The Orisha are the Messengers of Oludumare, the God/dess of the Yoruba Traditional Spiritual Tradition known as Ifa. The Yoruba Spiritual Tradition is centered in West Africa in what is now called Nigeria. During the time of the enslavement of African people in the New World, known as the Maafa ( Kiswahilli for Great Disaster), Ifa came to the Americas and the Caribbean. Anyone caught practicing the religion was put to death.
Since Christianity was the only religion allowed to the enslaved Africans, the Orisha of Ifa were hidden behind the Catholic saints wherever similarities were seen between the two. For example, Shango, Orisha of Thunder and Transformation, carrier of the double headed ax, was served through Saint Barbara since she too was portrayed with the double headed ax. This assured that the Orisha would survive the transatlantic passage and live on.
Centuries later the Orisha are still being worshipped behind the masks of Saints...and openly by their original African names and images. People of all colors, genders, and nationalities now celebrate the Orisha in the privacy of their own home and along with their spiritual families, commonly called Houses or Iles.
Here are five suggestions to help you to connect with the beauty and harmony of the Orisha.
1. Attend lectures about traditional West African Spiritual Practice. Check with your local universities to learn of lectures in the Comparative Religions, Anthropology, and African Studies Departments.
2. Subscribe to reputable lists about Orisha and African Traditional Spirituality on the internet. You can find Orisha focused discussion listed by doing a search at Yahoogroups.com and at Google.com. Be prepared to state your intentions and to show respect to the guidelines of the list.
3. Attend lectures and view exhibits of West African Art at your local museums. Call them and ask to be added to their mailing lists for to learn of upcoming events
4. Check your local holistic newspaper for workshops, seminars, and lectures in your area given by initiates in the Ifa tradition or one of its adaptations in the New World, such as Santeria, Candomble, Shango Baptist, or Lucumi.
5. Attend conferences and workshops that are centered around Orisha practice. Check with local metaphysical bookstores and botanicas for a list of upcoming events.
Supplementing your reading about Ifa with hands-on contact with people who are involved in the Ifa tradition will give you a different perspective and enhance your experience of the Orisha immensely.
Meri Tahset is a rootworker, aborisha, spiritual counselor, and sistaservant of the spirits dedicated to helping people to heal themselves and to maintain their connection to spirit in their daily lives. Meri can be reached at http://www.sistahealer.com