Isis Costa McElroy


“Under the Sign of the Bird. (Salvador. Bahia. Brazil.)”

Excerpt from “Reflections of Silêncio: A Spiritual Journey”


Quando eu era menina–

started the older one in a low, slow voice–

When I was a child–

we didn’t have so much concrete;

we didn’t have so many walls.

Minha avó–

When my grandmother was a child, she didn’t keep the orishas in rooms, framed by walls.

This is where she would come to be with them.

And as she greeted them, her forehead would touch the warmth of the earth.


Don’t know child, I see diseases today that didn’t exist before, and people know less and less about these herbs. Everything that exists on this earth, everything that sprouts from this bundle of coiled energy, looking at us from inside out even when we cannot see them, eyeing us the way they do, everything here was to given to us with a purpose.

The loss of knowledge of the world in which we dwell is what creates the unbalance.

So what we are dealing with is not the disease of some, it is not the physical or spiritual unbalance of some; it is not something they brought on to themselves or a part of their journeys in this world– it is more complicated than that, child.


The younger woman stopped and picked a small leaf from the ground.

She licked it and stuck it on her forehead

as if parading a third eye,

as if showing the winning card in her deck,

as if saying “it’s better than it seems, here she is, etiponla, right on our path.”


And she sang in a smile:

etiponla wa fi pá burúrú, a fi pá burúrú

etiponla wa fi pá burúrú, a fi pá burúrú.


Etiponla: the herb that pushes away all that is harmful.


The eyes of the older woman brightened up.

“Béè ni, omo ode. Béè ni.”

She continued–


So as you walk on this world of the living and see what you see, and hear what you hear,

beyond this àiyé, there is an òrun,

the source of the reflections of everything you may feel over here.

Everything is connected like each grain of corn has a string to its husk.

Now, the umbilical cord for each ará àiyé to each ará òrun is an ewé.

Without these herbs the connection between us –living–

and them –our ancestors–

is lost.


Each herb offers a map that directs us to an ancestral family.

Their wind, their strength, is all around us.

Before receiving we need to attract.

Before attracting we need to be clear.

In order to be clear we need to listen to this silence and understand it.


Excerpt of Part 5 “Under the Sign of the Bird. (Salvador. Bahia. Brazil.)”

From “Reflections of Silêncio: A Spiritual Journey.”