Archive for Baron Samedi

Beautiful Vodou jewelry

Posted in Vodou with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 3, 2014 by cheshirecatman
Images © Black Water Siren Studios, used by permission

Images © Black Water Siren Studio, used by permission

Christians have their crosses. Pagans have their pentacles. What about Vodouisants?

If you’ve ever done an online search for Vodou jewelry, you’ve no doubt encountered mixed results, some with inaccurate veves. If you were persistent, you might have discovered Black Water Siren Studio.

Black Water Siren Studio is the creative brainchild of self-taught jewelry artist Cyndia Reddish. Her Vodou pieces are available in a variety of metals and price ranges. Several years ago I purchased a Legba charm for myself, and was impressed with its quality and intricate detail. It remains one of my favorite pieces to this day and I wear it frequently as a pendant. She has also started making veve rings.

If you would like to see more of Cyndia’s work, click any of the links below. I have also added a link to my Supplies and Stores menu on the right side of my home page. Enjoy!

Black Water Siren Studio website

Black Water Siren on Etsy

Black Water Siren on eBay



“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.

Artwork, service and spell results

Posted in Art, Baron Samedi, Ghede, Maman Brigitte, Sekhmet with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 2, 2012 by cheshirecatman

One of the ways I serve the lwa and the goddess is through my artwork. For a recent show, I tried my hand at creating busts instead of my usual full body pieces. I am pleased with the results, and apparently others were too, as all three of these pieces sold within a few days. I’ve sculpted both Sekhmet and Papa Ghede before, but this was my first portrayal of Maman Brigitte. Anne sold four of her paintings during the art show reception, which was very cool as she has not shown her work for a while.

I was also happy to learn that both Ghede busts were purchased by a fellow Vodouisant who will likely place them on his Ghede altar.

A humorous followup to some prosperity candle work I did with Sekhmet about a month ago: A  couple of the people in my spell group reported some nice financial windfalls and I was wondering why my spellwork seems to be more effective for others rather than for myself. Anne and I have been struggling a bit financially and I was hit pretty hard with a major dental bill early in March. We won’t get paid for our art show sales  until mid-May. So a few days ago at dinner I was complaining a bit about my spell results (which was not cool of me in light of the art sales). After dinner, when I went online to check my email messages, I was surprised to see a PayPal notification that a friend of mine had prepaid for a commission that I haven’t even started yet.

I laughed but also felt a little sheepish. I need to be patient, and also appreciate what I have already received. I also have this feeling that any money I receive will be through my own efforts, and not some random windfall. This is not a bad thing, though, as money is a strong motivator to keep me producing artwork. This doesn’t fit the romantic stereotype of the emotionally driven artist, but it’s the truth.



Saturday spirit work: Sekhmet and the Ghede

Posted in Baron Samedi, Divination, Ghede, Maman Brigitte, Meditation, Psychic, Religion, Sekhmet, Vodou with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on June 26, 2011 by cheshirecatman

For the past week and a half I’ve had problems with my left eye, possibly due to worsening allergies. My eye was so dry that it’s been causing problems with my contact lens to where I could only wear them for a few hours a day. It was getting so bad that a couple of days ago I asked Sekhmet for healing assistance. I also asked Baron Samedi and Maman Brigitte for their assistance as well, and used Shannon Knight’s healing meditation that I learned from her Intuitive Bootcamp workshop.

Yesterday there was a marked improvement with the eye. I was able to wear the lens without any problems all day at work, and today I’ve been wearing it all day without incident. I feel almost normal. And very blessed.

I thanked the goddess Sekhmet, and today did the first exercise from the book that my friend Angel recommended to me, “The Goddess Sekhmet: Psycho-Spiritual Exercises of the Fifth Way” by Robert Masters. I had to focus on images of the goddess in order to internalize her and make it easier to call up her image later without having to use external props. I found this exercise very pleasurable (I enjoy looking at her). It was also not difficult, as she has already popped into my mind a few times without any assistance from me.

