Tanbou Prete Pa Janm Fè Bon Dans (SVP).

A borrowed drum never makes good dancing.

I have often felt extremely discouraged by the practice that I have with the lwa. I think this is kind of normal because I can remember having moments of discouragement, angst, and anxiety regarding my Kemetic practice when I really began working on that side of things in my religious life. However, there have been times where I have felt more strongly, I think, about removing myself from the voodoo that I do than I ever did with my Kemeticism. There have been excessive moments where I have felt that I am completely unqualified and that I shouldn’t work with the any of the lwa in any regard. Quite often, I see (on Tumblr) the commentary about voodoo being a closed system outside of initiation and that, in many instances, people of a very pasty, white complexion such as myself should step away from the religion itself. I have often felt that I don’t belong here because of those comments as well as because it is truly outside of the framework of a hard polytheistic Kemetic from a westernized capitalistic culture. There are days where the difficulties I have to surmount to keep this practice afloat are too much for me to bear, but always I end up with Papa Legba whispering to me, You got this.

The thing is that, unlike many people who are just exploring, I never really considered exploring voodoo. I remember as a teenager being mildly intrigued by the Haitian Vodou I caught in quick glimpses periodically, but I know that I was never overly interested in pursuing that interest. I was interested in the historical aspects of the Haitian culture, but the religious aspect was going to always remain foreign to me (and probably still will remain thus even with my current practice). It was only two years ago that it really began to get hammered out in omens that I needed to do a bit more than a cursory, “Oh, that’s interesting,” kind of way.

The thing about my doubt is that I’ve been upbraided for repeatedly is that I didn’t choose this. Unlike many of those exploratory individuals who find something of interest and incorporate those things immediately, I was chosen by Papa Legba to do… whatever big thing he thinks I’m here for. (I’ve sort of discussed this previously, but I think there’s more than the viewpoint of a solitary practitioner that he’s aiming for and just hasn’t gotten around to telling me yet.) It was only after a lot of hemming, hawing, dreams, portents, and constant oddities that I finally realized I had to at least start somewhere. I actually bought a book about it with the express purpose of proving to myself that all of my omens and portents were completely fabricated thoughts that were coincidences. And then, Papa Legba showed up and hasn’t left me since.

I keep having to remind myself, either with his voice or my own, that I really did not choose this.

I have to admit that in not choosing, I am grossly unhappy. There is some form of freedom, I think, when it comes to the religious practices that we consciously choose. There is a sort of time-honored ability to always say, “no, I have had enough,” and easily walk away. When you have the ability to make those choices, you always have it in the back of your mind that when things get too rough, too tough, too difficult, too upsetting that you can easily just say, “fuck this shit,” and run in the other direction. However, when you come into a religious tradition as a solitary, unknown because you cannot prevent the static build up in your head or to stop the constant dreams of some old dude with a walking stick and a pipe, then you know that walking away isn’t going to be easy… if you even could. And Papa Legba has made it quite clear on many an occasion that while I can take breaks or that I can take a time out if I so need but to the actuality of walking away? That will never, ever happen until whatever it is he wants has completed and even then, probably not.

The static and the dreams and the consistent omens will continue until I have no choice but to get back to it.

And that royally pisses off this Leo.

But, I have to be completely honest here. As often as I tell others to stop holding your practice up to the practice of everyone else, I do this all the time. This is partially why I inform others not to listen to what other people say or do because no matter what, you will never meet up to the standards of others. However, even though I am constantly trying to tell people, don’t do this, I do it all of the damn time when it comes to my voodoo practice. And I think that is something I will always end up doing here. I feel like I am an outsider who is playing with things that I cannot even begin to understand a lot of the time, so I try to compare what I do and how I do with what other people do as a form of validation. And since I will always be an uninitiated head case here, I will always find whatever it is that I am doing as completely lacking, as completely full of shit, and as completely and utterly wrong.

The proverb I chose for this particular entry is appropriate in my feelings on the subject. As it says, a borrowed drum never makes good dancing. And I am constantly feeling like I am borrowing another religion’s drum and trying to formulate myself to that drum beat. The problem here is the fact that, as the proverb indicates, this will never make for good dancing on my part. The thing is that all of this is perception. I perceive that I am borrowing another religion’s drumbeat and that I am attempting to dance to it. I don’t feel like the voodoo part of my practice is as clearly and truly mine as I do with my Kemetic side. Therein lies the problem: I feel like I am borrowing instead of actually becoming a part of.

Now, it’s possible that I feel this way because I am uninitiated. The way that I’ve read it and the way that I hear it is that when you really join a sosyete, you start feeling very different than you would if you were just some Joe Blow, doing things on your own. And I acknowledge that the rule of “no community” as set forth by Papa Legba could be a very real hindrance here. Papa Legba, in our more private communications, has even confirmed that this is something that will be a problem. As someone who has only recently created and etched and become a part of a Kemetic community, I know how important that particularly aspect can be in a religious framework. However, I have been asked to look beyond this hindrance and continue with the job to hand. All right, fine. The thing is that I just don’t know how to do that quite yet. And frankly, I honestly don’t know if it is a lack of voodoo community that is the issue here. It could be any number of things.

