Burning Pepe with Ritual.

A little bit of knowledge can be dangerous… as this story proves out.

I don’t know where to begin because I don’t think that I’ve told you enough about my past with Santeria, Palo and Vodou, but this memory came to mind this afternoon and I wanted to write it down. Perhaps, I’ll even publish it without giving you the proper context. To help a little you could go into some of my blog posts that are tagged with Santeria, Palo and Ramiro and the like… yet it might not help at all. But let’s get right into it, anyway.

Without going into any great detail, suffice it to say that I had been living with a Santero (a practitioner/priest of Santeria. My break with him was tragic. After being with him for several years, to better understand him and the culture of Cuba and its people, I studied Cuban spirituality and simultaneously, Haitian spirituality which, of course, both derive from African roots.

In my studies, I came across primary resources written by priests. Primary resources, of course, are documentation that record first hand experiences. These books or pamphlets or diaries recorded the rituals of their religion. I had watched many rituals performed in the years spent with the Cubans. I always felt though that I was standing at the door with the door just barely cracked open and me, I was peeking inside of a room not truly being able to enter, to participate or to even understand what I was seeing.

This new found knowledge, accompanied by my first hand experiences with Santeros and practitioners of Palo and Vodou, proved to be dangerous weapons in my hands.

After my break with Ramiro, I was left with many accoutrements, but this is another story. My heart had been broken and I had seen too many things. I wanted to relieve my broken heartedness and I also wanted to affect others with what I knew. I didn’t really want to hurt anyone, that was not my intention. But these two things alone are a dangerous combination. I wasn’t looking for revenge but this is how it was perceived.

Pepe was a friend of Ramiro’s and appeared on the scene to “soothe my pain”. I didn’t want a boyfriend, I wanted Ramiro back but I wasn’t getting him back, so Pepe became a friend. But this was not how Pepe saw it.

Pepe would not go away. He tattooed my name on his arm. He led his friends to believe we were lovers. That, we never were. My mistake was to allow him to continue to be my friend even when I realized that he was unreasonable.

My reasoning was that Pepe was nice enough. Pepe cared for me. He was willing to tolerate that I was still in love with Ramiro and that I didn’t love him. In a selfish way, Pepe was my connection to the Cuban community and vicariously to Ramiro. In some odd way this helped to ease the pain, to have somebody familiar around.

This is how the problem started and I am the only one to blame. Pepe was insistent and I suppose you could say that I allowed it, I left the door open, I was too tolerant. But as he became demanding, I became frustrated at first and then afraid. I didn’t believe he would hurt me but he had become frustrated, too. There was an element of him being out of control. Here again, I won’t go into unnecessary detail about his fits of frustration. He was refusing to just be my friend. Though I would lose my connection to him, to the Cubans and to Ramiro, it was time for him to go.

I wanted him to know that I was serious. I wanted him to know that I could make him go away. I knew in no uncertain terms that it had to be final and permanent. I thought that my most powerful ability was to use his own beliefs against him.

I knew too much and yet I knew too little. I never should have done this but I did. This wasn’t the first time, nor was it the last that I used what I had learned, that I used ways that I had no business using.

Whether you believe this or not is neither here nor there to me. I don’t care. But this is what witnesses have reported. These are the consequences of my actions. I followed the directions to the letter. There are times that I regret what I did, but they had the results I was looking for. I never heard from Pepe again.

I wrote Pepe a letter simply asking him to leave me alone. I sprinked into the envelope, powders and ashes of certain and specific animal bones, crushed plants, rocks and metals procribed in the books of priests. I carefully copied, by hand, certain ancient symbols drawn in the books. I sealed the envelope and drew certain other symbols that crossed over the seal, so that when opened, the symbols would be torn in two.

Pepe recieved the letter. According to witnesses, when he tore open the seal, a cloud of dust rose into the air covering his face and flew into his eyes. He was blinded momentarily and had trouble breathing. The dust caused sores on his face and neck that lasted for weeks.

Pepe was out of my life for good. I haven’t heard from him or about him for years. I hope he’s OK.

