My candles are lit and their perfume is circulating the room. In a corner sits a rustic dark brown wicker cabinet I bought for myself when I was eighteen. A turquoise and yellow scarf lays over the top of this cabinet. There are two two small slabs of emerald laying below the meditating Buddha, with a white candle for protection on its right, a purple candle I dressed myself for healing on its left-side, a small painting that says "create" at the edge of the left corner, a chakra grid of stones in front of it-, a jar that reads, "Love" holding a small broom of lavender, the cream porcelain dove jewelry box my mother gave to me when I was seventeen, and four word magnets that read, Infinite. Courage. Sing. Ancient -this is my altar.
As a young child I grew up with the perspective of structure with a lot of sprinkles of silence and shame with spirituality. The Bible, the burning of incense, herbs for healing, and offerings to our guides were only a few of scattered images that still swim in my mind. My mother and all the women on her side of the family were, and still are, Healers. In my Cuban culture we are called Santeras (Priestess). My mother's alter consisted of a statue of her spiritual guide, one that in our culture is gifted to us at birth, and all the fruits and candles and any other objects that her Spiritual Guide/Orisha would like. I know that Santeria has many judgements and some that I am not interested in engaging with any longer. Also, I don't speak about it much because it's private, its not meant to be a public practice. What I know is my lived experience not someone's perspective given to them through the lens of a prejudice media. Santeria is a religion you are born into and choose to practice but it's like being an artist, you can't escape it but you can choose wisely on how you navigate it. The purpose of the alter for my mother was an offering, the purpose for my alter is co-creation. A reminder that I am connected to an energy that connects me to before this world- an intuitive knowing, as I heal on earth and work through hopes,prayers, desires and wishes.
On the other hand, my father was raised Catholic while living in his birth place of Port-au-Prince Haiti. Both my grandparents attended church daily. I even recall having beautiful comforting prayers on my cell phone, sent to me by my papa, as I got older. In the preceding years of my parents divorce and both of them finding a few significant partners, I explored religion and spirituality from and through their lens. First, when I was six my father remarried a Black American woman and soon after she converted to being a Jehovah Witness. Every Sunday we attended the Kingdom Hall. This meant no celebration of holidays or birthdays, reading the Watch Tower weekly and training in recruiting others to our belief system. After a few years, we stopped attending the Kingdom Hall and instead my parents pushed me go attend a Baptist church with my elementary friend. This is when I learned about speaking in tongue- something that happens when people are filled with the Holy Spirit. After my father's divorce to his second wife we, he and I, began to attend a local non-denomination Christian church. I was fifteen and exhausted with the mixes of religion.
Colonize- invade the land, capture the natives, take from them and repackage discoveries as ones own.
Through colonization spirituality has been reworked into multiple structures of religion. When I was younger and attended mass with my mother, she would always remind me how when our ancestors were enslaved, they had to hide their Orisha dolls and statues. As time progressed these statutes reappeared as saints under the guide of Catholicism and these statues' bodies were westernized with foreign cloth and white paint. It was these informative years that made me recognize the duality of the world, it's endless unknowns, and the multiple layers of truth.
My Mother, Myself...Healing down the Line
Everyone has their own door of healing to open-if they choose. Often, it's dependent on how one is raised.My times we have to confront what we grew up with and give ourselves permission to choose and do what is fitting for us. One thing I do know for sure is that coming home into this place of "healer" has been filled with a great amount of resistant. Often, my heart was filled with questions of healer: Who is healing the healer as she heals others? What about community- is it evolving? Can I live a financial sustaining life? How can I do it differently? Can I heal from the wounds of my ancestors and still carry on their traditions of healing? With all these questions in my head I came in to talk to my mentor and boss at a Metaphysical shop where I work part-time. She had been observing me and my hesitancy to practice this work and there was only so much that journaling and other forms of written expression could help me in my process. I needed one-on-one spoken wisdom. After an hour of me crying she said, "Sweat heart, once you change your belief system then you change your reality." At first, this was difficult for me to accept. I come from a long line of healers who are women-of-color. In my blood runs their stories of dis-empowerment, longing for safety and acceptance, and everything else that comes with this human experience in an unjust world. They are one of the reasons why I write. To capture my mother's light is impossible in its glorious whispers but to see her struggle for community and the adversity of her own journey of spirit, belief, men, healing and God has shifted my lens multiple times. Our paths our razor sharp close and I have to be mindful to not repeat her mistakes, yet steady enough to heal what I observed in her and do it differently. She has always warned me against this path of healing. But spirit has been persistent with me and I must admit, my stones, herbs, candles and books allow me to feel safe in this world and protect special gifts-myself.
along my journey I found the permission to become myself, to be the authentic me...
Breaking through the Borders
I never thought that I would be in a similar situation as my mother, giving healing and advice to somewhat strangers. I despised the days and or nights that people would knock on our door, asking for my mother to give them a limpia, or some variation of healing. They came at night for help but dismissed us in the day. But there are two things that my mother lacked in her healing practice. First, she lacked in a community that was supportive and not trapped in the shame cycle passed down through generations. Second, she didn't always have a strong self-worth and sometimes didn't always get paid for her labor. I've been blessed to have traveled the world and to now be home with a spiritual, intellectual, and creative community. Educating myself has placed me in an autonomous position. Lately, I have been in contact with self-worth, confidence and self-love. Applying my three creative degrees, experience with my parents, and observation in many diverse positions has allowed me to understand the collective re-awakening of my soul and lineage and to see how my multiple practices' can complement one another. Thank you to my ancestors who have helped me heal the known parts of my trauma living in my body as I have connected it back to our roots, expressed it, and now I am blessed with re-writing our all of our stories. I am still in process learning to breathe deeper and stronger, expanding into greater awareness and slowly letting go of self-judgment.