African American and Trinidadian spiritual traditions are joined at the hip. Of course, we share common African roots. More recently, however, there was a wave of African American spiritualists who came to Trinidad & Tobago as part of the Second Great Awakening, which was a Protestant religious revival that took place during the early 19th century in the United States. The movement began around 1790, gained momentum by 1800 and, after 1820, membership rose rapidly among Baptist and Methodist congregations whose preachers led the movement. The Second Great awakening also coincides with the arrival of several thousand indentured laborers from present-day Nigeria. The Second Great Awakening was characterized by enthusiasm, emotion, and an appeal to the super-natural, which enabled the movement to absorb greater numbers of African Americans, the vast majority of whom remained loyal to African spiritual practices like Hoodoo, Conjure and Root Work.
Revivals were the main feature of the Second Great Awakening. Through the revivals, Pastors enrolled hundreds of thousands of new members in existing evangelical denominations, which led to the formation of new denominations. Among the new denominations were numerous syncretic African American religious movements, including the Zion Revivalists of Jamaica. Of particular interest to practitioners of Orisa Lifestyle is the Spiritual Baptist faith which combines elements of Yoruba spirituality and Christianity. The Baptist faith was brought to Trinidad by the Merikins, former American slaves who were recruited by the British to fight, as the Corps of Colonial Marines, against the Americans during the War of 1812. After the end of the war, these ex-slaves were settled in Trinidad, to the east of the Mission of Savannah Grande (now known as Princes Town) in six villages, since then called the Company Villages.
African traditions were influential too and these included the gayap system of communal help, herbal medicine and Obeah – African tribal science. A prominent elder in the 20th century was "Papa Neezer" – Samuel Ebenezer Elliot (1901–1969) – who was a descendant of an original settler, George Elliot, and renowned for his ability to heal and cast out evil spirits. His syncretic form of religion included veneration of Sango, prophecies from the "Obi" and revelation from the Psalms. The Spiritual Baptist faith is a legacy of the Merikin community. One of Papa Neezer's protégés, American anthropologist Dr Frances Henry, called him, in a memoir, “one of the greatest human beings I’ve ever encountered.” Her book, He Had the Power, is subtitled Pa Neezer, the Orisha King of Trinidad.
During his early years, he was a member of the Spiritual Baptist Church. However, he became involved in the Orisa movement after he was told in a dream that he had healing powers and was able to cast out demons. It is said that he received the powers while sleeping in his garden, when a snake passed over him without causing any harm. He interpreted the event as spiritual powers bestowed on him and soon became the undisputed leader of the affairs of the Orisas in Moruga.
In a recent interview with Pa Neezer's great-neice, Jaramogi, she recalled, “We didn’t come here as slaves.” She has helped forge an alliance between the Merikins and the Maroons of Jamaica, Suriname, and elsewhere in the region, peoples who escaped from slavery and lived more or less independently of colonial rule. That independence is still clear in the Merikins’ traditional way of life, much of which continues unchanged. People move away or migrate, but some return. Up in the company villages, everyone knows each other, and who’s related to whom. While the T&T government faces a recession and urges everyone to grow food, the Merikins already do. When they first came to Trinidad, they were given rations for a few months until the land they had planted started bearing. Now, where you might expect a lawn, the sloping garden behind a house will be covered with the wide heart shapes of dasheen leaves, or plants used as seasoning or herbal remedies. Merikin families also have land scattered throughout their villages, parcels of the original sixteen acres that have been divided and passed down through generations. 
It is precisely this revolutionary spirit of freedom and independence that permeates Orisa Lifestyle in Trinidad & Tobago.
Obafemi Origunwa, MA | ObafemiO.com
I recently visited a spiritual curio shop in Port of Spain, Trinidad. Everything about the experience was unique. For starters, the place was very bright and well-lit. No dusty figurines. No cluttered display cases. No shadowy corners. Instead, there were 8-10 shelves, stocked with a variety of spiritual healing oils. Some were labeled by their functions. Others were labeled by their contents. I was particularly intrigued by the High John oil because of the importance of John the Conqueror in Hoodoo.
