Archive for Fet Gede

Fet Gede: Highlights and reflections

Posted in Ghede, Ogoun, Possession, Ritual, Vodou with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 8, 2011 by cheshirecatman

Saturday morning I awoke with a slight headache. Determined to prevent it from blossoming into major pain, I immediately took two Advil, grabbed a cup of coffee, and sat down in front of the computer to check for messages.

I had not been online long when my friend Slinky messaged me. She’d woken up with a cold, and told me she might not be able to attend the fet. She thought the timing of her sickness was odd, but neither one of us were sure what that meant, if anything. She decided to wait and see if she felt better later in the day, and would let me know by 5pm if she was going or not so that I could catch a bus if necessary. (She ended up not going.)

In the afternoon, I bathed and spent about an hour in meditation, clearing out my chakras and opening up my channels in preparation for the fet. One cannot force a possession, but one can attempt to be open to the lwa and their energies.

I arrived downtown early, and stopped at Uwajimaya to buy some bottled water and food for the potluck. I found a package of sugar-free blueberry bread that looked good. Then I made my way down to First Ave. Shortly after I passed the two sports arenas (Safeco Field and the horribly renamed CenturyLink Field, formerly Qwest Field), I paused at an intersection and my friend Greg was suddenly standing beside me. Greg went with me to my first Fet Gede in 2009, and I was glad to see him. Together we walked the remaining blocks to the studio.

Because I’ve described the past two Fet Gedes in detail, I won’t include a long description of the ritual here (interested readers can read my posts on the 2009 and 2010 fets). Prior to attending the fet I decided that I would try to be fully immersed in the fet and less of an observer.

There were a handful of people I recognized and a number of newcomers. Mambo C and Houngan D led the ceremony, assisted by at least two initiates and a few other regulars.

One thing that was great about this year’s attendees is that everyone danced for at least part of the evening. Before the first break, no one sat on the sidelines.

There were some obvious possessions and some instances where people were either lightly possessed or just very engrossed in the energy. During the songs for Damballah, V (an initiate) was walking in the center of the circle of dancers, carrying Houngan D’s snake. She had a very blissful expression on her face, and several of the women in attendance were dancing in a tight circle around her, including one newcomer who I think was of Haitian descent (I overheard her mention Jacmel later in the fet, and she knew the lyrics to a number of the songs. She was a fluid and natural dancer, and had a lovely singing voice). Shortly after that, V was lying on the floor, possessed by Damballah, while Mambo C and several other people held a white sheet over her. A few of the women who had been dancing around V were also kneeling and lying under the sheet, but I really could not tell if they were possessed or not.

Mambo C was possessed at least once during the evening, but I am not sure by whom. So was another young woman whose name I don’t know—she seemed to be somewhat incapacitated by the energy and was guided to a chair by several attendees.

There were another group of possessions in the middle of the evening; again I am unsure about the identity of the lwa, but I am guessing that it may have been Ogoun. This was another instance of several people occupying the center of the dance circle, including one middle-aged muscular guy who I have not seen before. He was tattooed and could easily pass for a biker, At first he was led around the inner circle by Houngan D, and then he stood in the center making a rhythmic grunting sound to every other beat of the drums. With him were three or four of the young men who tend to dance wildly at the fets, so wildly that at times I cannot tell if they are possessed or just dancing. I will note here that the wild dancing possessions, if that is what they are, do not resemble the possessions I’ve seen in films about Haitian Vodou. However, I have been wondering since the fet if the way in which a possession is manifested depends on the body of the particular horse (possessed person). This does not always seem to be the case, as strong possessions by some lwa have very identifiable characteristics (such as Damballah’s writhing on the floor or Bossou’s bull-like fierce charges).

There were at least three Gede possessions. One of the regulars, a young man who I’ve seen at several other fets, was dancing and holding the cane out in front of his crouch (typical gede). A young woman also seemed to be possessed a bit later in the evening and also danced with the cane, but less lasciviously. The third gede possessed the body of another regular, a woman of African descent who might be around my age (40s). For part of the time, she was walking around the studio and in the dance circle casually smoking a cigar.

As for me, I find I am having problems letting go while dancing in the circle. Part of the problem is that I sometimes get sandwiched between a couple of the wilder dancers (I try to avoid them, but it isn’t always possible) and proceed to get kicked, nudged and hit as I dance. Again, I do not notice Haitians flailing so much in the videos I’ve seen (unless they are possessed), but we are not in Haiti. So I deal with it the best I can. Part of the time I danced with my eyes half closed, and this seemed to help me focus better. Perhaps I did something right because at one point Houngan D sprayed me and a few other dancers with rum.

Towards the end of the fet, I decided to take a break on a bench near the wall and it was then that I was able to finally let go. I opened up my head and felt the rhythm of the drums and, for a brief time, felt as though my consciousness was starting to go. Whether this was the beginning of a possession or simply a light trance (which I can fall into pretty easily), I don’t know, but it was an interesting sensation. I started to have a light tingling sensation in my head that was accompanied by the impression of sparkling white lights. Unfortunately, the sensation did not last and then the fet was over.

