Bonjou zanmi! This time of year is very important for those who serve the lwa. Christmas is a time for the Petwo spirits, those hot and revolutionary lwa. Think about it: God came down to earth and was made flesh (as Jesus). What more magical activity could there be? 🙂
I’m available for readings (called “leson”) throughout the holiday season; a card reading can give you knowledge of which spirits walk with you and the forecast for your new year. I also do Vodou lamps and candles and can make you good luck baths that you can take in your home. If you live within reasonable distance of Boston, I can come to you and administer the bath for an extra good luck boost! Baths and magic work are priced on an individual basis. Card readings are $60.
Contact me here or email me: manbomary at gmail dot com for more info. Have a blessed holiday season!
Today is Thanksgiving in the United States. Held the third Thursday of November, it’s a day when friends and family get together to share a meal and hopefully be thankful for the things they have.
Today I will be thankful for my lwa, who watch over me and protect me every day of the year.
I will be thankful for my family and friends.
But Thanksgiving has some problems too. For Native Americans, it’s a day of mourning the colonialism that has enslaved and tortured them for generations. Today, I urge you to say a prayer and take action for our Native brothers and sisters. Donate to a Native American charity, such as the demonstrators and water protectors at Standing Rock:
We come from the ancestors and the dead. They are our roots. They were once alive like we are, and one day we will join them in the land of the dead.
Today is Halloween, a celebration of ghosts, ghouls, and witches (and lots of candy). But tomorrow, November 1, is the Christian feast of All Saints. The next day, November 2, is the feast of All Souls, the day when we celebrate all those of our families who have joined the ancestors. This time of year belongs to Gede (pronounced “Geh-Day”), the Haitian Vodou lwa of the dead.
Venerating the dead and the ancestors is the world’s oldest religious practice. Traditionally, at this time of year, the veil that separates our world from the ancestral world is the thinnest, which means not only that it is easier for us to access the ancestors and dead, but also that it’s easier for them to access us.
What do Vodouisants believe about death? Most Vodou practitioners are Catholic, so the beliefs in heaven and hell are there. After someone dies, they can become a beloved ancestor and we can pray for them and to them, asking for their ongoing protection and wisdom. But there are those humans that died violently, that weren’t given a proper burial, that have since been forgotten by their families and friends. Instead of those lonely souls being condemned to wander eternity alone, Papa Gede takes them into the Gede family and they have a place in the Vodou pantheon.
You may have heard the name Baron Samedi (and that name is pronounced “Sahm-Dee”, by the way). He’s very popular in New Orleans as well as in Haiti. He’s often pictured as a skeletal man with a black top hat, a white or powdered face, and a cane. Barons (or “Bawon”, to give it the Haitian pronunciation) are the bosses of the Gede family and there are many of them; they all have different functions too. Think of it like the Ezili group of lwa: each Ezili has a different name and they do different things.
The saint that is associated with Gede in my lineage is St. Gerard Majella:
Note that he is a pale young man holding a cross, and note the skull in the lower left hand corner. Classic Gede imagery 🙂
During a Vodou fet, the Gede spirits can show up at any time during the fet; after all, death can come at any time. However, we *salute* Gede at the end of the evening. After what can be a long night of salutes, dancing, singing, and prayer, the antics of the Gede can be a lighthearted finish.
Gede is very….irreverent. He is loud. He doesn’t care AT ALL about social convention or manners. He treats everyone exactly the same, not caring for rank, money, or position. He cracks dirty jokes and every other word out of his mouth is a profanity. He dances the banda, a dirty hip-swiveling dance that looks like sex. He humps every object (and person) in the room. He swigs his special drink, piman, (a white rum concoction made with scotch bonnet peppers; most Gede take this drink, but he can drink other things depending on which Gede he is) and rubs the spicy liquid on his face and genitals. He’ll smoke multiple cigarettes at once. He’ll eat glass and fire (he’ll eat most anything, actually; he’s always hungry).
But his jokes hold wisdom. He always tells the truth, but he may tell it in the form of a riddle. If you want the straight skivvy on anything, ask Gede; he sees everything in both our world and his world.
