“Did you ever wish that your heart came with an owner’s manual? Well, this is it. Kenaz Filan explains how relationships work, how to form them, and how to fix them when they’re broken. Vodou Love Magic is a practical yet entertaining manual for romantic fulfillment, ideal for practitioners of Afro-Caribbean magic and also suitable to people new to the tradition. Most highly recommended.” Elizabeth Barrette, author of Composing Magic: How to Create Magical Spells, Rituals, Blessings, Chants and Prayer
Haitian Vodou, like other folk traditions, is an eminently practical craft. Vodou practitioners see their relationship with the lwa—the spirits honored in Haitian Vodou—as mutually beneficial rather than one-sided. In return for sincere offerings, the lwa are happy to provide protection and support in dealing with life’s problems—which more often than not concern love. In Vodou Love Magic, Kenaz Filan details the myriad aspects of love and sex governed by the different lwa and explains what services each can provide in attaining fulfilling relationships—and who will likely offer the best wisdom for your needs. If you are having trouble meeting people, Legba’s Opening the Door Spell can resolve this difficulty. If you wish more fire in a relationship, then you should work with the warrior spirit Papa Ogou. Filan presents easy-to-follow instructions for numerous love spells and also reveals how the lwa offer counsel for dealing with ending relationships, toxic behavior patterns like codependency, and romantic triangles. Vodou Love Magic does not provide a magic genie who will fulfill every wish, but it does offer access to a team of spirits who can help transform dreams into realities. Kenaz Filan (Houngan Coquille du Mer) was initiated in Société la Belle Venus in March 2003 after 10 years of solitary service to the lwa. Filan is the author of The Haitian Vodou Handbook and has written articles for PanGaia, Planet Magazine, and Widdershins. Filan is managing editor of newWitch magazine and lives in New York City.
Destiny Books Rochester, Vermont www.DestinyBooks.com Cover design by Peri Ann Swan Cover illustration courtesy of Art Resource
Vodou Love Magic
“Vodou Love Magic is a seductive velvet hammer. It is both a primer filled with practical advice on relationships and a luscious, fun-to-read book that gives the reader the straight dope on magick and spirit work.” Tannin Schwartzstein, coauthor of The Urban Primitive: Paganism in the Concrete Jungle
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Vodou Love Magic
A Practical Guide to Love, Sex, and Relationships
Destiny Books Rochester, Vermont
This book is dedicated to my wife, partner, longtime collaborator, and best friend, Kathy Latzoni (Mambo Zetwal Kleye), who has shown me love is the greatest magic of all.
Destiny Books One Park Street Rochester, Vermont 05767 www.DestinyBooks.com Destiny Books is a division of Inner Traditions International Copyright © 2009 by Kenaz Filan All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Filan, Kenaz. Vodou love magic : a practical guide to love, sex, and relationships / Kenaz Filan. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. Summary: “A working guide on how to find love and sexual fulfillment by working with the lwa, the spirits of Haitian Vodou”—Provided by publisher. eISBN-13: 978-1-59477-759-2 1. Voodooism. 2. Love—Miscellanea. 3. Sex—Miscellanea. I. Title. BL2490.F55 2009 299.6'755677—dc22 2008040374
Text design and layout by Virginia Scott Bowman This book was typeset in Garamond Premier Pro with Thornton, Avenir, and Garamond Premier Pro used as display typefaces To send correspondence to the author of this book, mail a first-class letter to the author c/o Inner Traditions • Bear & Company, One Park Street, Rochester, VT 05767, and we will forward the communication.
Part 1 â€˘ Magic, Love, and Relationships
1 2 3
Talking with the Spirits
It Takes Two . . . and Often More: The Ethics of Love Magic
The Toxic Myths of Love
Lovesickness: Treatments and Cures
Part 2 â€˘ The Lwa
Meeting the Lwa
Legba: Bringer of Opportunity
8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15
Damballah: Bringer of Transformation
Freda: Bringer of Beauty
La Sirene: Bringer of Glamour
Ogou: Bringer of Strength
Simbi: Bringer of Communication
Ezili Danto: Bringer of Self-Reliance
Ghede: Bringer of Booty Calls
The Ancestors: Bringers of Partnerships
When I began writing The Haitian Vodou Handbook, I wanted
to focus on Vodou* as a religion. I hoped that readers would experience Vodou as a direct connection to the Divine, not as a set of magic tricks. Those who were only interested in learning how to cast spells were missing the point, I thought. But in time I came to realize that I was the one who had missed the point. Vodouisants (practitioners of Vodou) do not grovel in supplication before the lwa (spirits). Rather, we work with them. We ask the lwa to protect us and grant us success and happiness. In exchange for that support we provide the spirits with offerings ranging from candles to enormous, costly ceremonies and parties. Our relationship is a mutually beneficial transaction. Asking the lwa to do something on your behalf is not selfishness or “cultural exploitation”; it’s the way most Haitians interact with their spirits. Not everybody wants to become a Houngan or Mambo (priest or priestess of Vodou, respectively). Nor does everybody *The word “Voodoo” is seen as offensive by many practitioners; it evokes silly superstitions (“Voodoo economics”) and the “Voodoo orgies” of pulp fiction. Others distinguish between “Haitian Vodou” and “New Orleans Voodoo,” using the latter spelling to describe New Orleans folk magic, while reserving the former for Haitian traditions. Since I was trained by Haitian and Haitian-American practitioners and initiated in a Haitian-American house, I use the “Vodou” spelling. 1
need to approach the lwa with that level of commitment. The lwa are often happy with a simple candle or thank-you offering in exchange for their help. And when people come to the lwa requesting help, more often than not the problem concerns love. Hence this book. Vodou Love Magic is intended for everyone who would like a more satisfying love life—in other words, just about all of us! I’ve included spells that can help singles become multiples, spells that can help partners reclaim the passion they once had, and spells that can help the brokenhearted heal from past injuries and move on. I cannot guarantee you that this book will bring back your lost partner or make you irresistible to prospective dates and mates. But I can promise that when you are finished, you will know something about the lwa and about that crazy little thing called love. What you do with that knowledge is up to you. For that, you see, is another secret of the lwa: Vodou is not something that you study, but something that you do. Books are no substitute for actually talking to the spirits and making their acquaintance. All that I or any other writer can do is provide you with a map and a compass; it is up to you to make the journey. These spells are dead words. It is up to you to bring the magic to life. May God, the ancestors, and the lwa bless us all and look after us.
