Going to a river, for me, is always a spiritual experience now. It started with the first time, when Mama Kambiri took me to the river to give me a cleansing bath. That was the day I had my final interview for the job I’m at now.
Since then, every experience, no matter what happens after, turns into this transformative progression.
I guess, I had to come home to Trinidad to find it, because there aren’t any river’s to speak of in Barbados, although there are some small teeny tiny springs. (See “Little Spring”)
For me it has become these rareified opportunities for me commune with the water. Water that I have always had deep relationship with, more to the point, it is an opportunity to commune with my Great Mother, Ladekoju, known in the world as the honey in life, my always beautiful, loving Mama Osun, in her natural form in her natural space as the owner of all rivers.
The young Ile (‘house’ in Yoruba, meaning a community of devotees) that I belong to, with Iya Osun Yemi at the head, went to Caura River last week Saturday morning. When I say morning babies, I mean morning.
I set my alarm for 3.45am, and got up, pulled on my working whites and transferred the pumpkin, paw paw (papaya for foreigners) five yellow apples and the whole pineapple I bought the night before, into my big black waterproof tote I got in Washington D.C. when I spoke at the Business Women’s Network’s 6th Annual Leader’s Summit in 2000. I don’t know why I picked that bag, except that Mama Osun is the Queen of the Marketplace, said to be a most proficient businesswoman, and it seemed appropriate. At least previous experience has taught me that to use a non-waterproof bag can cause problems later. It’s a river, unpredictable and wet you are going to visit.
I put in the half bottle of honey I had been keeping on my shrine at home, and my bottle of Tresor perfume as well. Honey and perfume are some of Mama’s favourite things.
Then I picked up the Butlerian Jihad, which I had started the day before, and I read and waited. I had opened the door because I wanted to be sure I could hear the maxi we hired, and more important, I didn’t want to hold anyone back or have anyone waiting on me.
I didn’t think I was going to hear them, but how could I think that. When they pulled up, someone was beating a drum, and someone was hitting sticks and they were singing. As soon as I heard them, I jumped out the door and could stop myself from bouncing a little in excitement, and I heard Iya laugh at my exuberance and then I gathered up my things, locked the door and rushed out to them, grinning like a child.
I was the last person to be picked up, so once I was bundled into the front seat next to Iya Osun, we were off. We sang all the way up to Caura. I know people were looking at us because I can’t imagine that a maxi full of singing Orisa devotees is a common occurrence at 4.30 am. However, it just made me sing a little more, a little harder, feeling joyful just a little more.
By the time we got to Caura, the sun had begun to turn the sky into a lighter shade of blue, but had not sent up any gold or yellow as yet. Baba Erin gave everybody soft candle to rub on our feet, to prevent us from catching cold. (I dunno, some kind of old wisdom, but I did it without question.)
In cool blue colours around us, the foliage still mostly in shadow, we climbed down the river bank and then walked along it, Iya Osun Yemi ringing a little brass bell to let the river spirits know we were coming. We walked until we found the spot she and Baba Erin liked and set about preparing.
And what a beautiful spot it was. The river was about twenty feet across, there were dozens of rocks scattered in the river’s path, including a massive dark orange and gold one. The effect was like that of ledge, where the river created foams and drops, pouring into a pool before going on for almost 50 feet before creating another ledge and more rapids. The river rushed down with some force in eddies and rushes at our chosen spot, and it looked so inviting. We began to gather together and say our prayers, greeting God and the Morning. When it was time for Iya Osun Yemi to go down into the river and say her prayers as the ranking Osun priestess, I was getting eager because I knew the time was coming when we could get into that inviting water.
I don’t precisely understand how it happened, other than the river bank was mossy, and maybe the soft candle had made my feet very slippery but I hadn’t even realised I had fallen until I was rolling down the river bank and smack dab into the middle of rushing part of the river, right next to Iya Osun Yemi!
I heard Baba Erin say, “That’s alright, stay right there, don’t move.”
Orisa people would say, Mama wanted me in the river, heard me calling internally to go in and be a part of the river, wanted me to be in the water right there and then, so She moved whatever energy She wanted so I would be in the water. I guess we see the world that way, full of sign and message. Maybe that’s what happened. Maybe I just fell, and that’s all there is to it.
Except, I have no memory of how my foot slipped. I don’t remember slipping at all, in fact, I don’t remember moving at all, until I was rolling. I barely remember the impact, because for a moment everything just went into some faded place. My mind went literally blank.
So I was in the river, and swept away is what I felt like, because the rushes were strong enough to take me and I floated fast into the middle and deepest part of the river; I swam back against the force of the river then let go and let the rush take me again. I enjoyed the crisp refreshing river water coursing over me, and I swam and made my offerings and prayers. .
We all said our prayers, and there were manifestations; Osun was there, but she didn’t manifest. However, I don’t think she has to manifest in order for her presence to be felt. After all the prayers and such had subsided, I found my way up behind the golden boulder that lay in the river’s path. Behind it, away from the gaze of the others, I found a rushing rapid, and a depression that cupped me and supported me, while the force of the rushes passed over me. I laid there, and let the water course over and invigorate me.
I prayed and asked Mama Osun for Her continued support and love, asked Her to use me to do whatever work She needed me to do, asked Her to protect me and help me, especially to help heal my arm and hurts in my body. I asked her to send me a man, the right one; the baby-making one, the house builder, the wise one. I sat there for long minutes, feeling the power and love of my Great Mother, Ladekoju all around me. I feel so much a part of the moment She and I communed, Mother and child together.
Eventually, I thought I’d just peep out and see what was happening with the others. As I put just my head out from around the rock, I saw a sister that I am to be initiating with and who has the same Osun/Orunmilla patronage, in the deep part below the rocks. I had be divested of my glasses back when Mama pulled me into the river with Iya Osun Yemi, but I saw her and knew it was her all the same. She said, “I’m coming to join you shortly.”
“Sure. Just come right around that way.” and pointed.
She came, and we had ourselves a private little conversation.
I was the first one in, and the last one out.
I keep seeing that great big, dark yellow orange boulder. I see it in my mind. I think I will go back to alone, when there aren’t too many elders around and I can stretch out on it by myself. Go back there and commune with Mama Osun, in the cradle of the River’s sweet spot.