
141 Figure 3-5: Ifyemi preparing rs objects, Archer, Florida (2005)
142 Figure 3-6: Ifyemi divining for yw at Compo und Iflola, Archer, Florida (2005)
143 Figure 3-7: Divi nation tray and b tray, Archer, Florida (2005)
144 Figure 3-8: Preparing at Compound Iflola, Archer, Florida
145 Figure 3-9: Vessels for rs objects for three yw initiati on, Compound Iflola, Archer, Florida (2005)
146 Figure 3-10: yw ytnj African Village (2004)
147 Figure 3-11: Two un and one ng initiates from the USA in Abeokuta, Nigeria. Note yws holding pigeons that are to be sacrificed as an offering (2007)
148 Figure 3-12: rs objects, Abeokuta, Nigeria (2007) Figure 3-13: Bowls with rs obj ects, Abeokuta, Nigeria (2007)
149 Figure 3-14: un yw presenting pigs head b to gn, Abeokuta, Nigeria (2007)
150 CHAPTER 4 SACRED MILIEUS, TIME, AND INTERVENTION Spirituality vs. Religiosity St. Theresa calls life a mansion of m any rooms, with call at the Centre. To the Chinese the centre is Tao, to the Zen Buddhist it is Zen. To the Yor uba it is Oludumare, and the rooms as well as the entire mansion are orisha. If during ones life time, one is domiciled in any or in fact several of these rooms, such does not prevent an olorisha from entering or reentering a past or future part of the house. (Susanne Wenger, 1983:23) Pedagogy is an important and fundamental elemen t of initiation. However, this important component is not always obvious or forthcoming. In stead, neophytes are made to believe that the essences of rs life ways are experiential and personal. However, this trend is shifting and priests, practitioners, scholars, and If/rs offi ciates are calling for a more formalized method of disseminating information and of g overning the practices of priests. Many of the contested issues and concerns grow ing out these attempts at restructuring the religious/cultural order of If/rs practices stem from the fact that there is not a singular or analogous way of being an initiate or to practice indigenous African religions. Patri DhaIfs initiation is an example of the broadn ess of a participants interest and of Elebuibons willingness to intervene and structure rituals to meet her needs. Patri DhaIf is known in Santeria as DhaIf Odfora Iftogun. She was born is the United States of Jewish parentage. She was initiate d into Santeria and into the mysteries of btl in 1979 in New York City. In 1985 Patri DhaIf wa s initiated into the mysteries of If by Elebuibon Since her initiation, several women from many states have been initiated by Elebuibon.I call attention to this because in some cas es the women are not from the U.S.A. and in other instances initiates have to travel to Elebuibons temple in ogbo. Many of the women who he initiated are now ynif (females initiate d into the mysteries of If) and several have been initiated to the various ot her rs sects. Most of the women are African American and are
151 from various cultural and spirit ual centers in the United States Elebuibons politico-economic b in ogbo is strongly tied to his supporters ba s ed in the USA. This support did not come easily and was not without challenges from within the USA Lucumi and ytnj African Village communities. In one incident, he was challenged because of his decision to initiate Dha If into the mysteries of If and in another he refused to listen to the Cuban community in Miami and not visit Harlem in the 1970s. In bot h instances he went ag ainst the Cuban Miami b d Lucumi community. In both instances he affronted jealously guarded policies within the USA ba s ed Santeria/Lucumi Community. In the Postscript of his book, Ap t b: The wife of rnmla, Elebuibon writes, As part of my annual spiritual work and lect ure tours in the United States, I was invited by some Afro-Cuban societies in Mi ami, Florida. I did some le ctures and performed several spiritual ceremonies. The leader of the group, Jose Miguel Gomez and Tony Cordova were very hospitable and made me very comfortable. During the lecture that I gave at the Afro Studies Department, International University, a woman came out of the audience and asked a question as to whether a woman could be a priestess of If? My answer was an unequivocal YES. The response seemed to surprise a lot of people. My response was termed heresy by the Santero and Santeria present. The news appeared in the Miami Herald newspaper the following week, December 16th, 1978-both the English and Spanish editions. It was a big crisis for the religious community. Calls were made to Nigeria to verify the accuracy of the statement. The priests and priestesses of If were not satisfied because for over three hundred years, they had not allowed any woman to receive Ikin If. In fact, women are forbidden to touch objects of ritual worshippresumably because of the female monthly period. I tried to explain my knowledge of If and what If teaches and esp ecially how it is practiced in Nigeria, but these were unsatisfactory. This made me to understand that there are many people who do not understand the Yoruba tradit ional religion in depthespe cially in the new world. Another incident occurred in 1984, when a Jewi sh lady DhaIf approached me because of some problems she was having. The specific proble ms were more specifically stated in her published book. She was told th at she needed to receive Ikin If, but immediately stated that the Cuban priests or anyone in Santeria fa ith would not do this. I agreed to perform the ceremony in New York. She then proceeded to Puerto Rico to do an interview with a popular magazine which made my name beco me a household slogan. All of a sudden those who are uninformed about tradit ional If practice and Santeria for that matter began very negative criticism of me. The few who we re very deep and knowledgeable in I f were not around to counter those allegations (Elebuibon 1994: 81).
152 Elebuibon continues, These and others motivated me in writing this bookto enlighten ev eryone about the role of women in If traditional institution. A woman who studies and practices If is called IyanIf and the type of ceremony a woman under takes is different from those prescribed for men. Those who must not see Od or olofin are called ELEGAN; and those who perform Ipanadu are called AW O OL OD Therefore, a woman is allowed as agreed by all other divinities and un to practice in all ceremonies of Orisha worship (ibid). Although no exact figures are current ly available, there are prob ably several hundred thousands Lucumi/Santeria worshippers in Miami, New York, California, and other urban areas within the states. Even though th is is a substantial number of people, the population is not homogenous and holds no organize d religious, political or econ omic platform. However, for many of the Cuban adherents policies and injunc tions come out of Miami. Latin American priests and babalwos, who are the repositories of rs and If mysteries, have been the most vociferous in confronting and condemning Elebuibons activities in the US A. But for many, like DhaIf, the search for a clear unde rstanding of what it means to worship the rs or gods of Africa, pointed to a trip to the source of Yoruba culture. DhaIf Patri writes about her decision to be initiated to If, The first time I went to Nigeria, I spent three months at the University of Il-Ife, using a translator all the time, as I did not speak fluent Yoruba. I found that the secrecy that surrounds Santeria does not exist in Nigeria. The Yoruba are very protective of the orisha religion, but they do not attempt to hide it. Thei r greatest fear is that their natural religion may be dying due to the Christian and Muslim influence in Nigeria. At present about forty percent of Y orubas practice Christianity, forty per cent practice Islam, and the remaining twenty percent observe the Orisha Tradition. This is alarming to the elders of the natural religion. Some of my teachers at the Un iversity asked me why I was not studying the Oddu If, the oracle known in Santeria as th e table of If, which only babalwos can read. I was surprised by the question and asked them if th ey would allow me to study the oracle. Their answer was why not? When I told them about the prohibition banning women from receiving If in the New World, they said that no such taboo ex isted in Nigeria. One of the Arabas----chiefs of the major towns---told me that there was no oddu that denied women the right to If. Such a prohibi tion, according to him, was prob ably started by mistake in the New World.
153 After speaking with several of the priests and Arabas, I made the decision to study the oracle. I found the studies so fascinating that I decided to speak to one of Nigerias best known babalwos, Ifyemi El ebuibon, chief priest of ogbo, and ask him if he would agree to initiate me into the myst eries of If. Without hesitation, Ifyemi agreed (GonzalesWippler 1994115-116). Margaret Drewal states the fo llowing about womens exclusion from and/or participation in If rites, Women are prohibited from entering Ods grove, and there is a well-known story that Od made rnmla promise to keep Od away from other women, for she is thought to be harsh and vindictive. Not only that, but women cannot be initiated through Itefa rituals. Nor can they participate in th e rituals of rebirth that take s place on the inside, even though they can interpret If and in other contexts they can di vine. When I asked diviners how it was possible for men to give birth without wome n, they quickly pointed out to me that Od is a woman, and it is her power they were using inside the grove (Drewal 1992: 180). Drewal continues, Whenever women were physically excluded from ritual, men tended to appropriate female gender to construct representations of them. In Agemo, for example, it was only two male transvestite priests who were allowe d to enter the main shrine in the Imosan grove. Curiously, the majority of the Agemo priests we re also excluded from this shrine. Women were present symbolically in this way, if not physically. That is, female gender was present even when women were not. And indeed men believe that powerful women always gain access to mens secrets in spite of it all. Wo men spirits (emi) are believed capable of going where their bodies fear to tread at risk of being disc overed and punished (ibid). Monies generated from divination, rituals, a nd initiations in the USA fuels Elebuibons enterprises in Nigeria. His serv ices are highly regarded and in demand in both countries, he is self managed and itinerar y, and negotiates with a vast degree of efficiency and sophistication via the cel l phone or internet. The fees for his services are substantial and usually require a savings account to get together the needed fee. Although his fees are considerable, they still undercut the average cost for the same or similar services provided by the Lucumi, y tnj African Village, or Africans in the USA Yoruba ba s ed communities. In 1975 Elebuibon was involved in another inte rvention to resolve a dispute within the ranks of Miamis Cuban babal wos. Brown (2003: 93) writes, An extraordinary and controversial set of even ts followed in the wake of the first Miami initiations in 1970. An insurgent group led by one of the original Miami If initiates, Jose Miguel Gomez Barberas (Miguel Batea,) [O tura Adakoy]), became frustrated in its attempt to obtain an Olofin. By 1975, Gomez reported in a flurry of correspondence with sympathetic Havana colleagues, that he had waited in vain for more than two years to receive from Miguel Febles crucial If goods and services: an Olofin and blessing to
154 proceed with If initiations. Cubans know the signals their countrymen send, and Miguel Gomez knew that he had been blocked by Ha vanas pope and his minions in the United States. Hence, in lieu of receiving Olofin any other way, Gomez pursued a lead that had been brewing in Miami If circles for several years. Moreover, it was one that had already been mined successfully by African-American Yoruba who, since at least 1971, had traveled to Southwestern Nige rian for spiritual renewal. In a ten-day trip in September 1975 to S outhwestern Nigeria, Gomez secured the connection he sought in the town of ogbo, following visits to Ife and Oyo. As Gomez reminisced in a moving and quite circumspect 1989 letter to a Havana mentoree, With the impossibility of going to Cuba, notwithstanding my relations since my youth with Miguel Febles Padron [IBAE, R.I.P.] (a great loss)[,] and having the necessity of receiving Olofin, I directed myself to Nige ria[,] W. Africa. In ogbo, the great center of un worship, Gomez received what was represented to him as Olofin, as well as other rs associated with rnmla from babalwo If Yemi Elebuibon (Ogbe Yono). If Yemi was believed to be the ba of ogbo, as Gomez put it the highest If official there). Three years later Gomez hosted Ifyemi in Mi ami for forty two days. During this visit Ifyemi utilized the Olofin that he had made in Nigeria to initiate three Cuban-American babalwos. Following Ifyemis visit to Miam i, Gomez took three more Miami-Cubans to Nigeria to be initiated to If In total Gomez made five trips to Nigeria. According to Brown (94), these additional trips were organized by Gomez to serve as virtual testigos of the initiations, as well as mementos of the unprecedented journey. Gomezs African trips and his relationship with If Yemi re volved not merely around the necessity of receiving Olofin outside of Havanas legitimizing channels. Gomez had apprehended something more, and with it refi gured his personal history and rewrote the history of Cubas If transatlantic tradition in a m ode that recalls Alex Haleys RootsThrough the Nigerian experience, Gomez could now represent himself as the first Cuban that made physical contact with our ancestors in Oyo, Oshogbo, Ife, Republic of Nigeria, West Africa, the Indefatigable spring of our Religious origin, where our religion is practiced.Drawing upon references from Ifs oral history, Gomez, a white workingclass Cuban, connected the dots to write for himself a remarkable, seemingly predestined, Black Atlantic spiritual genealogy. The types of objections that If yemi confronted resembled the resistance that Adefunmi I faced in the 1960s as he and others opened the Shango Temple on 125th Street in Harlem: Among their many cultural objectives was to purge what they saw as the religions colonialist legacy, particular ly its European and Catholic elements. The community of New York Cuban Santeria priests, who were, technically, their religi ous elders, objected
155 to the fact that [King] began wearing Yoruba clothes and refused to use Catholic saints and statues in the worship ceremonies (Hunt 1979: 27). King explains that numerous other Afro-Americans were entering the traditiona l Cuban Santo system and only timidly and surreptitiously substituting Yoruba images in place of Christian images. These for the most part avoided Yoruba attire wh ich was angrily prohibited by their Afro-Cuban God-parents. Indeed, there was some resentment among certa in white Cubans when informed that the religion was of African origin (quote d in Gregory 1986: 63) (Brown 2003: 276). Brown continues, Given the spirit of militancy among many young activists of the time, nonblack Cuban priests themselves became antithetical to th e emerging Yoruba movement, just as whites were deemed antithetical to the Black Power Movement, which grew out of Malcolm Xs early 1960s self-reliance and anticolonialist vision and the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committees (SNCC) Black Power platform under Stokely Carmichael as of 1966 (Van Deburg 1992: 134). According to Walter Serge King, we had intr odced racism into the religion that didnt exist among the Cubansand they couldnt understand my extremely severe at titudes at that time. So that naturally alienated a lot of them (Quoted in Palmie 1995:79) (Brown 2003: 276-77). It is quite possible that the Cuban priests, particularly the white Cubans did not recognize the significance of Adefunmis association with Malcolm Xs anticolonialist sentiments as they did not view themselves as being affected by the American history of racism and violence against blacks. Since the Cubans had succeeded in masking the religions African identity within the history and iconography of European and Cathol ic saints which had th e appearance of white men and women, the civil rights st ruggle and the fight for racial equality in America were not banners that suited their political agendas. The reader must keep in mind that the Black Power Movement of the 1960s and 1970s was at odds with the same government that permitted Cuban exiles (mostly whites) to migrate into the USA and away from Communist Cuba. Also during the 1960s and 1970s the public leadership within the Cuban Santeria Community was largely white males. It should also be noted that these ne w Americans came to America during the time when the United States government was expending grea t resources to undermine the nationalist and political agenda of the Civil Rights and Black Po wer Movement. These efforts on the part of the United States government include d deflating the expansion of the newly emerging African
156 consciousness groups. Further research may disclose that the government played a role in the conflicts that developed between Ad efunmi I and the Cuban Santos. Furthermore, although the Cuban santos may not have been aware of the racial and gender issues that permeated American politics, they were certainly mindful of the economics and commerce associated with the commodification of religious paraphernalia and condiments. Although no exact figures are availa ble at this time, I would vent ure to say that the income derived from this economy is extreme and in many instances is tax free. While it is essentially an underground economy, the income generated through religious activities in rs communities is another topic in need of research and analysis. In examining the economic opportunities within the Santeria religious community Cros Sandoval (2007: 345) writes: Santeria offers individuals a very complex dogma, an extensive set of myths, diverse religious paraphernalia, and highly structured sets of rituals, powerful music, and dramatic dances, as well as a viable road to priesthood. Moreover, Santeria offers charismatic, insightful, and ambitious indivi duals great economic opportunities as well as positions of prominence as ceremonial leaders and couns elors. Santeros are exempt from many restraints to which professional practitioners of other religions are held, including the need for academic accreditation. Additionally their earnings are tax exempt. Santeria has thus opened a wide avenue for upward social and econom ic mobility via its populist priesthood. This trend is especially meaningful for women, who are well accepted and represented in santerias priestly class, except for the priesthood of Orunla, the oricha of divination, which is limited to male babalaos. This unestimated income is generated transglobally, across gender, racial and cultural contexts and in areas of the world that have historically remained marginalized and cut off from world-wide recognition and amalgamations. In the religion the Cuban Santos held claim to the sacred knowledge of the African Gods or the seven African power s. They also held that the source for a pedagogical return to African religion was in Cuba and with strict attention to the creeds of Santeria and Catholicism.
157 Both Adefunmi I and Ifyemi represented an ab rupt alteration in the way that ideas about the gods of Africa were being transmitted at a time when African Americans and pockets of Cubans were becoming engaged in developing a broader understanding of African religion. They also confronted and resisted the impulse of the Sa ntos community to control the fate of the rs religion in African-American communities. I believe that in some instances they have succeeded; ideas relative to the continent of Africa continue to be re-positioned as central to any discussion about the gods of Africa and an increasing number of African Americans are continuing to move between continents. The exact amount of money is unknow, but I believe that it is safe to say that even in the religious world the African-American dollar is considerable. The income generated from interaction and exchange between African Americans and their priest affiliates is substantial and greatly affects the personal economies of many families and communities. I am not arguing whether or not the Struggles that Elebuibon and Adefunmi I endured with the Santos were politically or economically mo tivated. I believe that they were. Nor I am suggesting that the white Cuban Sa ntos deliberately determined to resist the changes envisioned by Adefunmi I or the in terventions performed by Ifyemi in behalf of womens rights to participate in If rites and his interactions with the Cuban Baba lwos. Their deliberations might have been aided by outside supporters, who recogn ized that they were potential allies for the cause of civil rights and power for blacks in America. Instead, I suggest that most of the events leading up to Adefunmis insisten ce on change within the cultural and religious nuances of rs practices of Africa A mericans and Ifyemis returning to America to initiate DhaIf, despite his previous relations with the Miami Santos community regarding female initiations, were all events in the wind of rs change and expansion in the 1970s and 1980s.
158 Despite the views expressed by Miamis Sa ntero community, in 1978, Ernesto Pichardo, a white Cubanborn priest and one of the founders of the Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye in Hialeah City, near Miami, demonstrated hi s interest in intervention and bridging the misunderstanding that existed between African Am ericans, Cubans, and the Catholic Church. He organized a three-day conference at the Univ ersity of Miami. The conference was sponsored by the Florida Endowment for the Humanities. At this time, Pichardo took members of his church to ytnj Village for an ordination rite for its patron rs, Babalu Aye. David OBrien writes, The Church of the Lukumis ordination ceremony at the y tnj Village signified their common ground but highlighted their differences as well. Both Adefunmi and the churchs founders sought to purify or reform the re ligion known as Santeria. Yet the ceremony performed by white Cuban immigrants was held at a place that did not honor the santos of Santeria and instead glorified the African origin s of the religion. That struck some santeros as illegitimate, and it invoked racist and de rogatory associations with uneducated, lowerclass black practitioners in Cuba. Unques tionably, the Church of the Lukumi was on a collision course with the larger Cuban comm unity, including many followers of Santeria. Although Adefunmi and the Church of the Lukumi shared common ground in reclaiming the purity of the orishas, each sought a refo rmation leading in a different direction. Adefunmi focused on the Africa n roots of the religion to pr omote black pride and selfdetermination, whereas, for Pichardo and th e Church of the Lukumi, the orishas represented universal truths open to all initiates. In other word s, both were on the fringes of Santeria, minorities within a religious minority. In coming together, each sought legitimacy for their organization. In addition, as Pichardo explained, divinations had told them that they would be asked to perform the ceremony at the y tnj Village, so they never questioned doing so, in spite of Adefunmis Black Nationalism. As it turned out, Adefunmi had be en initiated in Cuba by Pichardos spiritual godfather. They thus shared the same lin eage and common ancestors (OBrien 2004: 25).1 Ernesto Pichardo is best known for his victory in the United States Supreme Court ca s e, Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye V. City of Hialeah in 1993. Pichardo and members of the Church challenged the City of Hi aleahs City Council and fought against four ordinances that 1 For a detailed look at Ernesto Pichardo and the Church of the Babalu Aye Supreme Court victory see David OBrien, Animal Sacrifice and Religious Freedom: Church of the Lucumi Babalu Aye V. City of Hialeah.
