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#2788: On Vodou's role: Bebe Pierre-Louis replies to Antoine
Antoine, after reading your post, I came to the conclusion that we don't
diverge on many points. If you felt some sarcasm in my previous post, it was
not meant that way.
You would like to know the role Vodoun plays into:
" and what role does Vodou play to either a) cultivate them (fear is
religion... you'd better believe it !); b) to defend itself against in an
effort to maintain the authenticity of its teachings and brand of
If one looks at what is required for a spiritual movement to be considered a
religion, Vodoun does qualify. Nevertheless, it is very different from all
other religions generally called "revealed" in respect that it is an
initiatic religion. Revealed religions operate with a book written by an
individual or a small group of people who have had a divine revelation which
everybody has to live by (Bible, Koran). Initiatic religions, on the
opposite, allow each individual to have his own revelation through dreams,
initations, through lwa who come and talk to them, etc. Hence, he/she may
develop his/her strategy for his/her own life. Based on such concepts, Vodoun
is liberating contrarily to other revealed religions who induce fears of
eternal damnation, blind beliefs in mysteries, etc. Initiation doesn't
abolish fears but it show the initiates how to conquer them (fear from
people, superstitions, spirits or any threatening situation, among others).
I don't believe that fear should be the condition sine qua non of any
religion. I believe that humanity is basically good and that Christianity has
introduced a basic perversion through its teachings. I refuse the idea that
all of us are born guilty (born with an original sin that we should all
redeem), I prefer to have been born a Ti lezanj and you better believe it. I
don't believe in one revelation that should be good for the whole humanity, I
prefer my Ancestors and my personal Lwas to guide me through life, defending
my best interest. I find them closer to me than our Gran Met yet I am
grateful to him for having created them.
You find: "deeply troubling, such as the attribution of every personal
misfortune to a spiritual cause. More than that, I also believe that this
is counterproductive to our human development. "
If you are still troubled by that, it is probably because you haven't yet
read the site I referred you to, in its section "Herbs and Energies", "nanm"
or soul. I couldn't explain it any better. When a Vodouist is struck by ill
fortune, he/she knows that it has to do with a temporary disequilibrium that
could become permanent if not quickly restored. The immediate reaction is to
consult his/her own spirits or a Hougan/Mambo if he/she isn't initiated. It
differs from the Christians who pray to obtain grace and delivrance from
above, who haven't learned to look for solution within him/herself. I don't
deny that many non-initiated persons can be victim of another person's
malevolence, but it's another story and it's not the object of this
- Do I see a common thread between the Saints and the Lwas?
Of course, yes. Christianity has started as a very syncretistic religion. Its
origins are so diverse that our African "traditions" should not be
disregarded in it, but in reality, they are.
- Just a few weeks ago, I saw a documentary on TV about some studies
conducted in Africa based on checking the DNA of some tribes - among them
the Lemba - to verify if their claims of being Jews, of Cohen descent, were
true. I was amazed to realize that the standard for those tests were taken in
IsraŰl ! I could not help wondering who came first the hen or the egg?
To return to the point, let's say that each one of us has to search for what
will make us feel good about ourselves. If religion is our problem, we
should get into it, work, search, ask and eventually get initiated, if we
ever feel the call for it. Nobody has ever taught us anything to make us
feel proud of who we are. In school, I remember learning that Mackandal was a
terrible sorcerer, criminal as well as Boukman and Dessalines. Later I
learned that they were our liberators! Often times as innocent babies, we are
baptized Catholic, for our good. Yet, as we become adults, we should start
searching who we really are, to which society we really belong. Only then,
can we acquire dignity. I think our society is full of deeply ingrained
complexes which are often confused with dignity, quality suited to inspire
As far as health is concerned, you may be surprised to hear that the hounf˛
have been recognized long ago to be a place where western medicine should
learn basic skills. Dr. Kline who built our psychiatric clinic at the General
Hospital, Nathan Kline, founder of the Smith-Kline and French (SKF)
pharmaceuticals lectured for years about that after having stayed some time
I can recall also my own experience when I was invited by Profamil to spend
a day in Petit Goave where a hounf˛ was receiving instructors to teach about
SIDA and venereal diseases "to poor illiterate Vodouists". I was told by the
instructors that they could not believe how easy it was. They had tried to do
the same thing in many Protestant congregations and a lot of Catholic
gatherings. According to them, in those places, the message never seemed to
pass. People were embarrassed, some assistants covered their ears, others
blushed, there was no questions and the quasi totality of the people didn't
get it. They also told me that it was a totally different surrounding in
hounf˛ where there was never enough space to receive everybody that wanted to
hear, also where there were questions, intelligent questions and
participation of the public. People there, weren't ashamed of speaking about
their experience of seeing people dying of SIDA., nor of their concerns for
the outcome of so many orphans, etc. The instructors were also saying how
surprised they were to realize how much the Vodouists knew about the subject..
What I am telling you is easy to verify, just contact any instructor at
Profamil. Max Beauvoir organized those instructive days and he was the only
one to write to Jesse Helms on that question.
If I continue, the post may never be posted, let's call it quit for now.
BÚbÚ Pierre Louis
1) bitter plants are only used to lower fevers, never for diabetes.
2) No indictment to missionaries on my part, just an expression of strong
disapproval! What I said, was just common talk among Vodouist "andew˛", I
have heard it for at least 20 years. I have seen it myself on the road to
Tomazo, a very nice sacred bassin, by a secular tree, where all Vodouists
used to have their devotions who has become totally polluted.