The four-piece drum ensemble (Blake Cisnero’s group) was fantastic, and one of the drummers generously offered me a ride home, even though he had been up early that morning (it was now around 12:30 a.m.) and driven from Bellingham to Seattle and back for another gig. We talked a bit in the car, and it was interesting to hear a musician’s perspective. The terminology he is most familiar with refer to the different rhythms (Rada, Petro, etc.) and he is just starting to learn the meaning of the words in the context of the religion.

I was quite energized when I got home, and did not manage to sleep until around 4 hours later. The following day, I had sore muscles in my lower legs and a very sore neck. I am not sure if I slept funny on it, or if it relates to what I thought might be the near possession (the lwa sometimes come in through the neck area). The pain continues today (Tuesday), although it is slowly dissipating.

While I enjoy the fets, I am feeling the need to learn more about individual service to the lwa. Part of this is because I get easily exhausted from social gatherings. While group gatherings are an important part of Vodou, my personality requires that I find my own path to some extent, while also showing proper respect and acknowledgment for tradition.

Anticipation and introspection

Posted in Lion People, Sekhmet with tags , , , , on October 22, 2011 by cheshirecatman

I love October. I love the look and smell of it, but also the feel of it. The energy changes, and the dead are nearby.

In a couple of weeks, I will be attending my third Fet Gede. I’m looking forward to it.

I recently finished reading my second Murry Hope book (her autobiography, “The Changling”). Ms. Hope is a fascinating woman who seems quite sane. She does not seem to be “in it for the money” (she has lived at poverty level on more than one occasion) and is not, in my opinion, attempting to start any type of cult movement or set herself up as a leader. She is too much of a loner for that. And I had to laugh at the fact that, while some people would no doubt classify her books as “New Age,” the woman herself hates New Age stuff. Her autobiography was tastefully candid and not always flattering. When I began the book, I hoped that it would help me clarify my thoughts on the first book I read by her, “The Lion People.” And it has.

I believe Ms. Hope is legitimate. Is everything she writes true? I don’t know. But I believe she is being honest in her books. Any doubt I have is due to the nature of channeled information—there is always a margin for error of interpretation, whether due to the receiver’s personality/desires or the clarity of the signal.

I have leapt right into my third Murry book, “The Sirius Connection.” And I have another book about the lion people on order. My connection with Sekhmet and my own therian nature seem to be spurring me onwards. It’s an interesting ride.

One week, post fet

Posted in Animals, Possession, Religion, Ritual, Spirits, Vodou with tags , , , , , on November 13, 2010 by cheshirecatman

So, during the seven days since the fet I’ve been noticing more physical after effects. Mainly it’s my arms, although the pain is not as intense as last year, nor is it  localized in my forearms. It’s more like an overall mild ache, as if I’d done heavy lifting last weekend. I also have mild shortness of breath, which I am monitoring in case it turns out to be something non-energy related.

I also keep thinking about Puck, and missing him. Part of the reason for this is the time of the year, when the spirit world is so close to ours. The other reason is that a friend of mine recently lost her long-time canine companion, and her longing for him reminds me of how I feel about Puck.

Mambo C really exerted herself at the fet. The multiple possessions possibly exhausted her to the point that she picked up a nasty flu and was sick for the three days after.

One might wonder, with the possible unpleasant after-effects, why someone would pursue Vodou (or other practices involving large amounts of spiritual energy). The old cliché “no pain, no gain” applies here. Most worthwhile endeavors involve risk and sacrifice, whether that means risk of physical injury, risk of failure, sacrifice of time, etc. In many ways, this is a good thing. If something is too easy to attain, it often deteriorates into something shallow and meaningless.

My second Fet Gede

Posted in lwas, Possession, Religion, Ritual, Spirits, Vodou with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 7, 2010 by cheshirecatman

Saturday evening I attended my second Fet Gede. Several of my friends also attended, including Slinky, Robert and Greg (who attended last year’s Fet Gede), and my friend Jacob. Jacob and I used to work together and, although he is a lot younger than me, we get along well and he is curious and open to new experiences.

Slinky agreed to pick Jacob and I up at my place at 6:30pm. Earlier that evening, it was pouring down rain, but fortunately it let up a bit before Slinky came over.

Prior to the fet, I took a nice hot bath and then sat with Papa Legba in front of my altar for a little while, sharing some rum with him. Then I changed into purple and black clothes and went downstairs to wait for Jacob and Slinky.

The fet was held at a dance studio south of downtown Seattle. We arrived close to 7:00. As we were carrying our offerings and potluck food toward the entrance, Mambo C waved to us. She’d just arrived herself and was unloading supplies from her car.

