The Morality of Sacrifice

by Efun Moyiwa

This article can also be found on Efun Moyiwa’s World Wide Web page, OrishaNet (http://www.seanet.com/~efunmoyiwa/welcome.html).

Animal sacrifice is just a small part of the much larger definition of ebó (sacrifice or offering) in the Santería religion. There are many categories of ebó. There are offerings such as addimú, which can include candles, fruits, candy or any number of items or actions that may be appreciated by the deities or orishas in the religion. In divination, the orishas may ask for a favorite fruit or dish, or they may call for the person to heed advice given. At times, they may ask that a person give up drinking or other practices that are unwise for that individual. They may request a person to wear certain jewelry, receive initiations or any number of other things. Or they may request an animal, usually a chicken or a dove, so the orisha will come to that person’s aid. As a rule, animal sacrifice is called for only in major situations such as sickness or serious misfortune. Animals are also offered when a new priest is consecrated in service of her or his orisha during the birthing process of initiation. In every birth, there is blood.

In our modern society, we have become separated from the concept of death. Even our dead are embalmed and made up to appear living. When we purchase meat to eat or leather to wear, it is preprocessed to remove the shopper from the fact that a life was taken in order that another may live. Meat is wrapped in plastic with a little paper towel to soak up any blood that might remind the buyer of the fact of the animal’s death. The buyer is also kept unaware of the circumstances surrounding the poor animal’s life and, of course, its death. When animals are killed in the slaughterhouse, there is little respect or regard for that animal, the only matter of importance being that the animals are killed cheaply and in great quantity to supply an ever-growing market. In other words, these animals too are sacrificed, though the only deity revered here is greed. We should also take into account that the poultry industry alone kills more animals in one day than Santería has sacrificed worldwide in the last several hundred years!

On the other hand, when an animal is sacrificed in La Regla Lucumí it is first and foremost done with respect: respect for the orisha being offered this life and respect for the little bird whose life is taken in order that we may live better. The animal must be well-cared-for, because it is the property of the orisha. In fact, sometimes the orisha will state that the animal must not die but live with the person, and the orisha expects that animal to be well-cared-for and pampered as theirs.

At the beginning of the sacrifice, when the animal is brought forward, there is a song and action that we perform in acknowledgment that one day our lives will be taken suddenly in much the same way as the animal’s. In this way, our religion differs little from the beliefs of the Native Americans. Here there is a respect for all life, and a respect for the death that must come to all, including ourselves.

Afterwards, if the animal wasn’t used to cleanse a person of illness or misfortune, it is eaten by all the participants. If, on the other hand, it was used for a cleansing, the animal is taken to the place requested by the orisha to complete the offering. These animals cannot be eaten, as we would be eating the sickness or misfortune that was removed from that person.

Whether the ebó is a simple apple or a little chicken, it should always be offered with both hands and an open heart.

What is Santeria?

by Efun Moyiwa

This article can also be found on Efun Moyiwa’s World Wide Web page, OrishaNet (http://www.seanet.com/~efunmoyiwa/welcome.html).

Santería, or La Regla Lucumí, originates in West Africa in what is now Nigeria and Benin. It is the traditional religion of the Yoruba peoples there. The slave trade brought many of these people to the shores of Cuba, Brazil, Haiti, Trinidad and Puerto Rico, among other places. But along with the bodies being brought over for sale into a life of misery, something else was being brought along. Their souls. And their religion.

First of all, Santería is not a “primitive” religion. On the contrary, the Yorubas were and are a very civilized people with a rich culture and deep sense of ethics. We believe in one god known as Olorun or Olodumare. Olorun is the source of ashé, the spiritual energy that makes up the universe, all life and all things material.

Olorun interacts with the world and humankind through emissaries. These emissaries are called orishas. The orishas rule over every force of nature and every aspect of human life. They are approachable and can be counted on to come to the aid of their followers, guiding us to a better life materially as well as spiritually.

