Sunday, December 2, 2012

2012 Reading - December is World Egg

New Orleans Voodoo Tarot, image by Sallie Ann Glassman

The World Egg is the cosmic principle underlying all matters in the world.  It symbolizes new beginnings, new ideas, a fresh start. The whole Mayan calendar thing this month is a worldwide awareness of the Cosmic Egg in action.  I’ve seen changes galore just within my own ecosystem – corporate CIOs working from home offices; new moms taking 6 months (and longer) to be home with the baby.  The New Age frenzy has dwindled down, the Catholic Church is all but dead in Europe and people are looking for stability in spiritual groups, with long standing traditions and intimate settings for people of diversity.

Enter the Afro-Caribbean faiths – Haitian Vodou, Cuban Lukumi, Brazilian Candomble.   These faiths build communities based on family structure.  They honor what has gone before – the ancestors, the leaders who made their lives an example.  They support the membership through outreach and small, intimate services designed to bring people together.  But this is a new path that is being treaded, and the leadership is still in its infancy – just like the World Egg.  The manifest possibilities are limitless.
The image of the World Egg shows Danbala carrying it daintily in his mouth.  As the great Creator Energy of the Vodou Pantheon, Danbala knows how fragile new life can be.  And so he carries this new possibility in his protective mouth, offering it to us this month as a potentiality.

The egg is a universal symbol of beginnings.  (what came first - the chicken or the egg?)  In the Tattva system, it is called "Akasha" - the universal symbol of spirit.  When I first came to the magical path, I used Tattvas to increase my ability to visualize.  I would study the symbol and then close my eyes, seeing an afterglow of the shape.  Then, I would move into and through the symbol, to an inner landscape.  I kept a record of my work and even now, when reading through the entries, I find much to be inspired by.  The Akasha symbol was often the most surreal of the five (there symbols for the four elements, plus spirit) I worked with. The potential for the visions to manifest was astounding.  And I am delighted to find the Akasha showing up for this month of spiritual transformation, mental stimulation and just plain old synchronicity.

Contemplate the new beginning you want to have, and pin a drawing of a black oval to your dressing mirror.  Study it each morning for a few minutes.  Envision the change you wish to embrace this month and then allow Spirit to help guide you to it.  Take a white candle, and draw a black egg shape on it. Burn it for a few minutes each day, with the goal of finishing the burn by the end of the month.  As you light the candle, think about the change you wish to make for yourself. Envision your life as you wish it to be – happier, easier, healthy and in balance.  Make an affirmation for yourself each time, that this is how you will begin the new year – by becoming the person you know you are.  And then, put into place those things that will make this manifest.  

Is someone getting you down? Then let them go out of your life.  Is your health not working? Change your diet, change your doctor, change your routine! Put down the phone, the iPad, the whatever and get out into the fresh air. Walk the dog, walk the husband, walk yourself!  Change your hair style, your wardrobe, your shoes – do what it takes to be the best you.

Change is always good, regardless.  And Change is inevitable.  By embracing it, celebrating it and going with the flow, you will find a great secret revealed.  Letting go of the life you have planned, allows you to accept the life that is waiting for you.  My mentor and favorite philosopher, Joe Campbell said that, and I believe it is very true.  You can even switch out “life” for “Lwa”, “job”, any number of things. A good quote is like that – a universal truism that works with all things.  As the Great Alignment/Precession/End of the World/ Great excuse for a helluva party comes around, be ready to embrace it and go for it. As my Mambo Nellie has often remarked, let’s just do it.

Ayibobo indeed.

Going phone free for December

I made a choice this week to turn off my cell phone. I must admit, it's strange -- the electronic toy I've carried around for five years feels oddly missing. I keep thinking I must check for emails - although the computer is always on. I should look at Facebook -- although its always a great distraction, it adds little to my knowledge base or friendships. How strange to be attached to such a Machiavellian device that keeps me linked to a world of trivial noise and time wasting past times. And stranger still to actually miss it. We have a land line for phone calls, I can always call anyone for an unlimited amount of time. My marathon talk sessions really have no end in sight, other than being tethered to a base station. So why do I miss it?

I have a lifetime of projects to to do -- I am recording a new CD that requires cover art and liner notes. I have ten fabulous new bottles to decorate for the Lwa. The altars need their annual cleaning. And lets not forget it's December - the ubiquitous tree has to go up, we're hosting a dinner party this weekend for 12 folks, and there is shopping to do, a new pup to house train, a new dress for the Legba fet to embroider. The list is endless and grows daily. So why am I missing this stupid little electronic habit?

Even in Haiti, the cell phone has become the de rigeur accessory. And not to put it lightly, but you must TWO, because the island has two separate coverage plans. If you want to talk to someone in the north or the south, you need to have a cell phone that covers those areas. And there's no single plan to do that. My friend Jaxx Labrom carts around two phones to talk to her crews in the field. Talk about a ball and chain.