I Can Hear Crying

Good morning. I woke by 6:30 with the moon shining in my window. Then shortly, there looked to be an orange ball of flickering fire out my other window. I got up to find that it was the sun. So, I sat for awhile in the moonlight to the west and the sunlight in the east. It was mesmerizing.

Finally I made a cup of coffee. The moon’s light was overwhelmed by the more powerful sun. It’s so warm outside that I can’t feel the air. Not a leaf is stirring. The only sound is an occasional hushed voice and a car going by. The coffee tastes good but it could be better. I’m thankful for so many things but is it possible to have such tremendous heartbreak at the same time?

Right now, in my small room, everything is beautiful… from my furniture and deep carpets to my many art projects. A new day is here.

“I’m so lucky”, I’ve always said. Now, I know that I’m not lucky, I’m privileged. It hurts to think in what misery others are waking up to.

I’m being torn in two. I can’t close my eyes anymore, not even for one brief second. I used to be able to close my eyes most of the time but not anymore. I can hear crying coming out of the earth.

Written in the summer of the year 2019 and I still feel the same.

Why I Believe in Santa

Me and my brother, Steve, as believers.

As a child, I easily believed that the Santas, whose laps we sat upon, were real.

I didn’t question how such a big guy could fit down our chimney or fly in a sled pulled by reindeer and land on our roof or deliver presents to all the children of the world in one night.

I was a believer.

But then there came a time when I understood that a big Santa couldn’t fit down our chimney. But, I was undaunted when I learned through book learning that Santa was an elf.

Now, it all makes sense. Santa is an elf and an elf is small and magical and unlimited in its powers. Of course, he has a tiny sled and tiny reindeer and he can land on our roof and with no problem, come down our chimney. And elves are not constrained by the limitations of space and time, so children everywhere can wake up to presents under the tree.

You can’t imagine the relief I felt when I had this realization. When there is such evidence that Santa is an elf, there’s no reason to require faith or belief.

And this is why I find such joy in the season. 🤗🌲🎁

Santa Claus!!!

Love Wrapped Up in Christmas Cards

My mom loved getting and giving cards for all occasions. At Christmas time, she had a list a mile long because she had a very large family and many friends. When a card would come in from someone not on the list, they would be added.

My cards this year.

Mom would set up an aluminum TV tray (remember those?) in front of her living room chair. Beside her was a tall stack of cards with envelopes and her list with names and addresses. From right after Thanksgiving until her list was complete, this is where we would find her, when she was not at work, or cleaning, cooking, doing laundry, shopping and wrapping presents.

For Christmas, as the mail came in, she’d cover the fireplace mantel with cards, then when there was no more room, she’d tape them on the door jams in the living room. Every year, when the holiday season was over, she would gather the cards and stash them away in a box along with her list.

Mom and me in 1966. See the Christmas cards?

When Mom passed away, it was hard to throw away her memories that were her only treasures. She didn’t leave us money or property but she left us something more precious, her unconditional love for everyone. Cards and photos and letters were overwhelming as evidence.

I’ve never sent cards at Christmas. Kristi (my sister) had taken over this tradition from Mom. But this very special year, my cousins (on mom’s side) and I decided to send cards to each other. We needed to say, “I love you” in a very tangible way. Some of us are very alone or suffering in other ways. There are well over 40 of us. In such a large family, one never knows what heartbreak might be.

I can’t tell you how much this has meant to me. I could feel Mom stirring in my heart and see her in my mind’s eye, sitting in her chair, head down, handwriting her cards as I wrote my cards, addressed the envelopes and stuffed them into the mailbox.

And now, I rush to get the mail everyday to see who has sent me a card. I think it’s my turn to keep the tradition, Mom.

This has been heartwarming in a cold and dark night. Our world has been turned upside down and this small gesture of sending and recieving cards has brought much needed joy and comfort. Thank you, cousins.

I love you all.

Does This Alarm You?

I was talking today to another about a conversation I was having with a friend about the meaning of dreams, of spirituality. She thinks that I should not be talking about spirituality because my perspective is not spiritual. She thinks my friend would be better talking to someone who is spiritual. Perhaps she is right.