Another possibility is that, in a way, I really feel like what the people say (on Tumblr) regarding pasty complected white folks getting down with voodoo is true, in a way. I know that there are white, blue, black, yellow, purple practitioners out there. I know that all manner of men and women have joined communities across America and have gone to Haiti. I also know that it really doesn’t matter what your flesh tones say as long as you are respectful, careful, and willing to learn from experienced people.

However, there are days [on the astral], where I spend hours at a time, comparing the flesh tone of my arm with the darkened color of Papa Legba’s withered arm. And I know that, in a way, I don’t feel like I belong here for that very reason. It is a closed culture in many ways. It isn’t, but it is. And this is a huge problem for someone who works with a pantheon of a dead culture that has suddenly been thrown into the pantheon of a culture that is very much not-dead and has a huge basis from a cultural framework that is outside of my frame of reference because of skin tone, socioeconomic background, and the like.

To sum up, this shit is fucking hard.

Papa Legba tells me, when I cry about this, “get over it.”

I should be used to this type of advice because my mom says the same damn thing.

I really hope that these words do not fall on deaf ears for anyone who has ever been interested in voodoo. I know I don’t talk about the workings I have with Papa Legba – the conversations, the waltzes on the astral, the path clearing, the plotting for future entries – most of the time. And I know that there are people who are very curious as to what I do, how I do, and why I do. All I can tell you right now is that this is hard; this is painful; this is near-on impossible a lot of the time and for many reasons (many of which I’m sure I don’t even understand yet). But, I’m doing this because I don’t have a choice in the matter. I am doing this because I have a job to do. And I am doing this because, in a way, I’d like to make this a little bit more easily acceptable and easier to do for people who will follow my footsteps. I am doing this so that I can teach people who want to know more from a curious perspective as opposed to a doing it perspective.

But above all, I am borrowing this drum beat and trying to make it mine to honor the lwa who came to me with his devil-may-care grin and said, “You’re mine, honey-chile. It’s gonna be a rii-iide.”

And I just have to remember that when I am flooded with doubt, dismay, angst, and discouragement.

Papa Legba chose me for a purpose and now, I just have to live up to that purpose.

Dye Mon, Gen Mon.

Beyond the mountains, more mountains.

I talk about community and the need for one a lot on this blog. In the last year, I have had no less than one entry a month that has some variation on my message regarding the forging of a community. It’s only been in the last year that I’ve finally realized what it is to have a community and why one would need to have one. For most of my life, I’ve been the loner, the outsider, the wallflower. I’ve had friends of course, but I’ve only usually had about one or two people who I could speak with regarding my personal, heartfelt items. It’s not that I’m not social or unable to maintain friendships; I’m just very solitary, introverted, and remote by nature. But, with the forging of my Kemetic community (plus two non-Kemetics) that I’ve realized what it actually meant to have one? And it’s only been with the information Papa Legba dropped in my lap that I’ve realized how important that community is.

Without my community, I honestly don’t know if I’d be nearly as expressive, open, or able to have the religion that I do. I mean, I think I would have kept forging with the basic, “fuck people,” attitude that infused my soul when the tC drama happened last May. But without the encouragement of Devo, Sard, Helms, Dusken, L, Rei, and Jo who are my core components to my community*, then I don’t know if I’d be as far along with this Kemeticism thing as I am today. And honestly, without the knowledge of what a community, a small one within a large one, could offer me, I don’t think I’d be able to understand ma’at as clearly as I do today, either. Without that community, I could not live in ma’at and as much as I’d prefer to have my larger Kemetic community within driving distance, or even my smaller core group within driving distance, the online Kemetic community we’ve forged works well for me.

* This isn’t to denigrate my relationships with the others in that private Facebook group we all belong to – the one that I literally think of when I’m talking of my community at large. But as I mentioned, I’ve only ever gone to a handful of people in my group of friends with items, just as I’m sure the others in that group do with one another, and the ones listed above are my trouble shooters, my cheer leading team, and my closest boat paddlers.

I’ve mentioned before that I have a personal project Papa Legba has wanted me to get going on. I haven’t really had to do much for it because, well, he’s pretty liberal about time frames. As he’s told me before, since I’m not an initiate, things don’t move as swiftly as they would for initiates of a sosyete. I still have to do what it is he wants of me, but the time frame can be more in tune with my personal time frame than a “do it now” time frame that some people have had come from him. I’m blessed in that, I suppose. I’m sure there are a few people who have relationships with the lwa who would like to see such happen with them. The thing is, he’s been pushing a bit about the personal project lately. And I’ve been kind of trying to work it out before I get going.

