Monday, August 26, 2013

Is that a Lwa in your pocket? Part 2

I think I need to add some clarity to my previous post on the Lwa.

First off, They do not appear to physical manifestation. Not in the traditional sense. There is no magic circle, no billowing clouds of special incense and no brandishing a sword or athame (a knife for the uninitiated...).

When They do manifest, They do it within the rarefied arena of a fet. Now I must state here that in my own opinion, honest or otherwise, I feel there's been an overload of "riding with the Lwas" out there. Between Aspecting, Overshadowing, Possession, Channeling, Trance and the old stand-by "The Devil made me do it!", its no wonder no one takes credit for doing it THEMSELVES. Whatever happened to plain old inspiration? Where have all the Muses gone? Do we really need to channel Beings from the Pleiades or Moonchildren or Dogon Deities to actually be effective in the world? Really?

The Lwa (Thank Bondye) are not beings to be channeled. Nor are They beings to called down for a ride. In fact, if you know anything about Vodou, the person who holds the Lwa is not seen as special at all. You are the vessel of the Lwa and nothing else, period.  And I have seen some brilliant vessels who were total asshats in life. What was that line from Amadeus by Salieri -- "You choose for your instrument a boastful, lustful, smutty infantile boy..." There ya go - who says God doesn't have a sense of humor.

The Lwa arrive in soft ways. They speak in dreams, allegories and paradoxes. They love paradox, they are the kings of Paradox country. They can (and often do ) hold opposing ideas as truth. Just look at Their so-called forms. LaSiren is a siren, a sorceress and a wife; she also half fish, half human. And we all agree to it, as if mermaids are the norm. Bossou is half bull, half man and we honor and revere him for his strength and his willingness to help get the job done. We just fetted Agwe, a man who is called a Shell of the Sea and yet captains a ship that is not a ship but might just be a Jin of Islamic stories. It's sheer madness, the kind of story you'd see on Spongebob Square Pants, and yet we all agree vigorously when asked if this is so. I think our rum has been spiked with acid.

How do we know the Lwa? Because we recognize the truth They carry. It's not the form of Siren that draws us in - it's that she owns true love. Don't we all want true love? Of course we do, and so we all agree that if this half human, half fish can offer it to us, then by George she's a woman who is also a fish. Or a fish who is also a woman. Wait, let me have another sip of the Koolaid, it'll make more sense later.

Ezili owns Unrequited Love. She cries over the imperfect world she is bound to be a part of. That is because She is separated from the Godhead. Knowing what perfection is (God) and seeing that the world cannot meet that standard, She cried pitilessly for us. (You really think a spirit that can move through time and space wants expensive clothing and perfume, etc? Have another sip of the Koolaid...)

Each Lwa is a part of the Godhead, and so each one carries a truth, given to Them at the beginning of time. And so if you want to SEE the Lwa, then look for the TRUTH They carry in the world.

The person who takes care of any and everyone, has endless amounts of energy, often wears metal jewelry and is quick of temper is probably walking with Ogoun (the warrior.)

The individual who can juggle ten projects, is a writer, a speaker or engages folks in long evenings of brilliant conversation might just be a Legba (the communicator.)

The man or woman who is a drama queen, loves to get dressed, smells great and is always coiffed to a T is probably walking with Ezili. But She can also manifest as the person who can command a room with a stern look, have people fall to her feet to do Her bidding, and carries the kind of charisma that most of us dream about.

The Lwa are their own "person" as it were. To mire Them down in trivial actions (Ezili likes perfume, Ogoun is always angry) is to deny the breadth of Their presence, the magnanimity of Their gifts and the omnipresence of Their blessings.

Truth is the universal language of this sphere we live in and on. When it's seen or heard or spoken, everyone within earshot is in agreement, on the same page at the same time. And that's because it resonates within ourselves. Like calls to Like. We all carry these truths within, which is why we can agree on it without. And the Lwa embody these truths. They are the universal language of God and She doesn't make mistakes, trust me on that one. So here, do this:

Next time you are in a store or on the street, look at the people around you. Put on your Vodou glasses, as it were and look at the world through the Lens of the Lwa. See if you can't suss out the truths as they surround you. And let that little old man lead you across the street. Smile at the cop as you cross the street. Offer a sniff of your perfume to the young dandy in the next cubicle. By doing so, you are engaging with the truth around you. Or the Lwa, if you prefer to see them that way. It's all the same and it's all good.

