Doctor Jamie's Spirit Room

Let me help you in matters of love, health and money!
Peace be with you my friends!  Today I’d like to share with you a simple spell that can be used for a variety of purposes, including attracting a new love interest.  I learned this spell over ten years ago from my friend Sonia who is a lifelong spiritual medium and practitioner of santería, a Afro-Caribbean religion similar to Voodoo.  You will need:

Two Slices of Bread
Honey
A small piece of paper
A White or Pink Taper Candle


Start by writing the goal you would like to accomplish on the piece of paper.  If the purpose of your spell is to attract the attention of a certain individual with whom you’d like to have a relationship, draw a line in the center of the paper and on top write your name and below write the name of the person you are trying to attract.

Next, place the paper between the two slices of bread and cover the “sandwich” with an ample amount of honey.  Finally, light the white candle and meditate on the goal you’d like to achieve.  If the purpose of you service is love, use the pink candle.  Leave the candle until it burns out and dispose of the bread some place in nature.  

I have used this service myself several times with phenomenal results and I highly recommend it for newcomers to spell casting and spiritual work.  

If you decide to try this simple spell, please let me know your results.  I thank you for taking the time to check out my blog and until next time may the Ancestors and all the Saints bless you abundantly!
Peace be with you my friend!  As you may know, we are in the middle of a very important time of year in the Voodoo calendar called Fête Ghédé in which we honor the ancestors and pay particular attention to the family of lwa called Ghédé.  Service are performed at the cemetery in honor of Baron Samedi and Maman Brigitte who are the king and queen of the Ghédé family and stand at the gate between this world and the other side.  

It is common in New Orleans and many places around the world to visit the cemetery and honor departed family and friends with offerings of flowers and candles.  In Mexico, November 2nd, El día de los muertos, takes on an almost carnival like atmosphere with colorful decoration and sweet treats molded in the shape of skulls, coffins and bones.  This is to mock the idea of death, which is an inevitable for all, but in reality is nothing to be feared since there is something better waiting for us on the other side.

This is one of my busiest times of year, but I just wanted to share these few lines with you and wish you the choicest of blessing during this most special time of year.  May the Ancestors and all the Saints bless you abundantly during this Fête Ghédé!

Peace be with you my friends.  It is once again October and I have decided to repost one of my favorite articles about pumpkins and their magical properties.  I hope you enjoy and I wish you many blessings during this magical time of year.

Fall has finally arrived and it is truly a season of magic for practitioners of all traditions.  I’ve decided to write on how to make use of those beautiful gourds that are so iconic of this time of year.  The pumpkin is powerful beyond what words can express.  In Afro-Caribbean magic is represents wealth, abundance, prosperity and love.  In the Lukumi tradition is sacred to the orisha Ochun who is herself the embodiment of love, sweetness and all that is good and peasurful in life.  In Eastern Europe there is a commonly held belief that if pumpkins are kept too long, wandering spirits may take up residence and clause them to move about and even bleed by night.  From Ireland comes the tradition of the jack o’ lantern whose original purpose was to frighten off aggressive, mischievous spirits who roamed the countryside on All Hollow’s Eve.  It is hard to imagine that one particular vegetable could be held in such high regard by seemingly distinct cultures from around the world.  The only conclusion I can draw is that there is something innately magical growing on those vines!  It is my pleasure to now share with you three simple spells involving these magical gourds.

Sarah’s Pumpkin Seed Prosperity Spell

You will need:

A tall Glass of Water
A Bag of Salted Dried Pumpkin Seeds

My friend Sarah, herself a Wiccan High Priestess, learned this spell as a child from her grandmother who is a powerful kitchen witch in the New England tradition.  I have learned from various sources that this particular spell was in common use as early as the 1920’s and quite possibly before.  This ritual confers a double blessing since it acts as a spiritual cleansing in addition to attracting wealth and prosperity to the individual that performs it.

Sit in a place where you can meditate quickly for a few minutes.  Open your bag of pumpkin seeds and count out 9 seeds.  Eat the first seed.  You may choose to break the seed open with your teeth and eat the soft inner seed, personally I like to eat the salty hard shell as well.  Slowly chew the first seed and wash it down with a drink of cool water.  Repeat the process until you consume all nine seeds. After you swallow the last seed say to yourself aloud or silently may the seeds of this holy gourd cleanse me of all negativity and fill my life with wealth and blessings.  You will be surprised at how effective something so simple can be!  I have heard of people winning jackpots at casinos and encounter long lost friends after performing this easy ritual.

Caribbean Pumpkin Money Spell

You will need:
A small sugar pumpkin or Caribbean yellow pumpkin
Holy Water
Honey
5 Shiny Pennies   
Paper Bag from the Grocery Store

I have seen versions of this spell done by practitioners of Obeah and Santeria, two beautiful Afro-Caribbean regions.  This spell invokes the aid of Ochun, the Yoruba goddess of love, money and sweetness who is closely associated with Our Lady of Charity, the patroness of Cuba.  This simple ritual can confer wealth, attract good luck and even bring about marriage.   
First remove the top from the pumpkin and scoop out the insides as if you were carving a jack-o-lantern.  Next, cut a square of brown paper from the grocery store bag and write you wishes, desires and petitions on it.  Place the paper inside the pumpkin. Next toss in the 5 pennies and drizzle honey inside as well.  Lastly, sprinkle five drops of Holy Water into the pumpkin and replace the top.  Take the pumpkin to a river and toss it in.  Then wait for Ochun to work her sweet magic in your life!

The Jack-O-Lantern Spell

You will need:

One large carving Pumpkin
A candle

Jack-o-lanterns have their origins in ancient Celtic religion.  Originally they were meant to frighten off and confuse all evil spirits that roamed on All Hallows' Eve.  Originally, the Irish had used turnips, but when they began immigrating to America in the 19th century, they adopted the pumpkin native to the Americas which was much easier to carve.  So this Halloween when you carve your jack-o-lanterns, remember the original meaning of this tradition and as you set your lantern outside whisper the following prayer, may the light of this lantern frighten away all evil spirits who whish to do as harm and light the way for all good spirits and ancestors who wish to visit us this night.  And remember always that Halloween, All Saints' and All Soul's Day are above all a time to honor and pay respect to the dead who have walked the Earth before us and will one day greet us on the other side.  

I hope you have enjoyed learning a bit about pumpkin magic.  Please, if you try any of these spells, let me know your results.  If you have any questions or wish to inquire about my services, please do not hesitate to contact me.  As always, I wish you peace, love and the sweetest of blessings!

Peace be with you, my friends!  In our last blog entry, we talked a bit out the phenomena of mercury retrograde and how it can effect spell work and our lives in general.  I would like to continue along the same lines and discuss the importance of the phases of the moon in any spell or energy work.  I will state before continuing that Voodoo does not traditionally pay attention to the phases of the moon like other forms of magic, but I have noticed in my personal workings that the moon does seem to have an influence of the efficacy of energy work.

According to a variety of magical traditions,  workings to bring about prosperity and good fortune as well as new love are traditionally cast during the waxing moon and cleansings, exorcisms and workings to rid oneself of an unwanted influences are done mainly during the waning moon.  Any type of spell may be done on the full moon as the energy is so intensely strong that it will magnify any vibe being sent out.  This is just a rough guideline, as I have had success doing various types of workings regardless of the moon phase.
    
