Tuesday, January 17, 2017
In olden times, everything was held – for voodoo – out doors, most especially the service. It was a communication with the earth and the sky, a ritual which confirmed that man and woman were special, but not as special as the beings that communicated with them. But now, there were to many people for this to happen in all places in, all times. So it was with this place – you came through the front door – and were greeted by everyone who would be involved in the cleansing ritual. First of course you started with “La Place” - being the owner it was his job to manage everything, but not being the priest. While each group did things differently, most the time there was a houngankion – who would direct the flowing music and the ecstatic dances which would be done in a specific order – so everyone greeted her next. The room was small – and there were already 15 or so people that had come to worship here. The woman who was the preacher – called the “mambo” - was already in a trance.
The room was decked in dolls made out of the rich skin of snakes – each one very different from all of the rest, and about 10 cm tall. They were scattered around the room, and even stuck to the walls – along with ribbons made of Palms and cotton strips that had significance. The wall was white, and made of stucco – and on it beneath the dolls and ribbons, was painted a design. It was a bright sun god, representing Bondye – the one true God. It was He that would protect these worshipers in their pursuit of Rada – the Blessed Voodoo of peace. The other kind was not done here, nor was it done in most places – though it is name would be occasionally pronounced in these walls: “Congo”, or as many people said it “Petro”. That the name was tied with the black petroleum nature is mystery to all who study it – but the black spirits come up from the ground. In this parish, this hounfo, these were the masters of the rituals.
Immediately La Place recognized Jules, and greeted her in Haitian Creole, which was the only language he spoke – but for these purposes, Jules accepted this as the other side, along with the Catholic side which was also among her beliefs. There was no problem with being Catholic, and wanting her man to speak French – and on the other side go to this place and partake of a more primitive version of spiritual delight.
La Place interrupted her inner vision: “You have get in gone for quite some time, I was worried that you had died or been taken away by some other means.”
At this, she replied back in a hushed tone of voice: “That is very kind of you to say, but I think you are to fatalistic in your outlook – why should I have died. Yes my family came from this area, but has since moved up in the world, and taken our place in a much grander scheme of things. We live near Palais Presidential. Things are looking up for us, and that is why though I may be absent, you can be sure that the Loa need to be thanked, and thanked warmly for their guardianship of my family. It is the right and proper thing to do, and you know this.”
He only nodded, and then turned away to greet another person.
It was then that she looked at the main feature of this peristyle – a poto mitan, the rod which stretch from floor to ceiling as if it were a maypole in pagan rituals in the Celtic world. It radiated and pulsed, at least as far as the sèvitè were concerned. They thought of it as a totemic symbol which captured a world which had poto mitan sprouting from the peak Pic la Selle – of the highest peak in Haiti, though there were two other peaks on the Dominican republic which were higher. But it was Pic la Selle which held the attention of this little group, because each one of them imagined that the dead wood eventually rise up long streams and then climb the poto mitan which went to heaven, and thus to be joined with Bondye. In this little group Pic Macaya was the reverse, and would descend to the underworld, the place where Congo was.
She sat down and looked at the other parishioners, most of which she knew from the ceremony, but there were two children who she did not recognize. Both were girls and were dressed in long flowing skirts, made of blue and dotted with white butterflies. It was obvious that they were related, and she guessed that the woman find was either mother, grandmother, or aunt. Then her glance fell on a Figure out was slightly behind the two girls – and she recognized it as someone from out of her past. The two had grown up together in the dusty streets – though she remembered how she was prepared to do anything to step up, and finally left with her mother ensconced in a new place. It was good to see someone who she recognized from so long ago.
“This is a surprise, I did the expect you to be here.”
“One could say the same for you, are you well? Do you have a man? What about children?” for a moment she lingered on each of the questions, realizing that most women would have children in Haiti – the time for her was growing short.
But she ignored this in her response: “I am well, and took a day to say prayers for my fortune.”
“You did not answer my question, either of a man, or the presence of little children in your life.”
“There are no children from me, though I might have a new man.”
More conversation could have taken place, but there was a fluttering at what could be described as the head of the circle. Then at once a wizened old are women, who was the mambo, whispered softly that it was time to begin. She could barely be heard, and her voice did not carry very well – everyone had to listen closely to what she was saying:
“Papa nou ki nan sièl la, Nou mandé pou yo toujou réspékté non ou.” After the mambo had said these words, the rest of the worshipers followed them. This was done with the rest of the Lord's Prayer:
“Vi-n tabli gouvènman ou,pou yo fè volonté ou so latè, tankou yo fè-l nan sièl la.Manjé nou bézouin an, ban nou-l jòdi-a.Padonnin tout mal nou fè minm jan nou padonnin moun ki fè nou mal.Pa kité nou nan pozision pou-n tonbé nan tantasion, min, délivré nou anba Satan. Paské, sé pou ou tout otorité, tout pouvoua ak tout louanj, dépi tout tan ak pou tout tan. Amen.” The repetition of call – from the mambo – and response – from the worshipers – had a peculiar resonant effect, until everyone could feel that they were in a kind of trance.
But it All was a Drama, at the center of which was the mambo – dressed in her garish red down with short sleeves. There was upon her face the most serious expression, and in her arms was a white bowl filled with flour, which she traced out signs and sigals. On a rock, first she stretched out to make a line, which everyone knew was the representation of the – not a but the – pot mitan. Then making flourishes to the sides, she decorated the pot mitan.
As she did this she would then take orally shapes of the design, as if it were some sort of calligraphy; that formed a kind of as estampe, that began the entr'acte. The sweat came pouring through the dress, especially around the armpits, but eventually forming pools all over. Then her eyes closed, this mamba, and she was ready to allow a loa to step in – though no one knew which of them would be favored. The parishioners were also on their needs shaking and raising and lowering their head, to regale the spirits that they all felt were among them.
Then to of the members took out a round disk, and a single drum stick and began to beat them. First it was in unison, but as the chanting grew louder, they grew more and more out of time – it was an ecstatic thing, with each one drumming to an invisible mouth which told them when to beat.
Then there was a moment of silence, as La Place produced a small goat – which had died even before it was born – then the parishioners made more noise than ever before, as well as screeching and wailing. This was because the little goat would be sacrificed – but first it had to be prepared, by the mambo doing the same thing as she did.
Each of the parishioners knelt as their inner voice told to do, each of the drummers twapt has was told by the invisible mouth, each time the mambo raised and stretched her body chanting as she did so. And behind the scenes the houngankion would encourage any who did not know what to do with his hands – often upon the backside of a woman – a woman who would often be grateful and shake her body in his direction.
Then a knife was produced, though most people did not know from where, and was pulled upwards with both hands from the mambo. It was raised for just an instant, and then cut down along the throat of the animal sacrifice. Blood spilled, and spilled. For a moment the animal made a kind of gurgling sound, which a few parishioners copied has they bent their knees to the ground and one nearly knelt down to cover his face. It was obvious to Jules that he had some secret – and she felt sure that he would be selected, and she looked around and saw that many of the worshipers felt as she did. After all, what could be better than to hear a secret which has been buried?
She found thus thought delectable, and rolled it mentally through her head – but then under blackness took her mind, and she was just barely able to think it was not him who was mounted, it was her. Oh yes, it was her.
Lord our Lord, Bondye ou Bondye. As sunlight streamed through a crack in the ceiling – streaming down beams of light, as the blood pooled up in the calabash bowl.
Lord our Lord, Bondye ou Bondye. The choice was made this day.