Monday, May 2, 2016

May is Mange Mo:

I totally missed April’s reading, and I apologize to you, dear readers. If you follow any of my Facebook profiles, I am dealing with a very painful back disc issue and can’t sit comfortably for more than an hour at a time.  I am awaiting treatment and so in the meantime, I surf the Net, make notes and –sleep.  But today is a better day than before, and so I am trying to get back on track again.  Let’s see what Legba pulled for May this year.

Although the astrologers have us in the throes of both a Mercury and Mars retrograde (oh goodie…), this month’s path to stability lies with the ancestors.  Mange Mo is an annual feeding event in Haiti.  Food is expensive and so a big feast is generally held off for a year. Then, at the appropriate time, all the ancestral dead of the family (mother’s lines, father’s lines, spiritual posse and so forth) are fed in a grand fet.  All the favorites are gathered: foods, drink, smokes (cigarettes), even pictures of clothing, cars and any other item that the dead loved. These are set up on the offering tableau and a ritual ceremony is given with lusty singing, drumming and dancing.  Once the spirits are set and happy, then everyone in attendance also partakes of the meal and drink. It’s a big deal for the family and for the local neighbors as well.

Mercury may be retro and Mars is sulking but – Venus is sitting in Taurus right now, her beloved home.  She is what’s known as exalted, meaning she offers her brooding lover Mars heaping helpings of love and attention so he won’t spoil the party.  And I have written oodles about Mercury Retrograde (you can read it here), so don’t fret about my beloved Patron making trouble.
Take a moment this month to offer your ancestors a plate of their favorites. It doesn’t need to be high drama – a bite of your dinner and a cup of joe works just fine.  Put it on their favorite color – either a napkin or a plate.  Put their picture there, or just write out their name as a place card. If you have an ancestor govi, use that as the focus of the table. Make it as  grand as you wish, but do it this month. The energy of the ancestors is available right now, through the largesse of Legba opening the gate. Use it wisely to help this month run smoother for yourself.

And like all fets, there is a Lwa who is the pwen or power point of that working.  The pwen for this month is the beautiful Freda (the Venus of Vodou), and she is certain to pay attention if you offer her a cup of coffee with sugar and cream to help smooth over any rough patches.  Just don’t forget to pour out a shot of white rum or gin for Mars (Ogoun), so he won’t become maudlin and rage unnecessarily.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The first quarter is always the toughest

We have officially arrived in April. And although the weather isn't behaving (it snowed this morning), it is spring and my thoughts turn toward - gardens, plants and herbal concoctions.

I am currently wading through the Viridarium Umbris by Daniel Schulke. A hefty tome of around 1000 pages, it has been a challenge and a boon to read with my book club. We are trying our hand at the various recipes, looking for the suggested plants and making progress. It comes at a good time too, as I am making plans for my own little patch of earth this spring.

So what does a mambo plant in her herbal yard, when most of what is used isn't commercially available here in Pennsylvania? Well, let me tell you that with a bit of searching, you can find quite a few Haitian herbs. At my old house, I had a small forest of banana trees, palms and assorted tropical trees just for decor.  Mixed in were aloes, pelagoriums, citrus geraniums, Dutchman pipes and all the regulars like lovage, basil and mint (over 30 varieties at one point!)

Mints are very traditional in Vodou. We make Danbala's basin with spearmint, we bath our blades in peppermint and we create various bath mixtures with them.  Everything in Vodou is about balance, so I always choose to have both mints and basil in my garden.

Basil is the favorite of Erzulie, and it's spicy notes are a welcome balance to her pink roses. Think not? I know my scents, having worked in the floral industry through high school and college.  Fresh roses should smell Peppery - not "flowery". If they smell like roses, the blooms are dying, and will not last more than a day or two. But if you sniff a rose and get pepper, buy it. That bloom has hardly off the plant more than a few hours. Basil is also a favorite of Ogoun, and our altars for the Nago warrior are awash in vases of fresh basil from the garden. Purple basil, also known as African blue is the plant to seek.  I have found it most really good garden centers that specialize in odd or rare herbs.

I also pick up a bitter melon at the Asian market and plant the seeds. This is the herb called Awowsi, and its Azaka's favorite plant. The leaves are often made into a tea, and I know diabetics in Haiti who use it to help control their blood sugar. Like most bitter herbs, its expelling nature helps the pancreas and gall bladder shed sugar from the system.

I have roses for Erzulie - pink of course, though one year only the white one bloomed, but she didn't seem to mind.

I also plant a host of lemon scented herbs - verbena, lemon balm, melissa and lemon scented pelagorium.  Citrus is a poison breaker in Haiti, and having a handful of these wonderful herbs ready  to go should be the top choice for all mambos who do any client work.