It’s not that I do not acknowledge spirituality, it’s that I stand there, face to face with it and am not afraid to ask questions of something that, to me, does not exist. Why do I need something to believe in?

I see only the stories made by men. I acknowledge the stories. Yes, I acknowledge that others put faith in them. I can acknowledge the creative beauty of the stories but I also recognize their sinister intentions, their dark, shadow side. I put faith in nothing. I believe in nothing.

This is a great comfort to me… that I can live in this world, with a beating heart and understand, that my courage consists of this: I know, only, that I am. I know nothing for sure, not even that and that is OK for me. I know that I am vulnerable and that I will not be here for long. I know that my existence consists of both joy and sorrow and that I have no control over my experiences and that is terrifying but true.

I will talk to you about anything but know for sure, that I do not live with belief or faith in belief. My perspective might frighten you. You would not be the first to be alarmed.

The Cost of Consciousness

One of the advantages of having a house that is three stories tall is that I can look down on all of the plants in the garden. From my vantage point I can look down on the tops of the dogwood trees that are still blooming. The hummingbirds are feeding this morning from the blossoms. From high up here the entire yard looks green. Yum yum, my sweet dog, is lying in a pool of morning sunshine on the lounge. The water is hot and I’m ready to make my 1st cup of coffee. From high up here, I can almost forget what is happening in the wider world.

The advantage of being older is that I can do what I want when I want without being scheduled. This I love. From this vantage point I can look at my life and see the incredible life it has been. And I can also see what a wonderful life I am living, despite the chaos in the world.

From this vantage point I can also see the disadvantage of living in such a priviledged country. We are living on blood soaked land. We are living this priviledged existence because we are able to militarily overcome all other countries. We are only privileged because other countries have knelt before us at the point of a gun. We are only privileged because we have caused others to fear. People say this is the most wonderful country on Earth. What they don’t understand is that we’ve only been priviledged because we have insisted that others submit to us. We’re only priviledged because we have made it so that others have been brought to their knees.

What I hope for now is that we are being brought to our knees. Our powerful greed and hatred have been our demise. Our “democratic/capitalist experiment” is failing.

I don’t know what the future holds. I don’t know how much longer we can go on like this. It is hard to be the privileged person that I am knowing that my privilege has been bought with blood money. It is hard to be the privileged person that I am knowing that my privilege has cost another’s suffering. It is hard to be the privileged person that I am knowing that the leadership of this country consists of wealthy, hateful warmongers and have always been. It is hard to be so joyful and peaceful and comfortable knowing that the majority serves the minority. But so has it ever been. This dichotomy of feelings is the cost of consciousness.

My privileged life breaks my heart.

Te quiero muchisimo. I love you so much.

❤❤❤❤❤❤❤

Summertime on Sauvies Island

It’s a beautiful August day. The sky is a light shade of blue without a cloud in sight. The trees are a trillion shades of green and a light breeze is blowing. You know what I’ve been thinking about? My thoughts travel back to my childhood. I’m remembering summers when I was between the ages of about a 6 and 14. By the time I was a teenager, I no longer yearned to spend days with my parents and my siblings, though I did. But from my earliest remembrance until my teenage years, I remember summer days spent either camping at the coast or weekends on Sauvies Island.*

Summer days day-dreaming

I remember the picnic tables under the shade of the cottonwood trees. The fluffy seed pods slowly drifting down from above and onto the tables and covering the sand with the sticky seeds and fluff. Everyone would join to drag the heavy wooden tables to just the right spot making sure they were level and fully shaded.

Mom and Dad, Grandpa and Grandma and Auntie Wilma and Uncle Bob or Uncle Jim, depending on who she was married to at the time, would carry down coolers full of Kool aid and hot dogs and buns and chips of all kinds and watermelon. Mom would set up the camp stove and Grandma and Auntie Wilma would spread the tables with oil cloth. Mom, Grandma and Auntie Wilma would have made potato salad, coleslaw and maybe a macaroni salad or a three bean salad. We had plastic divided picnic plates in primary colors and I think we had regular silverware and paper napkins and colorful stacking tin cups. Dad and the other guys, would carry from the trunks of our cars, folding chairs and their fishing gear.

