Rando Thoughts

Bonjou zanmi mwen:
It’s been a long time, hasn’t it? Sorry I haven’t been around; there are many reasons, personal and professional: a new job, new challenges, and some reflection on what it means to have the calling as a manbo.
Any spiritual path has its challenges, but the African Traditional Religions (ATRs) have some unique challenges of their own. Society at large misunderstands them. They hear words like “Voodoo” (misspelling intentional) and think “ZOMBIES KILLING CHICKENS CHILD SACRIFICE.”
(Sorry, I didn’t mean to yell. Anyway…)
One assumption I get a lot is “white people can’t be involved in the ATRs. They are only for Black people and people of color, and if a white person is involved, then it’s cultural appropriation.”
And I get it. I get that point of view. If your culture and religion was repressed, exploited, and outlawed for hundreds of years, it’s a natural and expected response to be protective of it, to be suspicious of outsiders. I myself have seen some ridiculous and insulting things that white people have done to appropriate from ATRs. One prime example is the great city of Salem, Massachusetts, not too far from where I live. It bills itself as “Witch City”, and it’s chock-full of witchy and pagan shops. Some of what they market is genuine, a lot of is is spiritual bullshit. One time I went to a shop owned by a certain famous witch who had “assons” (the sacred Vodou calabash rattle, which only manbos and houngans can possess) made out of plastic bowling pins decorated with plastic beads and feathers.
Jesus wept.
And what makes me mad is that unsuspecting people, some of which are sincere seekers, will buy this stuff and believe it’s genuine, when it’s really merchants who are out to make a buck. I mean, in one Salem shop I saw little vials of Florida water being marketed as “witch water” and sold for $6 per one ounce bottle, when if you go into the average supermarket in a majority Hispanic neighborhood, you can buy a whole bottle of Florida water for under three bucks!
Here’s the thing: in Western culture, especially the United States, there’s the idea that all information has to be open, readily accessible by anyone and everyone, and free of charge. The ATRs are not like that. And I get complaints and pushback about this All. The. Time.
“I should be able to learn about anything!”
Ain’t necessarily so. The ATRs aren’t open to everyone and anyone. They’re not even open to all people from the cultures where they originated. As Granny Weatherwax, one of my favorite characters in literature, says, “You don’t choose the craft. The craft chooses you.”
This isn’t to say that the general public can’t explore or learn general info about the ATRs. But you need to be guided by an initiate priest or priestess.
“Can’t I just read a book?”
There are some books out there about the ATRs. In all of them, there might be a few pieces of reliable information. However, consider this: a lot of the things about the ATRs are things that only initiates are meant to know. Books can give you an introduction, they can even get you started on the path. That’s what happened to me. I read a book about Vodou, got a reading, and the spirits started talking to me…and they haven’t stopped talking since. But after that initial contact with the ATRs, I met my manmi Maude Evans (honor and respect to her) and started to learn the religion hands-on.
And that’s the way the ATRs are meant to be: hands-on learning experiences. For hundreds of years, information about the ATRs was never written down: it was all oral, passed down from teacher to student, and the only way to learn was sitting by the side of your manmi, papa, tata, baba, iya, whatever, and watch them do things. And then you would try to do these things. And make mistakes, and do it over and over until you got it right. Then, after many years of trying and studying and watching, you would get the opportunity to teach someone else. And so the lineage of each house gets passed down.
The dawning of the Internet has been a blessing and a curse for the ATRs. On the one hand, it allows people who live far away from the typical urban centers of Vodou (for example in the U.S, Boston, New York, Miami, etc) to make contact with initiates who can give the right information to them. On the other hand, you get people who can just put up a website, call themselves a “houngan”, “manbo”, “tata”, “babalawo”, or whatever, and putting out all kinds of nonsense out there.
No, you can’t give Ezili Freda a black jewelry box with her veve traced on it. No, you really shouldn’t give any lwa your own blood as an offering. No, the lwa aren’t vegan, you will eventually have to give them meat. No, you can’t offer alcohol to Damballah.
(These are all things I’ve actually seen, by the way).
In Vodou, we have this thing that in Kreyol is called “regleman”. The translation is “regiment” but you can really call it “order”, an ordered and proper way of doing things. In fets (Vodou ceremonies), we salute the spirits in the same order every time. There are rules we follow. You have to abstain from sexual activity for 24 hours prior to every fet. You will only learn these things when you talk to and interact with initiates.
Not everyone who comes to the ATRs are meant to be initiated as clergy, just like not everyone who joins the Catholic church is meant to become a priest or a nun. Most people in any religion are laypeople, and that’s perfectly fine. You can serve, work with, and love the spirits as a layperson. The clergy path isn’t for everyone. Many sevite (servants of the lwa) get a leson (Vodou reading) from a manbo or houngan, learn which spirits walk with them, how to serve them, and are perfectly content to serve their spirits privately. They may attend fets, speak to the spirits, and consult a priest/ess when they have a problem or want to get magic work or healing work done.
The path of a layperson, a non-initiate, is a perfectly noble and honorable path. It’s not easy being an initiate. You have to carry a lot. It’s beautiful, and rewarding, but not easy.
If you’re going to learn, please learn the right way. Ayibobo!

WEEKEND TAROT SALE: February 29 and March 1 ONLY

This weekend only, prices are reduced on my tarot readings. If you’d like a reading that is not Vodou-related, this is the reading type for you!

