Archive for the lwas Category

Learning to walk with the Lwa (the job edition, Part 2)

Posted in Legba, Uncategorized with tags , , , on May 29, 2017 by cheshirecatman
Golden Key

© Yanik Chauvin | Dreamstime Stock Photos

The last few months have been a bit of a roller coaster ride. Back in February I wrote about a new job that I was very excited about. It was at a young, up-and-coming tech company with great benefits and a friendly work environment. Things were going well and I was happy. Then the rug got pulled out from under me.

In early March, the company unexpectedly lost one of its main clients, and they laid off about a third of their staff. Being a newbie, I was in the group that got let go. It was sudden: we came into work on Monday, got called to an impromptu meeting, and got the news. Some people were angry; I was hugely disappointed. I also realized that I was fortunate in that I did not have a large amount of time invested in the company–one guy I talked to had been there for 3 years.

In such situations it can be tempting, from a magickal point of view, to ask what you did wrong to earn the wrath of your gods. Honestly, in this case I don’t think I did anything. Call it bad luck or bad timing on my part. I did, after all, ask Legba to help me get the job, and he did. No one at the company expected this to happen.

I do think that the Lwa don’t always lead you on a straight path, and sometimes due to various timing issues this is necessary.

I filed for unemployment and began the tedious task of updating resumes, scanning job boards, contacting employers and filing unemployment claims every week. There were a lot of jobs out there, but apparently there were also a lot of applicants. Even though one of my laid off coworkers found a new position quickly, about two months went by for me and nothing. No queries, not a peep.

Then, on a Thursday in early May, I got two text messages from two separate former co-workers who both worked for a Tacoma company I used to work for. They told me that one of their clients was looking for a graphics person. Note here that I sort of suck at networking, and in my entire professional life I can only remember getting a job via networking one time, and that was only for a 1-day temp position. So this was something new for me.

I called the company immediately and spoke with the owner, then sent him my resume. Over the next 24 hours, we e-mailed each other back and forth, and on Friday he invited me to go for an interview the following Monday. As I looked over their website I was amused that 1) the name was very similar to another company I’d worked at for nearly 10 years and 2) the logo design reminded me of the Tacoma company. Were these signs? Again, I asked Legba for assistance, but this time added the conditions that I only ask for this job if it’s stable and good for me.

The weekend came and went. On Monday, I dressed conservatively (for me) and headed out to the interview. Upon entering the building, I immediately noticed a good amount of diversity (as I would find out later, this company is about 50% people of color, 50% female, and diverse in age, compared to the tech company that was mainly young and maybe 25% female and 25% people of color). The owner was a person of color and the manager who sat in on the interview was a biker-looking dude with tattoos all over his arms. I thought to myself, “This could work.”

The interview was casual with no silly HR questions, no “where do you see yourself in 5 years” kinds of stuff. They told me they would let me know no later than Friday.

Two days later they e-mailed me back and asked if I could start on Friday! I was over the moon.

While this does not have the new technology type of excitement of the tech job, this company fits me well, like a favorite pair of shoes. And I am hoping now for a period of calm and stability on the workfront so I can fully focus on other areas of life.

Also, on an unrelated note, a couple of weeks ago I met a member of Mambo Sallie Ann Glassman’s sosyete, a New Orleans native who is living in Seattle. We’d been corresponding for a while on Facebook and he was every bit as kind in person as he is online. Honor to him and to his mambo and his sosyete.

CNN showcases Vodou

Posted in Haiti, lwas, Religion, Ritual, Vodou, Voodoo on March 16, 2017 by cheshirecatman

CNN is featuring Vodou this Sunday on its show “Believer.” I haven’t watched any of the episodes so can’t vouch for its quality one way or the other, but the preview looks interesting.
http://www.cnn.com/shows/believer

Learning to walk with the Lwa (the job edition)

Posted in Dreams, Legba, Life Lessons, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on February 19, 2017 by cheshirecatman
job_key

© Skypixel | Dreamstime.com – Career and Job Opportunities

If you are a regular reader, you may be familiar with my recurring shoe dreams. Some people have nude-in-public dreams; I have walking-around-with-no-shoes dreams.