Communication between orishas and humankind is accomplished through ritual, prayer, divination and ebó or offerings (which includes sacrifice). Song, rhythms and trance possession are also means with which we interact with the orishas and with which we are able to affect our day-to-day lives so that we may lead deeper and fuller lives during our stay in this world.

In the New World, the orishas and much of the religion was hidden behind a facade of Catholicism, with the orishas themselves represented by various saints. The slave owners would then say, “Look at how pious this slave is. She spends all of her time worshipping Saint Barbara.” Unbeknownst to them, she would actually be praying to Shangó, the lord of lightning, fire and the dance, perhaps even praying for deliverance from that very slave owner. This is how the religion came to be known as Santería. The memory of this period of our history is also why many in our religion regard the term Santería as a derogatory.

The traditions of Santería are fiercely preserved, and full knowledge of the rites, songs and language is prerequisites to any deep involvement in the religion. Initiates must follow a strict regimen and are answerable to Olorun and the orishas for their actions. As a person passes through each initiation in the tradition, this knowledge deepens and their abilities and responsibilities grow accordingly. In fact, during the entire first year of their initiation into the priesthood, the initiate or iyawó or “bride” of the orisha must dress in white. The iyawo must not look into a mirror, touch anyone or allow themselves to be touched, and they may not wear makeup or go out at night for this year.

La Santería is famous for its “magic.” This magic is based on a knowledge of the mysteries or orishas and how to interact with them to better our lives and the lives of those who come to us for the aid of the orishas. We live under the premise that this world is a magical one. This knowledge seems “supernatural” only to those who don’t understand it, but it really is quite natural.

Although the people were yanked away from their homes in Africa and enslaved in the New World, the orishas, the religion and its power could never be chained down, and the religion survives now – not as an anachronism, but ever-growing, even now in such places as France and the Netherlands.

Maferefún gbogbo orisha!

Water Magick

Water Magick

The properties of water are both constant and variable at the same time. Water exists on the Earth in three forms: solid (ice), liquid, and gas (evaporated). Water magick is very versatile; it incorporates techniques that bring about changes both within and without. For water magick to occur within, one must consume the water or call upon that aspect of the self. For it to occur without, one must bathe in it, swim in it, cleanse with it, etc.

Not all liquid magick belongs in the realm of water. For instance, brews that incorporate vinegar or alcohol as the primary ingredient fall in the domain of fire.

The magickal properties of particular types of water can be used for the following purposes:

Creeks and streams:  Purification, harmony, cleansing

Dew:  General health, eyesight, beauty. Dew is said to be especially powerful if gathered at dawn on Beltane.

Fog and mists:  Creativity, balance, partnerships

Ice:  Transformations, balance, creativity

Pond or lake water:  Peace, contentment, relaxation, self-reflection.

Rain water:  Energy, protection, cleansing. The first rain that falls in the month of May is considered sacred to the Water Witch

River water:  Cleansing, moving forward, protection

Seawater:  Health, magickal power, manifestation of goals. An old Welsh belief states that a spoonful of sea-water a day will ensure a long and healthy life.

Snow:  Transformations, balance

Spring water:  Growth, holy water, cleansing, protection, prosperity

Swamp and  waste water:  Banishing, binding

Waterfalls:  Power, energy, success

Well water:  Healing, wishes, intuition

The Water Witch also has an attachment to the ares surrounding the water, which can be used for the following magickal purposes:

Beaches:  Rituals, spells, fascinations, meditations

Harbors:  To promote abundance and prosperity; to serve as an aid in banishing things

Riverbanks:  To increase personal power

In Santeria practices, water from particular environments is offered as food to specific Orishas, as follows:

Ogun and Babalu-Aye:  Pond water

Oya:  Rain water

Oshun:  River water

Yemaya:  Seawater

In addition, Santeria incorporates the use of a special cleansing water called omiero. Omiero is comprised of sacred herbs, belonging to the Orisha being petitioned, and water. It is steeped upon coals to bring out the magickal properties. The making of omiero is complicated and has a full ceremony attached to it. The resulting product is used for initiation purposes.

