Yes yes, yall! Today is the 2nd anniversary of my initiation as an Obatala priestess!! If you are new to You Are The Truth, or need a refresher, you can click here to learn all about my year-long initiation process of wearing white in the Ifa/Lucumi faith.
I am proud that the article on my iyawo year (yah-WOE) is my most read blog post to date, even gaining over 1000 views in ONE DAY, and shared by readers all over the world! Thank you to every initiate and iyawo that shared insight on their journey, and continued blessings to those who were inspired to embark on a spiritual quest of their own.
Iyalosa (Ee-yah-low-sha, or Babalosa for men), is the Nigerian Yoruba title for an initiated priest, literally meaning mother/father of the orisha. This is not to be confused as saying that the orisha are my children, but rather represents the caring relationship of my spiritual commitment – consider the “Mother Mary’s” and “Father Thomas’s” in the Catholic church.
My first year as an initiate has been vastly different from my year as a iyawo/spiritual baby (rightfully so). Here are the Top 11 Things Learned Since Committing to the Path of a Priest —
You have become an ordained spiritual leader…fa real.
The first few dobales (action where an orisha devotee kneels at your feet in respect of your position, and to receive the blessing of your orisha) will freak you out; you will feel awkward, and likely not worthy. Leading others through rituals feels strange, especially when you were once the one learning the same rituals! It’ll be weird when an omorisha/olorisha (name for a non-initiated devotee; “member of the church”) makes your first plate of food, or gives up their seat for you. Just remember that the novice and non-intiated devotee isn’t bowing to you, but to the Orisha you carry. And not just honoring you, but the commitment you have made to lead in a righteous way.
Teachers become allies.
Your actions during your iyawo will mark you throughout your priesthood, and determine how you are received by the elders. Play your cards right as a iyawo (and before), and you will gain the support and camaraderie of those who have come before you with love and education all the days of your life.
Sometimes colors just feel weird.
In my closet to this day, I keep all whites on one side, and colors on the other. Some people will be so ready to jump back into their pre-ocha wardrobe, but don’t be surprised if you find yourself disinterested in your old clothes and have developed new tastes by the end of the iyawo year. White still maintains its holy and calming influence into your priesthood.
Life goes on.
Before becoming a priest, you “make bread, and fetch water”. After you become a priest, you “make bread, and fetch water”. I don’t stir my coffee from across the room like in Bewitched. Life goes on (or in some cases goes back to normal), even for the enlightened. But you are still special, even if attending to the seemingly mundane. I missed being a iyawo for a while – so much so that I understood why newborn babies cry so much.
Being a priest isn’t all about money drawing rituals.
Sometimes Olivia Pope wears black. After initiation, the orisha will begin to send work and people your way, and sometimes you just have to get spiritually down and dirty. Just as there are universal energies that support us, there are also energies designed to bring us down. And just as people love us, others despise us. Sometimes a person will cry out for help, and sometimes the Universe will determine that YOU and your ashe (innate spiritual power/essence) are their answer.
Call in the reinforcements!
You are new at this priest thing, and not expected to know everything. When in doubt, call in the reinforcements! Call your godparent, your ajubona (2nd godparent), or other elders or priests in your ile/temple/house. Build a library of reference books and spiritual journals. And when all else fails….
When in doubt, ask Eshu.
Yooo, he sits in the midst of the crossroads for a reason! There will be times when you are in a pickle and can’t reach an elder. But you are an initiate now – you stand on your own foundation. Communicate with your orisha. Practice divination. If you don’t know how yet, make it a priority and meditate in front of your Elegba or your shrine. Ocha tuned your spiritual frequency…dial in at any time!!
Charge for your work, or it won’t work.
A strange woman once showed up at my apartment door, blubbering –
“I heard you help people! Are you Caribbean?”
