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My Year in White

A sociology professor records her experiences.

Illustration of woman in white with flying birds

Freeform by Duy Huynh

Initiates into the Santeria priesthood must wear only bright white clothing, and forgo alcohol, parties, dancing, being photographed, touching adult noninitiates, and enjoying public spaces. A sociology professor records her experiences....In the days immediately following my initiation into the service of the Orisha in the Lukumi religion, I wrote very little, though I have fragments of memory from that time. I remember clearly the brightness and confusion of the supermarket on the first day I was freed from the seven-day ceremonial seclusion.Newly bald, covered head to toe in white layers—a long white skirt; chokotos (ankle-length pants); a roomy, long-sleeved blouse; and multiple head coverings—I was extremely self-conscious about my appearance. I worried about the ubiquitous mirrorlike surfaces on car and shop windows. My godsister told me not to be concerned, to just forgo focusing on the reflections I was obligated to avoid during my first few months of the year in white.I recollect also the tentative, awkward way I moved about the public space, as if I really was taking the first steps of a new l …

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