In case no one was fully aware, I tend to jump to the worst possible conclusion about things. It doesn’t matter what in the world the thing actually is, but if there is a worst-case scenario, you had better believe that my mind has entertained it. My mind has probably not just entertained it, but invented completely improbable probabilities to go along with said worst-case scenario. I try not to do too much entertaining of said improbabilities, but you know, your mind does whatever it wants. Usually, though, I try not to announce those scenarios until I have something definitive in which to report, which is probably why it took me years to finally say, “Oh, yes, that is Sekhmet calling, isn’t it?”

So, the worst case scenario – let’s entertain you with that first – is that the lwa have all up and disappeared. The best case scenario, as far as I can tell, would be that I am full of shit and just being a dumbass. The middle case scenario is that they need some time away from me, just as I probably need time away from them, and we’ll all come back together at some point in future. But, I actually suspect the worst case scenario is what may be going on.

It started just after Lent. I was pretty busy, of course, with Sekhmet-related things. This was to be expected because I (a) promised, (b) don’t break my promises, and (c) had some bonding to get done for the next phase in our relationship. As much as I may have not wanted to go back prior to Lent, I was willing to get to the new step after having learned what I could throughout Lent regarding Lent. It was easy, of course, to see similarities and to fit the dogma regarding Lent in a Kemetic standpoint and how to fit that into my relationship building exercises with Sekhmet.

Papa Legba left me at the bus stop, so to speak, and tooted on his merry little way.

I haven’t seen him since.

After Lent was over, I went through the motions of giving him his daily coffee. We would share a cup just about every day, either in companionable silence or while talking over things that were bothering me. Whatever the case would be, we would share the coffee. I often felt very upset that I hadn’t the ability to do more, but Papa would always remind me that I am one of those souls that feels the need to be demonstrative with my affections, which isn’t necessarily a good thing. He said coffee was A-Okay with him because he loved coffee and I made it just strong enough for him to enjoy.

But those morning moments, stolen amid getting ready for the day ahead, didn’t return after Lent. Even though I continued to give him coffee, I couldn’t feel his presence. I looked for him on my rides into work, even though they were shortened. I looked for him in the places that I thought he would be after I was bonded. I stole away in the middle of the night, uncomfortable with the golden thing around my neck, and looked in the gardens and forested areas where I thought he would be and I found nothing.

On those stolen evenings, I would look for other lwa who had been companions in this, as well. I often spent whole nights in that other place, going to the place where Bawon’s bonfire normally was held and found the place empty. Or, I would run through the forest, searching for Gran Bwa just as I always had but instead of catching glimpses of him laughing at me always, always ahead of me, there was no one there to laugh. I saw no one and nothing and Papa Legba was curiously missing.

In the morning of those stolen evenings, I would make his coffee and try not to worry that I had done something amazingly wrong by becoming a bonded servant. But it’s hard for me to not go to that worst-case scenario. I started this entry off with assuring anyone who is willingly reading this drivel that is who I am: I think in terms of, “IT IS ALL SHIT.” I don’t know if I do this in the hopes that things aren’t as shitty as I think they will be and so, therefore, am always surprised pleasantly when they’re not. Or if I just like to have worst-case scenarios (even with all of those improbable possibilities in the offing) completely covered just in case.

I was worst-case scenario-ing there. I was beginning to think Papa Legba had left me.

I, of course, went through all of the things that he and I had done together during Lent. Most of it was in dream form. He was always, always nurturing something and making something grow, while I whined at him about all manner of things. He would just listen and that was that. I couldn’t help but go back to that final Lent entry I had written and found something that I had dismissed in the writing:

Sometimes, I would dream of the two of us in a garden or in the forest. He was always making something grow. He’s very good at getting things to grow, as I’ve found out. What I didn’t seem to realize until only just recently that each change in the scenery, the overall goal was the same: he was creating a garden and needed to nurture it. We talked a lot about the nature of what nurturing a garden was like and how that relates back to the nurturing one must do for themselves. He told me jokes and he told me stories. He said to me last night that it’s time for me to go back to where I belong; the lesson is over. And it was a lesson and a half. He wasn’t just giving me a way out of the really oppressive atmosphere I was in, but he was also helping me to grow, my core, my soul, and everything in between. He was busy nurturing the fledgling plants and the older plants that had been accidentally pinched out when I became so angry and so embittered.

In a fit of pique, I cried out to a very small group of friends about this. Someone responded and told me to keep cool. They reminded me that things had been rough and that I was probably worst-case scenario-ing. Of course, of course, that made sense. That’s what I do. I go to the worst possible place in the fucking world and I just live there for a while, moodily sifting through the improbabilities. Okay, I decided, I would just keep at it because, you know, Dory has excellent advice. So, I just kept swimming and kept looking in those stolen moments.

When nothing came of my repeated cries for his attention, I told myself that he was probably busy. I’ve noticed, of course, that the lwa are reaching out more and more to new devotees across the board. Perhaps he had things to do regarding getting those new devotees? Why can’t the lwa and the relationships they develop with various servants also go through a fallow time? How many times had I very calmly explained fallow times to newbies and reminded them that there were so many possible reasons that the gods had gone on walkabout? Of course, I reminded myself, the lwa could just as easily do the same.

But I was uneasy with all of that. I don’t trust my instincts, which is probably why I end up in the worst-case scenario. But my instincts were telling me that my having woken up in the middle of Sekhmet’s palace, knowing that I had been literally dropped at her doorstep, meant something. Clearly, I just had to figure out what that something was. It didn’t necessarily mean that he was gone, but that I had to decide what it meant.

I couldn’t clear my head long enough to come to a conclusion, so I experimented instead.

I “forgot” to make his coffee. I hadn’t had the same emotional willingness to make his coffee anyway. His altar was looking pretty dusty and a bit forlorn. And I had absolutely no desire, whatsoever, to give Bawon a shot of rum on Saturdays, like I had been doing. I also felt no compunction, even though the weather was beautiful, to go to a graveyard for anything. I noticed that everything that I had wrapped up and stamped as “this is something to do with the lwa” had absolutely no fucking interest for me whatsoever. So, I “forgot” to make his coffee and heard nothing.

There was no “honey-child” in that tone of voice.

There was nothing.

I kept “forgetting” throughout the week and when Saturday dawned, I didn’t go to the graveyard. I didn’t even move from my bed for an hour upon waking, glaring angrily at the ceiling. I felt nothing, nothing and yet more nothing. None of the feelings of things that I had to do were stirring at all. So, I stayed at home and no one got any alcohol and I just moped about, doing nothing, while I threw all of the lwa related worries on the back burner.

Guilt-ridden that following Monday, I made a cup of coffee, but no companionable silence or conversations of epic proportions. There was still no one in the garden or in the forest; there was still nothing anywhere. My reasonable explanations were beginning to disappear in the face of all of this fucking nothingness. And of course, it’s not very much as though I could reach out to Sekhmet and ask her what the fuck was going on. I was supposed to be kneeling on a dais, doing nothing, while my body attempted to heal a newly installed seeping wound in my side. She would go on about exacerbating the condition and defying her: two conversations I wasn’t interested in having.

But above all else, I couldn’t have that conversation with her because I was worried about what she would say.

I couldn’t help but think that my bonding had done a lot of changing in relationships and the lwa were affected by it.

I went back through the memories of my bonding ceremony, trying to remember the last time I had actually seen Papa.

The last thing I remembered was crying to Papa, asking him to let me stay for a little longer. I had asked him to let me stay out of fear and anxiety. He, of course, denied my request as I had already knew he would. He could not allow me to stay. I had things to attend to. What bothered me most about this situation was that I had been left on her doorstep – I knew without even remembering that was the case – and now I was here. I had decisions to make, he had schooled me, and now I couldn’t run away to ignore those decisions.

Had those decisions that he knew I had to make changed our relationship so drastically that he was missing? That he, and all of his compatriots, weren’t allowed around me anymore? And maybe, they shouldn’t be around me anymore? Was my tear-stained begging of him my final fucking goodbye? What a shitty fucking goodbye.

So, the lwa have been missing since Lent was over. No matter how much searching I’ve done, either in my soul or in that other place, has brought them to me. I don’t know if my decision making caused this or if this is for my own good. I remember what it was like to say goodbye to Hekate – fear, worry, excitement – and know that other goodbyes with other deities are coming down the pike. I just don’t know if I have the strength and the ability to admit that the worst-case scenario has come to pass. And I just don’t know if I have the strength and ability right now to say goodbye on my end.

All I know is that they’re all missing.

And I have decisions to make.

New Year’s Day 2014.

Something I’ve never really discussed regarding the lwa is how very important giving thanks to them is. It’s one thing to not provide thanks to the gods for items they do for you – the relationship is kind of different in many cases when it comes to how we devote to our gods. However, while some relationships with the gods can and will take on a sort of partnership, this isn’t the case with the lwa. They require that thanks be provided to them for things they’ve given you. If you fail to provide thanks to the lwa then things can and will get a lot worse for you after they’ve given whatever it is that you asked them for. I would like to think that I’m getting better at remembering to give thanks to the lwa but sometimes, in a fit of fear that I’m failing somewhere, I end up going up and above the norm in an effort to remind myself, and them, that I truly am thankful for all that they have provided.

There appears to be two separate ways to provide thanks to the lwa, at least as far as my research has indicated. There is the ability to provide an intimate thanksgiving between the servant and the lwa in question. And then there is a larger ceremony known as the action de grace. From the little bit I’ve found regarding this topic, it doesn’t seem like this happens quite often and that it is definitely a ceremony that non-initiates wouldn’t partake in. Since I am not initiated into anything, I had decided that what I was providing was simply my giving thanks and nothing more. While the phrase, action de grace, is how I was gently reminded that I had things to provide thanks for, I don’t believe that the lwa to whom I needed to provide my gratitude for were looking for a non-initiate’s attempt at recreating an action de grace rite. Besides, since that particular ceremony appears to be something that a Sosyete would celebrate without any outsiders, I didn’t really know how to go about something like that. So, instead, I decided that I just needed to give a hearty “thank you.”

