I've never been one believe that only initiated people have the right to worship Orisa. I do believe that Orisa can come to anyone they feel like. I do believe it's ok to go to the riverside and offer Osun a pumpkin or honey and pray and go to the crossroads and ask Esu to help you find viable work. It's cool to go pray and meditate on a mountain and ask Obatala to help you find peace in your life. It's ok to cultivate a relationship with your Ori and your ancestors. It's cool to use Obi Divination to help you make decisions. These practices alone will help you and none require initiation. It's cool to learn the songs and dances and to celebrate... This is our ancestral heritage and I encourage people to embrace it.
However... there is a line between being a devotee and self work with Orisa.. or Lwa for that matter and when you feel you have the right to teach and do work for others without doing the work to be a legitimate priest. It takes years to train as a priest.. not just an initiation. Those who have done it have committed to a path with blood, stone, sweat, tears, money, service, study, and a hell of a lot of personal sacrifices. They understand it is more to being a priest than doing youtubes, blogs, and posting spells on Facebook. FYI: just cuz it's on YouTube doesn't make it TRUE!
Unfortunately, too many people don't know the difference and they are mislead, misinformed, misguided with sometimes some irreparable damage done to themselves because someone was passing themselves off as an authority on Orisa, Vodou, Lwa, Ifa , etc, but are not. It is irresponsible and dishonest to do this to other people all because you want to create a name for yourself , or make people think you are an authority to sell your services or products. So the following is designed to address self proclaimed Orisa authorities on YouTube, Facebook, Etsy, and Ebay and their rationalizations for trying to sell you stuff but not being legitimate priest.
1. It's not cool when you determine you are qualified to do work for others on behalf of Orisa because you were initiated in a past life. Umm no... For one, if a person were a surgeon in a past life, that doesn't mean they are qualified to perform heart surgery without going back to school and obtaining a license to practice medicine. And yes.. real training for a priest is like training to be a doctor. I used to think I didn't need initiation...and even ran from it... until I was called by not being able to walk until I initiated...for the 7th lifetime. Each lifetime has its own requirements and destiny for you to fulfill. What you did last lifetime doesn't count.
2. There is no such thing as self initiation or self proclaimed priests in any African Tradition on the planet. Talking to your ancestors, spirits, seeing visions, hearing voices are all fine and well. Many people have mystical experiences... and gifts, but that doesn't mean you are initiated. Ancestors don't initiate people in the spirit realm. They send you to people that can initiate you. The initiation processes are ancient rites passed down from generation to generation over thousands of years encoded with specific mysteries and processes that are designed to awaken dormant DNA It is not just a ceremony.
3 To that end, just because you had a dream of Orisa or you think they come to you, doesn't mean you are initiated or a priest either. It also doesn't mean that you can represent that Orisa. Many people receive dreams and sometimes those dreams are to give you a message or teach you something. Other times they are trying to motivate you to go see a priest for a Divination to see what that Orisa wants. Maybe you are called, but they are not going to put you in a situation where your integrity is going to be compromised. They are not going to put you in the position of humiliating yourself by trying to be something you are not. Only the ego will do that. If they want you initiated, believe me, as I and other priest know for sure... they will give you everything you need to do so.. financially and otherwise when it is time. That's how you know it's a calling, not an ego pursuit.
4. Next, just because you dream or believe you are talking to an Orisa, doesn't mean you actually are. Sometimes, you can misread it. Other times other spirits imitate Orisa to mislead you. Sometimes it's just that you read up on them and everything you read or see becomes a part of your subconscious and comes out through dreams. You might see a man wearing red and white and he may have a message for you, but that doesn't mean it's Sango. There are ways we use to confirm if it is truly an Orisa speaking or something else. The archetype is not enough.
5. To that end, it's not ok to be making and selling Orisa products like soaps, baths, talismans, etc, when you know damn well you just got those recipes from some old book and you aren't hardly trained in those Mysteries. It's. Its. not ok to wear elekes without them being given officially. It's called exploitation and cultural appropriation when people do that and I'm sorry..being black or brown is not enough to qualify you. Africa is your ancestry... but that means you need to respect the protocols your ancestors established for legitimate priest to do legitimate work.
6. This extends to people who try to use Orisa under the title "Hoodoo" and Rootworkers. There are a lot of people who use this to legitimize what they are doing. One thing must be clear, Hoodoo is not Vodou or Orisha worship. The spirits you might find in Hoodoo is the man at the crossroads, mother moon, some form of Mami Wata, ancestors, and I hear some simbi spirits. Hoodoo draws from African traditions in the form of ancestor and Rootwork (work with herbs)combined with Bible characters and biblical lore. There are no initiations as a hoodoo priest to any spirit. So being a hoodoo practitioner does not make you qualified to work on behalf of Orisa for others. So if you see someone who says they are an initiated hoodoo priest giving you instructions on spells for Orunmila, run.
Don't play yourself by projecting that you are more than you are. We are all ultimately divine beings... each with our own gifts, But not everyone is a priest or meant for priesthood. Know when your ego is talking and when spirit is. The ego is always in a rush and interested in self gratification be it image, money, power, control. The ego doesn't have the time or patience to go through the process of real initiation and training. It wants to be glorified right now without doing the work. If you are always looking for shortcuts because you don't want to follow protocols or guidance of an elder, or you don't want to pay someone to take the time and energy initiate, train, and mentor you, or you don't think anyone knows more than you or can teach you anything, you are not ready to be a community priest. You are disrespecting your ancestors because it was them that established these guidelines, not the New Age Church of Tom Fuckery.
Anything worth having is worth working for. The work itself is a part of the journey. Cultivating patience is part of the journey. Learning self control, humility, integrity, accountability, responsibility are also a part of the journey. Saving for initiation teaches you how to work and sacrifice for what you want. Sacrifice is important in our tradition. Working for an elder teaches how to appreciate the value of actual experiences. That can save you many more missteps because often, you don't even know what you don't know...until you made a serious error. Taking the time to train properly gives you the knowledge, skill, and authority to really be able to help people..not just your own ego or pockets. These things help you to be grateful and appreciate the journey and what you have accomplished. They help you to gain the respect of your peers in the tradition instead of being an embarrassment and laughing stock. It helps you to grow beyond your wildest imagination. Your highest potential can't be actualized by pretending to be something you are not. Just as a child must take the time necessary to grow before they can do grown people stuff, it's the same with spiritual priesthood.