I had another one recently in which I was walking around in a truck stop rural area with the girlfriend. I look down and I am stocking-footed. It finally dawned on me that these dreams are largely about stability (and the lack thereof). I don’t know why I did not figure this out sooner. I have weak ankles, so good shoes are paramount to my physical stability. So it’s not too surprising that my recent bout with job instability would trigger a shoe dream.

Just over a year ago, I was laid off from a job of nearly a decade and transitioned smoothly into another job. The new company seemed like a good fit, the job was interesting, and things went well for a while. And then things started going bad. The mundane reason: a long commute (Seattle to Tacoma) meant I was often tired and started falling asleep at work and having job performance issues. My confidence in my work skills took a hard blow. The other reason: a long commute meant little time for much else, including service to the Lwa.

They weren’t happy with me and this became clearer and clearer over time. Whenever my thoughts turned to finding a new job closer to home, things would go better at work. But if I thought, “Well, maybe this will work out fine and I’ll stay for a while,” then I’d start having problems again. When they speak and you don’t listen, things go awry. Eventually enough was enough. So near the end of last year, I started sending out resumes and quickly got a call from a staffing agency, who placed me in a temp-to-hire position with a company that processes legal papers.

The paper-pushing job was super-convenient (a one-bus commute to downtown Seattle), but also a little depressing. Aside from handling legal documents all day long, I was very much a production drone who wasn’t utilizing many of his skills. I really don’t like looking for work and was hoping that this job would work out long-term, but after a brief couple of weeks I could no longer ignore the push to look for something better. And then a playfully written ad on craigslist caught my eye. It was for a graphics-related job in the tech sector.

I was hoping for but did not expect a response, but they responded within a few days and requested a phone screening. Now, I hate the telephone and knew I needed Legba’s help on this one. I lit a candle and asked for his help. And he came through. The interview ended up feeling more like a casual conversation over coffee, and the following Wednesday I found myself over on the Eastside for a group interview.

Legba came through again–I aced it. So much so that my interviewers had no additional questions for me at the end because I’d already answered them. Now, I am a very inconsistent interviewee–whether I interview well or not depends a lot on my mood that day and the demeanor of the people interviewing me. So this was no small feat. I liked the feel of the company–it was energetic, forward-thinking and seemed to value its employees. My interviewers were considerate and followed through whenever they said they would do something. Legba’s hand was evident during our interactions and when I wrote an inspired cover letter and the follow-up correspondence.

The tech company told me they’d make a decision no later than the following Monday. I tried not to become too anxious, but this was a job I cared about, and I knew I’d be disappointed if I wasn’t hired. However, they made me the offer the next day.

That day, prior to the offer, I was returning from my lunch break at the temp job. I stopped in the restroom and set my phone and the book I was reading on the back of the tank. I turned to latch the stall door when I heard a splash. My book and my phone had fallen into the john. I am not really sure how; I thought I’d placed them firmly on the tank.

I immediately snatched them out. I was very glad the phone still worked but the book was damaged. It probably was salvageable, but you can’t really wash a book, so I decided to trash it even though I was in the middle of reading it. It was a Christmas gift. Oh well, I’d replace it at some point.

Shortly after that (like, within an hour), I received the job offer. That made me wonder if the book was claimed by Legba as payment for the job. Later I would call Mambo and ask her opinion, and she said that sometimes happens if you don’t negotiate your deal well. And I realized I hadn’t been specific enough when I petitioned Legba. I liked the book, but I wasn’t too upset. It was a small price to pay, and if the phone had been damaged then I might not have gotten the call in a timely manner, and the job might have been lost. So Legba took the book. I just recently replaced it, but felt it would be a good idea to remember this lesson. So instead of buying an identical new paperback copy, I purchased an older used hardback edition. In this way I don’t feel like I am erasing that event.

After a slightly stressful ten days (mostly due to confidence issues left over from the Tacoma job), I am starting to feel stable again. Also, from a numbers standpoint, this is the 3rd position I’ve had since leaving my last long-term job. Three is my met tet’s number. So I am optimistic I will be here for a while.

