Saturday April 28th was my 11th Ocha Birthday. That is to say it was the anniversary of my initiation as a Yoruba/Lucumi Priest of Obatala (April 28, 2001). To me, it’s as important a date as my natal birthday. Traditionally, to mark the anniversary, we purchase food and cook for the Orishas (the divinities we worship), read each Orisha we have with Obi (4 quarters of coconut), and generally strive to have a peaceful and meditative day. Sometimes, if possible, we open our homes to other Orisha Priests to come and salute our Orishas and to offer their blessings. Since I was in a somewhat isolated location, I chose to spend the day with only one other person (my significant other).
My experience on the day of my anniversary was a very positive one. The Orishas were basically happy and were satisfied with my offerings of fruit, candy, and in some instances the food I had prepared for them. One or two wanted a bit more but nothing complicated.
Spending this day basically on my own, taking the risk of reading my Orishas on my own (previously I always had someone else do it) was a real boost to my confidence. I also prayed and sang and felt the presence of spirit. It reaffirmed for me that I was truly blessed. I felt truly grateful that the Orishas had guided me to them and had chosen me as their child.
Now I know this must sound kind of confusing to many of you; maybe even a little bit alarming. My religion is virtually unknown by many if not most Americans, despite the fact that there are millions of observers worldwide. But my specific belief system is not the point of this article.
What I have in my life at this time in my life (I’m an Elder) is a solid foundation of faith, which is something I have never had before. I trust in the divinities to guide me, and I do what they say as I learn through divination. I feel protected and held. I have support and love that is unconditional. The Orishas are patient and giving as long as you are respectful and follow their advice (if you don’t, there can be consequences).
What this faith has done for me after decades of psychotherapy is help me heal. In treatment I gained a great deal of understanding, and the relationship with my therapists was healing in itself. There is great value in it. However, it was and is my faith that has taken me to the next level where I was able to finally forgive those who had wronged me; where I was able to either let go of or moderate my fear; and where I was able to accept myself and others as I am/they are.
For most of my life, psychotherapy was my higher power. That is different now. As I observe the patients I treat in my practice, I see that those who have some spiritual connection are those that make the most significant and lasting progress. Those that are what I would call spiritually bankrupt struggle the most for the longest.
People come to me knowing of my dual credentials as Psychotherapist and Ordained Yoruba/Lucumi Priest, and even though we talk about the issues and problems of the day, I believe some at least are seeking help in connecting to their spiritual selves. When they state this outright, I work with them on this. Otherwise, I am very patient.
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