159 targeted Santeria practitioners and outlawed th e practice of animal sacrifice for religious purposes. The High Court ruled that the ordinances were discriminato ry and that the ordinances fell below that minimum standard for enforcing the First Amendments guarantee of religious freedom. The churchs str uggle and victory in this c gained national attention and opened the way for rs practitioners to perform religious sacr ifices without the fear of persecution. Pichardo credited the success of the Supreme Court ca s e to rs ng, On learning of the Courts ruling, Pichardo wa s jubilant. Shango, the orisha of thunder and lightning was on our side. We are amazed by the decision. As an immigrant, as a Cuban, I feel great honor. At a news conference held at his home, he told reporters: This is why we came to the United States, because we have freedom of speech and freedom of religion. The Courts decision is of profound significance. Animal sacrifice is an integral part of our faith. It is like our holy meal. Th e decision means that our people will no longer feel they are outlaws because of the wa y that they worship. (OBrien 2004:143) Douglas Laycock, the attorney that argued the ca s e before the Supreme Court, pointed out that the conflict boiled down to a black-white th ing, overt discrimina tion against poor black Cubans who are more likely to practice Santeria than white, middle class Cubans (ibid). During the 1970s and 1980s the face of the Santer ia religion was changing. The changes were greatly influenced by Elebuibon, A defunmi I, Pichardo, and practiti oners who criss-crossed between the various paths of wors hip and challenged the polity with in religious traditions as well as within state government. Many of the changes th at have developed over the past four decades, especially the Supreme Court deci sion and women intiates in the If cult in America, cleared the way for much of the interaction that now exis ts between American and Nigerian priests. ogbo is the recipient of much of the attention that is now being given to Yorubaland. ogbo Revisited: A Life wi th the Gods I returned to ogbo during the summer of 2007. I was fortunate enough to receive a Fulbright-Hayes GPA fellowship to study Yoruba language and culture at bafemi Awolowo
160 University. Although the emphasis of this summ er program was language study, I thought that this trip would be an opportune time to spe nd some research time at Elebuibons family compound. I arrived in Nigeria towards the end of June and had seven weeks to spend time in language classes and conduct field research. The schedule of language classes that was presented to me was very time consuming and did not coincide with the resear ch schedule that I had outlined. The time constraints proposed by the project director limited me to only one day out of the week to participate in my re search. This seemed to me to be an unreasonable imbalance of time, especially since we had agreed in the stat es that I would have sufficient time to conduct field research. The director and I were not able to resolve the problem in a way that would allow me to organize my research around a schedule that would be suitable for my informants circumstances. After several attempts to settle our differences the Program Director decided to expel me from the program and threatened to se nd me back to the USA. Tired from the long flight to Nigeria and the ensuing struggle to situate myself, I accepted his remarks and went about organizing my research. One week after arriving in Il, Ife, I left my host familys home and traveled to ogbo. Aside from my academic focus and research ag enda, this trip to Ni geria was layered with two other important reasons for me to be there. Fi rstly, the trip was planned before I knew of the possibility of a fellowship. Jayeaola (Jjl) her husband Tejumola (Teju) and I had planned for a summer 2007 trip to Nigeri a, during our annual New Years Eve rsnl Festival at Il rsnl.2 We were planning the trip so that Te jumola could be initiated in Ifon Orulo Kingdom, un State. According to the history of Ifonun, as compiled by the late king of Ifon, Alayeluwa ba Ilufoye Olatoye rstoyinbo II, JP (Olufon of Ifonun, un State) 2 Jayeaola was one of the three Iyawos discussed in the section titled, Three Iyawos. Jjl was the name given to her when she received her chieftaincy title. At Ifon she is affectionately known as Chief Jjl.
161 (kbys), The kingdom traces its origin to the cradle of Yoruba civilization, Il-Ife. The progenitors of the Ifon people originally lived in Il-Ife. They were descendants of btl whose homestead was known as Ideta, one of the original aboriginal settlements which made up Il-Ife before the rise of O dduwa to prominence. btl who many people call rsnla, is referred to by one verse of his oriki praise -poems, as Ekun Ifon (the leopard of Ifon). He was one of the sixteen elders that accompanie d Odduwa to the world to perform the act of creation which began the foundation of Il-Ife out of primordial water. Other elders included Agboniregun (t he founder of If Oracle) and Ogun (the founder of iron-smithing) among others (rsToyinbo II 2000:1). Jayeaola and I met the ba of Ifon during our trip to Nigeria in 2001. We were intr odced to him by our friend and colleague at OAU, Professor Abiodn (Biodn).3 Biodn Adediran was our host during that 2001 visit. He had hosted the two of us and two other women from the United States that joined us three weeks into ou r trip. One of the women had come to Nigeria to be initiated into the btl cult. I was her godfather and ha d discussed the possibility of this happening with her back in the USA. At the ti me of our first discu ssion I did not know Elebuibon, ba rstoyinbo, or Biodn Adediran. I simply knew that Jayeaola and I would be traveling to Nigeria for seven weeks on a FLAS fellowship. However, I had seen Elebuibon and ba rstoyinbo II in a video, btl in Praise at the compound Iflol a during one of my field visits. Soon after viewing th e film, I was awarded the FLAS fellowship. At one of my visits to Compound Iflola, I shared with On abamiero my plans to visit Il-Ife and told him that I would like to meet Ifyemi Elebuibon, so that I might discuss my initiation into the mysteries of If. Onabamiero gave me Elebuibons contact in formation and suggested th at I visit him when I visted Nigeria. When Jayeaola and I sat down with Biodn to discuss our seven weeks itinerary, I mentioned to him that I would like to meet Elebuibon and that my friends would be joining me in Nigeria and that one of them wanted to be initiated. Biodn is a Christian and scholar, his wife 3 At the time of our meeting in 2001 Professor Adedir an was the Dean of the History Department at OAU.
162 and children are all Christians and scholars, but he has not shut hims elf off from the traditions of Yoruba people. He replied simply that Eleb uibon was a reputable ba balwo and that he personally knew the King of Ifon Orulo. After this meeting the three of us set about planning what turned out to be a most memorable seven weeks of language and cultural studies. Within a couple of days, Biodn arranged for us to be driven to ogbo to meet Elebuibon and he took us to meet the ba. During the course of those seven w eeks, my goddaughter received the objects of btl and I was initiated into the mysteries of If. This l eads me to the second layer of reason for this trip to Nigeria. At the time that I wa s initiated into Ifs mysteries Elebuibon informed me that I need to be initiated to ng. This revelation took me by surprise because almost twenty two years earlier I had been initiated into the cult of btl in New York. During my btl initiation I was informed that I would need to be initiated into Ifs mystery later in my life but no mention was made of yet another ng initiation.4 I have heard stories from other people who were initially initiated in the United States into th e Lucumi system and later became disillusioned and turned to Nigeria for initiation. Many of those people said that they discarded the rs objects that were given to them during their Lucumi initi ation. I have not discarde d any of my rs. My rss are like my family. Those that were gi ven to me by my African -American godfather (he was also initiated in the Lucumi tradition as well). I honor and attend to them in the same way that I would honor and attend to foster family members who provided for me when I had no contact with my original family. By this time in my life I had determined that I did not want a Lucumi styled If initiation and that I wanted to be initiated in Nigeri a. According to Elebuibon, my If Od needed the balance of ng energy to strengthen it. As a rule, I do not question the 4 In Lucumi styled btl initiations you are given ng along with several other rss.
163 wisdom of If or the rss. Meeting ba rstoyinbo and Ifyemi Elebuibon during that summer in 2001 was the beginning of relationships and commitments that continues into this present day. So with that bit of bac kdrop I return to the summer of 2007. While I was in ogbo during the summer, Elebuibon was in California. Soon after I learned about my Fellowship, I contacted him and we discussed my travel plans and research intentions. I also told him that I was planning on commencing my ng initiation. He assured me that he would contact his people in ogbo and make arrangements for my visit and initiation and to arrange for me stay at his compound. When I discussed my trip to Nigeria with th e GPA Program Director, I requested that I be housed at Biodns home on OAU campus. He contacted Biodn and later informed me that my request was warmly received and accepted. So de spite my problems with the program, I still had residence at OAU, and for most of my st ay in Nigeria I co mmuted from Il-Ife to ogbo and Ifon un. (See figure 4-36) The GPA Yoruba language and culture group that traveled together from the United States consisted of eleven students and the Program Dir ector. Our scheduled day of arrival into Il-Ife was originally Friday. However, we missed our connecting flight. By the time we reached the campus of OAU, Jayeaola and Tejumola were already at Biodns home. There we discussed our trip to Ifon un to meet with the king and present gifts that we had brought for him and members of the royal family. Most importantl y, we wanted to presen t the books that were donated for the library and the money that we had collected for the repairs to the roof of the Boosa (The btl shrine). (See figure4-35) Jayeaola who is working towards a PhD. in African History, intended to collect archival data in bdn. We knew in advance that she and Teju would commute from bdn to Il-Ife to
164 meet with me and that together we would travel to Ifon. We also anticipated that the btl (rsnl) initiation would take perhaps 3-5 days Since Ifon is only about thirty minutes from ogbo, I believed that I could be at both places when time permitted me to move from one to the other. On Monday, immediately following my Sunday arrival and after my Monday morning orientation for the Yoruba language and cultural part of this trip, we hire d a car to drive us to Ifon. The king was expecting us but at the time did not know that we were in the country. Jayeaola did not have any success in reachi ng any of the kings cell phone numbers. To everyones delight I was able to reach him on my first try. I in formed him that I had arrived safely and that we were on our way to Ifon. Af ter years of planning and hoping it felt great to finally be back on the road that led to ogbo and Ifon. At long last I would be able to take once again take notes and video record what appeared to me as ancient and traditional rites. The late ba rstoyinbo was a visionary. During many of our lengthy discussions he alluded to his interest in making Ifon the world center for international visi tors who wanted to see the home of rsnl and to meet him, rsnl personified. Even though he and his family were practicing Christians, in Yorubaland traditional rulers are expected to uphold the cultural traditions and rites. They are also inclined to contribute significantly to the development and maintenance of the kingdom. His magesty had many projects and it was difficult to distinguish which were projects that were attached to the kingdom from those that were the kings private ventures. After a long and arduous ride on Nigeria s decrepit roads, we finally arrived at Ifon. We went immediately to the palace, but were informed that the king was with guests and that he was expecting us. We did not wait long before we were ushered into the kings sitting room. As is the tradition, I removed my hat and pros trated myself before the king. Jjl knelt before the king in
165 the fashion that is customary for Yoruba women and Teju prostrated himself.5 The king invited us to be seated and Jjl introduced her husband to His Roya l Highness (HRH). Jjl advised the king that we had some things to present to him and the kingdom. We presented our gifts and the king called in one of his servants to bring us some soft drinks a nd donuts. (See figure 4-35) Since I am considered to be a senior chief (my ch ieftaincy title name is rslagbala), I led the discussion about Tejus intention to be initiated. The king listened patiently to all that I had to say and then he sent for the Chief Priest to co me and join the discussi on. After a while the chief priest left and returned about th irty minutes later with a list of items that would be needed. The list was written in Yoruba and some English. There was a naira 6amount attached to each item and a total amount of all of the items, including the white fabric that the ba wanted us to purch for his tailor to make us some clothi ng. We gave the king the required amount of money and agreed to return on Thursday (rsnla Day) to begin the work.7 HRH requested that we come and stay at the hotel on our next visit. During our 2001 vi sit, we were told about plans and taken to the proposed site for a new hotel. Some of the projects that ar e credited to his reign include: the establishment of the palm oil industr y in 1991, the upgrading of the junior to senior of the secondary school in 1992, the creation of Orolu Local Government Council in 1996, the election of Ifon sons into the National Assembly in 1999, and the authoring and publishing of the book History of Ifon Orolu Kingdom in July 2000. In 2001, the road linking ogbo, Ifon and Ogbomoso was tarred and has given impetus to the improvement of social and economic activities in the commun ity (Olomola 2003: 180). 5 In the Kingdom of Ifon Jayeaola is known by her chieftancy name Joj l. 6 Nigerian currency 7 In Yorubaland rsnl is worshipped every five days. In Ifon this is an elaborate rite that requires the king to go to the Boosa to worship. For an excellent exposit of these rites see Elebuibons, btl Praises video.
166 His Royal Highness made a bold move and travel ed to the United Stat es during the winter of 2001. His visit was a surprise to Jjl and me. Although we ha d discussed the possibility of a visit, we did not think that it would happen so soon. It turned out that him and Efunjumoke (Efun) had secretly arranged the visit and she wrote the necessary letter of invitation. 8 She also assisted him with the finances for his trip. The trip was quite problematic because we were not prepared for the task of hosting a Yoruba king from Yorubaland. In our experience with the king at his palace in Ifonun the entire kingdom was at his dispos al. He usually traveled with an entourage or at the minimum several of his chie fs. On this occasion, he came to the states unaccompanied and with only an invitation fr om Efunjumoke. I need to state here for clarification that Efun had been installed as a chief along with Jjl and me. It was clear to all of us that our installations as chiefs were a political a nd economical move on the part of king. Having international chiefs was essential to his plan to make Ifonun a ritual and tourist destination. We met the ba at Efuns place on Harbor Island in South Carolina. During that visit the ba traveled to Charleston, South Carolina, A tlanta, Georgia, Delaware, Maryland, and New York City. All of his travel arrangeme nts and accommodation were arranged by Efun.9 The visit was short circuited because the ba was notified that he had urgent matters to attend to back home. Some time shortly after this visit we began to hear rumors about the bas declining health. In the past when we visited the king dom we were always received by king at the palace. There was always fanfare and greetings from the ch iefs and drummers who at all times sat in the palaces courtyard. For this reason we always traveled with naira in small denominations. On this 8 Efunjumoke was one of the women from the USA that joined Jjl and me in Nigeria. 9 I have always suspected that Efuns motive was that she wa nted to be a queen and that she believed that with her money and sponsorship, she could secure that position for herself.
167 occasion the visit to the palace was without any of the usual array. What we did not know was that trepidation was sw elling in the kingdom. 10 The driver that we had hi red to take us to Ifonun had tarried so that he could take me back to Il-Ife and Jjl and Teju to bdn. The round-trip dr ive was costly and cumbersome because of the unavailability and high price of black market fuel. When Jjl and I had arrived in Nigeria in 2001, teachers were on strike and gaso line was being rationed and sold at exorbitant prices. When we arrived in 2007, civil servants were on strike for increased wages, University students had not attended classes for months, a nd once again, gasoline was being sold on the black market at inordinate pric es. The strikes ended a few days after our arrival and university students were called back to campuses across the country. Fuel became available and the cost of traveling from Il-Ife to ogbo decreased. Jjl, Teju and I returned to Ifon on Thursd ay, to begin what we believed would be the start of Tejus btl initiation ceremony. Howe ver, that was not the ca s e. Apparently, there was a misunderstanding between what we discusse d with the king and what the chief priest was preparing for Teju. The list of items that we ha d been given and the cost associated with the initiation were all for initiation into the gb ni society. Jjl and I knew about the gbni initiation requirement because of what we had experience from our 2001 visit. During that visit we had to undergo gbni initiations before we were initiated to receive the objects of btl. At that time we were led to believe that what was being received was a complete btl 10 There is not much that can be done in Nigeria without paying out some money. Conversely, there is not much that you cant get done in Nigeria if you are willing to pay out some money. The first statement is especially true if you are from the United States. Like most Third World countries, Nigerians belie ve that Americans are rich. Many believe that we are all white people. Despite my fa irly dark complexion, because of how I spoke English and also because I am from the Unite d States, I was considered a ynb (white man). However, I have been to Nigeria enough times to know how to assimilate. In the appropriate situations, I allowed someone else to be my voice and my eyes.
168 initiation. So, on that Thursday evening, Jjl, Teju, and I went before the gbni council so that Teju could be initiated into the society. The ba explained to us that this was a good arrangement and that Jjl and I would be bene fiting from this initiation because we did not get everything during our 2001 initiation. This news came as a surprise. Because we had no prior experience with gbni initiations and because we di d not know what the customary requirements were, we had no idea of what we were to receive. We opera ted simply out of our trust of the process and our belief that we were in the kingdom of btl Teju was instructed to sit silently in his hotel room and await further instructions. So without any knowledge of what we shoul d expect, in the dusk of the evening as nightfall was beginning to darken the town, the chief priest led us on foot to the gbni shrine. When we entered the shrine, the priest went in to a small room and greeted someone inside soon afterwards, we were invited to come inside and instructed to salute the woman who was seated on the floor. The king had advised us earlier to pay attention to this woman and that she was very special to him. In the candle-lit room, she appeared to be an elderly albino woman. It was quite obvious that she was esteemed. Albinos are special to btl.11 After our brief encounter with the woman, we were escorted into a small candle-lit courtyard where other gbni members were beginning to assemble. All of us sat around on benches as the gbni members discussed in Yoruba the evenings plans. The chief priest parceled out money to one member and he divided the money among the members present. Afterwards, Teju was draped in the white cloth that had been given to him and blindfolded. He was then led into another of the courtyard rooms to be inducted into the society. The process took about twenty minutes. Afterwards, Jjl and I were separately taken into the room. I am not at liberty to discuss th e actual ceremony. What I will say 11 The Yoruba creation story relates that btlcreated human beings out of clay and that one day he was drunk on palm wine and made cripples, albinos and blind people. Since then, all handicapped people are sacred to him.
