Last January, Legba pulled twelve cards. This is the final one, a revolutionary start for the new year. Makandal is seen as a natural man, standing out in the woods. With Danbala curling above his head, Makandal stands in a stream of moving water. The water signifies the emotional burden that he carried. Desire, loneliness, anger. The emotional energies that helped him do the work of igniting the passions of his fellow Africans also left him very alone. His spiritual companion is Danbala, the energy of creation. All revolutions are about birthing a new creation. And it is under Danbala’s steady gaze that the work of the revolution begins as an idea, a thought, and a desire to be free.
Makandal’s activities had a profound impact on the start of the revolution. He influenced the next generation of revolutionaries to make the changes that would bring forth the nation of Haiti. Let me share a little about Makandal:
There is very little in the historic record, and what we do know is speculative at best. Some accounts say he was a Muslim, enslaved in Africa and brought over to the island of Saint- Domingue either from Senegal, Mali or Guinea. Haitian historian Thomas Madiou states that “Makandal had instruction and possessed the Arabic language very well.” (1) Other accounts name him as a houngan who had knowledge of the leaves and plants of the island. (2)
From there, the stories interweave but details are cloudy. He had only one hand – or maybe one arm. The arm or hand was lost in Africa – or in a sugar mill incident. Whichever is the truth, the loss kept him out of the fields, allowing him to travel as a sort of delivery man between plantations. In his travels, he became familiar with the island and its floral, eventually gaining intimate knowledge of its many plants and their purposes for both healing and harming. He also made a connection with the maroon Africans, eventually joining them. Speculation says he either developed a large network of groups – or created the network allowing him to gain access to all the plantations. His fellow maroons distributed his work with equanimity, killing white masters, African slaves and livestock with impunity. Makandal was deadly serious about wanting to escape the rigors of bondage, and he took no prisoners in the doing. Freedom or death was the same thing to him.
His reign of warfare ended when an ally was captured and tortured into revealing Makandal’s whereabouts. The historic record is clear on this one point. He was captured in the north and publicly burned to death in Cap Hatien’s square. However, either due to the heat of the fire or supernatural cause, no body was discovered in the smoking pyre the next day. Makandal’s legend would only grow from there. And (again possibly speculation or truth, who knows…) a young slave named Boukman was present at the burning. The flames of Makandal’s pyre would ignite this man’s passion for freedom, and Boukamn would go on to become an important leader in Haiti’s revolution to free all the enslaved people on the island.
For the month of December, Makandal’s energy and passion will encompass everyone in the sosyete. We will all become revolutionaries in our own lives and in the life of the society as well. Makandal’s power was not just his abilities to create poison, but to affect transformation of his life, the island and its people. Makandal had the talent to detect changes that were happening across the island and in the plantation culture. He was charismatic enough to lead large, diverse groups of people in coordinated efforts toward a common goal. And he was intimately familiar with the land he lived on. Through his experimentation and practice, Makandal came to understand how the plants supported his efforts and kept his compatriots alive during the worst of times. His plant knowledge was not just about poison but about life as well. He was as much a healer as he was a revolutionary.
With Makandal as the energy of this month, he will lend his revolutionary thinking, energy and purpose to the sosyete, giving us the energy to birth a new vision of where we are heading in 2016. Gather up healing herbs (mint, basil, thyme, rosemary) and tie up a tiny paket of them. Place the paket behind your front door for blessings and protections.
Equally, lay a small bundle of baneful herbs (agrimony, thistle, rue, horehound) under your front mat for protection and to deflect away anything with ill intent.
As you tie your pakets, light a red or blue candle (the colors of Haiti) and invoke Makandal’s energy for protection, for healing and for change. Now is the time to consider what you want to bring to you in the new year. Do you want freedom from a job, a relationship, a position? Are you looking to connect with others of a like mind? Then kill off that old pattern of living and invoke a new one for yourself!
December’s Shadow is Papa Loko: with such a strong card ruling this month, it makes sense that the shadow would exalt the energies of Makandal. Papa Loko will sit as judge on this new activity, ensuring we do it right from the start. His unerring judgment will guide Makandal’s ashé as we go forward. A volatile spirit such as Makandal needs a strong hand to guide those energies in a positive way. Papa Loko is also a spirit of the forest and herbs. He will temper Makandal’s provocative nature, and channel it in a positive direction for the entire sosyete.
(1) Madiou, Thomas. Histoire d'Haïti, Impr. de J. Courtois. 1848.
(2) Weaver, Karol K. Medical Revolutionaries: The Enslaved Healers of Eighteenth-Century Saint-Domingue, Urbana, IL:University of Illinois Press. 2006.