And watch  as They turn to you as well. Remember, the reason I became a Mambo is because when I called to the Lwa - They responded. They will for you, too. Without the Koolaid.


Is that a Lwa in your Pocket (or are you happy to see me?)

I was recently asked a very good question by a student in our Four Circles OnLine class about recognizing the Lwa when they choose to show themselves. Many folks think they know the answer, but in fact, the Lwa are pretty cagey guys.

When we begin to walk this path, we seem to find the Lwa everywhere. (Please, no grilled cheese sandwich stories...) I have heard many tales of Lwa - "they appear in my dream", "they talk to me out of thin air", "they are there one second, but they scoot out of my frame of reference..."

Let's get grounded, shall we?

It is true, the Lwa are everywhere. Remember that Vodou is a Fon word for "spirit" and to the African Fon people, Spirit was immanent, meaning everywhere in the world. The rocks, the trees, the springs and rivers were all seen as natural forces embodying the Lwa. We as occultists have come to recognize the spiritual zeitgeist of natural phenomena and we even have a name for it -  Elements. We use this term in a rather cavalier way, but it works 99% of the time. Those on the path of enlightenment will understand when you say "The water element was powerful this weekend." We understand the word element to embody all the occult characteristics of the implied meaning. We can even fill in the void left bereft of explanation by the speaker - that there was great emotion in the gestures and words;  that the intuitive meanings of the rites must have been magnificent; that the scrying was out of this world. The meaning of the element is implied in all these examples.

Vodou is a complex faith filled with implied meaning. The unspoken sense of numen is always present in a Vodou service. Numen filled the void of meaning for the ancient Africans. They didn't use that word for what they felt or sensed when they stood in the presence of magnificent natural phenomena. They simply called it a mystery. But today, we understand the mystery to be numinous, meaning filled with Divine Mystery.

So having established the numen of the Lwa, how does one know when this magical event occurs? The simple answer is you often don't. Even this semi-evolved mambo has had to go home and mull over something before the light bulb of knowledge glimmered on and I got the proverbial "Ah-Ha".

It takes a moment for us all to sort and sift through the daily clutter of phone numbers, internet addresses and email before we find the mental post it note with that description you had jotted down about Ogoun. But it's there, if you take a moment to think about it.

Ogoun is a warrior. He loves metal. He's a lover, a soldier, a leader and a wild man. He lives in the woods, but also in the forge. To recognize Ogoun is to see him as the soldier returning from overseas, the cop walking a beat, the security guy at the mall. Those are the obvious ones. But he appears in other guises as well. His love of metal makes him every jeweler who creates in silver and gold metals The medical doctor, working with scalpels and needles (Bhalindjo). The quick-witted lawyer, working in the justice system (Obatala). He is also the crossing guard, the grocery packer, the secretary/admin assistant to five directors in a corporation (Badagris). Ogoun has endless energy and so he is everywhere at once. But how do we know its Ogoun and not a feat of imagination when we see him? Like this:

I was in a very bad car accident years ago. I do not remember the crash at all. When I came to on the floor of the front seat, I had this odd sense of being out of time and body. It was as if I was watching myself from outside the car. A large man in dark blue clothing was asking me if I was alright. The Me on the floor was blinking at this mirage, while the me out of the car kept saying 'yes I am.' Finally, the man in blue looked up and said 'then come back.' And in that split second, I did, and when I again blinked from the car bottom, I saw a police officer leaning into the car and offering me his hand. No, I do not think of this as a near death experience. As a Mambo Asogwe, I think of it as being displaced for a moment, while the Lwa were present for me. It was Ogoun in the navy blue shirt, talking to me as the officer. And when He looked over at Me standing off to one side, He moved out of my conscious body, so the real me could come back on over.

In other words, at the moment of impact, Ogoun took my head and the brunt of the impact on my body. And just to show the extent of this action, Papa Don burst into tears when he saw the car at the garage - it was totaled. The garage mechanic said he didn't understand how I walked away. But I did. And I do.

Not all appearances of the Lwa are as dramatic. And they don't have to match up in sex, either. I offer Exhibit A to the left - the winner of an international longsword competition as proof that being feminine and an Ogoun are not opposing ideas.