I panicked inside. WHAT IN THE H***! WHO LET THE CAT OUT OF THE BAG?! But I made one huge mistake in agreeing to help her (and learned quite the lesson) – I didn’t ask for any payment, and the woman never offered. Now, payment doesn’t mean $1000. Sometimes payment is simply a sincere offering from the heart. Sometimes payment is labor, or time. Was your initiation free?! The work we do as spiritual people is real work. It can wear you out. Don’t throw your pearls away. And don’t ever let someone try to make you believe that existing as a spiritual being makes you a perpetual volunteer. Just because some spiritual crooks swindle people out of thousands of dollars doesn’t mean that the good workers do so for free.
A crowned ego is a pitiful thing to witness.
It seems as if some people wait their whole lives for a justification of their foolishness. Sometimes, an initiate will become a flesh balloon inflated with ego and self-celebration. Pompous. Degrading of others. Quick to correct, but slow to learn and listen. An elder told me once of egotistical priests – “It’s like a light bulb saying ‘I know more now, because I’m on.” Understanding ego has never been my job. The moment I peep the game, I give them an ol’ Olivia —
Silence is still golden.
Ocha teaches the iyawo to watch, observe, and absorb. Don’t spend your iyawo year preparing for your moment to speak out. Yes, you know a little bit. Yes, you can still teach some things. Ok, so you read a book by Karade and memorized the each orisha’s chakra and catholic saint. But, you will continue to learn more by being quiet and attentive, asking choice and calculated questions when needed.
Sometimes you will feel spiritually overwhelmed.
You will think “Did I really do this ish?!” You may not want the responsibility of clientele, godchildren, and prayer requests. You may try to live your life in a pre-initiation way. Your blood family may still find you crazy. Dates may be stuck on stupid when you say “I’m not Christian” and further, “I’m a priest.” You may feel unworthy of your own crown altogether…..
You will come across your Ita and remember the unique and personal promises of your Orisha – promises made to you and no one else. And you will remember what they and your ancestors have done. And each time a prayer or ritual made a situation budge in your favor.
And you will own the light and power of God in you, remembering that you stopped being ordinary a long time ago. Because, really darling……………
And you’ll readjust your crown – or white hat – and keep on being powerful, like the Universe intended you to be.
Initiates – What have you learned since you became a priest?
Please share your years of priesthood and your lessons below for the current and upcoming Iyawos, and young initiates, like myself, across the world.
12 thoughts on “They Called Me Olivia Pope (Part II): 11 Things I’ve Learned as a Priestess”
Although this was posted a few years ago, it is timely for me today. Many things were confirmed and reaffirmed. Thank you for sharing.
Great read! Thanking for sharing, I really needed to read this! Much love!!!
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You are welcome, Zee! What did you get from this post?
alafia Iya Obatala!!! I am crowned Shango for 20 years.. Many Many stories TO tell. Walk in light AND blessings ashe
Ase Iya Obatala
Reading through the article “11 things I’ve Learned as a Priestess” I could not help but notice similarities in the way we do things within our ‘supposed’ different faiths. RESPECT!!!
Comparison of Ukuthwasa/ South African Ngaka/ Inyanga (Healer) to the Obatala priestess initiation.
The initiation (Ukuthwasa) period varies, Some initiates are more in tune with the universe than others. Training may be for a week to a year wearing red and white or a kanga that represents their ancestral descent in the Zulu and Tsonga faith.
Ukuthwasa period would be your Iyawo year (yah-WOE).
Gogo for women or Mkhulu for men, is the Zulu title for an initiate, literally meaning grandmother/grandfather of the ithwasa.
Baba/ Gobela, is the South African title for an initiated ngaka, meaning the mother/ father of idlozi.
The amathwasa are spiritual children as Baba/ Gobela has a spiritual commitment to care for their spiritual needs and guide them beyond the training period.
As uGogo/ an ordained spiritual leader, amathwasa will thokozisa (action where a thwasa/ devotee kneels at your feet in respect of your position, and to receive the blessing of your idlozi)
An ithwasa (name for a non-initiated devotee) respects the ordained as an elder.
Therefore, like in Yoruba “the novice and non-intiated devotee isn’t bowing to you, but to the Orisha/ Idlozi you carry. And not just honoring you, but the commitment you have made to lead in a righteous way”.