Perhaps it is as St. Augustine says, "a habit if not resisted, soon becomes necessity." My husband was really upset that I chose to turn off the cell. "What will you do if you are out and get stuck?" he asked. Well, I thought, what did I do before I had a cell? I knocked on a door and asked to use the phone. One time, I had a tire blow out on the highway. I pulled over, got out, locked the car, climbed down the embankment and walked to the nearest gas station. It wasn't a life crisis to ask for help in person. Maybe, we need to do more of that -- you know, talk face to face, instead of cell to cell.

I was in the diner having lunch last week, watching a young couple at the next table. They were both staring fiercely -- not at one another, but at their cell phones. My first thought was are they texting one another? -- wierd.

I think we should all put down the cell phones -- even for just one day. That might help the instant gratification issue we all seem to be having right now. We might even foster a dialog with one another -- you know, have a National Day of Talking.

Think I'll go walk the dog and then check my neighbor who just had a baby. In person, too.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Fet Ghede and thanks to all

We have finished our Fet Ghede cycle for the year. It's been a busy few weeks. Through all the events, I was reminded that finding diversity is always a treat; similarities unite us more than we think; and that joy is a universal language everyone speaks. Let me explain:

Our sosyete hosted a large Fet Ghede dance for the family. This year, we had over 40 folks come celebrate the Ancestors and serve the spirits with love, light, flowers and food. We actually had to purchase a larger table, to accommodate all the candles we lit for everyone. I was moved to tears as each person stepped forward, knelt and gave thanks for their lives, their homes and their partners. If I can point to anything I've done well, it has been to help folks realize their gifts and blessings in this world. I give thanks.

My sisters from the New SEED Sanctuary were also on hand to lend their ashe to evening. I've not had time to follow through on our lives, and for that I am truly sorry. But their devotion to the work, to our Beloved mentor and mother, made the evening most magical. I promise to be a better sibling next year.

The Tambouye and I also took time to head out to Albright College, in Reading, PA this past Tuesday evening. We were hired to perform a Fet Ghede for the students of Professor Betsy Kiddy. It was a tough crowd, let me tell you. Between giving up their evening to come to a lecture/performance and their bias as to what Vodou is and isn't, we had our work cut out for us. James did what he does best and that was making music they could dance to. I followed Charlie Bird's advice, and just wailed the songs I know by heart, lifting the energy and getting folks to join. They were reticent at first, then they began to get the rhythm and pattern. 

They lustily yelled back at me with the response to  "E cher?"; they clapped when they should and they actually did get up on their feet to learn the vre.  I did my best mambo-ness to get them up and moving. I finally had to stop singing, and just speak about Vodou at their level. I told them about the Africans who endured bondage -- men and women their age, who lived and died for Haiti's freedom. I spoke of the ancestors both in living and far memory. We drew veves together, we offered candles to their ancestors. Surprisingly, the guys were far more into it than the girls, a first for me personally. Usually I can get a couple of the ladies to help me out, but not that night. No, the boys came to my aid, and we led a merry dance around the room, around the altar and finally back to their seats. James sang Nou tout sen-yo with me, and the kids finally, FINALLY smiled and said thank you for coming, for singing and for helping them get it. There were lots of questions, many smiles and some light laughter, as the ghedes departed with smirks and cat calls from the hallway. Even the ached in my hip from my gyrating banda was worth the effort. Ayibobo.

This weekend, we are still rolling as we begin the massive bake off of cookies for the Spartan Christmas pack and wrap party. We are packaging one hundred boxes for the 94th Engineering Division. As Josh says, "yes" to what flavor cookie, we hope to have a dozen choices or more. Sherry is making spiced nuts, we've got candies and a special surprise in each box. I just purchased wrapping paper, ribbon, tissue paper, and more. I am reminded that though Ghede season is coming to a close, the work of a sosyete has no end. And a mambo is on, 24 hours a day, to keep it all intact. I give thanks that God allows me to be healthy enough to keep going and allows my aches to linger only for a short time, reminding me that I am only human and can only do what I can do.

I give thanks - for Ahvizan who shows me what a creative person can do, for Connie who amazes me with her family love, for my husband who endures it all with a grace I can only hope to emulate. Ayibobo. I am blessed.

A very blessed Fet Ghede to all who come to the path. And a reminder that life is short, so be sweet, enjoy and be kind. When we look at what makes us similar, rather than what makes us different, it's a better place to live. See you all around the houmfort!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

November is Ayizan

Where Loko Atissou is seen as the father of all kanzo initiates, Ayizan is said to be the Mother of the Kanzos. Elevated ancestors who were at one time living persons, Loko and Ayizan now lend their stories and their ashe to the servitors of Vodou.

Ayizan Velekete is her full name, and she is often envisioned as a very old woman, with an apron that has deep pockets.  Ayizan is a root Lwa, bringing the mysteries of life and death to us here in the Marketplace.  The Yoruba tradition refers to the earthy plane as the Marketplace, so it is fitting that Ayizan is the one who brings traverses this realm, bringing forth new life and new initiates, replenishing the “servitors” of the human race with her holy children.