m Magic, Love, and Relationships
Mass media magic happens in a twinkling of an eye (or, if you’re
Samantha from Bewitched, in the twitching of a nose). The witch who knows the proper “arcane words” and “cryptic gestures” need not worry about the laws of physics or consensus reality. Annoying door-to-door salesmen can be transformed into much less repellent toads; oncoming ninjas can be stopped with a well-timed lightning bolt from a wand or fingertip. Harry Potter and his Hogwarts friends, Gandalf dispensing advice and kicking Balrog butt, Mickey Mouse battling the army of brooms he brought to life—all these and more are part of our collective mythology. By now you’ve undoubtedly internalized this model. You’ve seen it played out thousands of times on TV, at the movies, or in video games. And you probably (hopefully!) know that this bears little resemblance to the actual practice of magic. But what you know in your head and what you feel in your bones and expect in your heart may be very different things. If you want to work real magic, you first should take a look at how special effects have colored your hopes and expectations. You know that Hollywood magic is not real—but can you put aside this disbelief for your spellwork? Can you light your candle or prepare your bath without thinking “This is all a big game of let’s pretend; of course magic only happens in fiction”? If not, you can hardly be sur4
Understanding Magic 5
prised when you get little in the way of results. Expect your magic to be psychodrama or a symbol of intention and more often than not it will fulfill your expectations. Leave yourself open to a quiet miracle (or even a loud one), and you have a much better chance of getting it. Admittedly, this can be easier said than done. We’re children of the Enlightenment and the Age of Reason, naturally skeptical of the supernatural and miraculous. Our culture has a considerable prejudice against magic. Those who believe in spellwork are scorned as superstitious or gullible, even delusional. Simply by purchasing this book, or others like it, you have shown a great deal of courage. You have set yourself apart from most of your peers, from those who would not believe even if they saw. The best way to overcome the hurdle of disbelief is continued practice. As you work with the lwa, you’ll find they soon make their presence unmistakably clear. (As a Houngan of my acquaintance once explained, this is how they “send you their bill” and let you know that they’ve fulfilled your request and now expect the payment you agreed upon earlier.) Once you have a few Vodou success stories under your belt, doubt will be the least of your worries! (Of course, this may lead you to yet another hurdle: fear. Many people enjoy the aesthetics of magic and spellcraft, and are quite happy with viewing their rituals as entertainment. The idea that there might be Someone or Something Out There answering their call fills them with terror. There is no shame in this. Getting your reality tunnel warped is an unsettling experience at best, and when dealing with magic a little bit of fear can help ensure a good deal of caution.) But Hollywood magic may have instilled other even more detrimental and insidious ideas. You may expect that magic works like, well, magic: that it can change your life and your world without any other effort on your part. Instead of using spellwork as one part of a campaign to attain goals, you might use magic as an end in itself. The aspiring wizard sits at home casting prosperity spells without perusing the want ads, or love spells without making any effort to win the desired
6 Magic, Love, and Relationships
partner. When the results prove less than spectacular, he may decide that there’s nothing to this stuff after all. Alternately, the magician-tobe may decide the problem lies with the system of magic he or she is using. Cursing the time wasted on “phony baloney,” he or she goes off yet again in search of what Raven Kaldera has called “the Great Barbie Who Gives You Stuff.” We can learn to overcome many of our misconceptions by studying cultures that still take magic seriously. Vodouisants don’t see magicians as gray-bearded Gandalfs or sparkly Fairy Godmothers. Instead, we consider them skilled professionals, people who practice their craft on a regular basis and who have attained some degree of knowledge and practical experience. They don’t just study magic or read about it: they do it. In many cases, they are successful enough to do it for a living, sometimes a lucrative one. For them, magic isn’t something out of a fairy tale; it’s a day job. This may seem a strange way of thinking; indeed, many will find it distasteful. To them magic should be something sacred, set apart from the concerns of the marketplace and untainted by filthy lucre. But there are many benefits to learning from professionals. When your livelihood depends on your success in your trade, you have every incentive to become skilled at it. (We should also note that cultures that pay their magicians show their belief in magic’s power. Are we worried about con artists using fake “spells” to fleece the gullible? Or is our disbelief so entrenched that we assume anyone who sells magic must be perpetrating a fraud?) You may not have a Houngan or Mambo in your neighborhood, and you may not be able to attend fets (Vodou ceremonies) regularly because of geographic, health, or other issues. That doesn’t mean that you can’t use Vodou’s magical techniques or that you can’t gain a better understanding of Vodou’s worldview. Like many a skilled trade, one masters Vodou by doing, and so we’re going to start by learning one of Vodou’s most important secrets—how to call on the lwa and ask for their assistance!
