Archive for the Possession Category

2013 begins: a fet, a farewell and renewal

Posted in Animals, Legba, lwas, Ogoun, Possession, Religion, Ritual, Vodou with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 13, 2013 by cheshirecatman

I apologize to my regular readers for not posting for a while. I have some catching up to do, so this will be a lengthier post which I have divided into sections. The content should explain my absence.

2012 ends with a blah

I will  preface this section by saying I haven’t been really sick in about two years, which is amazing for me as I am susceptible to all kinds of lung-related problems (to which I credit allergies, a past bout of pneumonia and being a former smoker). During the fall and winter I was becoming really unmotivated with sculpting, feeling tired, overworked and generally blah. At one point I asked Legba to help me overcome my lack of motivation and I realize that, in retrospect, perhaps that was not such a bright idea.

Keep in mind that one of Legba’s aspects is that of Trickster. Consider this account from Houngan Hector’s website:

Legba is a trickster too! He has been known to play quite a number of tricks on people, some nice and some not so nice! I know a woman, who after doing a service to Legba for money, got into a terrible car accident, broke two of her legs, and then got her money – from the insurance company! She is alive and well now, but that definitely wasn’t the way she wanted to obtain the money! (This is another reason why one should serve the Lwa under the guidance of a Houngan or Mambo)

So, after making my rather whiny request I came down with a light cold about a week before Christmas. The girlfriend (Anne) had already had it, and it had run its course pretty quickly with her. I hoped for the same, and by Christmas eve when we attended a celebration at her mother’s house, I felt almost normal. All was good.

And then suddenly it worsened. I ran a fever, developed a  hacking cough, and got so ill I went to the doctor the day after New Year’s. I got antibiotics and almost was well again a week later when I developed a sore throat and went through the entire cycle again (although of shorter duration as I appear to be on the upswing again, let’s hope it lasts). During this very annoying and exhausting illness, I was forced over and over again to sleep and rest, as it seemed to be the only thing that helped. Rest, even though I have major art deadlines looming in March and April. Even when I wanted to work, coughing made detail work difficult and the fever left me very tired.

However, I am now cured of my lack of motivation. Be careful what you ask for. Plus it probably helps to be more specific.

A farewell

During my unmotivated fall and sickly winter, my Siamese cat Snowman became increasingly ill. He suffered from severe weight loss over the summer and had been to the vet in the fall and diagnosed with cancer. He was an old, independent and proud cat, and I did not want to put him through surgery that would likely not cure him at his age (over 17). So we treated his symptoms and waited.

He was treated with antibiotics, anti nausea meds and Vitamin B injections, and eventually he gained weight and some of his strength back. But as the holidays came and went, his abdomen became weirdly bloated and one of his front paws swelled up (apparently in cats, cancer metastasizes in legs). So I made an appointment with a vet who does house calls to assist him on his way. She was very gentle and compassionate with him, and he went amid love, much petting and tears from myself and Anne, and his favorite salmon treats.

The bill for helping him cross over at home was not cheap, but I have no regrets. It’s the least I could do for a friend who, like Puck, saw me through many difficult years. And, unlike Puck, Snowman was often stuck in the “second banana” role, as he was not as silly or attention-getting as Puck or my remaining cat Luna. What I realize, now that he is gone, is that I did not love him any less than them. He was my rock.

An amazing fet

The evening before Snowman’s crossing, I attended a small fet at a friend’s house. There were around a dozen of us there and, in spite of a late start and a mishap (a painting on the altar fell, resulting in some spilled water and broken glass) the energy was incredible. It may have been the best fet I’ve been to locally (the one I attended in Philly at Sosyete du Marche was also incredible).

Papa Ogoun made an appearance and actually claimed one participant as his daughter. Another Vodouisant announced abruptly that she needed to go outside (I would find out later that she had no memory of what she did out there). I made it a point during this fet to worry less about what was going on around me and instead focused more on the drumbeats and sending energy to the lwa. I was able to let go of more of my self consciousness thanks to a couple of shots of rum during the break. The fet ended with a couple of baths, one for letting go and one for luck.

So the baths were brought out and the presiding mambo took hers first. Then I had mine, and stepped aside. I remember my friend Slinky going up for her first bath and making a comment about all her hair. Then I briefly blanked out. Then I remember “Renee” going up for her bath. Again I blanked out. The part that was odd to me was when I opened my eyes and saw Renee getting up from her bath. I was really, really confused for a minute. I thought Renee was Slinky, and it took me a bit to figure out what was going on. Then I wasn’t sure if Slinky had the bath and was squinting at her to see if her hair was wet. Now, I often daydream and can go into light trances fairly easily, but am never this confused when I come out of them.

