Archive for the Marassa Category

Post fet energy

Posted in Agwe, Erzulie, Marassa, Vodou with tags , , , , , , , on September 23, 2012 by cheshirecatman

Last night I attended a local fet for Erzulie Freda. It was a lot of fun. I saw some local Vodouisants I haven’t seen in a while, and met three new people who were pretty damn cool. The format of this fet was pretty similar to the fet in Philadelphia.

I’ve written at length about fets before, and don’t plan to again unless something really unusual happens. While this isn’t the first time I’ve felt energized after a fet, this is perhaps the first time that it left me unable to sleep for hours. This may not seem unusual for most people, but it is for me. I’ll explain.

I find socializing draining, even when I like the people. My friend Slinky and I met around 12:30 to join another friend for lunch. That lasted over an hour. Then we went over to the fet venue and helped the mambo set up. There were maybe a dozen people at the fet, and it lasted until midnight.

Now, I did wake up late yesterday morning, but with all the socializing I should have been exhausted when I got home. Instead, I stood up until nearly 5 a.m. I didn’t even feel particularly energized, but apparently I was because I had no desire for sleep for hours.

For a long time now I’ve believed that Freda was in my escort because she is married to Agwe. A discussion with a friend earlier today helped me understand that there could be another reason as well. Years ago, during a therapy session (before I decided that talk therapy is not for me, although I acknowledge it may help others), a therapist told me that “this life is just never good enough for you.” I think he said that after I made the mistake of opening up about some of my unconventional beliefs. The statement does seem to be true though; I am always searching for more and am often dissatisfied to some degree. And Freda is often dissatisfied. So we do have that in common.

I am also developing a theory why I now have the Marassa, but am not ready to discuss it at this time.

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Philadelphia Part Two: Chatting with Legba

Posted in Animals, Divination, Legba, Marassa, Possession, Vodou with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 2, 2012 by cheshirecatman

Note: I realize I mentioned in my last post that this one would be about the lave tet, but there was too much material to cover to fit it all in one post. So the actual lave tet will be discussed in the next installment, so that I can keep events in somewhat of a chronological order.

I arrived in Philadelphia late Friday afternoon, then headed over to Sosyete du Marche for dinner. There were already maybe 7 or 8 people gathered around the table when I walked in the door, as well as two dogs roaming the dining room–a handsome black standard poodle and a cute little shih tzu whose hair was clipped short for the summer. And finally, I got to meet Mambo Pat, who exudes the same warmth and good-natured humor in person as she does online. I sat down and shared a wonderful meal of pasta, salad and bread.

Normally, I am very self-conscious in unfamiliar settings with people I don’t know very well, but this time I was surprisingly relaxed. This was more than a Vodou group–it felt like I was a new in-law or not-too-distant relative at an informal family gathering. It turned out there would be nine of us receiving the lave tet, and to reduce her work load on Saturday, Mambo told us she would read the cards for the three of us who were at the dinner that night. The reading is included with the lave tet, and reveals which lwa are currently walking with you. While I waited for my reading, I helped out in the kitchen washing dishes, which can be meditative for me.

When it was my turn, I went downstairs into the hounfò. It’s a beautiful room, with two long altars set up  along the back wall, one for the ocean lwa: Met Agwe, La Sirene and La Balenn, and one for the Petro lwa. In the center of the room, in traditional style, was a square poteau mitan, complete with a low altar platform built around it. Several assons (rattles used by mambos and houngans) hung from the column.

I sat in a low chair next to the center altar, with Mambo Pat facing me a couple of feet away. A houngan and a mambo also sat in on the reading and occasionally offered advice and suggestions. Mambo handed me the New Orleans Voodoo tarot deck and told me to shuffle the cards until she said stop, which I did.

Now, I am not sure exactly when Mambo left and Legba arrived, but at some point very early in the reading, I was aware that he was there. Mambo’s voice changed, taking on a slower relaxed cadence and an accent. The usual alert look in her eyes was replaced by the confident gaze of an old man. The other mambo handed him a cigarette, which he enjoyed while we talked.

It’s an amazing and deeply moving feeling to speak physically to a lwa. I am not going to describe very much of what was in the cards, mainly because it was a personal reading and would not be of use to anyone else. Of course, Legba showed up in the cards, in the met tet position, although it was his Petro aspect. What was really surprising is that none of the ocean lwa showed up in the cards. This was highly unusual. In previous readings I’d had with Mambo C and Mambo Racine, the suite of cups were all over the place. I still believe Met Agwe and La Sirene are with me–my current thought on the matter is that it was a nine card reading, and perhaps it was more important at this time for other lwa and information to come through. Four new lwa are now with me, including the Marassa (whom I mention here because of something that would happen the following day). I had no clue how I was going to come up with altar space for them, and made a mental note to seek Mambo C’s help once I returned to Seattle.