However, the most distinguishing feature of this particular shop was the fact that it was operated by four Black men; the eldest and most authoritative of whom was very dark and lean… He reminded me of Snoop Dog, to be honest. His features and mannerisms were lanky and tree-like. The next eldest was very light skinned, with a white beard. There was a cunning, even mischievous aire about him. The third among them – who was in his mid forties - was tall, thin and brown skinned, with a very deliberate gaze. He wasted no time in demonstrating that was a seer, a living oracle. He spoke to me in proverbs, making sure I was properly reading between the lines.
There’s no doubt about it; Trinidad is Orisa country. The heritage is strong there and it has had an indelible impact upon Trinidadian popular culture. Everything from Calypso to provisions are direct manifestations of Orisa Lifestyle. Of course, the most tangible evidence of Yoruba tradition survives in the medicines, rituals and ceremonies dedicated to the Orisa. I was so deeply honored to spend a little time with the Iwori Meji Temple, lead by the family of Awotunde Elebuibon. Baba Mitch – as he is known in the community – is part of an important Orisa Lineage, rooted in Port of Spain’s Belmont district.
During our very brief time together, we could see that what elders say is absolutely true; When one ori is blessed it reaches out to two hundred others. Within ten minutes of meeting one another, Baba Mitch and I were on Trinidadian radio, in the presence of his family, as well as responsible elders, like Baba Neal Rawlins and Iya Fabunmi Rhonda Valentine, making prayers for the entire Nation! Shortly thereafter, we were in communion with the divinities through song, drum and chant. Finally, we were made privy to the wise directives of Ifa.
We pray that our ancestors will continue to allow us to envision good people and that our feet will continue to carry us to the place where good people meet. Ase! We remember what Ifa has taught us, that When we get to the house of a respected elder, we bend down low! Orunmila wanted to know who among all the Orisa could accompany their devotee on a long journey, even across the oceans, without ever turning back. One by one, all the Orisa claimed the ability and oe by one, they all failed. It was Ori alone who could accompany its devotee on a long journey, even across the sea, and never depart from him or her.
And so, we give eternal thanks to the blessings that Ori has seen even when we ourselves have been blinded. Ase! We give thanks that our feet have brought us into the presence of good people. Ase! We pray that soon, we shall reconvene in greater abundance at the feet of Ope, the sacred palm of Orunmila! ASE!!!
Obafemi Origunwa, MA | OrisaLifestyle.com
BOLAJI FAKEYE | LAGOS
Across Yoruba land, provinces pick a two-week date to celebrate the egungun festival. One could say after Ifa, egungun seemed to be the next most populous socio-cultural Yoruba spirituality; it all began when the third Alaafin of Oyo, King Sango – also deity of thunder – brought the worship of the ancestors to honor the spirit of his father.
Sango’s father, Oranmiyan grandson of Oodua, had died and was buried in Ife after he founded and left his two sons in Old Oyo to rule, while he went back to Ife. Sango’s mother was a princess from Tapa (Nupe, middle belt Nigeria) where ancestor worship thrived. An entertainers’ guild called Oje was later given charge, sworn to secrecy; the egungun went on to become state worship in Oyo, spreading wherever the Yoruba spread, Africa or overseas.
BY BOLAJI FAKEYE | LAGOS, NIGERIA
It is spring. The Yoruba celebrates the egungun festival this period around May/June. On the Lekki-Aja peninsula in Lagos, Nigeria, different families adorned their ancestral masquerades in expensive garbs ranging from velvets to silk and lace. There were acrobats and entertaining drummers who made the gathering lively for the people gathered at the Igbale (egungun shrine), eating and drinking. Some of the masquerades, in different colorful costumes, were; Ayegbajeje (take life easy), Lukuluku in its yellow lace, Owolanke (money is worthwhile) and an elder egungun called Oyi.