I didn’t think much about my confusion until later, when Slinky and I were comparing notes. Slinky mentioned (and I vaguely remembered) that someone remarked about “a roomful of half possessed people.” Slinky said she felt a bit different too. She felt a shift in her dance style, and also felt tipsy until after taking the baths, after which she felt very alert. At the time she wrote it off to just being tired, as she had not slept much the night before. And for the record, she drank only one small shot of rum during the break, not enough to be tipsy. I remember coming fully alert after the baths as well. Slinky also told me that she seems to remember seeing me wearing a straw hat and either khaki or olive-colored clothing, or there being someone dressed like that standing near me. (All of us were dressed in red and white.)

I feel very blessed to be at this particular fet and also grateful for the lave tet I had last year.

Final thoughts

The high of the fet followed by the pain of losing Snowman was quite a contrast, but the nasty cold/flu thing I had was in some ways a blessing. Much of the time I felt so rotten physically that I was mostly focused on taking care of my health and was somewhat distracted from fully mourning. It helps that I don’t view death as the end, just a transition and temporary separation. I think Snowman is hanging around because I have not felt the awful gaping hole in my solar plexus that I felt when I lost Puck.

Losing Puck marked a milestone in my life, as wanting to commune with the dead was part of what led me into Vodou (as well as Legba showing up during a chat with Puck on the other side). Now Snowman’s departure seems to be heralding more change. This recent illness (and perhaps the bath) not only has cured me of my lack of motivation but also seems to have cured me of my death wish. I usually obsess over death on a daily basis; it doesn’t always relate to depression, it’s just a matter of habit. I’ve been so focused on getting well so I can work on projects that I seem to have broken the habit. At the moment, I am just enjoying small things: being able to taste my food, sleep through the night without coughing to the point of back pain, and having a healthy young cat on my lap. These are wonderful gifts.

Ayibobo.

Philadelphia Part Three: A fet and a lave tet

Posted in Agwe, Art, Damballah, Dreams, Ghede, La Sirene, Legba, Possession, Religion, Ritual, Vodou with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 16, 2012 by cheshirecatman

Note: These events took place on August 25-27, 2012. Please note that any errors contained herein are those of the author and not of Sosyete du Marche. The author generally does not take notes during fets and lave tets, and relies on observation and memory, neither of which is perfect.

The day of the fet and lave tet was a Saturday. I woke up around 8 a.m. and headed down to the hotel bistro for some breakfast. As I sat waiting for my order of scrambled eggs, a family sat down a few tables away. A mother, young daughter, and two boys–identical twins. I rarely see twins, but their appearance the day after my reading made me think of the Marassa again.

I had several hours to kill before heading over to Sosyete du Marche for dinner. I used that time to visit the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The museum is amazing. From its historic exterior to its interior design (which changes depending on which section you are visiting), the place is not only aesthetically pleasing but impressively huge. This was like a real life review of my art history classes back in my college years. Seeing originals by such favorites as Degas and de Chirico was inspiring. Other cool highlights: a reconstructed European courtyard with a fake sky that looked like a movie set (if you stood directly under the ceiling, it was easy to convince yourself that you were outdoors under an overcast night sky), reconstructed Asian temples, and an Asian art section to die for. The Hindu, Tibetan, and Chinese statues were beautiful, and there were quite a few lions and lion people pieces. It felt appropriate for me to be there that day, as the night before both mambos and Legba reminded me that I needed to do more ancestor work. The only negative part of the experience was that, for some reason, I picked up a nagging headache at the museum. I usually carry Tylenol with me, but of course did not have it on me that day.

I was able to take some Tylenol before heading over to Mambo Pat’s, where all the attendees ate dinner and then got to know each other a bit before the fet, which was in honor of Met Agwe, La Sirene and La Balenn. My headache kept nagging me, so I took some more pills. Then we changed into our white clothes, wrapped our heads, and sat around the poteau mitan while Mambo Pat led us through the priyes.

It was interesting to experience how another house throws a fet. While the basic regleman was the same, in other ways this was very different from the fets I’d attended in Seattle. It was a little less free form, focusing more on songs and salutes rather than long periods of dancing. While I enjoy dancing a lot, the more structured format of this fet meant that I did not spend the evening trying to avoid getting hit and kicked by wild dancers, and that allowed me to focus on the lwa and the songs more. And the lwa were very much in attendance.

