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Six characteristics all ATRs devotees should possess

Vodun festival Ouidah, Benin

First I want to thank my father who is a long time priest of the Akan spiritual tradition for sharing his insight and experience.


1 Patience

In the Odù Ogbè Ògúndá, Ifá says:

Sùúrù ni baba ìwà; àgbà tó ní sùúrù ohun gbogbo ló ní

Patience is the father of character; an elder who has patience has all things

There are many Ifá stories that explain why someone with patience will eventually obtain all blessings but in general patience is an extremely important characteristic for all ATR devotees to have for a few reasons:

(1) Learning and growing inside most ATRs is a lifetime journey. Traditionally children start their studies from birth and apprentice for years before gaining the tradition specific equivalent of the title priest/priestess. There's no fast track that will make you a priest or healer in months.

(2) There are no true "quick fixes". There's no magic potion that will make you rich overnight or help you instantly find love. Most of our rituals, remedies and medicines require time and personal effort. While there are SOME fast acting charms and medicines, the majority of the spiritual work we do is centered around discovering and aligning ourselves with our divine mission and not simply on isolated personal gain.


2 Good work ethic

In general African spiritual traditions aren't passive practices where you sit back, pray and wait for your blessings to rain down from the sky.

They require physical, mental and emotional work.

Our rituals require physical labor to complete, our medicines take time and effort to make and our spirits constantly call for mentally and emotionally challenging lifestyle adjustments and changes.

If you are looking for a spiritual practice where you are the OBJECT and not the SUBJECT of your spiritual journey then ATRs are probably not the right choice for you.

In the words of our ancestor Maya Angelou:

"Nothing will work unless you do"

This applies 100% to African spiritual traditions.

Vodou ceremony, Haiti


3 Discipline

Each level of existence has its own order i.e. in the physical world we follow

the order set by the cultures and societies we live in. We adhere to complex social norms and expectations. We tend to follow our thoughts, emotions, feelings, cravings etc.

Spirit on the other hand has its own order that is sometimes perpendicular.

Discipline is required because the order that spirit sets is not always that

easy to follow.

Spirit may demand that you do things you DON'T want to do and that you don't do things you WANT to do. Spirit may restrict you from engaging in activities that are common in society.

Spirit may require daily and weekly routines that are not always easy to follow.

The path of an ATR devotee is truly one of discipline.


4 Knowledge of self

As ATR devotees we are conduits of spirit. We receive messages from spirit for both our own personal benefit and for the benefit of others. We must have the ability to differentiate between the voice of our own ego and the voice of spirit.

Know thyself is an incredibly overused spiritual cliché but it is so important in ATRs.

When you hear voices in your head, when you have dreams, when you perform divination or use any other method of spiritual discovery consistent with your tradition, you must have the ability to differentiate between what is coming from your mind versus what comes from spirit.

To do this you must spend time getting to know yourself and be honest with yourself about your ego, your personality, your fears, your trauma etc.

Otherwise you may think you are being led by spirit but it will be your own ego and fears that are guiding you in the wrong direction.

You must also spend time with your shrines and gain a good understanding of how they speak through you specifically. This will also help you recognize the voice of spirit clearly.

Vodou practitioner, Haiti by Les Stone


4 Attentiveness

Evident in the thousands of forms of divination found across the continent of Africa and throughout the black diaspora, our ancestors paid close attention to small details about their environment.

African divination systems use everything from water, to shells, to mirrors to clouds and anything else you can think of.

This is because our ancestors understood the science of how spirit can speak to us in many many forms.

As ATR devotees we must keep our eyes and ears open because the writing is truly on the wall.

Beyond our physical senses i.e. sight and hearing, we must also stay attuned to energetic shifts and changes.

Some of the most highly respected elder ATR priests and priestesses I know can see and feel things invisible to most people.

Vodou priestess in Haiti by Les Stone


6 Humility

Humility and respect are extremely important in African cultures in general. African spiritual traditions are inseparable from the cultures that birthed them. In Yoruba culture for example, there are specific greetings given to elders and specific pronouns used when speaking to and about elders.

In all sects of Ifá and Òrìṣà practice we approach elders and our spiritual teachers with humility and respect. In my own spiritual lineage there are detailed verbal and physical greetings I am required to give my spiritual teachers whenever I see them.

In the Odù Ogbè Ká, Ifá says

"I stand on my feet yet my hands cannot pluck the fruit

I bend down yet I could not lay my hands on the fruit

Some elders advised me to prostrate

Immediately I prostrate, the fruit drops into my hands"

This verse speaks further to the point of being humble enough to listen to one's elders.

Ìdọ̀bálẹ̀, traditional Yorùbá male greeting for an elder

Not only do we show humility in the face of our physical living elders but also when dealing with spiritual entities as well. This is rooted in an understanding that spirit is much greater than we are. Spirit is infinite and timeless. Each Òrìṣà or deity of each tradition may have its own respect based greetings and protocols. We also understand that we as humans do not know everything and can't see everything. We are humble enough to approach the shrines for assistance with the things that are beyond our control.

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