Chapter 5 tackles a fundamental irony in the scholarship on Lucumí: the vast majority of practitioners have been initiated as adults and could be categorized as converts, but those consulted in academic studies almost invariably say that they got initiated without wanting to do so. Instead of desire, incapacitating illness, injury, and adversity are ubiquitous in everyday talk as the impetus for priestly service to the orishas. This chapter makes the case that initiation stories, frequently recounted around a kitchen table, teach interlocutors the appropriate manner of verbalizing, and therefore comprehending, the relationship between human beings and the spirits. These narratives of “unchosen choice” belong to a distinct speech genre that has given full-throated voice to practitioners’ distress, delivered an endorsement of religious norms, and constructed the feeling of affliction as an urgent summons to the priesthood. This chapter enumerates the preexisting utterance types that may have served as precedents for the initiation story. It then contemplates the persuasive force of practitioners’ conversational micropractices as, for instance, when interlocutors employed discursive modes rooted in Black talk, most notably “testifying”—the bearing of witness to common experience—when ascribing sickness to their lack of attention to the spirits.
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