During his section of the fet, Legba came down into Mambo Pat and he went around greeting the celebrants. True to his word, he came over to me, embraced me and spoke words of reassurance into my ear. Again I was deeply moved to be so close to my met tet, and I felt very well cared for.

I also got to see my first Agwe possession. He entered the head of one of the houngans, and promptly sat down on one of the chairs and began directing the proceedings. Someone placed a black naval hat upon his head and he was kept moist with a spray bottle. One of the mambos went down a short while later–at first I thought it was a La Sirene possession, but I would later find out it was La Balenn. Like La Sirene, this lwa does not speak, so she mostly lay there with people attending her and keeping her moist. We sang and danced for Damballah, and he possessed one of the attendees. Then we took a break. The nine of us who were receiving the lave tet went upstairs and changed into our old clothes. I realized my headache had not bothered me since the fet began. I felt good.

After the break, the festivities resumed and the lave tet got underway. I went first. I was seated in a chair while the baths were poured over my head and rubbed along my arms. I could hear the houngans and mambos invoking the lwa while I focused on problems I would like to leave behind me. Then I was taken to a back room where I changed out of my wet clothes and into fresh white clothing. I was then wrapped in a white sheet and led to one of the low chairs in the altar area where I waited while the others received their head washings.

After the lave tet was finished, we sang some songs for the Ghede, and one of them came down into Mambo Pat’s head. This Ghede then proceeded to tease the various attendees, and at one point many of the lave tet recipients, including yours truly, got either the Ghede’s butt or boobs thrust nearly in our faces (fully clothed, the tone was very much ribald comedy).  Then she went around telling fortunes for a few coins, closing out the evening by asking each of us if we or someone we loved needed healing. If we said yes, she gave us a penny for that person (which now sits on my Ghede/ancestors altar, under a statue that resembles my cat Snowman, who is ill). After Mambo Pat’s Ghede (and another Ghede possessing a houngan) departed, we finished up the fet and it was time for the lave tet recipients to be bedded down in the altar area.

Air mattresses were laid out with sheets and quilts, and we were each assigned a sleeping area. At first I was assigned to the side of the room closer to the ocean lwa altar, but then I was moved next to the Petro altar. My head would be very near the Ghede altar (more on this later).

Prior to sleep, our heads were unwrapped. More things were placed on our heads, and then we were rewrapped and laid down to sleep. My headache, which had been absent all through the fet, was now back, and I looked forward to some dark and quiet. Then it was lights out, and the other attendees all went upstairs.

I had trouble sleeping, in part because of someone’s snoring but also because I generally have trouble sleeping if I share a room with anyone other than my girlfriend Anne. I lay there quietly for a couple of hours. Sometimes I would gaze at the Petro altar, where the statue of a grinning Asian man looked back at me. Other times I focused on relaxing all my facial muscles, which helps alleviate head pain.

After a while, I quietly went upstairs to use the restroom, and grabbed some ear plugs out of my totebag before returning back downstairs. Then I was able to drift into a light sleep. At one point I dreamt that I woke up and several of the houngans and mambos who were at the fet were sitting in the room. I asked them what time it was and they said, “5:30. Go back to sleep.”

A bit later I woke up for real, and could not go back to sleep. Being in the basement, it was hard to tell what time it was, so I just lay there. My headache was gone and I was enjoying the sweet absence of pain. And then, while I lay there relaxed but still awake, I started hearing bits of jumbled conversation. It got so inane and goofy that I was laughing to myself, and started writing them down on the paper next to my mattress (which we each had, to jot down any dreams we might have).

A sample: “I can’t touch my money, can I?” And then, “It’s like when no cat bounces it.” And, “Where can I get such a flash in the pan?” Initially I thought this was just my own mental noise, but it went on for quite a while and was not the usual type of internal chatter I hear.

In the morning, our heads were washed again and rewrapped, and then Mambo led us in a brief action de grace. We enjoyed one last meal together, and then it was back to Seattle.

A very late flight out of Philly resulted in me missing my connecting flight in Chicago, forcing me to stay overnight in a hotel (paid for by the airline). I was so exhausted from not sleeping well the night before and travel worry that I fell into a dreamless sleep. The following morning I boarded an early flight out of Chicago and was back in Seattle around 11 a.m.

