Crystals have been used in Vodun and the African diaspora for centuries, but few people alive today know exactly how they were used originally. There has been a lot of mixture of belief from Hinduism, Kemetic, and other systems, trial and error over the aeons, and so crystal use and therapies have become a bit universalized over time. The main difference though, is context. Different cultures are going to have different needs, and use crystals in different ways even though their energies are standard.
In my article, Crystals in African and Diaspora Mysticism, I try to give a small sampling of the use of crystals in the African context. One thing that needs to be mentioned is that many of the world’s minerals are mined in Africa, and not always under the best of circumstances. The circumstances under which a mineral was taken from the Earth is very important to us. We also believe that some minerals should be left in the ground unless they are needed for medicine. So returning such things to the Earth or choosing to use their energy from the Earth rather than digging them up, is a good deed.
Crystals and minerals are used in many ways, from house blessing to mojo bags. Archaeological digs have revealed various crystals that were purposefully buried in yards or with deceased African slaves in the Americas.
As I’ve said in previous articles, some things are best put in the hands of a priest/ess or someone of that level. However, I understand that not everyone is going to take that advice. Also many people in the diaspora live in areas with no priests, or they’ve encountered one too many charlatans. Whatever reason you want to take things into your own hands, there are some things you should know before you do that.
First of all, the Orishas are not Santa Claus. You need them every day to survive. They are in you, in your blood, in the air all around you, in the earth, and everywhere. If you think you might ever want to make a specific request from them, you should be doing daily observances.
Also, if you know who your head is, you should be walking your natural path, and living a life that glorifies them and glorifies God/Olodumare/Mawu-Lisa. You can’t be living counter to Nature and expect to get good things from her. It just doesn’t work that way.
For example, if your head is Oshun, you should be living beautifully. Even if you are dirt poor, the dirt should be elegant, organized, and the softest, nicest dirt anyone was ever poor in. Clean your house. Repair your clothes. Make what little you may have sparkle, and take care of yourself and the people around you.
If your head is Eshu, you might be able to get away with some trickiness and hustling, but you’d better treat the children and the elderly well.
If your head is Shango and you don’t stand up for yourself, you’re doing it wrong.
If your head is Ogun and you are lazy, you are messing up. Get where I’m going with this?
Next, there is community. If there is something specific you need from the Orishas, it helps to get the word out to trusted people. Don’t try to go it alone. Get others directing energy and offerings towards the same goal. If you are sure that you are not the priestly type, then forming a community may encourage someone to step up and put some time and energy into study.
Ebo or community feasts are very important. If there are no priests, you and other Vodun observant or friendly friends should still be having them. Don’t worry too much about formality so much as respecting the Orishas.
While you’re respecting the Orishas, don’t forget that the Egungun is important as well. You should keep photos or other tokens of your departed relatives and loved ones in a special place in your house or room. Visit their graves, bringing them flowers and some of their favorite foods from time to time.
If you do all this then your DIY workings will have a greater chance of success because you are at least being observant and living in line with Nature.
Quite frankly, you don’t. The Orishas of your head choose you at birth. You do not choose them. You cannot force any Orisha to take you by doing any ceremony or ritual.
If your head is Shango, you may kill a thousand enemies in battle and put all their heads on a pike, bathe in their blood, and give them to Ogun with as much gusto as you can muster, but you will still belong to Shango, and not Ogun. Ogun will be happy for all that you give him, and may help you and give you all the gifts of the Earth, but your Ori is still as attached to Shango as it ever was.
It is best to make peace with the Orishas of your head, and not be so hot to escape from them just because they seem inconvenient to you at the moment. Learn them, and embrace your connection to them. Be grateful to them for the gifts and guidance they have given to you. Love other Orishas as much as you like, but don’t try to cut off your head because you think another is more convenient.
If they are part of a ceremonial working or it is specifically sacred, you can and should if you need them. If it is just a stand-alone item, you should not. The reason why is that these sorts of items are activated by being given as gifts.
Evil eye is caused by a buildup or strong projection of negative energy from other people looking upon you with envy/jealousy or possessiveness. When you buy a non sacred amulet for yourself, it is just another possession.
On the other hand, when you buy an amulet that has a prayer or sacred symbol inscribed on it, or it has been properly consecrated, the protection factor is more than psychological or impulsive. It is a gift from the Spirits.
So normal protection talismans such as eyes, figas, Italian horns, and the like should be received as gifts or bought to give to others. Prayer inscribed amulets, small nkisi, and consecrated items can be bought for yourself.
As I have mentioned in earlier articles, there are many streams of Vodun, Orisha, honored Ancestor worship, and Nature worship in Africa and the diaspora. In Africa, because they all have a very long history, they have all gained legitimacy over time and through effective practice and aiding in the success of their people. Every village has different specific customs, but there are fairly large centralized streams in which the village and family based groups adhere to certain norms for their stream. There are even new streams of Agnostic and seeming Atheist Nature-ism.
The major groups that spring to mind are Benin Vodun, Yoruba Ifa and Orisha, Igbo Odinani, and the Ashanti and Akan traditional groups.
