Student asks: "I was in a metaphysical store the other day and a girl was going to buy a Yemaya and an Oshun figure, but was basically ripped to shreds by someone behind the counter once the customer said she was not part of a certain religion (I can’t remember what she said to be honest I was trying to hide from the awkward ). This salesperson went on to say you can’t just go and connect with them, you must seek counsel from a priestess in that religion or talk to elders to work with them. I just wanted to know if anyone knew more about it… I felt really bad for that girl, but maybe there is something I’m missing or don’t understand."
The sales person is right and wrong.
So, yes, you can't just buy a statue or say I'm connecting to this god just because. You know why? They are gods. You don't have some entitlement to connect to anything just because you want to. There is a lot of delusion and entitlement when it comes to deity worship.
To say you are part of a religion which is a closed practice (meaning someone teaches you the ways from that culture or establishment) is cultural appropriation. There are a lot of books that "celebrate" the orishas encouraging a tik-tok brief about the deity, and people say, "GOOD IDEA" and buy a statue and jump all in.
This is where he is wrong: The Orishas have been creolized into about a hundred faiths. They ARE accessible to the masses, and deciding that they are only for certain people encourages cultural erasure and encourages more accessible religions (like Christianity) to continue to be oppressive. So, this is where, ethically he feels he is doing something good, and instead is doing something bad. His response should be, let me get you materials and people who can include you into the practice and the veneration of this deity, normalizing Afro-diasporic faiths and traditions. Let me help teach you who this is and why you should include this deity and the other Orishas in your practice, just to make sure you have the right one and not because some Brittney (it's always a Brittney) on Instagram said you should.
Anyone who wants to follow the Orishas should read the Ifa, or books specifically written by Yoruban, Voodoo, or other African-diasporic authors to see if they really ARE the right fit. You cannot say that you suddenly follow the Ifa because you haven't been accepted, and same with Voodoo, but you can worship whom you want when you want in your home and no one can tell you otherwise.
Learn the stories, read and learn to pray, and take classes or get a mentor. This will help you devote and get through to the deity the way that is appropriate (as in the, goddess will answer... hopefully... no guarantees). And, when you do that, why would a goddess or god not accept you, regardless of your background? If you venerate appropriately, what sales person's scolding is going to stop a god? Really? Mitch (it's what I have named the guy behind the counter), calm down. Give resources and education, because this person may help to elevate BIPOC voices, which is what we want.
You just want to make sure that you are ACTUALLY connecting to the real thing, that the real thing would even answer (for instance, it is my experience that Oshun does not answer men, and Yemaya does not answer unless she wants to - so you could be venerating your whole life and not get a response - faith - but if you are getting a response all the time, is it really her or something else that has answered a desperate call?).
Remember that faith is about connecting to something bigger than yourself. It is not meant to replace what is missing in your life (life balance) but faith and the gods are there to support and help keep a stable foundation. If you are feeling a mess, faith will not fix it, but will help you land on solid ground while you try to fix it.
Consider taking Rootworker from us at BearBridge Academy to learn about how to venerate the Orishas, and other amazing spirits!