It was wonderful to sleep in my own bed that night. However, I wasn’t alone. As I was drifting off to sleep, a voice said very clearly (for a nonphysical voice, that is), “Hell, yeah!” I rolled my eyes a bit, then went to sleep. Then I woke up around 3 a.m. to use the bathroom. As I was stumbling out of bed, someone said, “I can drink your father under the table!”

Things have quieted down a bit in the last couple of weeks, and I am using the time to reflect and decide on adjustments to my altars and service.

“Real Voodoo” — A review

Posted in Haiti, lwas, Ogoun, Possession, Religion, Ritual, Spirits, Vodou with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 6, 2012 by cheshirecatman

Yesterday I received my copy of “Real Voodoo,” a documentary on Haitian Vodou by Canadian director Sandra Whiteley. I was eager to watch it so, in spite of a busy day of work, sculpting and miscellaneous chores, I decided to stay up later than usual and popped the DVD into my Blu-ray player.

This film runs about 52 minutes and was not exactly what I expected. Unlike two previous documentaries I’ve viewed (A&E’s “Voodoo Rituals” and the History Channel’s “Voodoo Secrets”), Whiteley’s film doesn’t follow an academic format. Instead, it has a more personal feel, as though we are visiting the people of Haiti along with her. It is worth noting that Haiti is personal for Whiteley; it’s the homeland of her husband Jaffa (who is a Vodouisant and featured in the film along with his hauntingly beautiful music).

“Real Voodoo” does not include quite as much ritual footage as Richard Stanley’s 2002 documentary “The White Darkness;” however, this film also lacks the annoying self-promotion present in the Stanley film. Whiteley’s narrative serves to add chronological structure to her footage, and she states at the film’s opening that she is no expert.

She does interview experts, however, including Houngan Max Beauvoir, Wade Davis (ethnobotanist and author of “The Serpent and the Rainbow”) and, most prominently, Mambo La Belle Deesse Jr., co-founder of La Sosyete La Belle Deesse Dereale, whose commentary provides a great deal of insight into Vodou beliefs and practices.

The Vodou interviews and footage are interspersed with those of evangelical Christian missionaries working in Haiti. At first I found this pretty annoying, as they expressed grossly inaccurate (and predictable) opinions of Vodouisants as devil worshipers and displayed their appalling lack of compassion by echoing Pat Robinson’s “earthquake-as-punishment-for-making-a-pact-with-the-devil” comments. But later I realized that Whiteley was making a point, which she does by contrasting these comments to those of the Haitians (both Christian and Vodouisant). It’s doubtful that Christianity can ever drive Vodou out of Haiti. A mambo named Mireille has a son (he looked about 13 years old) who is a student at a Catholic school; when asked how he felt about his mother being a mambo, he expressed great pride in the healing work she performed.

Ironically, it is the missionaries who come off as superstitious. One of them, a man named Bobby Boyer,  describes at length how, on his second day in Haiti, he found a Bible facedown on the floor. It was open to Jeremiah Chapter 19. He then quotes the passage about God proclaiming He will bring evil on this place because the people worshipped other gods, suggesting that God sent the earthquake to tell the Vodou spirits to leave. In contrast, Whiteley’s Haitian friend Nancy (who is also Christian) simply accepted the earthquake as a natural force.

Other post-earthquake problems were manmade. Some Christian leaders blamed the 2010  cholera outbreak on Vodou, when in fact it was caused by U.N. soldiers dumping human waste into a river. This unethical scapegoating led to the brutal lynchings of 45 Vodou priests.

One would think that most Vodouisants would hate missionaries, but this was not the case. At one point  early in the film, Whiteley asks a houngan what he thinks about missionaries. Expecting anger or bitterness, his answer surprised her. The houngan appreciated their presence and acknowledged their importance to the future of Haiti’s children.  This, I felt, clearly demonstrated the pragmatic side of Vodouisants—contrary to being blinded by superstition, they are very cognizant of the world around them and the very real problems they face.

“Real Voodoo” is a glimpse into the lives of real Vodouisants as well as a snapshot of post-earthquake Haiti and the recovery work that still needs to be done. I definitely recommend this film and will be adding it to the Bibliography/Filmography page.

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.

Vodou, community and communion

Posted in lwas, Possession, Religion, Ritual, Vodou with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 30, 2012 by cheshirecatman

At its heart, Vodou is a community religion. In her book Haitian Vodou: An Introduction to Haiti’s Indigenous Spiritual Tradition, Mambo Chita Tann writes: “Haitian Vodou is not a solitary practice overall. While there are things that a person does alone to serve Bondye and the Lwa, the vast majority of Vodou service is done in community, with one’s family or sosyete, or in large gatherings with other families or sosyetes.”