Thoughts on the afterlife (Part One in a possible series)

Posted in afterlife, Animals, Dreams, Legba, Meditation, Vodou with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 24, 2016 by cheshirecatman

(This is an informal discussion between myself and one of my sosyete sisters.

I’ve been thinking a lot about death and the afterlife since I saw John Edward.  As my sister has had similar topics on her mind, we decided to discuss publicly. Plus it’s a nice way to close out November, when we honor the dead.)

afterlife

©Arbi Babakhanaians, Dreamstime Stock Photos

Cheshirecatman (CCM): My interest in death started at an early age–probably from fear of losing my mother, then later continued when i became suicidal and wondered what would happen if I did it. It’s since grown beyond both into an interest in what comes after this. I don’t consider it morbid. It’s more fascination and interest in a little-studied aspect of reality.

Shibamistress (SM): My mother would say I have always been interested in the trappings of death: I have always been a collector of bones and skulls and skull imagery. Then, it was just something that appealed to me. But I also began to think of it more when I was suicidal, wondering what it would be like. Since my mother has been suicidal most of her life, I had to deal the idea of death for a long time, and I did not believe, like she seems to, that it was just like “going to sleep.” I started getting interested in other people’s ideas of afterlife, though admittedly, I haven’t read as much as I could (I’m sure you’ve read a lot more than me about it). But I started thinking about it a lot, and like you, not in a morbid way, but with real interest.

CCM: My long interest really piqued when I lost Puck. I was working with a skilled animal communicator both before and after he passed, and he continued to talk to me after he passed, and knew things that happened around me. As regular readers will know, the first time Legba appeared to me he was with Puck.

SM: That is amazing! So how do you envision an afterlife? (I’m so curious about this!)

CCM: Having read or listened to various accounts, it seems somewhat subjective.
I believe the reason for this is because, on that side, it’s much easier to manifest things by thought and energy, so you kind of manifest to some degree what you want. Sylvia Browne saw it as a beautiful place with all Greco Roman architecture. Mine most frequently is some sort of alternate reality Seattle. It’s my city but things aren’t quite the same and landmarks are messed up.

SM: Oh, that’s so interesting! This is sort of a side note, (or perhaps not), but I often have reoccurring dreams that take place in alternate reality cities. Meaning, I have many San Francisco dreams that are not in real SF, but are consistent from dream to dream.

CCM: I have dreams in other cities as well. Browne wrote that a version of everything on this earth exists over there. Maybe. I do think that we might easily manifest places similar to what we are used to, especially when visiting from here.

SM: And I very much agree that it is subjective. I also believe we manifest things in that other world.

CCM: Yes. Browne talked about how you could manifest a home to live in, which makes sense.

SM: Yes! I have done this, based on more reading/discussion about building things on the astral plane rather than looking at it as necessarily the afterlife. But my feeling is that building on the astral plane IS (perhaps) building for the afterlife. So I have constructed a small space that is the same space I use for meditation (as much as I do that) astral journeying, feelings of safety, etc.

CCM: I would agree with that. Death seems like a transition to another plane, and astral travel is about other planes.

SM: I was working on a novel in which the main character dies in the opening chapter, and the rest is about her navigating the afterlife (and also helping her sister who is still alive). I don’t know if I will ever finish the novel, but it really helped me think about the afterlife and how I imagine it. Her first task is to learn how to manifest what she wants, to create a home, even create a world. One of the big points I thought of (not an original thought, but something that intrigues me) is that everyone gets the afterlife they expect, because to some level or another, they are manifesting it. Now if they become adept at that, they can change and reshape things there. If they don’t believe they can do that, though, they may be stuck for a very long time indeed.

CCM: That makes total sense to me. It might also explain why some people experience hell. I’ve been a lucid dreamer since early childhood, and one thing I’ve noticed is that in a dream, when you succumb to fear, the dream literally goes to hell. Or, if I become lucid, I can change the dream from a nightmare to something peaceful. It is about mindset and control though.
I think the dream state teaches us some things about the other side, although I think we have more control there than in dreams. And I don’t think all dreams are necessarily visits to the other side. I do think some are just the brain working stuff out, and some are a mixture.

