Last Sunday, August 10, I woke up at 4 am to get ready to go to what was being called a ‘sail-out’. We were going to contribute to two trays–two we were going to sail out on this beautiful, secluded river, deep–I mean, seriously deep–into the bush. We were going far into the east of Trinidad, to Toco.
Our Iya Osun, who is–as far as I know it–the only initiated Osun priestess in Trinidad, and certainly the ranking one, is my spiritual mother. She was guarding the tray she had prepared for Osun. It was full with pumpkin, sweets, bananas, yellow apples and sugar cake and all things that Osun likes.
We met up with the Sango Omi in Curepe, and I thought it was so cute, Iya Osun went up in yellow band maxi, the Sango Omi went up in a big red band maxi. (Osun’s colour is yellow, Sango’s colours are red.)
We trekked far into East Trinidad, quite down in Toco first to the sweetest, quietest river, whose name is unknown to me but travels through Cumana. Like I said, this river was deep down in the bush, and we are in the middle of the rainy season down here in the tropics. Deep in the bush literally translates to unpaved roads and well, mud…. lots of mud.
The point that the maxis got us was fairly close to the river. There was a small pickup ferrying bags and such. Iya Osun, said nothing but she started walking, not interested in getting into some smelly truck with the tray with all the beautiful offerings we were taking for Osun.
So all the Osun women who came with Iya Osun Yemi, walked behind the tray. I like to stay close to Iya Osun. She came and cleansed my apartment just before I moved in; that lady in her seventies came and swept and mopped my house down with love and sweetness while she sang and prayed and blessed the place, putting down powerful protection there.
We have a very loving, very sweet relationship and she’s become like a mother-grandmother figure in my life, which I appreciate, because I am here in Trinidad far from most of my close family.
For whatever reason, she and I have been continually pulled and drawn together and I feel very protective of her.
The path was muddy and grassy and you know, a little treacherous, so I would rather be close to her because I am physically strong and she is very tiny. So if she slipped, or needed help while she was carrying the heavy load of the tray, I wanted to be close that I could brace her.
It was easy to get distracted, the lushness of the vegetation, the sound of the BUSH!! The place was alive with SOUND! The colours so deeply green and beautiful, that in no time at all, we were all singing. It was beautiful…. Osun Olumi, Ay yaba! Ye Ye Olomi Ay Yaba!
Iya Osun, danced and moved her hips and we all sang and danced and moved our hips. I was so happy to to be there among my sisters and my mothers. It was easy to sing and dance, because OSUN was there with us, and happiness moved in my MOTHER’S wake.
Halfway there, Iya Osun tired. She stopped and asked someone to take it from her. My Big Sister, Kambiri was closest, but she said to pass it to another Osun person…. they both gave it to me, and after wrapping a deeply gold piece of satin cloth into a crown for support, the tray and it’s load went onto my head. I was so honoured, I didn’t protest, I did it without thinking, the full import never really hitting me until afterwards.
I never faltered in my step and I lead my Mothers and my Sisters down to the river. It was a powerful feeling, an amazingly powerful feeling.
At the bank, I gave it back to Iya Osun, and she took it across the calf-high water, where the Sango Omi had already taken the bulk of her Ile across the river and was cleansing us all one by one. Iya Osun and the rest of us, crossed over and after my crown had been doused with Osun’s ori-cooling river water, I took back the tray when Iya Osun went to get cleansed herself.
Never knowing what to expect at one of these things, I stood while we slowly gathered. As is the custom, we opened the service with prayers to Esu, the owner of the crossroads, the divine messenger of God and Osun’s child. It is to Esu who we ask to open the doors and windows… who we ask to take our messages for God/Oludumare to hear. Only he and his Mother can do this, they are God’s only messengers.
A little Osun-child, a beautiful boy with a joyful spirit played like hard! Through all the prayers, all the manifestations, the drumming the singing, he played and played. When we were quietly opening the service, this beautiful little boy, ran and threw water high into the air, and laughed and hugged and talked with his sister and screamed with laughter. He was amazing!
Shortly after we opened, and we began to sing, and the drums began to rhythmically call Osun down to Earth to be with us, we began to give her her offerings. I had put the tray down on the river bank at the urging of my Elders, but when we were preparing to give our offerings to the Spirit and Owner of the River, I was again asked to carry the tray, but this time to give Osun the tray. So again the tray was hoisted onto my head.
I was instructed to keep walking into the river and once it got deep enough to lower myself until the river itself bore the weight of the tray of my head. I did as I was instructed. When my head, finally got low enough that the river covered it, I have to say, it is almost like the tray ‘hopped’ off my head and into the river. I could feel the vibrations in the air all around me.
