Again, disappointment in the character and ethics of our elders

I’m studying a brilliant book on the concept of adimú by babalorisha John Mason titled “Ìdáná Fún Òrìsà: Cooking for Selected Heads.” As with all his books, the writing is dry but the educational value is incredible; however, as I read his work I have grown disappointed in yet another “internet elder” of our faith. No, I’m not going to name the elder’s name here and start a war, but this is yet another example of how our community needs to read and think critically about the things they read, both on the internet and in books.

This volume was published in 1999 by John Mason; he published it privately through his own label, The Yoruba Theological Archministry. It has been out-of-print for a long time, too long, and those with copies guarded them jealously. With it back in-print now I can’t blame them; the recipes are a treasure.

But about 5 years ago in an online forum, there was an olorisha with about 20 years of ocha on that head who became an “internet sensation” among all the cyber-santeros and aleyos because he was sharing ancient, secret Lucumí recipes passed down to him by the deceased mother. “These are ancient family recipes,” the olorisha said, “and I’ve never shared them with anyone. But, I’m sharing them now.”

Because I love to cook for the orishas, I copied each and every one he offered; and in my notes (notes which will, for the record, I’ve made arrangements to have archived after my death as part of our historical record) I attributed each and every recipe to this olorisha and the saintly, departed mother. The both deserved recognition and remembrance for their legacy.

Today, I’m studying Mason’s recipes deeply. These are recipes he went to Cuba to research; recipes he learned through decades of hard work and worship; and today, I discovered that each and every one of these cyber-elder’s recipes are word-for-word plagiarisms from John Mason’s work. I was fooled. Everyone in that forum was fooled. And the man who labored to bring us these recipes through his own field work got no recognition for his sacrifices.

If this was only a “cyber-elder” I’d blow it off; I’d be no more upset than if I stubbed a toe. I’d yell. I’d breathe heavy for a moment or two. And then I’d move on. But this is an elder who is not only honored on the net; it is an elder who has crowned dozens of heads and presents himself as an ancient well of knowledge and an expert in Lucumí culinary lore. In the end he’s a fraud. Each and every recipe he ever posted came from this book.

My friends: if you want an excellent book about cooking for the orishas, please buy John Mason’s book. Unknowingly, I’ve been using his recipes for years thinking they were old family secrets from an olorisha who should have know one day . . . he would be caught. If you know who I’m talking about, please don’t name names. Just keep it to yourself and make it a point to buy Mason’s book (again, it’s back in print) so he can receive some type of compensation for bringing each and every one of you these wonderful recipes.

And babalorisha Mason, I put my head on the floor to you. Even though I had not a clue, it was YOU who taught me to cook so many foods for my orishas, foods that have brought me countless blessings . . . and peace. I thank you.

Ócháni Lele.

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3 thoughts on “Again, disappointment in the character and ethics of our elders

  1. Bendicion,

    Thank you for the info. I’ve seen the book before and I will definitely buy it.

    On another note, I’ve been looking for Tarot of the Orisha cards for YEARS!!!! I was amazed to find out that you can pre-order the cards on Amazon. The publication date is set for December 8, 2013. I told a friend of mine and I believe she said she was going to contact you about classes.

    On another other note, I read the book How to Greet Strangers. I can totally relate to the hurt Archer experienced “sitting on the fence of faith and disbelief.” I’m going to her book signing on May 7th. I can’t wait to meet her. You guys (authors) must all know each other, huh?

    BTW, the book I wanted to buy for my daughter is The Diloggun. I want her to have her own copy before she takes mine. We both have your Obi book. Hope my kid is behaving in class.

    Thanks, Lisa

  2. Lisa — I miss you!

    And you’re welcome. I’m always looking for great books and writing about our faith, and John Mason’s book addresses a huge void. He is difficult to read; his writing style is dry (that’s just my opinion), but the information is worth the purchase price and read. If, just 3 years ago, I’d stumbled across such plagiarism I’d be naming names and going on a crusade, but age has dulled me a bit and I don’t have the stomach for it anymore. But anyone who buys this book who was involved in that forum (and there were many) will realize what was done. That should be enough.

    I’m glad your favourite cards are back in print. I had a deck for a long time and gave it away. I think my goddaughter, Yvonne, fell in love with it and I gave it to her. But that was a long time ago and I can’t remember.

    The story in “How to Greet Strangers” is fantastic. It is a typical murder-mystery; however, it’s totally fresh and unique because our culture and religion is the backdrop against which everyone moves, and it involves characters true to the type of people we find in our faith today. And through her work, Joyce investigates all the human emotions and feelings we go through in our spiritual lives. I love it. I’m jealous that you’re getting to meet her. I’ve only met her on the internet through facebook, and she seems to be a very warm, genuine woman. I’m hoping she writes more.

    As for my book “The Diloggun” — I know I’m prejudiced when it comes to my own writing, but I have to say there is no other book like it out there in either English or Spanish. It has 750,000 words dedicated to the olodu and odu an italero may read, and it ate up a year of my life. Yes, it only took a year to write BUT that book is all I did that entire year. There are some things I’d wish I’d done differently, and there are a few places I could have written more clearly — but it remains the gold standard reference book (for now), and in the next few years I’m going to approach my publisher about doing a second edition and expanding it just a bit.

    Can you imagine that? Big Red expanded?

    Don’t be a stranger. Again, I miss you!

    Ochani.

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