The Mambo was running late, so we helped with the preparations. Slinky and Jacob helped hang fabric and purple lights behind the altar and prepared the tub of basil water that would be used for blessings later on. Slinky also arranged flowers in vases while I helped position the items on the Gede altar to make them visually pleasing. Houngan D placed a spirit box that he had made upon the altar. It measured perhaps 12″ x 12″ square, and was quite beautiful. The outside was a metallic red and all of the surfaces (except for the bottom) had circular openings cut into them. Once he lit the candle in the center, you could peer inside. There were small mirrors attached to the inside of the surface, and a figure of a lwa sat in each of the four corners. One of them was Papa Legba.

The crowd this time was more diverse than at the other fets. Of about 30-40 people, four of them were of African descent: Robert, one of the drummers, and two women (one of whom attended the other fets I’ve been to). Then there was me, the sole Asian/Native guy. There were also some new people, most of them on the younger side.

Prior to the start of the service, we were allowed to place offerings to the Gede and the ancestors on the altar. The day before I’d baked some corn muffins based on a Native recipe and gave them, along with a pair of sunglasses with one lens popped out for the Gede.

The fet started in the usual way, with the recitals of the Lord’s Prayer and Hail Mary. Then we proceeded into the priyes, which are a sort of sung call-and-response  prayer to the various saints and lwa. This takes a while, as there are a number of saints and many lwa who are acknowledged. During the priyes, various attendees would either touch their hand to first their chest and then the ground, or drop to their knees and touch their foreheads to  the ground. As far as I can tell, this is done to acknowledge various lwa who they serve, but  I will need to ask Mambo C  for more details.

Then the active part of the service began, with live drum music, dance, and occasional songs to various lwa. Prior to the fet, Mambo C had sent us a link to a site where we could learn some songs. I  was rather proud of the fact that I managed to learn one song for Papa Legba well enough that I was able to sing along during the fet.

During a segment of the fet dedicated to Papa Legba, Mambo C grabbed my hand and led me into the center of the circle of dancers. She did a series of hand shakes with me, and then lifted my arm and turned me around. Sometimes this technique is used to help along a possession, but in my case it didn’t happen. But I will say that it was a nice feeling dancing in the center of the circle with the Legba energy around me. I am not sure if the Mambo did that to see what would happen, or if she actually sensed the Legba energy around me. Another thing I should ask her about.

There were a lot of possessions at this fet, and I am not going to attempt to describe all of them. The depth of each possession varied, and I am not yet skilled or experienced enough to recognize each of the lwa or to even be sure if all of them were possessions or if some were just near-possessions. But I will describe a few of the more striking ones.

Houngan D had more than one possession, but the one that is most prominent to me is the Damballah one. In a Damballah possession, the horse (the possessed person) lies on the ground, sometimes moving along on his/her stomach. They are often covered by a sheet, which is held above them by other attendees. As Damballah possesses Houngan D regularly, I assume that he is the Houngan’s met tet. It is worth noting here that Houngan D has a snake that he brings with him to some services.

Mambo C also had more than one possession. I am not sure of all of them, but I believe one of them was Bossou (although this time it was not as obvious as some of her previous Bossou possessions) and another was Ogoun. During the Ogoun possession, she stalked out of the circle of dancers and over to the altar, and returned wielding a big machete.

In one section of the service, she and a male attendee were in the center of the circle when Mambo C appeared to be possessed by Erzulie. She became very flirtatious and then she touched the male dancer, who then also became possessed by Erzulie, taking on a feminine demeanor.

Some of the less obvious possessions or possessions that did not completely “take” were interesting. One young man who danced with jagged convulsive moves and regularly shouted during the service, was convulsing quite intensely at one point and Houngan D clasped his arms to support him. Then he was laid down on the floor in the center of the circle while we danced around him. I don’t know which lwa possessed him, if it was indeed a full possession.

Another attendee, a plainly dressed woman with glasses, was bent over double at one point, as though the lwa were weighting her down with what may have been an attempted possession. I found this incident particularly interesting and believable, because the woman did not seem like the attention-seeking type, nor was she a flashy dancer.

Both of the African-American women underwent possessions too, although again I was not able to recognize the lwa. The most amusing possession of the evening, however, happened to V, an initiate who is a regular at the fets. She is married to Baron Samedi, so it was not surprising that she was possessed by the Gede during their section of the service. She went into a trance like state as she danced, then began laughing. At one point she was lying on the floor, and someone must have made some comment about her being vegan. At that point, a very deep male voice issued forth from her lips and said, “She only likes one kind of meat!” That’s the Gede for you—bawdy humor, but always in good fun.

After the service, in the car ride home, Jacob made an interesting observation. It was his first time at a fet, and he did not dance but remained on the sidelines as an observer. During the service, a fire was lit in a censor placed inside a large cooking pot. Jacob noticed that, whenever the drums and dancing intensified, the fire would burn more intensely as well.

