Archive for Sosyete du Marche

Philadelphia, Summer 2015, Part One: Preamble

Posted in Simbi Makaya with tags , on June 24, 2015 by cheshirecatman

Last weekend I went to Philadelphia to spend time with my Sosyete du Marche family.

Thursday evening I caught the bus out to SeaTac International Airport. I planned to arrive about three hours early, to allow for unexpected delays. After dealing with one cranky TSA agent and being semi-roughly searched by another (I don’t do the naked body scanner machines), my plane was delayed and I had to wait even longer to board. Once everyone was finally aboard, we made pretty good time, however. We left about 40 minutes late, but made it into Philly only 15 minutes later than scheduled.

At Philadelphia International Airport, I met up with two of my house sisters at baggage claim (they were on a separate flight that arrived around the same time). Mambo BL (not her real initials, but if she reads this I think she will know what the initials stand for) rented a car. We picked up some food to go at a falafel place, as all of us were hungry after spending the night in transit and I could feel a low blood sugar headache coming on. Then it was over to Termini Brothers Bakery on 8th Street to pick up a cake for the houngan of the house.

As we started heading for the sosyete, our passenger-side rear tire went flat. And I don’t mean a little flat, I mean undriveable flat. We had the choice of waiting for the rental agency to send out assistance or changing it ourselves, so we opted for the latter, with Mambo BL grabbing the jack and diving in (it figures—she’s a Dantor woman). At that point we were closer to the airport than we were to the sosyete, so we opted to return there to exchange the car. We finally made it to the sosyete in the early afternoon and spent the rest of the day catching up with everyone.

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but whenever I am there it really does feel like I am coming home. There were about 10 of us present, including the Mambo and Houngan. Saturday morning started with breakfast and then a presentation by one of the mambos about dealing with difficult clients. Then Mambo Vye Zo filled our brains full of wanga, pwen and other magickal stuff.

When our lessons were done, we took a break. It was still early evening when my girlfriend Anne texted me to complain about our neighbors. A bit of background: This is a family that lives in our condo complex, several units down from us. Ever since we moved here several years ago, their dog has been running loose in the narrow strip of backyard, pooping, barking and occasionally charging after people. The Home Owner’s Association has fined the neighbors multiple times, and Anne even went to court once to try to get them to control their dog, yet we still sometimes see it roaming in the backyard unsupervised. Anne always checks to see if their dog is outside any time she wants to take our dog beyond our fenced-in patio. This family also has two young boys who often play unsupervised in the yard. They run, scream, throw things and sometimes damage the property. During one particularly horrible summer they, along with a few other children who no longer live in our complex, decided the backyard was a great place to ride bikes all day, every day. By the end of that summer, our backyard looked like a mud pit whenever it rained, as the constant barrage of bike tires destroyed much of the grass.

Back to Saturday evening. Anne texts me to say she caught one of the neighbor boys climbing over our patio fence. She has told them before not to do this, as the gate is a simple wood frame around medium-weight chicken wire, and not built to sustain weight. The fence and the gate were only built a few years ago and it wasn’t cheap. So Anne naturally gets irate when someone else’s kids climb on it, as there is a real potential for damage that we would then have to pay for. I was irritated too, but at this point there isn’t a whole lot we can do about it until the gate is noticeably damaged, then we MAYBE can get the parents to pay for it IF we catch the kids in the act at the time. More about Seattle in Part Two of this story, in which it will become obviously why I shared all this.

After our break ended, we began preparing for the evening’s event—a fet in honor of Simbi Makaya. I had never worked with any of the Simbis before, although he is the met tet of someone I know in our Seattle group. I knew that he had recently taken a strong interest in one of my house sisters, but I had no idea that he would have any interest in me. But that’s the Lwa for you—they are always full of surprises.

(To be continued)


Legba creates my vision

Posted in Agwe, Art, La Sirene, Legba, Religion, Ritual, Vodou with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 17, 2015 by cheshirecatman

Legba walkingI am coming up on the first anniversary of my Kanzo with Sosyete du Marche. Thus it seems like an appropriate time to reflect on the past year and what has (and has not) changed about me and my life.

Outwardly, there is not a whole lot of visible change. I am still at the same job. I live in the same place, in the same area of town. I haven’t gotten a spiffy new haircut nor remodeled my home.

