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Vodun F.A.Q.

Sex and Gender Issues in Orisha

Can a person have a head Orisha of the opposite gender?

They most certainly can.  Some Orishas have a dual gender, and some have various paths, personas, or character traits that are comfortable for people of the opposite gender in daily life.  Spirits in general, unless they are not so much Spirits as alterdimensional beings, don’t have what can be described as a physical gender so much as a “feel”.  The way they express themselves will be more associated with maleness, femaleness, or androgyny, and some tend to be embodied in avatars of a particular gender.

So, as an example, it is entirely possible for a straight man to have Oshun as his head or a straight woman to have Ogun as her head.  Your gender has no bearing on who will choose you.

What happens if someone is ridden by a sexual Orisha?

An issue that comes up frequently is that a person is ridden or “possessed” by an Orisha that wants sex.  Because it is a benevolent possession, one has some control of their actions, and this may break the trance, causing the ceremony, dance, or the riding to end prematurely, which is no fun for the individual, and a bit of a killjoy for the other participants, if any.

Sometimes, it can be quite frightening for a person who is chaste in their normal life, to be overtaken by superhumanly intense feelings that they were not expecting.  Especially for those from Christian, Muslim, or Jewish backgrounds, a night of being Shango-ed can be difficult for a chaste person who is say, female.  A night of being Oshun-ed can seem emarassing to a man who is heterosexual, especially if he is usually very humble.

It’s not just about the sex.  It’s about the whole personality around the sexuality of Orishas or ancestors whose personalities or genetic line is still very strong and therefore still a prominent part of the Collective Consciousness of humanity.

So here’s my advice on the matter.

Be an Understanding Observer

Nobody should be made to feel embarassed about the things they do when they are being ridden.  You should not gossip about ceremonies or really even discuss what happens during rituals with others unless it is to say something positive.

It is okay to discuss these things with other spiritual people who may learn something important or gain some understanding of Vodun from it.  It is not okay to joke or laugh about someone maliciously.  When you crack on people who are or have been ridden, you’re actually insulting the Orisha or ancestor possessing them.  So be respectful.

Have a “Trip Sitter” Attitude During Ceremonies

If you are one of the designated watchers during a ceremony, this is like being the designated driver for your friends at the bar, or the trip sitter for the otherwise intoxicated.  The Orishas don’t live by the normal rules of society, so there are things they may want to do while they have hold of a body that may not be exactly convenient for the person they’re riding.

If the Orisha is a deity of a force of nature who never had a human body, they are seldom actually sexual because their method of production or reproduction is not based on the physical body.  So if a person (or quite often group of people) is possessed with Yemaya, and they are making out with a person possessed with whoever, they’re just showing their affection, and it most likely won’t lead to anything.  They are just manifesting the water surrounding a person.

If, on the other hand, a person being ridden by Oshun is making out with someone being ridden by Shango, they were married when they were living on Earth, and will behave like a married couple if they make physical contact.  It is not a good idea to interrupt them, but in such a case, if the people have any issues with the results of the union once they are no longer being ridden, they should be made aware of what happened, and helped to cope.

One should also remember that some Orishas make very sexual gestures and are very playful, but this will not likely lead to anything irreversible happening.  Just let them do their thing.  If they tell dirty jokes or flash people, that’s just part of who they are.

Be Mindful of Age Appropriateness and Culture

Most kids in the west are not mentally prepared to see some of the things they might see in a Vodun ceremony.  For this reason, it’s probably a good idea to keep people under 16 away from ceremonies where something sexual might happen.  You might want to have special ceremonies separately, just for the kids that don’t involve being ridden.  With a few notable exceptions, most kids’ brains can’t handle it well anyway, so this is something they should be prepared for by the time they reach adulthood, but not pushed into.

Some people are never ridden, and for good reason.  So even adults should not be made to feel bad if it never happens for them.  They may have some psychological vulnerability that wouldn’t allow them to do it safely.  They may also just best serve the community as a watcher.  They could be a very nurturing person whose best role it is to keep everyone safe and comfortable.

Residual Effects

If the Orishas feel that a person needs to change their life, and would not do so under their own motivation, they may keep their hand on a person after they have been ridden.  If you feel pushed to do things you wouldn’t normally do, the solution is not to panic, but to pray.

For example, it sometimes happens that Shango may “invade” the life of a normally shy or overly humble man, and drive him to talk to more women, and be what he may think of as “rude”.  If he fights it, this may not work for him very well, but if he stays in touch with Shango, he will see the “method in his madness”.

Shango may be trying to tell him that he needs to be more manly, or that his shyness may cause him to miss the chance to meet his destined mate.  If the Orishas feel that someone is unduly miserable, especially those who started out as humans or lived through human avatars, they may act through a person to sort of “force” improvements.  The best thing to do is try to learn from it, and don’t fight Nature.

Orisha Babies

Children conceived as a result of the Orishas riding two people towards a union are special and should be considered children of those Orishas.  This does not mean that they should be spoiled or pushed into Vodun.  It should just be kept in mind so that if they show special abilities, this is normal for them.  One should take care that they are not recruited into religions that consider Vodun to be “witchcraft” in the negative way.