After I got home, I stood in front of my home shrine and thanked Legba for a good service. Although I would like to someday be possessed, I told Legba that I understood that I might not be ready for it and trusted his judgment. A sense of gratitude flowed from me; it was so strong that it was almost tangible.

As for physical after-effects, I had a lot of energy after the fet and couldn’t sleep for a few hours, even though I got home around 1:30am. Today, however, I have slightly sore leg muscles and a slightly queasy stomach. I did not have any intense arm pain at the fet like I did last year, but today I noticed a slight feeling in my arms like a residue of pain. I think my body has largely adapted itself to the energy.

Ayibobo!

Shrine Redo

Posted in Agwe, Erzulie, La Sirene, Legba, lwas, Mermaids, Ogoun, Religion, Spirits, Vodou with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 26, 2010 by cheshirecatman

Our recent move was a major one, and we are still not finished unpacking. But I did finally get my shrines set up, and here are the pictures I’ve been promising to post.

Anne’s mother gave us a beautiful wood cabinet that is perfect for this purpose. It has doors that I can close to protect the shrines from the mischievous paws of Luna, my younger cat.

The shrine cabinet

The cabinet...2 shelves and opening doors

The top of the cabinet belongs to Papa Legba. In the background is his spirit box made for me by my friend Slinky. To the right is a seven-day candle that I painted with his veve (not too bad for a first attempt). To the left is a small statue of a dog.

Legba

The top of the cabinet is dedicated to Legba

Over the summer, I went to an artwalk in the Belltown neighborhood of Seattle. There, I purchased a beautiful handmade cane for Legba. I’d been wanting to buy him a cane, and when I spotted a collection of handmade canes at the Belltown Barber, I was very excited. A local artist makes them (I’m embarrassed to say that his name has slipped my mind, but I will add it here when I find out*) and I could not believe the price was only $20. It took me a while to choose one as there were several that I liked, but I finally decided on the one below. At first I simply had it in Legba’s shrine. But then, as it turned out, the right-side door of the cabinet won’t stay open, so I’ve taken to using his cane to prop it open, which seems entirely appropriate. After all, it is Legba who opens the door to the spirit world and keeps it open for us to commune with the lwa.

Legba's cane

Legba's cane, holding open the door

Inside the cabinet, the top shelf is dedicated to the Rada lwa who walk with me. From left to right: La Sirene, Met Agwe, Erzulie and Ogoun.

Top shelf shrine

Top shelf: the Rada lwa

La Sirene and Met Agwe

La Sirene and Met Agwe.

Erzule and Ogoun

Erzulie and Ogoun. To the left of Erzulie is a beautiful veve candle made by Slinky.

Erzulie

Closeup of the lovely Erzulie spirit doll from Studio Nocturna (see link on the right under Supplies and Stores).

Ogoun

A new Ogoun spirit doll, also from Studio Nocturna.

Ghede and ancestors

The new Ghede and ancestors shrine (faces in photos blurred for privacy reasons). The painting on the right is by artist Jessica Van Hulle, and is a steampunk version of Brigitte.

Baron and Brigitte

Baron Samedi and Maman Brigitte. Figure was special ordered for me through Gargoyles Statuary.

The baron

This painting is by Seattle artist Don De Leva, purchased at Gargoyles Statuary. I saw it and immediately thought of the Baron, and had to buy it.

Puck

And last but not least, a statue dedicated to the late beloved Puck, which sits beside the urn containing his ashes.

Normally, the statue sits inside of Puck’s old dish, but I haven’t been able to find it since the move. I do remember packing it, but it was one of the last things I packed and I was in a hurry, so likely it is mixed in with things where it doesn’t belong. It will turn up sooner or later.

On a final note, Mambo C is planning another Fet Ghede this November. I am really looking forward to it! I’ve always loved this time of year.

* The artist who created Legba’s cane is named Steve Mills.

Art, househunting and the lwa

Posted in Art, Legba, lwas, Possession, Religion, Spirits, Vodou with tags , , , , , , , , on April 20, 2010 by cheshirecatman

One of the pieces that sold at my art reception.

In my previous post I talked about my disappearing copy of Mama Lola. My medium friend Angel suggested that perhaps the lwa were reminding me that they exist outside of my books.  Although I am aware of that, the analytical side of my nature is fairly strong and does tend to rationalize everything. So I do sometimes need reminding.

I had another unusually successful art show. Last Wednesday, prior to setting up my show at Gargoyles Statuary, I again respectfully asked my lwa for their assistance.

When I went there on Friday, the night of the opening, I learned that one of my sculptures had presold the day before. The evening started out kind of slow, with small groups of people drifting in and out of the store.  During the first half hour (5-5:30), a previous buyer stopped by and fell in love with one of my more expensive pieces, a portrait of a friend in Gothic Lolita garb. She bought it on the spot, and at that point I felt satisfied that, if all else failed, I had already sold two pieces. Around 6:00, activity hit a lull, and it was so dead that Gayle (the owner of the store) and I were getting a little worried.