Talking with the Spirits
When determining a client’s needs, Houngans and Mambos
often “call their lwa into their heads,” or induce possession. In our house (Société la Belle Venus #2 of Canarsie, Brooklyn, New York), Mambo Edeline’s clients frequently receive counsel and aid from Brav, a Ghede who works closely with her and our house. Many have benefited from his brand of plainspoken if foul-mouthed wisdom. Other Houngans or Mambos may call on Ogou, Freda, or some other lwa to possess them when a member of their congregation needs help. Although this is the most direct way of dealing with the lwa, it is beyond the reach of most readers. Possession is an advanced magical practice that should not be attempted lightly. If you didn’t grow up in a culture where spirit possession happened regularly, or if you haven’t been trained by someone who has experienced possession, you shouldn’t try it at home. And in any event, possession is not particularly useful when working for yourself. If you’re possessed, you’re going to have a hard time taking down notes on what the lwa wants from you! But don’t despair. While possession is one of Vodou’s hallmarks, it’s not the be-all and end-all of working with the lwa. There are a number of ways the spirits can communicate with you and provide you with warnings and advice. 7
8 Magic, Love, and Relationships
Divination In Haiti, Houngans and Mambos read for their clients using playing cards. In the United States, many have begun using the tarot. Through divination they try to ascertain the spiritual and other forces at play in the situation. A cynic might sneer that they are engaging in mere fortune-telling. A wiser observer might note that divination allows them to examine the issues not from the vertical, logical viewpoint to which we are accustomed, but using what Edward de Bono has called “lateral thinking.” (More precisely, by means of shuffled cards they engage in “random entry,” using unconnected input to open new lines of thinking.)1 There are innumerable methods by which one may divine. Practitioners of Lukumi (also known as Cuban Santeria) throw cowries or pieces of coconut shell, while geomancers seek meaning in random scratches they made in the earth. Some use runes as a divinatory device. Others prefer the I Ching, and still others rely on pendulums, horary astrology, or other methods. The means of divination are not so important as the act itself. Teaching you the ins and outs of any particular divinatory system goes beyond the scope of this book. Writers have produced thick volumes on various methods of divination. A quick visit to your favorite local (or online) bookstore will provide access to many tomes, which will help you to read cards, pendulums, yarrow sticks, or whatever else strikes your fancy. With some research and practice, you may become surprisingly skilled at explaining the present and predicting possible futures. Then again, you might not. Perhaps you don’t have the time or inclination to learn a divining system. Perhaps you have a tin ear and two left feet when it comes to divination. Just as some people are naturals at reading, others have no facility whatsoever. Perhaps you just can’t achieve the proper emotional distance to interpret your own readings. (There is no shame in this. Many diviners cannot read for themselves.)
Talking with the spirits 9
This doesn’t mean that you can’t profit from divination. If you have friends who are skilled readers, you can call on their services; otherwise, you can hire a skilled professional. (Of course, you should also be advised that a reading by an unskilled or incompetent diviner may be worse than no reading at all. Readers who are paid for their services, not to mention close friends, have a vested interest in telling you what you want to hear, which may not be the advice you need. Other less ethical types may prophesy doom, gloom, and hard times ahead unless you hire them to take care of your “Ancient Family Curse.” So while you should take your reading seriously, you should be certain that you can take your reader seriously as well. If you wouldn’t trust a certain person’s opinion on nonspiritual matters, you may want to think twice before calling on that person for a spiritual consultation.) Some questions you might want to address in a reading could include, among others: Is this person right for me? What are the obstacles facing our relationship? Why do I have recurring bad luck in love? Should I be more forward or more subtle about my feelings? Pay attention to the answers you receive and put those suggestions into practice—even if they weren’t exactly what you were hoping for. Don’t fall into the “redoing the reading or seeking out another psychic until I get the desired results” trap. Those unfavorable signs came up for a reason. You may do another reading to clarify those reasons—but sweeping them under the rug and starting over will only get you into trouble. Keep in mind that the future is what you make it, and no divination is carved in stone. A reading does not tell you what is fated to happen, but rather points out the influences that are playing on you and your situation. How you respond to those is up to you. An unfavorable
10 Magic, Love, and Relationships
reading is not a harbinger of unavoidable disaster. Rather than resigning yourself to the inevitable (or worse, ignoring the warnings), you should look at a bad reading as a chance to rethink your present course and consider alternate strategies. If you want to get a feel for how divination works, point your web browser to facade.com. This website offers numerous free readings (along with explanations) using tarot, I Ching, stichomancy (divination by books), runes, and biorhythms. Start your day with a reading using the tool and layout of your choice. Print it out, and at the end of the day see how it applied and did not apply. Within a month or two you will gain an intuitive understanding of how these symbols work in your life.