Ayzian’s veve is comprise of her initials, the “A” and the “V” intersecting across each other.  The veve is sometimes further decorated with stars and whirls to imitate the royal palm frond, shredded and worn by every initiate of Vodou.  The Royal Palm tree is her sacred repository. This particular species grows very straight and tall in Haiti. The palm frond is not opened – during the chire ayzian (tearing ayzian), the frond is symbolically stripped by initiates until it resembles a huge ostrich feather, fluffy and full of Ayizan’s ashe.  It is then run around the temple, sweeping the poto, the drums and everyone in its path, before being placed within the holy djevo.  The palm is both Ayzian and her energy. Ayizan is seen as the spiritual energy that tears into the djevo during the Chire Ayizan, purifying it for the hunyos (the spirit children), who will birth into Mambos and Houngans.

This month, we’ve seen the tearing action of Ayizan take place. The last hurricane of the season tore into NYC and Long Island with a fury, ripping apart homes, tearing up the beaches and stripping down the long neglected, the barriers and the older neighborhoods that were falling down.  Ayizan’s actions, however damaging, are also cleansing.  She clears with a fury to help birth something new.  When Kanzo candidates lay down in the djevo, they give up their old names for new ones, their old lives for new behaviors, their old identities for new vocations.  It can feel like a spiritual hurricane has taken over and stripped away everything you thought you knew, to make room for something fresh and interesting.

But as one steps into the dawn of the Batem, one can see new potentials and new horizons.  Even for the folks in NY, this past week heralds a new beginning.  What did they figure out that they didn’t need?  What did they give up that was old, for a new way of doing? Everyone will gain something new from all the destruction.

What has changed for you this month? As the cleansing action of Ayizan metaphysically strips you down, you will find renewed strength.  Give up something old for something new – now is the time to clean closets, vacuum the car, start a new habit to better yourself. Don’t wait for Ayzian to strip it away, because that’s what she does. She rips open the reality of your world, allowing new thoughts, new ideas, new actions to take place.  The best recourse is to relax, allow the process to unfold and don’t fight it.  We are also under the final Mercury Retrograde this month. So along with all this discourse is the mercurial actions of reviewing, renewing, reflecting.  Go easy on yourselves this month, and allow all the spiritual winds to blow over you. By December, it’ll all be settled and done!

Keep a clean white cloth on your personal altar.  Find some dirt from a marketplace and put it in a small container, like a woven basket.  Place palm leaves and water on the altar as a symbol of Ayzian’s presence. Give thanks for your gifts and bend with the changes that are coming. They are all good and you will be doubly blessed by their actions. Ayibobo.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Songs for Rada Service

Our newest release from our recording label, Laughing Dog Records. Songs for Rada Service is a collection of 24 melodies that will enhance your service and help you learn Haitian Creole. I included the words for all the songs in both English and Creole, to make learning them easier.

You can purchase the CD at our on-line store here: Rada Songs for Service.

We offer up the first five songs of service - Kriye Bode, Sove mwen, Grand Chemen, Hountor and Kafou.

We follow with six songs for Legba, three for Marasa, three for Loko and three for Ayizan.  Danbala is next and we finish with Se a Te for veves and Minocan. 24 tracks in total, with each sung a total of three times so you can sings along just like in service.

A gift from the houmfort to the student, to help make your service a fine one.

Mesi anpil!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Ancestral Musings

Sandy is blowing, and there is a light rain this morning. We're all waiting for the storm to come ashore. The winds of a hurricane are down right frightening. They sound like a train coming into your house, they roar like the angry T Rex from Jurassic Park and they destroy everything they touch. Object are not just lifted up neatly like you see in a movie. No, objects are seized, shaken and thrown, like a toy by a deranged toddler on crack. They blow apart, shredded by the invisible hand of nature in a fit of rage that cannot be contained by tape, rope or sand bags.

Steve Nelson, an astrologer I like, has said these are cleansing winds, meant to claim what is not needed. I think they are more than cleansing. A cleansing wind will leave the the place, well, clean. Free of detritus and debris, a slate wiped smooth by the hand of God. This is a destroying wind, a power meant to take down the unbidden and unnecessary. The winds of change leave no any leaf unturned. When a power such as Sandy comes through, it will take even the leaves.

And so I use this power to focus my inner eye and ask myself what is changing, what is leaving and what will be here when this passes? This storm arrives on the week of Samhain -- which is also All Souls, Fet Ghede and my birthday. A gateway to the otherside, where the dead live and love, reaching forth for us. I have seen a rise in pagan groups honoring the Ancestors at this time of year. I like the way they are embracing this practice, but I remember a time when Samhain was regarded as the New Year in Wiccan cycles.