Around 6:45 or 7:00, however, it picked up again with fervor. Several people whom I did not think would come by did, including Mambo C. She commented that my work did not look like it does online (meaning it looks much better in person).

Throughout the rest of the evening, two of my artist friends purchased pieces, and someone else bought both a sculpture and a relief, bringing the total number of sales up to six. That is a record for me.

While preparing for this show, my girlfriend Anne and I were also looking to buy a house or a condo. I first met our realtor, an amazing woman who I’ll call Lara, at East West Bookshop. I was looking through some items on a table while holding a book on holistic cat care in my hand. She struck up a conversation, during which she asked if I lived nearby and I mentioned our plans to buy property. That’s when I found out she was a realtor. Lara radiates good energy, and later that evening I had a slight ache in one of my arms that was similar (although much milder) to the pain I had after the Fet Ghede. As I mentioned before, I suspect the pain may be one way my body reacts to strong energy.

We went to look at houses for the first time with Lara on Saturday, April 10th. The first three places we looked at were all wrong for us–weird floor plans, tiny bathrooms, and one place where all the doors had holes in them and most of the kitchen cabinet doors were detached. (Why? Who knows!) The properties all sounded good online and looked nice in photos, but there’s no telling what they are really like until you get there. At the fourth place, a condominium complex near Burien, the lock on the front door was problematic. While Lara went back to her car to call the seller’s agent about the lock, Anne tried the key. After a minute or so, the door opened.

A feeling of calmness and peace washed over us as we entered. Even though this place did not have a fenced yard like we wanted (Anne wants to get a dog), Anne did not complain. We wandered through the living room and up the stairs to look at the three bedrooms. This was a lot of space for the money and was in very good condition.

Afterwards, while Lara met with another client, Anne and I talked about what we wanted to do. I expected her to be indecisive and want to wait a while before making an offer, but within an hour she was seriously wanting to buy the place. When Lara’s meeting with her client was over, we headed back to her office to fill out the paperwork. When asked how much we wanted to offer, the number “167” kept popping into my mind. However, the property was listed just under $150,000, so we settled on $152,000 as our initial figure.

After making the offer on Monday, we found out that there were two other parties interested in the condo as well. We had to make a second offer, and I thought again about “167.” After discussing with Lara, Anne and Anne’s mother (who is an experienced home buyer), we decided to offer $166,000.

Then we waited. Tuesday passed, and no word. Then Wednesday. I asked Papa Legba, if it was for the best, would he please remove the obstacles preventing us from buying this house. Thursday passed. I was slightly concerned, but my usual obsessing anxiety was pleasantly absent.

On Friday, as I was preparing to go to my art reception, Lara called. We got the place!

I was happy and grateful, but not completely surprised. The address of the place has the number 303 in it. In 2003, I lived in an apartment near downtown Seattle that I liked a lot. The unit number was 303. Three is also Papa Legba’s number. I also thought about the relative ease with which Anne had gotten the condo door open.

Looks like I will be shopping again for some really nice offerings for the lwa.

I am not the only one whom they are smiling upon either.

My friend Slinky has been enjoying growing success with her part-time business as well. If you remember, Slinky went with me to the Rada fet in March. During the fet, she was immediately drawn to one of the lwa who possessed a woman there. Although Slinky did not know it at the time, the lwa was Ayizan who is, among other things, the lwa of the marketplace.

Dream analysis, met tet and metaphysical bookstores

Posted in Agwe, Divination, Dreams, La Sirene, Legba, lwas, Possession, Spirits, Vodou with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 13, 2009 by cheshirecatman

On Thursday night I decided to take Houngan D’s advice about communicating with specific lwa.

Thursday is Agwe’s day, so that morning I dressed in blue (his colors are blue and white) and wore an Inuit pendant with a whale design on it. That night, before retiring for bed, I lit a blue candle for him and meditated before his shrine for a little while. Then I put a glass of water and his card from the New Orleans tarot deck on the shelf next to the bed where they would be near my head. And I went to sleep. And had some crazy vivid dreams.

In the most interesting part of my dreams, I was with a group of people in the parking lot of a grocery store. At the edge of the parking lot was a low-lying tree. A dark-haired woman sat in its upper branches. She had large colorful wings.

I really don’t know who the woman is or what she symbolizes. I have been reading a lot about Damballah, the snake lwa. During his possessions, he sometimes makes his devotees climb trees. Some books compare him to Quetzalcoatl, the Mesoamerican winged serpent god. However, this dream image could simply be related to the sphinx. When I was going through the New Orleans tarot deck to find the Agwe card, I did see a sphinx on one of the cards. When analyzing dreams, a good starting point is to separate the “junk” from the meaningful symbols. By “junk,” I refer to the images that are randomly based on something you encountered during your waking hours. So, in this case, I am not sure if the image is important or not.