The Eternal Return – Experiencing the Magick of Giving Back

The Eternal Return

Experiencing the Magick of Giving Back

by Sylvana SilverWitch

The smell of the earth is moist and mysterious, the plants are bursting with a vivid kaleidoscope of flowers, the fruit is sweetening on the branch, the sun is shining hot on my back, and I am happy. This time of the earth’s bounty makes me think of giving something back… to the earth, to the greater community, to my clan, to my lover, to a stranger on the street.

One of the things I know unequivocally is that to be competent at creating what you desire in life, you must give, give, give and then give some more. Giving works as if to illustrate to the Goddess/God/universe that you trust absolutely in the greater scheme of things and that the universe will provide for you and your needs, and as if to create a spell of abundance in your life. Sometimes the giving has such an effect on the person given to that it changes his or her life. Such change has happened to me; I have, remarkably, been on both ends.

To receive, you must give; it helps to ask as well. In this time of impending harvest, I offer you a spell in three parts: appreciating and giving thanks for what you have in your life already, giving the universe your desires and giving back to the world just as it gives to you.

I work at making the spell of giving and receiving a part of ordinary life, and I do my best to give to my community, my friends, my coven, my lover and whoever else seems right – whether it’s love, food, money, advice, help, time or energy. I cannot always immediately see the results of giving, and unquestionably, we shouldn’t give with a mind to what we will get back – that ruins the energy of it. But we may give humbly, knowing that our energy will return to us threefold, at least.

Occasionally, something I do or say has an immediate profound effect on a person, and I receive my reward right away in the awareness that I have aided the person. Sometimes I am rewarded in an unusual and unforeseen way. For instance, the phone company keeps sending me money whenever I really need it, and I still have not figured out why. Oh, well – I just trust that everything will come out as it should, and it does.

The following is a very simple spell that anyone can do, any time, any place. It is chiefly about consciousness and awareness and about being present to the gifts that are yours every day of your life. To perform the spell successfully, it helps to be centered in being conscious of what you have rather than focusing your energy on what you don’t have.

First, take a few moments to contemplate and give thanks for all of the amazing, powerful gifts you have received so far this year. Your body, your breath, your life. Your family, friends, children, lover, clan, community. Did you get the job that you really wanted? Did you finally learn some hard lesson, so you can now move on? Did you meet just the right person to help you on a project? What favors have the gods bestowed upon you recently? Take a minute or two from your day every day to focus on what you do have, and what you have received that you asked for or needed.

Then make a list, and on it list everything you can think of that you wish for. Begin with the things that you can easily accomplish in a day or a week. Start with the very next day, as in “I want (fill in the blank) tomorrow,” then move on to next week, then next month. Follow with wishes for three months, six months, nine months, a year, three years, five years, ten years and so on. List material things, job goals, relationship goals, whatever you can think of (you can always add more things later as you remember them). I always make mine a list of dates with items next to them – for example: August 1, 1996, new job making great money in a place I like with people I respect and like.

Next, sense yourself into the future and into what you want to achieve, as if it is already happening. It is! As soon as you put power into it, you begin the movement in the direction of that actuality.

Once you’ve done that for every wish, locate a spot to hang your list where you will view it every day, preferably more than once a day. Seeing the list daily reminds your subconscious of where you are going without you having to think about it. Place the list in a location away from the eyes of those who would deter or discourage you.

Then, once the list is hung up, let the desires go. Doing so is important, and the point where a lot of spells get hung up. Forget about the list except when you glance at it or when you cross off a desire that you have accomplished. (Do cross off listed wishes as you achieve them, but leave them readable, as you want to be able to see the results of your spell and feel the sense of accomplishment that comes from success.)

Once you have hung up your list, sit down, preferably in a quiet place where you can sit on the ground, but anywhere will do. Close your eyes, and give thanks and appreciation to the earth, to the sky, to the God and Goddess, to the elementals, to the fey kingdom for all that is, for your place to live here on the earth.

