What Does It Mean to Be An Initiate?

Andre Hora, It’s In Your Head, Mixed Media, 2017.

Andre Hora, It’s In Your Head, Mixed Media, 2017.

There’s a lot of talk about initiation within African-rooted and African traditional spiritual communities. There is an assumption that if you’re in the tradition, you must be in it for the purpose of eventual initiation. Initiation is seen, and treated, oft times, as an obligatory end goal. Those of us who are initiated know that initiation, is quite the opposite. It is really and truly just a beginning of a new phase of your life’s journey where you are equipped with the permission, toolkit, and energetic orientation to resolve your life’s and blood lineage’s issues.

Last week, I was having precisely this conversation, within a Lukumi context. I asked a few priests I know - all of whom have 10+ years of initiation - their opinions and lived experience. Their insights, combined with my own coming from my experience with Palo Mayombe, are the inspiration for the list below and today’s post. Check it out.

  • Knows how to perform basic ceremonies such and offerings to deities;

  • Base level competency in Espiritismo;

  • Has a basic knowledge of the history of the tradition as well as differences of practice and lineage;

  • Basic divination proficiency and knowledge of appropriate solutions and remedies;

  • Basic knowledge of herbs and their preparation connected to the deities in their possession;

  • Knowledge of ritual sacrifice procedures;

  • Knows and can perform general and specific prayers for their deities and ancestors;

  • Knowledge and preparation of deity-specific foods;

  • Knows and can perform songs and dances for deities;

  • Knows protocols for working in nature in addition to working deities within their shrine room; and

  • Actively studying, and applying acquired knowledge to their spiritual practice.

This list is a minimum for initiated individuals who are not godparents nor serving clients. If you have godchildren and/or clients, then be prepared to double or triple the time spent executing the aforementioned tasks. Where as for yourself maintenance, study, and practice may only require 3-5 days per week (which is already lot), and in clients and/or godchildren and you are talking about a 7 day per week endeavor.

Being an active initiate who is in a regular state of maintenance and practice is time consuming. It is a full time job. Some people are full time initiates. Others, work a separate job and work in the aforementioned capacity. Becoming a godparent to multiple individuals for whom it is your responsibility to teach is another layer of practice and responsibility.

My point is this: initiation goes far beyond that first ceremony and all the pomp and circumstance that moment requires. It is a transformative moment that marks a new beginning and opportunity to adjust, resolve, heal, an achieve. The sacrifice is your time and your lifestyle. The outcome will truly be what you make it and no amount of set tripping and social media posturing can cover up a lack of knowledge, decorum, and paucity of energetic dynamism. You either have and cultivate these attributes or you don’t. If initiation is truly your calling, consider these things as you seek out a godparent, a community, and particularly, as you prepare to initiate. 

Negarra A. Kudumu

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