I am an initiate in an old Craft trad through my mother and initiator, Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki. In that trad, I am  called a Walker. I was drawn to that tradition because it was one of the few where the Ancestors were called forth at Samhain. No other Wiccan path was doing Ancestor work 15 years ago. Today, all pagan paths have embraced the Ancestors and this is good. But Ancestors are not just a Samhain gesture. In the Vodou tradition that I am ordained in, Ancestors are a daily prayer, a daily offering, a daily acknowledgement. My morning prayers are all about thanking the Ancestors for their guidance, for my gifts and for my life. I can not help but wonder if the Ancestors are raging forth this year, with a tidal change of some sort. And I fear that the change will herald unprecedented things.

Never doubt the power of the Dead. They reach past the living to infuse everything around us. We honor them with eternal flames (Kennedy, Elvis), monuments and buildings, tours and parties. The most famous dead of all reside in Egypt and even they can't get a moment of peace for all the tourists traipsing through their homes and tombs. The Dead infuse all parts of our lives. They speak to us through music, art and literature.  One of the most popular books in modern times used a Dead King's army to over throw a living one. Even the Bible speaks of Saul commanding the witch of Endor to call up the Dead. King Solomon was not immune to the use of the Dead for his own ends. And despite a rise in Afro-Caribbean religious practice, there are many left handed practitioners who are calling upon the dead for personal power and gain. Where is the balance in all of this? Having found a pathway to the other side, the Dead should be honored for their lives, acknowledged for their experience and left in peace.

I can not help but wonder if the many oddities in life, religious practice and personal sentiment I keep hearing about have anything to do with the unrest of the Ancestors. I know they are feeling the pull of the living and the pace of life speeding up. Surely they sit in Ginen wondering what the hell we are all doing. I can not be the only one who's parents occasionally come through with a slap on the back of my head and the admonition to stop and think about my actions.

And that is my point -- the Ancestors are not a once a year ritual. You can not make up for a life time of ill choices with one rite. I moved away from the Craft because of this reason. I couldn't fathom how a single rite performed once a year would honor the people I had known and loved. And that I would spend the rest of year praising a deity with whom I had to create a personal relationship. I already HAD a personal relationship with my Dead. So why would I acknowledge them once, then flit off to placate a stranger. It didn't work for me. When I came to Vodou and discovered that one had to build an Ancestral foundation, I knew I had come home to the path that spoke to me on a very personal level.
Do people genuinely think you can pull the Ancestors off the shelf at Samhain, offer them a glass of cheap wine and hope they'll leave satisfied for the rest of the year? If so, then people are sadly mistaken. And trust me, the Ancestors are really mad. Its been building for a while, and its coming to a head. I wouldn't want to be in the way when it explodes, either.

The wind is getting stronger. I think I will go walk the dogs before they refuse to go outside. And I will hunker down with my peeps, light a candle and say my prayers. I know they've got my back.

May all your Dead be fed well and true this Samhain week.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Baron in Haitian Vodou

We are in a liminal timeframe – between ages as it were.  The fall of the Piscean rule and the rise of Aquarian ideology provide a rocky footpath for those of us living in the end of times.  War, disease, starvation and planetary upheaval in the forms of Tsunamis, hurricanes and earthquakes can make one very sensitive to the cycles of Death and Birth.

During this cycle of planetary death, it is only natural that the more sensitive among us can ‘hear’ the voice of the Baron.  Wildly popular through the gothic style of his look and clothing, he is none the less a powerful and ferocious spirit who is not to be played with.  Along with Mama Brijit, he rules The Gedes, the large, bawdy class of spirits who are the unknown, unreclaimed, and forgotten dead.  The Baron and his unruly children live in the cemetery, itself a gateway between here and the unknown.

A crossroad of both the living and the dead, the cemetery is a magical place.  It is a deep well of immense power, danger, and magic.  Here lie the ancestors, with all their knowledge, experience and skills achieved during their lifetime.  All that adds up to power – power gained by work, living and loving; emotionally wrought, intensely etched upon their remaining consciousness.  Here is where we come to gather this knowledge, because it so ready and available.  Here, at the crossroads of the living and the dead, we find the domain of the Baron.

Traditionally, the grave of the first male buried in a cemetery is considered to be the location of the Baron's grave.  Why?  Well, as the oldest grave, the occupant has had access to each and every person buried in the grave yard.  If we think of the cemetery as a large community of souls, then this first person is the gate keeper, the sign post and the most respected.  Not just for his age, but because he's been there the longest!  He's seen it all, and as such, knows everything.

One goes to the cemetery to talk with the Baron, to ask favors or help, to leave offerings, to find solace.  Who better to understand the pain of loss and regret?  The Baron hears this through his eternal night.  The souls under his keeping express their earthly emotions all around him, seeking emotional sustenance and succor from their father.  It is a very tough business, this keeping the dead in line.  The Baron comes to it with solemn stature and a deep konesans of what needs to be done, to be given, to be taken.  Through his domain pass all who ever were.  He is the one who understands best the pain of loss, the agony of unspoken desires.  It is what he hears all day and all night, from the denizens of his unearthly domain.  The forgotten dead, those left behind by families too poor to pay them heed or too angry to offer remembrances, only have the Baron to turn to for their grievances.  The Baron sits and listens eternally.