Dreams Dreams have long been associated with spiritual visitation. In Egypt and Greece, temples were built where one would go to dream and receive healing or instruction from the gods. The author of the Aitareya Upanishad, one of Hinduism’s oldest and holiest texts, said, “The Self being unknown, all three states of the soul are but dreaming—waking, dreaming, and dreamless sleep. In each of these dwells the Self: the eye is his dwelling place while we wake, the mind is his dwelling place while we dream, the lotus of the heart is his dwelling place while we sleep the dreamless sleep.”2 Vodouisants have long believed that the lwa contact them while they sleep to issue warnings, make demands, and confer blessings. Many Houngans and Mambos, including the author of this book, began their priestly careers after dreaming of the djevo (chamber where Vodou initiations take place). Even those Vodouisants who have no wish to become clergy play close attention to their dreams in hopes they will receive messages from the spirit. If you want to do dream work, you can start by getting enough rest. One hundred years ago, our ancestors slept an average of nine hours a night. Today, most Americans get by on around 6.8 hours.3 Dream
Talking with the spirits 11
deprivation follows close on the heels of sleep deprivation, and your dream periods get longer as you sleep. While your first dream of the night may last no more than ten minutes, after eight hours of sleep the typical dream period increases to forty-five to sixty minutes.4 You may improve your dream recall dramatically merely by going to bed an hour earlier. If that’s not possible, you may want to devote some time to quiet meditation or a relaxing bath before going to sleep. You should also avoid alcohol, caffeine, and heavy or spicy foods at least six hours before bedtime, since all these can interfere with your dream life. Try to record your dreams immediately upon awakening. Keep a notebook by your bedside, and jot down everything you can recall about your dreams, no matter how fragmentary or nonsensical it may seem. What is important is that you bring your dream experiences into your conscious mind immediately, rather than allowing them to dissipate as you awaken. Once you have done this for a while, you may discover underlying patterns to the seeming chaos. Recurring images and scenarios may provide you with clues as to which spirits are trying to speak with you and what messages they wish to convey. Sometimes your dreams will contain obvious messages. You may meet a man who identifies himself as Ogou or see the great white serpent Damballah slithering between earth and sky. At other times the meaning will be more subtle and difficult to determine. Compare the imagery in your dreams to the symbols connected to the various lwa. This book contains information that may prove useful in that regard: I have included others in the Additional Reading list. You should also remember that not every dream has a spiritual source. The Greeks distinguished between the Oneiroi (dream spirits) who came through the gates of horn and brought true dreams and those who passed through the gates of ivory and brought false, meaningless visions. Dreams that originate in your subconscious are an excellent tool for understanding your hidden motivations and fears. But they are not, and should not be mistaken for, contact with the spirit. If you’re not sure whether that strange dream you had last night was a visit from the
12 Magic, Love, and Relationships
lwa or a note from your repressed fears, seek verification through other sources; do a divination or watch for further omens (see below). Not only can you look for the lwa in your dreams, you can encourage them to visit as well! Make your bed with clean white sheets, then take a shower or bath and dress in clean white clothing. Draw a symbol for the spirit you wish to contact: you can use the vévés provided here at the opening of each lwa chapter or some other image that moves you. For example, you might use a picture of Jack Skellington (from Nightmare Before Christmas) as a symbol for Ghede, or a picture of a dark-skinned black woman holding a baby for Ezili Danto. Place that symbol on the wall opposite your bed. Look at it as you are drifting off to sleep. (You can use a dim nightlight if your room is too dark.) Ask the lwa of your choice to come into your dreams and guide you. There’s no need to concentrate fiercely; indeed, that would be counterproductive. All you have to do is turn your head in the general direction of the image and drift off to sleep. Dreaming, like everything else, improves with practice. When you treat your dreams like trivial nonsense, you’re likely to have trivial and nonsensical dreams. If, on the other hand, you treat your dreamtime as an important part of your spiritual and mundane life, you’ll soon find your dreams growing increasingly complex and memorable while your communication with the Divine grows apace.