After Legba explained the cards, he asked me if I had any questions, and of course my mind went momentarily blank. I tried to think, as who knew when I’d have an opportunity like this again. I thanked him for his patience with me, and he commented that the world is a loud place, but they (the lwa) keep trying to get through. And then, me being me, I said, “I know you love dogs.” (And as soon as the word ‘dogs’ passed my lips, we could hear Mambo Pat’s dogs start barking vigorously upstairs.) “What about cats?” I had to ask this question, because when Legba first appeared to me, Puck was with him.

Legba looked at me with his relaxed steady gaze, and took a drag from his cigarette. “Sure, I like dogs,” he said, and then went on to explain that he values not just dogs, but all creatures. He expressed great displeasure towards those who treat animals with disrespect.

He also scolded me a little for spreading myself too thin, telling me I needed to choose one path. And he was completely right about that. Throughout my adult life, I’ve scattered my energies all over the place, which has not helped me progress at all. We talked about art a little, and I will never forget what he told me. “When you create something you are truly satisfied with, God smiles.” To me, this means that the creative process is, in a very real sense, an offering of great value. I just wanted to share that with the artists, dancers, writers and other creative types who read this blog.

The conversation was over far too soon, but Papa promised he would talk to me the following evening. And I was left with an even deeper love for this lwa. Ayibobo.

House blessing, Vodou style

Posted in Damballah, Divination, Ghosts, La Sirene, Legba, lwas, Marassa, Ogoun, Possession, Religion, Ritual, Spirits, Vodou with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 13, 2011 by cheshirecatman

Candles for Papa Legba

On Saturday Mambo C came over to bless our condo. We meant to have her do it months ago but, due to various delays on our part, it had to wait.

The beginning of the day was rather hectic. I had a few last-minute items to buy on Saturday morning–one red 7-day candle and three white ones (I needed a total of six, but I had two already), along with some herbs. I knew the market down the street carried 7-day candles, but their stock had been running a little low lately. When I got there they had exactly one red candle and three white ones left. Call it luck, but I thanked the lwa.

The corner store, however, did not have the fresh basil or mint that I needed. So after dropping the candles at home, I caught the bus to an Albertsons about 16 blocks away. There I found the basil and mint, and was in and out in 20 minutes, in time to catch the next bus home.

Shortly after arriving home, I read an email from Mambo C listing some more items: fruit and loose change, including four dimes. I realized I had just spent all my dimes on the bus. Fortunately, the store down the block is literally about five minutes away on foot, so I decided I would return there after I finished some last-minute housecleaning.

Mambo C arrived around 5 pm. Anne mistakenly thought they had not met before but then realized the mambo had been at my last art show.

Before we did anything else, we gave Mambo C a tour of our place so that she could get a sense of the energy. She quickly zeroed in on the front bedroom, sensing some negativity. Earlier in the week Anne had felt a light pressure on her leg while she was in there.

I showed Mambo C my shrine cabinet, thinking that she would have some suggestions for improvement. Instead, she complimented it, and said she liked Papa Legba’s handmade cane a lot, which made me feel good.

Then the mambo did some tarot readings for us. First she did a general reading for Anne. (I noticed that when she spreads out her cards, she places them all face up, rather than dealing them face down and then turning them over one by one. I like the idea of seeing all the cards at once;  I think I am going to try this with my own readings).

I didn’t keep a record of exactly which cards turned up in the readings; I felt that writing everything down or taking photos would have been disruptive. But I did take some notes, and what follows are some highlights.

The first reading for Anne was general. The King of Swords indicated a man who has a lot of influence in Anne’s life, both in the past and the present.  Mambo C thought he was connected to our moving or an inheritance. We believe this to be Anne’s  late father, without whose money we would not have been able to buy our condo. The cards also indicated concern about losing  money, and a need to take control of her finances, and possibly seeking professional advice for that. The cards portrayed Anne’s nature accurately: she is generally an optimistic, happy person.

Next, Mambo C did a brief 3-card reading for both of us, and asked us questions about the previous owners of our home. We don’t know a whole lot about them, except that they inherited the place from a deceased relative. We also know that they had trouble making the payments and the  property underwent foreclosure, as we purchased it from the bank. Mambo C felt that some negative energy from the foreclosure was still lingering about the place.

Lastly, Mambo C did a met tet reading for Anne, which was interesting. As it turns out, both Anne and I have La Sirene (Anne’s met tet) and Ogoun walking with us. I can easily see the influence of La Sirene in Anne. Like me, she is an emotional and imaginative artist. The Marassa were also present, and when Mambo C asked Anne if there were twins in her family, I was surprised that Anne said yes. It’s  likely Anne has mentioned this to me before, but I’d forgotten apparently. Although the twins are not in her immediate family, Anne has more than 4-5 pairs if you go back a generation or two on her mother’s side. Mambo C also noted the Sun and the Star cards, smiled and said that those could mean that Anne should kanzo. (I can’t see Anne doing that, as she is agnostic and Vodou is not her faith. But hey, you never know. I never thought it would be my faith either.)