The Orisa Lifestyle Academy has a readership of over 20 THOUSAND!!! We are looking for a passionate blogger to participate in the creative cycle of a news story by investigating and writing rich and unbiased “scoops” about Orisa culture in your area.
According to Harvard business professor, Michael Porter, competitive advantage is the ability to outperform competitors. Within Orisa Lifestyle, we count isegun ota (victory over enemies) as one of the five blessings of Ifa. Porter articulates three strategies for creating competitive advantage; cost leadership, differentiation and focus. While they were intended for organizational purposes, I have adapted these three strategies for the purpose of personal application.
However, before we get into the strategies for creating competitive advantage, it is essential that you have a basic understanding of how your natural gifts and talents set the stage for creating competitive advantage in the first place.
The three determinants above are what set the stage for creating competitive advantage. What follows are Porter's three strategies for creating competitive advantage; cost leadership, differentiation and focus. When applied to creating competitive advantage for the individual, the strategies can be described as follows:
To truly succeed, it’s not enough to simply match your competitors. Success comes to those who can deliver a superior product or service in a way that is different, meaningful and based on their tribe's needs and desires.
Westerners of all ethnic origins tend to think of Orisa tradition as a "religion," but this is not quite accurate. More precisely, the Orisa tradition is better thought of as a "LIFESTYLE."
The word religion literally means "that which reconnects." It implies a process of restoring one's relationship to the Supreme Being. Lifestyle, on the other hand, has a wider meaning than the word religion.
Those who practice Orisa Lifestyle, are guided by spiritual, social and moral rules, actions, knowledge and duties which are responsible for balancing the seen and unseen realms.
In simple terms, one can say that Personal Priesthood means allowing the consciousness of your Ancestral Promise to permeate everything you do. It means using your natural gifts and talents to heal your life and heal the lives of the people and causes you are destined to serve.
Personal Priesthood is the realization of the Good Condition and carrying out every small act of your life with the clear intent to bring it about. As you are able to do this, you are practicing Personal Priesthood. If other interests distract you, even though you may have a multitude of beads, pots and titles, you are not in compliance with Orisa Lifestyle.
For this reason, all varieties of religious faiths, various forms of worship and spiritual practices, diverse rituals and customs have found their place, side by side, within Yoruba Civilization. Orisa Lifestyle, unlike other religions, does not dogmatically assert that there is only one path of spiritual freedom. Not at all. Our tradition is defined by its pluralism.
The religious and cultural hospitality of the Yoruba people is legendary on both sides of the Atlantic. As a rule, Yorubas pay respect to all religious traditions, accepting and honoring truth from wherever it may come. At the same time, however, we are relentlessly traditional. Consequently, the vast majority of Yoruba people continue to practice Orisa Lifestyle under the guises of Christianity and Islam. We adhere to the principles of Personal Priesthood while practicing Yoga, Astrology and Chinese Medicine.
Orisa Lifestyle is governed by the moral laws of Ifa, combined with spiritual discipline that guides one's Personal Priesthood. We consider Orisa Lifestyle to be the very foundation of life, which is why we sing, "Ifa gbaiye lo o" which means, Ifa holds the world together.
Obafemi Origunwa, MA | ObafemiO.com
If you use Facebook or make online purchases, you've aware of identity theft. And, as important as it is to protect your online image and your financial records, the threat is much greater than that. MUCH GREATER.
The greatest identify theft is that of your spiritual identity; it’s not someone taking your wallet and using your credit cards: That’s very superficial. As concerned as you are about your profile pictures and your credit score, I want you to be ONE THOUSAND TIMES more concerned about the profound identity threat that comes from being raised in a comparison-based culture that constantly urges you to focus more on superficial greatness.