Scrying Scrying holds a place between dreams and divination. Divination involves objects that are selected randomly (through shuffling the deck, casting the yarrow stalks or runes, throwing dice, etc.). The results of this action are then interpreted. A scryer, by contrast, becomes entranced by staring at something, often a reflective surface like a mirror or a bowl of water. He or she then notes the visions that arise therein. The fortuneteller staring into a crystal ball to see your future is a scryer; so is the shaman who enters an altered state by gazing into a fire. Nostradamus
Talking with the spirits 13
produced his famed quatrains while staring into a bowl of water placed atop a brass tripod; Joseph Smith viewed The Book of Mormon through two crystals, which he called “the Urim and Thummin.” You don’t need elaborate tools for scrying. An inexpensive clear glass bowl filled with water will be sufficient. For best results, dedicate this bowl solely to scrying. In time it will become a magical tool that will cause you to enter a scrying-ready state when you take it out for use. Place the vévé of the lwa you wish to contact beneath the bowl. Turn off your lights and light a single white candle. Seat yourself in a comfortable position, and focus on a point an inch or two above the vévé. Now relax. Instead of concentrating intently, try to reach a state that Zen Buddhists call “no-mind.” Witness whatever arises in the bowl, but be indifferent to it. Do not attempt to interpret it; do not identify it with your thoughts and feelings. Just watch. When the images fade, write down what you have seen. You’ll find that scrying visions dissipate as quickly as dreams. If you don’t get them down soon after you finish, you will begin to forget important details and within hours may forget the experience altogether. While mirrors and crystals are the most common scrying tools, there are innumerable ways to enter the scrying state. If you want to contact Ogou, for example, you might spend some time near a factory where the sound of heavy machinery provides a constant backdrop. You would then listen to the background noise until it began to form words or sentences; you could then write those down and see what Ogou had to say to you. Sitting by the seashore and letting yourself be lulled by the sound of the surf could produce contact with La Sirene, while staring into a placid pond in a rose garden would be an excellent way to encounter Ezili Freda. The goal is to induce a “zoned-out” state in which your brain is no longer focused on external stimuli and is thus open to visions. Scrying can be a very effective and powerful way of encountering the lwa. However, the images that are produced can also become contaminated by the scryer’s conscious and subconscious desires. The line between visions and wish fulfillment can be unclear, especially for a
14 Magic, Love, and Relationships
beginning scryer. The scryer’s ability to manipulate or misunderstand intangible visions is far greater than the diviner’s ability to control the cards, yarrow stalks, or other objects and force them to produce the desired answer. Make sure you verify any visions you receive through other methods, like divination, omens, dreams, meditation, and common sense. With continued scrying, you will learn the difference between images arising from your mind and spiritual images. As with anything else, with practice comes improvement. Scrying is a bit of an inborn talent. Those with a natural talent may quickly master it, while those who don’t may have limited, if any, success. If you wish to work with scrying, don’t beat yourself up if you’re not a natural crystal gazer. But don’t give up too quickly, either! Scrying requires patience and it might take a while for visions to arise.
Omens In preindustrial societies a change in trade winds, an unseasonable frost, or an unexpected flash flood could mean misfortune, famine, and death. Accordingly, any aberration from the usual order of things was seen as an important message from the gods. Today most of us prefer more “rational” explanations for anomalies. Diseases are explained not as Divine punishment but as the product of viruses and bacteria; eclipses are described in terms of orbits and planet placements rather than as harbingers of doom. And while the benefits of the scientific revolution and Enlightenment-era thought are innumerable and invaluable, there are also some drawbacks. To our ancestors, the gods were ever-present in their daily lives; to many of us they are, at best, a nebulous abstraction. Learning to recognize omens is a good way to move beyond these cultural blinkers and see God, the ancestors, and the lwa at work in our world. One of the best ways to find omens is to start looking for them. Ask the lwa to send you some clear signs of their presence and their intentions for you. Then keep an eye out for those signs. If you ask La
Talking with the spirits 15
Sirene for a message, don’t be surprised if you start seeing mermaids everywhere, while a petition to Legba may result in all kinds of strange and wonderful things appearing at a crossroads near you. Cynics will claim this is a simple case of “finding what you expect”; those who are more open-minded will remember psychologist Carl Jung’s description of synchronicity—meaningful “coincidences” that show the essential oneness of the universe.5 As with dreams, a diary can help you get a handle on omens. As you examine the particulars of your daily life, you may detect recurring patterns or themes. You may find, for example, that your romantic fortunes have always taken a turn for the better (or worse) after you have visited a particular place or taken a particular action. This can provide important clues about the spiritual forces at play in your life. As legendary (some might say notorious) magician Aleister Crowley said, “To do Magick without keeping a record is like trying to run a business without book-keeping. . . . [I]f you call in an auditor to investigate a business, and when he asks for the books you tell him that you have not thought it worth while to keep any, you need not be surprised if he thinks you every kind of an ass.”6 But while one must be open to finding omens, a bit of healthy skepticism will also be required. If you see soldiers in the street, it may be a sign that you have attracted the attention of Ogou; it may also be a sign that you’ve stumbled into the annual Memorial Day parade. At its worst this can degenerate into what mental health professionals call “delusions of reference,” defined by the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition) as “when things in the environment seem to be directly related to you even though they are not.” 7 (A classic example of this would be David “Son of Sam” Berkowitz, who claimed that a barking dog gave him orders to kill.) Omens should help you to lead a more productive and fulfilled life, not cause you to become increasingly alienated and unable to function. Here’s one good way to determine whether a particular incident is an omen: does it give you goose pimples and resonate in your belly
16 Magic, Love, and Relationships
and in your bones? Once you’ve experienced a few of these Divine messages, you’re not likely to mistake coincidence or wishful thinking for an omen. If you are not sure, you can also seek confirmation by other means. If the purported omen is verified by a divination and follows on the footsteps of a rather spectacular dream, then its message gains added weight. When unsure, err on the side of doubt while asking for further clarification. (“If you are trying to tell me something, please give me a clearer sign. I want to listen to you but I don’t understand.”) Of course, recognizing an omen does not mean you will interpret it correctly. Like any other symbol, an omen’s meaning is dependent upon context. Many traditions would consider a snake in the garage an omen of hidden treachery, while a Vodouisant might see it as a sign of Damballah’s favor. While many books will purportedly teach you how to interpret signs in dreams and waking life, they frequently contradict each other. Instead of trying to learn what every possible sign might mean, you may wish to concentrate on getting to know the lwa. Once you’ve come to know them as friends and helpers, you’ll be better able to understand the nuances of their messages. Once we see the lwa moving in our daily lives, we can begin to ask them for help. This doesn’t mean that we can rely on them to solve all our problems or to magically make everything in our lives better. The lwa can offer us advice—but it’s up to us to follow that advice. They can offer us assistance—but we will have much more success if we work with them, rather than sitting back and expecting them to work for us.