The fishermen: Dad and Uncle Bob

Dad and Uncle Jim (or Bob), Grandpa and Steve would carry their poles down to the rivers edge and cast their bobbers, sinkers and hooks into the water setting them up into their pole holders set firmly in the wet sand. I don’t remember a time when they didn’t take creels home full of fish. All the while, Mom and Grandma and Aunt Wilma set out the food.

Grandpa and Steve and I

I remember clearly how hot the sand was and how far it was from under the shade of the cottonwood trees to the edge of the river where the sand was cold and wet under our feet. We wore thongs that would inevitably break between our toes and hurt our feet as the rubber folded under our soles. So, mostly we were barefoot.

I can clearly remember one of my swim suits. It was a vertical striped black-and-white cotton suit that ballooned from my waist to the tops of my thighs. I can’t really remember whether I loved or hated that suit but I wore it a lot. I was embarrassed when the balloon part filled with water making me look ridiculous.

Dad and us kids in the Columbia
OMG! There I am in my balloon suit.

We’d take towels with us as we ran towards the river’s edge as fast as we could with Mom shouting a warning not to go too deep. We spread them out where they would heat up under the hot sun. Kristi and I put a toe into the water first just to see how cold it was. Then we’d slowly wade out to our ankles, then to our knees, then to our thighs and then to our waists and once we were up to our waists, we would plunge under the water. Steve had already run in full blast, splashing us and making us scream. Mom’s predictable saying was, “Don’t scream and he’ll stop”. But he never did.

Us kids and Dad on the Island

These were the days when the Colombia was clean, and not yet designated as the 5th hottest river in the world due to the mercury content. We’d swim and we’d dive under the water opening our eyes to see each other’s legs so we could swim between them. We’d open our eyes to look into each other’s faces and try to talk, swallowing big gulps of river water. We’d do handstands and see who could stand the longest with their feet in the air. We’d swim until exhausted and then we’d run out of the water and up the beach to our hot towels burning our feet, saying hot, hot, hot” to collapse on our stomachs and doze. We’d bury our feet in the sand and we’d bury Steve up to his neck.

Me – a topless bathing beauty

Soon, we’d run back into the water washing the sand from our legs and backs and arms until Mom called us to come and eat. We’d spread mustard and ketchup and relish on our hot dogs and eat them walking around in the sand until Mom told us to sit at the table and handed us a plate with salad and chips and a cup of Koolaid. We almost always got sand in our food. But Mom would just tell us to eat it anyway, saying, “a little dirt never hurt anyone”.

I remember the smell of Coppertone sunscreen. We didn’t call it sunscreen then, it was suntan lotion. Mom would slather it all over us but because we were in-and-out of the water and in-and-out of the sand and off and on our towels, the lotion didn’t last long on our bodies and we’d burn in early summer but by August we were all tan enough that the burning was over. Mom always said that we were as “brown as berries”. *

Mom and Grandma would mostly sit in the shade but Auntie Wilma would come and lay in the sun with us and swim and she had a pole in the water, too. She had won trophies for swimming and diving and had spent most of her time in the outdoors except when she was bowling or working as a soda jerk. It was from her that I learned to put iodine in baby oil and rub it on my body so that I would tan even more. But that wasn’t until I was a teenager wearing a leopard skin bikini.

This is how our weekend days would go in the summer months when we went to picnic on Reeders Beach on Sauvies Island.

Dad had a 14′ boat and if we weren’t on Sauvies Island picnicking and swimming, he would take us out in the boat, either on the Willamette River or the Columbia or we would start on the Willamette and boat up river on the Multnomah Channel to the Columbia. I remember the smell of gasoline when we would pull up to the gas station dock where he had the attendant fill up our tank for our outboard motor. I remember how small I felt when a large tanker ship heading up the Columbia would pass us and the giant swells they would make would toss us up-and-down.