I am starting to think that Mambo C’s suspicion that Agwe could be my met tet may be correct. Between the near brushes with lightning, the two appearances of the dark-haired young man (once in a dream and once in a vision), and my own temperament (similar to his–a dignified exterior with deep emotions beneath the surface), it just feels right. And this isn’t a case of me trying to force the pieces to fit together. As I go about my day, I just realize certain things about Agwe or myself that make this fit seem kind of obvious, almost as obvious as Legba’s first appearance to me (see Dogs and Dreams of Water). And the fact that La Sirene and Erzulie were both prominently in the reading Mambo C did for me. It would make sense for them to be present if their husband is there. And Ogoun in his Balindjo aspect is a member of Agwe’s crew on his ship Immamou, so it would also make sense for him to appear in the reading. I could be wrong about this, but we’ll see. Before my reading, when I desperately wanted to know the identity of my met tet, Agwe never crossed my mind.

On Saturday my girlfriend Anne and I spent a pleasant morning/afternoon running errands and shopping. One of the places we visited was East West Bookshop, one of my favorite Seattle spiritual/occult shops (the other favorite is Edge of the Circle Books). After selecting a book on holistic cat care, I fell into a conversation with a woman who volunteers at the store as part of her service to her church (an eastern religion church). It turns out she is also a realtor. I really liked her energy and may call her when Anne and I are ready to start looking for a home. We shook hands and I asked for her business card.

The reason I mention the bookstore encounter is that after we got home, during dinner, my right forearm started to ache and reminded me of the pain I had at the Fet Gede, although this pain was much milder and only in my right arm. This pain could be from mundane causes, but I am wondering now if the realtor is also some type of energy worker. If she ends up being our realtor, I want to ask her.

Fet Gede followup

Posted in Dance, Religion, Ritual, Spirits, Vodou with tags , , , , , , on November 14, 2009 by cheshirecatman

I mentioned in my last post that I’d experienced pain during the Fet Gede. After dancing for about 40-60 minutes, both of my arms (from the elbows to the wrists) began to ache. I found this odd, as I thought it would be my legs that would be tired. During a short break, I had some water and went outside to cool off. The aching subsided, and I went back to dancing.

During the final hour of the celebration, my arms began aching again, much more severely than before. I kept dancing anyway, and still had some residual pain the following Monday, along with a disjointed feeling that reminded me of the time that I received a weird massage where the guy kept poking me with his elbow. Other than that, I felt fine until just after dinner on Monday, when I experienced an intense stomach ache followed by a nasty bout of vomiting. Afterward, I recovered quickly and felt almost normal.

My first thought was that I picked up either the flu or food poisoning at the Fet Gede.  However, the achiness was limited to my arms, I had no other flu symptoms other than the vomiting, and I consumed nothing at the Fet Gede except for some bottled water. These facts cast some doubt on those theories. I also thought it possible that the symptoms were related to the amount of energy raised at the Fet. I do not usually consider myself as highly energy sensitive, but I have been working to develop more sensitivity and, during the nearly two years since Puck crossed over, have received both Zimbate and Reiki attunements.

I asked some of my energy worker friends for their opinions. My friend Angel was kind enough to scan me and found a tear in my aura in the solar plexus area, which would be near the stomach. (Last time I spoke with my animal communicator friend Tracy, she also commented that I’d had an opening of some sort.) Angel said that the tear could be caused by an attempted link on the part of an astral entity or a psychic attack. The more likely explanation, she added, was that I built up a bunch of energy at the Fet and did not release it, either due to blockage or lack of experience in energy work. And so the forced release caused the tear. When I asked Angel if the build up of energy could make someone physically sick, she said that indeed it could, as it can bring on detoxing, open up the chakras and create an imbalance.

The following Sunday I visited Mambo C’s home and had a chance to talk with her and the houngan who was at the Fet (whom I’ll refer to as Houngan D). The mambo said it was possible that I am energy sensitive (which I don’t consider myself to be, although I have experienced physical discomfort near high volumes of electricity, but I have no idea if that’s normal for most people or not). Houngan D said that having a physical reaction could actually be a good thing, as sometimes it indicates that the lwa are nearby. The mambo, who also practices ceremonial magick, told me that she became violently ill the first time she worked with one particular goddess. She experienced illness two more times while working with that goddess, but by the third time, the symptoms were very mild and then later disappeared completely.

Although I did not enjoy being sick, the experience leaves me little doubt about the presence of unseen energies. In closing, I want to say that I hope this does not discourage anyone from exploring Vodou or energy work. Vodou is not in itself harmful, any more than electricity is intentionally harmful. But if you handle live wires without proper knowledge and protection, you could get a nasty shock.