I’ve mentioned before in this blog that it’s important to have a reading with a priest or priestess to determine which lwa walk with you before you start serving them. However, since we all die, we all have a Gede walking with us; you may not know which one exactly, but he’s there.
How can you work with Gede? To start, you really need to be working with your ancestors. The ancestors are your first line of defense, after God. Set up a quiet space for them, on a bookshelf or a nice table. Put out a glass of clear water and a white candle. If that’s all you can set up for them, that’s fine. You can add pictures of your dead relatives if you have them (only put out pictures of the dead on an ancestor altar; do NOT put living people there; you don’t want your living loved ones to join the ancestors too soon). Pray there; ask your ancestors for help and guidance. Say the rosary if you’re Catholic. Years ago, I found some old prayer cards with prayers for the forgotten dead and beloved dead; I use those on my ancestor altar.
Once you get a good ancestor practice built up, consider setting aside a separate altar space for Gede. You don’t want him on the same table as your ancestors; trust me, you don’t want Gede telling his dirty jokes around your dead grandma. You can put Gede on the floor or the bottom shelf of your altar, if you have one. Keep him separate from the other lwa. You can give him a bottle of white rum, or you can make a basic piman by adding 21 scotch bonnet peppers to the bottle. Cut the pepper in 4 slices while leaving it attached to the stem, then shove it in the bottle.
Talk to him. Ask him for his wisdom. He takes the colors black, white, and purple. He’ll eat nearly anything, but make sure his food is spicy.
These are just some basics with Gede; if you want more specific info, or want a reading to determine which Gede walk with you, feel free to contact me. Kwa!
Bonjou zanmi: My Vodou house, Sosyete Nago, is located in Jacmel, Haiti. That area was hit pretty hard by Hurricane Matthew. Main roads and bridges were flooded away, which means food and gas are going to be hard to come by for the foreseeable future. Would you please consider making a small donation through my brother Houngan Matt’s fundraising page? All the money will go directly to my house to help them get through the clean up of the storm. Mesi anpil!
In honor of the Gede season (the season of the spirits of the dead) I’m offering a special on my Vodou readings. Readings are now $53 instead of the usual $60 and that price will be honored through November 12! Contact me and let’s set up your reading!
Bonjou, zanmi! (Hello, friends!) Today we’re going to talk about a very important lwa. Well, all the lwa are important but Legba is the gatekeeper of the lwa and thus has a very special place in the Vodou pantheon.
Papa Legba has been characterized as the first lwa that is called at a Vodou party. That isn’t true in my house. There are a few lwa we salute before Legba, but what’s important to remember is that without Legba, none of the other lwa can come through. He stands at the gate and opens it and closes it as he will.
There are a few saint images we use for Legba. In my house, we use St. Anthony the Abbot for Legba in the Rada rite.
Notice that St. Anthony is holding a staff. Legba is pictured holding a staff in many of his saint images; Legba has what is called “pye casse”, or twisted feet; he walks with a limp and uses the staff or crutches to walk. Another common image for Legba is St. Lazarus:
In the hotter Petwo rite, we use the picture of St. Anthony of Padua:
Note that St. Lazarus is travelling on the road. Legba is a traveller; he’s always wandering. Some people equate him with Ellegua, the Yoruba spirit and orisha, who also travels on the roads and is the first spirit saluted at a religious ceremony. Yes, their names sound a bit the same, but it’s important to remember that the lwa aren’t orishas; Lukumi and Vodou are two separate religions.
(Want to learn a bit more about Lukumi, aka Santeria? Check out Santeria Church of the Orishas. This church was founded by the late Eddy “Dr. E” Gutierrez and is a fabulous resource)
Everyone has different lwa “walking” with them. One person may have Ogou, but you may not; different people have different lwa. You can determine which lwa are walking with you by getting a reading with a manbo or houngan. However, every person on Earth has Legba walking with them. Why? Because Legba is a lwa of communication, and we all communicate in some way.
