∞ On Mary, Marie and Vodou ∞
When I was a little girl if you asked what I wanted to be when I grew up and if I was being honest with you I would have said "witch". In fact once when I was 12 my dad promised me when I was old enough he was going to tell me a secret about our family. I immediately was like " I KNEW it! I'm a witch! We're witches! I KNEW it!!" I was wrong. It was actually that we were in the mafia, which honestly also made me very excited because I'm a writer, and what a plot twist! I didn't find that out until years later and held onto the witch theory like mamba holds onto her bottle of rum. Of course, like all girls drawn to magic I bought first Llewelyns Celtic magic books.. Wiccan books, tarot cards, pendulums.. I found the I instructions impossible for a solitary 12 year old ( or even 2 of us) it called for hundreds of dollars worth of tools and alters and all things that logistically didn't work. I always practiced .. I made potions, conjured, cast spells, (a word on conjuring.. Don't.) and even attempted astral projection (worked) ouija boards (always worked scarily freaky well- don't conjure). I celebrated high holidays and in general gained a strong disdain for Southern Baptists and severely perverse women hating faiths. I was Catholic and saw the beauty of ritual and gloried in the love of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Our Beauteous Lady of Guadalupe. Being in Texas and Louisiana she was always around me. She was who I prayed to. I could relate to her. I knew at all times she would hold me close and keep me in her heart. I called her by dozens of names , in several incarnations. But she's my goddess. Then I went to college in New Orleans.
Living in New Orleans .... The mojo is thick in the air.. It's unmistakable. The Loa are everywhere; in Marie LaVeaus shop, under the hundreds of year old sidewalks- where one can see under the huge jutted up pieces of cement- jars. Buried jars. Antique voodoo curses. I bought a print at a smart sale on campus. It was a black and white Print with the words Dambala and huge serpent climbing a tree. I loved it and hung it above my bed, next to my Kate Moss collage. I brought it along everywhere until one day while moving it got messed up I guess and I had to toss it. It was only then that I looked up the word. Damballah. Haitian Lwa .Creation Lwa. Great Serpent God. Benevolent and protective. One of the first in the Diaspora of Haitian Lwa. I loved it. I bought many books on Haitian Vodun, Louisiana Voodoo, and Candomble of Africa- Benin... Oddly enough my roommate was a literal Princess of Benin. Manka. She had a British accent because I guess real African princesses live in London.. It was only when she was drunk that she'd spill on being a real African princess( or daughter of the owner of the National bank or whatever ). I should google her.. Anyways the Vodun ceremonies are so intuitive and as simple or as complicated as you would like. The thing about it, is Vodun was ILLEGAL to practice in Haiti. They were Catholic. So it was practiced undercover. St. Peter became Papa Legba, Mary, Ezrulie. It's practiced in Haiti as a practical, every day religion to keep the chickens producing eggs and keeping your family healthy. It's no darker than any other form of healing or conjuring . That myth originates solely because Haiti had the only successful slave rebellion in history. To generate the rage the slaves needed with the courage to carry it out the mambas carried out ceremony after ceremony invoking the Ratha warrior Lwa. These negative, powerful spirits possessed them and gave them strength to overcome all the plantation owners and there families and burn everything to the ground . Sugar plantations gone. All white plantation owners dead. News travels and , New Orleans slave owners were terrified. It was known that Haitian Vodou was the reason for the revolt. It was easy to shake them and instill a tiny bit of respect and protection if your oppressors thought you knew "Voodoo ". Marie Laveau Was a free woman of color. She did whatever the hell she wanted. She was a hairdresser for all of the richest white women in New Orleans. This alone made her privy to lots of secrets. She went into the women's houses and got to know there slaves, healing them, giving them charms and potions in exchange for secrets of the house with which to convince them she was all seeing. That with her well known knowledge of Vodou made her intimidating to even judges. She was a fierce advocate for prisoners and the wrongly Imprisoned . She visited prisons constantly and would sit there and say the rosary with men on death row. At trials of the innocent she would sit in the courtroom with a hot pepper in her mouth, tears streaming down her face. Afterwards the prosecutor would find strange items under his chair. She alone is the reason they halted public executions in Louisiana. She performed Mass on Sunday for slaves at Congo Square. Also she put St. Johns Day ( the most important Voodoo holiday)on the map and held spectacular celebrations all night long on the swampy banks of Bayou St. John. She'd dance with her pet python, Zombi. The story gets more complicated with the addition of her daughter, Marie II. All of a sudden a woman who looked just like Marie but decades younger started appearing everywhere Marie went, dressed in her clothes doing everything Marie did. Everyone was too intimidated by Marie Laveau's power to even question her. Thus Marie II took over. I find Haitian and New Orleans Vodou to be the practice that seems completely unforced and intuitive to me. Just a natural thing that I feel very passionately about. Nothing like the smell of Florida Water or little altars of rum and cigars to make me swoon with energetic magic. The Vodou Lwa are easy to satisfy and vary by their personalities. Damballah likes rice, beans,: rum. Erzulie likes sweet white wine, jewelry and chocolate. La Sirene loves mirrors, seashells. You can literally find everything you need at a grocery store.