The Baron is accompanied by three brothers – Samedi, LaCroix and Cimitiere.  Each has a purpose and a duty particular to their station in life.  Samedi is said to be the owner of the cemetery as a whole; LaCroix owns the graves; Cimitiere owns the perimeter. (La Legende des Loa, Port au Prince, Mercedes Guignard, 1993) Although the Baron is the ruler over all, each brother also is responsible for his own operations, his own work, and his own spirits, working in the world.  It is also said that these spirits are the ones bokors can purchase (known as pwen achte or ‘bought points’), but that Baron, the Overall Father, does not condone this kind of thing.

When the Baron comes in possession, he is a striking figure, tall, coolly aloof and sepulcher in his personality.  Dressed in his funeral finery, he drinks Piman, a fiery concoction of habena peppers, spices and rum, smokes cigars and sits watchng the Gedes  dance the bawdy banda.  This dance often makes one think that he wants sex – but it is a joke, a test.  The Dead always want to get married, they always want to simulate the sex act, but they know that these things are forbidden between themselves and the living.  The banda with its wild hip gyrations and gratuitous thrusting is a parody of the sex act, but is also symbolic of the place where The Gedes reside - the corridor between birth and death.  They pantomime sex which leads to conception, which leads to birth which is how the dead re-enter into the sensate world.  With their wild dance and salacious attitude, the Gedes reminds us that this life is just another step in the process.  Death will come, but so will life again. 

The banda is not danced by Baron. He has clearly said he is not a creole Lwa. One is reminded that the Port au Prince cemetery is the original burial ground for French and Spanish soldiers who died during the yellow fever epidemic. The first man buried in there is more likely a foreigner than Haitian. So it makes sense to me at least, that the Baron would not regard himself as Creole.

In Haitian Vodou, the Baron is often called the Father of the Gedes.  How many times have you passed an old cemetery, with the grass over grown, weeds sprouting and no flowers in site? Those dead are long forgotten, left to fend for themselves.  But the Baron is still there, waiting, watching, gathering information and time.

I find it amusing that people today assume the Baron's personality: the black clothing, the dark brooding attitude.  It's as if being a gothic groupie some how makes the assumption of the Baron's form more palatable.  This is not true – one does not assume the persona of Death unless one wishes to die!  .  The Quick and the Dead do not mix – it’s one of the few hard and fast rules of Vodou.  In Vodou, we keep the Dead separate from the living.  Family crypts are out in the yard, away from the main house.  Cemeteries are elaborate in Haiti, more so than the homes.  It is in the best interest to keep the family dead happy, so they can work for the living.  The Baron knows this, and keeps his counsel to the living – “Do not commune with the Dead.” (La Legende des Loa).  The dead have spent their time on earth, gathering knowledge and experience.  It is time for them to rest, reflect and journey forward on their endless round. 

The Baron is beyond caring, beyond our simple rules and reasons.  He is like Father Time, both timeless and ageless.  He is exists beyond the mortal consciousness of time constructs.  Married to the fiery Maman Brijit, together they rule over the dead, making way for their multitude of children to have egress out of this world and into the next.

 St. Martin de Porres is the Catholic saint shown standing before a poor house, with dying people.  Dressed in a black cassock, with a long rosary, he personifies the stern solmen demeanor that is associated with the Baron.  The Baron likes fiery rum , laced with hot peppers, unfiltered cigarettes and ancestral foods like strong cold coffee, white bread, popcorn and peanuts.  His veve is comprised of the cross, the coffin and the spade, all symbols of the dead and of graveyards.  Listen in the still of the night, as steel shovels hit hard packed earth.  That is his voice, speaking out for all eternity, reminding us that eventually, we are all bound for the same place, equals at the very end.

Copyright 2005, Mambo Vye Zo Komande la Menfo, Daginen

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Fet Gede - A time for healing

It's that time of year again -- the weather has turned colder, the leaves are falling and here in Pennsylvania thoughts turn to purple and black drag, sunglasses with dirty fedoras and a loud laugh followed by high jinks and outrageous behavior. Yes, it's Fet Ghede, the feast of the Ancestors, and for  me  a time of turning inward to reflect and think about the path I am on.

I am a child of the Baron -- I was born on November 2 at in the wee hours of the morning. My birth was heralded by my great grandfather's arrival at dawn with an armful of huge white mums for my mother -- the Baron of our household, with a Ghede gift if ever there was one. I am intrinsically linked to this time of year. So its no surprise to me that when I Kanzo'd those ten years ago, the Haitians were slightly put off when they heard of my birth. The Baron is feared in Haiti. He is not like Ghede, the loving clown who is a ribald character and a healer. No, the Baron is "other" and let's talk a bit about why.

