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8006:Haitian Vodou (Re: #7989; #7988; #7990; #7997) (fwd)

From: amedard@gte.net

Thank you for your patient explanations about Vodou, Bon Mambo Racine Sans Bout Sa Te
La Daginen.

In 1974, I observed a Vodou ceremony one night in the area of Berthe.  I enjoyed it,
though my husband (a Haitian from a Catholic family that does not practice Vodou)
told me that because a blanc (I) was attending, the ceremony was probably not
"authentic", but rather touristic.  But hey, what did I know?!  It looked authentic
to me!

My husband also told me that, in general, Vodou practitioners were not really
possessed or mounted by spirits but that at Vodou ceremonies, practitioners simply
dance to get the hardships of their difficult lives out of their systems.  In other
words, he banalized what I have come to understand to be the reality of Vodou.  In
years later, however, he did tell me about 2 women who, at different times and while
at work in our factory, were possessed by spirits.  He said that it was our manager's
having presented a crucifix that broke these women out of their spells.  (Can you
explain anything about this sort of happening?)

I lived for many years next to a huge Mapou* tree under which Vodou ceremonies were
held and I loved hearing the beat of the drum.  However, something happened in the
last year or so  ... and I hope you do not mind my being honest ... I began to feel
very uncomfortable about Vodou.  I'm not sure why, though I think that it probably
had something to do with the realization that Vodou was not as simple as my husband
had initially made it out to be.  My handyman (who said he was Christian and did not
practice Vodou, but knew a lot about Vodou) used to tell me stories about the powers
of Voudou, stories about snakes following people upon command & such.  He also said
something about the wife of the original owner of our home having been turned into a
zombi ... he claimed to have seen her after her death.  (I understand one that
woman's daughters later wrote a book on Vodou, but I never read it.)  I also had
Christian friends visiting at houses to rent who told me of evil spirits they felt in
particular houses, and how, later, they learned that a particular Houngan or Mambo
had lived there.  Anyway, I used to put my radio in front of the window and play
Christian music whenever the ceremonies took place ... sort of an invisible shield
between my family and Vodou.

I realize, though, that I am ignorant about the Vodou religion, and that my thoughts
may well have been colored by others.  I would like to learn more so that I do not
project a stereotypically negative attitude onto others because of my own ignorance.
That is why I truly appreciate the patience in teaching those like myself, who are
ignorant about the religion.

*That Mapou tree grew huge, hung over the property line onto our property and made
the yard very messy at certain times of year.  I wanted to cut the overhanging
branches, I was always told that, because of religioius reasons, Haitians never cut
Mapou trees ... something to do with spirits living in them ... and that if I cut it,
something bad would happen.  Could you tell me more about that?