Give thanks, and then go and give away something that you truly treasure; give away a little something every day. Give a present to your best friend or your lover for no reason. Give some coins to a person less fortunate than you; there are always the less fortunate. Do not judge them, or what they will do with the money; that’s not important; it’s only important that you give freely.

Hugs, kisses and love are things you can give freely whenever you feel affection for someone. Bring a gift when you visit; send a cheerful card or letter to a parent or other family member; give a flower to a child; give a treat to an animal friend; leave out offerings to the fey and to the other wild things. Try the charming Santería custom of kissing your money as you make an offering (or spend it); Santería devotees believe that kissing money ensures it will return to you (and I do too!).

Explore how much you can give with love, joy and generosity, and this will tell you where your prosperity potential is. The more difficult it is for you to be generous, the harder it is for you to be prosperous yourself.

See how it feels to feel as if you have enough, as if you are rich, as if you have all your needs fulfilled – as if you are the opulent Earth Mother giving to all her children!

Thank all for whatever you have. Put out the energy of generosity and good will, and that is what you will manifest in your life.

Give love, every day, to someone who needs some, and if nothing else, give a smile.

What is Santeria?

What is Santeria?

by Efun Moyiwa

Santería, or La Regla Lucumí, originates in West Africa in what is now Nigeria and Benin. It is the traditional religion of the Yoruba peoples there. The slave trade brought many of these people to the shores of Cuba, Brazil, Haiti, Trinidad and Puerto Rico, among other places. But along with the bodies being brought over for sale into a life of misery, something else was being brought along. Their souls. And their religion.

First of all, Santería is not a “primitive” religion. On the contrary, the Yorubas were and are a very civilized people with a rich culture and deep sense of ethics. We believe in one god known as Olorun or Olodumare. Olorun is the source of ashé, the spiritual energy that makes up the universe, all life and all things material.

Olorun interacts with the world and humankind through emissaries. These emissaries are called orishas. The orishas rule over every force of nature and every aspect of human life. They are approachable and can be counted on to come to the aid of their followers, guiding us to a better life materially as well as spiritually.

Communicationbetween orishas and humankind is accomplished through ritual, prayer, divination and ebó or offerings (which includes sacrifice). Song, rhythms and trance possession are also means with which we interact with the orishas and with which we are able to affect our day-to-day lives so that we may lead deeper and fuller lives during our stay in this world.

In the New World, the orishas and much of the religion was hidden behind a facade of Catholicism, with the orishas themselves represented by various saints. The slave owners would then say, “Look at how pious this slave is. She spends all of her time worshipping Saint Barbara.” Unbeknownst to them, she would actually be praying to Shangó, the lord of lightning, fire and the dance, perhaps even praying for deliverance from that very slave owner. This is how the religion came to be known as Santería. The memory of this period of our history is also why many in our religion regard the term Santería as a derogatory.

The traditions of Santería are fiercely preserved, and full knowledge of the rites, songs and language is prerequisites to any deep involvement in the religion. Initiates must follow a strict regimen and are answerable to Olorun and the orishas for their actions. As a person passes through each initiation in the tradition, this knowledge deepens and their abilities and responsibilities grow accordingly. In fact, during the entire first year of their initiation into the priesthood, the initiate or iyawó or “bride” of the orisha must dress in white. The iyawo must not look into a mirror, touch anyone or allow themselves to be touched, and they may not wear makeup or go out at night for this year.

La Santería is famous for its “magic.” This magic is based on a knowledge of the mysteries or orishas and how to interact with them to better our lives and the lives of those who come to us for the aid of the orishas. We live under the premise that this world is a magical one. This knowledge seems “supernatural” only to those who don’t understand it, but it really is quite natural.

Although the people were yanked away from their homes in Africa and enslaved in the New World, the orishas, the religion and its power could never be chained down, and the religion survives now – not as an anachronism, but ever-growing, even now in such places as France and the Netherlands.

Maferefún gbogbo orisha!