You can ask Legba to introduce you to the other lwa. Get some toasted corn or spicy peanuts and white rum (one of those nip bottles work nicely) and bring that to a crossroads or intersection (be careful around cars, please). Pour out the rum and scatter the food and pray to Legba; ask him to bring the lwa into your life. Then you can go home. Pay attention to your dreams and intuition. Legba will lead you in the right way, and may even lead you to a Vodou house or priest/priestess to teach you.
When spirits do work for you, or when you feel the need/impulse to say thank you, there are some great things you can do:
Light a vigil candle for them (in their color, with their saint picture if they have one, etc)
Read the Bible or another holy book to them
Pay them with food or drink. General catch-all things you can offer are alcohol, coffee, plain water, sliced fruit (avoid lemons and limes; they’re too harsh), flowers (yeah, it’s not a food, but still a good idea). Different spirits may take different types of food; if you’re dealing with lwa from Haitian Vodou, ask a manbo or houngan what specific foods a spirit takes
Have a Mass said for them at a Catholic church. In Catholicism, dedicating a Mass to a person or saint is common. Call your local parish and ask. You will probably need to pay a small amount of money; usually it’s around $10 U.S. Try to attend the Mass if you can.
Write them a poem or song and present it to them.
Give them something for their altar. I have a few toy soldiers on my altar for Ogou, and some toys for Legba.
If they did something REALLY big for you, ask a manbo or houngan to give them what’s called an “action de grace”. This is a small feast or feeding for your spirits.
These are the most common things you can do to say thanks to your spirits. If you can think of any more, leave a comment!
Many Haitians are farmers; it’s a very agriculturally based economy. Back when the slaves freed themselves from their French owners, many went up into the mountains and began sustenance farming on small plots of land. This is where the Kouzen family of spirits came from.
Kouzen just means “cousin” in Kreyol. It’s a familiar term of address for anyone regarded as a friend, not just a family member. You could translate it to “friend” or “man” or “dude.” There are many Kouzen spirits (Kouzen Zaka Mede, Azaka Tonne, Minis Zaka); the most well-known of these is Kouzen Zaka.
The saint image commonly used for him is St. Isidore the Farmer, as illustrated above. This saint was so devoted to God that God sent His angel to plow Isidore’s fields so he could pray.
Kouzen is an agriculture spirit. He makes his living off the land. He is a “work lwa”. He loves to work on just about anything, and he likes to be busy. He is a bit shy and suspicious of outsiders, but once he gets to know you you are a member of his fami (family) and he will work so hard to provide for you.
His color is blue, especially blue denim (the outfit of a Haitian peasant). He will take white rum as an offering but his favorite liquor is made with white rum and wormwood.
He is excellent to talk to in regards to herbs and herbal medicine. Since he is a work lwa, he is excellent to talk to if you’re having trouble at your job. However, you have to pay him for his work (well, you have to pay all the spirits for their work in some way or another) and he can drive a hard bargain. Remember, you have the right to bargain with your spirits for a fair price.
His favorite food is a stew called tchaka. It’s made with pinto beans, corn, beef, and chayote squash. Recipes may vary but here is a good one. BIG IMPORTANT WARNING; when you cook for Kouzen it is VITALLY important that you do not taste his food. If you do, he will think you are stealing from him, and Kouzen hates thieves.
Kouzen has a special bag (note he has a bag over his shoulder in the above picture) where he keeps all his things. When I work with him and I put things in his bag, I tell him before hand, “Kouzen, I’m opening your bag to put this in.” I also tell him when I’m closing the bag. That way, he knows I’m not stealing from him.
Kouzen loves women, and he is a commonly married spirit. He is also good to go to in regards to marriage and relationships. Surprising, I know, but when he finds you a partner the relationship is solid and “grounded” and it will last.
Below is a picture of some candle work I’m doing for a friend who’s ill. I took a female figure candle, dressed it with Healing oil (you can get it from Khi Armand; thanks, Khi!), and rolled it in a mixture of healing herbs like Lavender and Althea. The spell was then activated with prayer. I will pray over it every day until it’s burned out. Then I will bury the remains at a crossroads so it can manifest out into the world.
I do custom candle work like this for my clients. Contact me for more info!