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!