A collection of ConjureMan Ali's thoughts about magic, the occult, and spirituality.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Finding the Real Deal

As long as the relationship between teacher and student has existed so too has the chance for exploitation and fraud. While this exists in many traditions around the world it has become a prickly situation for those people interested in joining one of the African Traditional Religions.

With the growing interest in these traditions people from a variety of backgrounds have been attempting to join the various cults and learn the mysteries they contain. But one of the first obstacles that they come across is finding a legitimate house and teacher. Frankly, this is no easy task.

For a variety of reasons, including socio-economic, some members of the various African Traditional Religions view the growing interest in their cults as a means by which to make money that they often desperately need. So you have authentic initiates and teachers gouging newcomings and exploiting their interest. On the other hand, you have scammers who have seen how much money the ATRs can make via initiations and such and have set up their own shop. Navigating between the two can be tricky.

The existence of both of these are legitimate concerns and should be taken into account for anyone who wishes to join these cults. Then there are those houses that are legitimate, ethical, and whose teachers are sincere, but miserly with their teachings. These houses will initiate people and be sincere in their desire to teach, but due to their own psychological pitfalls will leave the young aspirant lacking proper training. They give out information and secrets little by little and will hold back a great deal. Sometimes this is done for fear that the student will rise up and become a power in his own right.

And so the picture that emerges from this situation is rather complex. We have a set of cults and religions that offer immense power and deep insights into primal secrets. Over years their magical systems have proven themselved devestatingly effective and so they have garned the interest of all sorts of people. Yet, to enter into these cults and claim that power it has becomes a bit of a labyrinth of dangers and pitfalls, or an ocean filled with hidden threats.

The question is how do you avoid these pitfalls and find the real deal?

The answer is two-fold. The first is ultimately spiritual. If you are meant to be part of these traditions and if the spirits are indeed willing to become your allies, then the first step is to ask them to open your roads and lead you to the house right for you. Whatever tradition you are interested in, there are spirits who can guide and open roads. When you take the first step towards the ATRs everything that happens can become a lesson used by these spirits and your path becomes guided by these powerful forces.

For some, asking these spirits to guide them will lead them unerringly to their perfect house. They will find their journey to their new family and house smooth and without difficulty. Similarly, if the time is right then the spirits will ensure that you have the financial means to follow through with initiation. For those who are desperate to initiate but who lack the funds to do so, I would take this as an indication of the spirits telling you to first tend to your life before you are ready to undertake the responsibilities that come with initiation. It is easy to forget that with initiation comes oaths of responsibility as this is often overshadowed by the promise of power and knowledge. But the reality is that if you are at a point in your life where you cannot afford initiation then it may not be the right time to take on further obligations that come with joining an ATR.

Under the guidance and aid of the spirits that you call upon, the path towards your destined teacher and house may be smooth. But sometimes they lead you to hard places. Many of the ATRs walk a fiery road and with that road comes some difficulty. This tempers the soul and gives the necessary willpower to be able to deal effectively with the powers. In light of this, one may say that the scammers and dysfunctional houses do play a role in the overall scheme of things, even if it is to weed out some or provide necessary lessons. (Note, I am not saying that if you get scammed you are not meant to walk this path, but rather it may not be the right time or there is likely a lesson in it).

After you've called upon the spirits of the tradition you seek to help you, the second step is practical, but one that is so easily overlooked. It comes down to discernment. So many people are in a rush to get initiated that they completely abandon common sense and logic. They go and spend thousands that they don't have and only later realize that in their rush they put themselves under the tutelage of a not-so-good teacher.

There is no rush to be initiated. Take your time and get to know  your house, get to know your teacher, and the character that he and his spirit family have. Is your teacher open about his teachings, does his ethics match your own, is his personality one that clashes with yours? These are all questions that you should be considering. Like any magical group, a house in the ATRs is filled with personalities. You have to ask yourself if those personalities will clash with your own. Ask yourself if the teacher seems greedy with knowledge and money, or do they have a generous character? Does your teacher's style match what you need? Some people need teachers who are more about self-exploration while others require attentive teachers. I personally need a teacher who is attentive, who spends time teaching, as my mind is inquisitive. Are they a teacher that answers your questions? Is there pressure to initiate?