169 is that we were marked and made another oath of allegiance to the gbni of Ifon. We were advised of the gbnis expectations of an annual return to the community by us and the bond of secrecy that must be honored and upheld. We were also informed that we would have to pay an additional fee if we wanted to receive the gbnis symbolic objects. We agreed to pay the fee and were told that the items had to be prepared and that we would receive them at another time. After all of the rites and advisement were done, we followed the chief priest back to our room at Kingdom Hotel. The following day was btl day and we were told that we needed to be up at 5am and that a driver would pick us up to take us to the Boosa, so that we could pray to btl. We were up and waiting, but the driver never arrived. With fl ashlights in hand, the three of us took to the streets of Ifon in search of the Boosa. Since we were unfamiliar with the streets of Ifon and had no real since of direction, we wandered around until we saw familiar signposts. Finally we found the street where the Boosa was located. We were about to walk pass the site when th e chief priest stepped out from behind a wall and touched my shoulder. All the while that we were searching for the Boosa, I kept assuring Jjl and Teju, that btl would guide our steps. The priest was quite surprised that we were able to find our way. Soon af ter we were in the Boosa the driver showed up and parked in front of the Boosas entranceway. It was still early in the morning and it was dark. The priest led us to the shrine area and lifted up the white sheet that hides the shrine from public view. He then instructed us to kneel before the altar while he prayed for us. The process took about twenty minutes. It was day-break by the tim e we finished. We instructed th e driver to leave because we wanted to enjoy the morning walk in the Kingdom. At the time we were still operating out of our expectations that Teju would be initiated during that weekend.
170 Teju was not initiated to btl during that weekend. The misunderstanding about our expectations was never cleared up an d Jjl had research to conduct in bdn. Joj l divined for the situation and we were instructed to aban don our efforts and to contact Elebuibon in the USA and to try to arrange for him to come to Flor ida before his scheduled re turn trip to Nigeria, so that he could conduct Tejus initiation. The king was sick and complaining a bout pain in his leg all the time we were with him. The pain and discomfort was so great for him until he sometimes could not sit up and spent an unusual amount of time indoors, with his legs propped up Joj l gave him some Reiki treatments and I inquired about him seeing a traditiona l doctor. He stated that he had traveled to Il-Ife to see a medical doctor. According to the king, no one could seem to identify the reason for his ailment. Although Jjl was sympathetic to the bas physical condition, she was quite upset that he was not being transparent about the initiation and the m oney transactions. Even though the king suggested that we return again the following Tuesday on the next btl day, b d on her reading Jjl wanted to abandon the pl ans for an Ifon initiation for Teju. Teju and I acquiesced and together we headed to Ele buibons compound on Saturday morning. We were summoned to meet with the ba because the gbni objects were ready for us to collect. When we arrived at the hotel, we were introdced to another man.12 He was supposedly the specialized preparer of the objects. We were advised that we had to pay him an additional fee, because of some special thing that he did with the objects. We paid the fee, collected our objects, and departed. We stopped at the local market in Ifon before leaving town to buy kola nuts and palm oil to take back to the USA w ith us. We spent a few hours in ogbo at Elebuibons compound and then hired a car to transport us b ack to Il-Ife. While we were in ogbo, we visited an 12 By this time the king was spending a great deal of time at the hotel.
171 Internet caf to check our emails. Joj l had several emails telling her that they had a problem at their home in South Carolina. When she finally wa s able to speak with her family by cell phone, she was told that her house had been burglarized. Disturbed by this information, she and Teju began to plan an immediate return trip to the USA. Joj l wrapped up her research in bdn and she and Teju returned to the states. Since I had alr eady been expelled from the GPA program, I organized my equipment and left Ife to spend two weeks at Elebuibons to conduct my research and to be initiated into the cult of ng. I thought that afterwards, I would reschedule my return flight to the USA and return to my home in Ha wthorne, so that I coul d be there to support Elebuibon with Tejus initiation. My host family members were all busy with their individual lives and so I was left to plan my daily activities at OAU. Biodn Adediran, the fath er of my family, was busy with all that he was required to complete before ending his seco nd term as vice-chancellor of OAU. He worked at his office during the day, came home in the late afternoon, retired to bed early and arose late into the night to review and pr epare documents. Our quality time together was usually when we went for our 5am morning walk. Mama Tunde is a school administrator and was completing the required work for acceptance into a Masters Degr ee program in School Administration. The five children are all scholars and enga ged in various levels of academic training. They were always accommodating and attempted to make sure that I was comfortable. A Life with the Gods Before Joj l and Teju left ogbo we visited the home of Susanne W enger (Adunni) and met with her and Doyin, her adopted daughter. I first read about Wengers artistic work and the New Sacred Arts shrine restoration projects that she spearheaded in ogbo and in neighboring
172 towns while scanning through a copy of her A Life with the Gods book. 13 I was awestruck by the collection of artistic and sacr ed art pieces that were all ar ound her home. (See figures 4-37 thru 4-41) When we met with Wenger she was already eighty fi ve years old. Although she had some difficulty climbing the two f lights of stairs that led to her living area, she still frequently made the trip downstairs to greet guests and to welcome the egngn masqueraders that came to her home during one of my visits. Wenger is a living legend in Nigeria. She is well reputed for her involvement with traditional practitioners and the preservation of rs shrines. Sangodare shared stories of her standing in front of bulldozers that were destined to mow down sacred sites. Conversely, she has withstood considerable disrepute from the Christian and Islamic communities over her many years in Nigeria. Su sanne Wenger has established a reputation of being sympathetic to practitioners of traditional relig ion and is an initiated priestess in the cult of btl. Susanne Wengers engagement with traditional religious practices and politics in ogbo is important to this discussion and I situate her work as a referent for several reasons. Let me begin with this email news bulletin that wa s published October 26, 2005, titled [indegeners] un Grove is now a World Heritage Site: I am pleased to inform you that the un Grove at ogbo has been recognized as a UNESCOs World Heritage Site. The un Sacred Grove covers 75 hectares of secondary forest and houses the temples and shrines of many Yoruba deities. The grove is the most sacred site of the un deity and an active place of worship for un devotees, including the annual un Festival. The annual un Festival in Nigeria is the most popular indigenous religious institution in Africa draw ing thousands of worshippers and devotees from all corners of the globe. In reco gnizing the grove for UNESCOs nomination, ICOMOS recognized that the un- ogbo grove has outstanding unive rsal value, that the grove is the largest, and one of the last surviving sacred groves in Yorubaland; that the grove and its sculptures are now a symbol of Yoruba identity to Yoruba peoples all around the world; and that the grove, as host to its annual festival, sustains the living cultural 13 I found Life with the Gods and several other books and films about Wenger and traditional African Religion in the collection of Vassa and Philip Neimark.
173 traditions of the Yoruba peoples. un Grove is the only World Heritage Site in Yorubaland, and one of two such sites in Nigeria. The first archaeological excavations within the un Grove were carried out in a joint project involving Florida Inte rnational University, Miami, Institute of African Studies, University of bdn, and the National Co mmission for Museums and Monuments. The project was sponsored by Wenner-Gren Founda tion for Anthropological Research and was directed by Akin Ogundiran. The research yielded in teresting results. The findings are currently being analyzed. We hope the result s will shed more light on the history of ogbo and the cultural history of the grove. The people of ogbo under His Royal Highness, ba Oyewale Matanmi III; the Nigerias Federal Ministry of Culture; the Direct or-General of the National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Chief Dr. Omotoso Eluyemi, and Madam Suzanne Wenger (Adunni ogbo), among others, played immense roles in facilitating the listing of the site as a World Heritage Site. This letter is sign by Akin Ogundiran as the Secretary of the Yoruba Studies Council. Although the city of ogbo is renowned for its economic activity, the un Grove and its annual festival, which brings thousands of tourists and visitors, contribute significantly to the citys economic viability. The revenue generated through the festival helps to support local businesses and vendors and has spawned the cons truction of several new hotels in and around ogbo. The festival also has create d opportunities for local groups to collaborate with corporate and government sponsors. A recent news article published in the Nigerian Tribune on September 10, 2007 notes that: This years un ogbo Festival which ended last Frid ay was a colorful, impressive celebration of culture an d heritage which characteristically drew thousands of people from across the globe. But as dazzling as it was, th e next edition in 2008 would be bigger, better and colorful. Abi odun Odejayi, Regional Manager, South West of telecommunication company, MTN Nigeria, the major corporate spon sor of this years festival which spent about N35 millionthe company gave N10 million to the festival committees and expended N25 million on its community connect activities which involved all classes of people at the festivalwas the first to insure that next years fe stival would be more striking. The article continues,
174 The pro-development governor of un State and culture promoter, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, gave the same assurance, while th e Minister of Culture, Tourism and National Orientation, Prince Adetokunbo Kayode (SAN), was emphatic that the festival would be taken to the next level next year. N ext Year, God spari ng our lives, this un ogbo festival will be bigger than this. I want to assure you that the federal government will pull its full weight in making un ogbo Festival not only a nationa l festival but also an international one, Kayode declared at the grand finale of the celebration inside the un grove on Friday. According to the news article, Nigerias ne wly elected President Umaru YarAdua, pointed out the importance of un ogbo Festival as one of Nigeria s foremost arts and culture festivals and the significance of the grove as one of Nigerias wo rld heritage sites. President YarAdua proclaimed, My administration will endea vor to mainstream culture into the fabrics of national development by making it play a central role in our nations drive towards industrialization. YarAdua applauded Susanne Wenger for her role in drawing global attention to the un Grove and to UNESCO for pl acing the grove in the list of World heritage sites. In the course of the programme, prayers lead by the If priest, Chief Ifyemi Elebuibon, were said for the well being of the king, ogbo, un State and Nigeria after the kings return from the palace in the grove. 14 (See figure 4-34) Although the news article did not draw a ny correlations, I will make the following observations, the international attent ion that has been drawn to the un ogbo festival and the emphasis that is now being given to tourism and development in ogbo and un State is without question connected to th e worldwide interest in rs culture and traditions. In addition to the plans to expand the festival, there is now in place a plan to establish the un State University in ogbo, a private university, Fountai n University, also in ogbo, and an Institute 14 Nigerian Tribune, Monday 10th September 2007.
175 of Black Culture and International Understandi ng, which will serve as an archive of the peoples culture. The institute will also be located in un State. Nigeria, because of its poorly developed infr a-structure and the reputation that it currently maintains as being a lawless society, has not been a preferred destin ation for tourists and international travelers. Until very recently the banking system was in shambles, some of the roads and highways are being repaved and widened, but are still very cumb ersome to travel on. Currently, Nigeria does not have in place a system for credit card users to access cash or otherwise use their credit car ds. Nigeria operates on a cash only economy. However, the many visitors who travel to Nigeria for spiritual and/or cultural experiences have demonstrated their willingness to be inconvenienced for the purpose of returning to the source of Yoruba religious and spiritual practices. Much of the cred it for this growth and notoriety in ogbo and un State should be given to Elebuibon and Wenger; I will al so add that these recent developments are not without detractors and contestations. While there remain practitioners of traditional re ligion in Nigeria, fifty percent of Nigerias population practice Christianity and forty percen t are Muslims. Although th e data suggest that only the remaining ten percent are traditionalists, large numbers of Christians and Muslims still maintain ties with traditional practitioners and oftentimes turn to the traditional priests in search of answers to troubling situations Despite the appearance of co existence between the Christian and Islamic communities, both groups compete fo r converts. Churches and mosques dominate the landscape and are the largest and best maintained facilities. Placards and signs warning against the evils of cultism are everywhere to be seen. Most of the films that I was able to view on television or on DVD seemed to present the same anti-cultism messages and were credited to some Christian organization. The theme that seemed to be the most ubiquitous always situated
176 the protagonist as someone struggling with the vi rtues of Christianity in opposition to traditional religion. The traditionalists are represented as evil and backwar d, while Christians are depicted as modern and enlightened. Tradi tionalists are also trea ted as exploiters of the ignorant and less fortunate. Television and movies that are now available on DVD have become popular means of entertainment. When there is electricity, the television is usually on. While I was disturbed by the messages that were being broadcast about traditional religion vs. Christianity, I was equally intr igued by a comment made by Ifdapo, If you have money, you have re ligion. Despite the fact that If may predict long life for his worshippers, if you dont have money to buy a pi geon or a goat, you will die. Look at what those who practice Christianity and Islam have done. They take their money and build large churches and mosques, and then they ha ve their people to bring their money to be able to worship and practice th eir religions. Traditionalists have not done that. They have their temples in their homes, in small rooms, usually in places where people cannot go. I want to build a big temple, where If worshippers can come.15 When I first visited Wengers home, I did not know that Elebuibon was so connected to Wengers family or that the priest that he selected to conduct my ng initiation, Sangodare, was one of Wengers adopted sons. According to Sangodare, he and Elebuibon have been friends since boyhood. Sangodare is a priest, artist, philosopher, community activist, and a resident at Susanne Wengers estate. Sangodare states that, he joined Susanne Wengers family when he was still a boy in 1958. At the time of their mee ting he was not in school and could not read or write. He stated that he was not allowed to attend school becaus e of his familys religious and cultural beliefs. His family wa s traditionalists and school admittance was open only to families that practiced Islam or Christianity. Sangodare is a batik artist; his work has been exhibited in galleries and museums in Japan, Cuba, Brazil, Nige ria, Ghana, and in the USA. He learned his craft as an artist while attending workshops that were organized by Wenger and Bier. He has 15 Ifadapo is one of Elebuibons sons. This comment was made during a personal interview on 7/9/07.
177 godchildren in Cuba and Brazil and he gives the international community of worshippers credit for regenerating interest in the Yoruba culture and religion. He is currently working on a project to build a school that will focus on cultural and religious studies.16 Sangodare said that he was not born until his fa ther was eighty five years old. His father was a ng worshipper and because ng was so pleased with his father, If told his father that he would marry a younger woman and that she w ould give him a son. The son should be given the name Sangodare ( ng s gift). Because he was already an old man, the father did not believe that what If said was possible. Through a series of unforeseen events the father was given a younger wife who bore him a male child. Sangodare considers his parturition a miracle birthing. 17 Connections The internet and cell phones kept Jjl, Teju and I connected after they returned to the states. They had contacted Elebuibon. He was planning a trip to Archer, Fl orida to perform an initiation at Iflola Compound. Onabamiero had arrang ed another initiation. Bb Jomos 18 son was to be initiate d into the house of btl. This initiation was significant as it further strengthened the ogbo, ytnj, and Archer connections. It also provided a possible chance for us to benefit from Elebuibons presence in Archer. If Teju molas initiation could be scheduled around the same time, the cost of housing and transporting Elebuibon could be shared. It is significant because it sign als the reunification of Onabamiero with his former godfather. This move is to Onabamieros credit, especia lly if it induces other initiations and increas e d contact with ogbo by a younger generation. 16 Personal interview with Sangodare 7/7/07 17 personal interview with Sangodare 7/7/07 18 Bb Jomo was one of y tnjs early settlers. He was also one of Onabamieros godfathers.
178 My work in ogbo moved quickly and smoothly. Ele buibon had left his enchanting magic in place and everything in his world resp onded to my use of his name. In Elebuibons enthralling enclave I got up each morning to the sound of childrens names being called so that they would arise and fetch buckets of water for bathing and other household needs. Every morning at four oclock, I was awakened by the ca ll of the local Imam's inviting the faithful to Morning Prayer, blasting from some nearby loud speaker. These were quickly overshadowed by the prayers of the evangelist Chri stian preachers on a louder speaker. At the first sign of daylight I would look out of my bedr oom window to see Yemisi 19 sweeping the upper-leveled porch and stairwell that led to her mothers apartment.20 (See figures 4-2 thru 4-9) Since Elebuibon was not going to be in ogbo during my visit, I requested that his twenty year old son Yomi be my research assistant a nd that he help with my initiation. During my 2001 initiation into the mysteries of If Yomi functioned as my gbn and held my hand as I entered the grove. At the time he was only th irteen years old. I remember asking Yomi what he wanted to be when he grew up. He looked directly at me and stated, I want to be a babalwo, like my father. He also told me that he was going to be my teacher. I was very moved by the wisdom and self assuredness of this young boy. Yomi is now a university student and is studying history. Four of Elebuibons young adult children are presently attending universities in Southwestern Nigeria. Three of his sons have begun to establish themse lves as babalwos and have a small constituency of local and international clientele. However, the clients are located primarily in the United States. The split from the immediate fold of their father is not without 19 Yemisi is one of Elebuibons daughters. 20 Each of Elebubuibons wives has her individual apartments.
