“The four essential elements—air, fire, water, and earth—are the most basic forms of Divine
manifestation and serve as important intermediaries between us and Spirit” (Doumbia 69)
Traditional religions of Africa are primarily mythical, symbolic and dramatic in nature. They are celebrated orally, visually and through ritual. They are not predominantly conceptional or philosophical; yet, they have much to teach regarding the relationship of humankind to the resources of the Earth. In African societies, such as the western Yorùbá of Nigeria and Benin, deities, called òrìṣà (orisha), remained intimately connected to their people, controlling the elements: assisting with abundant harvest, or providing deliverance through natural disasters. Adama Doumbia grew up with the language of West African spirituality. He writes,
"Everything that has life speaks; everything that speaks tells the story of Spirit. This is the language of our ancestors, the language that teaches us how to live in harmony with our surroundings and with one another. Many of us have lost this language, though everything around us continues to speak. When we listen carefully to the whistle of the wind and the cries of the bush, we hear this language. When we observe closely the blossoms of the earth and the colors of the seasons, we connect to this sacred language that brings us closer to Spirit."
As the slave trade brought African culture into the Western world, spanning north to south from the United States to Argentina, these òrìṣà retained their earthy foundation while gaining attributes applicable and meaningful for slaves surviving their new life in the New World. Arriving in Spanish and Portuguese settlements, many Yorùbá were forced to embrace the Catholic faith. Merging with Catholic folk culture seems to have been a factor in the preservation of òrìṣà worship in the Americas. Catholicism provided a place for the African deities to “hide” from religious opposition, deep within its ritual and its pantheon of saints.
Osanyin, for example, is the lord of the forest; an òrìṣà worshiped for his genius with herbs and plant medicine. He is associated with Saint Joseph and to those who practice Santeria, the Afro-Cuban religion, his art is essential for healing and protection from evil influence.
In Haitian Voudoun mythology, where òrìṣà are called loa, Ogoun is not only the hero warrior, but also the god of fire, governing the forging of weapons from metal. Maya Deren, who became a Voudoun initiate while filming in Haiti, writes: “The Nigerian Ogoun who crossed the ocean from Africa was [...] a sky divinity, Lord of the Thunderbolt, of fire and of might." To serve the Voudoun communities, Ogounʼs character has broadened to numerous incarnations, all of which bear the essence of conflict and power; a force almost inevitably linked to fire and heat. Ogoun is invoked through the flames of rum poured on the ground and ignited.
Shango is another African-derived deity. Also a sky god, representing thunder and lightning, he possesses a power of his own. For those who practice Santeria, Shango is a warrior king whose weapons and tools are made exclusively of wood—no metal—on account of a mythic feud with Ogoun.
Although deities, originating from the African cast, manifest through the forces of nature; they cannot be limited to the realm of gross matter. Their attributes explode beyond the classical confines of animistic religions to display a multidimensionality of power and principle. They are not bound within the phenomenal world, but instead use it as a vehicle. As energies that activate the elements, the òrìṣà become perceptible and relatable through manifestation. They are the animating àṣẹ (ashé), energy or vital life force, of the cosmos.
Òrìṣà are not constricted by the elements, yet certain universal and primordial principles certainly tend to follow them as they manifest throughout time and on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Fluidity, fertility, sensuality, and abundance grace the identities of those female òrìṣà who reside among the waters.
I will share about these dynamic goddess energies over the next few days as we observe AFRICA DAY all week long.
FOR TODAY: Celebrate the Òrìṣà by awakening the Earth Elements within you.
In meditation, use your breath to feel grounded. Concentrate on the exhalation, allowing yourself to settle into the Earth. Let go of any uneasy feelings and allow your heart-mind to feel embodied, connected to the strength of the earth element.
Then, use your breath to experience water in your body. Notice that even when you are still, there is a dynamism remaining in each limb of your body. Your blood is circulating. Your breath is fluid. Your internal organs are pulsating to the rhythm of your internal vibration. Enjoy the fluidity within.
Now embrace your inner fire. Feel the heat of your vital flame. The spark that illuminates your intentions and empowers your endeavors. Find gratitude for the radiance that sustains you.
Feel spaciousness in your being. The breath that breathes you creates opening in your consciousness. You are free. You are expansive. You are infinite potential.
Enjoy the elements, the àṣẹ as vital life force that animates YOU!
In Love and Radiant Light,
Beier, Ulli. Yoruba Poetry. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1970.