This is where we learned to swim. We wore bright orange cotton life jackets filled with kapok from Sears. They were belted on with canvas straps fastened with silver D-rings. We always wore them in the boat. Dad tossed us overboard. When these life jackets were wet, they must have weighed 25 lbs. Of course, he had taught us to swim off shore first but that was not in deep waters. He expected us to be expert swimmers. Once we were good enough, he would stop the motor out from the shore of a sandy beach and we would swim to shore without our life jackets and then he would motor the boat and anchor just off the shore, where we’d spend the day away from popular beaches.

Us kids in the boat with Dad

We’d eat salami, bologna and cheddar cheese on saltine crackers and cookies and chips. Dad drank beer and we had bottled Fanta sodas that left out mouths dyed orange, red, green or purple. As the sun began to set, Dad would motor back to the boat launch, with us kids mesmerized and half asleep rocking in the waves. Sometimes Dad would speed along and we laughed as the boat would slam up and down as it hit the waves, spray soaking us.

I remember Dad looking out for logs in the water. One collision would have spelled disaster. These logs would have broken away from one of the many mills along the rivers or from a barge towing a huge raft. They were frequently found, water logged and partly submerged. A real danger to boaters unaware.

Once we were at the boat launch or if we were loading up from a day at Reeders Beach on Sauvies Island, us kids were not allowed in the car, coated in sand. Mom would take us one by one and rub us down with a rough Turkish towel. Kristi and I would squeal in agony while Mom sandpapered our soft and sun burnt skin until almost every grain was left on the ground beside the car. Steve was on his own except for his feet, which Mom scrubbed mercilessly.

Not only were we instructed to eat sand at picnics and were rubbed nearly raw to remove all sand, but if we had a wound from scrapes and cuts, Mom scrubbed the wound to remove gravel and dirt or picked out bits of glass, ignoring our cries for mercy, she’d then pour Mercurochrome* on them to add insult to injury. Mom was a nurse who took her children’s health seriously. We never had an infection but all summer long we were stained red and pasted with band-aids.

These summers on the Island were some of my best memories. Of course, there were others, like camping at the coast in Florence at Honeyman Camp Ground, but those are stories that will come later. One summer Roy Rogers, Grandma’s cousin, was at the family reunion. During his stay, he had his speedboat with him and he spent the day with us at Sauvies Island. Yes. That Roy Rogers. But that’s also a story for another time.

Time spent sitting on the porch, looking at the sky and listening to the rustle of the leaves in the wind and remembering and writing these memories has been a wonderful way to wile away a summer’s afternoon.

Notes

*The phrase, “brown as a berry”, seems to date back to Geoffrey Chaucer where it appears twice in The Canterbury Tales (ca. 1380s). If you Google the phrase, you’ll be met with some further, and quite interesting information.

*Mercurochrome, in its original form, is now banned in many countries, including the US, because of its mercury content.

*Sauvies Island was just a little over 11 miles on Hwy. 30 from our house in St. Johns. It was first named Wapato Island, and is now mostly farm land. Before Europeans took the land, it was home to the Multnomah branch of the Chinook Indians with about 15 villages and a population of 2000 people. It is one of the largest river islands in the US

Our Mother’s Cycles

Change Will Come

We have been in lockdown. We have been quarantined since mid-March 2020. We are expected to wear masks when in public places. Stores and restaurants and bars were shutdown, many to never open again. Businesses have closed. There is massive unemployment. People are infected with Covid-19 and some are dying.

And worse yet, we have a toxic president pushing for a fascist regime. He is up for reelection in November and his campaign is deeply rooted in white supremacy. He is hell bent on destroying not only America but the world. I’m terrorized.

I could write a list of what is wrong but it would be too long for the post I want to write. I will say only that we need real change. We need a universal awakening to stop the engrained systemic racism resulting in police brutality and injustice and inequality in every aspect of life.

We are destroying our home. We have raped and pillaged our only source of life. This just might be the end of us. And yet we persist in this destruction. My heart is sick.

And yet, the earth will heal after our self-inflicted demise, there is no doubt. When we no longer strip the forests, pollute the air, soil and water; when we are no longer here to burn down our home, the earth will recover. I should be hopeful.