When I work with Sekhmet, I like to draw a card from the Cartouche deck. Today I got Hathor, which was fitting, as she is an aspect of Sekhmet. The card emphasized fortitude, which I need right now to implement various changes in my life. I then lit some incense for her.

Drawing the Hathor card makes me think back on my last session with my animal communicator/medium friend, Tracy Ann. In my notes from that session, I wrote:

“[You] have that wild magic. Wild magic running through veins. You understand that. Are able to call it as well. Start practicing that. If it starts to feels too heavy, call on feminine energy.”

Regarding the feminine energy, Tracy sees letters. A name?


(You can read about the full session here.) It is sometimes difficult for mediums to decipher words and names clearly, and I am now wondering if the name that Tracy was receiving was Hathor. A possibility.

After working with Sekhmet, I went over to my Ghede/ancestor altar and lit candles for the Baron, Maman Brigitte and the ancestors, thanking them for their healing assistance. I also presented the Baron and Brigitte with a gift: a small metal African sculpture depicting a man and woman in the act. It’s stylized and artistic, but I figured they would appreciate the ribald nature of the piece.

In closing, I’d like to share this cool Sekhmet video I found on YouTube.


My second Fet Gede

Posted in lwas, Possession, Religion, Ritual, Spirits, Vodou with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 7, 2010 by cheshirecatman

Saturday evening I attended my second Fet Gede. Several of my friends also attended, including Slinky, Robert and Greg (who attended last year’s Fet Gede), and my friend Jacob. Jacob and I used to work together and, although he is a lot younger than me, we get along well and he is curious and open to new experiences.

Slinky agreed to pick Jacob and I up at my place at 6:30pm. Earlier that evening, it was pouring down rain, but fortunately it let up a bit before Slinky came over.

Prior to the fet, I took a nice hot bath and then sat with Papa Legba in front of my altar for a little while, sharing some rum with him. Then I changed into purple and black clothes and went downstairs to wait for Jacob and Slinky.

The fet was held at a dance studio south of downtown Seattle. We arrived close to 7:00. As we were carrying our offerings and potluck food toward the entrance, Mambo C waved to us. She’d just arrived herself and was unloading supplies from her car.

The Mambo was running late, so we helped with the preparations. Slinky and Jacob helped hang fabric and purple lights behind the altar and prepared the tub of basil water that would be used for blessings later on. Slinky also arranged flowers in vases while I helped position the items on the Gede altar to make them visually pleasing. Houngan D placed a spirit box that he had made upon the altar. It measured perhaps 12″ x 12″ square, and was quite beautiful. The outside was a metallic red and all of the surfaces (except for the bottom) had circular openings cut into them. Once he lit the candle in the center, you could peer inside. There were small mirrors attached to the inside of the surface, and a figure of a lwa sat in each of the four corners. One of them was Papa Legba.

The crowd this time was more diverse than at the other fets. Of about 30-40 people, four of them were of African descent: Robert, one of the drummers, and two women (one of whom attended the other fets I’ve been to). Then there was me, the sole Asian/Native guy. There were also some new people, most of them on the younger side.

Prior to the start of the service, we were allowed to place offerings to the Gede and the ancestors on the altar. The day before I’d baked some corn muffins based on a Native recipe and gave them, along with a pair of sunglasses with one lens popped out for the Gede.

The fet started in the usual way, with the recitals of the Lord’s Prayer and Hail Mary. Then we proceeded into the priyes, which are a sort of sung call-and-response  prayer to the various saints and lwa. This takes a while, as there are a number of saints and many lwa who are acknowledged. During the priyes, various attendees would either touch their hand to first their chest and then the ground, or drop to their knees and touch their foreheads to  the ground. As far as I can tell, this is done to acknowledge various lwa who they serve, but  I will need to ask Mambo C  for more details.

Then the active part of the service began, with live drum music, dance, and occasional songs to various lwa. Prior to the fet, Mambo C had sent us a link to a site where we could learn some songs. I  was rather proud of the fact that I managed to learn one song for Papa Legba well enough that I was able to sing along during the fet.

