Philadelphia, Summer 2015, Part Two: Enter Simbi Makaya

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(continued from Part One)

Saturday night’s service was of the fiery Petro sort, in honor of Simbi Makaya. The sosyete’s drummer had other commitments, so we would be singing a cappella, with only our hands and assons for accompaniment. There were ten of us present: the Houngan and Mambo of the house, five other mambos, two sevis tets, and a hounsi Kanzo (yours truly).

We began, as always, with the Priye Ginen. It did not take long at all for the room to heat up. We sang for everyone’s met tets. Legba and La Balenn came but did not take anyone’s head. The Houngan then started to go under, but was told to “pass it on,” so he touched foreheads with Mambo Vye Zo, and then she was gone.

Enter Simbi Makaya.

Two of the mambos immediately attended to him, and tied red and black moushwas onto his arms. His throne had been set up prior to the fet, and he settled into it with the air of a man who is at once both regal and street smart. Mambo likes to refer to him as the godfather of Vodou, and that seems to describe this Lwa about right.

He wanted his Dewar’s and cigarettes immediately. He would smoke and drink throughout the evening. Those of us who were not attending to his needs sat or knelt around his throne. Then he immediately focused on Mambo CH, whom he’d recently visited in a dream. He was charming and tender with her as they talked. He could not resist asking for her hand in marriage, but the mambo politely declined. He bathed her feet, her hands and her head. When Mambo CH rose to her feet, she vired (performed a series of turns that is a salute), and Makaya was pleased that she was “well raised.”

Next, he called up one of the sevis tets, and they talked for a while before Makaya dabbed some of the bath water on their
forehead.

At some point after Makaya’s arrival, Simbi Andezo arrived in the Houngan’s head, and sat down next to Makaya. Andezo is not gregarious like Makaya, so he was mostly quiet. When he did speak, it was not loud. I wasn’t close to him so did not hear much of what he said.  I was sitting with a couple of the mambos a few feet to the opposite side of Makaya, trying to be small and invisible. I knew that Mambo CH really needed to speak with him, and figured I did not need to take up any of his time. My ploy was about zero percent effective.

“Azouke! You think I don’t see you? Silly man.”

I jumped a bit when he said my name. He gestured me forward. I don’t remember what all we talked about, but I do remember him complimenting me on my creativity and my hands, and that inspired me to promise him a sculpture. This pleased him a great deal. He said that God gave them (the Lwa) many things, but physical form was not one of them. He also told me he watches the redhead that I live with. I wondered to myself how she would feel about that. Anne, the former atheist. Sometimes Vodou scares her a little, but she takes it in stride and believes. When we were finished, he dabbed my forehead with the bath water, I vired and returned to my chair.

Makaya then proceeded to do all the gads himself. Originally there were only four of us who wanted them, but during the service more were inspired and also asked for them. The only people who did not receive one were those who already had them. When the final gad was done, he asked if there was food, and was served a piece of a chocolate cake that one of the sevis tets had baked for him. Then we all were served cake, and someone offered the Houngan a piece. But the Houngan was still out, and Andezo said dismissively, “Do I look like I want cake?”

After the cake, I kind of expected Makaya might leave, but instead he asked us if we had any questions. The room was silent, but he was having none of that. “So, no questions? Everyone knows everything!”

One of the mambos asked him if he got the scratches on his face from Dantor. Makaya smirked and replied, “No. But I should show you my back sometime.”

I asked him what he looked like, and he gave me enough of a description that I could start building my mental picture of him. (I will not share this now, but will post his sculpture when it’s complete.)

There were more questions, and more discussion, and then the Houngan was back and telling Makaya that it was time to leave. Mambo Vye Zo returned to us, exhausted and hungry. It was an amazing service, and the most time I’ve ever spent in the company of a single Lwa. I hadn’t expected to like Makaya so much. In some ways we are kindred spirits—we both have a realistic (and not always flattering) view of humanity, we both like ‘women who fight back,’ and I like his no-nonsense way of dealing with things. At one point during the evening, he’d stated, “Nobody fucks with my people.” As I’d mentioned in my previous post, I had not worked with Simbi Makaya before. Mambo Vye Zo thinks I may be mistaken, that we may indeed have worked together, just not in this life. After meeting Makaya and discovering how easily we interact, I am inclined to think she may be right.

Sunday evening, on my flight home, I received a text from Anne: “Some kind of disaster happened in the backyard in [annoying neighbor’s] unit. Firemen are there for a long time and appears like a hole is dug up. There is caution tape.”

What we know: Around 8 pm Sunday evening, Anne thought she heard a few explosions. A little while later, there was a fire  truck and about ten firemen by the neighbor’s unit. Their fence on one side is so badly burned that it will need to be replaced.

Now, there are times when my skeptical brain would write this off to coincidence, but not in this case. Look at the timeline of events: Saturday afternoon, neighbor’s kid is climbing over our gate into our patio, potentially damaging it. Sat night, during service, Simbi Makaya says he is watching Anne. Sunday, the neighbor’s patio is burned. I was and still am kind of floored by this. I had not asked Makaya to deal with the neighbors, and had not even been consciously thinking  about them during service. The only thing I can conclude is that he meant it when he said he was watching over Anne.

Mambo says that Makaya tends to be very “tit for tat.”

And the punch line? Each of the patios in our condo complex is separated from the patio next to it by a wooden divider wall. The divider separating the annoying neighbor’s patio from the next patio is only burned on the annoying neighbor’s side.

Gotta hand it to Makaya, he strikes with precision.

So now, I need to set him up some altar space, buy him a bottle of Dewar’s, and get busy on that sculpture.

On a final note, I would caution that it’s not a good idea to approach Simbi Makaya to work with him. This is clearly not a Lwa to mess around with. If he wants to work with you, he will let you know.

If you’d like to read Mambo Vye Zo’s thoughts on these events, click the links below:

Part One and Part Two

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