Balance Point: Oloshas United LA Wemilere for Obatala

On Sunday, December 11, I was privileged to attend an event put on by Oloshas United Los Angeles which welcomed all Orisha communities of Southern California to come together for a wemilere to pay homage to Obatalá, so that he may assist humankind to heal and promote world peace.

A few words of explanation might be in order. According to their website, Oloshas United was founded in 2014. They “promote solidarity, tradition, and service for the preservation of our global Orisha community. Oloshas United is made up of Orisha Priests, devotees, academics, and interested individuals.”

According to Orishanet, “Santería or La Regla Ocha (Rule of the Orishas or deities) is the primeval and powerful Afro-Cuban religion now practiced worldwide. As much a culture and a world-view as it is a religion, La Regla Ocha retains the rites, music and even much of the language as practiced when brought to the New World from Africa during the slave trade. This ancient body of shamanic wisdom was adapted to the modern urban world by these slaves, among them some of the greatest minds in history.”
The same site has this to say about the spirits known as orishas:
“The orishas are the emissaries of Olodumare or God almighty. They rule over the forces of nature and the endeavors of humanity. They recognise themselves and are recognised through their different numbers and colors which are their marks, and each has their own favorite foods and other things which they like to receive as offerings and gifts. In this way we make our offerings in the manner they are accustomed to, in the way they have always received them, so that they will recognise our offerings and come to our aid.
The orishas are often best understood by observing the forces of nature they rule over. … As you observe the orishas at work in the world and in your own lives you will gain a better understanding of them and their ways. Yes, they are complex, but no more so than any other living being such as you or I. We are also blessed from time to time in the religion with the opportunity to meet the orishas face to face during a wemilere (drumming ceremony) where one or more of their priests will be mounted.”

From the same site, “Obatalá is the kindly father of all the orishas and all humanity. He is also the owner of all heads and the mind. Though it was Olorun who created the universe, it is Obatalá who is the creator of the world and humanity. Obatalá is the source of all that is pure, wise peaceful and compassionate. He has a warrior side though through which he enforces justice in the world.”

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The Wemilere is a ritual celebration to honor to a particular Orisha, in this case, Obatalá. While there are rules for initiates, the most important thing for non-initiates is to be respectful, displaying courtesy and manners.

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There were a number of elements in the ritual which stood out to me as an outsider. Greetings and prostrations between practitioners were based on a ritual hierarchy. According to one of the resident initiates, Jesse Barboza, “the saluting prostrating on floor of one Olosha to another is based on years of full Orisha what we call Kari Osha initiation.”

I was told that new initiates would dedicate themselves to a particular Orisha whereupon they would shave their heads and wear white clothing from head-to-toe for a year, both as a symbol of purity and as an energetic protection against misfortune. At the end of this process, they would be “crowned”, either with a white crown or of the color(s) aspected to the Orisha in question.

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I am reminded of the Abramelin Operation where an initiate dedicates himself or herself to the pursuit of accessing their Holy Guardian Angel, or higher self, depending on your viewpoint. The difference is that the Abramelin Operation is done in secret by a rich person who has a servant catering to their needs. Here, initiates have the support and encouragement of their community, after which their accomplishment gives them higher standing than they would have otherwise.
Divinations are normally done to determine the needs of the Orisha being worked with. At this event, Obatalá requested that a number of doves be released so as to bring about healing and world peace. A number of doves were removed from a cardboard box and carried around the ritual area so that they could absorb the energy of the altar, practitioners and drumming prior to being released.

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It is well known that spirit possession plays an important role in African diasporic traditions. Towards the end of the ritual, one man experienced possession during the prolonged drumming and dancing. He was clearly in a safe place to do so as he was in experienced hands.

Here are my photos from the event:

https://www.facebook.com/Tony.Mierzwicki/media_set?set=a.1350481264962975.1073741997.100000033427117&type=3

Tony Mierzwicki

Balance Point: 2016 Krampus Ball

December 2nd marked the fourth annual Krampus Ball. To quote Wikipedia,
“In Austro-Bavarian Alpine folklore, Krampus is a horned, anthropomorphic figure described as ‘half-goat, half-demon’, who, during the Christmas season, punishes children who have misbehaved, in contrast with Saint Nicholas, who rewards the well-behaved with gifts. Regions in Austria feature similar figures and, more widely, Krampus is one of a number of Companions of Saint Nicholas in regions of Europe.”

The highlight of the evening was the Krampus parade put on by Krampus Los Angeles, a costumed troupe intent on recreating a fun, but slightly dark, Bavarian tradition. However, to facilitate the immersiveness of the event, there were Bavarian snacks and beers, and some of the music and dance also hailed from Bavaria.

Our Master of Ceremonies for the evening was St Nicholas, played by the multitalented Rick Galiher who is perhaps better known as R.I.P. The Undertaker of Dearly Departed Tours and Gallery.

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The opening act was Ironwise, a small group of artists from a broad spectrum of influences exploring dark themes. To quote the evening’s program, “Singer Laura Shodire celebrates those of iron-strong wisdom and will, in lyrics delivered over an eclectic brew of folky rock doused in gothic ether.”