Not all of my bad habits have changed. I still stay up too late on weekends, and have a tendency to procrastinate. I have an impatient streak, but it’s one that I continue to mostly control. I can be messy when I get busy or tired, especially when facing art deadlines. I still am fascinated with the afterlife, although in a much more positive way than I have been in the past.

What has changed outwardly is the official acquisition of my new family, the Sosyete. This is no small thing for me—my birth mother crossed over nearly three decades ago, I never knew my father and the one living relative I do know is permanently estranged. Now I have parents and many siblings I can turn to for love, advice and support. I took great delight in sending my initiatory mother a small Mother’s Day gift, something I have not been able to enjoy for many years.

So what about the less-obvious changes?

Many times I thought about writing this post but kept putting it off, uncertain whether there had been any changes interesting enough to discuss here. Apparently the changes kind of crept up on me. Some people’s experiences are more dramatic and obvious, but the majority of mine tend to be more subtle. My Lwa often speak softly, and in the language of images.

In March and early April I was engrossed in my usual springtime art frenzy, preparing to participate in a local sci fi/fantasy convention’s art show and another show at a local shop. I had quite a few pieces planned that were Vodou-related, including two sculptures of Legba, La Siren, La Balenn and Agwe, whom I’ve never sculpted before.

The first Legba I finished this spring was the Old Man walking along a road with one of his dogs, although I sculpted both Legba faces at the same time, and was very happy with them. This was a sharp contrast from the struggles I sometimes have with faces, which can result in me becoming so frustrated that I will toss them in the garbage and begin anew. I was particularly pleased that both of the faces resembled Legba as he appeared in one of my dreams.

Sculpting clothing is not always super easy for me, yet when I worked on his jacket and pants, I kept having what artists call “happy accidents”—my hand would move and create a fold or movement of the fabric that was unplanned, but looked good. Now, normally, I would never consider putting one of my own pieces on my altars, because I would sit there and obsess over the flaws and shortcomings. This time, however, I was so happy with the completed piece that I thought about keeping him for my altar if he didn’t sell at the convention. Also finished for the convention was a La Balenn piece whose face turned out unusually lovely. I received a lot of compliments on both of them when I showed them to friends.

La Balenn did not sell at the convention, but Legba sold immediately after to a couple of friends who saw him in the art show there. (They tried to buy him at the show, but due to a change in the art show hours, they were not able to purchase him before it closed.) It makes me smile to think of Legba in their home.

Then my focus shifted to finishing the pieces for the shop show. I decided to do a Native La Siren, as that is how she appeared to me the one time that I saw her. I was not sure exactly how to sculpt Agwe, so I had a loose plan to create him as a merman wearing an admiral’s jacket. However, he had other things in mind. I kept receiving flashes of images in my head, and realized that yes, he did want to be portrayed as a merman, but rather than the uniform he opted to have coral extruding from his back and crowning his head. Although I was working on my pieces up to the last minute, I never really got stressed out. It seemed that every time I got stuck on something, the answer would pop into my head and I was able to move on. Sometimes my hands felt guided, to the point that I don’t feel that I can take all of the credit for the way the art turned out. It was more of a collaboration between the Lwa and me.

When Agwe was completed, he also received many compliments. During the artist opening reception, one of my regular buyers whom I had never met before came in and bought the entire marine Lwa set (La Siren, La Balenn and Agwe). He wanted the seated Legba piece I had there too, but a friend had already spoken for it, so this gentleman commissioned a new one. (I have to smile when I think of Legba and the 3 marine Lwa displayed in his home; I won’t be surprised if they all start showing up there.) Another previous buyer whom I had never met came in and purchased a Sekhmet wall piece of mine. During the following weeks when my art was on display, a couple of local Santeria folks saw Agwe and loved him so much that they commissioned one like it.

Overall, this is probably the most successful art show I’ve had to date, as far as sales are concerned. I reflected back on the nom vayan (“valiant name”) that my initiatory mother gave me at my batem (“baptism”). It translates into “Legba creates my vision,” and he certainly has outdone himself this time.

If you haven’t already read it, my lovely initiatory mother has written a wonderful piece on magickal names in Vodou, which explains them better than I can here. All’s I can say is it certainly worked for me! Honor to her, Papa and the Lwa. Ayibobo!