 The cemetery in Port au Prince is another world -- one that remarkably mirrors that of the living. Long roads with fabulous mansions line the wealthier parts. Here the elites of Petitionville bury their dead with all the pomp and circumstance money can buy. But there is also Kwa Baron - the grave of the first male in the cemetery. A large cross surmounts this place, and it is here that the focus of all the Fet Ghede celebrations is centered. But who is this person who sleeps beneath the black cross covered in flowers, candles, rum and bits of paper? Let's remember that the cemetery was first established as a burial ground for victims of the Yellow Fever epidemic that took so many of the foreign soldiers during the Revolution. The man who lies there is not necessarily Haitian but "other" -- just as the Baron is not Haitian nor African, but "other". When the Baron arrives in our temple, he sits and stares at the Ghedes clowning and making their riotous noise. He clicks his teeth in distaste and has said to us that the Ghedes are Creoles without family or friends. And he has been very clear that he is not a Creole, but other (his words).

Heating up the Dead -- is a hallmark of the feast day.  A conversation with your beloved gede is the best way to mark the day. An offering of rum and habenaro peppers is a way to help those who have been in the water, literally anba dlo (under water)  become warm and enthusiastic again. One wants to engage the Dead to help with things -- advice, job hunting, lost love. But having been sleeping in the cool waters of Ginen, they need to be enlivened, and so the piman goes around to "heat up" the dead, so they will work for us again. Ghede Nibo, the prime gede, loves piman, the hot, spicy peppered drink that is the hallmark  of the Gedes. They will even wash with it (including their genitals), as a sign that they really are dead.  Our Papa Edgar used to say that we should not believe every Ghede does this. And in fact, Kate Smith has shown that Ghede was much more of a healer than a clown fifty years ago. But in this new world of cholera, political fighting and religious intolerance, Ghede is needed to give voice to the La Pep. And so he makes fun of the politicians, the elite and anyone else who comes across his radar as a fit target.

Serving the Ancestors -- is the way to finding your conversation with Ghede. One doesn't so much adopt these Lwa, as be adopted by them. Mama Lola says everyone has gede -- because we all have dead in our family. But not everyone has the Baron, and that's ok, too. The Baron is a tough task master. He doesn't cotton to people who dally with his energies. And he is just as likely to take your life, as give it to you. I am careful around my Baron. I honor him at this time of year -- but only at this time of year. I have a head full of spirits who require my attention, and so I try to give each one their due. I think I will make fresh Piman this year for Baron, and make a trek to the graveyard to say hello. It's the best offering I can make, and one that is expected of me as a Mambo. May all your Dead be blessed and well fed this year.
Kwa. Kwa Senbo. Kwa la Kwa.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Wealth in hand, body and spirit

We've been talking a lot about wealth lately both at home and in the sosyete. Seems everyone needs to have money -- and not necessarily for fun things. More like wealth for paying bills, paying the doctor, paying the mortgage...when did wealth become equated with money instead of well being?

I went to a workshop last weekend on money sorcery. The teacher was very good and very funny. He related a number of stories about folks getting themselves into hot water. This person was an index fund manager at AIG back in the 90s, so he knows wealth  -- or at least a type of wealth we associated more and more with money. But it was the underlying story that caught my interest. That real wealth is not an immediate thing. You cannot build wealth working a 9-5 job that just pays the bare minimum of your expenses. In fact, according to this sorcerer, you cannot build wealth while working, period. I am sure everyone heard this as "Win the lottery and retire to the South Pacific"....

But I heard, "Real wealth is not measure in money..." Real wealth is measured in time off to do things of real value. Like spend time with your loved ones. Or do something that makes you feel good -- gardening, reading, whatever. Real wealth is not measured in coins or index funds. After all, those who have lots of money, spend all their time working with, fussing over and worry about their money. So how wealthy are they really?

I concur with the sorcerer's viewpoint. The Houngan and I have not been able to take a vacation in a number of years. This is mostly due to having moved three times in four years, adopting a new dog and managing an elderly one. We are comfortable in our middle age, but not without the usual money worries. Gas keeps rising, food is getting expensive and work seems even more elusive every day. When both partners freelance, it can be a hard row to hoe, as my dad would say. But I feel wealthy.

I am healthy -- and I am grateful for my health.

I have a loving husband of 30 years who supports my projects and reigns me in when I get going too far.

I have a thriving spiritual community to turn to in time of need for a shoulder to cry on or a helping hand.

And I have friends and family who gladly spend time, energy and effort with me when I ask.

Like I said, I feel wealthy. But we can all use a little jump start when it comes to cash. After all, I can't take a chicken to the bank to trade in on my mortgage payments. So here's a working we are doing tomorrow to gain a little favor in the aethyrs.