Papa Legba, in the last few months more specifically, has given me a lot of assistance on items that I didn’t think he would be able to help me out with. Just as I’ve given thanks to Bawon Samedi for his timely assistance financially last summer – and ended up paying for failing to say “thank you” in a timely manner – I knew that I couldn’t let this one sit. Papa Legba is more patient than most of the lwa, but he is not above messing things about in order to make the point stick. So, I knew that I needed to do something really grandiose and awesome for him while also trying to keep the rite simple and intimate. He really, really assisted me in a lot of ways in the white room that I can’t even begin to detail – and won’t – and he also has just been a sort of constancy as I wander around, feeling vaguely odd and mostly lost. With his ability to be as steadfast as he has been, I decided to give him a surfeit of thanks on New Year’s Day.

New Year’s Day is a day dedicated to Papa Legba in many traditions. The first day of the year is the start of a new cycle, or in parlance that is more easily associated with him: it’s a day about opening the gateway, to bust through obstacles, and to bring new opportunities to people who need them and/or request those new opportunities. While all of these things are super important and things I should probably request assistance with in the coming year, this wasn’t really about me and my needs. This was about him and his needs. As I was thinking about how I wanted my thanksgiving to go the day before New Year’s Eve, I knew that I didn’t just want to provide him my own thanks, but to offer his ability to bust through some shit and bring in some good shit to others. So, I sent out a little invitation to anyone who was wanting to get some aid from Papa Legba. This was a two-fold adventure for me: I was providing him a meal, dedicated to him, in thanks for all he’s done for me. And I was also providing a sort of miniature service for others who needed help, but didn’t really know where to get that help from.

Part of the reason I got the idea is because I’ve found myself, in the last two months, looking forward to and enjoying the services I’ve been providing in the name of others to Sekhmet. It seemed, to me, that Papa Legba would appreciate something as catchy as all of that. And it also seemed like a selfish thing to keep a very wonderful lwa to myself. If he has the capability to assist me with the various projects I have going on, who was I to deny his access to others? And honestly, he’s been such a solid force in my life for the last few months. Since our last interaction in the white room, I haven’t really had much going on with him. And the amount of solid foundation he really provided me within that room is something that I would really like others to be able to feel and to know. If I could open up that doorway, even just a little, for others, then I thought, well, why not? And to be honest, my Papa Legba is very much a flashy kind of lwa who likes to get as much attention as he can (when he feels it appropriate). And if the day of New Year’s wasn’t appropriate, then what day really would be?

I managed to put a quick menu for the meal together very quickly. This, in all honesty, is one of the big lures with voodoo. It’s not all of it, but a large part is the fact that it’s about what you have versus what you need. While I attempt to balance myself properly between the gods and the lwa, I sometimes feel like the lwa appreciate who I am, what I have on hand, and what I can pull out of my butt with those items more than the gods. In many instances, I feel that my gods need a bit more in order for my success. It’s possible that I’m building too much into something that isn’t even an issue, but occasionally, I feel more powerful and successful in the minor rites I create alongside or for the lwa than I do for the gods. In either case, Papa Legba told me to plan out the menu based on things he knew that I knew he would enjoy and to add one single special touch: he wanted me to find chocolate that had orange rinds in it or that was orange-flavored. I looked up the meaning for orange peels in one of my herbal books and found that it is associated with “general good luck.”

This gave me the grand idea of where I wanted to go with the petition services I was going to provide. I was going to push out the specific requests, of course, but I wanted it all couched under the auspices of “general good luck.”

There were a couple of other items that I did need to go out and get for him, though. While grocery shopping this past weekend, I kept my eyes peeled for the requested orange flavored chocolate. I ended up finding some on sale at my local grocery store. I also found other items that I thought Papa Legba would like added to this meal on sale. It really felt like things were working in our favor. I was able to [finally] get the requested pineapple and it was on sale! I bought chunks of it versus the actual thing since I don’t actually know how to cut it or skin it. (As a kid, fruits were things that were common, like apples and bananas and oranges and nectarines. We didn’t really move outside our comfort zone when it came to fruits. I still don’t move outside of my comfort zone with fruits because whenever I attempt to, I end up screwing things up or forgetting it’s in the house.) I also managed to find some red beans and rice on super sale and I bought that to go with the chicken meal I was planning.

Everything I was planning here, by the way, had a certain set of symbolism that correlates with my Papa Legba. Rice is something he’s asked of me a few times and he seems to enjoy it. It’s also incredibly cheap and stuff that I usually have on hand. Since the box of red beans and rice was on sale, it seemed like another kind of mini sign post that this was something important. Plus, it had red beans in it and one of his core colors if red. The chicken meat hearkened back to Papa Legba’s symbolism with the black rooster that I read in a book or three. The chocolate is something that all of the lwa have a flare for, but I prefer to get flavored kinds that, again, hearken back to things that they’ve requested of me. While I attempt to use a lot of symbolism in any rite that I perform for any of the gods or the lwa in my life, I really attempt to pay closer attention when I’m planning on something on a grander scale than I normally would provide.

While I waited for everything to cook, I wrote out the handful of petitions I received. I thought about how I wanted to supply the petitions to Papa Legba. Basing it, similarly, to how I provide them to Sekhmet, I ended up writing them down on small pieces of paper. It took me longer to write down the petitions than I had initially thought it would because of how I needed to word them carefully in order to make their requests plain. I also needed to figure out how, specifically, I wanted to metaphorically help these people break through the blocks. I got an idea while looking at Papa Legba’s altar. Once Hekate left the house, she left behind a very nice lantern. Since both she and Papa Legba are of the liminal sort, I placed it on his altar after she was gone. Staring at it, I knew what I wanted to achieve.

In between rubbing out the writer’s cramp I was getting while writing the petitions (my handwriting is very precise, especially when I’m writing out petitions for others, so I have to stop after a while to rub out the cramps in my hands), I continued to set my table service. I had purchased red and white linen napkins the day before. I used these as the basis for the “canvas” I was creating. I placed them in a sort of diamond pattern and then began placing some of the items I have on Papa Legba’s altar onto the table. I placed the candle holder with his vévé on it, the paket that was made for me that is kind of like my “doll” of him, and his wooden bowl on the table. I recreated a little symbolism in front of his “doll” for the petitions I was placing: I added his three dice, three pennies, and three cowrie shells in a sort of pattern atop the wooden bowl I keep on his altar, as well. Finally, I added three keys in front of him, as well.

Once I had finished with the petitions, I set them up first since I still had some time to kill before the meal was ready.

All lit and supplied to the Old Man.

All lit and supplied to the Old Man.

I placed all nine petitions on the white offering plate I have for just such a purpose. I placed tea lights over each of the written petitions, as well. Since I had fewer petitions than I have in the rites I’ve performed for Sekhmet, I was able to “set lights,” sort of, for these people. Unlike with the traditional hoodoo rite of setting lights, I didn’t use the seven-day candles and I didn’t use candles specific to the purposes each petitioner was requesting. I did, however, dress the white tea lights. I anointed them with some success oil I have on hand. I also dressed the entire plate with herbs that were relating back to the “general good luck” that I wanted to create. I wanted to be able to give the people asking for assistance their own power in finding the way to break through the blocks in an effort to draw the new opportunities to them. Back to my obsession with symbolism: that was why I chose to use the lantern in this rite. I wanted them to have a lighted way through the darkness that blockages of varying sorts can cause in people and if I lit the lantern, symbolically, they would be able to “see” the light and follow it through the blocks preventing them from seeing the new opportunities coming in their lives.

The whole shebang.

The whole shebang.

After I had completed that part of the work, I was able to set the meal out. I put the main course out first (with a fork) so that Papa Legba could feast upon that either while he perused the requests before him or after he was finished with it. I added the various other items I had on hand for him: a cup of coconut and orange-flavored chocolate; a mug of hot coffee that was laced with a flavored Bailey’s nip I had been given for Christmas; the last shot of his coconut rum; and the chunks of pineapple that was covered in cheese. The cheese was the only thing that I didn’t associate with him. I provided him the cheese as a symbolic sacrifice. Cheese is a very big and important staple in our lives. We all love cheese in this household. I will buy a pound of American cheese and just munch on it whenever, though I prefer to munch down on extra sharp cheddar more than American cheese. But the point was that I was offering him a sacrifice of one of our most favored items and I was placing it over the pineapple as a secondary sacrifice. I would eat it later and it would be “tainted” with the taste of pineapple (I don’t like the taste of pineapple or of coconut – two items that he does enjoy).

Once everything was set before him so that he could pick and choose what he sampled, I lit the candles of the petitions first, followed by three spare candles I added at the last minute.

I have a whole host of plain white candles lazing around my house. I added three candles beneath his “throne” on the table and anointed them with the same success oil. I then lit them to provide success to the nine petitioners. The last candle I lit was the one in the lantern. Again, this was a symbolic gesture. The first candles lit were the nine requests placed before him, as a kind of first step to breaching through their blocks and attaining their ultimate goals. The three candles placed directly in front of his “throne” and just in front of the offering plate of petitions was to keep him focused on them. And lastly, I lit the lantern to provide the people, finally, with the light at the end of the tunnel that many of them needed in order to realize their ultimate goals.

