Many people look to Orisha and expect to be given things – a spouse, money, children, a
job, etc. When we approach Orisha from this perspective, we are actually commodifying the divine. It’s not unusual for worshipers to petition Orisha for blessings; actually this is what we do when we pray. However, we have to recognize that this is not the only way to interact with Orisha. Orisha are not jeannies in bottles waiting to grant us three wishes; we will not be successful in life without taking responsibility for our own actions.
In order to be successful, one much plan. One must decide what success means, and then carefully build one’s way toward success. We do not plant seeds and expect them to grow by themselves. We have to make sure the lighting is right, that the temperature is favorable, that the seed receives the amount of water it needs to germinate. Only when we have done everything that we need to do will we be able to reap the benefits of a flourishing garden.
It would be foolish of me to plant tropical seeds in New York during winter months. It would be even more foolish of me to blame my gardening failure on the conditions surrounding me instead of taking responsibility for being foolish to begin with. Personal responsibility – holding ourselves accountable and accepting blame for misstepping – is part of our spiritual development.
One of my favorite Yoruba proverbs reminds us that the Earth is a marketplace and Heaven is our true home. Like everything, there’s more than one way to interpret this proverb.
In our 21st Century world, we go shopping with a goal – we’re looking for something to purchase, and we would like to return home having purchased that thing. In other words, we want to accomplish our goal – we want to return home having been successful at finding and purchasing the desired object. We were not put on Earth to fail. If Earth is the marketplace, we were sent here with a mission to accomplish and the objective is to be successful.
To continue this line of thinking, after we make our purchase the cashier places it in an opaque bag. People will be able to see that we bought something, but they don’t know if it’s a pack of batteries or an expensive cell phone. It’s not uncommon to put the purchase in the trunk of the car once we leave the mall. The contents of the trunk are invisible to onlookers. By placing valuables in the trunk, we also hope to reduce the risk of being robbed. After all, it would be unfortunate to have made and executed a plan only to be denied the opportunity to enjoy the fruits of your labor.
On our journey to success, it’s not enough to have a plan and be responsible. It’s also important to safeguard the plan – even being secretive at times – in order to ensure the plan’s success. Orisha wants us to be successful. Orisha religion, through, prayer, divination and sacrifice, provides the tools we need to be met with success.
Ti isu eni ba jina, a maan fi owo boo je ni – roughly when your yam is ripe, keep it a secret until you’re ready to let others eat it
Not everyone around you will be rooting for your success. Some will see your plans and want to take your ideas. Others will want to steer you in a different direction. Be steadfast in your own destiny. What is meant for you may not be meant for your neighbor. We have to be responsible in all of our movements in order to receive the blessings of our Ori, Orisha and Olodumare.
Odu’a Organization of Michigan has a free Yoruba language class available online. This proverb was the subject of Lesson 9, and inspired this article.