Yesterday, Devo posted a really excellent question in the FaceBook group, The Island of Misfit Pagans. (By the way, awesome group with some kick-ass discussions.) Now, as I’ve said, whenever she starts asking things or poking at things, I tend to sit up and listen to what it is she really wants to know. So, she asked, “Lots of people seem to believe that if you are heavily recon slanted, or that if you base a lot of your practice out of a history book, your practice will be dry and lifeless. Do any of you have an opinion on this? Do you think someone can be heavily historically influenced and still have a thriving practice? Or do you think that UPG and innovation needs to exist in order for a practice to work well?” I started thinking about a proper answer. I felt the niggle of something important here so I gave her a simple answer, I think you need a little UPG to have a practice. BUT. I prefer learning in a book for my Kemetism. Not so much with the voodoo. And then I made mention that I would blog about this in the near future, so here I am.
I’ve thought about this entry since I started it about two days ago. Things keep coming up and breaking my concentration when I try to write it, so I’ve had a lot of thinking going on. (NO! NOT THINKING!) I was thinking about it at the slow parts when I was watching Prometheus on Saturday. I was thinking about it after I finished reading chapter two in Secrets of Voodoo by Milo Rigaud. And I was thinking about it all day yesterday in fits and spurts, trying to piece together why I was holding a candle to this obvious double standard…
…because that’s what I have going on here. I mean, I’m willing to do the hard work and the leg work and the reading for my Kemetic path, but I don’t think it’s as necessary when it comes to my voodoo flavoring? Why is that?
Now, at first, I thought I was just full of it. I had written my comment on the sly, in the quick. I wasn’t fully in my head when I was writing this response, actually. I was on the way out the door to go somewhere when I did a quick rush response. And figured I’d get into more depth in this post, which has been interrupted over and over and over again whilst trying to write it. However, I’ve thought about why I’m so able to be full of shit about this in regards to the flavoring versus the start of my path. And I realized that my comment, written as it was with lots of things going on and it being little more than an afterthought comment, was probably more profound and more full of truth than anything else I could have said. If I had sat down and responded with the gist of my above statement, but in full-fledged form… I could have back-tracked. I could have left that comment as it was and then fleshed it out later with half-truths or just ignored the topic entirely. (INTERRUPTIONS I TELL YOU!!) So, after a lot of thought, I’ve realized that the quick little comment I had left was probably the most truthful on the subject as I could possibly come to.
But, the question still remains, why?
I’ve thought about a lot of reasons for this. I don’t like what they say about me, either.
I thought that maybe it was because I had been paying attention to Kemetism and ancient Egypt for so long that it is ingrained within me to read up on it. I’ve read just about every book that I own about Kemetic practices. (Two are on my “queue” to be read.) I’m so obsessed with all things ancient Egypt that I fly through books based on the country or on my religion in very little time. Sometimes, I take longer as I pick through what I’m reading and actually, you know, think about it. But for the most part, I can fly through those books in no time flat. But, I have a fairly long list of books in my voodoo “queue” that I’ve peeked at, started to read, or just added to the ever-growing pile. Every time I’ve gone to pick them up, something else has caught my attention. I’ve noticed that when it comes to the voodoo books I suffer a queer form of ADD: I can’t sit still long enough to digest a chapter, much less some of these books which are hundreds upon hundreds of pages long. And again, I know there is a real reason for this, but I couldn’t say.
Maybe I don’t give voodoo the same street cred as I give my Kemetic practice? This particular answer is a hard truth, I don’t like what it says about me, and I think it may have something to do with it. Maybe it’s the ingrained laughter that comes when we start talking about folk remedies and folk tales. I mean, these two aspects aren’t quite in line with voodoo, but it’s similar. It wasn’t until the 1980s, or even later, that people began to accept voodoo as more than just a “silly” practice that Haitians do. Rationality says something like “this is fake” and years of being influenced by outside sources has it seen as Hollywood would prefer us to. Consciously, I know that none of this is the case. It’s a real religion with so much flavor added into it that you’d never be able to eat the whole meal. But, somewhere inside of me, I don’t seem to give it as much seriousness as I do with my Kemetic practice. WHY?!?!? WHY?!?!?!? (Legba is snickering at me right now. “The questions aren’t always important,” he says.)
As I said earlier to someone, I’m not usually so obsessed with the “why” of things. It is, as it is.
I did find something of very important interest though that actually does tie into all of this. I’m having a difficult time as I read Secrets of Voodoo by Milo Rigaud. I might get into my issues at a later date in time. But, in chapter two, the author went on to say that there wasn’t any hardcore book to turn to for all the answers. There wasn’t anything but the loa to turn to when it comes to running a practice. And pretty much, in effect, what he was saying was that the voodoo tradition is entirely based on UPG. It’s what the loa have to say that makes the practice what it is today. He said that, partially, this is why some of its gone so downhill (not quite sure what he meant by that, honestly) but it’s how the start of the religion came about. And it’s something that’s continued. And this really resonated with me, especially in lieu of my comment to Devo’s questions.
I said that I found the book-learning easier for Kemetism but not so with voodoo. Why? Why? And as I’m reading that chapter, and as I’m reading those particular gems, I began to think that maybe it wasn’t just that I’m a snob about various religions. (Though, you know, it’s possible.) Maybe it was the simple fact that Legba’s been leading me around (“LIKE A DOG – HEE HAW,” he says) this whole damn thing almost from the get-go. Everything he’s ever said to me, pointed me in the direction of, demanded that I write about, and all of that has always had some very significant moment later on. But it’s always been about what he’s had me do and say and think and feel as opposed to what I could find in a book. And I wonder if maybe he was just doing it the way they used to do it – the way of the loa.