Our front garden is graced by a huge Dutchman's Pipe, also known as Aristolochia. It's a climbing vine with a huge and very ugly purple flower. This is the go-to plant for spirit attachments. A bath made of this plus some additional constituents will cleanse even the toughest case. (No, I am not giving out recipes, just covering plants!)

Two additional herbs round out my regular garden plants. The first is the anise plant. Legba loves this scent, and so I have three huge bushes out front for him. I make tea from the flowers, hydrosol from the leaves and essential oil from the stems. The second is a rosemary bush. I generally cannot get this to winter over, but I splurge every year and buy a big bush, that I keep in the sun all season. At the first sign of frost, I bring it in, and it usually manages to make it till Yule before dying. At the old house, we had a bush outside in a protect alcove. It weathered many snowy winters without issue. But here there is no protective niche, and so I must make do with a new one each year.

And finally, I have the usual kitchen herbs - chives, garlic, onions, marjoram, thyme and pepper.  These can all be found wherever you buy your herbs locally.

Although there are a few herbs that can only be had in Haiti, by and large most herbs can be found here in the USA. If your local garden center doesn't carry something, check online. Many nurseries now ship worldwide. It's no problem to find tropical plants that can help fill out your plant nursery.

As I get the plants in and things begin to grow, I'll post pictures from all the beds. I love this time of year, when I can get out into the dirt and feel the energy of the earth pushing and moving forward. I hope you get out there, too!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

March is Bossou Twa Kon

In January of 2015, Legba pulled twelve cards as primary cards, and then 6 as Shadow cards. These shadows then become the 6 primary for this year. I have been busy with classes, so I have fallen a bit behind on my readings. My apologies dear readers, for the slacking off.  Heretofore is my catch up posting for this year:

January was Legba Atibon, the exalted shadow for the Action De Gras of last January. Although this year began in a Mercury Retrograde, the Gatekeeper did not fail to open the way.  For some, January was the opening slavo to a difficult year. There were losses, as well as gains; trying times for world at large, and for the sosyete personally.  However, nothing Legba does is without purpose, and although the year began in turmoil, this is all for a reason.  You cannot make your goals holding onto old ideas, old patterns and unresolved conflicts. When we won’t make change, the universe does it for us, and that’s exactly how Legba opened the year.  I would expect the unexpected from now on.

February was Gran Ibo’s month, a taming influence to Gede’s wild ride.  Whenever Gran Ibo appears, she lends her calming ashé to our own lives, helping to tame the wild in life.  It is much needed – February brought really serious sickness, trembling worries all over the globe and making it difficult for all of us to find our faith in the world. Gran Ibo is a water spirit who is often visualized  as a bird. In Vodou, birds are anthropomorphized as ancestors who are also messenger spirits.  Their appearance can hail news from beyond or indicate an offering is needed to help them on their own spiritual path.  I keep bird seed available at all times, but more so whenever it is Gran Ibo’s time.  When you feel the stress of life becoming unbearable, a handful birdseed tossed as an offering helps bring her subtle but powerful energy into focus, calming the events in our lives, so we can “tame” them to our purpose.

Bossou mask from Jacmel
This March is ruled by Bossou Twa Kon, the old king of Dahomey who ended slavery, thus healing his people and his lands.  Bossou is an unexpected pleasure in my life. He arrived through the auspices of of our very own Papa Edgar Jean-Louis, who had made the paket that now graces our Petro altar. Bossou is synchronized with St. Vincent de Paul or sometimes, the triple-ray Christ an allusion to his three horns.

I shouldn't be surprised at my attraction. Bossou is one of the Nephilum Lwa. Semi-divine, with one human parent and one divine, he is part of the mythology of Africa that places disfigured or misshapen people into a special category of folks who are touched by the spirit world. Bossou also carries all the myths of European Bull worship, as well as his status of being sacred in India, holy in Egypt and royal in Africa as well. A very special spirit, he crosses between Petro and Rada. He is Kadja Bossou in Rada; he is Djobolo Bossou in Petro.  He is sometimes envisioned as the Jolly Buddha, with the big belly and smile on his Rada side. But he can also be a huge danger (as any enraged bull can be), when envisioned as Petro.  (Incidentally, this is the first paket I ever owned!)