I remember when I first started down this path, I kept hearing that there is no such thing as solitary Vodou. Before that, I had always been a solitary Wiccan, and feeling ‘forced’ to be part of a group did not appeal to me at all. My plan was to learn on my own, and maybe hook up with a group years down the road. The ‘maybe’ was very vague and noncommittal and, as it would turn out, not taken very seriously by the lwa, who used various channels to hook me up with the local mambo. Now, four years later, I realize the value of a Vodou community.

It’s not that one cannot serve the lwa on one’s own. Obviously one can; author Kenaz Filan did for many years before he was initiated, and I know other Vodou and Voodoo (two spellings to differentiate between the Haitian and NOLA traditions) practitioners who are solitaries. But there are some things that you simply cannot or should not experience on one’s own. For instance, one should not attempt possession by oneself, and talking to a lwa via a physical vehicle (a chwal, or horse) is not going to happen when you are by yourself.

Personally, I love my home altars and talking to my lwa one-on-one. However, I also love the infectious rhythms of live drumming that command my feet to dance.

I remember when I agreed to attend my first fet, and feeling uncomfortable about the whole group thing. Losing myself in dance and service is no easy task for me, and one that I am still working on. It’s getting better with time. Something else I am getting out of the group activities: my singing voice is starting to improve a little. I am still not a good singer, and in fact not even a decent one, but it’s getting easier.

There certainly are better tools out there available for solitary Vodouisants these days, the most recent being the above quoted book by Mambo Chita Tann. The book includes very detailed instructions on how to make a Vodou lamp which one can use for illuminasyon or wanga (I plan to try this soon). However, there are other things that I still have not seen in books and would not know about if I had never attended a fet. For instance, how to properly do salutes (you can see this on some YouTube videos, although sometimes it’s hard to see exactly what they are doing, and no one narrates it).

When one is new to Vodou and becoming attuned to the lwa, it makes sense to pay attention to your intuition and those subtle nudgings. But intermingling with other Vodouisants and attending services is also very important at this stage. As my friend Ian recently commented: “…it’s a given that pretty much everything in Vodou is UPG (unverified personal gnosis), at least initially.” He then pointed out that one of the reasons to attend public Vodou services is that it’s one of the only ways to verify UPG, by communicating and communing with others.

It really helps too to be able to talk to houngans and mambos and hear their perspectives on things. Vodou is not the same as Neo Paganism; it’s not a reconstruction but a faith that has been practiced continuously for centuries. And in my opinion, the lwa are not thought forms or energy vibes who are satisfied with having our love and our gratitude in the form of ‘thank yous.’ They expect service from us, and it seems to me that the closer we are to them, the more they demand of us. Initiates have very specific duties that they have to perform, and the higher up you go, the more responsibilities you have.

My Vodou practice is far less “free form” than my other Pagan practices. Why? Because the ways to work with the lwa are established and there is no need for me to reinvent the wheel, so to speak. I do put my own spin on things to a degree, but one must find that balance between personalization and respect for the regleman and other established protocols, especially when one is new to the faith (otherwise we risk falling into that nasty cultural appropriation trap). Also, as I mentioned above, I do not believe that the lwa are energy vibes, thought forms, what-have-you. I believe them to be their own entities with autonomy and free will. And some of them have bad tempers. They have their own tastes, and it is not for us to redefine those for them.

During the past several months I have been noticing a closer connection with the lwa and with spirit in general. I can feel it in my head; something shifts when I approach my altars, sing to Legba, light a candle. I know that my progress would be much slower without the experience of the fets and other gatherings and the help of Mambo C. And I am grateful. Ayibobo!

Dance, trance and music

Posted in Art, Dance, Music, Possession, Religion, Ritual, Vodou with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 12, 2011 by cheshirecatman

Tuesday night, shortly after publishing my last post, I ran across a documentary about trances and possession on one of the cable channels. In one of the segments, they filmed a Yoruba ceremony in Brazil. The house members were dancing in a circle, but very sedately compared to the fets I’ve attended. Some readers might be thinking, “Where is the fun in that?” While I think ritual can be and often is fun, the main purpose is to honor and serve the spirits. The narrator commented that the rhythm of the drums and the repetitive movements of the dance served to induce the trance state, which made sense to me.

