It’s not every day that you get to sit down for peppermint tea with a fifth-generation African-Caribbean seer, a person who has visions about the future. As I approached OM Sanctuary, the designated meeting spot for an interview with Yeye Omileye Achikeobi-Lewis, the seer, and her husband, Chief Olu Derrick Lewis, I didn’t know what to expect.
In their international work with UNICEF’s Global Interfaith WASH Alliance, the couple have helped protect the world’s waterways. I also knew that they were starting a year-long partnership with OM, a retreat center located at the former Richmond Hill Inn overlooking the French Broad River.
This down-to-earth, chuckling, light-hearted couple had been on an academic track until Achikeobi-Lewis had a vision that couldn’t be ignored.
She’s an initiate in the Ifa oracular tradition, which originated in the Yoruba communities of southwestern Nigeria. “I come from a family where having visions is our gift,” says Achikeobi-Lewis. Her great grandmother and great-great-grandmother were seers. “But in the West it’s not seen as a gift; it’s seen as a madness,” she says.
In April, she had a vision that brought her to Western North Carolina. The vision delivered “a message from Oshun, the Yoruba goddess of wisdom and love, that there was a great suffering coming to earth, and it was going to be huge, bigger than any suffering we have experienced before,” she says.
Achikeobi-Lewis recalls feeling deeply disturbed, as though pain was moving through her entire body. Lewis checked with the Ifa oracle and was told to consult their priest in Nigeria. The priest agreed that her vision was indeed true.
“Part of the vision was that people are no longer listening to the ancestors, to the mother, and that this is part of the great suffering that is coming,” says Achikeobi-Lewis. “I was told to go see the oracle of the Tibetan people for answers.”
Less than three weeks later, the couple were inside a monastery in Dharamsala, India, where they met with the NeyChung Oracle of the Tibetan People, Kuten-la. He listened patiently as she recounted her vision, says Achikeobi-Lewis. Then there was a long silence, which the oracle broke by saying that “he had the exact same vision two days before I arrived,” she says.
Flabbergasted, Achikeobi-Lewis listened as Kuten-la “said that the four elemental mothers were weak and that the solution to the future of the world and alleviating the great suffering to come would be doing ceremonies of apology and forgiveness to the four elemental mothers of water, earth, fire and air.”
Local action: Praying to the elements
The couple returned to Asheville with a mission and promise to perform those ceremonies.
In the coming year, they will lead an array of ceremonies, prayers, weekly classes and free presentations at OM, spreading the message about the four elementals and putting the envisioned solution into action, says Achikeobi-Lewis.
“We hope to help lift people out of this situation we are in by using the four elemental mothers, wisdom, ceremony and sharing,” says Lewis.
Starting in September, the couple will hold a monthly water blessing at the French Broad River. Achikeobi-Lewis says that working on healing our relationship with water is foremost.
“The Ifa oracle said that water is one of the key elements in trouble,” she says, “If we can heal the water issues, we can heal the world.”
For those interested in working with the four elements within, the husband-wife team will offer classes on Thursday nights at OM Sanctuary starting in September.
“Individual action is prayer,” says Achikeobi-Lewis. “You have to be the ceremony by living in balance and love.”
All classes and public ceremonies will be multicultural and apply to all people regardless of religious tradition, she adds. “This is not about religion; it is about our humanity that crosses all boundaries,” says Achikeobi-Lewis.
“Any way that your tradition dictates to you about honoring the elements, you can do that, even if you are at a river and you pick up rubbish and say ‘thank you’ and you give some feeling of gratitude to the water for all it does to nourish your life; that is a ceremony,” she says.
For those skeptical about the four elemental mothers, Achikeobi-Lewis says this: “Essentially they are what keeps us alive.
“You can’t live without water for more than a couple of days,” says Achikeobi-Lewis. “You can’t live without air. … You can’t live without the earth. And you can’t live without fire, the sun.”
Those are the four elemental mothers, Achikeobi-Lewis explains. “They are seen as feminine principles, because it’s that which nourishes and sustains us,” she says.
In December, the couple will facilitate an ancient Oshun ceremony at OM Sanctuary. Called the Lighting of the Lights, the ceremony will honor the four elemental mothers and “represent the lighting of Oshun’s wisdom and the relighting of the wisdom of the world,” says Achikeobi-Lewis.
“We are creating a reconnection to that which sustains us,” she says. “We are like children that have been disconnected from the womb of our mother Earth, and we cannot live like that. We are getting sicker; our children are getting more disease; we are having more mental and physical issues, having more earthquakes; the temperature is going up on our planet; the waters are drying up,” says Achikeobi-Lewis.
“So it is time, time to honor, to ask for forgiveness and to remember.”
Yeye Osun, Institute of Four Elemental Mothers