Various cultures have placed great importance on the moon and have even gone as far as to create holidays to honor the moon and the blessings that it brings.  This is especially true of Asian cultures.  In China, there is a major celebration on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month which occurs anywhere from mid September to early October according to the western calendar.  This holiday is known as the mid autumn festival which originally was to commemorate the goddess Chang'e.  According to traditional Chinese folk religion, Chang'e is the goddess of immortality who happens to live on the moon.  On this day people share a traditional sweet called moon cakes which consist of a flaky crust wrapped around sweet and rich fillings.  These cakes often include messages and wishes or good luck and prosperity.  In addition to the sharing of moon cakes, many people will also make lavish dinners and set the food outside on tables so that the moons rays and Chang'e's energy may bless the food before it is served.  For the last ten years, I have been holding services for the mid Autumn Moon Festival, which again is not part of traditional Voodoo, but is still none the less a beautiful and empowering tradition.  In fact, since the 1920's the 30's many Chinese symbols and practices have been absorbed into New Orleans Hoodoo practice.  I plan to expand upon this is a future post.

Lastly, before wrapping up this post, I would like to comment on the fact that the moon does have an effect of people's behavior.  I have many friends who work in the medical and law enforcement fields and they have remarked on the fact that during the full moon people seem to be drawn to the streets and do things that they normally wouldn't do.  I personally have problems sleeping during the full moon, but then again, I've always been a night person anyway.       

I hope you have enjoyed this post and I think we can agree that even if it is not a part of traditional Voodoo, the moon does exude a powerful energy that we can and should use to our advantage not to mention stop on occasion simply to admire its beauty.  I thank you for taking the time to visit my blog and until next time I wish you peace, love and the sweetest of blessings.   
Peace be with you my friends!  I've decided to blog a bit about an astrological phenomenon called Mercury Retrograde, which has just recently finished.  Firstly, I would like to make clear that astrology is not a major element in Voodoo and spiritual workings in this tradition may be undertaken regardless of lunar and planetary phases.  However, on a personal level I have experienced time and time again the effects of Mercury Retrograde and I have noticed similar effects in the lives of clients for whom I read, therefore I've decided to briefly discuss the effects of this astrological phenomenon and what we may do to combat and minimize them.

Three or four times a year the planet Mercury slows in its orbit and appears to move backwards in reference to other planets moving through the solar system.  This lasts about three to fours weeks.  Since Mercury has dominion over communication and technology, it is not uncommon or computers to crash, cell phones to drops calls, e-mails to not be received correctly and communication between partners in relationships to be less than ideal.  This is especially true in situations where tension and distance already exist.  Also, I have noticed that the energy emitted during spell work can take longer to go into effect during these retrogrades periods.  On a personal note, I have crashed at least four different computers during the retrograde phase, so I know how frustrating these periods can be!

Now that we understand a bit about this phenomenon and the effects it brings, I would like to share a few methods and techniques I've created to offset and even turn in our favor the effects of Mercury Retrograde.  First, it's important to be vigilant as to the date when Mercury goes retrograde, which can be found on any astrological website.  When this occurs, I advise people to take a bath in some salt water to neutralize any irregular energies that may be attracted to one's person as to go into the retrograde period spiritually clean.  Then I would advise you to burn a 7 day Uncrossing or Road Opening candle which can easily be bought online or at any Botanica.  Burning the candle will lessen the effects of the retrograde and actually make it work to your benefit to expose things that you need to work on to improve the overall quality of your life.  Also, it's advisable not to enter into any business deal, get married, buy a home, sign a contract or make any other major life altering decisions during these retrograde periods.  In short, it is advisable to work on projects that you already have in place rather than embark on new undertakings.  

I hope you have enjoyed learning about this interesting aspect of astrology.  If you have any further questions or would like inquire about any of my services, please do not hesitate to contact me.  Until next time I wish you peace, happiness and the sweetest of blessings.    
            
Peace be with you, my friends!  Today I would like to share with you a little about an Asian tradition that has striking similarities with Voodoo is regards to honoring the dead.  This is the Festival of the Hungry Ghosts which takes place on the 14th day of the seventh lunar month of the traditional Chinese calendar, sometime from mid to late August according to the western calendar.  It is a time to honor the ancestors and especially ghosts who have nobody to pray from them.  In fact, the term "Hungry Ghost," refers to this particular class of spirits who are in most need of prayers, food offerings, incense and spirit money, about which I have blogged extensively in previous posts.  Throughout China, Taiwan and Singapore people gather at temples and adorn private altars at home with such offerings to ensure that the dead are happy in the afterlife and so that they in turn will bless the living with good fortune.

Yesterday, inspired by this traditional Chinese practice, I made a service to my spirit guides and ancestors in observance of the Festival of Hungry Ghosts.  This day is not observed in New Orleans or Haiti, but the veneration of ancestors and spirits guides is an extremely important aspect of both Haitian Vodou and Louisiana Voodoo.  The traditional day to honor the dead is November 2nd, the Feast of all Souls.  On this day, Voodooists place a variety of offerings on their home altars and offer prayers and candles both at home and in church for their ancestors to ensure their happiness in the next world and seek blessings for those still on Earth.  

November 2nd is by no means the only time of year that you can and should make offerings to your ancestors.  There is a service in Voodoo called an ancestor feast that you may perform at any time to seek a special favor from your spirit guides or to thank them for the blessings that they have given you.  I personally perform the service once a month.

Performing an ancestor feast is simple.  Lay out a white table cloth and place as many food offerings ad you'd like.  Traditional offerings consist of white, bland foods such as popcorn, steamed white rice, bread and flour dumplings.  You can also offer black coffee, beer and clear water.  Be careful never to include any salt in foods presented to the dead, as it weakens spirits and is even used in many rituals of purification and exorcism.  After laying out the food offerings simply talk to your ancestors and spirits and ask for their help and blessings and thank them for all they have done for you.  Leave the food overnight and the following day dispose of it either in a cemetery or outside in nature.  

I hope you have enjoyed learning about how to serve your ancestors and spirit guides.  If you have any questions or would like me to perform an ancestor feast on your behalf, please do not hesitate to contact me.  Until next time, may the Ancestors and all the Saints bless you abundantly!   

Peace be with you my friends!  Today I've decided to blog a little about a special service that I offer, which admittedly is one of my favorites to perform.  I call it my Chinese spirit bowl.  To understand this service, which I personally developed about five years ago, we should first discuss the tradition of offering spirit money to our ancestors and spirit guides which is common in various countries and cultures throughout Asia. 
 
 In various parts of Asia, most notably China, Taiwan  and Singapore, it is a common practice to burn paper money and gold and silver colored paper as offerings for family members who have crossed over to the other side in order that they may have a comfortable afterlife.  There are three main categories of spirit money:  The first is cash in the form of colorful bills usually issued in astronomically high denominations.  These are meant for recently deceased relatives and unknown spirits who have nobody to pray for them, also known as "hungry ghosts."  The second is silver leaf paper which is meant for highly revered ancestors and finally gold leaf paper which is meant for Chinese folk gods or the Jade Emperor himself, the supreme ruler of the afterlife.  If a person finds him or herself haunted by an unhappy ghost, the most effective remedy is to burn a package of spirit money to make the spirit happy so it will go away.  People firmly believe that their ancestors will bless them abundantly in this life if they are well cared for in the next.  In recent decades it has even become popular to offer items such as cars, cell phones and mansions made out of papier mache! 

On New Year's Eve, I burn massive amounts of Spirit money to ensure the happiness of my spirit guides and ancestors.  It is fun for me to imagine my spirit guides and ancestors living in luxury mansions with servants and living lives of extreme wealth and privilege on the other side.  I know that by taking care of my family and spirit guides who have crossed over, they will bless and protect me in this life.  This tradition of burning spirit money lead me to develop a service that I like to call my Chinese spirit bowl. 

