Why I Wear Those Beads Around My Neck (or the Answer to “What church you go to?”)

I realize that there was a time when I wanted to know more about certain spiritual systems and I felt like the answers were sometimes vague and hard to come by. I don’t know why that is…maybe the stigmas connected to non-Western traditions make the conversations harder…? Now that I’ve been able to learn more for myself, I would like to be a bit more open to community with the knowledge. I have a platform to speak from and it is perhaps a good place to offer info, dispel a few myths, and simply share what connects me to God.

First, let me make one thing clear: this is not an invitation to debate what I believe in. I am not writing this to “convert” you, so please don’t seek to save me. I am sure you have your hands full saving yourself. 🙂 Again, I am sharing. I welcome questions and comments, as well as an opportunity to learn from you through a positive conversation.

I am an Ifa practitioner, or an Aborisa. Ifa is the study of the wisdom of nature, and the way I see it, it is how everything and us and God connect. It is science, and mathematics. It is rational. It is ritual and learning. It is meditation and observation. It is poetic. It is inclusive and evolving. It is stories that tell truth. It is old and rich, from the Yoruba people of Nigeria, and it is one of many spiritual systems of our Mother Africa. It is also the one that spoke to me and helped me to connect to God.

Ifa teaches sacrifice and reciprocity. That sacrifice can be seen as very scientific and straightforward…you just can’t “get” when you haven’t “given.”

Ifa practitioners learn about destiny, and how to find yours, get on a path that aligns with it, and do it in good character. We also learn about the power (ase pronounced “ah-shay”) that exists within that destiny.

Through this study, aborisas understand the forces in nature, especially how they are represented as Orisa (the beads worn around my neck are physical representations of these forces). We learn to respect, understand, connect with this energy. Yet there are energies that we find an even closer relationship with : our direct, bloodline ancestors. These mothers and fathers walk with us, leave legacies, paths that must honored and understood…I like to think of these ancestors as simply having my back. I see it as a wonderful thing to pray and have those prayers strengthened by the voices of countless ancestors who all want to see me succeed! That’s what’s up! I’m just saying…

The beautiful part about Ifa is that a person who studies it can still decide to go to the spiritual home or practice of their choice (or none at all), and simply use Ifa as a tool to elevate their learning. The even beautiful-er part is that you don’t have to be an Ifa practioner any more than I have to be a Christian to be a person of God. Which is why I don’t carry signs or give you pamphlets. If it’s for you, it’s for you. And that’s that. 😉

Of course, there is so much more to Ifa, and this is just scratching the surface. There are great books to read on the subject, and once in a while (on my Facebook page) I will put up invites to local classes led by visiting leaders.

LOL I recently heard a poet say that at one time he didn’t know what all of the “Orisa” stuff was about…he reminded me that there was a time when neither did I. 🙂 I am only just beginning to learn. If you want to know more, feel free to hit me up and I will point you to what I can. For those who were just curious, I hope this gave you a little bit more info.  For all: walk with good character, be blessed, live in abundance, and ask questions. And always, do you because no one else can. Ase!

BOOKS TO READ:

Inner Peace, The Yoruba Concept of Ori; Family Spirit, The Yoruba Concept of Egun – Falokun Fatunmbi

Fundamentals of the Yoruba Religion – Chief Fama

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I Am Not My Hair

I Am Not My Hair

Then & Now…Changes

So, yeah. I actually had relaxers once. I grew up (literally) in my grandmother’s beauty salon. She didn’t do relaxers, but she did a LOT of coloring, straightening, press & curls…I loved my Shirley Temple curls. Easter Sunday, I was fly.

I never disliked my natural hair. I was constantly told in various settings (school, work, etc) that natural hair (and let’s be real, we’re talking about NAPPY hair,) just wasn’t going to be popular, or this man liked it less than my long straight tresses, or this job really liked to promote a corporate code of dress. I started to get sick of it around 2003, and I think I needed to get away from my marriage at the time to feel completely good about the transition. The black and white pic above is shortly after I’d finally finished gradually cutting the relaxer out. Talk about scared at the time!

I hear so many of the same sentiments I remember saying to myself at the time: am I going to be “as” pretty, will I know what to do with it, will my head be humongous, etc, etc…but in the end, it just didn’t matter. When it was all said and done, if someone thought I was less attractive with natural hair, basically, YOU just got less attractive to ME. If a job thought my hair was inappropriate, I reconsidered my position (or decided to assert my absolute RIGHT to do what I want with my hair and still maintain a professional appearance. PLUS, my hair has NOTHING to do with my ability to do a job). And finally, I started to really learn how beautiful, how fly, how versatile, and how freeing natural hair is…and I just could never go back, I think. It’s what works for ME. Yet that does not mean it is what should work for everyone, nor does my having natural hair mean I judge those who do not.

Yes, we need to be proud of who we are. We need to know who we are, and where we come from. We certainly need to never internalize the racial oppression that exists to such a degree that we seek to emulate the appearance of another race in a bid for acceptance. I just don’t think these points are the basis for why ALL sisters rock a relaxer or straight hair. I think some are simply more comfortable, find themselves more beautiful, have decided a certain life path where they do not feel they CAN assert their right to do as they  choose in a professional setting (and yes, that’s a reality even if it DOES very much need to change!). Is that comfort or self-assessment perhaps based on some of what we’ve internalized? I’m sure sometimes that’s the case.

The point? I CAN’T JUDGE YOU for the choices you make about YOU. All I can do is DO ME, and hope that the love and appreciation I show towards my sisters for their beauty communicates a simple thought: all I can do is show you who I am. I would rather inspire you than to tear you down. Who am I to knock your journey? We are sisters, and mirrors of one another; we must love each other in a world that often refuses to love us for just being who we are.

By asiarainey