Archive for Mambo Vye Zo Komande la Menfo

End of summer update

Posted in Ogoun, Religion, Vodou with tags , , , , , , , , on September 20, 2014 by cheshirecatman

My apologies for being absent for a bit. August proved to be a busy month.

Upon returning from Kanzo, I had to complete my 41 days of restrictions which, like Kanzo itself, were easier than expected in some ways and more difficult than expected in other ways. It was an interesting period and an exercise in self-discipline. Ironically, I think the food restrictions were more difficult for the girlfriend than they were for me. (She didn’t Kanzo, but ate dinner with me every night.)

Then the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO happened. Like many people, I could not stop thinking about that and you can bet that Ogoun was watching closely. I seriously hope justice is attained for Brown, or the social fabric of this country is going to deteriorate further and it will be bad news for everyone. We are seriously out of balance, and you can only tip the scales so much before something topples and breaks.

August ended on an upbeat note. Mambo Vye Zo Komande and the Houngan arrived in Seattle to visit their family here and we had a very nice private service in which I handed my kolyes (sacred beads) back to them (they now reside at the house in Philly). Mambo also had her art featured in the Esoteric Book Conference, held at the University of Washington Sept. 5th through Sept. 7th. Although I’d viewed some of the pieces while in Philly, seeing them all presented together formally at the conference was a real pleasure. You can view some of them here. The energy coming from one of the pieces was quite striking and stood with me until the following day.

The book fair was fun, and I walked away with a copy of “Shades of Ritual: Minority Voices in Practice,” which I can now remove from my Amazon wish list.

That’s it for now. I have some topics still percolating in my brain, and hope to post them soon.

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Finally, Kanzo

Posted in Religion, Ritual, Vodou with tags , , , on July 22, 2014 by cheshirecatman
flight

A view from my plane on the flight home.

I’ve been mostly silent for the past couple of months. I was scrambling about, finding ways to scrounge up money to pay for and order items needed for Kanzo. I decided not to announce my plans in advance, as the last thing I needed was for someone to fling bad juju my way for whatever reason. So on July 11th I flew out of Seattle. I just returned from Philadelphia Monday night.

There were many times during my journey into Vodou when I feared I would never be able to Kanzo. In retrospect I wonder if the Lwa placed obstacles in my path in order to steer me in the direction I was meant to travel. And I certainly recognized home when I found it. It means a great deal to me to now be a member of Sosyete du Marche.

I have notes from my journey that I need to sort out, but I realize that it is not really possible to share much of them without revealing too much. Basic descriptions of the rites are already published on more than one website, so I don’t feel the need to revisit that here. Instead, I plan to write a few Kanzo-related posts in the next few weeks.

Parts of Kanzo were easier than I expected; other parts were more difficult than anticipated. Legba held me up when I thought I might falter. Mambo, Papa and the assisting mambos and houngans took good care of us. And the Lwa were always present.

I was very blessed to enter the djevo with four wonderful individuals, each powerful women in their own right. Three of them were close to my age. One was much younger, but wise beyond her years and quite charming.  When I call them sisters, it is not merely a formality. I love each of them and look forward to seeing them again.

Interesting sidenote, which will likely not surprise many of my readers: The djevo area seemed to wreak havoc on small electronics. More than one person experienced problems with their smart phones when near the djevo. My tote bag was stored nearby. After batem (baptism), when I took out my watch, it had lost over 2 hours of time. The battery is fairly new, and it has since regained its accuracy.

Also, don’t start calling me Houngan because I’m not one. 🙂  More on that later.

 

Beautiful new card deck and an online class

Posted in Art, Divination, Psychic, Religion, Ritual, Sekhmet, Vodou with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 23, 2013 by cheshirecatman

For me, feelings of depression or stagnancy are signs that my spirit is malnourished. One of the ways I deal with this is by finding new things to learn.

Nefer Khepri’s Egyptian Lenormand Deck

www.egyptianlenormand.com

My friend Nefer Khepri has just created and published her Egyptian Lenormand card deck. These beautiful cards feature original art hand drawn by Nefer herself using channeled images and colors traditional to the Egyptians. Nefer serves several Egyptian deities in her practice (including my beloved Sekhmet) and has a PhD in Latin American Studies (Mayan Iconography and Epigraphy). She has run her Magickal Musings business since 1998.

The deck is priced reasonably at $33.15 (Price includes  shipping, a clear protective case and an attractive satin draw string bag. Shipping is slightly more for addresses outside the U.S.). The deck can be used with the traditional Lenormand meanings and spreads, but Nefer has included some additional cards and interpretations unique to her deck. The deck is in limited supply and I don’t know if there will be a second printing or not. The last time I heard, it was nearing 50 percent sold out.

