Religion is mostly ideologies mankind depends on to mitigate a world that can feel daunting to process even on our best days. The rest of it is rituals that habituate these beliefs in us over time, a very necessary next step that smoothens the rough edges of theological absurdities one is often able to see once they step out of their bubble of indoctrination.
The Abrahamic faiths – Islam and Christianity – with which most Nigerians are most familiar with exalt the divine by placing it out of reach, in a realm beyond that which human beings have the capacity to know. This other realm remains a dangling promise we are told we will all get to upon death and it could be a good getting to or a very bad one. Heaven/Paradise and Hellfire/Jahannam. Some sects – like the catholic – offer a third option, purgatory.
Yet before either of these two theologies landed on our shores – desert and sea alike – we had a spiritual identity of our own grounded in the here and now that helped our forebears navigate the world. The vestiges of those bygone days remain – in Ifa, in the cult of Tsumburbura among others this writer may not be familiar with.
To spotlight this unique way of being that appears to be gaining popularity with younger Nigerians – especially LGBT+ Nigerians from this writer’s experience, who remains deeply alienated by Islam and Christianity – we sat down with Occultist, Eniitan, to talk spirituality.
Six months ago, while seated in a circle passing a bottle of Gin around, I asked Eniitan what it means to be spiritually awakened. She answered at length, sharing bits of a very personal backstory to enunciate what things mean. I asked her the same question again in this conversation.
In her words, “To be spiritually awakened is to connect with your higher self. What the Yoruba call Ori.”
Her own awakening began very early when at six/seven her eyes opened to things unseen.
“When I was 6 or 7 was the first time I had any form of connection to my people,” her people here refer to her spirit guides, “I was on my Mom’s bed where I slept, then I suddenly woke up and there was this huge snake. I saw the snake, but no one else could. That was the first time.”
Her deceased grandmother will begin to appear to her shortly after.
These occurrences continued until her mother took the matter to her church, where after a few rituals were performed by her pastor they stopped. We documented this in an earlier piece you can read here.
The rituals held until she turned 30, and four years later she is deeply devoted to her spirituality and in constant commune with her spirit guides.
Eniitan waxed personal as she shared how her spirit guides helped her through a messy and abusive relationship, coming to terms with her queerness and love and relationship as a queer spiritualist.
There is a lot to learn from this near hour-long conversation that culminated in a tarot reading for one of the viewers, and it turns out the spirits can be unabashed when it comes to commenting on the size of genitalia.