I prepare a large papier mache bowl and paint it red, the Chinese color for luck and royalty, and decorate it with Chinese characters for wealth, luck, happiness, prosperity and peace.  Than I fill the bowel with large amounts of spirit money and burn it as an offering to my ancestors and spirits guides and ask for their blessings in return.  You can even include a specific request in your spirit bowl.  I often recommend people have this service performed, not only as a way to honor your ancestors and seek their blessings, but to ensure success in any business venture and to bring luck and wealth into your life.  I have even had people perform this service for love related maters with great success. 

If you would like to have the Chinese spirit bowl service performed on your behalf, please do not hesitate to contact me.   Thank you for taking the time to read my blog.  May the Ancestors and all the Saints bless you abundantly! 
Peace be with you my friends!  Thank you once again for taking the time to check out by blog.  Today I wish to continue our more in depth discussion of the various spirits in the Voodoo pantheon by talking about an extremely important lwa-Papa Legba.  Legba is one of the original lwa of the Rada family brought to Haiti during colonial times and subsequently to New Orleans by refugees fleeing the Haitian Revolution.  He is the gate keeper.  The spirit to which one must appeal at the beginning and end of every major Voodoo service to open and close the gates of communication to the spirit world.  Due to his role as gate keeper, Legba is associated with St. Peter of the Catholic faith who according to tradition holds the keys to Heaven.

Legba exists in various forms throughout the African diaspora.  In Brazil he is known as Eshu, coming from his original Yoruban name Exu.  In Cuba he is known as Ellegua and is often depicted as a young playful child or a trickster.  In Haiti and New Orleans he is often thought of as either an old wise man and other times as a strong hard working young man.  No matter how he is depicted, every Voodooist knows that Legba must be invoked at the beginning and end of every service and that any major Voodoo work must be undertaken with his permission and blessing.  

Papa Legba's most important role is that of the gatekeeper, but he may be petitioned directly for help in any matter, especially to create positive change and new opportunities in one's life.  I would like to teach you a simple service to Papa Legba that you may perform at home to seek his help and blessings.  Take a statue or an image of St. Peter which you can easily find online and print out, and in front of it place a glass of water and as many as you'd like of Legba's favorite offerings.  These include a shot glass of rum, black eyed peas, white rice, popcorn, roasted peanuts and roasted sweet potatoes.  Light a green candle along side the offerings and talk to Legba as you would a friend.  Present your needs to him and make whatever requests you would like.   Let the candle burn out on its own and then place his offerings in a piece of white cloth or a brown paper bag and leave them at the nearest crossroads.  This simple service is powerful and has proven effective for me and others countless times.  If you decide to give it a try, please let me know how it goes!  

I hope you have enjoyed learning about this most special and important of lwa.  If you have further questions about Papa Legba or any other aspects of Voodoo or would like to order a service to Legba, please do not hesitate to contact me.  Until next time, I wish you peace, happiness and the sweetest of blessings!                

Peace be with you, my friends!  It is with great pleasure that I write this post after having completed my annual St. John's Eve service, which I feel was an amazing success.  I made thirty seven different offerings in total and performed a service called the Brule Marinette, which is extremely powerful and intricate.  This was only the forth one that I have conducted in my years of service as a Voodoo priest.  I plan to elaborate on the Brule Marinette in a future post.  St. John's Eve is of course the most powerful night of the year to perform any kind of spiritual work in the Voodoo tradition and the energy of the night itself is overwhelming.  I was presenting offerings and invoking the lwa non-stop from 9 pm until dawn and then slept until 4 pm in the afternoon on Friday.  This time of year is draining for any Voodoo Doctor or Queen, but there is also a euphoric rush that comes from doing service on St. John's Eve and the blessings that follow are most fulfilling.

Through the course of the night the lwa Maistresse Erzulie Freda Dahomey, called Erzulie for short, popped up numerous times while I conducted various forms of divination and fell into possession.  Erzulie is extremely beautiful, flirtatious, capricious and intoxicating as well as elegant, refined and full of class.  She is an important lwa to serve and often blesses her devotees with unexpected wealth and torrid, passionate love affairs.  During the course of my St. John's Eve service, I felt her energy constantly and have thus been prompted to write this post.  I have touched upon Erzulie as well as other lwa is pervious posts, but today I would like to go more in depth regarding this most beautiful and intense spiritual entity and in following posts I will do that same with other lwa.

Erzulie Freda is one of the original lwa brought from Africa during colonial times.  This origin is indicated in her full title Maistresse Erzulie Freda Dahomey, Dahomey being an ancient kingdom of Western Africa that covered what is today Togo, Benin and parts of Nigeria and included people from the Fon, Yoruba, Wolof and various other ethnic groups who contributed to the development of Vodou in the French colony of St. Domingue, which today is known as Haiti.  Erzulie is the embodiment of wealth, luxury, pleasure, sensuality, and flirtatious capricious love.  In art she is often depicted as a light skin Creole woman who dresses in pink.  Her Catholic image is the Mater Dolorosa, who in popular iconography appears surrounded by gold yet still in anguish with tears flowing down her cheeks and a dagger piercing her heart.  This is perhaps symbolic of the human condition of insatiability.  At times there is never enough to keep us satisfied and we all want more and more of good things.  Erzulie represents this desire for luxury and often cries when her wishes are not fulfilled.  People often make the mistake of thinking that Erzulie will bring them love, while this is true, she tends to bring love and is passionate, torrid, yet short lived.  Erzulie is always ready for the next lover.  So when making a service to her for love, one would be wise to also invoke Ogun to bring about stability.  True to her personality, Erzulie's offerings include champagne, sweet cakes and expensive French perfume.  Her colors are pink and pale blue.  When taking possession of a Vodou priest or priestess, Erzulie prefers to speak French, the language of the elite, rather the Creole, the language of the masses.

As with all the lwa, there are many tales regarding Erzulie.  Despite being capricious and highly flirtatious, Erzulie will not tolerate disrespect or abuse of her children.  During the 1960's in a town not far from Port-au-Prince, there was a popular shrine to Erzulie centered around a magnificent palm tree where she was said to materialize and rest in the palms branches high in the tree.  A local protestant pastor was angry that people were giving attention to Erzulie so he ordered the tree to be chopped down.  The next day his church was hit by lightening and he was haunted by vivid dreams that eventually drove him insane.  Such stories are common regarding those who disrespect Erzulie and Voodoo in general.  

I would like to share with you a simple ritual that you can perform to feel the energy of Erzulie and request her blessings.  Simply take a warm bubble bath with the fragrance of your choice and add the petals of one pink rose.  Light a pink candle next to the tub and as you soak sip a glass of champagne or sparkling wine.  Talk to Erzulie as you would a friend.  Ask for her guidance and request whatever favor you'd like and be sure to thank her by offering a glass of champagne when you get out of the tub.  It is always surprising to see how Erzulie works her magic in our lives!

Thank you for taking the time to visit my blog and I hope you will be able to try the Erzulie invocation at home.   If you are interested in having an Erzulie service performed for whatever purpose, please do not hesitate to contact me.  Until the next time, I wish you peace, happiness and the sweetest of blessings!             

Peace be with you my friends!  I just wanted to take this opportunity to touch base with you and let you know that the preparations for next week's major service for St. John's Eve are well underway.  Many people have requested services and placed orders for offerings to be made.  I will even be performing a service called a Brule Marinette which is extremely rare and powerful and I have only done three in my entire life.  I will elaborate of this particular service in a later post.  



