About Íyaloṣa Aṣabi

Iya  Asabi

Iya Asabi

Which came first the path or the river.

The day we are born our search for a spiritual path begins. Somewhere between birth and death, we may stumble upon a way of life a philosophy that will help us find fulfillment and ourselves. In my search, I went through several religious mutations. Catholic girl wannabe nun, Tamara Ben Joshua Black Hebrew Israelite, budding Buddhist, et al. However, none these paths gave me fulfillment or self-esteem. Somehow in 1980, at a crossroad in my life, Elegba bumped into me. I didn’t know who he was and didn’t fully understand the turn my life would take from the encounter.
A close friend/sister introduced me to the concept of African people having a religion before Christianity and Islam came to the continent. I politely listened, but in my mind I thought my girl had obviously gone over the edge. Yet as days past, something about the stories she told of the Orisha, her ile and way of life called for me to learn more. Eventually I joined her ile and there I learned about Haitian and Yoruba religious traditions. I also studied West African culture and began to appreciate the rich legacy of our ancestors.
 
Our mother returns .
My paternal grandmother, Corinne Craig Thomas, was of Haitian ancestry. She was the second wife of a Louisiana farmer, my grandfather Henry Thomas. Big Momma was a natural healer. Using her knowledge of roots and herbs, she healed many ailments that confronted her rural community. Though her passing occurred when I was 8 years old, she’s had a great influence on the direction my spiritual path would take. The one indication of her influence showed in 1983. I was initiated as Hounsi Kanso and then Houngouninkan in the Haitian Vodou tradition. My godparents who officiated were Mambo Yeye Sango Tosin of Gary, Indiana and Hougan Papa Marcel of Port au Prince, Haiti. Later, I would realize the full extent of Grandmother’s influence in my life.
After many growth pains, I decided to concentrate on Orisha study. Voudou is a beautiful aspect of African religion. My roots with the Loa are deep, but I felt the need to have a deeper relationship with Orisha. Elegba and Big Momma had me on the move again from New York to Detroit to Chicago. I was straddling the fence on who to choose as a godparent. My husband and I went to Detroit to join a community there, but for some reason the encounter turned sour. While returning home from Detroit, I was so angered by what I had gone through, I vowed to give up the religion. Just at that moment, my husband and I were stop by state police due a highway trap another driver had setup. Dressed in traditional African garb, we knew there was no way we would be treated fairly. My husband stepped out of the car to speak with the officer. So, while in the car, I promised my grandmother that if she had the police let us go free I would go to an ile I knew of in Chicago and make osha. My husband returned to the car and said we were free to go.
 
Obara’se, the bell sounds sweetest in your own yard….
I went to the ile, where I would eventually have my head made, right in Chicago. I was initiated to Elegba in October 1986. My godfather is Odun Arechega, Omo Obatala. My Ojigbona is Obalofun, Carmen Allen, Oni Shango. In my ita, my grandmother spoke clearly about how she had brought me to this point of my spiritual path. During ita she and the Orisha spelled out my destiny. Working toward achieving these goals, I established Ile Osikan in Chicago. During my twenty 29 years, I have given birth to 28 Orisha priest. I am dedicated to helping people find and form their spiritual foundation in this religion.
 
Little known fact …..
I love to sing and have been fortunate enough over the past years to participate as a singer in Voudou and Orisha ceremonies. During a trip to Lagos, I had the opportunity to sing at an African American History celebration. It was great to share with the African and African American brothers and sisters our history in the Americas. Let’s face it, I’d sing at the opening of an envelope just because I love music so much.
 
My convictions ….
I strongly believe that through our philosophy the Orishas are reaching out to all people regardless of race, color, or creed. Our ile is universal and diverse. I do not deny anyone the opportunity to fully participate in the religion. I don’t believe the source of our religion meant it to be exclusive. The world has plenty of religions to help keep people apart. Our religion brings people together. Those who are hung up in Middle Age based religions and polar societal rules only continue the sad legacy of disenfranchisement. For the rest of us, this beautiful religion is a true path toward self-definition, unity and empowerment.
Onareo