The Way It Should Be

Once upon a time, yesterday in fact, there were two chiefs. The elder was a priestess of Oshun, and the younger a priestess of Yemaya. They agreed to confer, with students observing them, on a subject in which they had not reached total agreement. What matters to this story is not the matter on which they disagreed but the manner in which they did it:

Priestess Younger brought forward her well-researched explorations of original lore, along with resources to share for others who wished to follow the threads she had found. Priestess Elder brought forward regional variations she had found and the historical context borne of her lifetime of experience.

Priestess Younger said, “This is my Work, here and now. I want to pay you respect because I know that it is the Work you have already done that makes mine possible. I wish you continued success in your own Work.”

Priestess Elder said, “This is not my Work, but I recognize the signs that it is truly yours, and I wish you well in it. While I cannot leave my own post which is not the same as yours, these are the ways in which I am willing and able to support you.”

Both said please and thank you, to each other and to the Orishas working through them. “There is Yemaya defending her children!” “There is Oshun breaking it down!”

It made me so happy to watch it unfold. This is what we need to be learning and borrowing from the unbroken indigenous traditions. Not yet another pile of shinies to add to our hoards like the good little consumers we are, but respect for the existence of multiple competing Goods, multiple valid forms of piety, multiple spirit-blessed Works such that none of us could undertake all of them but all could undertake some.

We need to respect each other. We need to learn to recognize what the handprints of our Gods and other Gods look like on people’s foreheads, and trust the Gods to guide their people rather than trying to wrest control away from them and tell everyone what to do ourselves.

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