During carnival in Jacmel one year, I got a huge laugh out of a local craftsman, when I went gaga for a Bossou mask in his shop. "Do you know who that is," he asked politely. "Yes," I said, " it's my  lwa Bossou!" The craftsman roared with delight. "The blan knows her djabs!" he laughed. Wearing it on my head backwards, I got great looks in every airport we passed through on the way home.
If your life seems overly burdened this month, ask Bossou to help out. He can carry the load with ease, making your life a little smoother.  Built for burdens (emotional, physical or mental), he brings a steady rhythm to the world. In many places, Bossou is the main line between life and death. Bulls provide their bodies for food, their strength for projects and their presence for protection. Such a worthy friend should receive our notice when he arrives. Unsung, ignored and largely forgotten by all but the upcountry folks, Bossou is the gentle strong man of the Vodou Pantheon. Allow him to carry the load for you this month.

Set a table for Bossou with three candles in red, white and black (his colors). Because Sosyete du Marche is a Rada house, we use the image of the Laughing Buddha (you might know him as the  Hotei -- you're supposed to rub his fat belly when you come and go from home), St. Vincent de Paul or the triple ray Christo are his Catholic counterparts. Put water in a ceramic bowl, leave a good cigar and corn pudding for him. Ask him to carry your load this month, so that you may be free of your illness, your stress and your worry. Here's a song for him. You can say this as a prayer:

Kadja Bosou e a mwen prale,
Djobolo Bosou ea mwen prale,
M ap rele lwa yo pou we si m'ap passe Kadja bosou e a , e a,
O m'ap remesi lwa yo.

Kadja Bosou e a I am going,
Djobolo Bosou eh ah, I am going,
I am calling the Lwa, to see if I may pass,
Kadja Bosou eh ah,
Oh I will thank the Lwa.

Refresh the water and candles through the month.  Wear his colors if you can. Pat his belly or head; he loves that (what man doesn't?)  And watch for Bossou in the world. He'll be the big, easy going guy at the check-out counter, who wears a world-weary smile. The goofy grocery clerk who carries ten bags with ease.  The secretary who works endlessly and never complains.  The maintenance man who fixes the copier. The construction workers, ditch diggers and road crew members who lift, carry and tote the world on their shoulders, doing their work all day, every day and yet who remain in the background. While we applaud the architects and visionaries, it's the Bossous of the world who did the grunt work of bringing those dreams into reality.  Ask Bossou to do the same for you and see if your burdens get a little lighter this month.  This is very pertinent to our sosyete at this time.  With so many of us suffering through physical ailments, it is Bossou who will shoulder our burdens and help us gain back our health. Bossou always arrives to carry – it is his ability to handle the most difficult of cases, trials and tribulations that render him one of the most prolific and powerful spirits in our house coterie.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Death and LIfe: Ghede in the Gate

Honor tout moun -
I wrote this posting last week, just before the storm. Its been a painful week for me but I want to share. Even personal pain must be set aside when you are a working priest; others need your support and strength. I will cry in private later on.
They are predicting snowmegaddon this weekend, just in time for our Legba fet. The Gatekeeper must have some big news if he is buttoning me into the house for two days. I have been acting as an uber mambo since December 31 - Petro bathes, Bon Chans (luck) baths, three day ancestor elevation.  Students are busy with the Four Circles class. Clients are coming out of the wood work. Woy - travay, travay-yo!

Life is a continuous spiral, a Fibonacci graphic meant to be lived and explored.  Each passing day my duties and spiritual connections increase. Most are wonderful experiences, the kind of affirmation that makes me glad for becoming a  priest all those years ago. Others? Well, those are the not so good kind; the type where you must step aside internally inorder to function externally. No one ever taught me how to do this - maybe its a survivor mechanism, I don't know. What I do know is, it still hurts even when I can't show my emotions.

I had devastating news arrive last week - a very close friend lost her husband in a freak accident in Jamaica the first week of the year. He was a Ghede child, born one day after me - November 3rd. I feel those of us born in the time of the Ghedes walk closer to death than most. But that doesn't mean it's any easier to do the work.  Two years ago, I officiated at the memorial service for her mother -- interestingly in a blizzard. When the call came late on Saturday night, I thought OMG, its her father. Never did I think it would be her husband "D".

I officiated at the marriage of D and my friend.  They lived here in Pennsylvania for many years, but island-born people have a pull to the waters of their homeland that cannot be denied. Three years ago D moved back, and my friend began plan a life there with him. They bought a house. They opened a bar with music. D rapped in a rich baritone colored with island flavors and cut a couple records that were well received. My friend set up a boutique that carried jewelry, doing hair for the tourist ladies. It was all going so well, until D stepped off the curb last Monday and was run down by a tour bus. Game over.