A new year, Bain Noel and Four Circles class

Posted in Religion, Ritual, Vodou with tags , , , , , , , on January 18, 2015 by cheshirecatman

So we are here in 2015 and I need to start posting regularly again. There are some topics I meant to post last year after Kanzo and I need to get those written. With the shortest day of the year behind us, it’s time to look forward to spring and growth.

Last night I participated in a small Kings Day fet. There were only ten of us present, and half of those had never attended a fet before. As a result, things were a little rough around the edges, but we still raised a good amount of energy. I am not the most energy-sensitive person in the world, but at one point during the Petro section I become uncomfortably hot, even though we were in a basement and had not been dancing enough to raise a sweat. Others felt it too. The presiding Mambo gave us the Bain Noel baths. We parted ways happy and the newcomers plan to return for the next event.

In other news, Sosyete du Marche has started up its Four Circles Year One class again. This is the 101 of Vodou and you have until the end of January to sign up for this quarter. More information here.

Ayibobo, and here’s to a prosperous 2015!

Finally, Kanzo

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

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.


Fall semester Vodou class starting soon

Posted in Vodou with tags , , , , on September 23, 2013 by cheshirecatman

Sosyete du Marche is offering the Four Circles Year One class again this fall, beginning October 1st. I just completed the spring session and enjoyed it very much. The class includes videos, essays, books and music CDs. You can read more here or sign up here.

Is that a Lwa in your Pocket (or are you happy to see me?)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on August 26, 2013 by cheshirecatman

Is that a Lwa in your Pocket (or are you happy to see me?)

Mambo Pat of Sosyete du Marche has posted an excellent essay on recognizing the Lwa.

Life, happiness and the acquisition of non-blood siblings

Posted in Life Lessons with tags , , , , , on August 10, 2013 by cheshirecatman

I’ve mentioned before that for many years I suffered from debilitating depression. It began in adolescence and continued on until my mid-thirties. It wasn’t chemical in origin, but situational, caused in part by poverty, loneliness, an awareness of social injustice (affecting me or others) and the loss of  loved ones, among other things. By the time the periods of depression subsided, a permanent mark was left on my psyche. Sometimes it is difficult for me to feel happy even when things are going well. The emotion doesn’t always kick in when it should.

During the past several years, however, I have moments of excitement and happiness  along with the neutral and darker moments. Vodou and other spiritual development play a large part in this—even though I still have my struggles like everyone else, I am gaining more access to a larger picture, one in which my current struggles are temporary. (And yes, part of this involves thinking about death, but not in a negative way.)

Recent positive things going on in my life:

  • The Four Circles online class I am taking with Sosyete du Marche. I am often happiest when learning, especially when it involves spiritual topics. I am interacting a little with some nice people there, one of whom I suspect may someday be an initiatory sister. The more knowledge I gain about Vodou, the more I know this is the right path for me. As I like to say, “All my gods are out of Africa.” Someday I’d like to write a post about that, but the ‘why’s’ of it are not something I am ready to articulate at this time.
  • An upcoming session with my medium/animal communicator friend (and one of my favorite people hands down), Tracy Ann. This promises to be an interesting one, and I have lots of questions for my animal kin as well as the other unseen folks around me. Stay tuned for an update on this.
  • A very unexpected compliment. I was chatting with a young woman in my local Vodou group. We were discussing various things about Vodou, when she mentioned that she trusted and looked up to me. This was just something offhand she said without realizing how much it meant to me. This young woman is very gifted and promises to be a talented mambo one day in the not-too-distant future.
  • An online friendship with another woman who lives in Canada. She and I have become like siblings and can discuss a wide range of spiritual topics comfortably. I’ve found that a lot of these types of online relationships come and go, but I’m hoping this one won’t go too soon. I will appreciate it while it lasts (which reminds me I need to get in touch with another online sibling).

A few of my friends have been questioning what they’ve done with their lives and feeling like failures because they haven’t accomplished things that others have, or because they haven’t done what society expects them to do (big money career, marriage, children, etc.). Please remember that you are here to learn, create and assist others. If you are a decent person and do these things, that is enough. You may never know how much a small act of kindness that you perform without thinking may affect someone’s life.