Oya’s Blessings: The Road to the Ancestors

“Oya” by Sophia Kelly Shultz http://badgersoph.deviantart.com/

Apparently my ancestors have been dying to connect with me (I know, bad pun, but it was intended :-D). I am sitting here in my study reflecting on the happenings of the last several weeks and I am amazed by how everything just started to line up and fall into place in terms of learning more about ancestor work, getting the 4-1-1 on good starter ceremonies, and making solid initial connections with the appropriate Orishas (Oya, and I think one more waiting in the wings for me to get hip to him). I would say my journey into developing a serious and regular ancestor practice began a little over a month ago with a very strange dream that only just now strikes me as really important to the start of my Egun work.

So, in this dream, I was being rushed out of my mother’s (still alive) house by some powerful government force. They insisted that I need to relocate, move elsewhere. I remember being sad that I had to leave and plain afraid because I did not feel that I had anywhere to go. Actually, the first few times the government agency came to check the place to make sure that I was gone, I evaded them by hiding in closets and in corners and crevices of the house that they did not know about because it was not their home. This only worked a couple of times, then the agent in charge of my removal realized what I was doing and somehow found me. When I realized that this was no longer my home, no longer a place where I could stay indefinitely, I began feverishly gathering anything I could find: pictures, clothes, glassware, dishes, and other keepsakes. I remember feeling very desperate in this part of the dream. I think I may have felt that way because in real life I never hoard pictures of family and other things like glassware or keepsakes that are/were important to my family members. Now, at this time of forced removal, those treasures would be all I had of home when I got to where I was supposed to be. As I exited the house with only those precious family items I could carry, I walked toward the truck (light blue and white, I think) parked in the driveway and I saw my uncle (my mother’s brother who passed away in October 2005). In the dream, I was fully aware that he was dead. I looked at him completely puzzled but happy to see him. By this point, I was teary-eyed and distraught because I was leaving the place that I knew but with very little memorabilia to help me extend my roots from my old home to my new home. With me in this frazzled emotional state, my uncle started to speak. He said, “You are entering a tough transition, but I will be with you through it and I will see you on the other side of it”. I woke up after he said that and all my stress, sorrow, and worry faded away.

In the two weeks following this dream, I became much more invested in my family and its history. I considered joining Ancestry.com. I have not yet because it is expensive and I may be able to do some of that genealogical work myself for little to no cost (thanks for the tips, Camylleon!). I also started looking over the obituaries of my family members who have passed in the last 20 years or so. In conversations and out and about in public spaces, I noticed when people spoke about relatives who had passed away, which was much more often than I had realized before. I was surprised by how often people mentioned a dead parent or grandparent or even great grandparent. Also within this time frame, my family suffered a great loss; my second cousin’s months-old baby boy passed away in the night (May the gods and the Egun bless and keep him). These happenings put my mind on death and the ancestors even more acutely.

Praying Angel Statue – Woodlawn Cemetery

About two weeks ago, a fellow witch with a background in archaeology and geology returned to town with the wild idea to enter a local cemetery to commune with the spirits of the dead (for a class project…I know, very cool class). By this point, I could not say no because my mind was buried in death and Oya and I had already begun brief talks. So, we went to the cemetery (Woodlawn Cemetery, across from Busey Woods in Urbana, IL), gave due sacrifice at the gate, and communed with the dead. I know that cemeteries are sometimes called Oya’s House or Ile Yansan. It was an odd sensation because I was in a cemetery but I felt such peace, not creepy, not weird, just peace. We (myself, the archaeologist and a mutual friend of ours, let’s call her Ms. Scorpio) laughed about how we felt compelled to take a nap in the cemetery. Oya’s home, at least this particular home, was peaceful, restful, and downright inviting. From what we could tell, some of the spirits were active and moving around the house but there was none of the frightening stuff that I frankly expected because in my heart of hearts I am afraid of the dead. I am trying to understanding that fear and overcome it as I embark on my ancestor journey.

In that particular House of Oya (during the mid-afternoon hours), my fears were not realized. It was actually in her house that I sent up a silent prayer for a deeper, stronger connection to my Egun. It was shortly after that time (a day or two) that we held our small ancestor ritual and shortly after that I set up my ancestor altar. I also began blogging about Oya and our growing relationship. As these pieces organized themselves and fell into place in my life, I blogged. Then, that was when Camylleon started commenting on my ancestor-related posts. Also, I joined a few (completely unrelated mailing lists) and the conversations quickly turned to ancestor work within an African Diaspora Religions paradigm without instigation from me. I continue to be given new internet links, to find references to good books, and to meet people who are very willing to share their experiences, ideas, and methods. Just yesterday, I was talking with friends about something completely unrelated and the conversation turned toward the ancestors and their relationships with the deceased both before and after death.

I am learning in my work with Oya and the Egun that if you really want it and you are prepared to work for it, Oya will rain down blessings of good information to support you and good people with whom you may share your journey. And of course, she will hold open the cemetery gates for those Honored Dead who wish to enter your life.

Hekua Oya Yansa!


9 thoughts on “Oya’s Blessings: The Road to the Ancestors

    • Hi Betsy, Sophia Kelly Shultz and yes, I have permission, which was recently obtained. Generally, if no artist credit is given it is only because I do not have that information. So, if you see an uncredited image and you know the artist/photographer, I invite you to pass that information on to me and I’ll update the image accordingly. Thanks!

    • Thank you for contacting me! I obtained your image from elsewhere on the interwebs so I was unaware of its origin. I am super happy to have someone to properly credit for the beautiful image. I will edit the page as soon as I get to my computer :). And thank you for allowing me to use it!

  1. Beautiful story! Fear of the dead (and death) is something that’s absolutely viral in our society…and something it’s hard to get over. But it’s so worth it when you do! I love your nicknames. Wish I were closer to you guys because THAT’S a class I’d love to take!

    BTW, a side note for your friend the Brigit devotee and yourself. Something for you to giggle over. In one city in Cuba, Oya is syncretized with “Our Lady of Candlemas.” Just saying… 😉

    • The class was my Linguistic Anthropology requirement for grad school. I was interested in how EVP (electronic voice phenomena) research could be viewed within a linguistic anth framework. The rest of my class seemed to like my project, so I think it was a success! The students were fascinated by how our spiritual beliefs could affect our EVP stance and recording experience, even though that was not the main focus of the project. Thank you, again for helping me out with it Tamilia!

      • Amazing! Definitely sounds like my kind of class. Heck, that sort of thing might have kept me in college! Never would have thought to look at EVP through a linguist’s eyes…let alone how our own perspectives could affect the outcome. Absolutely fascinating.

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