Posted by: posthaiti | March 5, 2010

vodou: part deux

sorry for the delay. promises, promises.

(i’ve actually been working pretty diligently on the “memoir” of my time (and characters i met) in SF. i’ve got almost 55 or 60,000 words so far. who knows? it might turn into something, but for the most part, it’s helping me process some things. as i wrote to my mom today, i’ve learned a little bit about how expansive our experiences actually are and how it’s really difficult — impossible, and therefore, not really necessary? — to record them *completely* with words, paintings, etc. i dunno. i think it’s helped me, on a personal level, to figure out what, exactly, one is supposed to do with the past. it’s strange living things over, though. who knows how much of what i remember is accurate, and i guess it doesn’t have to be, since it’s a memoir.)

so, the ceremony in boston, which i blogged about a while ago; it’s tomorrow on harvard’s campus, and i hope any and all can make it. it will honor all those who died in the quake, and it’s a vodou ceremony. i get into boston around 4 pm; the ceremony is from 6 – 9 pm. for details, go to the ‘Going With Flo’ blog.

i’m not only looking forward to giving myself the space to accept what’s happened, but also to finding some answers. one pressing question i’ve had since the quake is regarding the mass graves: what happens to all those spirits, if they’ve been improperly buried and their lives — and deaths, subsequently — improperly ritualized and acknowledged? will they wander, doing harm? it kind of freaks me out, thinking that *if,* in fact, this vodou stuff is real, who knows what kind of unrest could transpire? is going down, as i write this?

actually, i’m not that skeptical anymore. from what i saw in haiti over the course of two days, i came to believe, to be utterly sure actually, that something happened. i don’t know what it was, but something did happen. during both ceremonies, which began in the early afternoon and lasted until midnight, the women crowded around huge pots of boiling food, all of which was for the spirits; their fires lit up the night as darkness descended. at one point when the sun was still up, i was in charge with patting down the dirt that covered the “temple” area, so as to “discharge” the spirits. that’s the best way i could think of it, but in reverse: the woman who became the receiver of spirits those two nights and who was also somewhat of the family matriarch, she told me that the closer and more in touch the receiver was to the ground, the better, or easier it would be for him or her to keep the spirits within. i thought that sounded a lot like discharging a current, but the opposite. (i think. it got confusing after a while.)

there was plenty of rum, candles, cake, dancing, and drumming. on both nights, it started with a slight rumble of drums in the night; suddenly, what seemed to be a bbq or picnic/party turned into a vodou ceremony. some of us dragged ourselves away from the flow of rum and trudged further into the woods, and there were the drummers, who had been going all night on their congas, and the woman who was, for reasons unknown to me, the receiver of spirits that night. at first, she was sober, dancing along with several members of her family. then, after about 10 minutes, she began to dance wildly, uncontrollably, her legs pounding into the dirt along to the rhythm of the drums, her arms flailing left and right. soon, she was being held by the boy charged to guard her (also a friend, but don’t want to mention names); she was falling, cascading, actually, into his arms, and then, to the ground. her head moved back and forth, her eyes (i saw them) rolled back toward her forehead, her movements jagged, drunken, out of her conscious muscular control.

when she “woke up,” she was tired, and seemed to have no idea of what had just happened. the vodou priest had been there all the while, and he was there now, blessing her and drawing things at her feet, placing objects. at first, as she entered trance, he would take a sip of rum and spray it out through his teeth in and around her moving body, casting “rum fumes” into the air close to her skin. i didn’t know what this was for, or why he did it, but the priest (again, yves) was always present and spitting rum. when she finally came out of it, the woman tooks turns alternately trying to stand on her weakened feet and legs or resting her head on the stomach or shoulder of some family member standing nearby. she looked completely exhausted, as if she had traveled far in a bad dream and had just woken up, sweating, confused, and with little to no memory of what just happened (sounds a bit like a blackout to me, only she was one of the only sober people at the partee).

next up: channeling archetypical spirits past, spirits of specific family members, eating spirit food, and yves flinging himself onto the trunk of a tree…


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