Archive for met tet

Blind faith and books

Posted in Life Lessons, Religion, Vodou with tags , , , , , , on March 14, 2013 by cheshirecatman

Ever since I was a kid I’ve had random people attempt to convert me to some form of Christianity. They are never successful because I was never raised in that paradigm. When I disagree with them, they often resort to quoting scripture to me, and I have to let them know that, to me (who was never a Christian) it is simply a book. I understand that it’s their holy book, but it’s still a book nonetheless, and one that has been edited numerous times for various reasons.

I am a very spiritual person in some ways, but I am also very grounded in this shared reality (sometimes more than I would like to be). I don’t do blind faith, I can’t. I won’t take your word for it, unless you are someone I’ve known for a while and I’ve come to trust your opinion. I can’t base my beliefs on any one book, although I love books and consider them invaluable to those of us exploring new belief systems, especially when we may not have access to experienced practitioners at any given time.

But ultimately, for me, whether I believe in something is going to be based on my personal experience. This is why I am on the path I am on now. It was not planned. I was, quite literally, guided here by my met tet, and the first time he contacted me I didn’t even know who he was.

So, for me, when doubt creeps in, I remember my experiences, many of which are hard to explain from a purely nonspiritual point of view. I love that I don’t have to rely on blind faith. Or books.

Ayibobo.

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Philadelphia Part Two: Chatting with Legba

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 😛

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.

Gifts from 2010

Posted in Animal communication, Animals, Music, Vodou with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 19, 2010 by cheshirecatman
My cat Luna with 2 rattles

Luna discovers percussion

I was reading one of my favorite animal communicator blogs, Tales Around the Water Bowl, and this part moved me:

He [Al] was born “accidentally”  when his mom mated with a Shepherd up the road. His mom was a Husky and was set to be bred with their dog – his dad’s favorite dog of all time: Bob. Sadly, Bob died before Al was born, so Al was the chosen one out of the litter to live with the family. He knew from Day One that his dad could never love him as he had loved Bob. He loved his dad anyway, did as he was asked as he grew, and became a much beloved member of the family. But there was always that distance between Al and his dad. Al wasn’t Bob.

Through my animal communication, I taught Al’s dad a lot about Al and the things he had to say. Al was nothing like Bob but his sweet nature is irresistible. With his giant frame, there is a heart as big to go with it.

One day we were walking the beach and Al was at my side. He said to me “My dad loves me now like he loved Bob.” I replied “Really Al?, That’s great!” and he said “Yes, and all I had to do was be myself.”

Although my young female cat (Luna, now 2-1/2 years old) is not the late Puck’s biological relation, I’ve always thought of them as spiritual siblings, both being Devon Rexes in my care. I even suspect that Puck helped me to “choose” her. However, as mentioned in the quote above, there was always a distance between Luna and me.  I fell in love with her from the first time I saw her photo and certainly upon meeting and holding my little girl, but inevitable comparisons with Puck sometimes arose in my mind, and she certainly could not compete with my companion of nearly 15 years, even if he was now in spirit form. Anne felt I did not wait long enough after Puck’s passing to adopt another Rex, and I had to admit that perhaps she was right. Puck passed in January of 2008, and we picked Luna up from the breeder in July of that year.

My other 15-year-old cat (still living, whom I’ll call by his nickname “Snowman” here) could not compete with Puck either, for that matter. Snowman is a flame-point Siamese and we’ve been through more than one life together. In contrast, this was the first go-around for Puck and I, as far as I know. This will give you some idea about the strength of my bond with Puck, that it makes my lengthier bond with Snowman seem diminished.

But in recent months something has shifted. I am loving Luna more and more. Despite breed characteristics, she is very different from Puck: she plays rougher, is shy with strangers (unlike Puck’s in-your-face gregariousness), and loves teasing Snowman. It used to be that when I looked at her, I could not help but also see Puck, but lately I am able to just enjoy her and her alone. We have our own unique interactions now–methods of play and conversation that are only between us and do not resemble interactions with Puck. Luna feels it too, and this is evident by her new desire to be constantly near me.

I am also appreciating Snowman more and more, perhaps because he is getting along in years. He’s always been a more laid-back cat than either of the Rexes, and has a very affectionate, quiet dignity about him–although he is a bit crabbier nowadays than he used to be, especially when being teased by Luna. But he loves the recent increase in attention, and seems happier than he has in months.

This new closeness with my living cats is helping me to live in the moment (always a hard one for me, due to my dreamy nature), and  I am finally feeling my grief for Puck dissipate in a substantial way. The downside is that I feel his presence around me less often now, and while I don’t relish that idea, I think it’s a good thing. I know he will never abandon me, but I also know that he undoubtedly has other things to do in the spirit world besides look after me all the time.

The second gift I recently received came from a drummer friend of mine. It’s always been amusing to me that, for the past 25 years or so, I have a tendency to become friends with musicians (without knowing they are musicians at the time), especially drummers. This may be due in part to a past desire to be a music journalist, but mostly I think it has to do with similar energies attracting each other. This friend (I’ll call him Lance) and another drummer friend (“Ben”) and I used to work together at our day jobs and, although that ended around 2000, we’ve remained close friends for the past decade.

We had breakfast together yesterday and exchanged holiday gifts, and Lance gave me an awesome maraca and goat toe rattle.

I am not the easiest person to buy gifts for, and this year Lance outdid himself. I’d been meaning to buy a maraca for ritual use all year. I’ve looked at many, but just never found one that I was compelled to buy. So I was very surprised and pleased to see this colorful little thing. The small size is great too, as my shrine area is getting a bit crowded.

Lance thought about giving me ankle bells instead of the goat toe rattle, but I am glad that in the end he chose the goat toes. I like the clacking tone of them better than I like the lighter sound of bells.

2010 has been a mixed year. The most difficult event was the loss of Anne’s stepmother Marie to cancer  in February. There have been some very positive highlights too: we bought our first home together and moved in over the summer; I am making progress in Vodou (and Mambo Racine read the post I wrote about the met tet reading she did for me, and liked it, which made me happy), and, almost as a counterbalance to the loss of Marie, Anne’s aunt (who has been courageously battling breast cancer for years) just found out last week that her cancer has gone fully into remission!

On top of all this, the recent gifts are a wonderful end note to remind me of what I am grateful for: the friends in my life, both bipedal and furred.

Honoring the lwa at services

Posted in lwas, Religion, Ritual, Vodou with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 20, 2010 by cheshirecatman

In my post about my second Fet Gede, I mentioned that some attendees would touch their hand to their hearts and then touch the ground when certain lwa were mentioned. Recently I asked Mambo C about this.

Mambo C said that, during the fet, she touches her heart and then touches the ground three times for the lwa that she is close to. She will kneel down and kiss the ground for her met tet. She does this out of love and respect.

She told me that this has nothing to do with kanzo (initiation). Anyone can honor the lwa in this way. She did say that sometimes people who are kanzo will also kiss the ground for Loko and Ayizan, and sometimes Legba and the Marassa as well.

Just thought this was worth sharing, as details of Vodou practice can be hard to come by.

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.

Ayibobo!