Just Tuesday, I shared this comment with a friend within the context of a broader conversation about the proliferation of internet spirituality. He went on to post it publicly on Facebook, where it garnered much attention with various individuals chiming in. (To read the post and it's comments, click here.)
Internet spirituality is an umbrella term encapsulating individuals who have built impressive social media brands (thousands of Facebook followers, tens of thousands of Instagram and Twitter followers) claiming to be practitioners of hoodoo, conjure, and/or African rooted traditions such as Lukumi and Haitian Vodoun. Many of these individuals, as per my observations on Instagram and Facebook, are millennial women.
The desire for spiritual connectivity seems genuine, and some of these millennial spiritual entrepreneurs offer solid advice via social media. The red flags, however, fly up when I visit their web sites. In Palo Mayombe, we have an adage in Spanish that says "Santo Tómas, ver para creer", which translates as, "St. Thomas, seeing is believing." Despite the broad claims many of these millennial internet spiritualists make on social media, rarely will one see a listing on their web sites of their elders, mentors, the training they have, and/or the initiations they have and in which spiritual traditions those initiations were done.
Our mothers breastfed us, then they prepared our food, and helped us get dressed, until we learned from them how to cook for and dress ourselves. Our parents are our first teachers and first elders. The simple fact is, no one knows everything. At some point, you honed and refined your skill set as a result of an example you accessed either directly from a relationship with someone who knew what you wanted to learn; or indirectly, through reading books or accessing materials that shared the information you wanted to know. Any person who maintains an active spiritual repository of knowledge, sat - and still sits! - at the feet of their elders and did a lot of listening and note taking. Then, when granted the permission, they were able to put their knowledge into practice.
The lack of acknowledgement of elders, ongoing mentorship relationships, training, and/or initiation amongst the millennial internet spiritualists, is concerning, and has the potential to adversely effect individuals genuinely seeking spiritual connection and knowledge. Our on demand culture feeds egotistical, self-aggrandizing, self-entitled, and narcissistic behavior. It gives the impression that one's spiritual development and transformation is one tarot reading, one spiritual bath, or one custom candle away. This is factually inaccurate. There is not one tarot reading, not one spiritual bath, not one custom candle that can change your life without you doing the necessary work to align yourself with your highest good. The work is an ongoing process. While yes, it is first and foremost about you, hence why you must do the work, fundamentally your transformation hinges upon your ability to relate to people, specifically the elders who are caretakers of the traditions into which you want to seek entry.
Social media has proven to be great for sifting through the hundreds, if not thousands, of spiritual entrepreneurs that use it to market their wares. It is important because as spiritual practitioners in the 21st century, we must use the tools at our disposal to engage with our communities. That said, we should have no problem offering the respectful querent information about our training, our elders, our initiations, and our areas of expertise. The respectful querent should feel empowered to make these kinds of inquiries and make informed decisions about whether a given practitioner is suitable for them.
In this vein, I offer my credentials freely on my Contact page, as well as a list of my elders who advise and mentor me on an ongoing basis. This level of transparency is key in establishing an unshakeable foundation upon which to serve my clients and community. My role is to be your advocate and partner in achieving and executing your healing and wellness goals. In that role there are no quick fixes, only results that must be seen and felt to know they are real.
Negarra A. Kudumu
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