179 problems. One of the three sons expr essed an interest in traveling to the states and stated that his split is an expression of his manhood and need for independence. Ifdapo and Niyi seem to be the most popular among the sons still in ogbo and had a small flow of clients during my recent stay at the familys compound. Daily I witnessed th e preparation of traditional medicine and If consultations by the two young babalwo s I also noticed how they related to their patrons. In the instances that I observed, the atmosphere was qu ite relaxed and all of the parties involved seemed quite engaged in the ritual process. This is nothing like the tradition in the United States, where rituals are extremely sensitive and secre tive and clients are usually segregated from priests. The consumers that I observed in ogbo were mostly young and appeared to be contemporaries of the young babalwos. Elebuibon states the following about priest-client relationships, Following the prediction, the client will go hom e and bring to the priest all the items prescribed by the priest. The priest would in turn perform all of the rituals. This may involve mutual participation by both the client and the priest. But spates of modernity have changed this system a little bit. What some c lients usually do is to pay for all the items and instruct the priest to go ahead with the rituals. This, in part, is due to the socio-economic changes in the society and the limited horizon of some clients about their world-views. If a priest mentions a particular sacrifice, a client who has been living in an urban centre all the days of his life may not be able to identify it. Such a client would th erefore prefer, in fact as a necessity, the priest to do everything for hi m. This shift does not necessarily affect the efficacy of the ritual (Elebuibon 200:31). Elebuibon continues, Another reason why some clients would like the priest to do everything on their behalf is that most of the present-day clients have embr aced modern religions. In fact most of them are chieftains in these religions. They still do this traditional sacrifice when it becomes necessary but would not like it to be revealed in the open. Knowing that priests are the father of secrets; they confid e in them with the expectation that they would not go round to expose them. The priest would therefore do the sa crifice on his behalf with the belief that the prayer will reach him whenever he is (ibid). Elebuibons children are cosmopolitan and have benefited from their contacts with the many international visitors to their familys co mpound. Like me, many of th e visitors have left
180 behind Western styled clothing and numerous gadgets, including cell phones and cameras. Although everyone at the compound speak and understand the Yoruba language, most will conveniently switch to Englis h to accommodate their Eng lish speaking guests. Bobola, Elebuibons thirteen year old s on is currently learning to speak and write in Portuguese and Spanish. Diviners Training Prognostics and diagnosis for tr aditional me dicine requires specialized knowledge. This knowledge is not taught in a formal school settin g and is generally the result of years of preparation. In most c as e s amongst the Yoruba, diviners are tr ained privately by other diviners, and work as apprentices, for periods of three to seven years. In the cas e of Elebuibons children, they have been under the tutelage of their father since very early in their lives and have actively participated in ceremonies and rituals. Traini ng involves learning the names and signs of the divination figures, the proverbs and stories conne cted with them, and th e practice, rites and accoutrements of divination. Some diviners do not undergo prolonged periods of training such as those found among the Yoruba. Many outside of Yorubaland learn their trade more through practice than through formal training. Divination links together in a complicated way the spiritual and the physical worlds, thus making it a religious activity. Diviners and herbalists/healers are oftentimes one and the same. It needs to be pointed out that African diviners and medi cine men have suffered greatly from European and American writers depictions of them as witch doctors and th at they in fact play an important role in the life of their village and community. Elebuibon states,
181 A major aspect of the training of a priest is the knowledge of sacrific e that goes with every stanza of If verse. Herbal medicine can only be prescribed after b (sacrifice) has been offered. This is done to enhance and affect efficacy. Instances abound when dispensation of medicine alone without accompanying b becomes ineffective. A look at the process of Yor uba traditional method of hea ling shows a striking parallel with the western orthodox medicine in the area of diagnosis. This is before dispensation of drugs. While the western orthodox medicine would use a stethoscope an If priest would use opele or ikin-If in the traditional set ting. If would reveal that most ailments are caused by germs and bacteria that cannot be s een with the human naked eye. Because of their invisibility and power, they are dubbed unseen spirits or Ajogun (warrior against man). However, orthodox medici ne does not go to that lengt h. They only see disease as coming from unseen bacteria and scheme a device to eliminate them without affecting the human body system (Elebuibon 2000: 32). Finally on this topic Elebuibon states, One very important observation is that despite the spates of modernity as reflected in new religions and orthodox medicine, Yoruba people still patronize the If priest. Distensibly they might have gone to the hospital and various churches and still fi nd that they have not been healed. Some orthodox medicine practitioners would even tell their patients point blank to go home because they could not diagnose their ailments. Then, they come to the If priest and make the necessary sacrifices that would be described. This has produced success on many occasions (Elebuibon 2000: 33). Additional Connections Sangodares residence at Susanne Wengers estate wa s very convenient because I was able to meet with him and discuss my initiation, while at the same time, gain insight into the work and artifacts collected by Wenger. Like Elebuibons home, Wengers place was always busy with outsiders coming to meet her and to visit with Sangodare or Doyin. Doyin is a priestess in the un cult and like Wenger is a prominent caretaker of the un grove. (See figures 4-37 thru 441) Doyin granted me several interviews. During on e of our discussions she explained that the federal government discontinued the pension payments that were due the sacred artists and that the government wanted attendees at the grove to pay an admittance fee, as if the grove is a tourist site. The grove is not a tourist site but in stead a sacred site. Sacred artists are in opposition
182 to the federal government co llecting an entrance fee.21 On the day that we visited the un grove, Doyin argued with the attendant about him wanting to collect a fee from us. Instead, when we were departing, I dashed him with some naira. He was in fact quite agreeable and allowed me to video tape our visit. Although, he was not a un worshipper, he gave me some un stones that he had collected from the river. The visit to the grove was an astonishing e xperience. During my 2001 visit, I participated in the un festival and visited the gr ove on two additional occasions. When I visited the grove with Doyin, she explained to me what the different objects that are displayed at the grove represented. ogbo had been experiencing a significant amou nt of rainfall, but on this day the sky was clear and the un River was tranquil. Fish were swimming with very little agitation and monkeys were jumping from tree to tree. Doyin informed me that the type of monkey that lived in the grove usually travel in gr oups and that they are very connected to Ibeji (twins) in fact, they are referred to as Ibeji. un blessed me with a special bell. (See Figur e. 4-43) Doyin and I were accompanied by her twelve year old son, Ojo, and Bobola, my thirteen year old assistant. Both of the boys are babalwo s I noticed the bell sitting on a rock on th e bank of the river. The two boys and I had just had our heads, faces, and feet washed by sister Doyin As we were about to leave the area I glanced down at the rock and saw the bell. I was inspired to pick it up. As I picked it up sister Doyin stated that the bell was a gift to me from un. Ojo exclaimed that it was a special blessing from un and that it was a miracle. I was ve ry appreciative of the acknowledgement from un for my love, presence, and work in ogbo. I asked Doyin for permission to photograph the bell at the site wh ere I found it. Doyin asked me to hand the bell over to her so 21 Personal interview with Doyin on 7/7/07.
183 that she could wash the bell in the river. Sh e took the bell and washed it while praying to un. Afterwards, she divined with ob and then told me that un genuinely wanted me to have the bell. I gave thanks to un and gratefully placed the bell in my shoulder bag. 22 For a few days afterwards I moved betw een Elebuibons compound and Sangodares and Doyins apartments. Getting around was fairly easy b ecause I usually had a driver or someone from Elebuibons family to accompany me, especial ly Bobola. With Bobola I usually traveled by motor bike or taxi. Classes at the university had resumed by the time I was able to settle in ogbo for my research and initiation. So, Yomi was preparing to return to school. He could not be my assistant or be available for my initiati on. Bobola came to my resc ue! At thirteen years old Bobola exudes tremendous confidence and prof iciencies. He without hesitation introduces himself as an artist and a Babalwo and has al ready traveled to Portuga l and Venezuela, hence his love for the Spanish and Portugal languages. I will add that he made these trips unescorted by any of his family members, and through contacts that he establ ished for himself on the internet. He visited both places as a self promoted cultur al teacher. He stated to me, that he was teaching them about Yoruba traditions and culture. Bobola like his father is a love r of the arts and of Yoruba culture. He is prominent among the ma ny people that I have to thank for making my research and life experiences in ogbo meaningful and possible. Bobola managed my affairs in areas where I was not capable. He somehow managed to find space in his busy and juvenile existence to spend a great deal of time facilitating my research. He did my money trans actions, including trad ing my dollars for naira on the market. He was my interpreter and guide. Within a short sp an of time he taught himself to be a reasonably capable camera person. Several of my photographs and video recordi ngs are credited to him. He 22 The bell now sits with my un objects on my shrine.
184 did all of this and attended school all day. So at the end his school day he would rush home so that we could resume the adventure of the research and travel. On some occasions he traveled with me to Il-Ifeand to Ifonun to see the king. The Kings Demise Even though Tejumolas initiation didnt take place at Ifonun as we had hoped, I still had unfinished business in the kingdom. As part of our gbni initiation we were to be given certificates that recognized our membership in th e society. My task was to get the photographs copied from my camera into passport size photo s that would be place on the certificates. At the time, it all sounded fairly simple, only not in Nigeria. Getting the photograph from my camera to my computer and modified into a passport size picture was fairly easy. Getting the photograph printed in color on the appropria te type of paper required a tr ip to Il-Ife and finding a photo studio. Fortunately for me, with the help of Nke 23, I was able to get the photographs quickly and returned to ogbo. Once that was completed, I had to take the photographs back to the king, who would in turn get them to the right person in the gbni This too sounded simple, but it wasnt. The kings health was deteriorating and so things that were not urgent matters began to get less attention. By the time I wa s ready to leave Nigeria the certif icates did not matter at all. On the last occasion that I saw the ba before I departed from Nigeria, I visited him with Biodun Adediran. Kbys was not well. Frail and trembling, he told Biodun that he thought that his ailment was the result of someone working some bad medicine on him. Someone working bad medicine is a common fear in Nigeria. This belief is partly responsible for many people converting to Christianity and Islam and tu rning away from traditional practices. Yoruba history is replete with examples of such belief s, and kings have suffered their demise at the 23 N ik is one of Biodun Adedirans daughters. Her assistance and attention to my care while I was at OAU, is greatly appreciated.
185 hands of sorcerers since the be ginning of Yoruba kingdoms. One week after I returned to the United States I received a call from Nigeria to in form me that the king had died, gone to be with his ancestors. I silently grieved his loss and was th ankful that I did get to spend some time with him and benefited immeasurably from his presen ce in the personification of rsnla in 2001. Legends abound in Yorubaland and the diaspora about ng and his magical powers. Currently there is a great deal of literature on the subject of magic, wi tchcraft, and sorcery in Africa and the diaspora.24 The most popular myth claims that, ng is an rs; butas myth has itwas the fourth Alaafin of y, which was founded by Oronmiyon, the youngest son of Odduw. The myth also relates that he was endowed with his magi cal powers by his wife ya, who gave him magical medicine with which he produces thunder and lightning. ng is the god of thunder and lightning, which is emitted through his mouth. In 2001, at a farewell party that was arranged be fore my groups departure from Nigeria, I was able to witness and record a performance by a young ng priest, in which he walked on burning coals, placed a flaming fire on a stick in his mouth, ate broken pieces of glass, and walked on nails that had been hammered into a piece of wood. Before this priest was able to perform any of these seemingly incredible feats he had to undergo rituals that enabled him to possess the magical powers of ng. 25 Throughout his performance he was under the careful watch of another ng priest who was there to insure th at he remained in his trance and therefore safe from harm. 24 For example: E.E.Evans-Pritchard Witchcraft, Oracles and Magic among the Azande (Oxford 1937): E.G. Parrinder Witchcraft (Penguin, London 1958); J. Middleton & E.H. Winter, eds., Witchcraft and sorcery in East Africa (London 1963); H. Debrunner Witchcraft in Ghana (Kumasi 1959); G. Bloomhill Witchcraft in Africa (Cape town 1962); In addition to these classical writings, there now exist a pletho ra of anthropologi cal and sociological works which contain sections on magic, sorcery, an d witchcraft in Africa and in the African diaspora. 25 The young priest was a member of one of the several groups that was contracted to perform at the farewell partywhich was hosted by Chief Margaret Idowu at one of her ogbo estates.
186 According to Sangodare, ng is the greatest magician of them all. Another example of ngs proclivity for the supernatural is disc ussed in his performance during the annual ng Festival in the town of Ede in Southwestern Nigeria, The principle performer must each day carry th e God. That is to say he must fall into a self-induced state of possession, during wh ich he will speak with the voice of ng. He dances with incredible energy whilst in this st ate and he appears to be insensitive to pain. In Ede this state of possession is induced in the following manner. The chief performer (Bb l gn) takes a bundle of dry grass and lig hts it with a match. While dancing around in a circle, followed by other worshippers, he blows into the smoldering grass. When at last the flames shoot up from the gr ass, a trembling runs throughout his body. His eyes widen and he begins to reel. ng has mounted his head. The other worshippers support him and take him away. He then puts on a special dress, which must only be worn in a state of trance. He is now the human representation of the God when he returns dancing, he is indeed changed. He has acquired some of the Gods superhuman strength and energy. He now begins his amazing performa nces. A favorable feat is to push an iron rod through his tongue or drive a knife into hi s flesh without flinching. One performer had an iron rod as thick as a little finger pushed underneath his eyeball. Another man then beat it with a mallet. Another was shot in the m outh with a Dane gun at short range (Sangode 1996: 38-39). While the above described situations may seem fantastic and viewed as entertainment and amusement, they are in fact pe rformed in the context of ritualistic processes that requires the performers to be in an induced state of trance consciousness and a state of worship of the rs ng. These types of seemingly theatrical routines by ng devotees can be observed during sacred rites as well as during public performan ces, such as the one that I observed during my 2001 fte in ogbo and during my ng initiation in 2007. K W Kbys : the Ma king of ng I left Il-Ife and arrived at Ifyemis compound several days be fore my initiation. I wanted the extra time so that I could visit with the king and collect some documen ts from the palace in Ifon Orulo, interview Doyin and Sangodare at Susa nne Wengers estate, and videotape Ifyemis sons making traditional medicine. I also wanted to spend time in the City of ogbo. This
187 would be my fifth initiation since my involve ment with rs-voodoo, santeria, and traditional Yoruba religion. During the first initiation I was crowned btl and my ita ods revealed that I was suppose to bring an rs from Nigeria and that going to jail saved my life. They were going to kill you. I was also told that I wo uld pass to If later in life and that btl would have to grant me permission to pass.26 At the time when I was given these prognoses for my life, they had very little meaning. What seemed to matter the most was that I had fulfilled my promise to be initiated. ita is that time during an initiation cerem ony when the attending priests display their knowledge of the ods and stories that are rela tive to the letters that fall, when the cowry shells are thrown. In the case of an If initi ation, the officiating babalwo will use an opele chain or Ikin If (palm nuts). It is also the time when taboos and lifes uncertainties are discussed. The prognosis may include warnings about sickness or death, marriage or divorce, wealth or sudden calamity. You might also learn about your enemies. In my case, I was told a number of details that I was instructed not to share. I have been a witness to the truth of what If declares. My second, third, and fourth init iations occurred during my 2001 visit to Nigeria. First, I was initiated into the gbni Society and received the hand of btl at Ifon un and then I was initiated into the mysteries of If at ogbo. It was during my If ita session, that Ifyemi divined that I needed to be initiated into the cult of ng; that I needed ng to work along with my If od. I received the same forecast when Ifyemi gave me or during his visit to initiate the three yw in 2005. During my or ita, If spoke and stated again that I needed to receive ng. 26 Notes from my 1982 yw note pad, as recorded by my ajubonna, Adeosun.
188 For thirty years I wore white clothing as often as possible and a voided wearing anything red27. My head belonged to rs btl. When Yomi gave me btl I was a very hot headed young man. My life was fast paced and I was heading towards a collision. My soul was in dire need of the calming and cooling consciousness that btl manifested. M Dp rsnla! M Dp Yomi! btl has given me wisdom and patience. btl is the rs that was charged with the cr eation of mankind. On his way to perform the task, he stopped and socialize d. He got drunk on palm wine and didnt get to the job on time. Of all of the accounts that I have read and heard about btl, this was undoubtedly his greatest error. Eventually he sobered up, but the task of creating mankind had been accomplished by his younger brother. So he was left with the duty of creating those of mankind who were challenged to live life with deformities. After so many years of life as an omo btl to discover that ng wanted his to be placed in my head, required some mental ad justments and life-style changes. Even though many of ngs proscriptions for how I should live my lif e are quite different from those that were given to me by btl, ng still dictates that I shoul d walk close to the line that btl had placed before me; that I should maintain the peace and calmness that btl had given me. If promised me a re-created life and told me that my new life would be one that included the worship of ng. This was especially odd because, I had been given the objects of ng during my btl initiation. However, in my in itiation notebook there is a warning from ng: people will say they didnt make the right ocha to you (initiated to th e right rs). I was not told that I needed to serve ng or that ng would someday be so important in my life. No 27 As a follower of btl I wore white clothing and offered only items that were near white in color. Red is associated with ng, who is hot as opposed to btls cool.
189 one ever challenged me or que stioned the validity of my btl initiation. If never suggested that I was crowned btl in error. I was never instruct ed to stop attending to or worshipping my Lucumi styled rss. Anyway, to do so w ould be very difficult for me. I do not question their powers, nor do I understand as anything other than energy. My ng initiation and experiences in ogbo cannot be described as a universal system for ng initiation rituals. Sangodare suggested that there are multitude ways for worshippers to observe and practice and that performance, including songs, dances, and rituals are not homogeneous. John Mason, a USA based priest and Yoruba-American scholar describes ng, ng isWarrior king, fourth Alafin of y, brilliant general, stout heart, lion in the bush, bigger than life, ardent lover, gourmet and glut ton, itinerant bohemian, Jack-ofall-tradesmaster-of-none, he who illuminates the dark, pun isher of liars and scoffers, lightning bolt hurler, owner of fire, owner of the great horse, magician, inventor, divi ner, the tragic hero, the great hope (Mason 1981:69). Mason also provides a list of ngs favorite foods, ngs Favorite foodsRam (agbo), Tortoise (ijapa), Turtle (ajapa), Rooster, Pigeons,28Guinea fowl, Dry white wine, Green bananas, Red apples, Pomegranate, cornmeal mush (amala) Okra (ila), okra stew, Rice bread Fufu, Calalu, Obe ayaba, Akara, Bread of black-peas, Okra split with epo (ibid). Day 1 of ng Initiation After a long and restless night and a morning of anxious anticipation at 10:35am on Friday morning, the ng initiation people began to arrive. Sangodare and th e bt drummers arrived first. Soon afterwards several o ther priests came and began making preparations. I sat waiting quietly and patiently. Things appeared to be fall ing into place. However, I still needed to be certain that Bobola unders tood the instructions th at I had given him for video recording the initiation. After all, he was only th irteen years old and this was to be an important aspect of my 28 In some New World traditions, ng does not eat pigeon.