SM: Yes, that makes sense to me. I am not able to lucid dream (or at least my attempts have not been successful) but I do believe that it is the same skill set, so to speak. And I do also believe this is why some people experience hell. They expect to. In my novel-in-progress, the narrator is able to visit some of other people’s afterlives, and some seem to be living in a classic “heaven” with angels and pearly gates and all that crap, and some are in a traditional hell. some are in their private hells. All would be able to move out of those if they chose to and were aware enough. (The visiting part made sense in a novel and the idea of creating what one expects makes sense to me, but I don’t know what I think about actually visiting other people’s afterlives)

CCM: I am hoping you finish that novel now. I do believe in what I will loosely call the angelic realm, but what I think of as different levels of beings including angels, the lwa, and different deities. One thing I did gather from reading various books is that once you cross over into the next realm, you have more understanding of things but you still don’t know all there is to know.

SM:  It may not be a real novel. It may be just me thinking about the afterlife!

CCM: But you could turn it into novelic form.

SM: Oh yes, on the other side you still don’t know all there is to know! My thought is death is a beginning…and the afterlife, which may or may not end in another incarnation for some, is just the beginning! There is much to learn there too!

CCM: Murry Hope talks about it in terms of time and center points. The “godhead” or what people think of as the one God is at the center, the rest of us are navigating inward to that center. So as we get closer (through transitions to closer dimensions) we gain more of the larger picture.

SM: Oh I like that! That makes a lot of sense!

CCM: So if you have wise guides, they are not God but are closer than you to the center.

SM: There was a writer whose name I can’t recall now who I read a while back. I think he may be Australian. Anyway, he talked about there even being “universities” in the afterlife, where people can learn many many things, and I loved that idea! I also very much agree with the lwa and others closer to god than us and can guide us.

CCM: I think the universities are very possible.

SM:  I’ll have to see if I can dig up my reference too. I believe I wrote it down somewhere.

CCM: Sylvia Browne talked about that a bit too. On the other side, she did not see you as sitting around singing praises to god. People could work in areas they were passionate about, to help people on earth (or other similar worlds). There were vast libraries of knowledge you could visit too.

SM: Yes! I think so too!
I also believe we can take any form we choose there, once we learn how to do it. That is so appealing to me.

CCM: Yes, the physical form would be part of the energy manifestation thing. You could take on a form that matched a former life, or something else. I am often very much a shapeshifter in my dreams.

SM: In my writing, I had a scene where my narrator goes to a school to learn and encounters a black jaguar, and asks how the jaguar learned to take animal form, and the jaguar says rather huffily that he has never incarnated as a human! *lol*

CCM: Smart cat, lol.

SM: And the shapeshifter dreams are the best! I don’t think they are entirely dreams…perhaps memories….

CCM: Yes, memories. I am probably dumping human form after this, but who knows how I will feel when I get there. You also have the opportunity to be an incarnated person’s spirit guide, which i think could be rewarding and aggravating. So I could see briefly adopting human form if working with a human. They freak out kinda easily lol.

SM: Oh yes! That makes sense! I was thinking that perhaps my character might work herself up to doing that kind of work or working as a psychopomp, so I was thinking something similar.

CCM: You seriously need to write that book. I probably am gonna bother you about it now.

SM:   Here’s something relatively new. I’ve been thinking on this topic, but it is not all clear to me yet. See what you think. So often I feel as if I am separated from something so close to me, so important, it is stronger than any human bond. And I miss it. And I thought about how when I die, perhaps there is a sort of soulmate I will finally meet in that world. Then I started thinking about Vodou and our two souls. What if we somehow are just meeting another part of ourselves there? A part that did not incarnate with us? And that is the longing that some of us feel?
Or perhaps it’s like Freda, longing for a closer connection with the divine? Who knows. But the two souls things started me thinking.

CCM: There are theories that we live simultaneously in different dimensions or time zones, even though we are only aware of one during our waking hours or during normal consciousness. So part of you (some might say your higher self or possibly your future self) is literally missing from normal conscious life.
I have gone through various beliefs about soul mates and/or twin souls and have not exactly come to a conclusion. I will say that soul mates of that sort do not always incarnate with us. so that is entirely possible.