Sobo is said to be the wealthiest of the Lwa. Wealth meaning all of the above things I've mentions. Collect two gold candles, some Frankincense and Myrrh incense and a gold pen and paper, glass of clear water.  Write down on the paper what you want --this is the hardest part, as we don't ever really know what it is we want. Be as clear and precise as you can be. Inscribe Sobo's veve on the candles. It's here:
Light the incense -- Frankincense and Myrrh are the expensive gifts of the Magi.  An offering of this smoke is a lush way to make favor with the spirits.  Fold the paper toward you three times and place beneath the candles. Light the candles, and think to yourself what it is you want. Be clear. Ask Papa Legba to open the door for your request to go through to Sobo. Ask Sobo for his help in gaining your desire. Drop three little droplets of water on the floor, to make a water road for the Lwa to travel upon.  Smoke's upward movement, candlelight's outward glow and the downward motion of the water make a virtual crossroad, in the center of which you place your request (the paper).  Let the candles burn for one hour each day (do not leave them unattended), until they are stubs. Each time you relight, relight the incense and drop water.  By doing this, you create the crossroad each time.

When the candles are done (meaning they won't burn any longer), gather them and the paper and head to your personal bank.  Make a small deposit into one of your accounts -- either checking or saving. Toss the stubs and your request in the bank's trash receptacle as you fill out the paperwork for the deposit. Complete the work (toss stubs, paper request) and the deposit. Now, go home, knowing you've given Sobo  a small offering and he will do his part to bring about your request. You may repeat this as often as needed.

Let me know how you do.
Kenbe la,

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

October is Legba's card

October: Rada Legba, the cool Rada spirit of Crossroads, gates, openings and closings. This Legba is the Trickster with a twist -- he closes the doors you are not meant to enter and opens the ones you should. Its a fine point, but one that bears remembering. So many people call or write to me, to complain that they aren't getting whatever they need (or think they need). My answer is not always satisfying, but it's succinct -- the door opens only when you are meant to go through. You can't jog it open with anything, if Legba says NO. Its his job to open the way. Yes, he can choose to do so or not, but in most cases, he is benign enough to try and help by not opening. Of course,if you keep pounding on a door that leads to hell, well, he just might open it and say "Ok smarty-pants, go for it." It's both his amusement and his pleasure to watch us try and kill ourselves over a useless task. But he will first offer the correction, before giving us enough rope to hang ourselves.

- I could write a book on Legba, but let me say this here: Legba opens the door between the spiritual and physical worlds. In the month of October, with Fet Gede barely on the threshold between this month and next, you will find the Ancestors very close by. Legba is walking close by this month, opening pathways and places, giving the Ancestors Egress. Like a tidal wqve, the Dead approach to have their zenith at Fet Gede. Begin now to supplicate your beloved Dead, or they will over run you later on. Offer white foods and black coffee. Light candles in the evening, both for their soft light and for their glow.

Make a four part offering this month and next. Gather incense, candles, a bowl for water and a libation such as coffee. The upward motion of incense smoke, the outward rays of candlelight, the stationary placement of the bowl of water and the downward pour of libation are the crossroads through which spirit arises. Up, out, down and centered make the invisible crossroad a reality ion your altar. A place where Legba can manifest. Stand at your altar and give these four elements weekly. Daily if you can, but remember the first law of offerings -- regularly done is better than haphazardly offered. Every day is technically Legba's day, so so pick the day you can do this and just do it. Speak truthfully this month - Legba is also the Lwa of speech, and he clearly hears you as well as allows your words to be heard. But Legba can also make the listener hear something other than what you meant to say! So think first, before opening your mouth and finding your foot in it!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Esotericism in Vodou

Vodou is both an African derivative faith and a new world construct. As such, it borrows from all the various cultures that cannibalized the island of Haiti in the late 16th century. Although many people would decry this, the evidence is self revealing.

The native populations that were on the island at the time of Columbus's landing, were deeply spiritual, and recognized the presence of Divinity in the flora and fauna of their native home. Large trees and deep caves were seen as repositories of spirit, and continued to be revered by the Africans when they were brought to the island. They are still used as holy places of worship even to this day.

The Spanish brought disease, but also the pirates of the Windward passage who were Sephardic Jews. Expelled from Spain during the Inquisition, they came to the New World as colonists, settling in Brazil, Jamaica and northen Haiti. They erected temples, mitzvas and yeshivas, effectively bringing the Kabbala to the island.

The people who were colonist built the Creole culture in the north were also Masons and Martinists. They continue to hold their rites on the land, out under the stars. And their rites are ceremonial in nature, filled with esoteric ideas, symbols and signs. This is an initiation ceremony taking place in Croix de Bouquets. Any Adept worth their wand, would recognize the robes, the cords and the blessing that is taking place.

The Creoles sent their children back to France for education.  Those children studied at the Sorbonne, and on the streets of Paris, where the Bibliotech Bleu was churning out  a million pamphlets of year on all kinds of esoteric topics -- everything from The Grimoire of Honorious to the Black Chicken and the Red Dragon.  Even today, you can buy bad photocopies of these and much more on the streets of Jacmel and Les Cayes. I purchased this one from a street vendor in Jacmel in '09.

