I picked up a copy of Frisvold’s latest, Ifá: A Forest of Mystery pretty early out of the gate. I started in my usual way, dipping in and out of the book at random or as some specific curiosity prompted me (what does he say about Ogun? What about Òbárá Meji?). That left me with a favorable impression of the text—each time I came away with a sense of having my understanding both confirmed and expanded.
I have probably reading and thinking a bit much of late, but I have been sick and unable to do the sort of ritual work that I’m itching to do, but to everything it’s season? I pulled Gẹlẹdẹ: Art and Female Power among the Yoruba off of the shelf and there is much here that resonates with the discussion of Moses, of the covenant, but in a quite different register, so I thought I would at least share a few bits of it.
In India, there are dozens of different chakra schemas, which for me, indicates that they are (to an extent) metaphoric arrangements for structuring and directing bodily experience – sensations and feelings. As these schemas have been transferred to the west however, due to a variety of historical processes, they have become reified – so that one particular schema – the seven-chakra schema – has become dominant, and is widely thought to have (and thereby experienced as having) a seperate ontological status and to operate in a quasi-medical fashion.
The reificiation of myth follows the same pattern as the reification of ritual praxis described here. This process of selecting a model and giving it ontological status seems to be more acute in the last century of Western occult thinking, but it seems to have some old roots.
Otitọ de ọja, o ku ta; owo l’ọwọ li nra eke. (When truth is offered for sale in the market, it finds no buyer; but lies are bought with cash in hand.)
(Yoruba saying, quoted and translated by J. D. Y. Peel, Religious Encounter and the Making of the Yoruba)
Okay, let’s turn our attention away from the witches a little (not too far, mind you) and talk a little more about the market that is the world. We’ve talked about how unsettling this association between market, wealth, and home really is, but this quote highlights another axis of concern, truth and lies.
When I talked about the world as a marketplace, I was leaning heavily on a Yoruba conception. I want to keep leaning on that and start talking about an important aspect of the spiritual world in the marketplace: witches. The Yoruba imaginary associates witches with the marketplace and moreover with the women who circulate through it. The more esteem and authority a woman possesses within the market, the more likely it is that she will accrue a reputation for witchcraft. Some of this has to do with a simple distrust of excessive accumulation–they who have much are suspected of having supernatural power that makes their success possible (compare this with the Kongo conception of ndoki). I don’t think this exhausts the issue, though.