SM: That’s one way I thought of it too.

CCM: I am thinking mine is Puck, as his loss affected me like no other in this life. The main thing I want when I leave this life is to reunite with him. I know some will poo poo me feeling that way about someone who isn’t human, but I poo poo that sort of limited thinking. I am not sure Puck is “just a cat” even though that is what he incarnated as.

SM: Makes total sense to me. Puck’s soul wanted to be with you, even if it was in the shorter life as a cat. And you will meet again, and have no doubt been with each other for a very very long time indeed in one form or another.

(This is part of a planned ongoing series about death and the afterlife. To be continued.)

Ask and receive, in which the Lwa work with what is already around you

Posted in Legba, lwas, Vodou with tags , , , , on July 26, 2015 by cheshirecatman

I had the opportunity to sign up for an online class related to my various spiritual practices. I really wanted to take this class, and it was being offered at 1/3 of the usual price. I still could not really afford it and hesitated, knowing that it would make finances very tight for the next couple of weeks, and that I would have to postpone some bills. With a resigned sigh, I said to Legba, “If you think it would be good for me to take this class, any financial help would be appreciated.” The discounted price was only offered for a very limited time and I was up against the deadline, so I took the plunge and registered for the class. This was last Saturday (July 18). That same day we had a grocery delivery scheduled.

Now, Anne and I are city dwellers, and have not owned a car for over a decade. To reduce trips to the grocery store (and to avoid having to haul heavy items like cat litter on the bus), we regularly use a grocery delivery service. We select a delivery time, usually in the evenings or on a weekend. Most of the time the service delivers on schedule, and even when they are late, they are good about letting us know. In the 3 or so years we’ve been using them, I’ve only had to call them about late delivery a handful of times.

Grocery expenses add up quickly, and last weekend was one of the larger orders we’ve placed (over $200). So, the scheduled delivery window came and went, and about 15 minutes afterwards, I phoned the company. The customer service rep was very courteous and told me that they had been having a lot of delays that morning. She briefly put me hold while she tried to contact the delivery driver. When she was unable to reach him, she apologized and said that she would immediately refund our order. She then said that if the driver did show up we could keep the groceries free of charge.

What? I was kind of floored. Our deliveries have been late before, and I’ve never been offered a full refund. The downside: if the groceries failed to show up, then Anne and I would need to go shopping that day and I would be either hauling cat litter on the bus or ordering from another delivery service. I was really keeping my fingers crossed that the delivery showed up.

And it did, only about 30 minutes late. Which was not a big deal to me, and I would have been fine without a refund. We just wanted our stuff. As it turned out, we got over $200 worth of groceries for free, which was wonderful and kind of weird.

And then I remembered my comment to Legba. And realized that my share of the groceries came up to around $135, which was about the same amount of money that I was lacking to pay for the class and my bills. Whoa.

I also thought about how he brought about this windfall using situations that were already at play in my life. Not that the Lwa can’t bring results from unexpected sources, but I think they are practical and have no qualms about working with the tools most readily available.

So Saturday evening, I lit candles and thanked Papa. Ayibobo.

Philadelphia, Summer 2015, Part Two: Enter Simbi Makaya

Posted in lwas, Simbi Makaya, Vodou with tags , , , , on July 2, 2015 by cheshirecatman

fire-orange-emergency-burning_s

(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

Legba creates my vision

Posted in Agwe, Art, La Sirene, Legba, Religion, Ritual, Vodou with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 17, 2015 by cheshirecatman

Legba walkingI am coming up on the first anniversary of my Kanzo with Sosyete du Marche. Thus it seems like an appropriate time to reflect on the past year and what has (and has not) changed about me and my life.

Outwardly, there is not a whole lot of visible change. I am still at the same job. I live in the same place, in the same area of town. I haven’t gotten a spiffy new haircut nor remodeled my home.

Not all of my bad habits have changed. I still stay up too late on weekends, and have a tendency to procrastinate. I have an impatient streak, but it’s one that I continue to mostly control. I can be messy when I get busy or tired, especially when facing art deadlines. I still am fascinated with the afterlife, although in a much more positive way than I have been in the past.