During a segment of the fet dedicated to Papa Legba, Mambo C grabbed my hand and led me into the center of the circle of dancers. She did a series of hand shakes with me, and then lifted my arm and turned me around. Sometimes this technique is used to help along a possession, but in my case it didn’t happen. But I will say that it was a nice feeling dancing in the center of the circle with the Legba energy around me. I am not sure if the Mambo did that to see what would happen, or if she actually sensed the Legba energy around me. Another thing I should ask her about.

There were a lot of possessions at this fet, and I am not going to attempt to describe all of them. The depth of each possession varied, and I am not yet skilled or experienced enough to recognize each of the lwa or to even be sure if all of them were possessions or if some were just near-possessions. But I will describe a few of the more striking ones.

Houngan D had more than one possession, but the one that is most prominent to me is the Damballah one. In a Damballah possession, the horse (the possessed person) lies on the ground, sometimes moving along on his/her stomach. They are often covered by a sheet, which is held above them by other attendees. As Damballah possesses Houngan D regularly, I assume that he is the Houngan’s met tet. It is worth noting here that Houngan D has a snake that he brings with him to some services.

Mambo C also had more than one possession. I am not sure of all of them, but I believe one of them was Bossou (although this time it was not as obvious as some of her previous Bossou possessions) and another was Ogoun. During the Ogoun possession, she stalked out of the circle of dancers and over to the altar, and returned wielding a big machete.

In one section of the service, she and a male attendee were in the center of the circle when Mambo C appeared to be possessed by Erzulie. She became very flirtatious and then she touched the male dancer, who then also became possessed by Erzulie, taking on a feminine demeanor.

Some of the less obvious possessions or possessions that did not completely “take” were interesting. One young man who danced with jagged convulsive moves and regularly shouted during the service, was convulsing quite intensely at one point and Houngan D clasped his arms to support him. Then he was laid down on the floor in the center of the circle while we danced around him. I don’t know which lwa possessed him, if it was indeed a full possession.

Another attendee, a plainly dressed woman with glasses, was bent over double at one point, as though the lwa were weighting her down with what may have been an attempted possession. I found this incident particularly interesting and believable, because the woman did not seem like the attention-seeking type, nor was she a flashy dancer.

Both of the African-American women underwent possessions too, although again I was not able to recognize the lwa. The most amusing possession of the evening, however, happened to V, an initiate who is a regular at the fets. She is married to Baron Samedi, so it was not surprising that she was possessed by the Gede during their section of the service. She went into a trance like state as she danced, then began laughing. At one point she was lying on the floor, and someone must have made some comment about her being vegan. At that point, a very deep male voice issued forth from her lips and said, “She only likes one kind of meat!” That’s the Gede for you—bawdy humor, but always in good fun.

After the service, in the car ride home, Jacob made an interesting observation. It was his first time at a fet, and he did not dance but remained on the sidelines as an observer. During the service, a fire was lit in a censor placed inside a large cooking pot. Jacob noticed that, whenever the drums and dancing intensified, the fire would burn more intensely as well.

After I got home, I stood in front of my home shrine and thanked Legba for a good service. Although I would like to someday be possessed, I told Legba that I understood that I might not be ready for it and trusted his judgment. A sense of gratitude flowed from me; it was so strong that it was almost tangible.

As for physical after-effects, I had a lot of energy after the fet and couldn’t sleep for a few hours, even though I got home around 1:30am. Today, however, I have slightly sore leg muscles and a slightly queasy stomach. I did not have any intense arm pain at the fet like I did last year, but today I noticed a slight feeling in my arms like a residue of pain. I think my body has largely adapted itself to the energy.



Shrine Redo

Posted in Agwe, Erzulie, La Sirene, Legba, lwas, Mermaids, Ogoun, Religion, Spirits, Vodou with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 26, 2010 by cheshirecatman

Our recent move was a major one, and we are still not finished unpacking. But I did finally get my shrines set up, and here are the pictures I’ve been promising to post.