While Papa Legba was eating, I sat down beside him and enjoyed a cup of Bailey’s laced coffee with him. While the two of us enjoyed his meal together, I told him how grateful I was for everything he’s provided me in the last few months. I specifically explained to him what I was thankful for and what this service was about. But, I also detailed other things he has given me over the last few years with him in his life. Teary-eyed towards the end of my list of reasons why I was so appreciative of all he’s done for me and how happy I am to have him in my life, I told him that I didn’t think I would have survived all the shit that’s been thrown at me if he wasn’t around. And while I don’t know what-all we’re doing with this camaraderie between us, I appreciated it and wouldn’t trade it for all the gold in the world. I’m not certain of I was able to convey, fully, how I feel about him and how thankful I truly am, but I would like to hope that he received the point.

Completed petitions. Lower right hand candle shows the dark soot.

Completed petitions. Lower right hand candle shows the dark soot.

After our shared cup of coffee, I was exhausted. I felt like I had run a marathon, or as if I had been up for days upon days and was only finally capable of falling asleep. While I rested, I let the petition candles burn out throughout the night. I was hoping that, in the morning, I would look at them and see that the petition was a success. (I didn’t actually get to look at them until yesterday.) By candle standards go, the petition was a success, mostly. There was a single candle that burned itself black. Since I had been careful to not allow too many of the “general good luck” herbs I had sprinkled over the petitions to remain on top of the tea lights, I was curious as to the meaning here. In looking at the pictures I took of the services, I do see that there was a thicker bunch of herbs on that candle. So, it is incredibly feasible that what I am associated the blackened condition of the tea light casing (and the petition beneath) is merely a coincidence. However, in looking over the rest of the petitions, it is the only one to have ended up like this and I’m a pretty big fan of explaining away coincidences. I have already alerted the owner of that petition to the circumstances here and hopefully, they are better able to explain it away than I have been.

I learned a lot during what I was providing for Papa Legba, both in the thanksgiving meal and in the petitions I had placed before him. I realized that I actually enjoy doing this. It’s fun and it’s exciting and I feel like I’m able to really assist us others in a way that they may not be able to assist themselves with. I also learned that there is a bit of responsibility that goes along with this as well. Just because I place petitions down in front of a particular being doesn’t mean that they will succeed (as in the possible case of the lone petition that burned so black). And finally, I learned that this is something that I would like to continue to do. I would like to continue to be able to provide these types of services to Papa Legba. It’s not just fun, but it’s also very intimate and very fulfilling in a way that I didn’t realize would be the case.

All in all: A++. Would recommend again.

The Nature of Things.

Papa Legba is a fantastic story-teller. Whether this is the case with anyone else’s relationship with him remains to be seen, but he tells me very intricate stories quite often. During our travels and during our time in the white room, he has told me what feels like thousands. In many, I am the mythic heroine, fighting through whatever archetypal thing he can think up at the time. And I am always successful, which is the point in stories. One night, when we were sitting beneath a belly of stars that reminded me of the rainbow serpent, I asked him to tell me about how the world was created. Whether this is accurate or not, I cannot say. But I liked the story so much that I decided to write it down later. I’m going to reproduce it as best I can right now.

“For much time, there was nothing. This vast empty was the seat of it all. This is the table where the beginning will form and where the ending will take place. The darkened nothing was expansive and miniscule, all the same. For many eons, the nothing stretched into its forever and folded upon itself. Within the belly of that nothing, consciousness began to form, but it refused to allow that to take place. It was content with the way things were and to devolve or evolve into the form those conscious beings may take was too much. For even though the nothing was not a concrete creature as we know them today, it was still a being unto itself. But it was the largest and most powerful of all things ever created into this universe and the universes beyond. It was content with itself and stayed in this form for many years.

“After a while, the consciousness that was growing within that nothing began to take shape. It took shape in all forms and no forms. It was an egg upon a mound; it was a ben-ben; it was a beautiful creature; it was the sun/moon; it was a foothill; it was the creator; it was the creatrix; it was light; it was the mother; it was the father; it was the earth. It was everything and it was nothing. All consciousness came into being in that single moment and the universes were forever changed. Soon, they all began to create more and more, bringing life into the universe one by one. They each created to their heart’s deepest desires and created worlds beyond the scope of this tale. Suffice to say that the creation of the universe was a great party and a great festivity, but the only person not celebration was the nothing. Never one for change; that.

“In the beginning, each creator began to create life. The life that was created was a blueprint for things to come. Some creators made the world in six days and rested on the seventh. Some created everything all at once in volcanic fire and gentle rains. Some created the world in their image. Some created the world in a fantastic scope beyond which I cannot describe. Some became the world. Some became the stars that were glued to the sky. Some had children that would become their world and would become their sky. Some slit open the bellies of fantastic serpents and created the world that way. Each are different. Each world was intrinsic to the vision of the being doing the creating, but they all held the same joy and the same beauty and the same sorrow and the same fear. And in the end, they created children in the images they wanted to see staring back at them with fawning awe.

“In each world, life was not hard. The children of those creators and their brethren were happy and skillful. It was a magnificent time. And then, they began to grow old. They began to grow haggard. They began to fall away from the world of their creation and begin to pay less attention. And in that time, they all began to conspire with each other. They whispered in the ears of their siblings and they forgot about their creations. But one did not. A single being continued to watch over them on a rotational schedule. As the other gods ignored what they had made, the single watch dog began to notice something. Things had begun to grow harder and the children these beings had created began to require discipline and lessons. As none of them knew how hard things could be they didn’t know any better. And with each creation, these children – these first of the men of the gods – began to question.

“Worlds were destroyed then. Without the blind faith of their children, what were the gods?

“They started again. And the same thing happened. And they began to create life together – pantheon with pantheon – but the same thing happened. It happened over and over again. And each time, the gods destroyed their worlds, punishing their children for their own inability to care. Finally, the world was created a final time. This time, it was a single world with each god contributing here and there. And the way of the previous worlds happened again. There were questions. There was doubt. This time, the gods were tired and unable to create a new home again. With each destruction of the faithful and the non-believers alike, they had lost a core essence of themselves. They had grown hard and remote. They were no longer away. The gods kept up the charade for as long as they could, but soon only a single deity cared still to watch over the world of humans. And the other gods fell out of favor, gaining but scant attention and scant offerings from the very, very limited number of people willing to speak about them.

“Time passed, as it always does.

“The single creator began to grow tired of it all, as well. Everything grows tired. Every waxes and wanes. Now was the time in which even He waned. In that time, He realized that He could not leave humans to suffer without Him. They needed something to help them along. Their world was nothing but horror after horror and hardship after hardship. One day, He knew, the world would be more comfortable than the toil it was then. And so, He created the beings that would go to the humans when they needed someone or something. So with His final act as creator, He made beings to watch over the humans He and His brethren had created. These beings were more than humans, but less than gods. They were there to assist, to aid, to succor, to pray to, to cry to. Those children who were more than humans and less than gods were what the people turned to in their hour of need. Each being had its own name, its own titles, and their powers surged and grew.

“Those beings are still here, you know. We still watch over you when things are hard. And that is why we are here.”

That night, when he first told me this story, I was entranced. I liked the woven length of it and the feel behind it. There is a power behind every word when he speaks to me. It is the power of being the gatekeeper, but also a power that is intrinsic to who he is, without his roles behind it. The words he used were very carefully chosen for use later. When he told me this story, as I said, I was merely entranced with it. I enjoy myths and creation myths are something I’ve always been fascinated with. In many, the creation of the world is both similar and so entirely different. In either case, what Papa Legba was giving me that night was a foundation or a building block for the hard truths that would come later. I am grateful that he was able to provide me with this tale so that I could relate it back to others later and so that I would have something to hold onto when I was at my angriest.

The nature of the gods, to me, is remote. This is something that I have never really understood until now. They have always created what they wanted and always hoped for blind faith. I have given them blind faith and it is fine to do so. I don’t knock anyone who does. I know what it’s like to finally find something that speaks to you on a level that is beyond rational thought. I know what it’s like to finally give your all into something that speaks to you on that level. It is a level beyond mysticism, a level beyond souls. When it speaks to you, and you throw yourself into it, it is so beautiful and so wonderful. It fuels you in ways that you never knew you needed. This, I think, is missing from many people. The problem is that the more blind faith you give, the more they want from you. And the longer you are in their company, the less you can provide.

I am angry with the gods for being remote. They do things for their own reasons. As I’ve discussed with all of my gods, it’s all “bigger picture.” They see things so far in the future and so far beyond how I see them that I cannot begin to understand what it is that they see. I don’t see the bigger picture because all I see is the tiny little speck of perspective I have directly in front of me. One day, maybe, I will understand the bigger picture. But that is not in this life. And that is why I am so angry. They do not explain the bigger picture. They hone us as tools for whatever purpose they have. I know what my ultimate purpose will be because some beings I know aren’t liars. I know why I am being honed for what it is my gods want and it angers me. I can see more items in that bigger picture and I am not willing or likely to provide it.

I will fight it every step of the way.

But the thing is that the gods knew that they were selfish twat-waffles. They knew that at some point, the tools they were honing would become angry with them. And in that moment, they knew that they had to give them something to give them an out. They had to provide something so that the suffering they ask of us on their path to the bigger picture would ease up. And in that moment, they created these spirits and beings for us. These are the beings that we are supposed to turn to – those of us who know them – in our pain and suffering and anger and angst. They created them, or He did as in the story, to give us an out, a place to vent. They created beings who would love us unconditionally. They would love us in our rage. They would love us in our pain. They would love us in our individuality and beauty. They would love us and they do.