What has changed outwardly is the official acquisition of my new family, the Sosyete. This is no small thing for me—my birth mother crossed over nearly three decades ago, I never knew my father and the one living relative I do know is permanently estranged. Now I have parents and many siblings I can turn to for love, advice and support. I took great delight in sending my initiatory mother a small Mother’s Day gift, something I have not been able to enjoy for many years.

So what about the less-obvious changes?

Many times I thought about writing this post but kept putting it off, uncertain whether there had been any changes interesting enough to discuss here. Apparently the changes kind of crept up on me. Some people’s experiences are more dramatic and obvious, but the majority of mine tend to be more subtle. My Lwa often speak softly, and in the language of images.

In March and early April I was engrossed in my usual springtime art frenzy, preparing to participate in a local sci fi/fantasy convention’s art show and another show at a local shop. I had quite a few pieces planned that were Vodou-related, including two sculptures of Legba, La Siren, La Balenn and Agwe, whom I’ve never sculpted before.

The first Legba I finished this spring was the Old Man walking along a road with one of his dogs, although I sculpted both Legba faces at the same time, and was very happy with them. This was a sharp contrast from the struggles I sometimes have with faces, which can result in me becoming so frustrated that I will toss them in the garbage and begin anew. I was particularly pleased that both of the faces resembled Legba as he appeared in one of my dreams.

Sculpting clothing is not always super easy for me, yet when I worked on his jacket and pants, I kept having what artists call “happy accidents”—my hand would move and create a fold or movement of the fabric that was unplanned, but looked good. Now, normally, I would never consider putting one of my own pieces on my altars, because I would sit there and obsess over the flaws and shortcomings. This time, however, I was so happy with the completed piece that I thought about keeping him for my altar if he didn’t sell at the convention. Also finished for the convention was a La Balenn piece whose face turned out unusually lovely. I received a lot of compliments on both of them when I showed them to friends.

La Balenn did not sell at the convention, but Legba sold immediately after to a couple of friends who saw him in the art show there. (They tried to buy him at the show, but due to a change in the art show hours, they were not able to purchase him before it closed.) It makes me smile to think of Legba in their home.

Then my focus shifted to finishing the pieces for the shop show. I decided to do a Native La Siren, as that is how she appeared to me the one time that I saw her. I was not sure exactly how to sculpt Agwe, so I had a loose plan to create him as a merman wearing an admiral’s jacket. However, he had other things in mind. I kept receiving flashes of images in my head, and realized that yes, he did want to be portrayed as a merman, but rather than the uniform he opted to have coral extruding from his back and crowning his head. Although I was working on my pieces up to the last minute, I never really got stressed out. It seemed that every time I got stuck on something, the answer would pop into my head and I was able to move on. Sometimes my hands felt guided, to the point that I don’t feel that I can take all of the credit for the way the art turned out. It was more of a collaboration between the Lwa and me.

When Agwe was completed, he also received many compliments. During the artist opening reception, one of my regular buyers whom I had never met before came in and bought the entire marine Lwa set (La Siren, La Balenn and Agwe). He wanted the seated Legba piece I had there too, but a friend had already spoken for it, so this gentleman commissioned a new one. (I have to smile when I think of Legba and the 3 marine Lwa displayed in his home; I won’t be surprised if they all start showing up there.) Another previous buyer whom I had never met came in and purchased a Sekhmet wall piece of mine. During the following weeks when my art was on display, a couple of local Santeria folks saw Agwe and loved him so much that they commissioned one like it.

Overall, this is probably the most successful art show I’ve had to date, as far as sales are concerned. I reflected back on the nom vayan (“valiant name”) that my initiatory mother gave me at my batem (“baptism”). It translates into “Legba creates my vision,” and he certainly has outdone himself this time.

If you haven’t already read it, my lovely initiatory mother has written a wonderful piece on magickal names in Vodou, which explains them better than I can here. All’s I can say is it certainly worked for me! Honor to her, Papa and the Lwa. Ayibobo!