190 research documentation. I was notified that we were about to begin a nd I could not locate Bobola. All of a sudden, I was approached by two young men, Tarobi and Bisi. They inquired about the possibility of assisti ng me with the photographing and video recording. They explained that they had been told by one of Ifyemis sons that I might need some help. They also stated that they had just graduated from a Polytechni c Institute and that they both concentrated on photography and video production. I as ked them what they would charge for their services. They said that they were not interest ed in money; instead they were interested in gaining experience. Pressed for time as I was, I quickly showed th em how to operate my equipment that included a camcorder, a digital camera, and a tape recorder. I told them that I wanted them to capture as much of the details of the initiation as they pos sibly could. I was confiden t of the cooperation of Ifyemis family but I was not certain about the potential reactions of the attendant priests. I completed my negotiations with Tarobi and Bisi just as I was being called into the temple. I entered the temple and was instructed to kneel down before the young priest who had just completed laying out the assortment of herbs that would be used for the initiation. About twelve ng priests and babalwos were assembled inside and outside of the temple. The babalwos present were mostly Ifyemis sons that were there to support the success of the rites. The ng priests were hired by Sangodare to work at the initiation. Sangodare said that they were all from a town near y.29 The young priest recited a series of incantations and prayers as he threw kola nuts to determine which other condiments needed to be added to the concoction that would be made. The first kola nut pieces were discarded. Sangodare st ated that they were not good. After selecting a new Kola the reading was continued. The kola was thrown many times as I remained 29 y is known as the center of ng worship since ng had been king of y
191 kneeling with my head bowed and my palms faci ng upright. Occasionally the priest touched the kola to my head. Ifdapo interpreted for me what the ob (kola nut) had disclosed, If says that your deeds are o.k. I took this to mean that the deeds that I had done lead ing up to this initiation were good. The priest sprayed wate r and liquor on to the herbs. At the conclusion of this phase of the proce ss the herbs were gathered up by two of the young priests and taken outdoors where they were placed in a mortar that had been stationed at the side of the temple. Three of the priests t ook turns beating the herbs with two pestles. The process seemed arduous for the laboring priests; they were soon joined by some of the other priests that had been standi ng around. After a short while the herbs had been pounded enough and were transferred into a larg e clay pot. The priest then adde d liquor, palm oil, kola nut, honey, and other ingredients into the ne w vessel. All the while the young priest continued to read ob (kola nut) so that he would be assured that all of the needed in gredients had been included. In another area of the ritual space a priest was painting and preparing the clay pot that would house my ng objects. Another priest was bus y stringing my new necklace (il ks). Afterwards, I was escorted back into the temple and instructed to sit on a straw mat that was on the floor. Sangowumi, the woman that would be my gb n came into the temple, accompanied by three of the young male priests. The priests were playing ngs rattles. Sangowumi placed a cauldron of water on the floor and a white piece of clothe between my legs. I sat quietly with my eyes shut. The bt drummers began to play, th e two elderly women priests began to sing oros ( ng chants ). Sangowum i proceeded to shave my head and eyebrows. The white cloth with my hair on it was remove d and I was told to sit back and relax. The priests continued to shake ngs rattles, while the drummers played and the women chanted. I sat quietly for a short while and listened to singing and drumming; soon the same three young
192 priests appeared again, this time with a larger pi ece of white cloth. They folded the cloth neatly and placed it on the floor beside me. One of th e priests was carrying a small straw tray with cowry shells on it. The tray was placed on the floo r; two of the priests sat down beside me, one on my left and the other on my ri ght side. They were preparing to perform the divination that is necessary to determine the flow of the initiation and the rituals/sa crifices that would be offered during the initiation. The shells were placed in my hands; I was instructed to pray. I raised my clasped hands to my mouth and prayed. After my pr ayer, I was told to toss the shells. On the first throw Sangodare translated that If said that you would have a long life. I was instructed to put some money on the mat. I placed the required money on the mat. Sangodare told me that I should pray on the money. The priest threw the she lls again; he recited the od that the shells revealed. Sangodare interpreted agai n, If said that all the good thi ngs that you want in this life, he wants to bless you. Sangodare continued, If says that good things will be following you this year. If says that you mu st make a good sacrifice for your ow n life. Dont make arguments; just be silent and dont argue. Because what you say will come true; dont make argument, just pray. This went on for quite some time; the young priest reciting ods and Sangodare interpreting. When he was finally finished with the readi ng the priest touched his head to the floor and stood to his feet. Ifdapo interpreted the final od, If says that you need to have a dog. Once you have a dog as a pet it will be good for you. Th ere are three blessings that will come your way. If says that when the three blessings come they will stick with you; they going to stick with you. You need to do the sacrifice to bring th e blessings. You need to have a dog as a pet. Sangodare followed Ifdapos interpretation with some additional remarks, If you have a dog at home, it is really good. If you dont ha ve it, try to fine one dog for you. I interjected and stated
193 every time I have a dog he runs away. 30 Sangodare laughed and stated, Maybe youll try again, and that will be a good blessing for you. Because there are three enemies that want to come to your house. They are debt, sickness, a nd losers. Then when they come to your house, they saw you, ah, you dont have wife, you don have a building, you dont have anything. What can I do with you? At this point, Sangodare switched to Yoruba, to clarify a point in the od with the other priests. They knew instantly the po int that he was referenc ing and several replied with the same response, almost in unison. When he switched back to his English translation of the od, he commented that he would give me the shortened interpretation. Sangodare continued, The story belongs to that od. Th at od says a lot of things, but I will just summarize it for you. All your life you just very poor; you dont have luck in life. All your life you just come down; things are not doing very well; things are upside down. How can I make my life come to be together? Thats when he went to rnmla. rnmla did divine for him; that od comes out. Sangodare went on to tell the stor y of the od which essentially advised me to do the prescribed sacrifices and to be cautious w ith what I say to others, because I can make good and bad things happen with my words. Sangodare stopped talking; the young priest that was seated to my right pushed forward, touched his head to the ground, a nd began reciting prayers and invo cations. He then offered his interpretation of the od. Sangodares translated his prayer for me, If says that you should really try to be aware of your friends; you have some friends, that are planning bad against you, but when they see you, they change minds, oh bl ah, blah, and youre good, youre this thing; they totally change things. They are enemies. Its a bad thing in your mind. So that when they 30 Sangodare, Ifadapo, Taribo, Bisi, and Bobola were all able to switch from English to Yoruba and vice versa without difficulty. All of the y priests did not speak or understand any English. My comment about my poor luck with dogs was specifically directed towards Sangodar e
194 saw you they turned it into another thing. So really try to do the sacrifice for yourself. So that if they want to do a bad thing to you; through the sacrifice you will push all the bad things away from you. You will never get a bad thing. Its a good blessing for you. This process went on for a couple of hours with other priests sharing their insights about the od. One of the elder priests warned that I should not complain. Sangodare translated, When something is no good, just take it as it is. I was told to sacrifice a cock for my deceased father, so that his spirit would guide my destiny, to make my life to come together. I was given the option of doing the sacrifice then or when I returned to the United States. I was warned against becoming annoyed by situations. Sangodare transl ated, when you become annoyed there is no gain from it for you; just calm down. It is ver y, very important for you; that od just mentioned that because your spirit is alwa ys annoyed. So then you have to calm it down. If someone tells you something, it is better to cool it down, because the blood of ng is on you; and gn is on you. You know you could be very aggressive some time; so but, try to cool your aggression down, because of your own life. Sangodare expl ained that sometimes in our becoming annoyed with others or allowing ourselv es to be annoyed, we destroy th e very foundations that we are trying to lay. When all was said by the priests and Sangodare, I was instructed to dip my finger into the honey that ha d been poured over the ng thunder stones, which were being fed and charged during the initiation. Sangodares final words were, Its sweet, and your life will be sweet. The plate containing th e honey that sweetened ngs stones was passed around the room and the priests took a dab on their finger tip and licke d it. Next the priest cast the cowry shells to divine for the sacrifices that I needed to do. Sangodar e did not provide any translation or interpretations for this segment of the divinati on service. At the conclusion of the divination
195 session, I was instructed to stand and I was esco rted out of the holy place and out on to the plaza/courtyard in front of the temple. I did not completely dismiss the anthropologist within me. I had to continue to guide Taribo and Bisis work. It soon became apparent that I was not alone in my interest in a quality representation of the initiation and my interest in making the images/representations available for public viewing. Taribo and Bisi demonstrated th eir abilities to manage the equipment and their comfort with documenting cultural and sensitive material. We only had a few occasions when it became necessary for me to direct their attenti on to the initiators and less attention on me. My objective was to document as much of the proces s as was possible. There were two occasions when one of Ifyemis sons, Niyi, confiscated the digital camera and took several pictures, because Taribo needed to leave the room. My re search and documentary team had expanded to include the priests and babalwos, my cameramen, Taribo and Bisi and most of Ifyemis family. When I saw how engaged and supportive ever yone was, I was able to be more fully into my initiation; for short periods of time, I was able to suspend my consciousness. Once we were outdoors, I was seated on what at the time appeared to be a bench covered with the straw mat from the temp le (I later observed in a photogr aph from this event that the straw mat was placed atop an inverted mortar; ngs customary throne). The bt drummers began beating their drums. One of the young priests was busy washing the o e ng and ng statue that would go home with me. One of the two elderly women priests came outdoors and began dancing; Taribo joined in the dance. I sat on ngs throne observing and holding the anthropologist at bay. Someone walked across my sight pulling the goat that wa s to be sacrificed. The drummers played for aw hile and the women danced. The drums stopped; the women removed their lapas (cloth that is wrapped at the wais t). The women used their wraps to build a
196 wall that concealed the ritual of dressing and placing the in my head. This was one of the first rituals that could not be documented. I wi ll share just a fraction of what happened behind that wall. As the women chanted r s ( ng songs) and danced for ng, a birthing took place. My head was washed with the omi r (herbal mixture) that had been prepared earlier. It was painted with white and red paste and fed indigenous medicines th at were formulated to induce the spirit of ng. The cone that contained the essence of ngs was placed on top of my head. I closed my eyes so that I could absorb the experience. I lost consciousness for some moments. ng was present and the anth ropologist was subdued. Bu t the cameras were still rolling. Taribo and Bisi were documenting those ephemeral moments. Their recordings and my memories are what I have of that experience that allows me to offer a near accurate and visual account of the materials that I discuss. I sat there reposed for some time and then I was instructed to stand. The bt drummers began to beat their drums again and the women began to sing. The b (sacrificial offering) that had been layered with various ingredients was lifted from the ground and handed to me. Sangowumi, my gb n, picked up the calabas h that contained the omi r and placed it on top of her head. I was told to follow behind her. I fell in immediately behind her and the priests, friends, and family members joined the small para de behind me. We step ped outside of the irongate that secures Ifyemis compound and on to Elebuibon Street. Behind us, I heard the beating of the bt drums and the constant rattling of ngs shakers. We walked a short distance and wound up at a small creek that r uns behind Ifyemis compound. At the creek, two of the young priests stepped forward and stepped into the creek. One of them had a small pick and he began digging a hole in the sand beneath the water. His efforts seemed futile, so one of the senior priests step ped into the water and took the tool from the
197 younger priest and began to search for a suitab le place for the hole. After the hole was dug, the elder priest motioned for me to step forward. With assistance from two prie sts, I stepped into the creek. Once I was in the water, the women removed their wraps and again created a makeshift wall that concealed what was happening at this stage of the initiation ritual. The two young priests began to cut and tear aw ay from my body the clothing that I was wearing. I stood in the creek naked; Sangodare in structed me to bathe myself with the omir and to pray. After the bath, I was helped to get out of the water and dressed in the white fabric that had been purchased for this occasion. This pa rticular ritual of the removal and burying of old clothing and the spiritual bath symbolize the stripping of the old personality and the birth of the new child. At this point I was an yw again. The calabash that had been car ried to the creek by Sangowumi was lifted out of the stream and placed on top of my head. Again, I lost consciousness; my head began to feel as though someone or something extremely heavy had climbed on top of it. With the support of several of the priests, I was able to carry the exhausting calabash, as I stumbled and staggered back to Ifyemis temple. At the temples entrance way, Sangodare without any strain removed the calabash from my head and I was lifted up off of the ground and carried in to the temple room. Once inside, I collapsed from exhaustion. Just lying there on the mat trying to collect my thoughts was all that I could do. I was only allowed to rest for a short while before one of the young priests entered the room carrying a small calabash. He motioned for me to sit up. Taribo was in the room with the camera. In fact, Taribo, Bisi, and Niyi had recorded a great deal more of the days events than I had imagined. The priest stood to my right side and began washing my head with a black soapy and paste like substanc e. He then tied an ikoide (African grey parrot fe ather) that was attached to
198 a white piece of thread around my head. The f eather stood at the center of my forehead. Afterwards, a red piece of cloth was spread over the mat for me to sit on. The room was buzzing with conversation in Yoruba. I was very hungry and so I requested some food. My diet is generally very modest; my staple foods in ogbo were fruits, rice and fish, vegetables, and toasted bread. My meals were usually small and I us ually ate with Bobola; he was always glad to take whatever was left over home to share w ith his younger siblings. I always drank bottled water. I ate the same way in Il-Ife and Ifonun. My host families and the king of Ifon were accommodating and made special efforts to provide for my diet. After I ate, I rested for a while. Later in the afternoon, Sangodare came into the room and told me that we would be having a festival to dance for ng, in the early evening. The days work was not done. Festivals in celebration of the rss are importa nt in the lives of worshippers. Sangodare stated at one point that Yoruba people don t know birthdays in the way that Europeans know birthdays. He continued, I n Yorubaland, the day that you are initiated is your birthday. So it is on that day that initiates celebrate their anni versaries. This would be my first time to observe my annive rsary with my new community. We assembled in the plaza which is situated at the very back of Ifyemis compound, behind the temple. The plaza area is a 40x40 slab of concrete, fenced in by a six feet tall cinder-block wall and surrounded by the buildings that comprise the compound. Adjacent to the plaza, is the small outdoor kitchen that al so functions as the workshop where the babalwos create and produce black soap and other traditional medicines. Adjacent to and behind the cinder-block wall and kitchen is the Igbo If (If grove). (See figures 4-50 thru 4-57) The celebration lasted for several hours. Each of the priests performed their own choreographed and self-styled dance for ng. Each responded in their own fashion to the call
199 of the staccato rhythms of the bt drums. Taribo and Bisi knew instinctively the necessity of documenting the drumming, chanting, and dancing as well as the intricate nuances of the feet movements. They had been consumed by their ro les as the documenters. The photographs, audio, and video recordings that resulted from their efforts will be a lasting contribution to the study of Yoruba religious traditions in the African diaspora. The crowd sat around drank beer, laughed and talked, as the players collected naira as a token of the crowds approval of their performances. The evening ended as dusk began to set in with me dancing for ng. The visitors and senior priest s departed, while the younger priests and women that had traveled from the town near y, stayed behind. I returned to the temple room, drank a cup of tea and relaxed. Taribo and Bi si returned the equipment and stated that they would come back early in the morning. I took th e opportunity of the quiet time and nothing to do as a chance to view, organize, and label the day s recordings. I knew that by the time it got late the electricity might be discontinued. After worki ng for a while, I made myself a pillow with my towel and backpack, stretched out on th e mat and went into a deep sleep. Day 2 of ng Initiation All of the priests that had stay ed for the night slept on ma ts chairs, and benches in the temples sitting area. Behind my closed door, I he ard them talking and laughing late into the night. Sangowumi came into the temple early on the next morning. She motioned for me to get my towel and to follow her. She led me to th e outdoors bathing area and assisted me with my bath. After the shower she came back into th e temple and rubbed down my body with oil. She then redressed my head with the black soapy pa ste. I ate some breakfast and we finally got started around mid morning. After hearing the sounds of the drum beats the priests began to leave the temple building and went outdoors to the courtyard/plaza. Sangodare came into the
200 room and beckoned me to come outside. I stood up, wrapped myself with my soiled white sheet, covered my head, and proceeded to the courtyard. Taribo and Bisi showed up in the morning as they said that they would. This was my second initiation in Ifyemis temple. Mama Lola, Ifyemis youngest wife, advised me that I should be spraying the people more frequently. She stated that the drummers and the women that were singing r were complaining. I knew that it was customary to spray people with money as they performed, I was just not certain about the lim its of what I could do as an yw. Besides the money that I gave fo r certain rituals and sacrifices following my divination sessions, the priests looked forward to being spra yed with naira during their performances. Mama Lola sent me a message th rough Bobola that I should not pay out any more money, because I had paid for everything in advance. Despite her words, I was still asked to continue spraying throughout the three day initiation. Having to dole out money constantly was troubling, because I did not have unlimited resources and was already spending beyond my b udget. Also I knew that back in the United States, some of the people that had traveled to Yorubaland for initiations have begun to complain about the treatment that they received in Nigeria and by itinerant babalwos who live in or travel to the United States to perform initiations and rituals. Some of the sentiments were expressed in a recent email that I received about two Yoruba -American priestesses, who were engaged in a heated debate over allegations of mist reatment and abuse by Yoruba Babalwos One of the women stated the following in her in ternet diatribe, This is a sick and twisted game that is going on in the tradition, and only you can put a stop to itWe ought to send messages out this year that we are not going to take it no more, if you are going to organize conferences in If/rs, your agenda is to speak against the treatment that we are getting in the diaspora simply because
201 we have been viewed as a cash cow that needed to be milked and pimp by indecent elders in the name of babalwo. Even with the things that I observed that may require atten tion and adjustments, I decided to advise Tejumola that he should return to Nigeria for his 2008 init iation. The rituals and invocations to the rss that are performed in Nigeria are not what we have witnessed in the United States. The features that make the pilgrima ge worthwhile are the attention to the ritual details, the availability of the required condi ments and herbs, and the uplifting power of the constant chanting, drumming, and dancing for the rss by a community of priests who inherently know how to function in ritual moments. I do not make this remark to suggest that priests in the diaspora are not equipped to delive r similar kinds of services; however, I will say that priests in the United States must be more willing to submit themselves to the years of arduous training and studying that is required of initiates. Meanwhile it seemed as though everyone wa s running on the same frequency as people began to arrive at about the same time. I made a mental note about this peculiarity as I thought about how the ytnj Villagers always seemed to function according to their own clock; and about how the crowd at ytnj always showed up at the onset of the festival. Villagers usually joked about this phenomenon and termed it African time. Draped in my white cloth I walked to my designated sitting area; on top of the pilon (inverted mortar). I heard discussion in th e background. The drummers assembled and began beating their drums. The women began singing ngs r s. The priests gathered around. The same young priest that had divined with ob th roughout the initiation was charged with divining for this session also, reaching into my symbolic future and rewarding and/or punishing me for some future deeds. Someones cell-phone c ontinuously chimed in the background. The women
202 chanted and there were occasional shakes of th e rattles. Sangodare came and stood by my side. Everyone that was capable was in vited to approach me and spray me with money. At the same time they had a chance to hit me lightly with a switch that had been placed on the ground, near the Pilon. The beating with the sw itch was a symbolic whipping for any future digressions that I might perform or encounter. The beating was mo stly in jest and like so many other Yoruba nuances, it was symbolic. Sangodare placed his cupped left hand with obi (kola nut) and ngs stone inside on top of my head; he began to pray and recite invocations over my head. He placed his right hand on my head and he continued to pray. Someone gave him a rattle; he took the rattle in his right hand and began to shake it as he prayed. The crowd of priests drew closer. Another priest shook his rattle. The elder priest came nearer and placed his hand over Sangodares hand as he prayed. I knew that my head was being blessed and empowered by those two ng priests. I was charged and at the same time humbled. I sat quietly observing and participating in the work. Afte r Sangodare finished his prayer and invocations, he placed th e kola nuts that he had offered to my head, on the ground in front of th e divining priest. The young priest split open the bitter kola nut with his teeth and cast the pieces to the ground. The first casting indicated okano (victory over enemies), so I was instructed to smash the used kola nut with my feet. After the next cast, Sangodare translated the od just cool your mind; another cast, Sangodare continued, so that to make your mind cool down. At the next cast, Sangodare advised me about the importance of celebrating my anniversary ev ery year; that I should mark the day of the initiation, either you have money or you dont have money. If you dont have money, you can find a cock, so then you sacrifice it to mark the celebration; call some people. If you have money you can buy a cow to kill or you can buy a ram; so that any kind of thing that you can do for your
203 own festival every year. But if you dont have m oney, its not your fault and oh, where can I get the million of naira to do this; if you get only a ch icken, give it to him and he will readily accept it. It is up to your own capacity to do it. At this instance Tarobi joins in and interprets, just remember every year to do the ritual. The young priest cast the bitter kola nut several more times and then switched to using the kola nut that divides into four pieces. It is believed that ng prefers to take the bitter kola. I cannot say with any certainty why he switched. It was apparent to me that he was a gifted diviner and that the community of pr iests was comfortable with hi s performance. He threw the obi one final time and was pleased with the outcome. He lifted the ng stone (ot) from the ground and placed it on top of my head. The senior pr iest stepped forward, and his hand replaced the hand of the younger priest. He repositioned the st one and placed it with the sharp edge facing forward at the crown of my head. The wome n chanted in the background. The stone was removed from my head and tied in the hem of my white cloth. The white cloth was retied around my shoulder. The priests gathered around me; th e drummers changed their rhythm as Sangodare and the senior priests busied themselves on th e sideline staging the final phase of the days activities. The senior priest sprayed my face with wa ter from a calabash. Sangodare and the senior priest lighted a small kerosene lantern; the se nior priest brought the lantern over to me and waved it beneath my nose. The group of priest s was standing behind me and at both my sides with their hands on my shoulders. Next, the seni or priest placed a halv ed calabash on the ground in front of me and then smashed it with his feet. Finally, the senior priest came over and stood at my right side with a clay pot that he insert ed another object into and began making a grinding
204 sound. I fell over and was lifted up and carried into the temple. I was unconscious. Someone covered me with the red sheet and left me to rest and recover. Later that afternoon we had another festival for ng where the players, drummed, danced, and celebrated The atmosphere at the plaza was relaxed and festive; the young priests and ylrs Sangowumi danced and showed off their fanciful feet and shoulder motions. Mama Lola and the children joined the dancers. I sat on th e red clothe that had been placed on the mat outdoors at the temples entrance. Sangodare, the remaining elder woman priest, and occasionally Sangowumi also sat on the mat. The tw o women continued to chant oros and oriki from an inexhaustible repertoire of songs. All the while these ritual activities were ta king place, the sacrificed animals were being cleaned and the appropriate s (organs that might be used in me dicine or as an offering) were being removed from the various animals and prep ared, meals were cooked to keep the working priests, guests, and the family fed. Occasionally the women from the kitchen came and joined in the festivities. The evening ended early; I was es corted into the temple. Sangodare and the elder priests said good night and departed. Once inside th e temple, I drank some water, ate some toast that remained from my breakfast, and went to sleep. Once again the young priests and two women slept in the temples sitting room. The te mples bathroom was on the other side of the sitting room; so late at night when I needed to use the toilet, I would have to navigate with my flashlight, around the sleeping bodies. I was usually able to do it successf ully without disturbing any of the sleepers. Before retiring for the night I checked and organized the days recordings and made some notes. (See figures 4-25 thru 4-35)
205 Day 3 of ng Initiati on Some priests might say that the third day is th e most important day of the entire initiation ceremony. After all, it is the ita day, that time in the initiation pr ocess when the attendant priests or babalwos reveal your life guiding ods, taboos, and your new name. The revelations that are made at the time of an individua ls ita rite influences how that person should conduct her/himself in life. While a gifted diviner would remind the supplicant of the wi sdom of If and the appropriate taboos and sacrifices, an inaccurate or debilitating ita divination could be a paralyzing experience. Over time, initiates learn that the need to make sacrifices is unending. The initiate realizes that the prognosis and proscriptions that are derived through divinati ons are real and that they are not bound by time. Divination can and does produce c ognitive changes that result in personal and group transformations. As individuals and communities connect to and gain an understanding of the divine will of their ancestors and rs, the need for action and change becomes apparent. Sacrifice and change are usually juxtaposed as m eans to an end to some kind of condition and or circumstance. A critical lesson fo r neophytes and initiates is the one that teaches that patience and a willingness to work hard are not only virtues, but are themselves, a form of sacrifice. By the third day almost everyone was connected to the project to document the initiation rituals and festivities. Some priests had even vi ewed some of the recordings. No one, excepting a couple of Ifyemis sons, Sangodare, and Tarobi and Bisi, articulated any interest in the outcome of the project. The priests that had slept in the sitting room began to stir at about 6:45am. Sangowumi entered the temples shrine room and motioned for me to follow her. I wrapped the white cloth around my shoulders, gr abbed my towel and went with her to take my morning bath. After the bath, I returned to the shrine room and discovered that someone had placed the red outfit that had been tailored for me on the mat. When I spoke to Ifyemi about my initiation, he
206 advised me that red fabric was the only item th at I needed to purchase and that someone would sew clothing for me to wear at my festival. Again, Sangowumi came into the shrine room and rubbed the red oil over my body. Shortly afterwards, Mama Lola came into the ro om and swept the floor. I was excited that the rites were almost over, and so, I impulsively got dressed in the new red clothing. Sangodare came into the room and noticed that I was clothe d; he told me that I should put back on the whites and that the red garment was for me to wear later in the day. Sangowumi delivered my breakfast of toast and tea. Tarobi and Bisi came into the room and Tarobi informed me that they had stayed the night at Ifyemis compound, because they were uncertain about the time that we would start the days activities. I relinquished the equipment to them and told them that I was very pleased with their work and commitment. I could hear the chirping of the early morning birds. The bt drums began to play; I knew that it was time for the service to begin. One of the young priests brough t in a bowl containing ritual ingredients and told me to pray over it. I knelt down an d made my prayer. I was then instructed to enter the sitting room, where seve ral priests had assembled and were now beginning to arrange some of the ritual accoutrements that would be needed for this phase of the rites. There were several plates and trays with different items on th em. These were dm (offerings) for the rs and ancestors that I ha d to take and place in front of .31 Many pieces of a broken calabash were brought into the room a nd placed on the mat. The priest placed an assortment of the ingredients onto the calabash pi eces and I was instructed to put the calabashes onto a tray. I was escorted with the tray to the shrine. s shrine was located in an alleyway, near the kitchen/work shop and between the building in which Mama Lolas family 31 is the messenger god.