The grimoires continue to be much sought after for private work, unlike the more popular and well known rites that plague the Internet today (rites such as Lave Tets and Kanzo, to name a few.)

The esoteric implementation of European practices, Catholic rites and  African Ancestral practices underline much of the Vodou that is practiced on the island today. In the Diaspora, other elements have begun to creep into the religion, but were not originally a part of it's history. Rootwork, Southern Hoodoo and such are not a part of traditional Haitian Vodou but are today a part of it's growing scene in the Diaspora.

The elements of Western Magical tradition have flavored the movements, gestures and timing of a Vodou ceremony. Quarters are acknowledged, consecration of space is performed with the four elements and invocation spoken to call forth the Angels. Sigils are drawn and evocations both in French, Kreyol and Langaj are offered, so the Spirits may descend to take their place among the congregation. Where did this stylized format come from? We can only surmise, as Vodou is an oral faith, one that claims no catechism or pope, but is unique to each house or sosyete that practices. Vodou also morphs as it moves about the country, with more formal reglemen observed in cities, and less structured ceremonies occurring in the countryside.

Where ever it has come from, it has taken ahold of the people with its praxis. And as Vodou moves out of the country of Haiti and into the world, one thing we can definitely be assured of -- it will continue to add and refine itself. As Vodou encounters new practitioners, new places and new things, Vodou will morph into what is needed, as it has always.

For those who say Vodou has no esoteric elements, one need only look at the rites of any sosyete. Watch the movements, the gestures, the timing. Smell the incenses and perfumes used. Observe the sigils as they are drawn and enlivened. And witness magic occurring, at it's most intimate, most elevated and most holy moment. And recognize that Vodou is one of the most important faiths on the planet. Because it is the religion of mankind, laid before the altar of God and lifting us all to heaven.

Ago. Agosi. Agola.

Monday, October 8, 2012

The State of the Occult Conference

Welcome to the new blog folks. Apparently WordPress hiccuped on my server and blew me away. No problem -- I'd been looking for a new blog to start, and this seems to be the place to do it.

First off, a huge shout-out to Cat Rosarium and William Keisle for an amazing conference last month. Mesi anpil, anpil for the hard work, the set up and the general cohesiveness of the weekend. I came home electricified and began to write in earnest. My next book will be done before next year.
The conference was amazing for it's literary content, the level of expertise demonstrated by the lecturers and the attendees, and its offerings. I've yet to attend a conference that has this level of literacy on the East coast (more about the Crucible in a moment, though).

The speakers ranged from book editors and creators to ritual historians and occult art afficiandos to perfumers of esoteric blends and a fabulous show of occult book publishing from England. All in all, this was a collection that spoke to my soul on a very deep level. I am inspired to write in a big way.

This month, we made a first time visit to the Crucible, a magic convention on the east coast in Princeton, NJ. The day was long but very fruitful and filled with interesting people. The organizers did a good job of keeping it small, tight and on time. There was a few techno-gliches, but nothing one doesn't encounter in hotels today (mostly relating to the Internet).

The speakers were all local, so it was a good chance to meet and hear folks from this side of the pond talking about their vision and magic. The lack of spiritual was disturbing to me. I suppose because they have been intertwined for me, for so long, I can barely tease out the threads of individuality anymore. But the magic was interesting from a purely technical point of view.

Rufus Opus probably was my favorite. A very dedicated young man, the numinous experience of his HGA was palatable. He was passionate and very likeable.  Jason Miller made some nice points in his Financial Sorcery lecture. And George Hanson was a very engaging speaker with a witty take on ghosts, ghost hunters and the dead. I bought his book, just for the sheer fun ot it.

Andrieh Vitimus was out from Ohio, talking about doing magic, as opposed to thinking about it. It was good, but I wish they'd placed him earlier on the docket. He had the clean up slot at 11pm at night, so the squeeky chair factor (and shrieking children) were a decided distraction. But his talk was engaging and had lots of good points about actually working magic, as opposed to just reading it and arguing theory.

Rufus, Jason and Andrieh along with two of the Omnimancers were part of a two slot panel discussion on Magic Mishaps and Polarity in Magic. They made some great points, some very funny bloopers and showed how egos left at the door make for a fine panel of experts. I applaud them all for a job well done.

The rest of the conference was regrettably lack luster to me. The opening talk on Time/Space magic was disjointed due to a very poor Internet Skype session. The magic and numbers class was OK, but lacked a good explanation as to how the magician got his formulas. The Emotional Release class felt a bit off. I did not get to any others. But the fact that my friends choose other classes, then bailed to join me might give an indication that either the topic or the presentation wasn't quite on point. These are all small things that did not detract from the overall event in my opinion.

I am grateful we have a reasonably priced offering on this coast. Hopefully, next year will draw even more talents to the Princeton area for a great conference. Mesi anpil to the Omnimancers, for their effort and time. 

I will attempt to reclaim some of my postings from WordPress, and place them here. And I will be blogging regularly as well. Mesi anpil for reading. See you round the houmfort!