Anne’s mother gave us a beautiful wood cabinet that is perfect for this purpose. It has doors that I can close to protect the shrines from the mischievous paws of Luna, my younger cat.

The shrine cabinet

The cabinet...2 shelves and opening doors

The top of the cabinet belongs to Papa Legba. In the background is his spirit box made for me by my friend Slinky. To the right is a seven-day candle that I painted with his veve (not too bad for a first attempt). To the left is a small statue of a dog.


The top of the cabinet is dedicated to Legba

Over the summer, I went to an artwalk in the Belltown neighborhood of Seattle. There, I purchased a beautiful handmade cane for Legba. I’d been wanting to buy him a cane, and when I spotted a collection of handmade canes at the Belltown Barber, I was very excited. A local artist makes them (I’m embarrassed to say that his name has slipped my mind, but I will add it here when I find out*) and I could not believe the price was only $20. It took me a while to choose one as there were several that I liked, but I finally decided on the one below. At first I simply had it in Legba’s shrine. But then, as it turned out, the right-side door of the cabinet won’t stay open, so I’ve taken to using his cane to prop it open, which seems entirely appropriate. After all, it is Legba who opens the door to the spirit world and keeps it open for us to commune with the lwa.

Legba's cane

Legba's cane, holding open the door

Inside the cabinet, the top shelf is dedicated to the Rada lwa who walk with me. From left to right: La Sirene, Met Agwe, Erzulie and Ogoun.

Top shelf shrine

Top shelf: the Rada lwa

La Sirene and Met Agwe

La Sirene and Met Agwe.

Erzule and Ogoun

Erzulie and Ogoun. To the left of Erzulie is a beautiful veve candle made by Slinky.


Closeup of the lovely Erzulie spirit doll from Studio Nocturna (see link on the right under Supplies and Stores).


A new Ogoun spirit doll, also from Studio Nocturna.

Ghede and ancestors

The new Ghede and ancestors shrine (faces in photos blurred for privacy reasons). The painting on the right is by artist Jessica Van Hulle, and is a steampunk version of Brigitte.

Baron and Brigitte

Baron Samedi and Maman Brigitte. Figure was special ordered for me through Gargoyles Statuary.

The baron

This painting is by Seattle artist Don De Leva, purchased at Gargoyles Statuary. I saw it and immediately thought of the Baron, and had to buy it.


And last but not least, a statue dedicated to the late beloved Puck, which sits beside the urn containing his ashes.

Normally, the statue sits inside of Puck’s old dish, but I haven’t been able to find it since the move. I do remember packing it, but it was one of the last things I packed and I was in a hurry, so likely it is mixed in with things where it doesn’t belong. It will turn up sooner or later.

On a final note, Mambo C is planning another Fet Ghede this November. I am really looking forward to it! I’ve always loved this time of year.

* The artist who created Legba’s cane is named Steve Mills.


Dreams, shrines and conflicting energies

Posted in Dreams, lwas, Religion, Vodou with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 22, 2009 by cheshirecatman

Last night I dreamt that the British actress Lesley-Anne Down had just arrived in the U.S. as a penniless immigrant. (In the dream, she was not a famous actress.) I was in the lobby of a homeless shelter for men, located in the Georgetown area of Seattle. I was trying to get the employees there to help me locate a women’s shelter. They handed me a phone book, but the listings were in some sort of crazy semi-alphabetical order that I could not make any sense of. Finally, one of the employees told me there was a women’s shelter in Greenwood. In the dream, I thought I knew where it was, even though I know of no such shelter in real life.

