Thursday, February 01, 2007
O Taste and See: These Roots Run Deep
Carnival of the Spirit
Author: Luisah Teish
Publisher: Harper Collins;
1st edition (September 1994)
How many of us have an ofrenda in our homes, pictures of santos, or sought out ways to revision a spiritual practice that soulfully incorporates our mestizo/indigenous roots? We are finally beginning to acknowledge and honor the part of our history that also includes our African brothers and sisters, and I am happy to offer my week's book recommendation, Carnival of the Spirit.
This is a tremendously useful book for those who want to create ritual rooted in the earth itself and its seasons--a perfect choice for me as I consider how to work my own legacy into a new personal spirituality. Teish wrote an accessible and poetic guide to seasonal ritual based on Yoruba tradition, but inclusive of many indigenous practices. She honors and appreciates the fact that las indigenas also revered ancestors, saw the universe as divine cosmology; believing that human life and all life on earth was divine, protected by divine law.
(After all, what are our santos, really, but syncretism, stand-ins for the older gods and goddesses that ruled over all people, places and things?)
Here's a quote from Teish that sheds additional light on her approach and her beliefs: "Somewhere in the distant past our ancestors observed certain truths about the activities of Nature and the behavior of human beings...they created songs, dances, rituals with the intention of attuning with, and celebrating the seasons. If we are wise, what we create will take us into the future."
Organized into sections titled by each season, Teish offers both meditative and ritual-based suggestions to honor the qualities of the particular time of the year. She gives a multicultural overview of these, highlighting the role of gods and goddesses from many cultures, as well as the celebrations of many peoples. There are clear and simple directions to help the reader build a repertoire of prayer and community-building based on connection to Mother Earth, her seasons, and the body and spirit of the individual. In one section, Teish explains she is guided by Yemaya, the Yoruba goddess of nurturing; and Oshun, Yoruba goddess of divine drama and sensuality. Very different from the traditional Catholic ideas of female divinity, which have more to do with forbearance, repudiation of the flesh, and self-sacrifice. Teish’s Yemaya and Oshun are close sisters to the Aztec Tonatzín and Tlotzateotl.
Even though suppressed and obscured by the colonizer, and hidden by the passage of time itself, these goddesses continued to live and work their charms in the deepest part of the diaspora’s spirit and psyches. Carnival of the Spirits is an inviting, earthy, and supportive guide to reclaiming the sacred in everyday life, in every season, for everybody. I felt this book encouraged me to delve further into my own roots for images to use in both my own personal life and performance. It also validated my feeling that time in nature, the prayerful celebration of it, is a critical part of who I am.
About Luisah Teish:
Chief Luisah Teish, a woman chief in the Ifa/Orisha tradition of Southwest Nigeria and the founder of the School of Ancient Mysteries and Sacred Arts Center, is the author of the witty, provocative and highly-acclaimed Jambalaya: The Natural Woman's Book of Personal Charms and Practical Rituals, Carnival of the Spirits and Jump Up!
Teish is an internationally known storyteller who performs African, Caribbean, and African-American folklore and feminist myths. She designs and conducts workshops, rituals and tours in Europe, Egypt, South America and New Zealand. A performer and ritual arts consultant, Teish is also a playwright ("Olokun's Challenge" and other works) and director. Born and raised in New Orleans, she is a priestess of Oshun, the Yoruba (West Africa) Goddess of Love, Art and Sensuality. She has been on the faculty at University of Creation Spirituality in Oakland, California Institute of Integral Studies, San Francisco and is also a regular guest lecturer at Naropa and other educational institutions. She lectures worldwide, most recently in Nigeria and Costa Rica, and stateside at the Bioneers Conference, the Institute of Noetic Sciences and the Montclair Women's Cultural Arts Center.