While I wake every morning to face yet another day, to sort through what new tragedy has taken place, what new atrocities await us… how much money we spend on war machines to annihilate innocent people, to count how many children are in cages, how many refugees are in transit, and are hungry and homeless, how many US citizens are homeless and hungry, and not to mention the working poor, I become more cynical and without hope. I can hardly take it.

And yet, I am one of the lucky ones. I have shelter, food, clothing family and friends, but that brings no solace. Solace will only come with real and lasting change. History teaches us that only hatred and greed are the only constants in this world.

You will argue with me, I know that. I have heard all the arguments. There is nothing new that you can come up with. NOTHING!. You will say, “but look at all the beauty that surrounds you: nature, music, all of the arts, people who are good, people who are protesting and working towards a better world.” I know. But that doesn’t make change. It never has and I doubt that it ever will. I feel desperate.

But my initial intention for this post is to celebrate our mother, our great mother, who would provide for us everything we need if we weren’t so full of hate and greed. We do not understand her.

Two people have mentioned the changing of the season though we are not quite half way through summer. Do we somehow, intuitively feel the change, see it in the shadows, and see the end of life of earth’s flowering? Fruit and vegetables and all that carry seeds are ready to burst and fall upon the ground.

I have resisted and complained when folks start talking about the season’s ending when we’re fully engulfed in the present season. But I am beginning to understand and to embrace it. I think this follows my lack of recognition of changes in my own body.

I was never really conscious of my own, very intimate, monthly cycles of ovulation and the impending expulsion of my eggs in a flood of fluid and blood. I never experienced PMS symptoms or cramps with my menstrual cycle. I never knew when those changes were about to take place or were taking place until there was obvious evidence. And when the cessation of that cycle came, I wasn’t conscious of the internal changes taking place. I didn’t equate the changes of my emotions and psychology together with the changes in my body. The symptoms of menopause were slight and short-lived.

I am not saying that I didn’t sense the changes as one season was ending or another beginning but I was fully present: summer was summer, winter was winter, etc. Don’t talk to me about spring when it is still winter.

I am just beginning to understand how others more overtly acknowledge and accept mother earth’s cycles, her seasons and how that pertains to my own lack of consciousness of my own cycles… her barreness, her fertility, her impregnation and fullness of pregnancy and then her birthing. And of course there is the building up to each cycle, so I should have been able to put these together. I could be more joyful at the slow turning of the seasons and to welcome other’s acknowledgement that they sense the preparation of the mother to the changes.

Though the universe, the planets and the stars, tell us that the solstice and the equinox turns on this date or that date, we are in the fullness of earth’s cycles everyday and even in the smallest of increments.

How to tie the world’s demise to the earth’s resilience? Well, as chilling March turned into April, winter awoke from slumber and sprang forth in exuberance. Trees grew leaves and flowers. Sprouts burst out of the cold soil. Color was everywhere. Even in April’s cold rains, life emerged, undaunted by the turmoil produced by humans.

If I could wish for anything, it would be peace and justice and a consciousness that this earth is our mother, the very source of life, and that everything is dependent on our loving care.

So friends, let’s talk about the changing seasons. Let’s talk about how “a change is gonna come”. Let’s talk about it. Just maybe it will.

A Story of Possession

I stood trembling in front of the double doors in the living room, shaking not from cold but for reasons I could not understand.

I was dripping with water that had been generously sweetened with honey and had been poured over my head. I really did not want to hear anything more but I knew that I had to keep my ears and eyes open even though right then, I had them firmly shut.

Oshun was standing on the other side of the room and I knew she was not through with with me yet. At any rate, I was assuming it was she.

The singing continued and so did the beat of the drums. The room was dark except for the evening light that shone through the trees and in through the open doors. The light of the candles added little to dispel the dimness.

Ramiro was speaking but I couldn’t understand what he was saying. His head fell back as he laughed and when he opened his eyes to look at me it was as though I had never seen him before.

He stood up from where he had been sitting, petitioning the deities, barefoot and shirtless in a pair of khaki shorts. He stood very close to me as he pulled his pants up high around his waist, lifted his head and looked down his nose at me.