Samples of their music can be found here.

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Next, three members of the Bavarian music and dance group, G.T.E.V. D’Oberlandler, demonstrated the 10’ alpenhorn, an array of cowbells [there is no music in the world that cannot be improved with more cowbell], and folk dancing.

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Next, Christina Linhardt and Rasputin’s Marionettes demonstrated some of their macabre puppetry bringing to life the poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Der Erlkönig, which they translated as the goblin king, but is more properly the Elf-king or “king of the fairies”. The poem has been set to music by several composers, most notably by Franz Schubert, and this was the version which was sung by Christina, who is a classically trained singer.

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Next, Talea, a one-of-a-kind duo offered a unique mix of ambient/electronic soundscapes, tribal percussion, ambient and abrasive guitar from Topper Anthony, along with spoken word and operatic vocals from Talea Talea.

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During any breaks between performances, St Nicholas would take it upon himself to select a sinner in the audience and bring them to task.

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Finally it was time for the main event. Following a “gathering din of clanking cowbells … the ballroom doors burst open and a massed attack by the two dozen or so devils and mountain spirits of KRAMPUS LA” ensued. Talea remained on stage, to provide percussion for the Krampus appearance. While at least year’s Krampus Ball the devils and mountain spirits circled through the audience a number of times, this year, after the first circuit, they were invited on stage. St Nicholas then invited a number of the sinners on stage, one by one, and had them walk from one end to the other while being beaten by birch sticks so as to atone for their sins.

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Here’s my film footage from part of the ordeal faced by the sinners:

https://www.facebook.com/Tony.Mierzwicki/videos/vb.100000033427117/1339384932739275/?type=3&theater

Looking around at the audience, the reaction was the same as at every other Krampus event I have been to – everyone was smiling and laughing. Even though the Krampus legend is traditionally used to scare children into being good, it is actually a lot of fun.

Following on from the main event can be challenging, but Hammerstein Musik Bavaria rose to the occasion. This 4-piece ensemble is fronted by Bavarian-born Andreas Becket, and also includes an accomplished accordion player wearing a chicken on her head, a tuba player and a drummer. They describe themselves as an authentic Bavarian polka rock band. Their music was primarily traditional Bavarian peppered with Schuhplattler dances [Bavarian slap dancing] and yodeling. Remember “I’m Too Sexy” by Right Said Fred? These guys did a version that began with “I’m too sexy for my Krampus” which brought the house down.

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The band is best known for Wienerschnitzel’s Bratwurst commercial made in time for Oktoberfest 2016.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DYE5vNyj-k4

All in all, it was a great evening, and was just as much fun as last year’s event. Now I’ve got to wait a full year for the next ball!

Here’s a link to my Facebook photos from the event from this year – 2016 Krampus Ball.

Here’s a link to my Facebook photos from last year – 2015 Krampus Ball.

Tony Mierzwicki

Blog Launch – Balance Point.

It’s been a few years since I’ve written a blog and I thought I should get back into the groove, but perhaps with a name change. I don’t want to limit myself to esotericism, but rather to meander through a broad range of additional topics including, health, diet, exercise, the arts and science.

If there’s one thing that I’ve learned, it’s the wisdom of avoiding extremes and choosing a path of moderation, which I like to visualize as the Balance Point. It feels right to use this as the name of my new blog.

The online Your Dictionary provides the following definition:
“The definition of a balance point is when a place’s heat output equals the heat input, or when weight is equally distributed when resting on a single spot.
An example of a balance point is when a home’s loss of heat is equal to heat created in the home.
An example of a balance point is when both sides of a seesaw are at an equal level.”

Another way of looking at this is as the points on a lever where the applied forces need to be relative to the fulcrum as to achieve balance. Unless both forces are equal, the fulcrum will not be midway between them.

From a spiritual standpoint, the balance point concept is featured in at least a couple of instances.

Firstly, in Buddhism, Gautama Buddha described the character of the Noble Eightfold Path he discovered that leads to liberation as the Middle Way or Middle Path. This is a path of moderation, between the extremes of sensual indulgence and self-mortification, and is thus the path of wisdom.

Secondly, the Qabalistic Tree of Life, can be divided into three vertical pillars. The three pillars are called: The Pillar of Severity, The Pillar of Mercy and The Pillar of Balance (or Beauty).

The Pillar of Mercy Is found on the right hand side of the Tree of Life, and is associated with the left hand side of the body. The Pillar of Severity lies on the left hand side of the Tree of life and is associated with the right hand side of the body. The Pillar of Balance (or Beauty) the ‘middle pillar’ which runs up the centre of the Tree, is associated with balance, holism and integration. The two Pillars of Mercy and Severity, represent the two extremes or polarities in Nature. Obviously the most direct path of ascent up the tree is along the middle pillar.

 

While my intention is to explore the balance point concept in various disciplines, I will depart from this at my discretion to give a review of events which I attend and anything else that captures my interest.

Tony Mierzwicki