Pain at the Fed Gede

Fet Gede: Fun and surprises on All Saint’s Day

Posted in Dance, Haiti, La Sirene, Legba, lwas, Music, Possession, Religion, Ritual, Spirits, Uncategorized, Vodou with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 7, 2009 by cheshirecatman

Much like Day of the Dead, the Haitian Vodou holiday Fet Gede is celebrated every year on All Soul’s Day. It’s a day to honor the Ancestors and the group of spirits known as the Gede.

At the head of the Gede family is The Baron in his many aspects (Baron La Croix, Baron Samedi, Baron Cimitiere, and Baron Kriminel to name a few) and Maman Brigitte, the mother of the Gede. Together they reclaim the souls of the dead and transform some into Gede lwa, thus the Gede are innumerable. Papa Gede Nibo is the oldest and foremost Gede – said to be the oldest ancestor of the human race.

The Gede are much loved and they are the life of the party when they appear. They’re known for their bawdy and irreverent sense of humor, for dancing the banda – a dance which parodies intercourse, but also they are known for their great ability to heal the sick, give advice and prophesy the future. They have a special fondness for and are protective of children. In all, they embody the mysteries of death, fertility and birth. (source: www.dadamancer.com)

Note: What follows is my personal account of the events of that day. I did not take written notes at the Fet (a bit difficult when one is dancing). So, any inaccuracies described about the ceremony are likely errors of my memory and not of the actual ceremony.

The Fet Gede celebration that I attended last weekend was held on Sunday, Nov. 1 (All Saint’s Day) rather than Nov. 2 (All Soul’s Day). I am not sure if it was held on Nov. 1 due to people’s work schedules or another reason, but it did not seem to make a difference. The spirits were in attendance.

The day started out with an unexpected surprise. I was chatting online with a good friend of mine (whom I’ll call “L”) when she said she had a surprise ready for me and wanted to bring it over that day. She was pretty adamant that she bring it that day, which piqued my interest. So, about an hour or so later, she presented me with this lovely spirit box:

legba_box

Note that the veve for Papa Legba is handpainted by L on the top in red, one of his colors. There were three pennies for him inside. Veves are complex and I was touched both by the thoughtfulness of the gift and the time put into it. L is a talented individual in her own right, and works regularly as a henna artist. I presented the box to Legba the following day, and it is now displayed prominently in his shrine area.

Of the four friends I invited to accompany me to the Fet Gede, only two (Greg and Robert, not their real names) were able to make it. Both are new friends that I haven’t known long, but both  have very good energies about them. I met them through our mutual friend Gayle, the owner of the wonderful Gargoyles Statuary. Greg called me earlier in the day, suggesting we meet aournd 6pm somewhere before the ceremony. This turned out to be an excellent idea, as we were able to meet at a sushi bar (the same place where I met Mambo C) for drinks and a light meal. The cocktail I ordered relaxed me a little, which was good because I had been antsy with excitement all morning. After our meal, Greg and I walked over to the dance studio where the ceremony would take place, and met Robert there.

The three of us are very different in appearance; we could be the three leads for a television series that cast its characters with political correctness in mind, LOL. Greg is white with short reddish brown hair and dresses tastefully Goth. He has been a solitary practitioner of Vodou and Hoodoo for a number of years (not sure exactly how long). Robert is black with dreadlocks and dressed casually for the occasion. He is Pagan and somewhat new to Vodou. I am Asian/Inuit with medium length wavy hair and dressed semi-casually, formerly Wiccan and have only been studying Vodou seriously for about a year.

I have to admit that I did my precursory “color head count” of the crowd. I’d love to be color-blind, but like many people who have lived in areas where there are not many others who look like them, the head count becomes an ingrained habit. Plus I have been curious about what a Vodou crowd in the Pacific Northwest would look like. So, for the record, here it is: Total of about 30-40 people. Of those people, 3 of African descent (Robert, one of the guest dancers, and a middle-aged woman), an Asian woman (whom I discovered later is a member of the same dance troupe that performed at the Fet, a group that I would like to see again, Danse Perdue) and myself. Some of the people I’ve mentioned this to are surprised that there were not more people of African descent present, but somehow I wasn’t surprised, it being the Pacific Northwest.

The festivities took a while to get underway, but this gave me time to catch up with Greg and Robert, check out the altar, and say hello to Mambo C. The ceremony opened with a greeting from Mambo C, and then recitations of both the Lord’s Prayer and the Hail Mary litany. (It may surprise some readers, but Haitian Vodou is heavily syncretized with Catholicism). Following the prayers were songs and dances for the numerous lwas, beginning with the Rada lwa. This includes, among others, Papa Legba and Damballah. Here I was grateful for all the reading I’ve done. Even though the songs were in Haitian Creole, my ears were able to pick out certain terms and names throughout the ceremony.