Iya Osun later said that she thought I looked so cute, like a little red fish. She also said it was as though I was meant to carry the tray and it has somehow, deepened our relationship.
After I gave the river this HUNK of pumpkin dripping and covered in honey…. after we had all placed flowers and all other offerings into the river, myself giving two bottles of honey to the cause, Osun manifested twice.
The first time, She came and greeted me, but I didn’t know that this was the moment I should have told Her what I wanted again… She rested her head on my shoulder, I greeted her with a softly whispered, “Mama…” but she soon moved off, pointing to her ear and looking at Mama Kambiri, who told me after I should have asked for what I wanted. I was surprised, because the though had never occurred to me.
Have I learned not to expect anything?
Me, I was so glad to be a part of spirit moving, and to be there in the lush quietness of the bush and the river, broken only by singing and laughter….. the children in attendance swam and played in the river in a way, I know Mama Osun enjoyed, because rounds of laughter were breaking out all around me.
By the time she left, another opportunity didn’t present itself for me to speak privately with her.
No matter, I had gone and spoken my heart, just a couple of weeks ago. It was in a mostly private commune with her and the River. I have been giving her as much offering as I can afford and I have been communing with her on a regular basis, so although I missed my chance to talk with her and it hurt a little, it was a small thing. I was one of the first of Her children in the river that She came and greeted–the fact that I didn’t realise I should ask Her for something, well, I’ve already asked Her for all I desired and I have already seen the motions of it coming into my life, for me it wasn’t necessary to bore HER with a repetition of my heart that SHE knows so intimately. So maybe She wanted me to ask something then,
I was there to love HER and be with HER, and to be a part of honouring HER, so being there in the river was it’s own reward. Carrying the tray was it’s own reward. I also see HER moving through my life. At the time,
My only complaint about the day was the sharpness of the rocks in the river…. I think I got a great exfoliation and softening job on my feet! Sharp little suckers….
I am the little pebble in the river, formed and shaped by rushing cool water….
When Osun left the second time, we wound down our celebration of the River, our Great Mother Osun and we prepared to go see her sister, the Mother of the Fishes and the Sea, the Mother of the Full Moon, Yemoja.
My relationship with Yemoja was something that began as a child, even though I didn’t know HER by that name.
When I went to live in Barbados, my mother and her best friend lived at the Sea, and as a child, many of my best memories include the incredible waters around Barbados. That was Yemoja….. She was always this place I had the most amazing sense of freedom.
I don’t know why I stopped going to the beach. Sometime when I was a teenager I stopped going to the Sea. I think it was after my best friend’s father put his hand on my breast and fondled me when I was thirteen.
Then a few weeks later, while the neighbourhood had made a pilgrimage down to the river, he stuck his hand down the front of my bathing suit and groped me again, fondled my breast again.
For me, my sense of freedom shattered, and going to the Sea stopped being something natural. My visits, have become infrequent and with serious distance between then, although once I am there, that old sense of freedom comes rushing back. During the process of finding out definitively the Orisas on my head, there was a point when Osun and Yemoja were arguing for me.
So going to the Sea was a joyful experience. The tide was low, but rough, the waves strong and frequent and water was unbelievably warm. Again, the rocks were a problem…. they were smooth, but unbelievably slippery and te combination of the rough surf, Mama Yemoja threw us down to enjoy the warmth of the water. We took all kinds of green things for Mama Yemoja, zoboca (advocado), green apples, green banana, cucumbers and okras; all kinds of sweets, tooloom, lollipops and other kinds of candy; pink and white flowers, and the whole thing dripping with dark molasses.
This tray so high with all kinds of green offerings, flowers and candy, it took two men to carry it into the Sea and there was no ‘sail-out’ because everything went straight into the Sea. Mama Yemoja washed many of the offering onto the beach, and there were fruit and flowers and the tray itself moving and stretching along the length of the shoreline.
I swam out into the Sea, twice. The water, again, unbelievably warm.
We really didn’t stay long at the Sea, because the roughness of the water, the elders there, even the young ones, couldn’t maintain any balance at all.
It was as though Yemoja was knocking us back into her arms, and it was a blessing the tide was out, because we would have had trouble, real trouble. We slipped and slid on the rocks, tumbling into the waves and I just gave up on standing after a while and just stayed down. I backed out of the water, but I floated using the rocks to pull myself backwards.
In the end, we prayed to close our day, repeating affirmations that we would remember and honour our ancestors, that we would not be denied our traditional rites.
The ride home was quiet and equally as long, but I was there before the sun went down. I went home and went to sleep, still feeling the day’s events resonating deeply.
In fact, the whole week, I have been tingling. Tingling, tingling, tingling.
I think I am growing again….