African Americas are more and more being drawn to their ancestral roots, culture, and beliefs. After more than 400 years of European indoctrination, which includes slavery, Jim Crow, segregation, and discrimination; there remains the call: “to thy self be true.”
The Europeans labeled African Americans and their ancestors’ savages, heathens, peasants, and pagans, all terms inscribed with the stigma of inferiority. Like a plant pulled up by its roots, African Americans were stigmatized and isolated from their historical beginnings and told that their past was worthless and meaningless.
As I look back over my life in America I see a cloak of deception; everything my eyes saw, and all my ears heard, vibrated with African origination. But, clarity was absent because European plagiarism, redactions, thefts, lies, and violence promoted deception as a way of life.
Deception is a manifestation of dark matter; it is evil, therefore, it is destined to recede into its maker and slowly deteriorate and disintegrate. The antithesis of deception is honesty and truth, both human attributes that vibrate on higher planes of spirituality.
One example of the truth is the power of “Ase.” Ase has always been present in the lives of African Americans; it has been the drumbeat of freedom that preserved their hearts and minds during the trials and tribulations of European enslavement.
Ase, Yoruba Origins
“Ase” is one of those words boiling over with meaning; intrinsic to the meaning of the word is the existence of spirit. “Ase” is spirit; it is an eternal spirit that permeates the universe. And, to understand the significance of “Ase” on this material plane of human existence, we need to view it through the lenses of Africa, and the tribe known as the Yoruba.
Cheik Anta Diop says, “The Yoruba, during antiquity, lived in ancient Kemet (Egypt) before migrating to the Atlantic coast.” Dr. Diop traces the similarity of languages, religious beliefs, customs, and names of persons, places, and things to confirm the connection between ancient Kemet and the Yoruba.
The Yoruba religion comprises several religious beliefs and spiritual concepts of the Yoruba people who lived among the Aja, Ewe, and Fon people of Nigeria, Ghana, Benin, and Togo. And, it is from the West Coast of Africa, these regions in particular, that millions of Africans were enslaved and shipped to the Western World.
Gaba Ifa Karade tells us, “The largest numbers of African enslaved for New World came from the Yoruba” (The Handbook Of Yoruba Religious Concepts).
Therefore, Yoruba traditions and influence are present throughout the African Diaspora, especially in Black cultural and spiritual expressions. “Ase” is one of those spiritual expressions that could not be stripped from African life and spiritual consciousness.
Ase, And It’s Meaning
The word Ase or Ashe (pronounced Ashay) is a practical word in Yoruba spiritually; it has the meaning of omnipresence, i.e., immediacy. There is no waiting and looking around for Ase. Roland Abiodun tells us:
“The Ase inhabits and energizes the awe-inspiring space of the orisa, their altars, along with all their objects, utensils, offerings and including the air around them”
Ase is believed to have been given by Olodumare to everything — it is the activation and utilization of innate energy, power, and universal laws believed to reside in gods, ancestors, spirits, humans, animals, plants, rocks, rivers, and voiced words such as songs, prayers, praises, curses, and even everyday conversation.
Ase as a word germane to the Yoruba has multiple meanings:
- Ase is the flow of energy in the world.
- Ase is the power to bring things into existence.
- Ase is power, authority, command.
- Ase is neither positive nor negative, neither good nor bad; rather it is an activating force of energy.
- Ase is absolute power and potential present in all things.
- Ase is the power of spiritual words spoken to the inner self, manifesting in the visible world.
In the Yoruba tradition, nature is viewed as the manifestation of Olodumare, or God through infinite degrees of material and spiritual substance.
Think of Ase as computer code; it is the code that creates visible images. Where there is no code the computer screen is blank. Contrarily, code is the creator of all images visible on a computer screen.
The Yoruba study nature and the things created within nature. In doing so, they understand and give meaning to the life force, energy, and consciousness that gives birth to nature, which is the manifestation of Creation, and its Creator.
Yoruba believe that Ase is passed on from one generation to the next. They believe that our ancestors leave behind the Ase they generated in their lives, and that it becomes our Ase in life. Generations yet to be born will also receive our Ase, and in the same way, contribute Ase to future generations.
We have all heard the saying, “sticks and stones break bones,” and most of us are familiar with the motif “Actions speak louder than words.”
However, according to the Yoruba understanding of spirituality, every word that we speak adds to the life force (Ase). Therefore, we should be careful about what we say and use our words wisely and intentionally.
Modern Usage In The Diaspora
African spirituality survived slavery and subsequent forms of control and domination of Africans in the New World. In Haiti, African spirituality was the undercurrent of their liberation movement, as was the case throughout the Caribbean and South America.
In North America, African spirituality became an invisible force, but always visible to where there were eyes that could see. African spirituality was present in spirituals, getting the holy ghost, speaking in tongues (both a form of possession), praise dancing, music, and intense preaching.
Most, if not all the attributes of the holy spirit can be ascribed to Ase. The major difference is that the understanding of “Ase” existed hundreds and thousands of years before Christian imperialism propagated doctrines of the holy spirit.
Afrocentric thought, spirituality, awareness, and energy deserve respect for playing a major role in the preservation of African culture, traditions, norms, and lives throughout the African Diaspora. As a result, the term “Ashe” is a familiar term to many in the African diaspora.
Ase is like an umbilical cord; it connects African descendants living in North America, the Caribbean, South America, Trinidad and Tobago, Canada, etc.; it has the meaning of: “Amen,” ”So it is,” “Yes,” “Right on,” “I am with you,” and I can dig it.”