One question: $15.00

30 minutes: $40.00

60 minutes: $50

My PayPal is manbomary at gmail dot com. Readings are done by phone or Skype. Once I receive payment, we’ll schedule a time to talk. NOTE: You have to purchase the reading this weekend to get the special price but if you need to DO the reading on another day, that’s just fine. Talk to you soon!

On Sabbatical till First Week of March

Hello everyone: I am now on medical leave until the first week of March; I will not be accepting clients during this time. If you’d like to get a reading or work done, please contact one of the following people:

Manbo Maude and Sosyete Nago – my initiatory mother; search for her on Facebook

Houngan Alex – hounganalex@gmail.com

Houngan Matt – At his store Dark Lady in New Orleans: darklady.net

Many blessings to you.

Sabbatical from January 14-March 1: Get your New Year’s readings now!

Hello friends: I will be going on medical sabbatical and moving to a new apartment from January 14 through March 1. During that time I will not be offering readings or magic/spiritual work.

But until then, I’m available! Come have a Vodou reading from me and we’ll see what the spirits want to say to you about 2020. You can purchase a reading at my store on this site, then email me at manbomary at gmail dot com to schedule. I look forward to hearing from you!

New Offering: FREE Community Prayer Service

Now offering FREE Monthly prayer service! In Vodou we start all our ceremonies with the “priye Ginen” or African prayer. A beautiful litany of sung and spoken French and Creole, it blesses and purifies the space and invokes the spirits before the ceremony begins. Starting the first weekend in January 2020, I will create an illumination (kind of like a lamp) to heat up your petitions and prayers, sing the entire prayer in front of my altar, and pray to God and the spirits for YOUR petitions. I am offering this FREE of charge as a community service. You can comment here with your prayer requests or email me privately: manbomary at gmail dot com. Remember: prayer changes things.

Saying Thank You to Your Spirits

Bonswa zanmi! I know it’s been a long time since I chatted with ya (bad Manbo; no rice and beans for you!) but I’ve been a bit distracted; as of today, I completed all the course work for my bachelors degree in nursing(I’m already a nurse but I had a two year degree, so now I’ve completed the full bachelors)! 

Now, I did all the human stuff you have to do to get something accomplished: studied, wrote papers (lots and lots of them), participated in class, etc etc. But I also made sure to ask my lwa and ancestors to guide me and help me do the work. 

It’s important to note that when you serve the lwa, you have to communicate with them regularly. They *want* to hear from you and what’s going on in your life. They *want* to work with you, but you have to make sure to ask. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking, “Helping me with Little Thing is beneath the big spirits of the lwa, I don’t want to trouble them.” 

Think of the lwa as your beloved elders, your loving doting older relatives who are always ready for you to pick up the phone and call them for a chat. And just like any relatives or friends, if they help you out they love to and need to hear the words “Thank you.”

How can you do that? Here are some ideas:

1. Prayer. It’s free! Say a rosary in honor of your spirits. Say a novena to the saint that represents the lwa who helped you (for example, if Metwes Ezili Freda helped you out, you could say a novena to Our Lady of Fatima or the Sorrowful Mother).

2. Light a candle for them; the seven day glass vigils are great. Again, you can light one in the color and saints image of the lwa you want to thank. Or just light a white one; white can be used for any lwa.

3. If you have a few bucks handy, go to a Catholic church and ask for a Mass to be said in honor of your spirits. Before you panic and say, “Manbo, if I go to a parish and ask for a Mass for Vodou spirits, the priest will chase me out and spray me down with holy water”, fear not! A trick my brother @hounganmatttaught me is to tell the parish to say a Mass in honor of the deceased members of your family. Tell your spirits that this Mass is for them. Try to attend the Mass if possible, or at least have the parish send you a Mass card, and you can put it on their altar.

4. Feed them. It doesn’t have to be an elaborate feast, but do something a little special if they did something especially nice for you. You can find out what foods the lwa in particular like and get it for them (in the example of Freda, she loves pink and white cakes, strawberries, rice pudding…think creamy sweet stuff). Just remember: don’t give them lemons, limes, or garlic. Present the food to them at their table and tell them this is for them to enjoy. Leave it out for a day or two, then dispose of the food out in nature.

5. Flowers! We use flowers a lot in Vodou. Remember light colors for the Rada spirits, and more hot/bright colors for Petwo. Gede would love white or purple flowers. Leave the flowers out until they wilt, then dispose of them out in nature

6. You can set a lamp for a lwa to give them a big dose of “thank you” energy. Non-initiates can make simple lamps for their spirits with the coaching of a priest/priestess, but we clergy can make lamps that are more involved with more special ingredients. These types of lamps cost money, but can be a great way to send energy and thanks to your lwa for a job well done.

7. If the lwa did something particularly big or solved a big problem for a person, that person may do what’s called an “action de grace”; it’s a party given to a spirit or group of spirits specifically to say thank you. This is something that of course you can’t do on your own; you’d have to work with a Vodou house to accomplish it. 

My kanzo anniversary is in late July, so I will be cooking and feeding my spirits at that time for a big ol’ thank you for carrying me this far. But until then, I say “Mesi Bondye, zanset yo, e lwa yo!”

New Year’s Day: Good Luck Bath

Happy New Year/Bon Fet Anne/Bon Fet Independans! (Today is Haitian Independence Day). To start off the year on a positive note, it’s traditional for Vodouizan to take a good luck bath. This is typically made by a houngan or manbo, with all kinds of lovely ingredients; liquor, perfumes, and flowers and more.

Contact me if you’d like to get some of your own!