Cohen, Peter F. “The Orisha Atlantic: Historicizing the Roots of a Global Religion” Transnational Transcendence: Essays on Religion and Globalization. Ed. Thomas J. Csordas. Berkeley: U of CA P, 2009.
Deren, Maya. Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti. New York: McPherson & Co, 1953
Doumbia, Adama and Naomi Doumbia. The Way of the Elders: West African Spirituality and Tradition. St. Paul: Llewellyn Publications, 2004.
Grillo, Laura. “African Religions.” Encyclopedia of Women and World Religion. 2 vols. Macmillan Reference USA, 1999.
Murphy, Joseph. Santeria: African Spirits in America. Boston: Beacon P, 1988.
Water is the new gold. The necessity to cherish and preserve this invaluable reserve has become evident throughout the world. Organizations such as the World Water Council champion widespread awareness of our ecological vulnerability. Human existence depends on H2O, and that same life-sustaining compound depends on human responsibility. Climate shifts, pollution and industrial consumption have contributed to the alarm. According to data gathered from the United Nations, this year the world will use one quadrillion liters of the substance. Each year, the demand increases by 64 trillion liters!*
Most people give very little thought to the source of this resource. The tap is a long way from the sea, a distance that gaps the relationship between the consumer and the consumed. Past peoples revered water for nourishment, healing, and life. New world civilizations forgot the primal intelligence of water worship; and so doing have endangered her integrity.
African religions retain the wisdom of Earth communion in their oral traditions, mythic expressions and sacred rituals. For Africa and the African Diaspora, water is a goddess. She manifests in various forms of sensuality, motherhood, and abundance. Whether she is called Ọṣun, Yemaya, Ogbuide, or Mami Wata, she is worshiped as a vital force of female power coursing through the current of our greatest terrene treasure.
Learn more about African deities and water goddesses.
In celebration of Africa Day, May 25, I will be offering seven days of posts that illuminate African myth for personal empowerment and inspiration to support the natural resources of our planet.
Follow me right here...
In Love and Radiant Light,
* Worldometers - real time world statistics. 28 Nov. 2011. Worldometers.info. 28 Nov. ! 2011 <http://www.worldometers.info>.
photo: Chris Campbell, Liberia W. Africa
May 25 is a day to support and celebrate Africa.
Originally the founding date for the Organization of African Unity, now Africa Day is celebrated in Namibia, Zambia, Ghana and Zimbabwe.
Celebrations are held on other parts of the continent as well, and throughout the African Diaspora of the Americas. Join me, this week, in celebrating Africa through the myths of her native religions and diaspora. Follow a seven part series entitled: Water Goddess: Bridging the Gap with African Myth. Each post will conclude with a consideration for
personal empowerment and invocation of the natural energies that sustain the planet as they vivify our lives. I will also post links to some of my favorite organizations, those who support water efforts in Africa and in other parts of the world. Clean water access and conservation is a concern very near to my heart. Nothing awakens my spirit in the same manner as a good swim: in a hot spring, ocean or river! It has become crucial to preserve this invaluable resource for
future generations and the sustainability of our World. Having had the blessed opportunity to visit Africa and meet some incredible young people in Liberia and Ghana, I am inspired to support those who are spreading hope and empowerment to the African youth. Below is a list of friends who are actively reaching out through HIV/Aids education, after-school programs, fair trade initiatives and YOGA. The Strongheart Fellowship
Africa Yoga Project
Water.orgYoga WorldreachNot everyone can pioneer international initiatives or environmental programs. It is not every person's dharma to build bridges, dig wells, or teach children in African countries. Most of you are needed for your skills and services in your local communities and families. But you can visit the links above and show your support for those who are spreading joy and empowerment on your behalf. Take a moment to celebrate and support someone in Africa today.
In Love and Radiant Light, R.R. Shakti
photo: Brandi Gee, Badlands SD.
Dear Dr. S.,
I gather from your description that you are indeed climbing too high. Sanskrit and India are really a bit much. You must turn back to the simple things, just as your dream says. There is the star. You must go in quest of yourself, and you will find yourself again only in the simple and forgotten things. Why not go into the forest for a time, literally? Sometimes a tree tells you more than can be read in books.
With best wishes,
from The Earth Has A Soul: C.G. Jung on Nature, Technology & Modern Life
Ed. Meredith Sabini
She was honey and milk.
Freedom sprang from her footsteps as her gaze fell upon only the most beautiful things.
There was no greater compliment than her attention.