“Do you know who I am?” He appeared very feminine as he began to move around the room, sashaying and swaying his hips sensuously and moving his shoulders very coquettishly. He held his head high, pushing his chest out, then he asked again, “Do you know who I am? I said yes, thinking I was standing in the presence of Oshun.

“Who told you to light candles to Chango? I did not tell you to. He does not like putas and you are very puta. I am his and he is mine.” He collapsed on the floor with his legs wide apart and demanded loudly “Please, bring me water and honey.”

I brought him water in a glass and the plastic bear containing honey that I used for tea. He dismissed them with disgust, waving his arms arrogantly and laughed loudly saying, “No, I want water, water, lots of water…

Make it sweet and set it here in front of me.” At this I found the biggest container I could find and filled it to the brim, emptying all of the honey into the water.

As I set it on the floor, he first bathed himself starting with his head, splashing it on his body and taking large mouthfuls of it and spraying it into the four corners of the house and then out both of the doors.

Then finally, he came over to me and washed me roughly with the sweet water from head to foot, splashing it all over. He sprayed it from his mouth in my face and all over my body, washing my arms and my breasts and stomach. He turned me around as he washed my buttocks and my legs and feet. “I will cleanse you”, she said. “You have not been living clean. You say that you love your man, but you are very puta. Why? answer me”, she demanded.

I began to cry and said, “Only to take away my loneliness.” With his hands on his hips, he sashayed over to the farthest corner of the room.

As he walked, his movements, though feminine were somewhat stiff. He lurched, nearly knocking over the table and lamp. As I reached out to grab the table he whirled around and snapped, magically as though he had eyes in the back of his head, “Do not touch me. You are an angel but you are dark. I can hardly see you. Stand over there.”

I moved to the farthest corner, next to the double doors. “You need to buy new clothes. Do not wear black anymore. Come here.” I walked over to him and he clamped his hand over my ears, pounding them with his open palms. She said, “I’m going to cleanse you.”

As he spoke words that I couldn’t understand, he rubbed my body, my arms, my legs in forceful downwards movements. He then told me to sit on the floor.

“There’s a woman that you hate. Yes? No? She has the man that you love. So you know who I am? Yes or no? Papijim, he is mine. I have taken him from you. You do not have what he needs. He does not want to dance with you. I have taken him from you. He does not want sex with you, papijim. I have what he needs”, she says, pulling his pants up and he begins to sway his hips sensually. He looked at me out of the corner of his eyes and turned his head from side to side mockingly. “You have committed many errors and now, papijim, he is mine. You do not know how to live. You do not know how to enjoy life.”

He was snorting and scoffing. She was so sure of herself as she so cruelly mocked me. She laughed out loud and I knew she was right. I was alone. I was broken. Chastised.

Several minutes later, another orisha arrived. He looked as though he saw another person in the room. He dropped his pants and grabbed his genitals. “You have preferred this. You must change.

“Buy girasoles (sunflowers). Buy white flowers that have no pink or yellow. Put the petals in a bucket of clear water. Wash your hands and arms in the water as you crush the petals in your fingers. When you are done, throw the water out the door of your house.” He left me reeling.

Before he left, he sprayed rum into the four corners of the house and around the doors to keep evil away. He moved my image of Eleggua to face the front door to guard against whatever might wish to pass to do me harm.

Post script:

This is just a small example of what I witnessed while I lived with the Cubans. I learned so much about the way they think and about the way they view sickness and ways that they heal. Because they were refugees and lived in a city where items that they needed to perform certain rituals were not readily available, I saw a great deal of adaptation, accommodation and ingenuity. This lack did not affect how they lived any more than the slaves were disabled because they arrived in the new world without the necessary paraphernalia to carry on.

I will not go into descriptions of the orishas (gods), in this instance, Oshun and Chango, or what this experience was all about. I will let it stand but I will tell you more as these stories emerge on this blog.

I lived with Ramiro, a santero (priest in Santeria), for three years and was immersed in his religion. Later, I studied Cuban folklore and spirituality with other priests in both Santeria and Palo and at UCLA.

This story took place when we were no longer together but still very close.

This is one story of many that I will share with you.