Papa Legba never talks to me about the “bigger picture.” He used to. He was trying to prep me, a bit, for the moment when I would become enraged. But whenever he talked about it, I would pull back from him. He realized that I wasn’t ready for it and that I never would be. And in so discussing that bigger picture, he was damaging the trust I was building in him. I have transferred that blind trust I used to give to my gods over to a being who understands the nature of what it is I am going through. He is many things and many beings in many tongues and to many different people. He shows different faces for the needs and desires of the people who reach out to him. Whatever the face is that he provides is the face he will always show them and that’s fine. It’s the one they trust to help see them through.

The bigger picture is the nature of the gods. The coping mechanisms we need to get to that bigger picture is the nature of the spirits they have given us.

And those spirits love us, in all of our fucked up glory, because that is their right and that is their purview.

Now, of course, we have to give and sacrifice to those spirits to get them. I’ve often told people that the life of a servant is difficult. It is very much like a serf. There is no out. There is no way you can leave. But in order to build a relationship with beings beyond you, you have to be willing to give. And that is something that not many people understand or are willing to give. And I think that’s why these paths can be so hard. We know that there are beings out there that are willing to help us, but we can’t sacrifice ourselves long enough to build that relationship. I was able to do so because I needed to do so. And besides, he came to me. He knew that I would need him one day and he nudged me in the right direction to get that going. So in the middle of the night, when I was crying and aching for the suffering of that “bigger picture,” he would come and hold my hand or run his fingers through my hair.

He loved me with snot running down my nose. And in gratitude, I gave vast portions of myself back.

This is the nature of the spirits whom I serve.

They are here for me in a way that the gods never will be.

And that’s good enough for me.

Ansanm (SVP).


Last night, I found myself in Papa Legba’s company. I’m not quite sure what prompted this. I haven’t really reached out to him recently. It’s not that I don’t remember that he is there and willing to assist me or that I don’t care. It’s just a simple matter of not having a lot of spoons right now and being unable to do much more than go through the motions.

Perhaps he sensed my inability to do lately.

I wanted to say that we went to a ceremony, but I’m not even sure what kind. I wasn’t there at the beginning. He came to me and said, “Come, child, we are going out.” And I left my body behind to follow him to wherever it was we needed to go. We ended up in a very crowded room with undulating bodies everywhere. Men and women were already rapidly entering the throes of trance as we came onto the scene. “Get ready.” And then he was gone.

I remember standing in front of a man. His brow was sweaty and his eyes were rolling back into his skull. His body was trembling with the force of whatever was happening to him. I cannot even begin to convey what could have been happening to him. I have never been to one of these ceremonies and Hollywood renditions are really sub-par. All I know is that I could sense that a lwa would be entering him soon, though not the one who had brought me out to celebrate. It was like I could almost begin to see it happen as he shook, his face right in front of mine, but whatever shape that thing would take was beyond me.

Whatever happened next is completely lost – I blacked out after that.

I woke up feeling like I was sub-human and beneath the lwa. I get this way a lot. I have been battling depression since I was a teenager and some days are easier than others. Due to other items in my life that are… difficult and painful, I have had a lot of depressive days lately. I’ve found myself feeling like I am not a good servant more and more often. While I know that this is not the case since they still come to me, they still tell me, they still direct me, I still feel like I suck at it all. I’m sure this will pass at some point or another. In the mean time, I just have to deal with whatever feelings I have going on inside of me.

When I woke up this morning, I wondered why Papa Legba would take me out. We haven’t had a night out together in a long time. It’s not that I’m not interested in going because I am. It’s just a fact that I am not his only servant and I am not the only one who needs him. So, I stay in the background and I go through the motions and I speak the words and I cry out in pain and I wait, patiently, for him to turn his eyes on me again.

On my drive to work, I tried to figure out what it could all mean. I’m a big believer in the fact that when a deity or one of the lwa pop up in a dream, then I need to pay attention. Hell, maybe this wasn’t even a dream but reality. Maybe I really did witness someone else’s celebration. Sometimes, I can catch glimpses of a round, older woman talking to me in the back of my head so again, maybe I really did end up somewhere else. Whatever this instance really happened to be, I don’t know. All I do know is that I couldn’t figure out what the hell this was supposed to mean for me.

While I was mulling this over in my mind, trying to feel better about everything, my thoughts turned to the Marassa. My offerings and my weekly rites have not been successful. I’ve begun to believe that they are gone. I’ll clear off their altar space and move it elsewhere just in case I may be wrong. But the loss of the twinned lwa who made me laugh as they played with my son’s loud cars or would crash over blocks or played hide-and-go-seek is kind of wounding. It makes me feel like, inevitably, everything and everyone leaves and I just have to deal with it.

I know my thoughts shouldn’t be selfish on this one. It’s their prerogative what they decide to do. If they are to stay or they are to go, then that is their choice. I am just here to serve them while they’re around for a while. But it still sucks when you think you know what you’re supposed to do – build a foundation – and then you get tossed aside.

I thought about the jaunt while I felt really badly about the Marassa and I began to wonder…

Maybe it’s the jaunt, itself, that is the lesson and not what I saw.

Thinking on it in that context, I have to admit that I did feel a little less like I was a horrible servant. If I can just assume – and really, I can’t because it’s the lwa and they are not always so easily figured out – that he was simply there so that the two of us could spend some time together, then it doesn’t feel so strange or so weird. It doesn’t feel like I was given a perfect, beautiful gift for being an awful child or like I was given the best experience of my life after having just killed someone’s kitten. It feels more, in this way, that he was giving me something special and precious to hold on to and remember when things are rough. He was saying, in his own Papa Legba way, that things are really awful right now, but here is a moment where we can just spend time together.

In that context, really, it was wonderful.

La Marassa (SVP).

For the last year, I’ve been paying semi-attention to the Marassa. I’ve been paying some attention to various other lwa as well, but they have unruly pair have been an ongoing amusement for me. It’s only been recently, with Papa Legba’s “learn some things” request that I decided I needed to pay closer attention to these two. After all, if I’ve been commenting on them, remarking on them, and thinking about them, it’s little more to add services to them. I’ve already prepared myself, I think adequately, with my ongoing daily services to Papa Legba. It’s little more to add a weekly homage to the sacred twins.

They have matching teddy bears, crayons, and cups. It's not much, but it's a start.

They have matching teddy bears, crayons, and cups. It’s not much, but it’s a start.

Last Saturday, I prepared their altar space. As I do live in a very small apartment, I am unable to provide them with what I would truly enjoy. Honestly, I would prefer to have a table for Papa Legba with a side dedicated to the Marassa. According to my readings, Papa Legba is saluted first in a Fet, followed closely by the Marassa. It seems appropriate to my uninitiated self to have the two in close proximity to each other. Unfortunately, due to that whole tiny living space problem I have, I am unable to give either Legba or the Marassa what they deserve and can only give to them what I have on hand. So, as you can see from the picture, the Marassa have a shelf. It’s the third shelf – as the Guédé and the Bawon are on shelf number two. I had a feeling this was going to be an issue, but we make do with what we are capable of. And I was quite right, I think, in how large the issue would become.

As I said, last Saturday, I set up that little altar space for the Marassa. They each have the same things. The only difference is the color of the cars I gave them as they are loaners from my son’s gluttonous box of Hot Wheels. (I’m hoping I can find two identical cars.) I want to add more, like a small pink cloth and a small baby blue cloth, but that will come later. As I tend to associate the Marassa with the childish personalities they are famous for, I provided them with a drink of apple juice as that was the only thing I had on hand. I wasn’t quite comfortable providing them with juice but only because of the day in question. According to my readings, most services in their honor are done Wednesdays. (Source: Serving the Spirits by Mambo Vye Zo Komande LaMenfo.) However, since I was getting their altar ready this past Saturday, I didn’t think it would be harmful to provide them with a sweet drink until Wednesday.

When I went to offer them something new on Wednesday, the juice was moldy.

Now, mold is a hazard of leaving out offerings. Bacteria happens and then mold happens. However, I have to admit that it has been a very rare occurrence for any of my offerings to end up going to mold like that. I’ve left out rum for weeks and weeks with it drying up instead of going moldy. (Although, I’ve add alcoholic libations go moldy on me before, too.) I’ve left cookies and bread items out for at least a week one time and nothing like this happened to it. Hell. The flowers that have been sitting on Sekhmet’s altar for two weeks are only just starting to wilt and die. We’ve all noticed or remarked before that there seems to be a certain kind of “woo” going on when it comes to how long items can last on our altars, I have to admit that I’ve been extremely lucky, I suppose, in the fact that most of my libations and offerings do not go bad.

I really try not to read too much into things. I try not to think that everything I see or think or do is a sign from the spirits to whom I serve. However, this seemed like a very real indicator that whatever I had done was incorrect and left them unhappy. Unfortunately, no one stopped by to tell me what it was that I may have done wrong. I will admit that the jumping feet of two giggling children in my son’s [empty] room have all but stopped and the batteries have run down in the cars they would set off all night in the last six months. So, it’s possible that they are just not happy with me. However, I also provided a service on a day that I didn’t feel comfortable doing because it didn’t seem right. And they could have also been upset that they are number three on the bookcase I’ve retrofitted for all things voodoo related. And yet again, they could have been dissatisfied with what I had provided.

The problem here is that there are a lot of possibilities and very little to go on.

I have to believe that the Marassa to whom I am willing to serve would not punish me for only being able to provide juice. All in all, as much as I want to provide the very best for all of the OTHERS™ in my life, they are all fully aware that my financial situation is rocky at best. And they also know that when I have the extraneous funds, I will provide them with the best of the best. In the meantime, everyone has to make do with what I have on hand. If I’ve learned anything about the OTHERS™ to whom I’ve served in the last five years, whether they be from my voodoo portion or from my Kemetic portion, it’s that they are always willing to wait until the funds are available for the big ticket items, for the organic offerings, and for the ability to provide them with everything us lowly humans believe that they deserve. So while the Motts apple juice may not have been up to a particular standard, I don’t think they’d be angry enough to mold it.