D's birth was heralded by a magical, mystical character known to me only as Brudda.  D later explained that Brudda was a real life Obeah healer from Kingston, Jamaica. When Brudda got a look at D's mom he predicted that the baby would be born "special." D arrived a week earlier with a caul on his face.  That set him up for many things - but mostly danger. On an island where magic and spirituality go hand in hand, a baby with a caul is of special note. Whether D rose to fulfill his potential we will never know. Even my friend didn't know much about that part of D's life.  When I left for Haiti to become mambo, D was over the moon.  Finally he had a friend here in the states he could talk to about things that were "other." But it wasn't enough. His life was really good here; busy with my friend, her family, myself and Papa Don.  But, somehow it wasn't enough and the call to come home was greater than all of us together. So he returned to the island and now, there is a hole where he once stood,

"Help the people," D would say. "Brudda always said the real work is to help the people." D said I helped to make his dream come true when I married him to my friend. They have been a part of my life for so long, they feel like family.  I don't know what happened last week in Jamaica, but I will help my friend mourn and together we will pick up the pieces, and begin again. We have good reason to do so because D left behind more than just my friend; he left a daughter. A little bit of himself for us to love and cherish. I will be traveling to Kingston soon to help my friend bring home her husband and her child. And together with her family, we will make magic for a tiny Italian-Jamaican girl who looks like her daddy and laughs like her mom. This Godmother is very happy that there is yet another ti-fey to add to our growing sosyete.  And I am going keep my word to D, to help, however I can. I have to -- he and Brudda are both watching me now. Ayibobo.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

A Mercury Retrograde kinda Month

Respect tout moun! Bonne Anne! Happy New Year everyone!

It is a Mercury Retrograde kind of month.  The Trickster planet goes Retrograde today until the 25th. Lucky us.  Leave time for travel, look over contracts twice and be careful of what you say, how you say it and when you do. Whew, a lot of work. Retrograde time periods are its all about the "R" words - Review, Renew, Refresh and Release.  Here's how this month is shaping up for me.

We do Three Kings magic at the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve.  Don carries money, food and fuel over the threshold to bring prosperity, abundance and wealth into our lives for the entire year. I've written about this ritual here - and its still not too late to do this. You have until the Epiphany to bring the RICHES of the Three Kings into your life.

We also do a tradition Ancestor Elevation on December 31, January 1 and 2nd. Elevating your Ancestors helps move them forward in their spiritual amelioration which means you as well.  Its a sweet ritual that only takes a few minutes to do, but feels so lovely and REFRESHES the your entire  lineage with its uplifting prayers.

On January 1, I got a call from an old friend who I hadn't spoken to in a while. We got to RENEW our friendship while comparing notes on what had transpired in our lives to date.  We REMARKED on making more of an effort stay in touch with one another. Another long lost pal also appeared and gave me love, so I was feeling very elated by all the touchie-feelie stuff happening. I take all of this as a good sign for me that the year was stepping off on the RIGHT foot.

I also began 2016 by appearing on TV. The Travel Channel hosts a show called Dead Files Revisited. I filmed it last April and it finally aired this past weekend. As I REVIEWED my work my first thought "was not too shabby, but my Kreyol could use some attention." I also thought it interesting that they used the RITUAL part extensively - my final interview was kind of janky due to the Spirits playing with the camera and deleting the batteries repeatedly. Even the cameraman was thoroughly exasperated by the end, saying he wasn't sure any of it would be useful, since the camera kept shutting itself off throughout the interview - oops, sorry about that!

And finally, I RELEASED some things that I needed to, in order to make peace with the changes in my life that I have had going on. Yes, even this mambo is not protected from the wear and tear of life, though I am not one to speak about my personal issues. But you will see a change if you know me - less hair, less weight. My health had taken a hit last year - a serious bone bruise in October, a torn ligament, and a major IBS flare up that resulted in my hair beginning to fall out. I do listen when the universe speaks, so I made some tough choices.  I RELEASED (cut off) my beautiful dreadlocks to give my head a chance to heal. I've made a RADICAL change in my diet, so my belly would start to  heal. And we are selling (getting RID off) this big house with all its issues, and moving down into something more manageable. Its time for a change.

Spirit is showing me that I am on the RIGHT track. We have new students in our Four Circle class (RENEWED interest), the house is getting painted (REFRESHED) and the REALTOR is coming by next week to offer advice on any final touch ups we need to get done. It's all good.

And I am REMINDED by Spirit that balance is important. I cannot go hiving off like I used to and expect to get anything accomplished. I intended to approach this year in a more focused manner, with the desire to finish projects, renew relationships and settle into a stable groove. As I am REMINDED by Legba, I must keep my eyes on the prize. Whenever I waiver, is when I become lost. Not this year.

So bring on the retrograde. I was born during a Mercury Retrograde, which makes me very empowered during these times. I RELISH the R words and so should you.  They will make you ROBUST and give you the RESOLVE to go forward with your plans. My best REGARDS!