207 lived and the wall that concealed the igba If (If grove). s shrine was littered with the remains of offerings and sacrifices that had been presented by me and seve ral of the clients that visited the young babalwos during my stay at the compound. (See figure 4-21) There were many calabash pieces and so I made several trips to s sacred space. I was always accompanied by a group of priests chanting oro and shaking ngs rattles. After each trip, I returned to the temple, touched my forehead to the mat and made the journey again. The placement of the calabash pieces took four trips to s shrine. The bt drummers continued to play as I presented the multi tude of offerings/dm to the messenger rs. At some point during the morning rituals, I gave Bobola my remaining American currency so that he could exchange it for additional naira because the rituals and sprayings of the previous days had depleted my available cash. After a ll of the pieces of calabash had been presented, Mama Lola instructed me to pick up the two ca labashes of water that had been placed on the floor. Mama Lola stated the following, Whe n you are praying, you make your prayer anything you want, the bad things you dont want; you continue praying until you reach l gbr s32 place. She was not certain that I fully understood her instructions, so she pointed to one of the bowls and said, This is the water, you will first pour the water onto After hearing Mama Lola instructions, I followed one of the priests back to s shrine. One of the priests stood waiting at the shrine. He instructed me to pour one of the bowls of water over and around the offerings, and then to pour the second bowl over When we returned to the temples courtyard, I was instructed to dance for ng. Once inside the temple, we entered the shrine room. Immediately a priest came into the room pu lling a small goat behind him. I was instructed to make my prayer into the goats left ear. Fo llowing my prayer, Mama Lola took a hold of the 32 l gbr is another name for
208 goats head and said her own prayer into its ear. I was then told to present some additional naira; I got the money from my pouch, folded it, touch it to my head, and prayed over it. Then I placed the money on the floor beside some kola nuts. Mama Lola instructed me to touch the head of the goat to my chest and groin area. The priest th en split open a bitter kola nut with his mouth, washed it in the bowl of water, a nd touched my forehead with the Kola. As he began to pray, the young priest asked a question in Yoruba. So meone in the room responded, Sangodahunsi. What I did not know at that time was that Sangodahunsi was the name that had been divined for me. My new name was Sangodahunsi, meaning ng answered my prayers. He added my name into the prayer and tossed the kola to the floor. The result was favorable. He then opened another ob with four sections, touched it to my h ead and threw the pieces to the ground. He grabbed the goat by its head, pick ed up a knife and cut the throat of the small animal, while another priest held the two rear legs. The priest holding the legs of the goat raised the hind legs higher so that the blood would pour expediently. The blood poured in to a bowl that contained the cowry shells that were being consecrated to ng. The shells would serve as ngs voice when I needed to divine and hear from ng. The cowry shells (m rndlgn) would be given to me at the completion of my ita rites, along with the other ng objects. After the head was completely severed from the neck, Sangowumi took the head and he ld it with two hands for some minutes, as she and the senior female priests sung r s and prayers. One of the priests entered the shrine room carrying a small serving of fufu wrapped in a banana plant leaf; he placed the fufu33 on the floor beside the bowl that held ngs thunderstones. The same priest that divined and cut the throat of the goat, sp rinkled salt over it, and poured palm oil onto the head. Ritual ingredients were added to the fufu and palm oil was poured over it. The two 33 Fufu is pounded yam.
209 priestesses continued to sing as the goats head was passed to me and then around the room to the other priests; each of us tasted the sacrificial bl ood of the goat. I was told to pick up the bana na leaf that contained the fufu offering : I then followed the chanting procession back to s shrine. At the shrine, I touched the b to my head and Niyi pointed to a place for me to set the immolation. Ifyemis wives participated in the mornings rites and shuttled to and from the temple and s shrine with the othe r priests. It was rainy season and ogbo had been experiencing a good deal of rain, but on the days of the initiation the sky remained clear and we were not bothered by rain. Although at one point during the second day there was a heavy overcast of clouds. Back in the shrine room, the divining priest cast the kola nut to learn if ng was pleased with the offerings. He threw the Kola to the floor, retrieved them, and threw again. On his second throw, the four pieces of Kola fell to the ground with only the white side open, indicating alafia. In the instance of divinati on, alafia suggests, well being. had delivered the offering and ng was blessing the proceedings. The diviner was given some alligator pepper seeds; he placed the seeds into his mouth. Another priest reached down into the bowl containing the cowry shells and rearranged the shells The diviner then spat the pepp er seeds into the bowl. He was given a shot glass filled with liquor; he lifted the glass to his mouth as if to drink the potable, he spat the beverage into the bowl. I was then give n the glass and told to the drink the substance. Afterwards, I stood up from my knees and waited for further instructions. Mama Lola and the other priests had a brief discussion in Yoruba and the session ended. Outdoors, the priests had put the severed body of the goat onto a fire to burn the hair from the carcass. When the goat was sufficiently charre d the remaining hairs were scraped and washed off of the carcass and it was dissected and prepared for cooking; the meat would be served as
210 food to the community of priests and the orga ns would be used in the preparation of ngs offerings. In the meantime, I sat on the red cloth, which had been placed over the straw mat, in the temples sitting room. The priests also sat around the room; they were conversing in Yoruba so I could not keep up with the discussion. After sitting for a short while, the bt drummers began to play. The lead bt player was a senior man; his accomp lices were two teenage boys. The trio demonstrated an impressive range of skills and knowledge of ngs rhythms. A priest folded a piece of white cloth and placed it between my outstretched le gs. The youngest of all of the diviners was to have his turn at casting the she lls. He bit open a bitter Kola and gave me two of the pieces in my hand; he picked up an alliga tor pepper pod, opened it and gave me some of the seeds. Sangodare, from his seat on the sideline, instructed me, Eat it, dont swallow it; eat it very well, dont swallow it Tarobi interjected, attempting to further clarify Sangodares directives, Dont swallow it, you will spit it out, onto the cloth. I raised the particles to my mouth and chewed for several seconds. The young priest re-positioned himself so that he sat on my left side; with the white clot he dividing us.On the cloth, were ngs stones, kola nuts, and sixteen cowry shells, along w ith the two objects that are us ed to confirm rather the od is ibi or ire (problematic or a blessing). Th e priests picked up the shells and gave them to me. He spoke in Yoruba; Tarobi translated, spit on it and then you pray. I took the shells into my hands and sat there rubbing my hands togeth er as I held my hands near my mouth and prayed. By now some of the elderly priests had join ed the party and were sitting around the room eating and interjecting comments in Yoruba. Another one of the young priests sat down between me and the divining priest. My it a divination session was about to begin. One of Ifyemis wives entered the room carrying a tray with my meal of toast. It was alrea dy past lunch time, so
211 Sangodare suggested that I should eat somethi ng. The rituals stopped and we enjoyed the food that was being served. Everyone else ate traditional Yoruba food. The young priests and Sangowum i sat nearest me, all eating from the same bowls. It was apparent to me that the young priest s were gaining experience and demonstrating their skills at my initiation. I had no problems with that; I understood that their being trained in this manner was part of the process. The senior priest guided and monitored their performance and took charge of the activities that require d their knowledge. That is how knowledge was and continues to be transferred in this still unliterate community of itinerant priests. After lunch, Sangodare directed me to go a nd change into my new clothes. When I returned dressed in my new red kt (pants), agbada (shirt), and fila (hat), I resumed my position on the mat. I was told to remove my hat. Sangodare proclaimed, you have, you are free now; you can write what you want on it; maybe you have something to say or questions; so then you can ask it; so youre free, so just to listen. At that time someones cell phone started to ring. The ringing continued for several seconds and went unanswered. I took up my pen and book so that I could record the ita ods. The initiati on was essentially over; the only segment that remained was the ita rites. Mama Lolas youngest son was inst ructed to sit at my right side. The young boy was perhaps eight years old; he was a babalwo; the priests had decided that the occasion of the initiation was to be used as a training opportunity for even the youngest amongst them. So after each throw of the shells, the ibi and ire objects were tossed to the boy, to be shaken together and then separated into his left and right hands; according to which od appeared from the casting of the shells, the diviner called for left hand or the right hand. I had participated in and performed cowry shell read ings for countless people over the years but I
212 never used or seen anyone else use this third party technique. It was intriguing witnessing the young boys interest in and engage ment with the processes. The young priest that was seated in the middle took charge of the divination. He instructed me to pick up the shells and to pray over them. When I finished praying, Sangodare told me to touch the shells to my head. Afte r touching the shells to my hea d, he told me to open my hands and present the shells to the people. I motioned my cupped hands with the shells first to the left side of the room and then to the right side. The priests prayed as I pass ed the shells around the room. I was told to cast the shells onto the sh eet. I dropped the shells and the first od was irosun. I could not continue to write notes and k eep up with all of the things that were being asked of me, so Niyi took up the pen and pad and began recording the notes for me. The priests threw the shells four more time s, before Sangodare translated, ng said that you will have a blessing of money, wealth. He threw the shells again; Sangodare translated the od again, they say that you must do a sacrifice to an rs; we dont know whic h one. At this point the two young priests seated to my left and the young babalwo seated to my right were all engaged in the divination, with each assuming a different task within the process. The young babalwos mistakes, due to lack of experience, were gently adjusted as his mother, the ng priests, and the other babalwos sat watching his performance. No one demonstrated any impatience or frustration w ith his efforts. Occasionally, there was some laughter as he was trying so hard to get it right. After the shells had be en thrown several times, Sangodare translated again, one of your ancestors will make your wealth come and good things; you will need an ob (kola nut). He repeated aloud the word ob, so as to confirm that his translation was not in error. He conti nued, You must go and buy a big cock for ng, this time you will kill it for ng, immediately. The priests threw the kola nut pieces several more times
213 and Sangodare continued his translation, They asked egn two ob, they say no; four ob, they say no; then six, six ob. I inquired, What do I do with the ob, where do I take the ob? Sangodare replied, They will do the sacrifice for you. The room became quiet and one of the other priests stood up and went outdoors. Sangodare explained what was happening, So right now they are going to make an offering to ng; before you continue, they must do that The priests reappeared carrying a cock. Sangodar e elucidated the importance of the sacrifi ce and the significance of the thunderstones that I was to receive. Sangodare stated, This one is Edo that belongs to you; that one is the real ng; you can keep it anywhere, as to be safe, b ecause you dont want to be lost it; its your own blood, its your own eyes, its your own jabu; that two, that two, eh thunder bullet; so but when we send them to buy the thunder blade, th e one we bought is not the real one, that you can use in support of your own; if you have money, you can buy thunderstone, put it; you can have fifteen, sixteen, no problem or two; but the two is very important for you, that you have; so when we bring it, I say no, Im going back to buy another one in the mark et; I couldnt get it; so I took my own there and then I get it; it s not easy to get that original; so then we bought it; so when we bought it, we add it together; so if yourself you get another thunder blade, you can buy it, and add it; just like someone have a body and put a new dress, or you can have ten or fifteen type of dress on your body; but that one is real, its your own body, that two things; so then we take it together now; because you see that there are so many otas(stones), it is only two is your od; if you need a supporter, that we call Ap t b, they call it; its the supporte r of the Edo; so that why we do; Im just explaining to you; so that the cont ainer that we use now, we keep all these things in it; and then we pray for a chicken; that a good person and happiness, and good life for you in it; If you want to say your children, your wife and family, pray on it.