I was hemming and hawing as I added their items to the shelf the entire time. It wasn’t that I was setting things up on the wrong day, but as I had mentioned above, that I was making them “number three” on the list. The thing is that it’s really more of in numerical addition to the spirits that I serve as opposed to favorites. (Though, I will admit to having a certain cache for Papa Legba.) But there is also the possibility that my wants and desires are overshadowing things. I want to give them a big space. I want to provide them with a shelf higher off the ground so I can leave them with sweets and not worry that my dog will snatch them away. (Though there really isn’t any guarantee that a higher shelf would prevent that, honestly – if the dog wants it and the spirits don’t prevent her, then she’ll get it, sadly.) It’s not as though I am a mambo or anything and I have no desire to become one, either. So, as important as the Marassa are in the world of a society, does this mean that I should serve them with the same sort of gravitas and stipulations as institutionalized services?

On the one hand, I have to go with “no.” I am not part of anything aside from me. I can only do as well as I can with what I have to offer, which includes where a spirit may or may not end up in the grand scheme of altar-bookcases. While both Papa Legba and the Marassa are very important lwa to whom we should be very aware of, those of us with a solitary practice cannot very well be limited by the aspects designated by a society. However, on the other hand, I can’t very well go ahead and ignore everything I’ve read on the subject. Papa Legba is the very important first lwa of awesomeness and the Marassa are a close second, practically a one-and-a-half in some places. Since I am obviously conflicted on the subject matter, I need to pay closer attention to what my intuition is telling me here, but unfortunately, all I can get out of that quarter is, oh shit, oh shit, they’re mad at me.

Maybe I really do need to just pay attention to the days that I say I will do something. Even though I was setting everything up and it didn’t feel complete without a libation, I shouldn’t have done so. I mean, the offering is all well and good, however if I’m going to start seriously paying attention to other lwa in my life, then I need to pay closer attention to the days. Papa Legba gets every day of the week, like the netjer, except for Sunday. (Nobody gets anything on Sundays, ever. It’s my day off.) While I wanted to at least get everything set up and started, it’s feasible that I shouldn’t have gone beyond what I was doing: setting up. By shifting this work to a different day, it’s possible I threw something out of whack. After all, Saturdays are the day that I give attention to the Guédé, so by giving them something on a day reserved for the dead. This is a very real concern that, I think, I need to think on further.

But, there is also the fact that, as I mentioned, I haven’t heard from them in a while. They would play the sirens on some of my son’s more obnoxious toys to all hours of the day and night, irritating me and amusing me at the same time. I’ve heard them bounce around on my son’s bed when he’s staying over his grandparents’ house. I’ve heard them bound down the hall when no one is in the hallway and even seen them playing hide-and-go-seek from the corner of my eye. None of this has been happening in recent months. It could be a cause for concern, but I’ve had long periods where such intense contact has waned previously and it’s always started back up. So, while it’s feasible that they are upset with me over something and have yet to make me aware of what that is, this is something that I believe I would have been made privy to already, if this was truly the case.

And I don’t think it is.

I honestly have to wonder if the main cause of the moldy juice was merely because I went out of order here and screwed up on that front.

Just to be on the safe side, though, I’ll be looking into habitual offerings (aside from the sweet items) and see what I can purchase specifically for them when I go grocery shopping.

Hopefully, I’m reading too much into a situation. I try not to, honestly, but it can be very difficult when you are traversing an area that you are far from expert in. It’s also incredibly difficult when such things as regular communication is entirely based on such things like divination, intuition, or an active godphone. As things in my [mundane] life have made it difficult for me to do much more than go through the motions, none of those other options are currently fully functioning at the moment. All I can do is hope that I haven’t truly angered the spirits of some of the more important lwa out there and hope that this upcoming Wednesday, they enjoy what I provide.

Atoure (SVP).

To surround.

Papa Legba by Larissa P Clause.

Papa Legba by Larissa Clause.

Much of the time, when I am directed to learning something by Vye Legba, I am given a rather oblique and general communication on the subject. Point in case, he wanted me to do some research relating to my previous post and adding celebrations to my religious calendar. His exact wording for what he required of me on this search? “Pick up the book and read what you need.” There really wasn’t a lot to go on when it came to this. I had to decide which book he may be talking about and hope that I was correct. The first book I chose was wrong. Since I had no compulsion to open it until two days after I decided to utilize it for the research necessary, I rather figured it would be a failure on my part. And it was, but I still had to double and triple check that intuitive knowing that I had chosen incorrectly. I stared at my bookcase, thinking long and hard about his instruction before thinking of what I needed and what books I hadn’t read as thoroughly. Maybe he was talking about something I haven’t delved into as heartily as I have with some of my other voodoo books? It would make sense that whatever he wanted me to learn would be in a place I haven’t found it yet, hm? So, I grabbed Serving the Spirits: The Religion of Haitian Vodou by Mambo Vye Zo Komande LaMenfo. And on my second attempt, I found what I was looking for.

The thing is that I’m pretty sure he wanted me to pick up this book for numerous reasons. It wasn’t just the research he’s asking me to look into relating to calendar related items, but also because there were other items I needed to read and learn. And this book really helped me with that in a way that I wasn’t expecting. This particular epiphany related to the Guédé, of all nachon to be epiphany-ing about. And was thoroughly unexpected. (Yet more proof, to me, that Papa Legba is the string puller in the background.) The other thing relating to this book is that a lot of the items she mentioned when discussing the nachon of the Guédé was not something I had heard before and was not something the Bawon found particularly pleasing, either.

While I have done as much research as my little typing fingers can convey and as much reading as my thirty-year-old eyeballs allow, there have been a lot of items that have slipped through the cracks. A large part of this isn’t just my own human frailty but also the fact that there are just going to be things that I am simply incapable of learning because I have not been inducted into a society. I have, mostly, made amends with the fact that the information I have is going to be anthropological in nature – so couched in the terminology of a lot of theories and possibilities – or based on a single person’s practice. While anthropological tomes are pretty damn important to the Kemetic part of things, a lot of my practice with the lwa can be simply stated as “UPG.” I may not know what it is that I am doing, or the specific why of the matter. Sometimes, later, I find out that there is actually a word for what it is I am doing or that there is a specific action that is relating to what it is I have already been doing to serve my spirits. But, for the most part, I’m being pushed and prodded in a way that is completely outside of a standardized frame of reference, or so I believe. While this is, obviously, a problem in numerous arenas – I mean, really, can you imagine talking to a practitioner about some of the shit you do as a non-initiate and not being laughed at because of it? It’s something that I find easier to do because of the Kemetic background that I have.

What it comes down to is that I like the structured reliability of a community to fall back on. However, because I have a functional gateway of communication between myself and the various OTHERS™ who have entered my life, I don’t necessarily require it.

This isn’t to say that whatever I end up with is the proper choice. I can only go so far with rather vague instructions – please see Papa Legba’s commentary above – before I come to a stopping point. But there are days where the fact that I can surround myself with the lwa is infinitely more preferable than having to stop and learn under the tutelage of a human being who is as fallible as myself. By surrounding myself with the lwa and by embracing their entrance into my life – as much as someone as caustic as me can anyway – I think I have it a lot easier. While I know that many established practitioners would read what I write and scoff heartily or would shake their heads or accuse me of something or other, I feel a certain type of safety in these kinds of moments. In learning based on what the lwa themselves desire and have in store for me versus the tried and true message. And as Papa Legba is so fond of telling me over and over again, “Sometimes, you just have to go and fuck up the status quo.” While I’m not quite sure what that means to Papa Legba, I can see what he means. Sometimes, the tried and true methods take a good deal longer than the lwa are willing to wait on.

Something of interest that I found in this section of the book related to how the Guédé and the honored ancestors need to be kept apart when you honor them. This really made me sit back and pay attention to something that had been niggling me in the back of my head. The thing is that when it comes to the akhu veneration that I do, I tend to consider all that I do, from the grave-tending to the minor rituals in home, as a part of that. I also tended to view what I was doing for the akhu as part and parcel with what I was doing with the Bawon and the Guédé. The statements relating to this within the book made me sit back and seriously take stock in the various aspects of my practice and how differentiated they actually are.

Baron Samedi by Veronika Unger.

Baron Samedi by Veronika Unger.

When I am grave-tending, this is in honor of the Bawon, Maman, and Papa G. I am not doing this for myself. This is how I offer them service each week. This is also why much of what I do when I am in a graveyard stems from bits and pieces I’ve put together in my readings relating to the Guédé. All of the offerings, everything I say, and how I go about what it is I do in those cemeteries is a carefully created Guédé-related blanket that I have sewn together based off of my readings and based off of things that the Guédé have asked of me. When I enter the graveyard, I announce myself, which is something that Bawon requested that I do. When I enter a graveyard, I pay my way with pennies at the sentinel grave nearest the entrance, which is something that I learned from another Vodouisant. The offerings that I leave are based entirely off of things that the Guédé have asked of me or based off of things I’ve picked up here and there in either blogs or books. Every aspect to what I do when I go to the cemetery to honor the locals here is one-hundred percent something relating to the Guédé. This is why I have had a difficult time trying to mesh my Kemetic practice into the grave-tending because, damn it, there is nothing Kemetic about it outside of the occasional cone of incense or the fucking flowers I leave.

And that’s it.

