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7173:" Re: 7139: Around internet dialogue on Vodou -Response from Max Beauvoir. (fwd)

From: P D Bellegarde-Smith <pbs@csd.uwm.edu>

Monsieur Beauvoir wishes to have his response to Dr. Christophe published.

From: THETEMPLEY@aol.com

Dear Dr. Christophe:

Happy that the answer I made to Prof. Desmangles on the Corbett list caught 
the attention of another Kosanba scholar, Prof. Christophe, I will offer here 
what is my view of the Lwa, since that information has been requested as part 
of Dr. Christophe's interest.
However, and before doing so, I consider it important to point out that when 
I said "The Lwa must be understood as the many expressions of a doctrine.." 
it should not necessarily be understood as the expression of a dogma, meaning 
"faith seeking rational self-understanding" such as the divinity of Christ or 
the Trinity. In fact, reading again Dr. Christophe's post, I see: ".., what 
is today considered as the Church's dogmas..., etc, etc."
It is true that as late as 1545-63, (the Roman Catholic reformatory Council 
of Trent), doctrine and dogma were roughly considered synonymous, though the 
theologian St. Thomas Aquinas had preferred to utilized the phrase "article 
of faith" to denote those "doctrines" that are solemnly defined by the 
medieval church and are considered to be obligatory for their faith.
Those two concepts, in reality, are fundamentally different and most modern 
Historians of Religion have stressed the differences. From what I have been 
brought to understand, in theology, the Greek word "dogma," corresponding to 
the Latin word "decretum," implies very specific references to the distillate 
of doctrines, those first basic and axiomatic principles at the heart of 
doctrinal reflection, professed as essential by all the faithful.
While, on the other hand, the "doctrine" (coming from the Latin doctrina and 
the Greek didaskalia), is a generic term for the theoretical component of a 
religious experience. It signifies, as you rightfully put it, the process of 
conceptualizing the primal - often experiential or intuitive - insights of 
the faith of a particular religious community in support of rationally 
understood belief. Doctrines, consequently, seek to provide religions with 
intellectual systems for guidance in the process of instruction.
With no fear of repeating myself a little and aiming to be better understood, 
I insist upon the fact that: "The Lwa must be understood as the many 
expressions of a doctrine which has chosen to state itself in that particular 

Many people who have unfortunately been exposed to very few ceremonies seem 
indeed surprised to find that the ceremonies that they have seen do not 
resemble the other. Of course, they are unable to realized that a ceremony to 
Ghede, could not resemble one to Ogou, to Ezili, to Kouzen Zaka, to Legba, to 
Ayizan or to Marasa, etc, etc.
But those who have been more fortunate to assist various ceremonies to Ogou 
Fè Feray, for instance, whether these ceremonies have taken place in the 
North, the South, the East and the West of Haiti would have seen a greatly 
similar ceremony.

It is evident that a ceremony to Ezili Freda should be different from one to 
Ezili Danto. But a ceremony to Erzili Danto, whether it is seen at La Plaine 
du Nord or in Port au Prince, in Hinche, in Lazil or in Jeremie are quite 
similar to each other, for they all obey to something called "Le règleman" 
which is a well established set of protocols.
It goes even further, the one who, even in his or her dreams, sees any one of 
the Lwa will see that particular Lwa in much the same fashion as other 
Vodouists would see it. He or she will have no chances to be wrong in 
identifying that Lwa because that "experiential or intuitive insight" is the 
same for the entire Vodou community in support of the rationally understood 

Let us be a little bit more prosaic now and say that all Vodouists, no matter 
who or where they are, no matter when did that happened, will see Legba 
Atibon as an old man who is "goodness divinized". His goodness is what 
doesn't even allow Him to stay in a single place. That is why He keeps on 
going everywhere in the "Gran chemen la vi a" or the great road of life to 
deliver to all his good and salutary advises. He needs very little or any 
sacrifices and his makout or Ralfo (bag), far from being deposited on a table 
in the sacred place called "badji" is simply hung at the door. He provides 
his wisdom to all who need it. He is the "archetype"of communication.
Ayizan is another one of the 401 archetypes. She is the one who conveys the 
sense of roots (racine) and of fidelity to the Ancestral Tradition. She is 
the divine model of moral Force, virtue and rectitude. That is why She is 
consequently represented by the Royal palm all over Haiti (north, south, east 
or west, even in the arms of the Republic).
Danballa and Ayida Wedo are perceived by all as the two divine snakes who 
together symbolize the fact that true Power are born from the "nobility of 
the mind": Knowledge. Their coiling in spiral and the cosmic egg reminds 
everyone that everything that has life obeys to certain patterns known as 
"rhythms or cycles."

Ogou Fè Feray and His machete, Goubasa, are other divinities who project the 
idea of Soul forces, the kind of force that allows anyone to face the many 
challenges of life. As a good father, Vodouists know that they may always 
count on Papa Ogou's assistance in all difficult situations.
Ezili, in my opinion, is a well deserved testimonial rendered to all 
womanhood. She projects the idea of the divine provider, of love in 
abundance, of generosity and compassion.

Azaka Mede is the courage necessary for the good performance of all work. The 
Haitian society being greatly agrarian, His image is often perceived as being 
one of a good countryman and agriculturalist. However, that archetype 
includes the one of those who perform intellectual work.
All these very general and abstract ideas such as work, courage, love, 
goodness, generosity, compassion, cycle and rhythms of life, force, 
rectitude, virtue, loyalty, fidelity to one's tradition, respect due to 
Ancestors, respect for the elders... etc., are reproduced into these 
spiritual and intellectual examples, or archetypes, and made acting during 
the ceremonies. The sum of them, put together, is precisely what I feel 
should be called "the Haitian collective unconscious."

Is it by pure hazard or by chance that the social system and the economic 
system of production of the Haitian people centered on or around a well known 
theme or concept called Koumbit, or is it because the Haitian collective 
unconscious has retained a particular convention which states that "all the 
children of the Ancestors must work together the land of their Ancestors?"
Anyone is free to decide what should be the proper answer to these questions. 
But any Dahomean of Fon origin, or people from the Republic of Benin, will 
readily tell you that such an expression is only the pure translation of the 
word "o'Koun-bi-to" or "o'Koun-vi-to", the preceding o' being only an article.
In this discussion, I have not made use of the word "avatar," as suggested by 
Dr. Christophe. The reason is that I know that it indicates the incarnation 
of a god in Hindu mythology. But, since I have never studied this system of 
thoughts, I am not sure to have comprehended all of the implications and 
connotations of the word.

I wish success to the Haitian Institute of Washington's program and I will do 
my best to attend that meeting of March 4.

Sincerely yours,

Max Beauvoir