It Takes Two . . . and Often More The Ethics of Love Magic
Our library shelves would be much emptier if writers didn’t have
love triangles to drive their plots and provide drama. Many people fall in love with married or otherwise committed partners; many married or committed people fall in love with someone else. When children come into the picture, things can become even more complicated. Child advocates regularly complain of the dangers and pitfalls of “broken homes,” even though divorced parents are more the rule than the exception today. A simple emotional reaction can lead to enormous complications and desperate attempts to cut through those complications. Many would condemn any spell intended to break apart a couple, particularly a spell whose intentions were “break up X’s marriage so she will be free to love me.” This isn’t just magic designed to control another’s will, it’s magic that will cause enormous pain and grief for several people. A married person who wanted to cast a love spell on someone else would likely be lectured about “responsibility” and “commitment.” Indeed, many people would say that any kind of love spell was at best an unethical attempt to gain control over another’s will, and at worst tantamount to psychic rape. While these points deserve consideration, they may not prove entirely satisfying to lovestruck, hurting people . . . and might rightfully be read as self-righteous moralizing. 17
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Each of these situations deserves due consideration and actions based on facts rather than knee-jerk emotional reactions. There are no easy answers to the problems—but there are important questions that should be considered before we decide on any course of action.
If You Are the Jilted Partner The Ten Commandments forbid us to “covet our neighbor’s wife” as they forbid us to “covet our neighbor’s goods.” In this world view, adultery is a form of theft. The adulterer sins not because he has dishonored the sacrament of marriage, but because he has “stolen” another man’s “property,” namely, his wife. Needless to say, most of us today have a more enlightened attitude toward marriage and relationships. Women have far more status in our modern world, and we no longer see marriage and romantic partnerships in the same light as business proposals. And yet we still hold on to many of those outdated ideas. I frequently hear clients tell me, “Everything in my life was fine . . . and then she STOLE my man!” or “He TOOK my girlfriend from me.” This is the same language we might use to describe a burglary. The fact that the former partner chose to end this relationship is not taken into account. It is as if the person were an inanimate object, carried away like a stereo or a coin collection. This is not to minimize the economic issues that can be involved in a breakup, particularly a nasty one. A departing spouse may not want to pay child support or may not want to help with enormous debts incurred on jointly held credit cards. In this situation, I would recommend Ezili Danto’s Child Care Agency Spell (chapter 13; see plate 1). The idea here would not be to get revenge on your ex, but to get the support that your children are owed or the money that is rightly yours. (This spell, of course, should be done in connection with all the appropriate mundane steps—consultation with a lawyer, child support collection agency, or other services.) Vodou has many charms designed to break up couples and to win
It Takes Two . . . And Often More 19
the love of married partners. I have seen many people ask for this kind of work, and I would be lying if I told you that no Houngan or Mambo would do it for a client or that it cannot work. If you believe your ex may have left you because he or she fell victim to magic, you can use Legba’s Closing the Gate Spell (chapter 7) or Papa Ogou’s Truth Be Told Spell (chapter 11). This will help to break the ties that are binding your former partner to the magician and ensure that he or she is able to freely decide on a partner. Before doing these spells, be aware that this is NOT a guarantee that someone will return to you. I have seen people use magic to break up couples and to win the affections of people who would not have been interested otherwise. However, I have also found that many people see magical reasons where the mundane facts can explain the situation clearly enough. It could be that your ex-boyfriend is under a magical spell; it could be that he has problems with commitment and a short attention span. Your girlfriend may have dumped you because her new partner is a sorcerer; it could also be that your relationship wasn’t working for her and she needed a change. Breaking magical bonds will end one of the problems keeping you apart. Other underlying issues may still remain. Whatever else you do, you also need to concentrate on healing for yourself. Breakups are very painful. Your self-esteem is at an all-time low; you’re riddled with guilt and self-doubt as you try to figure out “what did I do wrong?” (You may well have done nothing—but often blaming yourself is less painful, and less frightening, than the realization that the situation is and always was outside your control.) Before you start any kind of work, take a couple of days for yourself. Dedicate an afternoon or evening to expressing your pain. If you feel like crying your eyes out, or punching a pillow, or watching sad movies and eating ice cream, do it. Give yourself a set period of time to wallow in misery. Once you’ve purged some of those negative emotions, you’ll find yourself better prepared to think clearly about the past, present, and future. After this, prepare Damballah’s Healing Wounds Spell (chapter 8). Use
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this every night for a week before going to bed. This will help you to find some inner peace amidst your turmoil. Once you have completed these steps, you can decide what you want to do for the future. Look back on your relationship’s good points and its bad points. Consider whether your partner was actually happy in the relationship. Remember that if you perform a coercive love spell and it works, you may well have done the equivalent of caging a wild bird. You will have the bird around your house, but you will have broken its spirit. Also remember that magic cannot change someone’s inner nature. The problems that led to your breakup will still be there. Be honest with yourself, even if it’s painful. If your partner was emotionally or physically abusive, that abuse is likely to continue when and if your partner returns. If your partner was chronically unfaithful, he or she is likely to be unfaithful again. You may find yourself playing this melodrama again; indeed, you may already have played it a couple of times before this. If you decide this relationship in its present form is beyond hope, you can do Ezili Danto’s Wash That $#!% Right out of My Hair Bath (chapter 13) or Damballah’s Transmutation of Love Spell (chapter 8) to help both of you move on to where you need to be.
