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#3830: St. Jean Baptiste and the Sense of Wonder (fwd)


Every year in July, Vodouisant pilgrims take to the roads of Haiti.  One of 
the most important pilgrimage sites is Saut d'Eau, The Waterfall, near the 
Haitian town of Mirebalais.  The sacred waterfall attracts thousands of 
visitors to the tiny village of Ville Bonheur, the Village of Goodness, where 
the path to the sacred waterfall begins.

In other parts of Ville Bonheur are sacred spaces dedicated to other 
principles.  There is a huge Calvary with Stations of the Cross which takes 
up one whole hillside, there is a grove sacred to Sen Jan Baptis, St. Jean 
Baptiste, and spaces for Vodou dances and other services - not forgetting of 
course the requisite Cross of Baron in the cemetery, and lesser Crosses in 
other locations.

St. Jean Baptiste is of course in English St. John the Baptist, the 
historical personality.  At this festival, people are regularly possessed by 
St. Jean Baptiste.  One woman I saw under possession took up plastic sheeting 
and wrapped it around her body and over her head, in a fair approximation of 
Middle Eastern robes.  St. Jean Baptiste as a rule spoke, no matter in whose 
head he was, and was very loving to people, and warned of spiritual 
wickedness in terms very congruent with the Judeo-Christian value system.

So here is the conundrum!  This is a possession event, an event which is 
defined within the Vodou vocabulary, and is desirable and supported in the 
context of Vodou service, taking place in the middle of a Vodou festival.  
But the entity manifesting is not using the Vodou vocabulary, so to speak.  
And to add to the paradox, Haitian Roman Catholics who reject Vodou would do 
their best to make this possession come to an end, and would define the 
spiritual entity not as St. Jean Baptiste but as Satan!

Now, here is where that sense of wonder comes in, that breaking out of the 
Western scientific tradition which says that everything can be named and 
described and understood.  I don't attempt to classify or categorize this 
lwa, or to say that it ought to be this or that, or that we Vodouisants 
should do this or that, or that Catholics should do this or that.  I sit and 
I listen and I reserve judgement.  

Over the years I have heard St. Jean Baptise speak, and based on what he says 
I have come to believe that this lwa is in miraculous fact the historical 
personality who walked the Palestinian hills along with Jesus of Nazareth.  
But Vodou, rather than the modern Christian churches, provides the mechanism 
for this entity to manifest and continue it's divine mission.  That is what I 
have come to believe, by sitting with an open mind and listening to what St. 
Jean Baptiste says about himself.  

Peace and love,

Bon Mambo Racine Sans Bout Sa Te La Daginen

"Se bon ki ra", 
     Good is rare - Haitian Proverb

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