214 The young priest that was seated to my left then passed me th e chicken. I took the cock and held it to my forehead and prayed. After prayi ng I gave the chicken back to the priest. While I prayed, I heard the sounds of ngs rattles being played. Sangodare requested that I present #N400 to put with the sa crifice. I turned to Bobola and asked for the money. Sangodare explained that four was the number for my od. I touched the money to my forehead and prayed. Afterwards, a priest touched a kola nut to my head. He split open the kola with his teeth and threw them to the floor Sangodare began to pray aloud. The other priests responded to his words. The od that the kola nut gave was opo taku, victory. The young priest lifted his left leg to smash the kola with his heels. The elder priest stoppe d him and told him to smash the ob with one of ngs stones. At this junction a nother priest placed the neck of the cock between his left toes and pulled off the head. The bloo d from the chicken was poured over the ng objects in the bowl. The priestesses began to chant and the rattles played. I was instructed to stand and taste the blood from the neck. Then I was told to put my left foot forward and blood was placed on my big toe. Sangodare told me that I had many blessings, not a bad thing come out of your ods. The service continued with the attending priest s reciting their interpretations of the od Sangodare also took the time to interpret the many stories that were associated with the od. Although the ng priests from the town near y did not speak or hear English, they sat patiently while Sangodar e gave his interpretations. Niyi recorded and translated the revelations of my od as they were being talked about by the priests. The following are Niyi s translations of the itadogun:
215 Irosun meji, ng said ir that is blessing of mo ney. Egun ni aladimu, obi ni egun gba. You will give your ancestor a kola nut so that they can provide money for you. You will give six kola nuts to your ancestors. If said blessing, rs sa id you will give ob to un because of illness. If said you need to make b for your children because of death. You also need to make b for protection for your family. If also said that if someone do a favor fo r you try and thank whoever do a favor for you and thank ng and If for anything you gain in lif e so that they can do another for you. rs said he will give you good character in lif e; good things will always be for you in life. rs also said that dont lie to him, y ou must say truth everyday of your life. You will give two kola nuts and palm oil to your or. Also dont lie to your oluwo that m eans bb. Always thank your oluwo for everything he does for you. You must put your mind on ng, he said he will give you victory over your enemy and try and make o e for ng every five-five days. You will give offering to rsala ( btl) so that he can give you victory over your enemy. Ingredients for b: Akuko (male chicken) 2, Abodi (fem ale chicken) 2, eiyele (pigeon) 2, obi (kola) 4, epo (palm oil) and money #N4000. You will give two kola nuts to baluaye (Sonponna). b for children: 1female chicken, 1 pigeon, money #N1, 500. For or: 2 Kola nut and palm oil. Taboo for life: Dont eat toad; dont lie to ng and your godfather; you must wear your red clothe on your ose day Taboo for ng: Dont take cigar; dont make love to any ng devotee or ng priestess; dont eat antelope; dont eat beans called ewa sese; dont eat rat called eku ago. Again and again Sangodare related to me the importance of always thanking the rs and respecting my godfather, Ifyemi Elebuibon. With all of the serious ma tters surrounding the initiation behind Sangodare took the time to show off his wit by warning me against arrogant
216 posturing. Sangodare cautions, If you see a car, if you see a big car, and you say, oh I must go to a place it wont kill me, dont do that. They say, if you see a big lorry, dont close your eyes and try to jump onto it. If you see a long tr ee, very big, and you climbing it saying Im a ng priest I can go up, if you fall down you will die. If you see a big river and you want to walk on it, saying I have the power of ng, you will drown. All of us in the room that could hear English were greatly amused and we laughed hear tily. After all of the sacrifices that were prophesied during the itadogun had been performed, I was presented with the ng objects that I was to take back with me to the United States. I knelt before the senior ng priest. He held the il ks over my head. He prayed to ng in my behalf and then he placed the beads around my neck. He then presented me with the pot containing the ng objects. He picked up the rattle a nd began shaking it, demonstrating how it should be done. Sangodare translated, When you want to pray for ng, you shaking it, we will teach you how to do that, that is not easy to do; its a kind of learning, they will taught you how to make it; so when we do it, some time maybe ng will travel, when you call it down, they will answer you; when you holding it, ng will accept it and hear your voice. I took hold of the rattle and placed it on the floor beside me. The priest presented ngs o (axe). Sangodare interprets, this is the o and it is the sign of vict ory, you conquer your enemy, you conquer all your people, thanks to rs, all the bad things that want to attack you; that one you use to destroy your enemies. When ng use that one, when a lot of enemies coming they use that thing as a power. I placed the ose on the floor. Next the old man took my hands, placed them side by side and made a cup. He then placed the sixteen cowry shells in my hands. Sangodare translated, This is your own divination; belong to Yemaha, is mother of ng. So use it, when the people are using it, all the ng
217 priests and priestesses using cowr y shell; its the property from your own mother, that is why they are using it; so when someone have difficu lt in your life you dont need to be go and worry and bothered, take that thing and ask, they wi ll answer you; all good things that you mention on it, rs will accept it; when so mething you dont know, maybe its wrong or right, then through that thing they will know; you see that thing is a branch of If divination; when rnmla in life marry un, they marry together and spent almost one hundred and sixty nine years, they live together since long, when rnmla said I want to see, Im goi ng to the east of the world, he can spend thirty nine years, so when he say I want to go the west, when they go, they can stay forty years, a lot of people die, sickness, nobody can cu re it. When rnmla co me, where is this one? He die, what is this one, he sick; rnmla sa id how I can do that. rnmla said you must know something that you can know your problems; and then in the verses of If they take small small verses in it, thats why they create sixteen verses in the essays of If; then they put on the cowry shells; when someone make history of the od of cowry shell, it is really close to If, but it is really short story on it, that we call it; because th at If have some differe nt type element that you can take; it is to long for women; that why we make it, to let un consult; maybe problem is starting, then Yemaha the mother of ng, they learn through un and that is why all the rs people use the cowry shell; because the knowledg e of If is to wide and too much for the women; that is why you see all the r s people and all the different rs use that cowry shell; to find your own life, to looking to define; maybe you have some problem, how to tackle it, everything is there; it is a kind of learning, its not a magic; you must plan on it. After that long explication Sangodare translated the elder priests pr ayer, with the other priests responding, Sangodares translation: By the name of the rs, you will know it; you will help yourself; you will help your children; you help your friend; you will help all the people
218 that you dont know, you will help; that is why we give you; it will never take you to prison; it will never take you into bad m ood; it will take you in high position; ah you know what bb ng, if you divine like that that everythi ng you say will be accepted, you will know more followers, you will know more children; bad thi ngs, good things, anyone that want to attack you, ng will strike it down, they will strike it down, all your life will go in good mood. That is what bb said. The old man said one other thin g and Sangodare stated, anything that you dont understand; when you learn it, a ll things will be blessed for you. I was congratulated by everyone in the room, an d then all of us went outdoors so that I could dance for ng. After the dance we went back i ndoors and we ate from the feast of the sacrificial foods. When the feas t ended the priests said farewell and departed for their homes. Three days later, I went to Sangodares home with Tarobi and Bisi. I had with me the two kola nuts and money for the offering for Babaluaye. Sangodare and I got into his car and drove to the home of a Babaluaye priests. Sangodare got out of the car and walked to the house. He and the priest returned shortly and we drove to the Sonponna grove. We entered the grove; the priest s approached the shrine and opened a kola nut. He cast the kola and then told me to enter the sh rine and pray. After I prayed, he threw the ob again; Babaluaye was pleased. We got back in the car and drove the priests to another destination; he departed and we returned to Sangodares home. I thanked Sangodare for all of his work and prayers; I departed with T arobi and Bisi and returned to Ifyemis compound. Tarobi and Bisi are both Yoruba men, but they are not rs pr actitioners. Bisi is from IlIfe and Tarobi is from Lagos. The two men met at the polytechnic institute, where they received their training in photography and video producti on. Ifyemis compound is ostensibly a popular destination for young people who seem to enjoy the cosmopolitan and international visitors that
219 come to ogbo to be initiated and/or trained by him. Like most of the young people that I met at IlIfe and ogbo, Tarobi and Bisi complained about the lack of opportunities in Nigeria and expressed interest in migrating to the USA. Ifyemis travels abroad, visitors to the compound, television, cell phones, and the intern et has exposed these Nigerian youth to a world that appears to be accessible and loaded with prospects. In the case of Taro bi and Bisi, their interests in traditions that they had ignored heightened durin g their engagement with my initiation and they latched on to me for the duration of my stay in Nigeria, in anticipation, that I would be their ticket to a new life in the USA. They never did tr y to get money from me for the work that they performed during the initia tion rites, but I decided to leave them with my cameras and a recorder, so that they could continue to document their wo rld as they viewed it. Since my departure from Nigeria, they have documented se veral festivals, including the 2007 un ogbo Festival, ng Festival 2007, and the Olojo Festival 2007. They have been kind enough to send me photographs and video coverage of each of the festivals. 34(See figures 4-58 thru 4-62) 34 Private packages into and out of Elebuibons compound en route to or from the USA are usually transported by visitors and international guests.
220 Figure 4-1: Ifyemi greeting guest at OAU conference (2001)
221 Figure 4-2: Signpost identif ying Elebuibon Street, ogbo (2007) Figure 4-3: Strolling down Elebuibon Street (2007)
222 Figure4-5: Doorway to El ebuibons Temple (2007) Figure 4-6: Side view of Elebuibons compound (2007)
223 Figure 4-7: Front gate to Elebuibons compound (2007) Figure 4-8: Inside wall panel at Elebuibons compound depicting stor y of ancestor Timis arrival at ogbo with elephant (2007)
224 Figure 4-9: Another inside wall panel at Ele buibons compound depicting the same legend of Timis arrival into ogbo with elephant (2007) Figure 4-10: If initiation at Elebuibons compound (2001)
225 Figure 4-11: Shaving of the head before ng initiation (2007) Figure 4-12: Ade with newly made on top of his head (2007)
226 Figure 4-13: y ng carrying vessel to nearby b ody of water for yws bath Figure 4-14: yw carrying vessel on return trip from body of water
227 Figure 4-15: Bt drummers performing and yw dancing for ng Figure 4-16: Bt Drums used in Sangodahunsis initiation
228 Figure 4-17: Sangodahunsis head being dressed after spiritual bath Figure 4-18: Herbs for washings objects and bathing yw during initiation
229 Figure: 4-19: Herbs in Mortar Figure 4-20: Sacrificial food for ng at Sangodahunsis initiation, 2007
230 Figure 4-21 shrine at Elebuibons compound Figure 4-22: Ifdapo divining for client
231 Figure 4-23: Ifdapo with his client Dola eating medicine. Figure 4-24: Jjl at ch ieftaincy Installation, Ifonun
232 Figure4-25: rsnla and Priests of Ifonun Figure 4-26: Drummers for Egngn Masquerade, Orolu Ifon (2007)
233 Figure 4-27: Egngn Masque rade, Orolu Ifon I(2007) Figure 4-28: Egngn Masquera de, Orolu Ifon II(2007)
234 Figure 4-29: Egngn Masquerade, Orolu Ifon III(2007)
235 Figure 4-30: Egngn Masquera de, Orolu Ifon IV(2007)
236 Figure 4-31: Egngn Masque rade, Orolu Ifon V(2007)
237 Figure 4-32: Adefunmi I, ytnj African Village Figure 4-33: ba rstoyinbo II, Ifonun
238 Figure 4-34: t ja, ba Iyiola Oyewale Matanmi III of ogbo at 2007 un ogbo Festival
239 Figure 4-35 ba rstoyinbo receiving books for the library from Jjl in 2007
240 Figure 4-36: Entranceway to bafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife Figure 4-37: Poster of Susanne Wenger (Adunni) located at the front entrance of her home.
241 Figure 4-38: An example of Sacred Artists artwork forms a fence around Wengers home Figure 4-39: Figures on fence represent the egngn of a local prominent family
242 Figure 4-40: One of the New Sacred Art Artist, Buraimoh Gbadamosi. This artist created the stone sculpture that is in Wengers yar d. His workshop and residence is adjacent Wengers home. Figure 4-41: Sacred Artists Buraimoh Gbadamosi s Sculpture on Front Porch of Wengers home.
243 Figure 4-42: Midtown in Il-Ife Figure 4-43: Bell found at un Grove, ogbo
244 Figure 4-44: rb of ogbo and his grandson Figure 4-45: If Temple, ogbo
245 Figure 4-46: If priests inside of If Temple, ogbo Figure 4-47: mound in front of If Temple, ogbo
246 Figure 4-48: Children at If Temple, ogbo I, 2007 Figure 4-49: Children at If Temple, ogbo II, 2007
247 Figure 4-50: Stove Used for cooking medicine Figure 4-51: Another stove used for cooking medicine at Elebuibons compound
248 Figure 4-52: Babalwo preparing medicine for client at Elebuibons compound, 2007 Figure 4-53: Client fanning the flames for charcoal stove at Elebuibons
249 Figure 4-54: Stone utensils used for pounding and grinding medicine Figure 4-55: Herbs to be used in medicine on pounding stone
250 Figure 4-56: Babalwo removing feathers from bird. The bird will be charred and used in medicine Figure 4-57: Babalwo Kneading herbal com pound. The finished product will be added to medicine
251 Figure 4-58: un Priestess dancing before procession at un ogbo Festival 2007 Figure 4-59: The votary maid carry ing the sacrifice with other un Priestesses before leaving for the river at un ogbo Festival 2007
252 Figure 4-60: Doyin (right) and another un priestess at the front of procession at un ogbo Festival 2007 Figure 4-61: un priestesses leading procession at un ogbo Festival 2007
253 Figure 4-62: un priestess dancing for the t ja of ogbo at un ogbo Festival 2007
254 Epilogue: Archiving the Sacred through Intervention My research for this study began long before I considered returning to graduate school in 1998 to purs ue my study of Yoruba religious co mmunities in Alachua County, Florida, Sheldon, SC in the United States. My search began in 1977 when I entered y tnj African Village in Sheldon, South Carolina, for the first time and discovered a group of villagers practicing what they described as African religion. African Religion, especially that which is evolving in the diaspora, is very complex, multifaceted and the ways of practicing are diverse. Because of this complexity, I have had to select, eliminate, c ondense, and oftentimes oversimplify in order to keep my discussion within a manageable range. Research on the Yoruba in the diaspora is a relatively new topic of research, methodology and procedures for conducting that research are still being developed. However, in the recent years many books have been published about African descended peoples a nd their religious and cultural developments in the diaspora. For a br oader understanding of these developments I refer anyone interested in a developing a broader under standing of the subject to my bibliography and to the Internet websites that I have listed. I have narrowly focused my research on three specific geographi c areas; North Central Florida, Sheldon, South Carolina, and ogbo, un State, Nigeria. I have also published within my dissertation photographs and documents that were difficult to locate during my archival searches, making them available to future gene rations of scholars and lay researchers. Although I entered Oyotunji Village in 1977, I was not initiated until 1982; I was initiated into the priesthood of rs btl/rsnla. As I stated in a pr evious section of this work, I ran to initiation to pay my debt to for saving my life and allowing me to remain free. I will now clarify that remark and explain how my freedom was being threatened. After several successful
255 trips to Nigeria with Lola, our fates changed when we were arrested and taken into custody at Kennedy Airport in New York City. When I wa s permitted to make a phone call from the police headquarters I phoned my wife and asked her to notify Yomi that I had been arrested. According to the story, as told by my wife and Yomi, Yomi immediately went to my house and did a ritual with Yomi never disclosed to me the full details of the ritual, but in less than twenty four hours after our arrest, I was able to be released from jail on bond. Our arrest occurred on a Saturday morning; on Sunday I was released on ba il, and was scheduled to appear in court on Monday morning for an arraignment hearing. My qui ck release from jail seemed to have been a startling surprise to the judge a nd the court officers that were tr ying to locate me in the holding cells for inmates. After some time a court officer came into the court and called my name. I was escorted to the bench, where the judge inquired about my release. He commented that my quick release was quite unusual. He did not increase my bond. I had in my possession enough money to bail Lola out. The court did not take our passports, so a few weeks after this incident, Lola and I sold many of our acquisitions to raise enough money for him and his wife, Remi, to return to Nigeria. Lola absconded, forfeiting the bail money and leaving me to carry the case. These events happened almost thirty years a go. I have never seen Lola again and have on many occasions wondered about his fate. I was co nvicted and sentenced to serve a short prison term. The road and the circumstances that lead to my conviction is anothe r story that I resist telling at this time. I will only say that it was du ring these experiences that I truly got a sense of the powers of the rs and of Yomi Awolowo as a priest and a godfathe r. Throughout the ordeal I was constantly in contact with Yomi. Together we performed several rituals and I was given instructions about thi ngs that I had to do on my own. A Pa taki that kept coming up in my
256 readings, stated that, he who pays remains free. Yomi counseled me that in the end I will be victorious and that my tears will turn to joy. While I was incarcerated, I met several of my associates from the streets of Harlem, who were also serving prison sentences. I shared with them the circumstances of my conviction. Through their connections, they ar ranged for me to be able to spend time in the prison law library. I along with my inmate advisors re viewed case after case until we found one that essentially replicated the deta ils of my trial. They argued with me for se veral hours and convinced me that the focus of the appeal had to be the misrepresentations that occurred during my trial and not the circumstances of the crime or arrest. From that pris on library, I filed for an appeal of my conviction. My appeal focused on the incompetence of my atto rney during my trial. I served my prison sentence and was released to serve a two year probationary period. After my release I re turned to my business at Harl ems New World Food Center and immediately started planning for my initiation. Two years later I wa s initiated and two years after that, I moved my family out of New York to Ch arleston, South Carolina. Shortly after moving to Charleston, I was notified by the New York Stat e Appellate Division, th at the State Supreme Court agreed with the appeal and that they want ed to reopen the case. The case was reopened and the conviction was overturned. My record was e xpunged and I was free from the mistakes of my pre-initiation life-style. Why do I believe that these stories are important to this work? On the surface the story of my arrest, conviction, incarceration, and subsequent exoneration of all of the criminal charges may not seem relevant to my discussion about If/rs and the tradit ions that emerged and changed over time and in multiple milieus.