Also, I wanted to share this amazing music video by Adam Scott Miller that a friend showed me. It’s a little long, but worth it, a beautiful montage of spirit and energy images accompanied by haunting music.

http://youtu.be/ggSLUdF3o0U

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.

Rada fet and exploding roses

Posted in Azaka, Damballah, Divination, Erzulie, Ghosts, Legba, lwas, Possession, Psychic, Religion, Ritual, Sekhmet, Spirit Guides, Spirits, Therianthropy, Vodou with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 8, 2011 by cheshirecatman

(First of all, I apologize for the sensationalistic title—I couldn’t resist. The “exploding roses” refers to an energy exercise. Nobody blew up roses at the fet.)

Rada fet for Bossou and Azaka

Last night’s fet was quite interesting for me personally, both in terms of new experiences and things I witnessed. I think I’ve come a long way since last year’s Rada fet.  At that time, my head was more closed and the identity of my met tet was still a mystery to me.

Slinky picked me up at 5. During the car ride, she mentioned that she ran across a chicken not far from her home. She’d had the thought of picking it up and bringing it along to the fet, but then thought the better of it (tongue-in-cheek here). The fowl probably belonged to somebody, and would be missed.

Slinky and I arrived early to help with setup (around 5:40). There was a game going on at Qwest Field, near the fet’s location, so traffic was a mess. We ended up having to pay for parking, but that was okay. The plus side is that there were a lot of people around, so Slinky’s car was less likely to be broken into.

The altar turned out quite nice, I thought. The table was covered with banana leaves, with a satiny red tablecloth on the left half for Bossou and a blue kerchief on the right for Azaka. On Azaka’s side of the table were a framed portrait of St. Isidore and a 7-day candle with his image. Bossou’s half held red candles, a portrait of the Triple Ray Christ, a set of bull horns and a triple-horned figure made from fabric and decorated with sequins. The Bossou side was a bit fuller than Azaka’s, due to Bossou being Mambo C’s met tet. She did her best to make both sides equal (and Azaka ended up with a LOT of offerings before the evening ended), but it’s understandable that she would have more altar items for the lwa who rules her head.

Houngan D brought a spirit “box” that was under construction. He makes several of these a year and sells some of them. Last year I saw one that was a cube with round openings on 5 sides. Small statues were placed in each of the four interior corners representing various lwa. It was very beautiful. The one I saw last night was no less beautiful. It was a ruby-red transparent vase with graceful curves. An image of the Mater Dolorosa was affixed to one side, representing Erzulie Freda. When I looked at the vase from the opposite side, I could see the image through the glass. Setting inside the mouth of the vase was a huge faceted glass diamond.

It was nice being there early. I also got to talk to Mambo C’s boyfriend a bit; he’s an interesting guy, experienced in other magickal paths. He is also Jaxob’s (the tarot reader I met at Norwescon’s psychic fair) mentor. Jaxob also showed up early, and we hugged like old friends. Mambo C drafted her boyfriend, Slinky, another regular attendee and me to participate in the salutes portion of the ceremony, which we rehearsed before everyone arrived.

Between 6:15 and 6:45 more people began to show up. Among them was Ash, who I met at last winter’s Fet Gede (our mutual friend Greg brought him). I thought it was very cool that he came back, even though Greg did not attend. Ash is a tall youngish (mid-twenties to early thirties somewhere, I am guessing) man with a sincere smile and an appealing openness about him. We got to talk for a bit. I found out that Ash attended the March fet, the one that Slinky and I missed. Vodou is Ash’s only spiritual path at the moment. Up until last Sunday I would have said the same for myself, but then Sekhmet appeared (which I wrote about in a recent post). Another very cool thing is that Ash reads this blog (yay)! He was wondering if it was mine, and I confirmed that it was.

The service began with the drawing of the veves and the reciting of the priyes (a prayer in song for the saints and the lwa, sung at the beginning of fets). Lyric sheets were handed out, which was very helpful for the call and response segments of the priyes. As a result, the lyrics were much less garbled than at the previous fet. More guests arrived, including T who has been at most of the fets I’ve  attended. She has African ancestry and, although relatively new to Haitian Vodou, is experienced in another African-based faith (I think Yoruba but am not sure).

We moved on to the salutes that we had practiced earlier, which were led by Mambo C and V (a Hounsi). They would salute the four directions, the doorway, the altar and the drums, and then the four of us (Slinky, me, Mambo C’s boyfriend and the other regular), carrying lit white candles, would perform some simple steps and turns with Mambo C and V. During the drum salute, the four of us set our candles down in front of the drums.