For those who are interested, it is not too late to place orders for the service next week on the 23rd-24th.  Just send me a message and I will be happy to add you to the list.  Don't miss the opportunity to take advantage of this most powerful of nights.  Next weekend I will post a full report of the night's events on my blog, so be sure to check back soon.



Thank you for taking the time to read this post and may the Ancestors and Saints bless you abundantly!  

Peace be with you my friends!  We are once again fast approaching Saint John's Eve, the night of June 23rd-24th.  This is the single most powerful night to perform Voodoo magic, or any other form of spiritual work for that matter.  All Voodoo doctors and queens in Louisiana participate in large scale gatherings in which spirits are summoned, spells cast and offerings made to take advantage of the powerful spiritual energy that abounds on this night.  It is my pleasure to repost an article that I wrote last year that outlines the history, traditions and practices of this most magical of nights.  I am now taking orders for work to be done on the Feast of St. John, so if you are interested in having an offering made of a spell cast please do not hesitate to contact me.  Thank you for taking the time to check out my blog!   


Voodoo in  New Orleans is much a solitary practice as compared to the religion in Haiti, but there is an exception: The Feast of Saint John the Baptist, which falls on the 24th of June.  The feast day is celebrated in Haiti, and indeed throughout the Catholic world, but nowhere as intensely as in New Orleans.  This feast is  particularly popular in Francophone countries.  In rural France, people light bonfires on Saint John’s Night and in Quebec, on the morning of the feast, an old superstition dictates that one collect drops of dew from leaves and grass to sprinkle around the house for good luck.  Also, some believe that when applied to the face, this water will bless a person with a youthful appearance.  In New Orleans, the Feast of Saint John is observed most intensely by Voodooists, perhaps as a remnant of a time when it was fêted more fervently by the general population.  It is  believed that on this night, the veil between the spirit world and the physical world is virtually nonexistent and communion with the ancestors, saints and lwa can be easily achieved.  Curiously, a similar belief in the Galicia region of Spain holds that that the souls in Purgatory can return to Earth on that same night, since the mystical dividing veil is lifted.  On the eve of Saint John’s Day, every Voodooist is expected to attend a communal drumming session in which members of the local community make food offerings to the ancestors and saints, and this is one of the rare occasions when animal sacrifices, usually chickens, are made by the presiding Voodoo Queen..  All Voodoo queens and doctors, if they are to remain in good standing with the spirits and the local community, are expected to attend a service on this night.  The following is a description of the events that occur on this sacred night.  The character names are fictitious and represent no persons living of dead, but the details of the ceremony are accurate.



Immediately following Easter, Evangeline carefully plans the sequence of events for the Fête de Saint Jean Baptiste.  This year she will serve as presiding priestess over the ceremony, a role to which she was nominated by last year’s mistress of ceremonies, Muriel, her friend and fellow Voodoo Queen.  Evangeline contacts all of her friends, family and acquaintances and inquires as to whether she can expect their presence on Saint John’s Eve.  In the following weeks, she visits those planning to attend and collects donations to defray the cost of the ceremony.  Then she secures a location for the gathering on the Bayou Saint John, where Marie Laveau conducted her infamous ceremonies, and obtains the necessary permits from the city.  Then the drummers are hired and Evangeline buys the food and live animals necessary to make offerings to the spirits and to be consumed by the assembly.


The day before the ceremony, Evangeline and two close friends, Renee and Stacey, meet to prepare the food for the following evening.  Renee and Stacey prepare such Southern and Creole classics as collard greens and fatback, spoon bread, hopping john, shrimp Creole, dirty rice and pulled pork, all to be consumed by the congregation.  Only Evangeline, however, is permitted to prepare the ritual offerings for the spirits.  She takes great care to make sure that no a single grain of salt comes into contact with the food offerings.  She makes white rice, roasted pork spiced with black and cayenne pepper, grits, and a dish called “amala”, which is a slimly concoctions of chopped okra stewed with corn meal resulting a slippery mess, a taste and texture unappetizing to the human palate, but absolutely decadent to the spirit world.  Evangeline thanks her friends and they leave with all the food that has been prepared, and it will be their responsibility to bring the offerings to the gathering the following night.  All those expected to attend the service take special herbal baths at home the night before to rid themselves of negativity and neutralize their spiritual vibrations as to be able to fully receive the blessings of the saints and spirits.


On the afternoon of Saint John’s Eve, Evangeline’s friends arrive at the predetermined site and set up the wood pile that will become a massive bonfire.  They arrange tables with the previously prepared food as the sacrificial chickens await their imminent death in cages resting on the ground.  The drummers arrive shortly after and set up their musical equipment and in the late afternoon the guests start to arrive and socialize while they anticipate the presence of the mistress of ceremonies who is due to arrive at sundown.
When the last amber rays of summer sunlight retreat behind the tree tops, Evangeline arrives.  She parks her car a short distance down the street, preferring to make her entrance on foot.  Seeing Evangeline in the distance coming toward them, the guests for a semicircle and she takes her place in the center.  She stands there for a moment in silence, dressed in white from head to foot resting her weight on the ribbon and bell bedecked baguette des morts.  Then, she bangs the stick three times of the ground and makes the opening prayer, “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”  The congregation makes the sign of the cross and responds “Amen.”  Raising her outstretched palms toward Heaven, she cries, “faith, hope and charity,” the three virtues by which Voodooists are compelled to live.  The congregation once again responds with a resounding “Amen” and with that, the ceremony has begun.


Renee and Stacey, Evangeline’s designated helpers from the previous day, come to meet her in the center of the circle.  They are to hand her all supplies that she will need throughout the evening.  Renee hands her a small vial of holy water that she herself had taken from the baptismal fount at her parish church earlier that day.  While Evangeline sprinkles the ground around the soon-to-be ceremonial pyre the congregation softly recites the opening prayers in unison: The Our Father, the Hail Mary and the Apostles’ Creed, in that exact order.  Stacey takes Evangeline’s baguette des morts and respectfully holds it while Evangeline tends to the preparation of the fire.  The wood having been previously dowsed with kerosene will light without trouble, but Evangeline must first sprinkled the mound with a variety of dried herbs, some graveyard dirt and a few drops of holy water before it is torched.  Meanwhile, Renee and Stacey trace a cross in the dirt next to the fire pit using a mixture of cornmeal, ground white eggshells, dust from a church and dirt from a graveyard and a crossroads.  When Evangeline finishes consecrating the fire pit, she turns her attention to the cross that Stacey and Renee have prepared.  She touches the ground three times and makes the sign of the cross.  Then, from a pitcher, she spills water three times on the ground and says “pou mo-ye,” for the dead.  Then Renee and Stacey bring her the dishes of food she personally prepared the previous day.  With the dishes neatly placed at the four points of the cross, Evangeline declares “mange sec pou mo-ye,” dry eating for the dead.  Voodoo practitioners refer to food offerings as “mange sec” to distinguish them from animal sacrifices in which case the spilt blood is the offering, not the animal itself.  The spirits and saints take the offerings of food and spilled blood and convert them into pure energy that is then used to grant their petitions and bring good luck and prosperity into their lives.