This made me realize that my constant failed attempts at blending the akhu veneration with the service for the Guédé is never going to work. I had a feeling that was the case because, well, every time I go to the cemetery and try to stay in a Kemetic frameset, Bawon comes on over and chews me the hell out over how silly I’m being. I was doing him a sever disservice and doing myself one as well by attempting to blend the two. They have no requirement to be blended. The work I do for the Guédé, the forgotten ones in those cemeteries, has to do with Bawon, Maman, and Papa G. They are not my akhu in the way that this book made me realize: they’re not my fucking relatives so I need to stop inviting them over when I’m doing the Kemetic akhu thing, damn it, because as special as they are to me, their being special has nothing to do with my Kemeticism. That special has to do with the voodoo portion of what it is I do.

Why it has taken me this long to realize this is incredibly stupid and silly and ridiculous. All I can say is that I am a stubborn son of a bitch.

Another item that was of particular interest to me was about how the Guédé and the rest of your lwa need to be kept apart. I do understand this, actually. I know how the rest of the lwa tend to feel about the Guédé. I’ve read enough to know that most of the lwa will leave a Fet if the Guédé show up, unannounced. There are different reasons for it – in this book, there was mention about how Freda will leave when they show up because the Guédé are incredibly tactless and truthful. I understand this, of course, but I have to admit that my Guédé altar is right in the center of my altars for the Marassa and Papa Legba. And of course, wasn’t it interesting that Bawon was a lot less lively around me after I had placed him up there…?

I thought about this a lot. There are some issues that I have relating to the “you have to” in this stuff. A part of it is the fact that a lot of us non-initiated don’t have a lot of time, energy, or space to have the types of altars that the Guédé may want. I know exactly what Bawon wants and I know exactly what he would like on it. I’ve seen it. He’s shown me exactly what he’s hoping to have, one day, in my home. In the interim, what he is looking for is going to have to wait due to a serious lack of space. I live in a very tiny apartment. Every available wall space has been taken up with things like furniture and altars and living space. What bits I have been able to appropriate as functional altars (such as my Anup and akhu altar that sidelines as a filled DVD case) are very small and not very functional. I had to go from a full sized apartment and all of the furniture that furnished that place into a place that is half its size. For fuck’s sake, the living room is 10×14 nook off of the dining area. So, while I understand that the lwa don’t like the Guédé and don’t want them around, there are some things that just have to give.

And that means the Guédé end up smack dab in the middle of two other lwa.

While thinking about how I hadn’t heard anything from the Bawon since I made the decision to add the Guédé to the other lwa‘s home, I felt a brush on my shoulder. It wasn’t really like… it wasn’t like someone was stroking my shoulder to tell me I was doing all right. But it wasn’t exactly not like that either. It was almost a way of saying, “There’s other stuff going on right now and I’m not angry about it and if anyone else is, they can take it up with me so don’t worry about it.” It was soothing, more than anything else, and it helped.

Again, I know that what I’m doing is probably wrong in a lot of other established practitioners’ eyes. However, I have to make do with what I got. And if that means that I’m going to have to put the services I wish to have for some other lwa, most notably the Marassa and Gran Bwa, on hold until things can be maneuvered around properly, and then that’s what I’m going to have to do. It’s not very much like I asked for them to come to me, anyway. They showed up to me, for whatever reason, and I kind of have to believe that means something to both them and to the services I am intending on implementing for each.

I think what really threw me for a loop was this quote, “I was taught that unless you have The Baron in your constellation or were born on his day (November 2) then you do not serve Him. He is too dangerous to anyone He has not chosen for himself. Even those of us who do serve him, must pay the price in the end of that service.” While I agree that nothing is given for free and that we must all, ultimately, pay the price set for us when it comes to the services we offer to the lwa and the Guédé, I’m not quite sure why people should not offer the Baron services. She hints that he is a dark and sinister figure. And while I agree he has his moments, nothing I have found anywhere has ever intimated that he should be left alone. Obviously, each Mambo and Houngan is taught in a different way from one another, which is why there is no unified “this is how it is” in voodoo. But, this statement bothered me a lot.

Yet another downfall of being an uninitiated prat? I have no one to turn to when it comes to this shit.

This was a problem up until I fell asleep when I went to see the Bawon. (Side note: whenever I dream of the lwa, they are in a forest. I know what forest, specifically, they are inhabiting, but I always find it weird that I am, without fail, in a forest and surrounded by forest noises.) He was holding reign over his Guédé and smoking a cigar. And he was quite angry with the much of the items I had taken away from that chapter. At one point, he slashed his hand in a rather sinister manner and said around his cigar, “Don’t you be worrying, baby girl. You do what I tell you to do. That’s what you worry about.” I have to say that I have never seen the Bawon as angry before (and as I told Tumblr this morning, I do not recommend seeing him angry). But he was pretty pissed off with a lot of the ideas and thoughts I was having because of this.

The lesson here (remember there was one) is that just because I find something of note or interest in a book doesn’t mean that the lwa and Guédé whom I offer my services to are going to be pleased with what I pick up. Remember that rambling monologue earlier on about how I get a lot of direction from the lwa and the Guédé because I have a functional godphone? That’s the lesson. The lesson isn’t just that I may find things that the spirits I service disagree with. The lesson is that I’ve spent so much time relying on books, blogs, and other people to tell me what to do here. When all along, I’ve been doing a damn good thing by listening to the lwa and what they’ve wanted of me.

This hearkens back to a conversation I had with Papa Legba recently about Gran Bwa. I’m going to leave off with it here.

Papa Legba You need to honor Gran Bwa. He come to you and you don’t do nothin’ for him.
Me I failed the test he gave me, remember? I figured we were just kind of done. Besides, how the hell do I honor him?
Papa Legba Haven’t you been doin’ that all ready?
Me What? No. I’ve been honoring the land spirit and leaving– Wait.
Papa Legba You been doin’ this whole damn time and you don’t e’en remember what started all that.
Me Oh, fuck.


Neg Di San Fe (SVP).

People talk and don’t act.

One of the most unsurprising aspects to the fact that I was able to shut down my godphone is the fact that the lwa are still here. Since the dream that seemed to indicate I was getting what I wanted showed me only the netjer with whom I have relationships with, I kind of expected to continue to get pushes and touches from the lwa whom have made my life… much more interesting in the last two years. And it wasn’t all that surprising when the Bawon showed up one day, talking on about all the things he was looking forward to this fall season with the work we do together. Shortly thereafter, the Marassa showed up with various requests that I believe I have attended to, finally. And of course, we can’t possibly have a complete moment without Papa Legba showing up to add his two sense. While the others are relating to specific items, Papa Legba is very much about the “bigger picture” and whatever it may entail for his ongoing string-pulling in my life. It seemed that this time around, with my upcoming year off from the netjer, he was looking forward to spending more time with me relating to the voodoo portions of my religious practice.

Color me shocked.

I’ve known that the inevitable outcome would be of each item we have ever covered together. I have known, from the beginning, what I could be expected to do on my end to fulfill my role as a servant. As much as I may have worn blinders at the time regarding the “bigger picture” and all of that shit, I have known what would end up happening over time. However, I naively believed that what I could expect would be a slow and steady migration instead of a sudden shift forward. It’s almost like I’ve decided to try drawing a stick figure, but I’m being ordered to do a fully rendered copy of the Vitruvian Man. I know there are drastic differences between religious matters and artwork, but as taken from someone who has no frame of reference (per usual) to something, it’s the best I can come up with. And frankly, they’re both just as frightening.

Papa Legba, for all that I complain about him and sass at him, has been infinitely patient with me as I move forward with items in my own time. He has known that the voodoo aspect to my practice is a secondary and background article to the Kemeticism that I found first. With this in mind, he has strategically pushed me in areas where the giving of time and spoons was minor: researching, reading, following blogs, tentatively offering responses to queries from curious onlookers, etc. He has very tenderly and lovingly, at times, pushed me in the appropriate directions, but always with the caveat that it would be according to my needs that things would be looked into and checked off his invisible list.

As each new item was added to this secondary aspect to my religious practice, I have waited for the inevitable day when he would say, “now.” As I’ve intimated, I have always known that he would one day ask the Big One from me. With fear, I have dreaded that moment. And can we please mention the sheer irony of the fact that it was my requesting that my [Kemetic] godphone be shut down for a while that has led me to the very thing he’s been waiting for: my time and energy to focus on voodoo. And can we also please mention how completely stupid I was to assume that I was getting what I wanted based on my own desires as opposed to the desires of every fucking OTHER™ who has been manipulating my religious strings for years and years, if not lives and lives.

Well, it certainly appears that this upcoming year will be far more about foundations, in numerous aspects, than I had previously considered.

What worries me completely is that I feel that I am not ready to attend to this next step. Obviously, Papa Legba believes otherwise. He thinks that I am completely ready to begin the actual aspect to the practice that he has wanted from the beginning: real servitude… whatever that may mean. My daily items are minor in the grand [lwa] scheme of things. They are stepping stones to the “bigger picture” he has been carefully keeping hidden from me for the last two years. And while I understand that this has been what we have been building towards for the last twenty four months we have been together, I have to admit that I am beyond frightened of just what it is that I can start expecting. I know that rituals and celebrations are a major part to what it is he is seeking and I have to say that, well, I’m just not sure that I am either ready or qualified to follow through on these items.

Case in point, I have only been successfully and willingly celebrating religious items from a Kemetic perspective for a year now. I started on Wep-Ronpet of last year and have been attempting to keep this portion of my practice cohesive. And I have to admit that I have failed admirably in the last few months because work got in the way. (Damn having a life not devoted entirely to religion.) Even without that knowledge in the forefront of my mind, I have to admit that I had researched heavily prior to even contemplating what it would be like to celebrate festivals, feasts, and processions from a Kemetic perspective.