Ifa, as a specific name for a group as well as the name of the deity/Orisha of law and obligation, is one of the main Yoruba streams.
Orisa/Orisha is the term used for people who worship the Orishas but may or may not belong to an established large stream. Most people in the diaspora are in the category of non affiliated or locally affiliated, regardless of what titles some may claim. The only way to get a title within Ifa is to earn it from an Ifa temple or representative of an Ifa temple in Yorubaland. Likewise, the only way to get a title in Benin Vodun is through a temple or representative of a temple in Benin. There is no official status in an African belief system without actual Africans.
This is not to say that other streams of Orisha or African spirituality are not legitimate. Anyone may worship the Orishas, so long as one respects the cultures their legends and practices were crystalized in, and respects the Orishas themselves. No problems there. The problems start when people start claiming titles they didn’t earn, and even worse, do not even attempt to keep certain consistent norms of the culture and system they are claiming a title in.
If one is initiated into a diaspora tradition, that is fine. They are free and even encouraged to serve their community as best as they can. It’s just that they should qualify their title with the diaspora stream they belong to, and not lie explicitly or through omission, that they belong to or hold that rank in an African stream that they do not.
There are many people running around calling themselves babalawo or iyanifa, who did not earn these titles by Yoruba standards. Some were initiated and bestowed rank by underqualified people who lied to them and took their money. So they believe they have rank that they do not. Others just lie. Some did even worse than just lying, went to Africa, sat in people’s temple, ate their food, and were received as guests in trust, and then returned to the diaspora claiming higher titles and lording their initiation over Africans in the diaspora who could not afford to make the journey.
Recently, since more actual Ifa priests are visiting and serving in the diaspora, the ability of pretenders to run initiation mills is lessening. It hasn’t completely died out, but it will because people will have access to authentic Ifa.
Mind that actual Ifa and other ancestral priests of other streams of Vodun and Orisha in Africa have never condemned or even put down people in the diaspora for making due…doing the best we could with what we had available. The only problem is in the misrepresentation and the disrespect of the original cultures and practices.
For more perspective on this read:
Blessings and Ase!
Nobody can sell you a spirit. On the “food chain” of beings, humans are granted certain abilities by Nature, but the ability to buy or sell an alterdimensional being is not one of them.
Some conjurers may use the term “selling” as a sort of a short-hand for “smoothing the way for you to have access to…” but they are not actually selling you a spirit. If they are not totally scamming you, and they actually do the work, they are just weaving a channel between you and that spirit for communication or flow of a certain energy.
An Orisha is a force of Nature. Nobody can sell you a force of Nature. They can initiate you into the cult of that force of Nature, or make a way to allow you limited access to a degree of energy from that force of Nature as is appropriate for a non initiate or layperson, but they can’t sell you the Orisha.
Djinn, gnomes, ndoki, faeries, elementals, and other alter-dimensional creatures can be enlisted or employed, but still not actually sold. They will allow themselves to be utilized to a degree, so long as a human goes through the proper steps, but one must be very careful.
There is a sort of image that some conjurers choose to present to the public as one who is able to command demons and control djinn and such, and this is legitimate since it works. However, one should realize that this image is allowed by the spirits only because it is useful to convince some people who wouldn’t otherwise, to accept help. Many entities are fed by happiness and success, and for them it doesn’t matter so much if the humans think it is because of the powers of the conjurer or the powers of their own or of Nature. They are just happy to help, and if it means playing the “genie”, then so be it. It takes nothing from them.
However, it is extremely important to remember that these are extremely powerful whole beings. They are not actually our slaves or servants. Like a polite, very helpful, or heroic human may choose to work as a nurse, a soldier, or go into some other field of service, this does not mean they are weak or obligated. They choose to be there for us or not be there for us. They choose whether or not to help us or to leave us, or to destroy us.
If you disrespect the spirits who help you, they will abandon or destroy you. Most of the time, you are given an nkisi or another item such as a stone or ring that is a sort of anchor and bridge between that being and yourself. These must be treated as sacred items. Some have more endurance than others, and can be worn or carried in a pocket, but they should still be treated with respect.
If your helper requires offerings, those should be kept up to date to the best of your abilities. You need to follow the instructions you were given very carefully, and make provisions for the case that something may happen to you, and they need to be released.
…and this is just if you got an actual properly enlisted djinn, ndoki, faery, or other being. Quite often, especially if the conjuring and maintenance was “easy”, what you may get is a mischievous or predatory, often called a dark entity that feeds on misery and unhappiness.
This is not to say that all of the positive ones are difficult to conjure. It’s just that a big part of the “summoning” ritual is to filter out harmful entities or imposters. Most ceremonial magicians take weeks or months to call certain entities, and still don’t always succeed. As Brother Rahman explains in the link above, we can do a long stint of protective prayers, fasting, filtering, calling, negotiating, “commanding”, offerings, and more, and in the end…nothing. Sometimes no spirit wants to come to assist for a particular goal. We just have to accept that.
…but this should tell you, they choose, not us.
© 1997 Sis. Nicole Lasher and respective guest authors.