About Iya Melissa de Osun
I’m Iyalorixá Melissa de Osun. I was initiated on July 28, 2007 and received my Deka on August 2, 2014 by my Babalorisa Leonardo de Osun of Ile Ase Iya Omi Osogbo ni fe Ode in the state of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I was born and raised in New York where I’ve been a public school teacher since 2004.
I was drawn to Candomblé by way of researching the similarities that exist between Nigeria, Brazil and Cuba in worshipping Ori. Looking back 20 years ago when I began studying Orisa religions, I never would have imagined that my Ori would have taken me to Brazil for initiation. My father is a Yoruba, and my interest in Orisa was driven by a desire to understand my history and traditional religion instead of taking on the history of others through their religions.
In the late 1990s, I decided that I wanted to become an Orisa devotee instead of simply learning the history. I met an American Iyalorisa in NY who was initiated in Osogbo who introduced me to her Babalawo. From my very first reading I always imagined myself going to Nigeria for initiation.
As I finished my Undergraduate studies in 2003 I was awarded a Mellon Undergraduate Fellowship grant to conduct research about Candomblé in Rio de Janeiro. I was fortunate to meet with professors at UERJ and priests of Candomblé to develop a deeper understanding of the system. I fell in love with Brazil on that trip, for sure, but my religious sights were still set on Nigeria. By that time I had become the godchild of a Babalawo from Osogbo, and planned to begin saving for a trip to Nigeria. With time, however, he revealed himself to be a homophobe and I decided to end that relationship.
I was in a religious limbo, neither belonging to an ile nor looking for one. I maintained friendships with the priests that I had met over the years, and in 2005 became the abiyan of a Brazilian Iyalorixa who lived in the US who I’d known since 1998. The decision had more to do with who I perceived her to be at the time than the branch of Orisa religion she practiced. While living in the States, she hadn’t established a terreiro here and didn’t maintain one in Brazil. In 2006 we went to Brazil so she could take me to a couple of different terreiros that were headed by good friends of hers. On that trip I met my Babalorisa, and returned to his ile in 2007 to be initiated as an Iyawo of Osun.
You can read more about my journey to and through Candomblé here.
I began this blog about Candomblé in 2006 after being frustrated with the lack of information available to English speakers about the religion. This blog has grown and transformed into a collection of my personal experiences, responses to questions people have asked over the years, translations of articles, videos about Candomblé, news relating to Candomblé from Brazil, disseminating information about events in the United States with a focus on Candomblé and more.
When this blog began there was very little Candomblé activity in the US. There was an occasional xire, and once in a while Iyalorixás from Bahia and São Paulo would visit states like California, Illinois and New York to give readings and perform minor ceremonies. There was also a fair share of unethical behavior, but because so few North Americans had authentic experiences with Candomblé they had no way of knowing what was acceptable practice and what wasn’t. A handful of Americans had been to Bahia and Rio de Janeiro for initiation, but were scattered across the country and from different nations (or from different axés within the same nation) to be able to form a solid and impactful community.
Now, more than ten years later, American Egbomis are becoming more active by facilitating workshops and classes, Brazilian priests are initiating Americans on American soil, American Babalorixás are initiating other Americans both in Brazil and the United States, and there are more regular feasts taking place. It’s been a pleasure to watch Candomblé develop and grow in the United States, and I’m excited to see where we go from here!
If you’re an American Candomblecista and would like to contribute to the blog by sharing your experiences in a post of your own, don’t hesitate to contact me: CandombleUSA@gmail.com