With the offerings all laid out, Evangeline takes a sip of rum and then spits in out onto the dirt floor altar in front of her.  Then she places a small white taper in each dish of food.  When the last taper is lighted, before placing at the center of the cross, Evangeline uses it to set the ceremonial pyre ablaze.  The congregation claps and cheers and the drummers begin to play.  The rest of the night is a pleasant combination of religious rituals and a friendly party atmosphere.  The guests dance and eat traditional Creole specialties as well as drink beer and rum drinks.  Throughout the course of the evening, they sing songs in Creole, French and English to call down the saints and ancestors.  The spirits make take possession of whomever they choose, not just Evangeline.  When a spirit or lwa touches a person and takes control of his body, the drumming stops and the congregation waits in silence for this person to speak.  He or she comes forward and speaks to those assembled and gives instructions for spiritual workings to be carried out.  The spirit, through the medium, will let the people know if the evil eye or any hexes have been placed on them.  If this is found to be true, Evangeline immediately cleanses them of the evil eye or unclean spirits by passing a live chicken over their head and touching it to the palms and backs of their hands.  Then, she snaps the chicken’s necks and slits its throat with a sharp knife, squeezing the animal until the last drop of blood is spilled on the ground.  The chicken is then disposed of, since it cannot be eaten because the negative influence once on the person has been passed to the chicken.


As the night progresses, more spirits mount the guests and people ask favors of them and lay flowers and dollar bills at their feet to thank them for favors granted in the previous year.  This night is one of the few occasions in New Orleans Voodoo where spirit possession takes place, and it is considered an honor to be touched by a spirit.  As dawn approaches, Evangeline calls all the guests to the form a circle once again.  She calls down her personal spirit guide who indicates the person who is to serve as next years presiding Vooodoo Queen at the fête de Saint Jean Baptiste.  It is Stacey.  Stacey readily agrees and they seal the new appointment with a kiss on each cheek.  Renee retrieves Evangeline’s baguette des morts, which Evangeline once again bangs three times of the ground exclaiming, “faith, hope and charity.”  “Amen,” responds the congregation.  She strikes three more blows to the earth and prayers, “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”  Another magnificent “Amen” rises up from the crowd.  They all make the sign of the cross and head for home.  The ceremony is over.  Only Evangeline remains.  She gathers the offerings of food and places them in the center of a cotton cloth, which she then ties up into a neat bundle.  She collects the dollar bills strewn about the grounds, which she will donate later that day to a church or charitable organization.  As she drives off, she is sure to take a different route than the one she used to get there, as not to let any bad spirits follow her home and ruin her luck.  Quickly stopping at a crossroads, she leaves the cloth bundle with the food offerings for the spirits.  She drives to her church where Renee and Stacey are waiting for her, and they attend an early morning mass together to celebrate the Feast of Saint John the Baptist.


While Evangeline, Stacey and Renee are fictitious characters, the rituals described in the above story are true and accurate.  Other traditions may exist in various communities, since there is no set liturgy as in established churches, but in the Voodoo tradition, the feast of Saint John remains of the most important feasts of the year and is universally observed wherever Voodoo is practiced, be it in Haiti, New Orleans, Martinique or in Afro-Francophone communities in New York and Quebec.  Nowhere, however is the tradition more intensely adhered to than in New Orleans.  Perhaps this is due to the fact that in Louisiana, as opposed to the other locations mentioned, Francophone Creoles and Voodooists are an ever increasing minority, and the fact that enough people choose to practice this beautiful faith and gather each year to give thanks to God, the ancestors and the saints and be together as a community of believers is cause for celebration.  In short, the fact that a people who have been told for centuries by the white Anglo establishment that their culture, language and faith are inferior have been able to hang onto the language spoken by their ancestors who toiled in the cane fields and practice a faith both brought over on slave ships and enriched by the prayers once sung in Latin from high church altars is in and of itself a miracle!  The Voodoo faith, like those who profess it, is a Creole religion, and the concept of Creole is simple: A syllogism of drastically different elements melded to form a new and living reality.  It is a religion of power and survival.


Thank you again for taking the time to check out my blog!  I am now taking orders to spiritual work to be performed on St. John's Eve.  I look forward to hearing from you!  May the Ancestors and Saints bless you abundantly!
Peace be with you my friends!  Thank you once again for stopping by my blog.  I would like to bring my series of articles of Haitian Vodou to a close with a brief discussion of the prominence of Vodou in every facet of life in Haiti even to the level of national politics.  

In Haiti, it is not unheard of for an unscrupulous Hougan or Bokor to intimidate individuals with threats of bewitchment or zombification in an attempt to extort money or gain power, and zombification is often a form of capital punishment in rural Haiti.  Several secret societies operate in rural Haiti where the complete absence of any law enforcement often gives carte blanche to criminals to act as they please and the presence of such organizations serves as somewhat of a deterrent.  Both Rada and Makaya priests, both male and female, are members of these groups, and if they hear of a person who has committed a serious crime, such as rape, murder or even desecrating a Vodou temple, that person will be put on trial in absentia and if found guilty, will face an acceptable punishment.  This can range from a “coup de l’air”, which is a weak curse meant to bring bad luck or mild illness, to the ultimate penalty of zombification.  The exact process of zombification is a well guarded secret, but it is know to involve the abduction of the condemned individual and the administering of a special paste made from ground roots and various ingredients extracted from leaves and animal parts.  The condemned in then buried underground for one whole day, and miraculously does not die from lack of oxygen but remains in a completely paralyzed state.  The following evening, he is then revived and set to work for determined amount of time, after which he is somehow restored to normal thinking capacity and returned to his family.  This is the official statement from the hougans regarding zombification, although it is doubtful that zombies are truly deprived of oxygen for so long, and it is logical to assume that the zombies are given regular doses of poison to keep them in that mindless state.  There have been few official studies conducted by western scientists on the process of zombification and there is much that we don’t know, except that it is a very real phenomenon.

Vodou justice has always existed in Haiti even in the early days of the Saint Domingue colony when it served as the only refuge for slaves discontent with their masters.  A particularly abusive master might one day find a dead chicken and a string of beads on his front porch and then the whole family would fall mysteriously ill.  Vodou was also no doubt a driving force behind the uprising that made Haiti the first Caribbean colony to gain its independence from European powers and indeed the first independent black nation in the world.  This brings us to the concept of Vodou as unifying force in Haitian culture.  Nowhere was this better demonstrated than during the reign of the dictators François “Papa Doc” Duvalier and his son Jean Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier who both exploited the general population’s fear of Vodou to solidify their draconian rule over the island, but in the end Baby Doc underestimated the quality of Vodou to rouse and empower the people and it was one the leading factors that lead to the downfall of the Duvalier dynasty in a popular revolution that started in the churches and Vodou temples of Haiti.

A native of Port-au-Prince, François Duvalier first rose to fame during the 1940’s as a physician when, through an extensive inoculation program, he nearly eradicated typhus and yaws (a bacterial infection much like leprosy) from the general population.  He was a national hero and was appointed minister of health in 1949.  During the 1950’s he continued to secure his power by gaining the loyalty of the Haitian army.  Duvalier won the 1957 presidential election; some say by means of fraud and intimidation, but most likely because he was the first black politician of any importance since the American occupation of Haiti had left the government in the hands of the white and mulatto elite and people saw him as a figure of black pride and power.  After winning the presidency, to consolidate his power, he ordered the deaths all the members of the army that had opposed him during his rise to power.  He formed a personal militia called the “Tonton Macoutes”, named after a boogey-man type figure from Haitian folklore, which would terrorize the general population and weed out anybody disloyal to the Duvalier regime.  In 1964, he declared himself “President for Life.”  One of the most effective methods employed to strengthen his grasp of the Haitian people was to play into their deep seeded beliefs and superstitions.  He began to exploit their fear of the dark side of Vodou.