Sosyete du Marche Four Circles Online Class

www.sosyetedumarche.com

The wonderful Mambo Pat and Sosyete du Marche have begun offering online Vodou lessons (click the link above). These classes include links to exclusive online video and a forum where you can discuss class material. While classes are not a substitute for attending services or working with a house  in person, there are still many things a solitary person can do to serve the lwa and I think this is a valuable resource for those who do not live near a sosyete. Even though I have a local group, I am planning to sign up for the class anyway because I know there is more I can learn (plus I love Sosyete du Marche, as I’ve said before on this blog). Class begins May 15 and the price is $150, which includes access to the videos and copies of Mambo Pat’s book “Serving the Spirits: The Religion of Haitian Vodou” and her CD “La Priye Ginen: The Prayer of Africa.”

Happy learning! Ayibobo!

Lave Tet follow-up and other updates

Posted in Divination, Dreams, Ghede, La Sirene, Legba, lwas, Religion, Ritual, Vodou with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 1, 2012 by cheshirecatman

I haven’t been posting much about myself recently because there haven’t been any earth-shattering things going on around here. It’s been fairly low-key for the past few months.

I hadn’t been feeling any dramatic effects following my lave tet back in August, or at least I thought I hadn’t. But effects can sometimes be subtle when it comes to metaphysical stuff, and true to form they manifest very differently from what I expected.

I’ve been strangely unproductive since August, dragging my feet on art projects and other tasks that need to be done. I didn’t really associate this with the lave tet until I had an unrelated conversation with Mambo C. During that conversation, she explained that when a person attends ceremonies and performs other activities that bring them into close contact with the energies of the lwa, things can get uncomfortable.

This isn’t a bad thing—in fact it’s quite the opposite. Vodou services expose us to energies that help to balance us, and sometimes this attempt at balancing can feel uncomfortable and awkward until the balance is actually achieved.

I’ve been feeling for a while that I need to make changes in my life, but I am procrastinating. Procrastination can be the bane of people like me who lean towards perfectionism. We want to do things right; we want to fix everything at once. Then we get overwhelmed and don’t even know where to start. And then end up doing nothing.

For example, I know I need to simplify my life and get rid of items that do not help me along my path. The problem is I have so much stuff—in the closets, in the garage, on my bookshelves. (I am a bit of a pack rat due to having been pretty poor at various points in my life.) I also know I need to prioritize how I spend my time and, if I continue dragging my feet, the powers that be may lose patience with me and start taking away the distractions. Recently I was planning to load a game I bought months ago into my PC (read, “major time-waster”) and then my CD-ROM drive spontaneously stopped working. I’m still trying to fix it and think I’m getting close, but am now having second thoughts about loading the game.

As I travel deeper into Vodou, I am going to have less and less time to waste. And the body dislikes change, even if it’s change for the better. As my friend Shannon Knight likes to say, the body views all change as death. It gets scared and resists. It’s that whole “the spirit is willing but the body is weak” thing.

But not everything has been struggle. I am happy that the energy around my shrine cabinet seems stronger since returning from Philadelphia. Sometimes I can feel the energy pressing against my head the moment my thoughts turn towards making an offering. I wanted to add more lwa to the shrine but the shelves were full. So I found a hanging candle holder at a thrift store for a couple of dollars and hung it on the inside of one of the cabinet doors. Then I scanned a few of the cards from Sallie Ann Glassman’s NOLA deck and hung them above the candles. Voila, three new mini shrines.

Also recently I received a message from Legba, who told me “If you feel like you should go, you should go. If you feel like you should stay, find the high ground so you can fight for what you love.” I think he was referring specifically to my preoccupation with death (and it warrants mention here that the Ghede showed up in the reading I had with Mambo Pat back in August, although I chose not to mention it in previous posts). I may elaborate more on this in a later post after I work out some issues for myself.

In other lwa-related news, it seems that La Sirene wants something more of me too, and has turned up in at least three readings I’ve received in the past several months. I am working on serving her better so I can figure out what that is.

And my dream life has been pretty active, with a lot of time spent wandering around old buildings in the astral realm. Sometimes I am looking for shoes, undoubtedly to help me find my way along this path.

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.

Esoteric Book Conference

Posted in Haiti, Vodou with tags , , , on September 15, 2012 by cheshirecatman

Today I attended the Esoteric Book Conference for the first time. It’s a small and relatively new conference (in its fourth year), held at Seattle Center.

I arrived there around 9:15 a.m., picked up my badge and checked out the booksellers. I am quite proud of myself, having been in a roomful of interesting books and managing to escape with only one 234-page book on Egyptian magick in my hand, which put me out all of $4.00. (It helped that I’d just finished culling my magickal book collection at home, and was not looking to replace everything I’d let go of.) I ran into a friend there, “Greg,” who I sometimes see at fets (we also have mutual friends). He is the person who bought my Ghede busts, and he assures me they are quite at home on his Ghede altar.