But rest assured, when the crossing guard smiles at you, that's Ogoun looking at you. When the girl with the bubble gum pink nails perfumes herself and her cube next to you, that's Ezili Freda making her presence known. When the mail guy who hails from the deserts of New Mexico plasters his walls with pictures of sailing yachts, that's Agwe sailing along with him. And when small men of color carrying walking canes smile at you in elevators, at cross streets and on corners, that's Legba winking back.

Bilolo Papa Ogoun. Mesi anpil for my life.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Ever forward

Lodge Walker with DAN 1999 Kirkridge Initiation Weekend
I was reading a friend's blog this morning, regarding her new start into the world. This individual left a group she'd worked in for a long time, and was now on her own, free falling as it were into a new life without any borders or constraints. It's freeing and it's frightening all at the same time. I know this intimately - I had left a tradition I not only worked in for 20 years, but held two big-time initiations in, was a teacher and a lineage carrier. But some Else was calling and I couldn't resist the call any longer.

I was a third degree Gardnerian and a consecrated Last Walker of the Village Tradition, both from Dolores Ashocroft-Nowicki, herself a high muckety-muck over in England. I was also a  Magus in the Servants of the Light School of England that she ran. Big time occultist, that was me.

Not now. Well, I shouldn't say "was" -- you can't ever toss off an initiation. It's there, no changing things now. Sorry. Should have thought twice before saying yes. That's ok, I am still very proud of all of it.  But - that little nagging voice kept telling me this wasn't really my path.

Oh, I had "cheated" here and there. Attended a Gnostic Mass (shocking!) Sat in for two rounds of Shamanic training with Michael Harner (infidelity!) Did a two week drum intensive with Babatunde Olatunji (sweet...) But I always came back to the herd, to the safety of the SoL and Dolores' knee.

Then it happened. I was hit one day by the glorious idea that there was something else out there, and by God, I was gonna find it. I was using this new tool called the Web to speak to a person about Haiti, and Vodou and she made me an offer I couldn't refuse -- come on down and I'll kanzo you. Kanzo! The Holy Grail of Vodou! How could I not.

Well - here's how - sick parents, job that was 80% travel; a husband, a house, coven and a magical lodge. But the Lwa keep tickling me, keeping me up all night, surfing the World Wide Web (where do you think the 'www' in all those urls came from?) And every site I hit upon was Vodou, Haiti, Afro-Caribbean faiths, Voodoo, hoodoo, Port au Prince. I was hooked, drugged, high on the idea of traveling to a Third World country,  and laying down on a dirt floor. I was in.

And so I get what my young friend is experiencing. Please don't get me wrong - there were repercussions.  The coven/lodge divided over this. There was fall out. Some folks supported us and they are still here with us. But others left, feeling betrayed and let down. I asked them why should I keep doing something I don't feel called to do, just because you want a place to pray on Saturday nights? Why don't you do it yourselves? There was no answer - just recrimination. So be it.

The Lwa took it all away - the job, the coven, the lodge. We found ourselves adrift, alone and so we clung to one another, went to Haiti and laid down on that dirt floor. Eight days later, we got up and we've never regretted it -- not even for one minute. The work has been fulfilling, the joy electric and the Lwa delightful to be with. I couldn't be happier.

If I had stayed the course, I might not have continued the work in any capacity. I was tired. I was distraught over my lack of faith in what I was doing. I had doubts. Big ones. Now, here today, with my new faith and my courage, I have never had doubts -- even when things got tough (and they surely did for a time). But that is in the past. I am here, ayibobo. The work is good, the satisfaction palatable and I am happier than I have ever been.

Do what makes you happy. Dolores was my first and only initiator for years. I wouldn't change that for the world. The teachings she gave me were profound, even if they didn't fit my life after a time. But I've never been one to throw out the baby with the bath water. Her sage advice still gets me through the day at times. But one piece was truly epic and I use it always. "Forget what others say about you," she'd advise.  "It's none of your business what other people say about you." And she's right. I follow my spirits. "Keep your eyes on the prize" is what I am told daily by the Lwa.

Ayibobo Papa. I put my foot on the path and I've never looked back. I offer this same thing to my friend, if she happens to read this. You'll be much happier, M, trust me on that one. Kenbe La sweetheart - stay strong and have faith. The spirits never desert us, they just take us where we need to go.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Sosyete du Marche Inc. Calendar has been updated

Honor everyone,

Just trying to keep pace with the life of the houmfort here. We've updated the calendar for the last half of the year. Please check for our offerings of classes and services. Mesi anpil for looking!

Sosyete du Marche, Inc. Calendar