Monday, August 26, 2013

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.

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