"The truth is: Vodou is *not* a nice little religion. It’s not some charming variant of Folk Catholicism, nor some New Age Afro-Wiccan hootenanny. It is the spiritual [religious] expression of seven million Afro-Creole people who assemble remnants from an excruciating past and bewildering present into intensely corporeal ritual constellations. No one should expect to ‘understand’ such a religious culture by simply going through an exhibition. Vodou is too complex and too contingent to be wrapped up and walked off with so neatly.” - Dr. Don Costentino, Sacred Arts of Haiti Exhibition Catalog.
Thanks Don, I'll take it from here. I think some
people of my acquaintance need to read this more than once and then get
busy with their own stuff. Lately, there has been a mixing of traditions
that I don't approve of. There, I said it. Vodou is African in
derivation, Creole by practice and Haiti by sovereignty. If you do
Vodou, then you follow the Reglemen of Vodou: the liturgical rules for
practicing this faith, set down by the Ancestors and kept alive by the
people of Haiti who live this faith each day. You don't add to it, take
from it or mix it with other things. To do so, is to besmirch the memory
and lives of those people who fought and won the right to do Vodou in a
free, sovereign nation. I have WAY too much respect for those people to ever step outside the lines of the faith.
Want to practice eclectic spirituality? Lord knows, there is plenty of that out there right now. As of this writing, I googled "New Age Spirituality". The result was 219M hits. Read that number again - that's 219,000,000. Really? There's only 313M people living in the USA. With that number of New Age hits, we should expect a cloud of patchouli to be settling over us at any moment.
I am looking down the barrel of 60 years of age. Fully one half of my life, I have been a consecrated priest. I am a member of a long practiced and well respect Western Mystery Tradition (Servants of the Light) and now I can add Haitian Vodou to my esoteric CV. I don't do SOL Vodou, nor do I do Haitian Western Mystery. Sadly, I haven't stood in a SOL Circle in ages. I've just been too busy, happy and fulfilled being a Mambo Asogwe. As it should be.
Lately, I hear people of my ilk decrying the youngsters coming up behind us. That they aren't as dedicated. They don't take time to learn. They want instant answers. Got a news flash for ya - that's not true either. I have plenty of youngins' in my house and they are dedicated, eager, fast learners. They love the Internet; can research a 300 page paper in a day and don't take any answer at face value. I had to up my game with them. There is no "I speak and you obey" going on at Sosyete du Marche. Hell no. My kids ask questions, demand answers, query my research and go off to seek out another answer, another method and another way. They get in my face about everything - words, songs, dress codes, everything.
I love them for it. They challenge my leadership, my sanity and my bathrooms. We all learn together. But one place I will not compromise, back down or offer any kind of change to is the Reglemen of Haitian Vodou. And the best part is -- they get it. They love the rules, the eritaj of the practice. They've been to Haiti with me and fell in love like I did. They eagerly look forward to their Haitian family members attending fets. They understand the beauty, the power and the magic that is Vodou. There is no need to change things - Vodou is amazing just by following the rules. No need to add, to mix, to blend to make something else -- it's perfect just as it was given to us by the Ancestors.
I suggest that those people out there who are looking to change or modernize or make Vodou something else, take a big step back. Because Vodou did something you cannot do. It birthed a nation of free people. It gave people answers, a way out of their bondage. It lifted them up and created a world they could comprehend, live in and thrive in. It is astounding, amazing and beautiful all by itself, without anything added.
Do or do not. Perhaps, Yoda was a Vodousiant after all.