257 Yoruba history as revealed in the many stories associated with the If ods and the Lucumi patakis is sated with stories of huma n triumph and failures. The great rs btl was imprisoned for a number of years for allegedly stealing Sangos horse and a downhearted, guiltridden ng is believed to have committed suicide after he inadvertently burned down his palace, killing his wives, concubines, and childre n. Stories are at the baseof the Yoruba peoples struggle to survive and to define/re-define their existence. The stories th at connect human beings to our beginnings (however humble or challenging) ar e as important as those th at tell of their rise to glory and decline. My story is one that situates me and my Af rican ancestry in the evolvement of Yorubahistory in the Americas. What do I m ean by this remark? If what the Yoruba people believe about ancestral veneration and about life as being a continuum has any merit, then I am not only who I appear to be in this incarnation, but instead I am a witness to many carnations. A part of me belongs to the ancestors whose spirit I now possess (or at leas t some aspects of my sub-conscious are connec ted to that spirit). Since we reincarnate in our ow n families this history should be fairly easy to trace. However, the problem for most African descended people in the New World is that their families and histories were disrupted when family me mbers were sold into slavery and scattered. Although, this was not the case in my family. My maternal grandfather is stil l alive and is ninetyfive years old and is the keeper of many of my familys stories. My grandfathers father died while he was very young and he was raised by his grandfather. According to my grandfather, my family broke away from the bondage of slavery a long time before the emancipation proclamation. His grandfather was an artisan (c arpenter) and farmer who purchased his own freedom. My fore-parents grew up and lived in th e low country of South Carolina in the city of Charleston and its surrounding islands. The island from which my grandfather came is Daniels
258 Island. Charleston is well known as a central port city where large numbers of enslaved Africans were disembarked and sold to the colonial planta tion owners. It is also known to have been a place where miscegenation flourished and where Af ricanisms persisted as the enslaved people resisted the total domination of the plantation owne rs and the master class. The descendants of the formerly enslaved Africans in this area iden tify themselves as Gullah/geechie people. They speak a distinct dialect and have re tained many West African customs. Also, on the maternal side of my family, someone married into the Cherokee Nation and bore children that had obvious Cherokee features My grandfather always displayed prominently in his office, pictures of his grandmother and her sister and he claims that they were both African-Cherokee. I now have copies of those pictures and for the past twenty years have included these women in my ancestral prayers. My mothers mother died at age twenty three. That side of my family is very light skinned and are said to be descended from the union of an African woman with a French Huguenot Caucasian male. According to my familys story my Huguenot ancestors were two brothers that came to the New World from France to practice medicine as they were both doctors. These are the kinds of mix and blends that make up the co nsciousness that I have developed. These are the different ancestral roots to which I pay homage. These roots are powerful and they have been actively engaged in the affair s of my family and of my lifes work. Having knowledge and respect for my dissimilar lineages has engendered in me an appreciation for the many spiritual and cultural components that has converged over time and in different locales to make up what we now conceive as traditional practices. I have desisted from trying to seek out what some might consider an authentic Yoruba religious practice and have grow n to understand and know that rs is spirit/energy; rs lives in all th ings animate and inanimate and will persist, flourish
259 and be expressed through human beings; rs cannot be confounded by the limitations of human knowledge or imagination; Interaction with rs just like interaction with energy is not contingent upon race, gender and/or language. The rs s are like the elements of nature that they are believed to represent; fire, water, wind, and lightning. Everything that gets in an rss path is subject to change. It has been nearly a half cen tury since Adefunmi I was ini tiated in Matanza, Cuba. His dream of an African state in th e USA has not been realized, but ytnj African Village continues to flourish and at tract visitors from around the globe. His Royal Highness, ba Efuntola Oseijemen Adelabu Adefunmi I, passed away on February 10th, 2005 at ytnj African Village and went home to be with his ancestors. His son, Adejuyigbe Adefunmi II, was enthroned in July 2005 and is now the reigning king. Since that time, the new ba has made several notable improvements to y tnjs infrastructure and has been instrumental in developing a more refined website and internet presence. Some of y tnjs current programs and an historical overview can be seen at www. ytnjafricanvillage.org ytnj can also be viewed on www.YouTube.com ., where they featur e a section titled, Inside y tnj. This program is hosted by ytnj priestess, Igberohinjade Oludoye and highlights a series of videoclips about ytnj. Chief Ajamu of y tnj Village in a 2005 interview described ytnj as an experiment that was designed to explore the possibility of creating a community of cultural nationalists and Yoruba religious revivalists within the USA. So me former villagers and many others, who view ytnj as outsiders, provide critiques that focu s on the failings of the village and the late Adefunmi I. However, as an insider and advocate for ytnjs survival and development, I support the efforts of the new administration and pray that the new king and villagers will have
260 continued success with the re-structuring of ytnj African Village and I will be forever grateful for the life-chan ging guidance that I received from the elders of ytnj during the past thirty years of my life. I recently viewed a YouTube clip of ba Ernesto Pichardo addr essing a group at Florida International University in Miami. During his pr esentation he briefly di scussed and defined the history of Santeria/Santero and the Yoruba religion in Cuba. He clearly distinguished the African roots of the Santeria religion. ba Pichardo currently teaches a course at Florida International Universitys Biscayne Bay Campus. In a recent Mi ami Herald article, author Erika Beras wrote, The controversial, charismatic and enterprisi ng Pichardo, a Yoruba priest and the countrys leading expert on Santeria, spen t hours talking about the transatlantic slave trade, paraded in cultural anthropology professors and exp ected both Powerpoint a nd 12page research papers at semesters endThe class included several religious studies majors, a PeruvianAmerican Broward school teacher, a 61-year -old auditor and a gr andfather-grandson duo. Many of them came to get in touch with their AfroCaribbean roots. Four months ago he concluded FIUs first three-credit Santeria class, with a grand prediction: You are making history here today. This is not some fringe movement, Pichardo told his students. If you can get a Ph.D. in Judaism or Christianity, you should be able to take a course in Santeria. Taught through the schools Af rican-New World Studies Depa rtment, where Pichardo is spending the academic year as a research fellow, the class has been a success, administrators say, at semesters end in D ecember, the students said they now know more about the history of Africa and the Americas.35 During the spring of 2007 another one of y tnjs sons, who now lives in Alachua County, Florida, traveled to y, Nigeria to be initiated into Ifs cult of babalwos/priests. During a recent visit to ytnj on New Years night (2008), I walked in on a gbni Society meeting where two of ytnjs babalwos, the ba (the ba is also a babalwo), and several female gbni members, were performing the reading of the year. I did not remain long enough 35 Story by Erika Beras, Miami Herald, Posted on Friday, December 28, 2007
261 to hear the babalwos forecast, but before I left the Alagba stated that a small group from the village was leaving for Benin, West Africa in the middle of January. He inquired about Ifyemi Elebuibon and stated that th e village was considering br inging some young babalwos over from Nigeria to assist with in itiations and training at ytnj. In my search for the various collections of da ta that I examined in my research, I gave attention to materials (textual and otherwise) which supported and demonstrated connections between spirit (rs/energy), woman/man, and th e community. To this end, I have sought out opportunities to capture photographi cally and through utilizing vide o documentation, some of the nuances of rs culture and worshipping practices, as they have been revealed to me. It is my hope that these images and my narrations have pr ovided some insights about some of the people, issues and ideas that have been central to the re-emergence of rs practices in a world that continues to be curious about and hostile towards rs worshippers. Brandon was fairly accurate in his predicti on, The orisha has colonized cyberspace (2002:163). YouTube.com and Myspace.com has expanded to include Cinematic films and documentary videos that were created by amateur and professional film ma kers from Yorubaland and the Yoruba diaspora. The large repository of filmicdocumentation that has been made available for public viewing, at no cost, to the rs world and general public, via the internet is remarkable. The visual contributions to the discourse about rs pr actices documents and demonstrate clearly the diversity and propensities of multiple communities of worshippers. The visual content, coupled with th e volumes of information generate d on rs and Yoruba specific websites have made access to an rs -centric worldview possible. Anyone typing into the Google.Com search engine any of the wo rds rs, orixa, oricha, Santeria, vodun ng will see results totaling millions of possibilities and an endless search, as new data is being entered
262 continuously. The rss has taken up residency in cyberspace and worshippers from around the globe can now be connected. Most of the elders that were at the forefront of the Yoruba revivalist movement in America have gone on to be with their ancestors. Their stories have beco me the newest of the countless Yoruba legends, but their stories remain untol d. Their tales may never be recorded in our nations history books and no wall will be erected from which our children and grandchildren can read their names and ponder their deeds. It is my hope that th is study provides some evidence of the great sacrifices a nd wondrous works that they achieved. So, May the gods of Yorubaland continue to free themselves from the vestiges of enslavement and colonialism and May the ancestor s continue to beckon to their children for redemption and finally peace and justice. I pray that their mercy will be upon all of us.
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272 Renne, Elisha P. 2003 Population and Progress in a Yoruba Town. Ann Arbor: The Uninversity of Michigan Press. Renne, Elisha and Babatunde Agbaje-Williams 200 Yoruba Religious Textiles: Essays in Honour of Cornelius Adepegba. bdn: Bookbuilders. Robertson, Roland, Ed 1971 Sociology of Religion. Baltimore. Penguin Books, Inc. Rollwagen, Jack R., Ed 1996 Anthropological Filmmaking. Canada : Hardwood Academic Publishers. 1993 Anthropological Film and Video in the 1990s: Case Studies in Documentary Filmmaking and Videomaking, Volume No.1. New York: The Institute Press. 1959 The Great Religions by Which Me n Live. New York: Crest Books. Ruby, Jay 2000 Picturing Culture: Explorations of Film and Anthropology. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. Rudolf, Susanne Hoeber and James Piscatori,eds 1997 Transnational Religion and Fading Stat es. Boulder Colorado: Westview Russell, Catherine 1999 Experimental Ethnography: The Work of Film in the Age of Video. Durham: Duke University Press. Sauneron, Serge 1958 African Sculpture. Canada: Dover Publications, Inc. Sharon, Douglas 1978 Wizards of the Four Winds: A Shamans Story. New York: The Free Press. Smith, Huston 1990 Kingdoms of the Yoruba. Wisconsin: Th e University of Wisconsin Press. Sperber, Dan 1975 Rethinking Symbolism.New York: Cambridge University Press. Staewen, Christopher 1997 If African Gods Speak: The Oracle of th e Yoruba in Nigeria. Hamburg: Lit Verlag.
273 Teish, Luisah 1998 Carnival of the Spirit: Seasonal Celebrations and Rites of Passage. New York: HarperSanFrancisco. Thompson, Robert Farris 1984 Flash of the Spirit: African and Afro -American Art and Philosophy. New York: Vintage Books. Turner, Lorenzo D. 1958 African Survivals in the New World with Special emphasis on the Arts (in Africa Turner, Victor 1989 The Anthropology of Performance. New York: PAJ Publications. Vann Gennep Arnold 1966 The Rites of Passage. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Vega, Marta Moreno 1999 The Altar of My Soul: The Living Traditions of Santeria. New York: The Ballantine Publishing Group. Verger, Pierre Fatumbi Orisha: Les Dieux Yoruba en Afrique ET Au Noveau Monde. Paris: Publie avec le concourts du Centre National des letters. 1995 Ewe: The Use of Plants in Yor uba Society. Sao Paulo: Oderbrecht 1995 Articles: Volume1. New Jersey : Black Madonna Enterprises. Verran, Helen 2001 Science and an African Logic. Chicag o: The University of Chicago Press. Visona, Monica Blackmun a nd Robin Poynor, et al A History of Art in Africa. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers. Wippler, Migene-Gonzalez 1975 Santeria: Caribbean Magic Cults-Their origins, Rites and Practices. Garden City: Anchor Books. 1984 Santeria: African Magic in Latin Amer ica. New York: Jamil Products Inc. 1992 Powers of the rs: Santeria and the Worship of Saints. New York: Original Publications. Wirtz, Kristina Ritual, Discourse, and Community in Cuban Santeria: Speaking a Sacred World. Gainesville: University of Florida Press.
274 Wenger, Susanne 1983 A Life with the Gods: In their Yor uba Homeland. Austria: Perlinger Verlag.
275 Wolcott, Harry F. 1998 The Art of Fieldwork. Walnut Creek: Altamira Press. Yai, Olabiyi Babalola 2001 Yoruba Religion and Gl balization: Some Reflections. Cuadernos Digitales 15 Zimmer, Heinrich 1962 Myths and Symbols in Indian Art and Civilization. New York: Harper and
276 SELECTED FILMOGRAPHY Alvarez, Betancourt 1993 Voices of the Orishas, U niversity of California Extension Center for Media and Independent Learning, Berkley, California. Chomsky, Marvin, John Erman, Da vid Greene, and Gilbert Jones 1977 Roots: B d on Alex Haleys Book. Dash, Julie 1991 Daughters of the Dus t Kino Video Productions. Deren, Maya Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti (unfinished film footage (1947-55) Assembled by Teji and Cherel Ito). Dos Santos, Nelson Pereira Drewal Henry 1992 Yoruba Performance, Department of Art Hi story, University of Michigan. Elvehjem 329. Drewal, Margaret Thompson 1992 Yoruba Ritual: A Companion Video, Produ ced by Margaret Thompson Drewal to accompany Yoruba Ritual: Performers, Play, and Agency by Margaret Thompson Drewal. Bloomington: Indi ana University Press. Elebuibon, Ifyemi Gerima, Haile Gleason, Judith, and Elisa Mereghetti Rolando, Gloria Santana, Alfred 1985 Voices of the Gods. New York: Third World Newsreel.
277 SELECTED DISCOGRAPHY Aguabella, Francisco, y Su Grupo, features Lazaro Galarraga. (1992) Oriza: Bembe y Afrocuban Music. OLM Records 10037. Aguabella, Francisco, y Sus Ta mbores Bt. Sant eria: Oro Cantado Tambores bt. 3 cassettes. (1990?) Go Pr oductions Stereo 10032. Amira, John, Orlando Fiol, and Joe Deleon. Musi c of Santeria: Oru del Igbod. (1994) White Cliffs Media WCM 9346. Barreto, Emilio, Emilio Barreto Presents Santisimo. (1996) Luz Productions CD001. Burnett, Jane (with Merciditas Valdes, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Grupo Yoruba Andabo). Spirits of Havana (1993) Messidor 15825-2. Cardona, Milton, Bembe. (1987) American Clave AMCL 1004. Chief Yemi Elebuibon, Iyere If, (2003) Suni Entertainment/ SE 6777. Conjunto Folklorico Nacional de Cuba. Conjunt o Folklorico Nacional. (1989) Arieto/EGREM LD 3564. Conjunto Folklorico Nacional de Cuba, feat uring Lazaro Ros, Felipe Alfonso, Zenaida Armenteros, and others. Musica Yoruba (Reissue 1996) Bembe Records CD 2010-2. Gonzalez, Celina, Que Viva Chango. (1990) EGREM? ARTEX CD 012. Grupo Afrocuba de Matanzas and others Cuba, 30. (1995) Worl d Network WDR 58.392. Grupo Afrocuba de Matanzas, Ra ices Africanas/African Roots. (1998) Shanachie Records CD 66009. Grupo Afrocuba de Matanzas, Rituales Af rocubanos, (1993) Areito?EGREM CD 0058 00. Iluyenkori (Roger Fixy and Ensemble), Cuba: Tambours Bt : Hommage a Yemaya et Ochun. (1995) Playasound PS 65138. Iluyenkori (Roger Fixy and Ensemble), Percu ssions Cubaines. (Reissue 1992) PlayasoundPS 65084. Iroko (Lazaro Galarraga, Bill Summers, and others ), Ilu Orisha (1996) Interworld Records CD 924. Los Munequitos de Matanzas, Cantar Ma ravilloso. (1990) Ace Records CDORB 053.
278 Los Munequitos de Matanzas, Guaguanco, Columbia, Yambu. (1989) Vitral Records VCD 277. Los Munequitos de Matanzas, Ito Iban Echu: Sacred Yoruba Music of Cuba. (1996) Qbadisc QB 9022. Los Munequitos de Matanzas, Los Munequito s de Matanzas: Vacuna o. (1995) Qbadisc QB 9017. Martin, Gina, Santero: Cuban Cult Music, featuring Gina Martin, Vol. II (Reissue 1988) T.H. Rodven CDD 159. Olatunji, Babatunde, Healing Session: Tradi tional African Meditation Music (2003) Narada B0000CDL5B. Olatunji, Babatunde, Drums of Passion: The Invocation (1990) Rykodisc B0000009NZ. Olatunji, Babatunde, Drums of Passion: The Beat (1990) Rykodisc B0000009NZ. Olatunji, Babatunde, Olatunji Drums of Passion (Re-mastered 2002) Sony B00006B1RI. Orquesta Bt changa, with John Santos, Rebeca Mauleon, and Orestes Vilato. Manana Para Los Ninos. (Reissue 1995) Earthbeat/ Bembe Records 9 42513-2 (previously EBD 2557). Orquesta Estrellas Cubanas, Vilo in a Ochun (1997?) Bis Music CD 137. Oviedo, Isaac, Andres Sotolongo, Pedro Hernandes, and members of the Oviedo family, Routes of Rhythm, Vol. 3: Isaac Ovie do (1992) Rounder Records CD 5055. Pedroso, Amelia, Regino Jiminez, Librado Quesada, and others, Ilu Ana: Sacred Rhythms. (1995) Fundamento Pr odctions. Rios, Orlando Puntilla, and Nueva Generacion, Spirit Rhythms: Sacred Drumming and Chants from Cuba. (1996) Latitudes LT50603. Ros, Lazaro, Asoyi: Cantos Arara. (1995) Caribe Productions CD 9476. Ros, Lazaro, Olorun. (1994) Green Linnet GLCD 4022. Ros, Lazaro, and Mezcla, Cantos. (1992) Intuition Records INT 3080 2. Ros, Lazaro, and Olorun, Songs for Elegua. (1996) Ashe Records CD 2001. Sintesis, Ancestros. (1992) Qbadisc QB 9001.
279 Sintesis, Orishas. (1997) Milan Latino 73138/ 358330-2. Spiro, Michael, Mark Lamson, and others, Bt Ke tu: A Musical Interplay of Cuba and Brazil. (1996) Bembe Records CD 2011. Valdes, Chucho, Briyumba Palo Congo: Religion of the Congo. (1999) Blue Note 7243 4 9891722. Valdes, Merceditas, Ache. (1990?) EGREM/ ARTEX CD 010. Valdes, Merceditas, y los tambores bt de Jesus Perez, Cuba. (1992) ASPIC X 55512. Various Artists, Abbilona: Tambor Yor ubaAggayu. (1999) Caribe Productions CD9549. Various Artists, Abbilona: Tambor Yoruba --Chango. (1999) Caribe Productions CD9550. Various Artists, Abbilona: Tambor Yoruba-Eleggua, Ogun, y Ochosi. (1999) Caribe Pr odctions CD9546. Various Artists, Abbilona: Tambor Yoruba--btl. (1999) Caribe Productions CD9545. Various Artists, Abbilona: Tambor Yoruba --Ochun. (1999) Caribe Productions CD9547. Various Artists, Abbilona: Tambor Yoruba-Oricha Oko, Oddua, Ibeyis, Olokun, y otros. Caribe Pr oductions CD9552. Various Artists, Abbilona: Tambor Yoruba ---Oya. (1999) Caribe Productions CD9551. Various Artists, Abbilona: Tambor Yoruba--Yemaya. (1999) Caribe Productions CD9548. Various Artists, Afro Cuba: A Musical Anthology. (1994) Rounder Records CD 1088. Various Artists, Caliente=Hot: Puerto Rican a nd Cuban Musical Expression in New York (1977) New World Records NW 244-2. Various Artists, Cantos de Congos y Paleros (1994) ARTEX CD 091. Various Artists, Cantos de Santeria. (1994) ARTEX CD 090. Various Artists, Caribbean Revels: Haitian Rara and Dominican Gaga. (Reissue 1991) Smithsonian Folkways CD SF 40402. Various Artists, Cuba: I Am Time. 4 Vols. ( 1997) Blue Jackal Entertainment BJAC 5010-2. Various Artists, Cuba: Les Danses des Dieux: Mu sique des cultes et fetes afro-cubaines. (1988) Harmonia Mundi/ Ocora C 559051.
280 Various Artists, Official Retr ospective of Cuban Music. 4 Vols. (1999) Tonga Productions TNG4CD 9303. Various Artists, Rhythms of Rapture: Sacred Music of Haitian Vodou. (1995) Smithsonian Folkways SF CD 40464. Various Artists, Routes of Rhythms, Vol. 1: A Carnival of Cuban Music. (1990) Rounder Records CD 5049. Various Artists, Sacred Rhythms of Cuban Santer ia/ Ritmos Sagrados de la Santeria Cubana. (1995) Smithsonian Folkways SF CD 40419. Various Artists, Yoruba/ Dahomean Collection: Orishas across the ocean. (1998) Library of Congress Endangered Music Project. Rykodisc RCD 10405. Various Artists, Yoruba Drums from Benin, West Africa: The Worlds Musical Traditions, 8. (1994) Smithsonian Folkways CD SF 40440.
281 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Ajani Ade Ofunniyin was born in Charleston So uth Carolina but sp ent his youth and young adulthood in Harlem and the Bronx, New York. He received his BA degree from Fordham University, New York, and His Ma sters Degree from the University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida. He now resides in Ha wthorne, Florida. Ofunniyin began his informal study of Yoruba culture and traditions in 1977. He traveled to Southwestern, Nigeria in 1979 and 1980 to work on a documentary film about Yoruba dance and ritu als. Ofunniyin was initia ted into the Yoruba priesthood and crowned in the cult of btl in 1982 and returned to his hometown, Charleston, South Carolina in 1985. Ofunniyin entered the graduate program in An thropology at the University of Florida in 1998. He conducted research in Charleston, South Carolina and Nigeria, West Africa for his Masters Degree in Anthropology, Which he receive d in 2002. His thesis, Memory and Public Space: The making of an African American Icon in Charleston, South Carolina examines the work of master blacksmith artisan, Philip Simmo ns and describes the role that Mr. Simmons played in rekindling nati onal interest in blacksmit hing as an art form. Ofunniyin entered the University of Florida s Ph.D. Program in the Department of Anthropology in 2003, where he focused on visual anthropology. He studied video and film production, Yoruba language and cu lture, art history and museum science while conducting field research in Sheldon, South Carolina, Southweste rn, Nigeria, and Alachua County, Florida. In 2004, Ofunniyin became a Ph.D. candidate in the department of Anthropology. He has been the recipient of several fellowships and grants, which include FL AS funding, Florida Education Fund (FEF) McKnight Doctoral Fellowship, Gwendolyn Auzenne Graduate Fellowship, and a Fulbright Hayes Summer GPA Fellowship.
282 Ofunniyin completed his research in 2007 and finished his dissertation in 2008. Ofunniyin passed his dissertation defense on February 11, 2008, and received his Ph.D. on May 7, 2008.