Now, I have to do likewise with the voodoo portion of my practice and even better, I get to do it completely alone. I have no society or group in which I can bounce ideas off of or with whom I can discuss what would be most appropriate. As Papa Legba has made entirely clear for the last few months: I am alone in this adventure and it is up to me to see it through. While I have done my share of complaining regarding this – I mean, for fuck’s sake, talk about totally unfair – I admit that I am in part excited to attempt to see these items.

However, where do I get the ideas for what it is he desires? Should I just listen to what my intuition is telling me? Should I reach out to him and ask him? Or is there some form of “idiot’s guide” that I can work with here? But, in all seriousness, how the fuck do I do this thing?

So, how is one supposed to make this functional and appropriate without the community that is required in all arenas of this way of life?

Papa Legba appears to believe that I will “figure it out.” He has assured me that he has the utmost faith in me regarding this matter.

That makes one of us.

Se Bon Kè Krapo Ki Fè L San Tèt (SVP).

It is because the toad is too kindhearted that he has no intelligence.

This morning, I woke up to someone having commented on a post that the Tumblr user, crowwoman had written a while ago. For those not willing to click the link, the post is this, ” ‘The Lwa make the Vodouisant’ no ritual can make you a Vodouisant if you are not meant to be there, on the flip side no one can tell you that you cannot practice if you are meant to.” I remember when she initially made this post because it really made me feel better about some things that have bothered me over the last few months as I delve deeper and deeper into my voodoo research and attempting to incorporate what I learn to Papa Legba’s satisfaction. While her statement probably was not, specifically, taking into context people such as myself who have lwa that are not willing to let them join a society and become initiated [for whatever reason], the sentiment behind the statement really spoke clearly to me. It was around then that I stopped eschewing the terminology “Vodouisant” to describe what it is that I am for the lwa whom I serve.

Let me just reiterate what I just said here for a minute.

I said specifically that this very knowledgeable and lovely woman who puts her time and effort into writing tips like these for people who are scared, lonely, and worried about what they’re doing really assisted me in a moment of need. As I’ve written before, I spend a lot of my time thinking that I am bug nuts insane because some lwa showed up and said, “Hey, I want you!” As I’ve written before, I spend a lot of my time thinking that I am not cut out for whatever it is that Papa Legba wants me for. And as I’ve written before, I often feel like I can hardly do such a beautiful and vibrant way of life any justice whatsoever with my meager ramblings because I am coming at this from a point-of-view that is wholly separated, unique, and opposite from those who enter into it in other areas of America and those who are practitioners in Haiti. And yet, knowing all of this background knowledge, this woman really assisted me when she reminded me that the practice isn’t quite as important in as much as how you serve the lwa who have requested you. By that one little statement, she reminded me what I’ve read over and over again – that the lwa makes the servant, not the other way around.

So, this morning, the commentator on this helpful entry said, “I disagree with this a bit. Certainly, the Lwa can call to you if you’re uninitiated, but there is quite a bit that is not available if you are not initiated. Doesn’t mean you can’t work with the Lwa, but calling yourself a Vodouisant without initiation is a bit dicey.” This comment really blew me away. For the first, I wasn’t actually expecting to see it on my dashboard. (I sometimes forget that I follow people who actually do have some interest in voodoo and/or hoodoo, as I follow blogs that fall into both categories.) While I do not disagree with the statement regarding what is or is not available to those who are uninitiated because I know there is a decent chunk that I miss out on being a solitary practitioner, but the fact that whether or not I can call myself a Vodouisant may cause some troubles? It seemed like this person was working off of a specific definition of the word. So, being a word geek, I went to town to try and define what it is to be a Vodouisant.

The first definition that pops up when you Google search “Vodouisant” and “meaning” comes from this page, which defines the term as “a practitioner or initiate of Orthodox Haitian Vodou.” This is completely incorrect and I really do not know where this website gained this information. There is no such thing as an “orthodox Vodou” in Haiti. Each region focuses on something specific culturally. Some regions are based off the Dahomean traditions and focus more on that rada rites therein. Some regions are more focused on the petro rites. Though the basics of how a fet begins starts with the calling of Papa Legba to open the way, the rites from there are based entirely off of regional preferences. So, to utilize this particular definition of what a Vodouisant happens to be is incredibly misleading just based on the fact that at its foundation it is incorrect: there is no such thing as an orthodoxy in Haitian Vodou.

This translates further into the numerous societies that have cropped up across the United States based on the Haitian Vodou blueprint, either because the houngan and/or mambo were initiated in the Haitian tradition or because of transplanted Haitian emigrés. While they will remain focused on the roots as they were taught, they will also be able to incorporate other aspects into their traditions. There are mambo and houngan who utilize Tarot cards for their divination instead of going to playing cards or even cowrie shells. While I cannot say, specifically, what other items of American origin that we could find in Americanized societies, what can bet that syncretism with American values, beliefs, and items crop up periodically.

Also, by utilizing this incorrect definition, one is entirely erasing Louisiana Voodoo in any context. I have read the blogs of numerous men and women from that vibrant area with its own version voodoo who refer to themselves as “Vodouisant.” The history of Louisiana Voodoo is akin to that which is found in Haiti, and while some items are the same, many others are not. There are aspects to Louisiana Voodoo that one will not find in Haiti. Some examples include La Gran Zombi, different regional lwa, and one will notice that some traditions in NOLA are folk traditions from Europe and the indigenous population of that area. Haitian aspects tend to be either of African, Arawak, or French origins wherein the origins of that found in Louisiana is much more a “melting pot” of sorts.

I went further with researching the definition of the term, though. A French definition website popped up in my options and I looked it over. I tried to do a Google translate of that definition and this is what came up, “borrowing animist rites of voodoo cult (or voodoo or voodoo).” Well, I don’t really know if that’s really accurate, either. It’s not really about animism, per se, but about the role one takes when they start serving the lwa. So, I scrubbed that down and went to this page. While that website could not actually define the term, it did give me some Wikipedia answers. While I’m loathe to use Wiki for much of anything these days, it did say, “practitioners are called ‘vodouists’ (French: vodouisants, voduisɑ̃ ) or ‘servants of the spirits’ (Haitian creole : sèvitè).” It still isn’t telling me anything, though, is it? All it is saying is that there doesn’t appear to be an accurate translation from French into English and that it’s the people who practice the religion in some form or another that are called such.

I have to say that while the commentator’s comment rang true for me in a way – how can I call myself a non-initiated Vodouisant – I have to say that there doesn’t appear to be any one accurate definition. Blanket statements in this framework are not likely to work just based on how many different ways someone can be a servant of the lwa, never mind how many different people come at this serving from numerous different directions.

But without definitions and without bothering to look things up, the statement really kind of bothered me for the fact that my lwa asked me to stop eschewing the terminology specifically. Around the time that Papa Legba told me in a fit of pique that I’m acting like a scared wuss by not using the word Vodouisant, the crowwoman entry came around. Coincidences are common, of course, but it seemed a little too near to the time period where Papa Legba and I argued about terminology to be “just” another coincidence. Whatever the actuality of that event was, the entry made me feel better and I began to start actively referring myself to thus at the behest of the lwa whom I serve. If those whom we serve ask us to do something, should we refrain merely because someone else may find it difficult to swallow? I do not deny that I am a non-initiate. I do not hide this from anyone or anything. I’ll say it again, I am not initiated and I have been asked not to be. Does that make what I do any less valid than someone else who is initiated? Possibly. But does that mean that I have to tiptoe around when I’ve been asked, specifically, for something because I’m worried other people won’t like it? No. It doesn’t.

All it means is that I need to get over myself and get over my fears if I’m going to be the servant that these lwa want me to be.

And besides, frankly, calling myself a Vodouisant is loads better than the Baron’s suggestion of, “the servant of the dicks.”

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.

Rache Manyok Bay Te a Blanch (SVP).

Uproot the manioc [cussava] and clear the land.

The worst part about deciding to enter, or at least look into, a religious tradition that is outside of your frame of reference is that you don’t really know where to begin. When it comes to pagan religions, new practitioners have it easy. There are forums and networks online that you can find, as well as books in local libraries with mythology aplenty. There are eBooks and Amazon for all of those resource references, but when you’re looking into a religion that’s been kept in the dark recesses for almost the entirety of its existence, things are much more difficult. What are good books to read? What are good blogs to read? Where can you find the information you’re looking into? Where do you look? How do you know what you’ve found is a diamond or a piece of coal?

In my research, I was incredibly lucky that I stumbled upon a few bloggers who practiced voodoo. I was able to pump their brains for information and one of them (linked below) had a good resource list ready for me to squee over. However, there are a lot of other people out there who are not so lucky. I honestly think that I was meant for this because of how lucky I was in finding bloggers who practice and blogged about it. It really was no time at all before I found resources and a little net of people that I could talk to, if needed. Again, though, I know that I’m one in a million here and that, as someone who has been around this Internet for a while, I’ve been able to do things that other neophytes aren’t capable of doing. They don’t have that sort of safety net because they don’t know where to look or no one who has the experience has found them yet.

While it’s possible to approach a lwa and hope for the best, I don’t recommend this without knowing what you can get into. The lwa can be very much like little children at times with their wants and desires. If you don’t have the time, energy, and wherewithal to handle what it is that they need or want, then maybe this isn’t something for you. (I will write all about this later, I swear.) Besides, the lwa that you approach may not even be an actual lwa. You can pluck a name from lists or from Wiki, hoping that you’re making contact with the right one, but I honestly don’t think it is a wise choice to just go plundering into a religious practice because you want something so desperately. As much as you may think you are getting into something you can handle, I can assure that you are getting into something that you can’t.