She responded as if I was the only proper noun with which to verb;
and if I said it, it was certainly the truth.
If I valued it, it was the most important of all things.
She made me matter to myself,
and by the example of her easy-going Grace, I decided to choose to be lovely.
photo: Third Eye Visionaries
Beltane, a Celtic holiday is opportunity to Celebrate your Inner Power as Creative and Luminous Light! Beltane is said to translate as "radiant fire." It is the half-way mark between the Spring Equinox and the Summer Solstice and as such honors the warmth and glory of the Sun. It is celebrated on this day, the first day of May. The true astrological mid-point, however, generally falls between now and May 9.
Also known as May Day, Beltane worships the goddess, the Earth and the fertility of Creation.
In Celtic Mythology Brigid, goddess of Fire, was born at the exact moment of daybreak and rose into the sky with the sun, beams of light pouring forth from her hands. Brigid offers a message of empowerment: to stand in your truth and speak from your heart; to manifest your Dreams!
Today, on this glorious Spring day, allow new life to begin—renewed from within you. Set an intention to manifest something extraordinary this summer and energize the next 9 days with the light of your Inner Power. In other words, allow it to happen through the Grace of balanced Effort and Surrender.
You already embody illuminate Beauty and Creative Fire. It is time to let it Shine.
In Love and Radiant Light,
Lissi started with the calming and rejuevenating ingrediants from Shakti's recommended Scents for Stress blend found in the Yoga for Stress Relief article from Dec. 2009. She added her own goddess alchemy and brought the most scentsational aroma into the world. Proceeds from its sales benefit Yoga World Reach!!
Visit the Breathe Deep website: http://www.breathedeepnaturals.com
or check out Lissi's delicious alchemy at Yoga Rocks the Butte in February.
An ill-fated spider-creepy crawls up the shower wall as I splish-splash in the drip-drops.
I spy him with a startle and uneasily wish he had chosen some different location to browse around this life. But as I watch him, I begin to root for his safety.
He isn’t exactly the “itsy bitsy spider” of nursery rhyme fame, and so I’m skiddish about picking him up and transferring him to drier ground. And anyway, he is quickly gaining elevation away from the perils of the shower spray. Yay!
It isn’t everyday that I would cheer for a spider.
But today, having just arrived home after teaching for 5 weeks in Central America, my awareness has shifted around insects. In the Caribbean mangroves and tropical jungles, bugs teem encroaching and there is nothing that can be done. Roaches, ants, mosquitoes, spiders, flies, scorpions, moths..... there in the thick of it, its impossible to kill every imposing nuisance that threatens to bite, sting, or spread disease.
And so, I let them be. That’s right: if they weren’t directly set in a crash course towards my mouth, eyes, or skin they were allowed to co-exist in the world right beside me.
And that is when it happened—a shift, I mean. I started to see them for who they are: these tiny creatures with short little lives, not much smaller than my own. In fact, somewhere someone might as well be peering down at me and thinking, “Oh, what an incorrigible pest!”
Even the mosquitoes (and I have truly HATED mosquitoes) began to take the novel shape of something that is actually alive. Something that strives for its safety. I guess I have known on some deep level that insects are sentient beings worthy of ahimsa (non-harming); but if a mosquito bites, my hand strikes. It is like an automatic response. And how interesting, really, that my instinct is so violent:
KILL that thing that has violated me and disrupted my peaceful star gazing, or book reading, or meditation practice. KILL. KILL. KILL!
Is it really worth such atrocious revenge?
The Bible says, “an eye for an eye;”
not “a life for a tiny little itchy spot that will go away in about 48 hours.”
And by the time I smash its bloody corpse across my skin, the damage has already been done. I have already been stung. Satisfaction is merely fleeting from such an arguably inordinate vindication. I am left with not only an itchy bump, but also an icky slump from having killed a living thing.
After all, a mosquito IS a living thing. It may not have any Earthly value OTHER than its life.
And although that fact barely seems like a strong enough appeal, I know that there are no mistakes under the sun. I can love the mosquito for being such a crucial part of the food chain.
I can love them?
I CAN love them!
And thanks to my mountain hOMe-base, most of the time I can love them from a distance.
Back in the shower, something tragic happens. The spider slips unexpectedly and falls to its watery doom. I am left standing over the drain, Dr. Bronners in hand, feeling a little sorry that I hadn’t turned off the water; grabbed a dab of toilet paper, and moved him to the safety of my courtyard.