Think about it... Be honest with yourself. To what extent do you want to become initiated so you can become rich and famous? To what extent do you simply want to have the beads, the pots and the titles? How often - IF EVER - do you think to yourself, "I want to practice Orisa Lifestyle so that I can make a more meaningful contribution to the people and the causes that matter most?" If you're like most people, you've become obsessed with the most superficial, competitive and trivial aspects of the Yoruba tradition.
I am not judging you. This switch to superficial achievement is alluring and it occurs throughout all cultures of the world and in all times. It happened among the Zen Buddhists during the Song Dynasty, which is characterized by complexity of aesthetic form and elaborate imagery. It happened in the baroque period of Europe, whose arts are overwhelmingly ornate, flowery and complex. All of these attributes, however, represent the most superficial manifestations of human excellence. They become problematic when communities allow superficial greatness to displace the fundamentals of spiritual identity. When spiritual identity is no longer the focus of the community, trust deteriorates, confidence diminishes, and everyone becomes a suspect.
At the same time, however, when we take the Personal Priesthood approach to Orisa Lifestyle, we come to understand that it’s actually healthy to be humbled by this collective identity crisis. It represents a clarion call to the Global Yoruba community to realize that we have to take an inside-out approach to satisfying our individual and collective destinies. Before we rush to put on beads, titles and external trappings of Orisa priesthood, we absolutely must focus on discovering our natural gifts and talents, and on making a meaningful contribution by serving other people through upholding worthwhile causes.
Let's get personal: How is the identity crisis affecting YOU? Are you focusing your efforts on strengthening your primary greatness— your natural gifts and talents and ability to contribute? Right now, set a goal to make a difference for someone else at work, at home, in your neighborhood, or community. The more you focus on serving others, the more authentic you will feel; your spiritual power will grow, you will be build trust, and you will build your worth based on PRINCIPLES, instead of the need to gratify your most superficial values, which too often revolve around instant gratification and becoming an enviable figure in public. This is what Personal Priesthood is all about.
When you take this inside-out, Personal Priesthood approach to Orisa Lifestyle, you will eliminate the rush to buy spiritual identity. Instead, you will learn to appreciate the process through which you CULTIVATE spiritual identity. In this way, you learn to move from being a consumer of spiritual identity and become a producer of spiritual identity. And in this way, you protect yourself from spiritual identity theft. Learn more in the Fundamentals of Orisa Lifestyle.
Live the Medicine!
Obafemi Origunwa, MA | ObafemiO.com
OBAFEMI ORIGUNWA, MA
Biography: Obafemi Origunwa is the President of the Orisa Lifestyle Academy. Between 2003-2007, he operated arts and outdoor educational programs for school aged children in Oakland. In the fall of 2010, he began to oversee the organization’s multiyear commitment to advance thought leadership, resources and practices to build healthy orisa communities across the United States of America. Since 2011, Origunwa has served as the Spanish instructor at Ile Omode, Oakland's premier independent Black institution.
In 2013, he authored the Fundamentals of Orisa Lifestyle and started delivering a 16 week course by the same name. In 2015, Origunwa organized the Ifa Festival of Oakland, which featured an array of public events and activities that helped to bridge orisa devotion and the broader Oakland community.
As a practicing babalawo (Ifa priest) who has served thousands of individuals, he delivers an innovative healing practice designed to implement culturally-relevant healing modalities. Through his workshops and retreats, Origunwa has touched the lives of over fifty thousand people Nationally.
Mr. Origunwa's primary focus includes the cultural vitality of African Americans and the contributions of culture, family, wealth, education, geography, and employment to health status. In Spring 2017, Mr. Origunwa joined the faculty of the African American Studies department at San Francisco State University, where he teaches a course on Health and Healing in the African American Community.
HEAR WHAT IFA SAYS IN ONE OF HIS REDRESSING VERSES (EJIGBO) TO OPEN DOORS OF OPPORTUNITY FOR HIS DEVOTEE EVEN WHEN THEY ARE AT THE CROSS ROAD OR END ROAD, ORUNMILA GIVES THEM HOPE TO BRING THEM BACK TO LIFE.