|I have a dilemma of sorts. And a pet peeve. And a hang-up. And an opportunity (or is it just a dilemma?). Add them together, and I have a situation.|
Now I'm looking for some insight to top it off.
[Note: for the sake of discussion I'm taking a strongly external approach to deities/spirits as having some objective reality outside the mind of the worshipper/magickian. I know beliefs about this differ, but it is the worldview in which my dilemma exists.]
First, the hang-up: I've always been a big stickler about "entitlement" and "credibility" of various sorts, especially when I'm getting into new things. I just, usually, don't feel like it is appropriate for me to get all involved in something until I've "done my homework" and "paid my dues," so to speak. Example: I won't wear a band's t-shirt unless I own at least most of their albums, and preferably have seen them live - otherwise I feel like I'm advertising a level of knowledge and dedication I haven't earned or proven. Similarly, there are a number of things I'm interested in (in music, politics, etc.), each of which has its own "scene," and which I feel I can study about but not claim to belong to. Being a white American male (raised by "white liberal guilt"-ridden parents), I'm especially conscious of charges of "cultural appropriation" - especially when I listen to hip-hop and funk, and most especially since my favorite hip-hop is very racially politicized (Public Enemy, Paris, etc.). The feeling goes something like: "who am I, as a white boi, to be listening to Black Revolutionary music like I'm somehow entitled to do so?"
Next, the pet peeve: I've spent a lot of time over the past decade involved with various Neo-Pagan groups and individuals, and one thing that always bothered me is the common "plug'n'play" cross-cultural deity-selection that goes on, where some people will flip through a list of Gods and Goddesses of the World and pick whatever looks good to them, without any consideration for the deity's home culture, their traditions of worship (it's all just calling the quarters, with different names, it seems), and their own backgrounds. The role of the deity (as summarized in the list: "Fertility," "War," "Nature") takes precedence over their individual identities (two different war gods can be very different), and they become interchangeable, with details added for aesthetic flavor.
It's bad enough, in my mind, when this is done with the ancient deities of "dead" religions (i.e. no current active cult), but it is truly alarming when done with deities who are currently, actively worshipped, like the loa and the orishas, or the Hindu deities. I have read several diatribes by actual members of these religions against Neo-Pagans who have freely appropriated (read: "stolen and disgraced") their deities without taking any care to revere them properly - for instance, if it takes a person from the "home culture" 10 years of devoted apprenticeship and study to become a priest to their ancestral deities, how can a book-taught foreign pagan have the gall to "summon" them into a circle in their suburban livingroom to preside over the coven's weekly ceremony (with a different set of gods the next week)?
Now, my own feelings on this are somewhat more flexible - depending on what reality-tunnel I've stepped into (internal vs external, etc.). I generally feel, at least for "dead" gods, that so long as a person is led by a sincere desire to revere the deity and does the research into how best to do so, there shouldn't be too big a problem. But what about the orishas and loa? They are actively worshipped, in various incarnations and forms, by many thousands of people - according to strict traditions which they themselves are believed to have established according to their own preferences. They are also (at least for the loa, and I think for the orishas too) quite literally ancestral gods - there is a direct passage of received knowledge and spirit from priest to apprentice running back countless generations (except where broken by the slave trade). One's own ancestors are also revered in a manner that is inseparable, it would seem, from the reverence of the loa or orishas.
Enter the opportunity: although I had made, for most of my life, a concerted effort to avoid being involved in “godwork” or dealings with deities of any kind (the recent Pumpkin King workings being an exception), I am experiencing what feels very much like a Divine Being trying to get my attention. [I realize as I write this that this is my third post in one day suggesting contact with three different deities – this really isn’t typical for me, and I have even, like I said, tried to avoid it…]
A web of synchronicity and affinity seems to be drawing ever more clearly a connection of some sort between myself and the West African deity Ellegua (a Fon deity also know as Elegba, Legba, or Elegbara and associated with the Yahomean Eshu or Eshu-Elegbara, the Vodoun Papa Legba, etc.). Ellegua is the youngest child of Mawu (the female principle of the androgynous high god), and the only one who can communicate between her and her other 8 children, the orishas. He is lord of the crossroads (and thereby travel), and communication, and sexuality – and a trickster. In contrast to Haiti’s old man Papa Legba, he is young and childlike, and loves offerings of candy and toys.
Looking back over my life, there are many points of affinity (which I won’t get into right now), but now especially I am experiencing in my life many of the “symptoms” of Ellegua feeling neglected - i.e. drastic and willful interpersonal miscommunication (a particular flavor of miscommunication which is typical of Ellegua’s mischief – “the hat was red!”), troubles with transportation (bye-bye car ), disappearing emails and voicemail messages, spectacular feats of mishearing/misreading things that “ought” to be clear… In addition, I am finding references to him everywhere I go – often by “accident” (clicking on the wrong link, opening to the wrong page), and a constant, quiet nagging sense that I really need to start paying attention to him. Beyond the anecdotal evidence is the intuitive “sure-ness” that is (subjectively) far more convincing.
The orishas, I believe, are very much living gods, and are fully capable of reaching out to someone if they so choose.
The dilemma: so I may very well have been “tapped” by Ellegua. For whatever reason, he wants my attention. But what of his other worshippers, and the centuries of tradition? [Please refer to the “hang-up” and “pet-peeve” above. : S] I suppose that, if there is a deity who might be inclined to buck tradition, Ellegua would be him… But I still have trouble reconciling my feelings, especially since I lack any connection to Ellegua’s home culture.
I’m not sure I’m looking for advice, per se – I think I just need someplace to bat this back and forth a little bit, and maybe gain some insight. Is there anyone here who has had similar experiences? Is there anyone here who formally worships Ellegua (or any of his related incarnations) and has something to say about it?
It was said in an older thread about Vodoun that one “shouldn’t mess around with the lwa,” and by extension the orishas. Let me say again that I have had no intention of doing so – I did not seek out information about Ellegua until the “signs” had already started coming, and I am proceeding very cautiously (too cautiously, perhaps, for Ellegua’s liking??).
Anyone have anything to say, about my situation specifically or the topic in general?