I want…but I don’t want…

I know that it’s been a really long time since I’ve last posted. I have to admit – I haven’t had much to say. But, over the last few months I’ve gotten some very interesting emails from people with questions about Candomblé. This post isn’t a criticism of people’s questions, but rather an analysis of how things work in Orisha world.

So, let’s start with some of the comments I’ve received:
I want to learn about Candomblé, but I don’t want to learn Portuguese.
I want to practice Candomblé, but I don’t want to go to Brazil.
I want to practice Candomblé, but I don’t want to be initiated.
The issues with these statements are not people’s desires. The issue is that people are turning their backs on possibilities when the door hasn’t even been opened, much less knocked on, yet. Nothing’s wrong with wanting to be in control in our profane lives; that’s healthy. However, the more I grow with my Orisha, the more I realize (and subsequently have to accept) that I’m not in as much control as I’d like.
The desires:
It’s not a mandate to learn Portuguese in order to practice Candomblé. However, let’s put this in perspective. The best books written about Candomblé are in Portuguese (or French). Even if you find a godparent that speaks English (or another member of the house that can translate for you), there’s a pretty much 99% chance that your grand-godparents (and most other elders) only speak Portuguese. Being able to communicate (and what I mean by communicate is the ability to listen to, understand and learn from) with your elders is invaluable. Leaving your life in the hands of someone else’s translation is also pretty risky, and I’ve written about that in an earlier blog.
Since I started this blog the USA Candomblé community has made some developments! There have been quite a few consistent initiations and feasts from coast to coast since 2007. Things are still very private; you aren’t likely to find an invitation to a feast on any of the popular North American Orisha lists or sites. Still, while it may be more possible than ever to find initiates in the US, there are still many difficulties. I firmly believe that every North American Candomblecista should make it to Brazil at least once to see either their godparent’s house, grand-godparent’s house or the matrix house of the nation. I think it’s important to have an understanding of how things are done at the source before replication is attempted. I also maintain that going to Brazil will give you a clearer idea of a priest’s ability to lead a congregation (if they don’t yet have one here).
brazilian flag
One of the top ten rules to understanding and participating in Candomblé is respecting divination (I’m using “top ten” figuratively here). In other words, whether or not we should be initiated really isn’t up to us. Walking into the religion thinking you’re going to call the shots only sets you up for a rude awakening.
So what am I saying? Candomblé is a religion of community, and there’s very little that a novice can do without having to travel, communicate with others and experience the community. If you are truly interested in learning about Candomblé and practicing the religion, then you have to be open to a wide range of possibilities. It’s not like walking into a restaurant and choosing what you want from the menu à la carte. If you have made up your mind to want, simply accept what comes. Once you begin verbalizing what you don’t want, you may find that what you actually want becomes more difficult to actualize.