For two days, I dreamed about driving on a highway. The first dream, I was driving down a highway/tollway with TH. We were just driving and enjoying the day when we came to the toll booth. It was three dollars and I pulled four quarters out of my pocket, placing them in the tape deck in my car (yes, my car is old enough for a tape deck, but it also has a CD player, so) to partially pay our toll. TH threw two dollar bills in the direction of the money catch pocket, which blew away in the wind and off we went. The next night, I dreamed about driving down a highway alone, both at night and during the day. I knew these were messages from Papa Legba as I went to bed, requesting his advice about things and wearing his sacred jewelry to aid me in my dreaming foray.

While pondering the dreams yesterday, I went into my little head space where I can easily meet with gods and lwa. Papa Legba was there, looking like he was some guru. He had his legs crossed and was wearing a white sheet in toga fashion. It highlighted how dark his skin really is. And he smiled at me, his eyes only partially closed. And I said to him, “I could do it now. I could become an initiate now and it would lend weight to our project.” There was more to it because, really, in this place, I rarely speak aloud and neither does he. So it was all conveyed via feelings and imagery, but it works better if I utilize words when I’m telling my story.

But the conversation went something like this,

Papa Legba shakes his head and says, “You will not have a community here.”

And I stare at him, shocked and annoyed. “But why would you do that to me? I finally figure out what it means to have one and you’re telling me that it doesn’t correlate with this shit?”

He sighs heavily at me, trying to convey that he feels the horror and pain that is sparring inside of me. “That’s not your work. That’s not what I want.”

Sniffing back snot and tears, I growl, “But it can be so very lonely.”

He looks up as though asking Bondye for direction here. I’ve always been a whiner and a baby, and I think that irritates him sometimes or maybe, it just hurts him that someone as childlike and naïve as me is someone he has to work with. “Honey-child, the bigger picture is more important than friendships.” And that is when I cry, curling in on my stomach where the pain hurts the most. “Not every path is one that you can walk with others,” he tells me sagely.

I sit up slowly, trying to catch his eye but he’s ignoring my glower. Or, maybe, he’s trying to ignore the tears and snot that streak my face. “Then why have a religion, at all? Why bother having a religion in the first place?”

And he sighs his long-suffering sigh and murmurs, “You always ask the hard questions.”

My day, yesterday, was not a good one. After learning that I’m not allowed to forge a community with other established people on this voodoo path, I got very angry and upset. I felt like all of the work I’ve been putting into the Kemetic community has been for naught. It really doesn’t correlate in all honesty. What I do with one section of my practice has little to nothing to do with the other, unless we’re talking the dedication I bring to both. And in this, it is my dedication that he requires for his work, but that’s not the totality of it.

The work Papa Legba has in store for me has more to do with solitaries, which is why he chose me. As much community as I have in the Kemetic community, I am still de facto a solitary practitioner. And I think it was that title, more than anything else, that drew him to me. Maybe it was always just my loner spirit, my quiet, my introversion, my wallflower persona that made him come to me. It doesn’t matter what the specific reason. On the one hand, it’s nice to know that being so alone and constantly on the sidelines is a good asset and one that he’s wanted in someone for a while. Not only can I bring solitary and dedication to this, I can also bring the tenacity as well as Sekhmet’s inner strength. If those aren’t all an excellent mix for what he wants, then he chose wrong.

And I don’t think he chose wrong.

So, that’s the project. I’m not here to make friends. I’m not here to become initiated. I am not here to twiddle my thumbs. I am on this path because he requires a loud-mouthed, fast-talking solitary practitioner who is willing to explain things, to teach others. That is what the lwa want. They appear to want to branch out, which is borne out in how many people have come to me asking about the lwa, in general and in specific. They want more and I am only a servant able to provide.

In other words…

I have work to do.

And as the title indicates, I can climb over as many mountains as I want, but there will always be another mountain to climb.

Letters to the Lwa: Legba.

Dear Legba,

You’ve been quiet lately. I’ve sensed you in the background, doing your Legba kind of thing. I don’t know what specifically you’re doing back there. Sometimes, I wonder if you are just subtly manipulating all of the strings in my life to bring about some major event in some future time. At other times, I think you’ve backed off, knowing that I need to spend more time in a Kemetic view than in the voodoo viewpoint I was getting constantly. I don’t know what you’re doing and frankly, I don’t give a tin shit. All I know is that I need you, now.

The job situation is pretty dire. I’ve been applying all over the place every day. Today, I went on to the usual job sites and I found nothing new. There was nothing new to apply for that I hadn’t already applied for. I don’t know what to do with this. I don’t know how to feel about this. This scares me. Am I running out of options? It doesn’t matter. That moment when I realized that everything I was looking at was something beyond my qualifications or something outside of area of expertise, I knew that I was going to end up filed under the label of “dire.” I’m there. It’s dire. I have two months, Legba; two months before I’m cut off.

I need a job.

I need your help.

You are the opener of the gateways. I know that you like to open them up when it suits you, but it should suit you just fine now. Give me a job. Give me a job. I need a job. I need to bring in enough money to cover the bills that I have now and the future ones I will incur when I put my son into full time daycare. I need a job. I need a job. And I need your help to get me to it.

The price for this will be named, privately, between the two of us. Meet me at the crossroads next to my house, and we’ll deal.