It took a while for Greg, Robert and I to get into the dancing, although the drumming (provided by the amazing Bill Matthews and Friends) was highly infectious and could not be resisted for long. Greg and I were both moving to the rhythms, although not quite dancing during the early numbers. Robert was appreciative of the music but not moving too much early on. At some point during that first hour of music, one of the dancers, a lithe,  lovely raven-haired vision in white lace, extended a graceful hand to me and drew me into the dance. From then on, for a total of around 3 hours, it was nearly non-stop dancing for me. Greg had started really dancing around this time too and never stopped.

After I’d been dancing for a while (maybe 20 minuntes? I lost my sense of time during the dance), I noticed Robert was gone. Initially I thought he’d gone to the restroom, but soon I saw that he was walking arm in arm with the houngan in a circular path around the dance floor. Afterwards the houngan returned Robert to where he’d originally been standing, and put his forehead against Robert’s. I could see the houngan’s lips moving, but could not hear what he was saying. (The houngan made this circular walk with several participants throughout the night, including the Asian woman, the African woman, and the dancer who reached out to me. When I later asked Robert what the houngan said to him, Robert said, “Nothing.” Robert thought that perhaps he had received a blessing. My guess is that the houngan was possessed at the time, possibly by Damballah, who does not speak. I had heard his name mentioned during one of the songs. Sometime later, the houngan did indeed display the signs of a Damballah possession. He fell to the floor and was immediately covered with a white sheet by several people while the Mambo brought the houngan back to himself.) After the blessing, Robert danced freely for the rest of the evening.

There were two other possessions during the evening (possibly more, but I was only sure of these two). During one of the dances, I saw the African woman seated in a chair near the altar, seemingly frozen in an odd pose with one of her arms arched above her head, the other out to the side, and her torso leaning over to her left. Shortly after that she was dancing in a dazed way, and had to be supported by one of the Mambo’s friends.

The other possession occurred while we were honoring the Petwo lwa, specifically during the song for Bossou, the bull lwa. I knew from speaking with the Mambo that this was her met tet (master of her head), so I kept an eye on her while dancing. And sure enough, he came calling. The Mambo’s face assumed a fierce expression as she snarled. Either she pulled off her headcovering or it fell to the floor, but she made no effort to retrieve it. She began charging into people and continued doing so until the houngan got hold of her and asked the lwa to depart.

The last part of the ceremony was to honor the Ghede lwas and the ancestors. This section was opened by one of the dancers who was married to Baron Samedi. She presented him with a bottle of liquor, which she opened, took into her mouth, and then sprayed over the alter three times. What followed then was another hour or so of crazy lascivious dancing (fully clothed). Near the end of the Ghede section, all of us took turns approaching the altar and leaving offerings for our ancestors. We were encouraged to make requests from them at that time. I left a purple candle for my beloved Puck, requesting his further assistance in my Vodou studies. I know he would assist me regardless of the offering or the request, but it is always nice to ask and show appreciation. And I do so appreciate him–he played and continues to play a large role in my Vodou exploration.

The following Friday, at work, I was grabbing a tea bag out of a box when a little figure tumbled into view. This is one of those tea boxes that sometimes includes little porcelain figures. This particular tea box was given to me by a coworker maybe a year ago and I never noticed that a figure was enclosed. I picked it up. It was a little brown cat. Upon closer examination of the tea box, I saw that there were a total of ten possible figures that could be enclosed. Of those ten, two were cats–the other being a figure of two kittens. So that is a 20 percent chance of getting a cat, and a 10 percent change of getting the solitary cat. I don’t know what the odds are of my co-worker not finding the figure herself or me not finding it earlier.  Make of it what you will, but I took that as a very good sign. Also, the mirror I ordered from Gargoyles came in on Tuesday, and I plan to present it to La Sirene this weekend, along with a pipe that I have for Legba. I will give the little cat to Puck. I also will be setting up a Ghede shrine soon, simply because I am fond of them.

In closing, I was experiencing weird pain at the Fet Gede, although not severe enough to stop my feet from dancing. I will explain this further in my next post.

What is it with the blue dress?

Posted in Dreams, La Sirene, Psychic, Spirits, Vodou with tags , , , , , , , on November 3, 2009 by cheshirecatman

I meant to mention this a couple of weeks ago, and then got distracted writing about my meeting with Mambo C.

During a recent healing meditation, I had a vision/impression of walking among a group of African children. The most prominent in the group was a little girl with a very dark complexion wearing a sky blue dress with a white dotted pattern. She looked maybe 9 years old, and I was walking a little behind her.

While I do not remember seeing this particular little girl before, I do remember the color combination of that dress. Back in August I wrote about a spirit who sat beside me on the bus. (See the last paragraph of Looking Back Part 2 to read in its entirety.) Although that spirit was a brown-skinned adult woman with long dark hair (possibly Latina or Native American), the dress was similar: blue with a white floral print. I still do not really know the significance of either the spirit(s) or the dress.

A note to my regular readers: Yes, I did go to the Fet Gede on Sunday. It was quite an experience, and surprised me in some ways. I will be writing about it within the next several days.

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