I started looking into Vodou not that long ago. So, as an ‘expert’ I am nothing of the kind. I am just another bumbling pagan out there who happened to get sucked into this. With that in mind… I am not a mambo asogwe. What I’m about to ramble about is my UPG, feelings, thoughts, and ideas on the subject. Do NOT take this as a tenet for your practice. Do NOT quote me as a knowledgeable source. Do NOT quote me at all. I don’t mind offering advice or giving guidance, but I will not become a mambo or a teacher in this. I will only do what I feel is right.
I have been communicating with people in the “blanc” Vodou community for quite some time now. Almost from the get-go of my forage into this path, I have done a shit-ton of research, read a lot of blogs, and have come into contact with other people who are in similar paths as mine. (Although, again, they’re not the same since that is impossible.) I have asked a bazillion [possibly obnoxious] questions and will, probably, ask about twenty times that in the time to come. I have tried diligently to understand certain aspects of the Vodou mindset and practice. However, the one aspect (really? only one?) that continuously draws me up short is the Mandate of Silence.
Now, this isn’t actually a “mandate” but it seems to be pretty much across the Vodou board. Silence about practices, Lwa, and UPG are a near necessity. And this, to me, is one of the most astonishing and startling aspects I’ve come across. My mind was blown from the first moment of reading about it.
From what I can gather, the Mandate of Silence has been a part of the practice from the get-go. When the slaves were a-practicing in Saint-Domingue, to speak aloud of their faith was to invite punishment, usually in the form of not-so-swift death. The French plantation owners were not willing to tolerate the “idolatry” and “serving of demons/Satan” that they confused the ancient practices of Vodou with. (I am amused by the idolatry aspect since they were Catholic and I’ve often felt Catholics to be idolators.) This is why every Lwa has at least one counterpart in the array of Catholic saints: it was easier to hide their practice that way.
As time went by, the Mandate of Silence became engrained in the practice.
I think it was the fear of being punished that has led this practice to be as… quiet and unknown as it is. I think it was a conscious memory of how it used to be that kept them from speaking aloud. As it is, it has been only in the last 20 years that we have learned more than what Hollywood would have us believe. There have been people, of course, who have ventured into this prior (I am thinking of Tell My Horse when I say this) but they were few and far between. And of course, most were not willing to break the Mandate of Silence. As it is, a lot of the blanc and American books about Vodou are academic in nature.
As time has gone by, though, the Mandate of Silence stopped being due to fear of reprisals and became more about the fear of one another.
I have come to learn that there are many out there who would use the knowledge they’ve gained from Vodou against others. What I mean by that is that they would work negative magic against others and, if learning another’s UPG, they would subsume the Lwa in question, also to pursue personal gain (or for the hell of it). I am unsure if this is a generalized mindset infused during the learning process when one joins a particular society or if this is a mindset they develop out of what they learn. Hell, perhaps it is a more malevolent person (usually) who seeks Vodou out in the first place. Yet another falsehood perpetrated by Hollywood, I suppose.
But what gets me is that there are people out there—even possibly acquaintances or friends—who would want to bring harm to others and even to me. Perhaps it is my American upbringing or simple naïveté, but I cannot fathom this at all. To say that my mind is boggled is a complete understatement because that would lend credence to my mind bouncing back from this. In effect, my mind has frozen at this idea. This is neither here nor there, more of a tangent, but a very real aspect of the Vodou tradition… And another reason for the Mandate of Silence.
As a pagan, I started this blog to catalog my long, constantly morphing spiritual path. Initially, this whole project was just a regular blog that was more minded to the religious instead of the mundane. As time has gone by, the point in this blog and my feelings about it have changed. I started this all off as a small-thinking, childlike neophyte. I was just hoping to write out about what I was experiencing and practicing so I could watch it change or stagnate. However, now, I write to get myself out there and to be heard, to offer advice to others while still trying to catalog where my chameleon-like spiritual turnpike is constantly taking me. And it is now, at this moment, that I realize the core tenets here:
These two things are the Big Stuff, the Big Guns.
And these two things are why I don’t think I can apply the Mandate of Silence to my practice.