Duvalier bore a striking resemblance to the lwa Baron Samedi, and he claimed to be a hougan and often imitated the mannerisms of Baron and talked with the nasality typical of the ghédé lwa.  People feared Duvalier as he claimed to rule with the blessings of the lwa and that all those who opposed him would incur the wrath of the spirit world.  Duvalier succeeded in perverting the most profound beliefs of the people and turning their strong faith into a cause for fear and oppression.  Before his death in 1971, Duvalier succeed in infiltrating almost every Vodou house in Haiti and the demacoutization of Vodou would not occur until the early 1980’s when Haitians once again drew strength from spirituality and planned and overthrow Jean Claude “Baby Doc” who succeeded to Haitian presidency at age nineteen after the death of his father.
    
Baby Doc did not possess the same charisma as his father and was infamous for financial corruption.  By the early 1980’s, it was clear that he was losing his hold on power, partly due to the fact that he failed to master his father’s brutal techniques of intimidation and subjugation.  In 1983, Pope John Paul II made a visit to the island and was disgusted by the state of affairs and his departing words spoken from the airplane door were, “things must change here!”  Following the papal visit, the Roman Catholic clergy began an underground literacy program which had as its focus the education of the lower classes of the city slums and countryside in matters such as voter registration and the importance of free speech.  The Vodou community, which includes many devout Catholics, also took part in this popular revolution and began the demacoutization of Vodou and many prominent hougans and mambos publicly denounced members of the Tonton Macoutes operating in their houses.   In late 1985, the protesters took to the streets of Port-au-Prince and demanded the abdication of Jean Claude Duvalier, often invoking the name of Papa Legba, Damballah and all the lwa and saints in the name of freedom and democracy, much like their ancestors had done in colonial times.  In early 1986, Duvalier left office and took refuge with his mother Simone “Mama Doc” Duvalier in France, where he lived for many years until recently returning to Haiti after which he was promptly arrested and put of trial for his crimes against the Haitian people.  

I hope you have enjoyed learning about the practices and importance of Vodou in Haitian history, culture and politics.  It is important to explore the roots of Voodoo in Haiti and Africa to better understand how the practice evolved in New Orleans.  I thank you for taking the time to read my blog as always I wish you peace and the sweetest of blessings.

Peace be with you my friends!  Today I would like to continue my series of articles on the history and practices of Voodoo is both Haiti and New Orleans.  Again, I will say that I am not an Hougan and that my expertise is in New Orleans Voodoo and not Haitian Vodou, so I do apologize for any errors regarding the practice of Vodou in Haiti.  The Voodooist serves a pantheon of spirits called "lwa," a term that comes from the French word "loi" meaning "law" as each spirit represents a law of nature or of the human condition.  The lwa are divided into three major nations.  The first is the Rada nation.  These are the original lwa and came from African during the early days of colonization.  The second is the "petro" nation which is comprised of fiery, volatile spirits born during the Haitian Revolution in which Vodou played a fundamental role in overthrowing French colonial rule.  Most Rada lwa have a petro counterpart. The third is the "ghede" nation which represents the spirits of the dead and death itself, which every Voodooist knows is simply a passage from one state to being to another and nothing to be feared.  It is my pleasure to share with you some information about a few lwa with you today.

Papa Legba-Legba is a lwa of the Rada family.  He is the lwa to which one must appeal before invoking any other lwa or performing any act of Voodoo magic, since he holds the keys to the spirit world and stands at the gateway between the physical world and the realm of the lwa and nobody may pass without his permission.  Legba’s offerings include tobacco, rum, black eyed peas, spiced chicken and his sacrificial animals are roosters and goats.  He is syncretized with Saint Peter, who in Catholic iconography holds the keys to Heaven.
 
Erzulie Freda Dahomey-Erzulie belongs to the Rada family of lwa.  She is the mistress who rules in the domain of love and wealth.  One might petition Erzulie to bring about a change in one’s financial situation or to attract a lover.  Be warned though, that love brought by Erzulie rarely lasts, as she tends to confer upon her devotees brief, albeit passionate and erotic, affairs.  She is flirtatious, volatile, passionate and capricious.  She also speaks French, which is seen as both a sign of refinement and arrogance in Haiti.  There is a saying in Haitian Creole, “parle franse pa fe lespri pou sa,” speaking French doesn’t make you smart.  Her colors are pink and light blue and her favorite offerings include champagne, sweet cakes, flowers, perfume and white doves.  Typically, when Erzulie possesses one of her devotees during a Voodoo ceremony, she often departs crying, since there are never enough luxurious items to satisfy her desires.  She is syncretized with the Mater Dolorosa of the Catholic faith.

Madame La Sirène-La sirène is of the Rada family and she is the mistress of the sea.  While Erzulie embodies the sensual aspects of femininity, la Sirène represents the maternal and nurturing side of womanhood.  She is also a fierce protector of those who fall under her patronage.  A legend told around Port-au-Prince speaks of a Protestant pastor and politician during the 1940’s who spoke out against Vodou and personally targeted a well known mambo who was a child of La Sirène.  In front of a crowed on the beach, he publicly harangued the priestess and her practices and out of nowhere, a massive wave rolled onto shore on top of which stood a regal woman in an elegant blue dress, which everyone knew was La Sirène.  She wrapped her arms around the man and dragged him back to into the ocean with well over a hundred witnesses.  He resurfaced in Port-au-Prince seven years later and when people exclaimed that they thought surely he was dead, he responded “il aurait vallu mieux que je le fusse,” it would have been better if I had been, as he clamed to have been a prisoner of the La Sirène, his soul held captive in her under sea realm.  Whether anything remotely resembling this story occurred or not cannot be known for sure, but the moral is that those who defame the lwa and their children will not go unpunished, which again lends credence to the idea that Vodou is a religion of survival and empowerment.  La Sirène’s offerings include honey, wine and sweet cakes.  She is often depicted as a mermaid, since this is meaning of Sirène in French, but she is also syncretized with the Stella Maris, or Star of the Ocean, which is one of the many titles of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Erzulie Dantor-Erzulie Dantor is the Petro aspect of Erzulie Freda and is one of the fiery, vengeful spirits born during the struggle for independence.  She is invoked to punish an abusive lover or somebody who deeply hurt one of her children.  In Haiti, which is still an excessively machista society, men can often beat and violate women without any consequences and there have been many instances where men have been mysteriously driven to suicide after mistreating a child of Erzulie Dantor, and she has therefore gained the reputation of defender of women and children.  Her offerings include “kleren”, a fiery drink made by infusing hot peppers with rum, rice and peas and her sacrificial animal is the wild Creole pig, which is difficult to find in Haiti due to an American sponsored eradication program during the 1930’s, so a common black pig is often substituted.  Erzulie Dantor is syncretized with Our Lady of Czestochowa, a black Madonna of Polish origin.  The story behind this association is that in an attempt to suppress the Haitian slave rebellions, the French government hired Polish mercenaries who upon seeing the harsh conditions to which the slaves were subjected, sided with the rebelling slaves and helped overthrow French colonial rule.  Our Lady of Czestochowa is depicted as a protective mother with a scared face clutching her child in her arms.  When the slaves saw the Polish soldiers carrying this icon into battle, they immediately recognized in her battered features and warrior spirit their own Erzulie Dantor and they knew that they could trust the Polish mercenaries since Dantor herself had sent them.  To this day, Voodooists use the image of the Polish Madonna in services to Erzulie Dantor, which is proof again of the syncretic and ever evolving nature of Vodou.