This latter is a tricky one but is important to consider. While initiation is important and there are some who are truly called, it also is a fallacy that initiation is necessary for the ATRs. These are not priestly cults but are cults for the people and so often have a laity. There are levels of involvement within each of the ATRs and your path may be different than initiation. Initiation is the call to become a priest-sorcerer and get involved with these spirits casually. Many honor these spirits without taking up the mantle of priesthood. What *is* necessary is to have a teacher. These waters are difficult and relying just on books or the internet is dangerous. Guidance is necessary to be involved with these traditions. Just as they are not priestly cults so too are they not private faiths. These are communal religions and so traditionally even the laity is connected to a house and teacher. So find a house and teacher and then simply get to know them. This is a spiritual path so don't rush things. Spend time among the laity and get to know the character of the house and its leaders and see if you are truly called to become a priest or if you are better served by honoring these spirits in a different fashion. If however you want to get involved in a more intimate way with these spirits then initiation is necessary.

The key is patience; don't go diving in before you take the time to really get to know what you are getting yourself into. It is not uncommon to spend years getting to know a tradition before taking the leap into initiation. If you follow the guidance of the spirits and use a little bit of patience and discernment you can avoid a great many pitfalls.

This has worked for many of my colleagues and myself as well. I've always been cautious in getting involved in the ATRs. Coming from a background of hoodoo where initiations don't really exist, putting yourself under someone else's spiritual care is a scary thing. The risk for spiritual damage during initiation is high. An incompetent or fraudulent teacher may end up doing more harm than good, so I took my time and the key to my success was all of the above.

As a result, I avoided scams, pitfalls and ended up in a wonderful house with amazing godparents. I got the chance to meet two of the most knowledgable, generous, and spiritually-gifted people in my life. My godfather is generous with this knowledge, holds nothing back, is immensely wise and attentive (something that I know my personality sometimes needs). My godmother is one of the most knowledgable people I have met and is a very talented medium and reader. I am fortunate to have met both of them and my life is blessed for it. But I met them because I didn't rush into things, trusted the guidance of the spirits who led me to them, and took the time to get to know what I was getting myself into.

I think with a balanced and patient approach one can decrease the chances of pitfalls and safely navigate through the Scylla and Charibdis that sometimes stand in the way for those interested in joining the African Traditional Religions.  


C.Fletcher said...

I am so pleased you've touch on this topic. I myself during my younger days in seeking spirituality had been na├»ve and impatient. The consequences were severe, on top of acknowledging my mistakes, I had unwittingly allowed myself to be forced into a situation that neither myself nor the people (though I’m pretty sure with good intent) involved understood what had manifested. In the end, I was left to pick up the pieces.

ConjureMan Ali said...

I am sorry to hear of your past troubles.

It is surprising how a little patience and discernment can really go a long way.

Unknown said...

Excellent posts on a tricksy topic, brother. I'm not sure how bad it is in Ocha, but in Palo folks are getting robbed all the damn time, paying exorbitant fees for initiations...and then being left without the guidance of a godfather or godmother to teach them. It's a travesty. Things seem to be changing for the good though, lot of folks in the community are talking about caring correctly for godchildren. What you said about taking your time and getting to know your munanso is on point, and has to be stressed. Great post!

C.Fletcher said...

Thank you for your empathy Dr. Raven as always. :) Despite the unfortunate events it is a lesson learned and because of this I am particularly weary of people who present themselves to me as mentors and although I am still seeking one, in the pass I tried seeking spirit guides through a meditative state but that only distresses me since I was plague with horrendous, demonic images and I knew I couldn't perform this technique without someone guiding me through it. Hopefully I will be able to find a mentor soon so I can further tap into my spiritual gifts to help other people. :)

ConjureMan Ali said...

Thank you, brother Christopher. It is definitely a tricky topic and an issue that plagues all of the ATRs. But hopefully as more and more authentic teachers and students speak up the dialogue will help counter the corrpution.

On the other hand if the seeker can tame their rush to jump in then they can also help this situation.