9. sep. 2009

Haitian Revolution, voodoo and Erzulie, the spirit of love

The Haitian Revolution (1791-1804) is, as historian C.L.R. James affirms, "the only successful slave revolt in history." Haiti was the first republic in modern history led by people of African descent. It went directly from being a French colony to governing itself. Historians traditionally identify the catalyst to revolution as a particular Vodou ceremony in August 1791 performed at Bois Caïman by Dutty Boukman, a priest, born in Jamaica, and later sold by his British master to a French plantation owner. His French name came from his English nickname, "Book Man," which he earned due to his ability to read. (Wikipedia)

"At a 1791 ceremony in Bwa Cayman (Caiman Forest), a Vodou priestess possessed by Ezili Danto slit a black pig's throat. Those present drank its blood, and then swore that they would drive out the French slave masters or die trying. A week later, 1000 settlers were dead, the rich plantations of Cape François were in smoldering ruins and the Haitian Revolution had begun. Some say slavers cut out the priestess's tongue as punishment for participating in the revolution, while still others claim Danto was made mute by the black guerrillas so that she could not betray them under torture if captured. All agree that thirteen years later the last French soldiers were gone, and the Free Black Republic of Haiti was born." ("Ezili Danto: Single Mother with a Knife" an article by Kevin Filan)

The word voodoo, vodun or vodou, means spirit. New World Voodoo and its derivatives is a razor sharp case of religious syncretism between the ancient religion imported together with West African slaves, the Christian beliefs of their masters and local religions.The Loa, also called the Mysteries and the Invisibles, are a central part of Voodoo, or Vodou. They act as intermediaries between human beings and the creator, not unlike Saints and Angels do in Catholicism. One of the largest differences however between African and Haitian Vodou is that the transplanted Africans of Haiti were obliged to disguise their loa, or spirits as Roman Catholic saints, a process called syncretism.

The Loa, or lwa, are divided into several nachons (nations). Two of the major nachons are the Rada and Petro, or Petwo. The Rada loas are guardians of morals and principles, related to Africa, The Petwo lwa originated in Haiti, under the harsh conditions of slavery, and are considered more aggressive. Some mistakenly refer to the Rada lwa as "good" and the Petwo as "evil." This is misleading as the Rada lwa can be used to make malevolent magic, while the Petwo can heal and do beneficial workings. They are more accurately referred to as "cool" and "hot," respectively.

Some loas, such as Erzulie, have both Rada and Petro manifestations.

Erzulie Freda Dahomey, the Rada aspect of Erzulie, is the spirit of love, beauty, jewellery, dancing, luxury, and flowers. Erzulie is not a loa of elemental forces, but of ideal dreams, hopes and aspirations. Her symbol is a heart, her colours are pink, blue, white and gold, and her favourite sacrifices include jewellery, perfume, sweet cakes and liqueurs. Coquettish and very fond of beauty and finery, Erzulie Freda is femininity and compassion embodied, yet she also has a darker side; she is seen as jealous and spoiled and within some vodoun circles is considered to be lazy.

Erzulie manifests deep, deep passion, and Her moods can range from the height of joy to the depths of misery - when She mounts (spiritually possesses) a follower she or he goes from coquettish and seductive to crying her or himself to sleep, weeping for the limitations of love...

Ezili Dantor is considered to be the lwa of motherhood, single parent in particular. She is often depicted as a scarred and buxom black woman, holding a child protectively in one hand and a knife in the other. She is a warrior and a particularly fierce protector of women and children. Danto is considered the "mother" of the Petwo nation and is one of the most important Petwo lwa. Her colours are red, gold and navy blue, her symbols are a pierced heart, knives, and her favourite sacrifices include black pigs, fried pork (griot) and rum.

In Haiti, the scratches on Danto's face are attributed to Her battles with Freda, the light-skinned lwa of love and luxury, who is seen as both Her sister and Her greatest enemy. Where Her sister Freda is known for Her softness and gentleness, Danto is known for Her strength. In a land where injustice and grinding poverty are all too frequently the norm, even the lwa are not above injury. Their strength lies not in their invulnerability but in their ability to survive. What Danto gives her servants is not the ability to conquer so much as the ability to endure.

In serving the spirits, the Vodouisant seeks to achieve harmony with their own individual nature and the world around them, manifested as personal power and resourcefulness in dealing with life. Part of this harmony is membership in and maintaining relationships within the context of family and community. Love and support within the family of the Vodou sosiety seems to be the most important consideration. Generosity in giving to the community and to the poor is also an important value. One's blessings come through the community and there is the idea that one should be willing to give back to it in turn. Since Vodou has such a community orientation, there are no "solitaries" in Vodou, only people separated geographically from their elders and house.

The Haitian Vodou religion is an ecstatic rather than a fertility based tradition and does not discriminate against gay men and lesbian women or other queer people in any way. In Haitian Vodou the sexual orientation or gender identity and expression of a practitioner is of no concern in a ritual setting. It is seen as just the way God made a person. The spirits help each person to simply be the person that they are.

1 kommentar:

  1. awesome blog, do you have twitter or facebook? i will bookmark this page thanks. peace maria



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