My memory gets a little confused here. I  know we walked through the condo twice (once to remove negative energy and once to instill blessings), but the details are a bit fuzzy, so this account is not entirely accurate, I’m sure. (If the mambo happens to read this and refresh my memory, then I’ll revise this later.) During the first walk through, Mambo C led the way while Anne and I followed behind her carrying a pail of water mixed with herbs and other ingredients. Beginning in the front bedroom where she had sensed the negative energy, the mambo dipped a rag into the water and with sweeping motions directed the energy out of the room and into the hallway, giving special attention to all portals (doors, windows and mirrors). When she’d done all of the upstairs rooms, we went downstairs and she did the living room and kitchen. Then she cleaned the front doorway with the mixture, took the pail from me and told us we could wait inside. She was gone for a while, and I found out later that she walked the length of the block to discard the water and the rag at the crossroads.

When she returned,  we lit three of the 7-day candles (two read, one white) for Papa Legba and placed them near the front door. Mambo C prepared another herbal mixture, adding Florida water, rum and cinnamon. Per her instructions, I gathered up the change I’d saved from my morning errands and added them to the pail. She placed the pail along with a white 7-day candle (lit) on our hearth. We then proceeded to make an offering of fruit to the Marrassa. Picking up her asson, the mambo handed me a small white bowl containing an egg set atop white flour. She led me in the salutes to the four directions. Facing east, you step to the right with the right foot, then bring your left foot to join it. Then you do the same to the left, then to the right again. Then you do a full turn to the left, then to the right, then to the left again. The process is repeated facing west, then north, then south. After the salutes, I placed the egg to the right of the candle.

We then went through the salutes again for the Marassa, only this time I was carrying fruit (one banana and one orange in each hand), which I placed to the left of the candle. Mambo C told me to be sure to put them down at exactly the same time, which I did.

Now it was time for the ancestors. I held one of the white 7-day candles as we went through the salutes again, then Mambo C called my ancestors. As I placed it on the mantle I silently told them what I hoped and wished for. Then it was Anne’s turn to do the salutes and tell them her desires. As she stepped back from the mantle, Mambo C placed a hand on her shoulder and said that Anne’s father was standing there with us. She described him quite accurately too; tall, thin, salt and pepper hair, facial hair, wire framed glasses. It is worth noting that we neither gave her a description of how he looked nor showed her any photos of him. I was impressed.

At one point during this part of the evening, Mambo C did a brief ceremonial magick protective ritual. Using a stick of incense, she drew a circle and a cross in the air in each of the four directions. Another interesting thing that happened during the rituals was when Mambo C knelt down with her eyes closed and looked as though she were trying to collect herself. Initially I had worried that she wasn’t feeling well, but I found out later that she was nearly possessed by the Marassa in our living room! That would have been interesting, but it’s probably good that it didn’t happen. I do not have any training in how to deal with possessed people, and the Marassa can be mischievous and demanding.

After the offerings, Mambo C handed me the pail containing the herbal mixture and we did another walk through of the house. She anointed the rooms and also pulled the coins out of the water and tossed them throughout the house. (I need to buy a small ceramic cup with a lid soon, place a mirror on the bottom of the cup, and place the change in it. Then I will keep the cup on my altar.) The rites ended with the remainder of the herb mixture being sprinkled on Anne’s and my heads as we stood over the bathtub. Or I should say, sprinkled on my head. Mambo C felt that Anne’s head was too hot, so Anne ended up getting the lion’s share of the mixture dumped on her head. Mambo C asked if Anne had a temper. She doesn’t have much of one, but she does suffer from anxiety.

(Anne said later that she didn’t realize what she was getting into. I thought she handled herself with an admirable amount of poise throughout the evening, but wondered if she was unhappy about the head bath. She told me she found it funny and was actually laughing during it.)

We had to let the herbs dry on our heads. After toweling off a bit, the three of us went out for Chinese food. It was a nice way to end the day, and Mambo C is a lot of fun.

Before she left, Mambo C told me that I might have to do cleansing rituals once in a while if the energy started to feel heavy again.

Our entrance is a bit odd; when you open the front door the first thing you see is the door to a bathroom. Mambo C suggested that we beautify our entryway by keeping the bathroom door closed and perhaps hanging a picture or tapestry on it.  I also need to set up a small altar for Legba by the front door, and I’m thinking a shopping expedition to Gargoyles Statuary might be in order.