If You or Your Target Is Already with Someone Else Sometimes we get swept off our feet after years with someone else. Sometimes we fall for a person who is already committed to another partner. This is a potentially explosive situation for all concerned. Your friends and family may be telling you, “It’s just a phase. You’ll get over it. Don’t throw your life away on a fling.” Others may condemn you as a “homewrecker,” a “player,” or other nastier terms. You’re not likely to receive a lot of support and understanding, never mind encouragement. Condemning someone who took up with a married person, or who left a marriage for someone else, may give us that warm glow of
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self-righteousness, but it doesn’t help the situation. Marriages break up every day, for any number of reasons. Once we expected marriage to be “till death do us part.” Today “for so long as the love shall last” is a more common view. Divorce no longer holds the stigma it once held, and lifelong romances are the exception rather than the rule. (Even those defending “the sanctity of marriage” seek to prevent gay and lesbian marriages, not preserve existing unions.) We have come to understand that people change, and that sometimes they change so much that they can no longer share their lives the way they once did. If marriages are not disposable, neither are they an unbreakable commitment. With all this said, there are a few things to consider in this situation. How Happy and Stable Is Your Target’s Relationship? How Happy Is Yours?
A loveless or rocky marriage would be easier to break apart than a loving union. By loveless or rocky, I mean a really bad marriage, not just one where you think “he would be happier with me than he is now.” If your target is happy, or even content, with the partnership, it will be more difficult to break apart. When you are trying to decide this, be as objective as possible. It is easy to turn your competition into the dragon you must slay to win the handsome prince or the fair princess. Your target’s significant other may be a horrible person, but probably isn’t. Do your best to understand why these two love each other and what has kept them together this far. Has Your Target Stayed with an Unreliable, Constantly Unemployed Partner Because He or She Likes the Feeling of Power That Comes from Economic Control?
Is your beloved fond of complaining about various relationship issues, but reluctant to do anything that might improve matters? If so, you will be dealing with these issues when or if you replace his or her current partner. Examine the way your target treats his or her partner. If your target seems
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cold and distant when they are together, he or she may be cold and distant with you once your honeymoon wears off. If you two are already having an affair, remember the old saying: “People who will cheat on their spouses are people who will cheat on their spouses.” Your target may not be any more faithful in your partnership than he or she was in the last one. Do You Think the Issues That Are Making You Unhappy in Your Present Relationship Are Going to Be Resolved with Your New Target?
What efforts have you put in to saving your current relationship? What role have your own actions played in your present unhappiness? Will breaking your partner’s relationship apart be in his or her best interests—or yours? (Even a relatively friendly breakup involves a whole lot of work, energy, and suffering for all concerned.) Are you certain that the happiness that you could provide would be greater than the misery that your actions would cause? You and your new partner are likely to be in a very vulnerable emotional state after things come to a head. Do you have the energy to take care of his or her needs while recovering from an intensely painful experience? If you are already dealing with major issues of your own, you may not want to pursue this one right now; wait until you have the strength you will need to deal with an emotionally explosive situation. Are You Truly Serious about This Person?
Many times, “forbidden fruit” is the sweetest: we desire that which we cannot have. Will you find this person as fascinating when she is free to pursue a relationship with you? You might be surprised to find that the grass really isn’t greener on the other side . . . and that the mysterious married stranger turns out to be a rather boring lover after all. Is this true love or is this a “prebound”—a love affair that serves as the catalyst and excuse for a breakup that has been on the horizon for a while? If you are just seeking a reason to leave your partner, you should do that without involving another person’s emotions.
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Are Children Involved?
As a child of divorced parents myself, I’d say you should take children into account, but that should not be the ONLY factor. Growing up in a “broken home” may not be ideal, but neither is growing up with two unhappy parents who spend most of their time bickering at each other. If you succeed in gaining your target’s affections, you have a moral responsibility to treat his or her children with respect and love and to work for their happiness, even if they don’t like you very much at first . . . or even if they never like you. Your partner’s former spouse is not going to fade quietly into the sunset. She is going to be involved with the children, and, by extension, with you. You are going to be dealing with “baby mama drama” or “baby daddy issues” for years. This could have an enormous impact on your new relationship, particularly if your partner isn’t supportive or if she is unable to stay on civil terms with her ex. Again, this may not be a reason in and of itself to avoid a relationship, but it’s definitely something you should keep in mind. If you are splitting up with your husband or wife, you need to make sure your children understand that you are not walking out of their lives. You will have to see that their needs are taken care of and deal with their pain, confusion, and anger. They may not understand that your breakup is the best thing for all concerned and may take their hurting out on you and your new partner. If the problems persist, a few counseling sessions may be in order, along with some Damballah work for healing (see plate 2).
