Archive for Voodoo

A serious article on Vodou in Newsweek today

Posted in Vodou with tags , , , , , on August 25, 2014 by cheshirecatman

This article was published on the Newsweek site today and it handles the topic of Vodou respectfully.

Voodoo Is Rebounding in New Orleans After Hurricane Katrina by Stacey Anderson

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“An Outsider at the Crossroads” article by Alley Valkyrie at Wild Hunt

Posted in Ghede, Ghosts, Life Lessons, lwas, Vodou with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 24, 2014 by cheshirecatman

I highly recommend this article by Alley Valkyrie on The Wild Hunt site. It’s a fascinating account of a white artist moving into a neighborhood heavily populated by Caribbean people as well as a commentary on race relations, privilege and gentrification. Vodou also included.

An Outsider at the Crossroads

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

 

Faith and signs

Posted in Religion, Vodou with tags , , , , , , on April 10, 2014 by cheshirecatman
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© Dawn Johnson | Dreamstime Stock Photos

A recent conversation with a good friend got me to thinking about faith and signs, and how hard it can be to have faith if you experience few signs.

I used to be like that, back in my Wiccan days. I had days when I wondered why I even bothered having a faith, when the powers that be did not acknowledge or speak to me. I thought maybe what little I did sense was all in my head. I know there are many people who experience similar struggles, as well as people who retain their faith in the absence of signs. A crisis of faith isn’t always a bad thing either. It can be an opportunity to re-evaluate and re-direct oneself, if necessary.

It took some pretty obvious and undeniable signs to set my feet firmly on the Vodou path, and for that I feel very blessed and will always be grateful. (Never let it be said that the Lwa are not patient.) But in retrospect, I can’t help but think that many signs were indeed there in my life already, and I was too distracted by my daily struggles or my own expectations to notice them. Signs can be as subtle as a song on a distant radio that carries a message relevant to you at that time, or the shape of a cloud, or the words spray-painted on a wall. The powers that be make use of what’s available to them, whether that is an object in your vicinity or the assistance of a mambo or medium.

With Vodou, I can’t stress the importance of community enough. While there IS a such thing as solitary Vodou, community is where you can experience more signs and receive validation of your beliefs. Even if you only attend a fet once in a while, the experience is well worth it.

And with that, I extend a heartfelt thanks to the local mambo, who has given me (and continues to give me) more than she will ever know, and I salute Mambo Pat and Papa Don of Sosyete du Marche, who hold the lantern that lights my way.

Bah, American Horror Story

Posted in Legba, Movies and Media, Vodou with tags , , , on January 8, 2014 by cheshirecatman
Is this how you visualize Legba? Yeah, didn't think so.

Is this how you visualize Legba? Yeah, didn’t think so.

With each season, “American Horror Story” has become more of a clusterfuck. I guess I should not be surprised, producer Ryan Murphy does not have a good track record regarding quality television and respect for diverse people and cultures. If you don’t think I’m serious, guess which of the young witches were killed off first? You got it: the black one and then the disabled one. Because, of course neither could be the supreme. You need a typical white girl for that.

The premiere episode this season was particularly horrible, with footage of the torture and mutilation of black bodies for the purpose of making a villain seem more villainous (which sort of makes sense until said villain is played off as sympathetic later). Tonight’s episode, while featuring Stevie Nicks (who still can move me to tears with her music), managed to insult none other than Papa Legba, who is portrayed as some weird cross between Baron Samedi and Satan. Since when did Legba ever purchase souls? Yeah, there’s the whole devil-in-the-crossroads Robert Johnson story, but if one views that story with some understanding of Voodoo, one might interpret it not as Johnson selling his soul but rather as him making an offering to the lwa.

While Angela Bassett is, as always, magnificent, this show receives an F- for its portrayal of Voodoo as of tonight.

Beautiful images from Haiti

Posted in Haiti, Religion, Ritual, Vodou with tags , , on October 9, 2013 by cheshirecatman

Someone on Facebook posted a link to this page, and I thought the images were very beautiful. Enjoy!