I left the men’s shelter and went out to the white car, where my friend Steve and Lesley-Anne were waiting. Steve is single, so I was hoping that he and Lesley would hit it off. However, when I got into the car, Steve was visibly upset and I found out that Lesley talked him into turning himself into the police for some minor offense. (I can’t remember what it was, but possibly a hit-and-run with minor injuries. Note that this type of irresponsible behavior is extremely uncharacteristic of the real-life Steve.) In the dream, the offense happened some time ago and was over and done with, and I told him that I thought it extremely foolish to turn himself in. But he seemed to feel that he needed to do it for his conscience.

When trying to make sense of this dream, I thought back to Mambo C’s tarot reading, and the conflicting male/female energies in my life. The dream may be expressing my own conflicts between objective efficiency (potentially ruthless) and subjective morality (which has the potential to make me indecisive, vulnerable and obsessive over the past). It’s tricky sometimes to find the middle road.

I’m still making adjustments to my shelf that holds the shrines for La Sirene, Agwe, Erzulie and Ogoun. At the back of Agwe’s shrine, I placed an image of a whaling boat (although I do not think of it as such) with a crew full of either dogs or wolves that was part of an Inuit art calendar.  The artist is Pudlo Pudlat [Canadian Inuit, 1916-1992]; the title of the piece is “Animal Whalers II.” I like this image a lot, and once I added the word “IMMAMOU” in white paint, it fit in perfectly. I am not really satisfied with the sea turtle as a representation of Agwe, although I do like the turtle and it will remain in the shrine. I spent the week searching online for an affordable Neptune or Poseidon statue that would fit on my shelf, all to no avail. There was one interesting ceramic statue of “Prince Neptune” on Etsy that I liked a lot. It was affordable, but turned out to be a bit too large for the available space. In the end, I found a nice Neptune bust on eBay that is meant to be placed in an aquarium. It even has a gold crown and some blue/green jewels on it. I don’t know why I didn’t think of aquarium figures before. They are both the right size and affordable.

I want to get something larger for Erzulie, but I am not sure what yet, either a figure or a larger image. I saw a couple of things online that I liked, but have not yet made a decision.

I came home from work one day last week to find La Sirene’s expensive mermaid mirror had tumbled off the shelf onto the cats’ ceramic water dish below, breaking the dish in two. I am a bit puzzled as to how the mirror fell down. I had it balanced upright (handle down) so that La Sirene could see her own reflection, but it had been leaning towards the back of the shelf and should not have fallen forward.

My first thought was that Luna, my younger cat who likes to mess with everything, had gotten up on the shelf and knocked the mirror down. However, on close examination, I could not find anything else that appeared to be disturbed. What’s also interesting is that the mirror itself did not sustain any damage whatsoever: no chips or scratches, much to my relief.

I am not sure what this means, if anything. I do not want to be one of those people who reads metaphysical meaning into every single event. So my list of possible theories are:

  • The mirror managed to fall somehow in a way that I did not anticipate. Mundane and entirely possible.
  • La Sirene is irritated at me about something, perhaps because she is sharing her shelf with 3 other lwa. One of them is her husband, but perhaps she isn’t pleased about sharing with Erzulie or Ogoun. I hope this isn’t the case, as I really have limited space, although it might explain why the mirror didn’t sustain any damage.
  • La Sirene is irritated at Luna for attempting to disturb the shelf and the mirror fell to scare the cat away.
  • Erzulie is unhappy that La Sirene’s shrine has nicer things in it (including offerings and a better avatar) and threw the mirror.  I am working on improving Erzulie’s area, but it’s not going to be immediate.

I am not sure which of these is true, so have resigned myself to once again wait and see what happens next.  In the meantime, my studies continue. I also want to set up a shrine area for the Ghede. I’m waiting for a skeletal bride/groom figure to arrive that I ordered from Gargoyles. I also put a partial payment on an original painting that I fell in love with at  Gargoyles last week. The painting is a portrait of a skeleton guy wearing a suit and tie. A crown floats above his head and between his grinning teeth he holds a lit cigarette. I laughed and thought of the Baron when I saw it. It should make a nice counterpiece to the steampunk Brigitte print I recently ordered from Etsy. I can’t wait for it to arrive.