Archive for the African culture Category

‘Jesus Hasn’t Saved Us’: The Young Black Women Returning to Ancestral Religions

Posted in African culture, Haiti, Religion, Vodou, Voodoo on September 14, 2016 by cheshirecatman

This article b was published on the Broadly website.

Christianity still exerts a powerful force in many black communities, but some young women are turning their back on the faith and returning to the older, traditional religions of their ancestors.

Read the full article here.



Sacred Journeys: Osun-Osogbo

Posted in African culture, Religion, Ritual with tags , , , on December 30, 2014 by cheshirecatman

Sorry for the last minute notice. This episode of “Sacred Journeys” premieres on PBS tonight, and features the festival of Osun-Osogbo  in Nigeria.

The United States of Hoodoo

Posted in African culture, Haiti, Movies and Media, Vodou with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 2, 2014 by cheshirecatman


This full-length documentary film is now available for rental ($2.99) or purchase ($5.99). I haven’t seen it yet, but the trailer looks good. You can see the trailer and purchase the film here.

#MyCurrentMuse: Turquoise Woman

Posted in African culture with tags , on July 4, 2014 by cheshirecatman

I love this photo. The woman reminds me a little of a vision I had of La Balenn.

Sapphires & Sisters

Okay.  So, her beauty is just captivating on various scales.
Her energy and aura just seeps through this photo.

I came across this Goddess on the Africland Facebook page, and I was immediately blown away.  I have a ‘thing’ for African beauty; and moreover, I have a true attraction to North-East African women.  There is something about the women of this region and their features that are just striking to me.  I find their energy within photos to be very pulling and almost God-like.  And this young woman is no exception.

There was no name given, nor what tribe and/or country she was from in the post caption.  Therefore, I left a general comment inquiring about her background off of her features and dress, and was informed that she is from the Fulani Tribe of North/West/Central Africa.  And another person said that she is from the Kunama tribe of…

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“Remembrance” and why we serve the lwa

Posted in African culture, Haiti, lwas, Religion, Ritual, Vodou with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 28, 2012 by cheshirecatman

A couple of months ago a few friends and I were discussing Vodou books, and how we’d like to read more that are written by Haitians. Mambo C recommended “Remembrance: Roots, Rituals, and Reverence in Vodou” by Jerry M. Gilles and Yvrose S. Gilles. The Kreyol version is titled “Sèvis Ginen: Rasin, Rityèl, Respè lan Vodou.”

This book really delves into the history of Vodou beliefs and practices, largely via language. Words are traced back to their African roots, often identifying precise regions. It was also fascinating to read about African historical figures who became lwa. Some have songs written about them that are still sung at fets. For example, one song I’ve sung a number of times is written about the Kongo King Antonio who inspired Gangan Vita to start the Toni Malo movement in 1704 to restore the Kongo to its past glory (discussed in Chapter VIII). It’s nice to understand the history of the song:

“Toni rele Kongo, Toni rele Kongo, Toni rele Kongo, Santa Maria Gracia.”

This is translated as “Toni calls for the Kongo, Toni calls for the Kongo, Toni calls for the Kongo, By the Grace of Saint Mary.”

The book also contains one of the best explanations I’ve seen about why we serve the lwa. People new to Vodou sometimes wonder if we serve the lwa as a way of bribing them to do us favors. This is simply not so:

The principle of offerings is based on reciprocity. If good will is shown to the Lwa, good things will happen. Today in Haiti, the Lwa are thought to reside in a world beneath our own and are served as a means of showing appreciation for the support that they provide. A show of appreciation keeps their memory alive and keeps them interested in our lives. When the Lwa are ignored, they go away. (p. 185)

I tend to think of service to the lwa as maintaining a relationship. If I never talk to my friends except when I want a favor, then how likely is it that they will even care about what I need? Service to the lwa is a way of maintaining a relationship that I care about.

I enjoyed this book very much, although it is not one I would recommend for the beginning Vodou student. It really helps to have some familiarity with the lwa, Vodou terminology, the reglemen and some of the songs before diving into this book. While the translation is written very clearly, the sheer volume of information and new words could be overwhelming to a new student. However, I am happy to have it in my library and know I will be referring to it again.

Some interesting reading in honor of Legba today

Posted in African culture, Legba, Religion, Vodou with tags , , , , on June 4, 2012 by cheshirecatman

I ran across this article about Eshu/Legba. (And I promise to post original material shortly.)