I then walked through the art show, where another friend is showing her work. The art show isn’t huge, but the quality of the art was quite high.

Around 10:40 I headed over to the Olympic Room to attend Mambo Pat’s lecture on esotericism in Haitian Vodou. I was warmly greeted by Mambo Pat and her husband, as well as Mambo C. Mambo Pat talked at length about the different groups of people who, at various times, inhabited Haiti and the lasting influences they left upon Vodou. She is an engaging speaker and a few times she sang short songs for us, which was a treat. I guess it’s obvious that I really like her and enjoy her company. I hope I can return to Philadelphia in the near future.

P.S. I haven’t forgotten about the last Philadelphia post; I will get it finished and up this weekend.

Philadelphia Part One: Travel anxiety

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on August 30, 2012 by cheshirecatman

I used to love to fly, and I still like the sensation of being airborne. What I don’t like, however, is waiting, overcrowded cabins and current TSA practices, not necessarily in that order.

Prior to last weekend, I hadn’t flown in around four years. The last times I traveled by plane were when I went to Hawaii around 2006 and to Dragoncon in Atlanta in 2008. In both instances, the waiting and the crowded long flights really dampened my enthusiasm for air travel. My enthusiasm nose-dived even further with the introduction of the nude (and possibly cancer-causing) body scanners and enhanced pat downs in recent years. There just wasn’t anywhere I wanted to go badly enough to risk my health, make free porn or be felt up by a stranger. Plus the whole 4th Amendment “right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures” thing. Yes I hate terrorism, but this is not okay, and if you don’t understand why go watch “V for Vendetta” and then come back.

Over the past two years I’ve been running across various horror stories about TSA, so I don’t think my concerns are unjustified. For instance, there’s the case of the man who was threatened with a $10,000 fine for leaving the airport rather than subject himself to nude photos or groping. Or the case of the woman who was handcuffed to a chair and had her ticket torn up because she was reluctant to submit. I had been under the impression that if TSA got too oppressive, you could simply walk away, but apparently once you enter the security line this isn’t the case.

So I’d pretty much decided that I would not be flying anytime soon, as it wasn’t worth the potential health risk, hassle and humiliation. And then in July I got invited to the Lave Tet at Sosyete du Marche in Pennsylvania. This was their tenth anniversary celebration, and the cost of the head washing was substantially discounted. I’ve interacted with Mambo Pat (aka Mambo Vye Zo Komande LaMenfo, author of “Serving the Spirits: The Religion of Haitian Vodou,” which I highly recommend) online over the past year or so, and immediately liked her (not too surprising, I guess, as we are both children of Legba). Meeting her in person was equally delightful, but more on that in a later post.

I’d been wanting a Lave Tet for a while, and the offer was so tempting, but the thought of TSA made my stomach churn. A lot of people seem to take the violation of their rights rather lightly, but I can’t do that. When I was younger I suffered from serious bouts of depression, and they were usually triggered by feelings of powerlessness. I could see how a negative experience with airport security could result in a recurrence of those feelings.

The drive to go was powerful, though, so in the end I said yes, then spent the next few weeks trying to distract myself so I wouldn’t richochet between excitement and waves of anxiety. I told myself that if the lwa wanted me to go, then they would get me there with my sanity intact. I decided I would dress to be boring (no controversial t-shirts) and be very polite unless given a reason not to be. A couple of friends also performed some wanga to make things go smoothly and, I must say, whatever they did was quite effective.

As it would turn out, Seattle was the worst of the three airports I went through. As you line up for the screening, a TSA agent directs you to a line and you are herded towards the nude scanners. There was an agent standing a few feet in front of the machines, and when I opted out I was asked if I’d been through the pat down before. When I said no, she read me a brief description of the process and asked if I still wanted to do that or go with the scanners. I had to wait for maybe five minutes until an agent was available. Then I walked around the machines and a young man asked me where my stuff was.

I pointed out my bin and totebag, and he got them and set them aside nearby. Then he asked if I wanted to do the patdown there or in a private area. I opted for there, just in case things got stupid so I’d have witnesses. But things never got stupid. This young man was professional, and explained what he was doing as he went. It was over in a few minutes, and pretty untraumatic.

That experience calmed my fears somewhat, but things would actually be much better later in the trip. In Philadelphia, the TSA agents were quite friendly, and I simply went through a metal detector and had my bag x-rayed. In Chicago (where I missed my connecting flight and had to stay overnight at a hotel) I got to choose which line I went through, and two of them had metal detectors. Easy, quick and painless.

I’ve been so grateful that, other than the missed flight, traveling went fairly smoothly. This does not mean I am eager to travel again or give current TSA practices a thumbs up. Yes, Chicago and Philly went smoothly and I happened to get a good agent in Seattle who knew how to minimize the awkwardness  of the situation. However, that does not mean I will be so fortunate the next time.

Next post: Lave Tet