Baron Samedi-Baron Samedi is the king of the Ghede lwa and functions much in the same way with the dead as Legba does among the lwa, since anyone who wishes to invoke the help of the dead must first appeal to Baron to open the gate between the world of the living and of the dead.  In Haiti, the grave of the first man buried in a cemetery is consecrated to Baron Samedi and a large cross is erected at which Voodooists may place offerings to Baron.  Baron has many manifestations, the most popular being Baron LaCroix, Baron Cimitiere and Carrefour.  They are however all aspects of the same lwa who is invoked under different titles for different purposes.  This lwa of death is often depicted as a tall, smiling skeleton that is dressed like an undertaker complete with a stovepipe hat.  His mocking appearance is meant to poke fun at death, an inevitability for us all.  When Baron, or any Ghede lwa, possesses on of his followers, the mounted Voodooist will often be compelled to perform a suggestive dance called the “banda” which is characterized by spasmodic pelvic thrusts.  Perhaps because of his aggressive, carnal nature, Baron is know as the lwa of fertility and is often invoked by women who wish to conceive a child, especially a son.  His offerings include kleren, spiced pork, cigars, candies and “pois djon djon”, a heavily seasoned rice and mushroom dish.  His sacrificial animal is a rooster or a black goat and his Catholic counterpart is Saint Gerard Mejilla, although in New Orleans he is closely associated with Saint Expedite.

Maman Brigitte-Maman Brigitte is a particularly important lwa for many reasons, not the least of which being that she demonstrates the absorbing of other cultures’ beliefs into Voodoo and also the strong feminine ideal of the religion.  The most peculiar aspect of this lwa is her physical appearance, as she is portrayed and a fierce, bold white woman in charge of her own destiny.  Her Caucasian appearance is due to the fact that she has her origins not in Africa or Haiti, but in Scotland!  Brigitte is in fact the Caribbean manifestation of the Celtic goddess Brigid and this fact is recalled in a popular Haitian song celebrating this lwa in which the priest sings “Maman Brigitte li te sorti de Anglete,” Maman Brigitte, she came from England.  The appearance of a white, Celtic deity in Haitian Vodou can be explained by the fact the during the English Civil War of 1642-1645, many loyal subjects of the crown were expelled from Great Britain when the opposing parliament came to power and took refuge in various Caribbean islands, including Haiti.  Many women from rural areas of Scotland no doubt brought with them their devotion to this Celtic goddess, and she being recognized by the Haitians as a powerful matriarchal spirit, was adopted into the pantheon of Vodou spirits.  In Vodou, Maman Brigitte is the wife of Baron Samedi and the grave of the first woman buried in a cemetery is consecrated to her and she is also believed to protect all the graves in the cemetery that are properly marked with a cross.  Brigitte is a strong, aggressive and protective female spirit who often punishes those who disrespect the dead and fail to give them a proper burial; she is invoked for luck in gambling.  Her offerings are the same as Baron Samedi’s and her sacrificial animal is a black hen.

I hope you have enjoyed learning about some of the lwa in Voodoo.  This is by no means an exhaustive list as there are many lwa some of which are specific to very limited geographic area or even to a particular family!  If you have any questions regarding the lwa, please do not hesitate to contact me.  My series on Voodoo history and traditions will continue in the weeks to come.  Until then I wish you peace, happiness and the sweetest of blessings! 
I have decided to share a bit about the history and development of Voodoo both in Haiti and in Louisiana in this first installment of a series of articles of Voodoo culture and history.  As I have stated many times in my writings, I am not an expert or practitioner of Haitian Vodou and my knowledge is limited to my interactions with Haitian people and from academic sources.  So, I do apologize if any information given is erroneous or incomplete and I welcome comments from those more familiar with the religion in Haiti.  I am however an experienced priest of New Orleans Voodoo and I possess a vast knowledge of the rites, traditions and practices of Louisiana Voodoo and there is no denying that the influences from Haitian Vodou run deep in New Orleans and for that reason I feel it is necessary to begin our journey on the island of Hispaniola during colonial times when a variety of West African spiritual practices fused with Catholicism to create the religion of Vodou.

Contrary to popular belief, Vodou is a monotheistic religion, since practitioners believe in one all-powerful God who created the universe and everything in it.  In Haiti, where Vodou together with Catholicism is the majority religion, God is referred to simply as “Bon Dieu”, which translates as “Good God” or “Holy God.”  The same name is often used in reference to God by Christians all over the Francophone world.  It is a common misconception that Voodoo is a polytheistic religion.  Most Voodooists are of the Catholic faith, so we choose to see God in three divine persons-the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  

Why then do so many assume Voodoo to be a polytheistic religion?  Aside from Hollywood and popular fiction’s portrayal of the religion as a savage cult of black magic, there is a popular misconception that Voodooists, especially in Haiti, are polytheists since they serve a pantheon of spirits called the “lwa”.  Vodou is essentially an African spirit religion that has found a home in the Caribbean.  The name “Vodou” comes from the Dahomey language of Western Africa and means simply “Divine Spirit” which is a reference to God, whom Voodooists revere and worship as all powerful and all merciful.  Voodoo has it origins in what is today Benin, Togo and parts of Nigeria, and is not to be confused with the Yoruba religion, also from Nigeria, that would become Santería, Macumba and Candomblé in the New World.  Today, Vodou is still practiced by an estimated 10-20% of the population of Benin and Togo and the African practice bears little resemblance to the religion in Haiti and New Orleans, where because of Catholic influence many new spirits and saints are venerated and new forms of worship have evolved.  The religion in Benin and Togo was suppressed first by Christian missionaries and later by the socialist regimes that ruled from 1971 until 1992.  Today, Christianity and Islam are the dominant faiths in West Africa, yet in many rural areas as well as throughout the Caribbean the rich legacy of traditional African spirit religions remain prevalent to this day.

Prior to the arrival of Europeans, the island of Hispaniola was inhabited by the Taíno people, who were closely related to the Arawaks of the South American continent, albeit a more peaceful tribe.  The name in Taíno for the island was “Ayiti,” which means “mountainous land”, a name that would be later adopted by the new Haitian government after the revolution of 1804. Columbus set foot on the western side of Hispaniola on December 5th, 1492 in what is today the Republic on Haiti.  Shortly after the arrival of these first Europeans, the native population died out due to diseases such as small pox and diphtheria to which they had no immunity, and left the island essentially deserted.  The Spanish explorers quickly lost interest in the island following the discovery of vast deposits of gold and silver in the Mexico and South America, and what few settlements they had there were concentrated on the eastern side of the island that is today the Dominican Republic.  It was not until the end of the 17th century when the western third of the island was ceded to France and the massive production of sugar began under French colonial rule.  The colony of Saint Domingue prospered.  By the early 18th century, it was known as the “Paris of the New World” and was the richest of all the Caribbean islands, a far cry from the corrupt and poverty stricken nation that it is today.  In order to supply a labor force for the massive scale plantation economy, the French began importing boatloads of slaves from West Africa.  These slaves, along with their music, languages and food preparation techniques, also brought to Saint Domingue their religion: Vodou.

