Tamara Leon is our new Cultural Cohestion Manager……

I am Tamara Leon and an indigenous woman of Touareg and Slavic descent, raised in North Africa, in a traditional spiritual setting. I am also an archaeologist, having studied the shamanic practices of indigenous peoples and worked all over East Africa and Latin America.

I began my spiritual journey as a child, my paternal grandmother being the village seer. I learned to understand the nature of the veil and dimensions, as I had started experiencing psychic events while participating in ceremonies dedicated to the ancestors.

I was always interested in ancestor Shrines and divination and the ancient techniques of reaching out to the Other People as Berbers would call them. I began practising very young and developed my skills, trying to reconcile my mixed heritage and experiences. Although our society followed mainstream religions, there was a deep undercurrent of Paganism that deeply influenced me.

My maternal side were Slavs, who despite coming from very restrictive cultures, had practised healing and folk medicine. I was deeply in awe of my grandmother’s skills with herbs and her extensive knowledge of tarot cards and spells. Before the war, she was the village healer to whom women would turn to for help.

I was always aware of the rich nature of my heritage and how it influenced my way of seeing the world and for a long time I never knew how to tap into both and honour both paths. I was deeply attracted to Slavic Deities and African Yoruba Goddesses and had a strong predilection for the facets of the Goddess that manifested in Nature. I knew that my path lay with worshipping them in their ancient form.

When I moved to the UK to attend university, I decided to deepen that bond I had with ancient religions and decided to study Archaeology. That gave me the ability to delve deeper into other cultures and study their practices and see the parallels between them. I was particularly drawn to shamanistic cultures where they interacted with the veil and the otherworldly beings, being reborn again to attain their gifts. This strong attraction to the veil was my fascination with the Dark Goddess, the Crone, the womb of the void, often depicted as death and scary. But for me it was also the gateway of existence wherein the greatest mysteries are.

I then began working with indigenous tribes in East Africa and Latin America and that is where I started realising that my connection to all these cultures was the common worship of ancestors and deities that walked with them and that is when I began my interest in Ifa (Santeria) which is an African religion centered around worshipping of the Orishas who are the manifestations of the supreme being on earth. They are the shepherds of our civilisations but also ancestors. As without our dead and our ancestors there are no deities. That was very powerful to me, so I began to explore Santeria, first by getting readings which led me to uncovering my path. The more I walked that path the more I discovered my calling; revealing through the voices of the orishas; how my ancestors walked very closely with me, how they guided me, how they are the strongest force in my life.

I decided to become initiated and discover what was the destiny that I needed to follow. That is when I discovered that the Orisha that owned my head was Oya, the goddess of the wind, hurricanes, the mistress of magic and the guardian of the gates of the cemetery and the mother of ancestors.

I have been dedicated ever since to my Orishas and honouring my ancestors; through Ifa, divining how to attend to my various ancestors and combine practices from both of my cultures. I am a follower of Ifa and a devotee of the Triple Goddess; I am the child of my ancestors who is dedicated to honouring Pagan beliefs and bringing people together in a way that helps them appreciate the beauty of other cultures.

I am an Espiritista, I connect with the ancestors and help others connect with theirs. I use my knowledge of archaeology and history to combat ignorance and prejudice, to open people’s eyes to other realities and narratives.

I am also an avid animal lover and fantasy addict, I love losing myself in my imagination and connecting with people who feel the same way. I do consider myself outgoing but shy, always eager to learn new things and although a loudmouth, quite approachable!