Getting Involved in Candomblé VII: The Importance of Sacrifice
by Iya Melissa
It’s no secret that there is animal sacrifice in Candomblé. However, there are many types of sacrifices that we make when we decide to follow Candomblé (or any other religious belief system).
The biggest sacrifice that I think is understated is that of time. Once you enter an Ile, you will be expected to participate regularly and be available for ceremonies if invited to participate. And to be clear, the participation could be anything from helping to clean to actually participating in ritual.
Many North Americans are used to living fairly close to their house of worship. It’s not common to have to book a flight or travel several hours to get to church. In Candomblé, however, you need to be prepared to travel. Let it sink in. There is no way around it.
Luckily today you don’t have to go to Brazil (at least not right away), but you’ll likely have to go to another state or travel some distance within your state. Obviously, your Iya will likely be forgiving and understand that you can’t be present at everything if you live in another state (or even if you live in Rochester, NY and she’s on Long Island), but if you live in the same city you will be expected to be present.
Does that mean that one can’t believe in Orixa without giving up their time? Absolutely not. But if you’re not ready to make that sacrifice, don’t enter an Ile. Be a client, go to feasts, get all the hugs and blessings from Orixa, get a reading from time to time. But if you aren’t willing to sacrifice the time it takes to travel to your Ile, be in touch with your Iya and irmãos so you can develop relationships and grow, if you just can’t miss that BBQ on Saturday, it’s best to stay on the sidelines.
You’ll also be sacrificing your ego. If you can’t do that, entering an Ile is not the best move for you. Participating in Candomblé requires extreme levels of humility. If in your personal life, you need to have the last word, can’t stand to be corrected, don’t like to learn new things or step out of your comfort zone, don’t like (or respect) rules then you will struggle within an Ile. In fact, you probably won’t last long. The truth is, the Ile in Candomblé is a great equalizer. It doesn’t matter what your profession, income, zip code, modus operandi, etc is outside the walls of the Ile; an abiyan is an abiyan, a iyawo is a iyawo, and an egbomi is an egbomi with each having its rules of comportment, rights and responsibilities. If you are willing to evolve and step outside of your ego – which is, admittedly, no easy task, you might be for Candomblé.
There’s a saying Candomblé was made for everyone, but not everyone was made for Candomblé. It’s real.
Do lots of soul searching and self reflection and have honest conversations with your Iya before you take steps that you may not be truly ready for. Don’t be enamored by the beautiful clothes and ignore what it takes to be able to wear them. Your Iya is going to sacrifice her time to help you and your irmãos, the Ile deserves the same from you.