I find guidance and learn much from elders I did not even know during my ukuthwasa process. I’m often told that I’ve a pure aura by the elders. As inyanga I’ve learned to respect people from all walks of life and never take the universe and what it presents to me for granted.
In terms of wardrobe choice, well, for me it was just automatic to just represent idlozi that i carry and its spiritual representation. I feel uncomfortable wearing some of my pre-thwasa clothes.
Life goes on.
This past August was my 7th anniversary as inyanga/ Gogo so Priestess Washington would have to bow to my idlozi *chuckles*. I remember my first week back home, I still wanted to sleep on a grass mat. My bed felt so uncomfortable. As restricted as my diet was during initiation, to this day there’s still food I choose not to eat.
I’m in total agreement with: “After initiation, the idlozi will begin to send work and people your way, and sometimes you just have to get spiritually down and dirty. Sometimes a person will cry out for help, and sometimes the Universe will determine that only YOU and your isipho (innate spiritual power/essence) are their answer”.
I’m sometimes guided to places I’ve never been to heal. As a corporate executive my intervention is needed in the most awkward of places like the office or client meetings. At a time that the universe wants YOUR intervention, the call cannot be ignored. The consequences can be detrimental.
Your reinforcements as a new initiate would similarly be your bab’omkhulu (godparent), your gobela/ ajubona (2nd godparent), or other elders in your mpande/ ile/temple/house.
As Gogo (ordained priestess/ initiate) has already advised; when in doubt, ask Idlozi/ Eshu. “As you are an initiate now – you stand on your own foundation. Communicate with your orisha/ idlozi. Practice divination/ ukuhlola. If you don’t know how yet, make it a priority and meditate in your ndumba/ emakhosini, emsamo/ front of your /Elegba or your shrine.
Oh yes, Charge for your work, or it won’t work.
I often fall into the pity trap and forget the outcome. People come from all over the country to seek help. Some are so grateful they consider me to be family. I then feel bad for charging. In other cases when I devine I pick up a person’s struggles and feel pity.
People that pay or insist on paying see results quicker so it seems as though “All good things are for those that have money” I am slowly learning to remind my clients to give thanks with whatever is possible.
I have a family and I have left my professional job to dedicate my time to my calling. At times I work tirelessly throughout the day and occasionally get woken up during the night because there’s an emergency.
I’m in total agreement that “payment doesn’t mean $1000. Sometimes payment is simply a sincere offering from the heart. Sometimes payment is labor, or time. Indeed, our initiation was not free. The work we do as spiritual people is real work, It can wear you out. Don’t throw your pearls away. And don’t ever let someone try to make you believe that existing as a spiritual being makes you a perpetual volunteer. Just because some spiritual crooks swindle people out of thousands of dollars doesn’t mean that the good workers do so for free”.
Sometimes you will feel spiritually overwhelmed.
I often ask “where do I send my resignation letter?”
I’m only 35 years old. The responsibility of being a spiritual guide is ernomous. The Universe throws challenges at You daily. As a nyanga you have to reach far and beyond because idlozi will never give you anything too big to handle – if there is such a thing.
Society judges you daily, Its as though you have to justify your existence daily. Your calling is demonised by lack of understanding and yes, at times “you may feel unworthy of your own crown altogether…”
The sense of fulfillment and peace I get when I achieve successes supersedes the negativity.
I then remember that my parents named me “NEO” (the calling/ gift) for a reason. Kganya, Lesedi (Let your light shine)
I bow in Respect to your dlozi Gogo. Makhosi *the greeting we use in respect of your crown my african Queen*
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Neo!!! How thorough! Thank you for sharing the congruencies! I had a corporate job as a iyawo, and I’m still a professional. My corporate and spiritual selves coexist now… Never compete.
Thank you so much for your wisdom. Although I am not a iyawo, as an akomfwaa I can relate to all that you have experienced. I know that I am not alone.
Alafia Iyalosha Obatala: You’re word’s are Very good. . KEEP your Light shining, as we meet on Our Journey. . Happy Ocha Birthday !!
Iyalosha Oshosi OdeBunmi
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Thank you so much!!