Then the songs, drumming and dancing began in earnest. During one of the Legba segments, Mambo C felt Legba coming into her head. She surprised me by grabbing my head and pulling our faces together with enough force that it was actually a bit painful when our heads connected. I found this amusing though–I figured a child of Bossou is not going to be super gentle when butting heads. And I thought afterwards about the phrase, “no pain, no gain.” In this case it was very literal. (V also stomped on my foot accidentally when dancing, and it was kind of painful as well.) When I asked Mambo C about the head thing later, I found out that she was trying to pass Legba into my head. It didn’t quite happen this time.

As the fet continued, Houngan D proceeded to pull various people aside and either walk them around the circle or deposit them outside the circle where they either sat down, lay down or went up to the altar. Among the people he pulled out during the evening were various regulars, Ash and a few of the new attendees). For the first time in a service, he pulled me aside, and brought our heads together in the center of the circle. He splashed an herbal mixture on my head and then took me over to the altar, telling me that I have Azaka. As you may remember from an older post, Houngan D thought that Azaka might be my met tet. I am not sure if I feel Azaka is with me or not, but it is entirely possible. Mambo C told me later that when one has Legba as met tet, one can have a lot of lwa walking with you. (And now I’m worrying over limited shrine space *grins*.) But I have not forgotten my bee sting last year, and the subsequent research I did that revealed that bees are associated with Azaka.

There were a fair number of possessions throughout the evening. Not surprisingly, Mambo C became possessed by Bossou, and proceeded to lift at least three people, including Ash, who is a lot taller than her. V and her friend also became possessed during the evening, although I am not sure by whom. Houngan D was possessed by Damballah, who I believe is his met tet. There were a few times through the night when several people were in various states of possession at the same time.

T became possessed by Erzulie. I find T’s possessions interesting because they are not the same as those of other attendees. I remember her possession at my first Fet Gede, when she sat frozen with her arms in an almost dance-like pose. Last night I saw her holding Houngan D’s Freda vase and staring down into it. Shortly after that, she sat in a chair, her arms frozen in the gesture of a woman brushing her hair while looking in a mirror. (Afterwards, when T, Mambo C, Slinky and I were talking, T said she was surprised that, prior to possession, the lower half of her body felt frozen. This actually sounds very similar to some of the possessions that Maya Deren talks about in her book Divine Horsemen.  When she became possessed, Deren describes how one of her feet became rooted to the ground.)

Prior to attending the fet, I’d been curious how the chakra and energy work I’d been doing with Angel and Shannon would affect me during the ceremonies. Last night I did notice that my head felt more open than ever before. Early in the evening, a mental image of a small glowing donut-shaped ring popped into my mind, which I thought might represent my crown chakra. Throughout the evening, I was aware of this ring, which changed color from vibrant orange to mixed blue and green, to purple and black, to solid black, then to orange again.

Near the end of the service, during a dance for Azaka, some of the more spacious dancers (by spacious, I mean that their style of movements requires a lot of room) were going wild. I got sandwiched between two of them, where I could not move forward or backward without getting struck. This aggravated a shift in me (in therianthropy, a “shift” is when one’s personality, energy body, consciousness or spirit form changes into one’s animal form). This is the first such shift I’ve had at a fet, and it felt a little weird. I continued to dance for a bit, while my thoughts became less word-oriented (I tend to think in words, being a writer) and changed into a very visual, sensory and present-moment sort of consciousness). I left the dance circle and stood on the sidelines while the beat of the drums pulsed within my being and watched the spinning moving forms of the dancers as through they were primates with puzzling habits. I’ve playfully coined this feeling “leopard-head” because it felt mostly that my head had shifted and not so much the rest of me.

The drums at last subsided and Mambo C came over to check on me. I told her I was fine, but I felt a little funky as though I might get sick to my stomach later. (I never did get sick. This seems to be a somewhat normal reaction for me to strong doses of energy.)

One thing I always wonder about at the end of these local fets is why the lwa don’t interact with the congregation more. It seems to me that, along with accepting their offerings, they would want to take advantage of a flesh-and-blood body to communicate with those who serve them. Most of the possessions I’ve seen so far mainly involve the individual, with the lwa and that individual receiving most of the benefits. Possessed people flail about, lie down, laugh or, as was the case last night, eat. (We had about three Azakas eating food from the altar near the end of the fet. None of them spoke to the congregation, to my knowledge.) Slinky thought that perhaps our services are not strong or skilled enough yet to bring forth that powerful of a possession. And that made sense to me.

