BALTIMORE (WJZ) — For most, worship is a tradition that predates all of us.
There is another, more ancient art of worshiping, but it’s not to God, The Father, The Son or The Holy Ghost but to spirits and deities that span the oceans and dates back to pre-slavery days in Africa.
A growing number of black women in Maryland are leaving traditional churches for witchcraft.
WJZ’s Vic Carter looks into the trend and discovers its about more than spells and rituals.
When asked if they were, in fact, witches he got this response.
“That depends on how you look at it,” said High Priestness Iyanifa Oyadele Ogunsina, a Coppin State graduate. “I am whatever the situation calls for. If you come at me with respect, you get Glenda the Good Witch from the suburbs, but if you come at me with negativity, meanness, and disrespect, then you get Evilene, your worst nightmare.”
They have many names, titles, and ranks within their belief system.
The women are college-educated professionals who have chosen to believe that witchcraft is a truer example of worship inclusive of the genders and connecting them to their ancestors.
It fills a need not found in traditional worship.
Most of them, like realtor Shango Yemi, grew up in the church.
“I was Christian, I was raised Christian,” said the Morgan State graduate. “There are Christians in my family. In fact, my grandfather was a preacher in the south. I also grew up Christian. I grew up Anglican, in the Episcopal Church. The older I got, the more disconnected I felt with the church and not being moved by anything, Like it just felt like words, like really empty.”
Herbalist Iyawo Orisa Efunyale came from similar beginnings.
“I was raised Baptist,” she said. “My father is a deacon, my mother is a deaconess. I was in church all the time, three times a week.”
These women are part of a sect, ILE Ola Afefe Osa Meji Spiritual Temple, where they worship and offer prayers to Osun, a predominate deity.
She is the deity, or the Orisha, of aesthetics, beauty, sex, and sensuality.
There are growing numbers of African-American women who have chosen for themselves a new life, leaving the church in search of more meaning in their lives.
At a recent convention in Baltimore, more than 200 witches gathered. They see it as a sisterhood.
But their spells are for good, not evil.
In one ritual, the women prepared an offering to Osun on behalf of a woman in California who is looking for a mate.
The offering, an omelette-type dish, is sweetened with honey and believed to be a favorite of Osun. Prayers are said over the offering for the woman in need.
A portion is even offered to Eshew, the male counterpart of Osun, and placed in a secret place beneath the stairs of the Odenton home.
Using shells, they ask the spirit if she is pleased. Four shells are tossed to the floor. Two land up, two land down, a balance. The gift is accepted.
The traditions may seem odd to most, and a mystery to some, complex and multi-layered but these Dawtas of the Moon, followers of Osun, women who are powerful, determined, and understanding. They said that there is nothing to fear. They are here and they will be here for the foreseeable future.
“This is not a new-age type of thing, this is something our ancestors did,” said doula Iyawo Orisa Omitola. “and we are tapping back into it so that we can become our best selves individually and collectively.”