Voodoo alive and well by Marie Arago

More thoughts on cultural appropriation, humility and Vodou

Posted in Haiti, Life Lessons, lwas, Religion, Vodou with tags , , , , , , on June 25, 2013 by cheshirecatman

I doubt that anyone not born or at least raised in Haiti from a young age can ever understand Vodou in its full depth; the development of Haitian Vodou is so rooted in the history and culture of that country. Those of us adopting the religion can learn as much as we can, but some nuances will be lost on us due to differences in language, concepts and environment. We will never be the ‘experts’ in the way that someone who has always lived in the tradition is.

I am not saying that outsiders cannot be called by the lwa. If I believed that, then this blog would not exist. But I do see the topic of cultural appropriation brought up a lot in the online places where I lurk. This is mostly a good thing, as all of us who are not Haitian need to keep this in mind as we learn. But cultural appropriation is a tricky beast, and can be aided and abetted (and sometimes with good intentions) by the same people who are trying to avoid it.

To some extent, appropriation began the moment Vodou gained some popularity outside of Haiti. Outsiders became initiated, and a handful became Vodou’s mouthpiece for the outside world as more outsiders sought research materials that were easily accessible to them in the form of books and websites in languages other than Kreyol. Vodou is a beautiful faith and way of life; it is not surprising that it would attract outsiders once the stereotypes were pushed aside.

And this is where some of the appropriation occurred, in spite of the best intentions. Non-Haitians became prominent in this movement, not that this was undeserved or that hard work wasn’t involved. The problem is that the Non-Haitians became better known than the Haitians who taught them, with very few exceptions. The non-Haitians often do their best to connect newcomers to the original sources, but this has limited success. This is not dissimilar to what happened when blues music became popular among white musicians in the US and the UK. It morphed into rock and roll, which owes its existence to blues but is not blues in its original form. Nothing necessarily wrong with that except that the rock musicians became far more rich and famous than the blues musicians who inspired them, in spite of bands like the Stones making efforts to promote their blues idols. Popular media seems to have a life of its own sometimes. So I can’t blame those Haitians who express concern about foreigners adopting Vodou.

As outsiders, we should approach Vodou with a humble and respectful attitude; we begin as visitors and guests in this world whether we like it or not. Few things scream “appropriation” as loudly as people who initiate into a spiritual tradition not native to them, and then immediately present themselves as experts on the topic. Granted, they may have a good deal of knowledge about the tradition, but it is not going to be at the same level as someone born into the tradition. So ego needs to be placed aside, as they are akin to the graduate student who, while qualified to teach undergrads, is still not a full professor.

I also seriously have issues with those of European descent who study or initiate into a path and then set themselves up as the Billy Jack/Lt. John Dunbar/Jake Sully of said path (aka great white savior complex, which seems to be a bit more prevalent among males than females from what I have observed). I am not sure why they have a need to do this. In some cases it may be a combination of ego and a sense of entitlement (conscious or unconscious); in other cases it may be overcompensating for being a member of a privileged group (aka white guilt). Or perhaps they are simply the outsider attempting to gain the approval of the insiders by saying/doing what they think the insiders want them to say or do. A few of them seem to delight in publicly humiliating others, usually other non-Haitians whom they believe are more guilty of appropriation than they are, in spite of the white savior posturing, which is a particularly insidious form of appropriation that can sneak up on a person.

What can we do to mitigate appropriation? We need to locate reliable sources of information and follow regleman as accurately as we can. We can learn some Kreyol. We can follow the examples given to us by Haitian clergy when possible, and defer the spotlight to them as much as we can. We need to hear their voices more often.

There are a number of good mambos and houngans out there to learn from. There are also some very good groups and pages on Facebook run by Haitian people (although be forewarned that the crusaders may be there as well). Whatever happens, don’t give up. If you are diligent and meant to be on this path, the lwa will help you find your way.

Some recommended resources:

Sosyete La Deesse De La Mer Vodou Temple Facebook page

Sosyete l’Afrique Ginen Facebook page

Remembrance: Roots, Rituals, and Reverence in Vodou by Jerry M. Gilles and Yvrose S. Gille.