On Healing: Where and How It Happens
On April 15, I posted an earnest question in a private Facebook group that exploded and sent much reverb throughout said group, related groups, and some of the english speaking population of Isese, Lukumi, and Candomble Ketu practitioners. Subsequent posts ensued. One was my own, where I called out the misanthropic and offensive commentary of two individuals related to the April 15 post. Another of which called out a specific practitioner who is alleged to have abused several individuals.
These conversations were and are about very real issues happening within and affecting Isese, Lukumi, and Candomblé traditions: the proliferation of political Ifa; the disregard for license, authorization and regla (generally accepted standards of practice); ceremonies, namely initiation, being done incorrectly; initiation without training, and the increase and normalization of fraud and charlatanry.
Here’s the catch: none of these issues are new. I have been in and around Lukumi and other Afro-Cuban spiritual communities for 14 years and its the same conversations. Elders and colleagues who have been around double or triple that time tell me the conversations are the same. The one, underlying thread running through all of them was this: none of them centered the lived realities of doing healing and being healed.
That said here’s my first question ahem
Where’s the healing?
Based on my observations there is NO healing happening on Facebook. To be specific, there is no healing-centric discourse happening on Facebook in any of the groups that I have been a part of. There is a lot of talk about protocol, history, language, culture, definitely a lot of calling out, but none of [rarely do] those discussions ever include discourse about doing healing and being healed.
When I observe the actions of my colleagues and elders, they are, as a rule, not on the internet. They are tending to themselves, their families, their godchildren, and/or their clients. If they tune into any group, it is because they have been tagged; however, even then they may not respond. As such, I repeat, it is my conclusion based on firsthand observations that there is no healing to be found within Facebook discourse and especially not in any of these groups. You may, if you are lucky be able to find useful discourse, but I often question whether any of it is useful. Even some of the useful stuff easily becomes a distraction.
Now for the how…ahem
How should healing happen?
This position is informed by my experience as a student and lay practitioner of Lukumi and Espiritismo, a student and priestess of Palo Mayombe, and my own independent research conducted on Isese, Afro-Cuban, and Afro-Brazilian spiritual traditions. These conclusions have been drawn from the historical record of these traditions, their ancestral roots - in the case of Isese it’s contemporary trajectories in Nigeria - on the African continent as well as conversations with lay and initiated practitioners. These are my informed opinions. These opinions are steeped in facts that can be easily found within the historical record.
As such, I assert two typologies of information: 1) the context that delimits the circumstances within which healing can happen, and 2) where healing happens, how it is measured, and how to identify it.
While the internet and specifically social media can be useful for the purpose of research and, if you are lucky, discourse, it is not the domain of healing;
The generally accepted practices and protocols of a given tradition exist to promote the perpetuity of the tradition, to establish a foundation for growth through learning, and as proof that the competency and authority of the person in question has been granted by ethical elders and co-signed by the ancestors and spiritual deities of that tradition.
In initiatory practices, initiation confers license, better known as authority. When one has license, one can perform ceremony for initiates and non-initiates and teach ceremony to others who also have license. As an initiated person, teaching ceremony to those who have not been initiated, is a violation of generally accepted practices and protocols. Performing a ceremony that is foreign to your chosen tradition without license, even if you were legitimately taught the ceremony, calls into question the spiritual potency of the ceremony you performed, the validity of your knowledge and training, and your ethics.
When healing happens, the contributing factors can and should be named by the participating parties. In the case of Lukumi, Candomble Ketu, and Isese the contributing parties are any combination of priests, ancestors, and orisa, as well as other spiritual entities such as the Mothers or one’s egbe. This is information that can be confirmed via divination. The contemporary trend, if not obsession, with African and African rooted traditions have given way to much obfuscation. Healing through the medicine of of Lukumi, Candomble Ketu, and Isese traditions is not the same as healing by a priest in any of those traditions who uses modalities outside of those traditions to heal.
Doing and identifying healing
Locus: Healing happens in intimate, often solitary, liminal spaces. These liminal spaces include spiritual communities, but also client-practitioner relationships. It is often kicked off by a galvanizing event such as a divination, ceremony, or training session. It evokes visceral physical and emotional reactions that can be identified and explained by a trained medium or priest.
Measurement: a primary assessment tool for gauging healing and its resultant outputs is divination. For the sake of this discussion, divination is not limited to the manipulation of tools. It includes trance possession, the deliverance of information within the misa espiritual, and related methods that resemble shamanic journeying. Before the galvanizing event, divination will relate an individual’s state with commentary on what is working in the best interest of the person and what is working against the person. It will also explain why. It will also offer solutions for resolving the scenario. If healing is occurring, meaning the person has followed through on the works suggested by divination and has adopted new behaviors that support their growth and development, subsequent divinations will acknowledge the progress. Results previously unachievable will manifest.
The look of healing: There is a look to healing that manifests energetically, emotionally, and physically. Some noticeable characteristics are: weight loss or weight gain (depending on characteristics of the previous unhealed state), organic happiness that is not co-dependent on a person or circumstances, clarity of thoughts and related speech, commitment to ongoing work of healing and personal development as evidenced through deeds, friend groups that support the person in their healed state, and increased ability to manifest the life they want.
In thinking about, and now writing about this, I have resolved that in the coming weeks and months, I will exit most of the discussion groups I’m currently in and reorient my time and energy to myself, clients, and community. The point is to immerse myself almost exclusively within the loci of art and healing. One of those loci, as my godmother says, is in the trenches creating real solutions for real people in need. Another lineage elder rhetorically put it like this, “Do they [the teachings but also the acts] bring succor and joy into the heart?”
I want to be in the place where succor and joy are the standard. I am more clear than ever on where that it is and especially, where it is not.
Negarra A. Kudumu
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