Upon their arrival in Saint Domingue, the French colonizers splashed some water in the slaves’ faces, declared them Christians and set them to work in the sugar cane fields.  Rarely did the African population receive any formal religious instruction, and therefore they did not learn or fully understand the faith which they were told they must practice, and often times they maintained their traditional African beliefs and practiced them along side the Catholicism of their white captors.  The most widely accepted theory regarding the crystallization of the Vodou religion in Haiti is that the slaves continued to venerate the spirits of their native land, but prayed to them in secret, hiding them behind Catholic iconography as not to be discovered by the French clergy.  This was most likely true in the early days of colonization, but I personally feel that Caribbean slaves overtime accepted many aspects of the Catholic faith and began to pray to European saints alongside their traditional African spirits.  Hence the syncretism between Vodou spirits and Catholic saints, which does not exist in Africa.  This syncretism is especially prevalent in Cuba where Santería is widely practiced, the name itself meaning “the way of the saints."  A friend of mine named Suzie Rivera from the Dominican Republic, where a religion closely related to Vodou called Las 21 Divisiones is practiced once told me, “más poderosa que todos los santos es la Divina Hostia,” more powerful than all the saints is the Devine Host.  This is an example of the acceptance of the Catholic faith on the part of practitioners of Vodou.  Such an assumption is logical if one takes into account the fact that by their very nature African religions borrow and incorporate elements of other faiths such as can be seen in the veneration of Yoruba and Congolese sprits in Vodou despite its obvious origins in West Africa.  Any claim that Vodou survived without Catholic influence in the Caribbean is most likely an attempt to decatholocize the religion by New Age practitioners in the United States.

Vodou pratitioners venerate a pantheon of spirits which are called “lwas.”  The term “lwa” comes from the French word “loi,” meaning “law.”  Each lwa represents a law of nature or of the human condition.  Practitioners can call upon the lwa for favors and blessings to improve their state of life and one may communicate with the lwa by means of possession through an initiated priest of priestess.  The roles of Vodou initiates will be detailed below.  In Haitian Vodou, as is New Olreans Voodoo, there are three families of lwas-The Rada, the Petro and the Ghede.  The Rada lwa are the original spirits that came from Africa and which are still venerated there today.  The Petro lwa are the angry, fiery aspects of the Rada lwa.  According to Vodou teaching, the Petro lwa were born at the beginning of the Haitian Revolution in 1791 when the revolutionary leaders and several run-away slaves gathered in the woods at Bois Caïman and sacrificed a black pig to the lwa and begged for the strength to overthrow their French captors.  A great storm arose and the Petro lwa were born and empowered the slaves to bring their captors to their knees.  A Voodooist would invoke a Rada lwa and a Petro lwa for help in the same dominion, but for a different reason.  One might call upon the Rada lwa Erzulie Freda for help in finding a lover, and one might invoke the Petro aspect of the same lwa, Erzulie Dantor, to punish a abusive husband or get revenge on a unfaithful lover.  So, both aspects of Erzulie deal with love, but under different circumstances.  The third group is the Ghede lwa who are the lwa of death.  The idea of death is important in Vodou since death is the gateway through which we must all pass in order to enter into the spirit world to be with our ancestors and God.  In Vodou, the spirit world, much like the Christian heaven, is called Guinea, which is no doubt a reference to the ancestral homeland.  The Ghede lwa are important because they assist people on their final journey into the spirit world and retrieve them from the lake of death and welcome them into the eternal paradise of Guinea.  The Ghede lwa can also be called about to assist in the preparation of magical charms and spells by Voodoo priests.  The most important holiday of the Vodou liturgical year is the Fête Ghede, which is the three day festival coinciding with the Catholic Feasts of the All Saints and All Souls, November 1st and 2nd, respectively .

 Voodoosits serve, but do not worship, the lwa.  They believe that the lwa will grant them material blessings in this world, but only faith in Almighty God can bring them a happy afterlife.  Each person, according to Vodou, is born under the patronage of a specific lwa and will often exhibit that lwa’s characteristics as their own personality traits.  For example, a child of Erzulie Freda may be physically beautiful, flirtatious and enjoy owning exotic and expensive items.  There are several hundred lwa, and more are invented all the time as the need or desire arises.   A Vodou practitioner may even serve a lwa know only to him and his family.  In the next installment I will share some of the names and attributes as well as a variety of other information about some of the more widely known lwa.  Thank you again for checking out my blog and may your life be filled with abundant blessings!

I feel that we should always focus of that which is light and positive, but we cannot ignore that there is a dark side to the spirit word and there are those who would manipulate these forces to do us harm.  Often times people come to me with evil spirit, sometimes demonic and more frequently psychic vampire attachments.  Usually these people are innocent victims of evil magic or wandering angry spirits, but other times they have open a door to tremendous negativity and darkness by dabbling with ouija boards or occult practices for which they are not sufficiently prepared.  These conditions can be cured via exorcism or spiritual cleansing and if you feel there is a dark or debilitating spirit around you or that you are the victim or a curse, please do not hesitate to contact me and together we can find the proper spiritual remedy.  Also, if you have dealt with such a situation in the past I would love to hear your story.

I originally heard this story in the early 2000's from a woman named Vera who know lives in Massachusetts, but who originally is from  Metairie, Louisiana.  In the mid 1970’s, one of the most renowned Voodoo Doctors and supposed drug dealers in New Orleans was a man by the name of Reggie.  He dealt with the dark side of the occult and worked with spirits that in life had been criminals and psychologically disturbed individuals.  According to local legend, Reggie had made what was called a “prenda,” an altar for evil magic housed entirely in a black cast iron cauldron, this is not a tradition in Voodoo, but comes from the Palo-Mayombe religion of eastern Cuba that originally has its roots in the Congo.  In Reggie's prenda were found the usual items-graveyard dirt, various herbs and animals bones.  Also, he had a pet snake that would rest inside the prenda and come slithering to him on command, despite the fact that snakes are supposed to be deaf.  He would often brag that he had in his command  the spirit of a sociopath murderer who had died in the electric chair and that he could send this evil spirit out to kill or terrorize whomever he chose.  

Vera was his neighbor and she often witnessed him performing dark, devious ceremonies between midnight and 3:00 am, the hours between which evil is at its most powerful.  Reggie was forever offering animal sacrifices to the prenda, so much so that Vera called his house a slaughtering plant from the amount of goat and chicken carcasses that exited via the side door.  Vera told him that if he kept feeding the spirit so much blood it was going to develop an addiction and become a “nadoki,” a malevolent blood-drinking spirit of African origin closely resembling the European vampire.  One day, while chatting casually with Reggie over the fence the separated their two yards, she caught a glimpse of a tall shadowy figure with piercing red eyes standing in his kitchen.  She knew immediately that the dark spirit had gained enough power to leave the prenda and amble about on its own.  She warned him that his demise was imminent unless he disposed of the prenda by leaving it in a cemetery or at a crossroads and aspersing it with holy water.  Reggie ignored her advice and two days later he was dead.  Vera saw his lifeless body laying on the kitchen floor his head having been crushed by the overturned refrigerator with a stream of blood flowing toward the prenda.  When the ambulance came to retrieve his body, Vera entered the house and retrieved the prenda unnoticed and personally destroyed its contents.  She raised Reggie's pet snake, who she claims was quite happy to get out of that crazy environment.  Whether the story of Reggie transpired exactly as told or whether some exaggeration has occurred overtime does not matter, since the moral of the story is clear:  People who live their lives doing evil eventually succumb to it and sooner or later meet an unhappy demise.

So I strongly urge to you avoid the dark side at all costs.  Keep your hearts and mind always on God and His saints and such evil will not be able to touch you.  Thank you for taking the time to ready my blog and if you feel you are in need of any of my services, please do not hesitate to contact me.               

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