I have spent many, many hours, crying at the base of Papa Legba’s altar because of all the things I have been forced into after becoming his servant – not because I don’t want to but because it is hard and painful and lonely – and those days are still not over. While the jokes and dick imagery in working for the Guédé is hilarious, they are just as intense as Papa Legba in their requests. While I do not work with any other lwa, except for a passing occasional with Gran Bwa, I can tell you that this is a very difficult, painful path. It is outside our frame of reference for many of us and there are some of us who will never join a sosyete for one reason or another. This is a religion and jumping into something because it looks cool is never recommended. While I’ll get into what you can expect from the lwa in future posts, let me just say this: Doing something because you think it will look cool on your religious resume is fucking stupid and you should stop looking into voodoo or vodou if that is your intent.

Now, about getting started, I’ve already told anyone who has been reading to look into the Haitian Revolution. In so looking, you will begin to pick up bits and pieces about the history of the island in and of itself. Learning about the Taíno natives, as well as the slaves who ran away, are all important aspects to this religion. It tells you what pieces are a part of the religious tradition today. It tells you where this began and why this began. In doing the research on the history of the island, specifically in looking into the revolution, you will begin to learn about the actual history of the island. As I said in that previous post, you will be able to get glimpses and glimmers from each voodoo or vodou related book you pick up, but it’s important to know more than the quick history lesson authors are willing to give you. It goes deeper than that because the island itself and the lives of those people, both prior to the revolution and after, are important aspects of this religion.

But in looking up the history of the island, you’ll get more than just a minor history lesson in what these people went through. In continuing through with your research to encompass the lives of these people after the revolution and through to the 20th century, you will begin to see how oppressed the people were and how it was this religion that gave them something to live for. When your daily lives are nothing more than toil, there’s little that will give you the gumption to continue on, but vodou made these people strong and willing to be put through a lot of shit. Also, in learning about the post-revolution era, you will see, not just the oppression, but the Westernized belief that this nation is a bunch of “backwards” people. In some cases, at least economically speaking, the country is backwards. But we based that belief off some mistaken idea that non-Christian, non-Jewish, and non-Islamic religions are “backwards.”


The thing is, at least in my household, there are days where I’m fed up with history and I want to know more about the religion, itself. There are days where I’ve read my history books and I’m done with facts because my brain is muddled with them. Then, then comes the moment of research about the religion itself and in those moments, it can be difficult to find accurate resources. As I said above, not everyone is lucky enough to have a blogging network or a forum network that is supportive of those religious choices that may seem questionable to outsiders. I guess, really, I’m just insanely lucky on this front.

There are three types of resources that a non-initiate can look to.

  1. The books on the religion, itself.
  2. The blogs of other vodou or voodoo practitioners.
  3. The Internet.

Now, the Internet is a fucking morass a lot of the time. The thing about having websites is that anyone can make one and pepper it with misinformation. They can do that knowingly or unknowingly because they misinterpreted or got their sources from yet another website that isn’t sourced accurately or because someone just made up some “facts.” Wikipedia is insanely guilty of this because anyone who is able to can edit their pages with information. While Wiki may be an interesting starting point in order to learn some names outside of Papa Legba and Bawon Samedi for the lwa, it is not an accurate source of information. In same vein, a lot of websites are not based off any legitimate information but off of Hollywood propaganda and made up realities. So, while most people will do their research on the Internet, I honestly do not recommend it with vodou or voodoo. However, I also understand that not everyone is actually able to get the books, so for them, I say: discernment.

This is a common term found in most pagan circles and while vodou/voodoo are not pagan in any context (no, they’re not), this terminology is just as important when trying to find good information on the ‘net. As Dver said on her landmark post on the subject, “It is important to discern between what a god might like, or do, or say, and what They actually do like, are doing, are saying.” While she’s talking, specifically, about polytheists, we can translate this particular sentence to include research and resources. “It is important to discern between an informational website of dubious nature and a website of properly sourced information.” So, my advice here is to look for sources. If you don’t find any, walk away. If you don’t like the sources they do provide, walk away. Entering a religious tradition with massive misinformation because you got click happy on Google is not okay.

What is okay? Discerning.

The one time I will tell you to throw this advice out the window is when you find a website associated with a sosyete. If you click on the link and you are taken to the main page, the name of the sosyete the website is affiliated will be there. And if you’re not sure about whether it is or is not a sosyete, look for key words like “mambo” and “houngan.” Now, obviously, there are a lot of different opinions out there as far as different sosyete. I have heard good things about the Sosyete du Marche. I have not heard a lot of good things about Mambo Racine, who is associated with the Roots Without End Society. In that regard, go back up to the commentary on discernment and use some as you peruse the websites. (Personally, I like using the Gade Nou Leve Society website for information purposes.)

Bloggers have only been a very recent addition to the vodou and voodoo universes. It’s been only in recent years that anyone with a hint of vodou or voodoo flavoring, much less actual houngan or mambo having blogs and websites. Prior to this, vodou and voodoo were something you did quietly or with a sosyete only. But, with the advent of the Internet, everyone out there can make a blog. And in same vein, there are some bloggers out there who are initiated and non-initiated. You can do searches for blogs with various keywords to find them (vodou, voodoo, houngan, mambo) and see what pops up.

As I said, I was lucky in that I had found someone who knew a thing or three about voodoo when I first began and I was able to network. I’ve pulled back on the blogs that I read to include only one or two Vodouisants and I occasionally peruse others. This is only because I am more Kemetic, outside of certain parts of my practice, than I am a Voodooist and I’d like to keep my blog more associated with the Kemetic side of things than the voodoo side of things. On this one, you have to make up your own mind about things. Do you really care what others have to say on certain subjects? Do you really want to know what their practices are like, especially if you are unable to be initiated and they happen to be initiated into a sosyete? It comes down to personal preference here, but you should ask yourself these questions. Not simply because you may end up wanting something – becoming an initiated – by reading those experiences and maybe that’s just not viable.

How much information do you want to pull from bloggers and Internet resources, knowing that a good portion of it will be blocked from you because you are not an initiate?

And yes, that is a lot of the case. One of the reasons I’m even remotely mentioning or linking to Mambo Racine’s website for the society she is with is because there are bits and pieces in there for the non-initiated. This is incredibly rare. Most websites and, to an extent, bloggers will not tell you about certain parts because it is an initiate tradition. There are things that, as an initiate, you are not able to share with anyone – Met Tet, kanzo, etc. It’s similar, I guess, to Wicca in that regard. Some parts are mysteries because you have to be a part of that group in order to get down with those mysteries. And if you are never, ever going to have a chance to become an initiate, do you really want to know? Besides, why bother prying into the secrets of a group of people if you aren’t going to join in? While I, personally, don’t need to know those things or particularly want to know those things, not everyone is like me.

So, it comes down to you asking yourself, is networking with other people worth it if I’m never going to go to a Fet and/or become initiated?

Now, most of my research comes from books. I am a book snob in a lot of ways, but I also prefer the tangibility of owning a book and being able to easily find the information I’m looking for. Some of the books that I am going to mention probably have free eBook versions out there, although I cannot comment on that. I do not have a Nook or Kindle and I refuse to get one. I like the physical nearness of my books (as I said, book snob). So the books I have as resources may or may not be available to people who have to keep this stuff hidden or do not have the financials to actually be able to go out and buy the books. (And if you do have the money but it must be hidden, I highly recommend buying a used hardcover edition and switching out the dust cover to something less inflammatory.)

A lot of the books I’ve used as research tools are anthropological in nature. I am a geek, of course, so that type of resource is invaluable to me. However, I think it’s invaluable to anyone who is looking into voodoo or vodou because it will show you the perspective of things back when these books were written and it will also give you an intimate glimpse. Some of these books are fairly old, but they’re still prevalent today. While we have books out there that will give you a basic rundown on how to get started, knowing how things were done and seen as far back as 50 years ago is still important today. You will notice the attitudes of so long ago being found continuously in today’s society as well. We may have come and made some strides, humanity, but we’re still at the point where a lot of people think that the religion of vodou is “backwards.”

Now, if you aren’t pulling from a bibliography, as I have, of other vodou practitioners, then you may not know exactly how to find adequate resources. I’m not going to bore you with anything right now because someone did this work for me. My friend, Sard, wrote a blog entry a while ago about how to find good academic resources. Before I link to it, let me just say that academic resources are important here because it’s only been in the last five years that anyone has even remotely begun to pay any attention to this religion outside of New Orleans tourists. So while there are books being published by mambo and hougan, the anthropological books are still important resources. So, to tell how you have a really good academic source (which can be used for e-d-u websites and books), read this, please.

Resources are important, especially for those of us who will never be initiated into a sosyete. Good resources are even more important because we don’t want misinformation and lies peppering our relationships with the lwa. Historical references are extremely important because you don’t want to steal from a religious tradition that is initiation bound and end up being an asshole. Excellent discernment skills are mandatory because you may end up getting screwed over in the end by a lwa who is willing to take advantage of your stupidity.


  1. Sosyete du Marche
  2. Gade Nou Leve Society
  3. Roots Without End Society


  1. Houngan Matt
  2. Kenaz Filan
  3. Cheshirecat Man
  4. Crow Woman

Tentative Bibliography*

  1. The Book of Vodou by Leah Gordon
  2. Divine Horsement by Maya Deren
  3. Tell My Horse by Zora Neal Thurston
  4. The Serpent and the Rainbow by Wade Davis
  5. Voodoo in Haiti by Alfred Metraux

* This is not all of the books that I would like to add to this list, but I think a separate page, in future, regarding my bibliography will appear with commentary on the books I’m recommending and why.