Regardless of how inconvenient they may seem at the time, they should not be aborted or mistreated even before they are born.  The mother should avoid any of the taboos of the Orisha she was ridden by during the child’s conception.  For instance, if she was ridden by Oya at the time, she should not use any palm oil or smoke, or stand too close to people who are smoking or using incense.  She should also wear amulets or talismans in the Oya style, or wear or carry something purple, dark red, or the nine colors (rainbow + black and white or opalescent).

If she was being ridden by Oshun, she should wear yellow and avoid ever putting her head down in shame or embarassment.  She must behave proudly and try to get her way, and take special care of herself.  Others should assist her in this and try to keep her from getting dirty or being inconvenienced or uncomfortable.

It is even more auspicious for the father to live in awareness of the Orisha he was being ridden by at the time of conception.  Though it is good if the mother does, it is very important for the father to as well.  If the mother is slacking off or breaks a taboo because women who are pregnant sometimes get emotional or depressed, the father remaining steady will make things run smoothly despite her frazzledness.

When the child is born, he or she should be dressed in the colors of their parent Orishas for at least one year.  They should use natural cloth diapers or the parents should be excretion aware.  They should be breastfed if it is at all possible, for at least six months.  If the mother cannot, then someone who is a child of the mother Orisha should wet nurse if possible.

If the mother dies in childbirth or dies or leaves at any time during the child’s life, a child of the mother Orisha should step in as the godmother.  Same with the father.  If the father dies or leaves, a child of the father Orisha should step in.

Can someone be forced to fall in love using rootwork?

Well, yes and no.  The Egungun (Ancestors) decide who will and won’t make children, and can be very helpful in finding a good match.  The feeling of being in romantic love however, is something different than familial love, which is what the ancestors preside over.  Someone who is very in touch with Nature and their Ancestors can tell who belongs with them, and this sense of belonging is what makes the kind of love that makes good marriages and long term relationships.  The feelings of romantic love though, are in Oshun and Shango’s departments because they are mostly based on a baser level of attraction than the kind the Ancestors would inspire.  They may overlap, but they are not exactly the same.

So, with the use of the gifts and skills of Oshun and Shango, a person can essentially “force” someone to fall in love with them by inspiring feelings that humans don’t entirely choose to feel.  You can’t choose whether or not you find someone beautiful.  You can justify not talking to them for whatever reason, but you still find them beautiful.  What turns you on is what turns you on.

The effective love rootwork or spell simply makes conscious use of known facts of human nature to produce a desired result.  There are some limits though.  A person can do whatever they like at their altar, but if it is not truly in line with Nature, it won’t work.

I have seen many love spells around the internet, and very few I would say would actually be effective.  Of the most effective are amarres, which come from the Latin cultures.  Done correctly, they have a powerful effect on one’s psychology and spiritual tune, mainly because in order to do them, one must submit to their own feelings  of love.  This is a difficult barrier for many to cross, the idea of being sort of helpless to one’s emotions.

Amarres have a better success rate than other love spells because once you’ve done them, you can’t really be in denial around the object of your affections.  It is a humble plea to the Spirits and a conscious addressing of the desire of one’s heart.   That is half the battle to gaining someone’s affection right there: sincerity and humility.

Since amarres are very well known, it has the same psychological effect on you if a priest/ess does it on your behalf.  It has a stronger effect on the other person though, since almost every experienced priest/ess would do readings to see if something more than a binding scroll would be needed.  They are practiced enough in the ways of Oshun and Shango (and using these skills in their own love life) that they can make talismans and give you information that can make it painful for someone to resist you.

As I mentioned in another post about helping your root worker help you though, the Spirits may bring someone to you, but you have to follow through.  Don’t mess up your blessing by missing opportunities.

If you’re on the other side of this and find out that the person you love used magic to get you, it might make you feel frightened.  Consider though, that men act macho to get women, and women wear makeup to get men.  It is better that someone used magic that is in line with Nature to seduce you than if they lied to you or did bad things to make you miserable so they could “save” you.  People use the abilities they have to get what they need.  If the person makes you happy, then don’t let accidentally finding some mystical item scare you off.

Also bear in mind that many love spells are protection spells too.  Part of the spell is often that they ask the Spirits to protect you even if you don’t come to them.  So if you reject this working, you could be rejecting some things that are benefitting you, and suffer as a result.

If you are not happy with them though, you can break the spell without losing protection.  It is difficult to do on you own though, so seek the advice of a priest/ess.

Lately, some people have been running around equating love workings with rohypnol or rape. This is an attempt to slander older witches by starting a witch-hunt within the witchcraft community. A time honored way to gain clients or attention energy for one's self is by condemning others for normal behavior. Those people don't know how love spells work, and are also usually selfish and can't think of the long term consequences of things like a marriage breaking up because of some temporary whimsy or because of a seduction working done by an outsider the Ancestors would not approve of.

Love spells and workings do not turn someone into a zombie with no control of their actions. The spells and workings that do that are for controlling, and are very different from love spells. They involve a whole lot more than some offerings of sweets, chanting, and arranging someone's personal effects in a talisman. Keeping one's protections tight would block either if they are unwanted.

People disrespecting love spells would do better to focus their attention on preventing actual rape and sexual harassment and misconduct. Those same people who say that love spells are rape are usually the ones telling survivors that we were raped because our spirit asked for it. They are the most insensitive people and the biggest hypocrites I have ever encountered.

1997 Sis. Nicole Lasher and respective guest authors.

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