Trickster at the Crossroads by Erik Davis

Books for “Vodou 101”

Posted in African culture, Agwe, Haiti, lwas, Religion, Vodou with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 14, 2012 by cheshirecatman

Last Wednesday I stopped at Edge of the Circle Books on my way to meet a friend, and found yet another new book on Vodou that I think I am going to like a lot (more on this later). How I wished I’d had this book when I started down this path. This got me to thinking, what books would I like to see included in a “Vodou 101” class? Below is my list, with brief comments on each.

Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti by Maya Deren. A much-touted (and deservedly so) account of Deren’s journey to Haiti and into Vodou. Includes a ton of information about the lwa and various ceremonies, including a beautiful service held for Met Agwe and a firsthand account of possession.

Mama Lola: A Vodou Priestess in Brooklyn by Karen McCarthy Brown. This book also includes a lot of info about the lwa and the services, but I also liked that the author focused on Mama Lola as a Haitian living in the U.S. and how she holds her services here. This focus gives the book a more personal feel. The author and Mama Lola also travel to Haiti, and we are given a closer look at the Haitian people and the author’s experience as a foreigner being initiated into Vodou.

The Book of Vodou by Leah Gordon. I really wish I had this book when I started out. It packs a lot of information into a thin tome–everything from a brief history of Haiti to descriptions (with property tables) of the lwa to a glossary of terms. And tons of pictures! This would be a good first book to assign to a class to give a student a quick  overview of Vodou and engage their interest.

The Haitian Vodou Handbook: Protocols for Riding with the Lwa by Kenaz Filan. This is another book I wished I’d had from the get-go. Filan’s writing style and the way he arranged the book is very accessible to someone new to Vodou. What I really love about this book, however, is that it contains some very practical suggestions for the non-initiate solo practitioner. Not everyone is near a sosyete (a Vodou house) and his book helped me immensely when I was figuring out how to serve the lwa on my own.

Serving the Spirits: The Religion of Haitian Vodou (Volume 1) by Mambo Vye Zo Komande la Menfo. Just published last year, this is a very good overview of Vodou with focus on respect for the lwa and for the culture of Haiti. I liked that the author emphasized the importance of discovering which lwa are with you rather than courting a lwa you happen to find interesting (she considers this rude to the lwa who are with you, and I agree).

Haitian Vodou: An Introduction to Haiti’s Indigenous Spiritual Tradition by Mambo Chita Tann. This is the book I ran across on Wednesday by happy “accident.” My plan that day had been to take a bus to the northern end of Capital Hill and go to a different book store altogether. This plan was changed when the bus I wanted to catch did not show up after 20 minutes (which was weird as this particular bus runs at least every 15 minutes at that hour, so I should have at least seen one go by) and I had to walk to another bus stop, which left me with not enough time to go to that particular store and meet my friend on time. So I ended up catching a different bus and got off partway up the hill and went to Edge of the Circle instead.

And I was glad I did. My initial reaction when I saw this book was that I really could not justify buying another “101” level book. However, I quickly changed my mind once I took a look inside. First of all, this book includes a lot of pronunciations of Haitian words, which is invaluable for those of us who don’t speak Kreyol. (Now, I would absolutely have LOVED to have this a few years ago!) I was already sold at that point, and then discovered that the author also included some Haitian recipes for dishes you can serve to the lwa. I’ve only just started reading this book, but so far I  like it a lot. The author emphasizes respect for the lwa and for the culture and people of Haiti.

Mark of Voodoo: Awakening to My African Spiritual Heritage by Sharon Caulder. I would like to see this book included in a Vodou class, even though it’s not about Haitian Vodou. I enjoyed this book so much because it felt like I was reading an interesting novel. It’s the firsthand story of the author’s journey to Benin to learn about Voodoo from Supreme Chief Daagbo Hounon Houna. Learning about Vodou’s African roots was interesting and gives one a broader perspective of the lwa.

So these are my beginner’s recommendations as of this date. I am sure there are other good resources out there, but I am just including books I’ve read or am in the process of reading here.

Additional reading (updated as I read more books):
Sevis Lwa: Crossroad of Vodou (Volume 2) by Mambo Vye Zo Komande la Menfo. Published April, 2018. A companion piece to her earlier book, this volume contains detailed instructions and information for those continuing to serve the Lwa.