Roses

This morning was my second session of the Intuitive Bootcamp with Shannon Knight. She taught me how to visualize roses and use them for healing and divination. It was a lot of fun and, surprisingly, came fairly easily to me (I say surprisingly because most things energy-related have not come easily to me in the past). The “exploding” part is visualized as part of an energy releasing process.

I also told Shannon about Sekhmet’s appearance during last week’s session, and she mentioned that I have Egyptian energy about me, and that the guides (not sure if this was from hers or mine) told her that I was skilled at manipulating energy in past lives.

On a funny sidenote, I was reading an article recently. It said that the more intelligent a person was, the more likely they were to believe bullshit. I didn’t totally agree with the article here–although I can see how an intelligent person might fall for a scam because they are too cocky to do their homework, I would not consider belief in the paranormal or ghosts as “bullshit” (at least not in all cases).

Many of my intelligent friends believe in ghosts or the paranormal, but not because they’re gullible. Their intelligence means that they are curious about things and their research helps them to understand unusual phenomena. And sometimes they believe because of personal experience. Plus, if believing in the supernatural means you’re gullible, then everyone with any type of spiritual faith can be defined as gullible, including Ghandi, the Buddha and Mother Teresa. Which would be insulting if it weren’t such a silly assumption.

So, on that note, so long for now from yours truly, the gullible author 😛

Faith healing and speaking in tongues

Posted in Animals, Dreams, Movies and Media, Possession, Religion, Ritual, Spirits, Vodou with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 19, 2011 by cheshirecatman

There was a time, not too long ago, when I viewed speaking in tongues and faith healing with a great deal of skepticism. I still am initially skeptical about most types of paranormal and unusual phenomena, which I think is healthy, but these days I am much more open to drawing conclusions that may or may not match up to my previous beliefs.

Last Tuesday I watched the premiere episode of “Our America,” a one-hour documentary hosted by journalist Lisa Ling on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN). My main reason for watching the show was not because I was interested in faith healing so much as I was curious about the feel of the show as I knew I would be watching some of the later episodes. My plan was to watch the show while messing around on the computer and doing other things.

But from the first five minutes, I was glued to the television. Ms. Ling approached her subject and the people she interviewed with an open mind and a great deal of compassion. You felt for the people who came to the 3-day revival event hoping to be healed. Their faith was moving and of such a depth that is possibly beyond what I am capable of feeling.

During the revival, people fell to the floor convulsing, laughing, speaking in tongues. What struck me most about all of this was that it seemed very familiar to me. It was not so different from watching possessions at a fet.

During the fets I have attended, I’ve seen people fall to the floor, convulse, behave strangely and speak in voices other than their own.  The more I learn about different religions, the more commonalities I see. The differences become more superficial. Perhaps the various rituals we perform, the beings and deities we call upon, and the various belief systems we construct are simply various avenues to connect with the divine.

I am not saying that all deities are the same deity. I don’t necessarily think so. But all of these deities inhabit a realm that is accessible through these various rituals. And the goals of the people striving to touch this realm are very similar–we want peace, healing, communion and vindication of our faith.

Sometimes healing doesn’t work; it didn’t work for everyone in the show. But in my opinion, that does not necessarily make the healer a fake. I don’t know if there is any healer anywhere who has a success rate of 100 percent. I seriously doubt it.

On the subject of healing, I had a minor scare recently with my younger cat, Luna, who was having trouble defecating. Being the overly protective sort that I am with my cats, of course I thought the worst. She’s mostly recovered now, but I think that was my reminder to return to my energy and healing studies, which I had a renewed interest in during Puck’s illness. Luna’s problem reminded me how I felt when Puck was ill, and my knowledge and abilities were not enough to significantly help him. I don’t want to be in that situation again as Luna gets older.

As if in agreement, Puck appeared in my dream last night. He was outside with Anne and I as we were waiting for a bus and, even though I realized I might miss the bus, I took the time to take him back inside where he would be safe. When I came back outside, Anne was still there and the bus had not yet arrived. Puck is telling me to “not miss the bus by waiting too long to do what I need to do.” I am thinking of rereading Barbara Ann Brennan’s “Hand of Light” and then following that up with a review of Zimbate, Reiki and my holistic cat care books.

Always so much to learn, but it means that boredom is rarely a problem for me.

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.