Lovers and Friends Friends share many things between themselves: in-jokes, fond memories, interests, and dreams. They often run in the same circles and meet many of the same people. Frequently they share similar tastes in romantic partners. While this is generally a good thing, it can also be a recipe for disaster. Many friendships have blown apart when they evolved into
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love triangles; many romances have ended when partner A fell in love with partner B’s best friend. What do you do when you love your best friend’s girlfriend? What if you discover your best friend loves your boyfriend—or that you love your boyfriend’s old Army buddy? No matter where you are on these love triangles, there are no easy answers. You cannot control the way you feel, nor can anyone else stuck in this situation. However, you can control the way you act on those feelings, and work to minimize the pain for all involved, yourself included. If you and your friend are attracted to the same person, you will have to consider several factors. How important is this friendship to you? How important is this other person to you . . . and how important is he or she to your friend? Try to distinguish between a physical and an emotional attraction. If you are in love with your friend’s partner, that’s one thing; if you’re just madly in lust, you may do well to keep your desires in the realm of fantasy. Try also to distinguish between love and infatuation, even though this can be difficult at times. Using Papa Ogou’s Truth Be Told Spell may help you to sort things out—but if you do this one, it’s best to do it before you’ve begun a secret affair. The Golden Rule may be a useful guideline here: if you were in your friend’s place, how would you want to be treated? Would you expect him to sacrifice his emotions for the sake of your friendship? Can you imagine a way that he could become involved with your partner while remaining friends with you? If so, what would he have to do to make amends for hurting you and to regain your trust? Try to answer these questions honestly, then keep them in mind when you’re deciding how to proceed. You can also burn a white candle to Damballah and ask him to bring healing and peace to everyone involved, and leave some change at a nearby crossroads for Legba so that the situation will be resolved with the best possible outcome. If you find yourself attracted to your partner’s friend, ask yourself many of the same questions. Examine your present relationship’s strengths and weaknesses. Keep in mind that you may be depriving
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your partner of a love affair and a friendship in one fell swoop. If you’re thinking about breaking up anyway, perhaps you should do that first and then pursue things with your partner’s friend after a “cooling off ” period. Whatever your role, the first and most important thing you should remember is this: be honest. Secret love triangles inevitably come to light, usually in a spectacularly messy fashion. The suffering you may cause by telling your friend “I’m in love with your partner” will be far less than the anguish that will ensue when he discovers the two of you have been lying and cheating for weeks or months. Of course, saying this may be far easier than actually doing it. Try Simbi Andezo’s Communication 101 Spell (chapter 12) and ask Simbi to help you explain things in the best way possible.
What If We Love More Than One Person? So far we’ve treated all these situations like a “zero sum” game: one person’s gain is inevitably another person’s loss. Rich falls in love with Sally and leaves Thelma; Minnie is dumped by Norma, who took up with Octavia. What it if it didn’t have to be that way? Why couldn’t Rich and Sally stay together WHILE Rich is seeing Thelma—and Sally starts a relationship with Quentin? Why can’t Minnie see Octavia on those nights when Norma is busy working on her dissertation? You probably have more than one friend. Why can’t you have more than one lover? You may think this line of reasoning is ridiculous, but an increasing number of people have been asking themselves these questions. Not only are they challenging the idea that every person has “one true soulmate,” they aren’t sure that a person needs to have only one “soulmate” at a time. Some people have chosen to open themselves to the joys and complications that come with multiple partners by exploring polyamory. So what is polyamory, you may ask? According to the alt.polyamory FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions): “Polyamory means ‘loving more
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than one.’ This love may be sexual, emotional, spiritual, or any combination thereof, according to the desires and agreements of the individuals involved.”1 Your next question may well be, “And how is this different from cheating?” Well, for starters, polyamory doesn’t involve lying and deception. Everyone involved knows about everyone else. There are no phony “late nights at the office” and no empty promises that “you’re the only one for me, baby.” Instead, there is honest discussion about what all parties involved expect from the relationship. After this, you may ask “How is this different from ‘swinging’ or ‘wife-swapping’?” The big difference is that most “swingers” engage in recreational sex as couples, but don’t become emotionally involved with their partners. Polyamorous folks, by contrast, have a higher degree of emotional involvement. They don’t just engage in sex with other partners; they have full-fledged emotional relationships, complete with all the commitments and responsibilities we usually expect from love affairs. Some claim polyamorous people are “afraid of commitment.” In reality, polyamory involves commitments to several people. You must commit time and emotional energy to all your partners; you must commit to honest communication with each of them. Polyamory requires a great deal of trust, love, and openness. All parties involved must deal with their jealousy and insecurity up front; all must speak up about their needs and their boundaries. There are certain expectations and models to work with in the standard heterosexual monogamous relationship. They may be honored more in the breach than in the observance, but they are there and both parties know what to expect. When you venture into the world of multiple romantic relationships, you are in uncharted territory. You have to make up the rules as you go along, based on your comfort level and circumstances. This is not an easy process. I’ve heard more than one person say, “That seems like an awful lot of work. Why don’t you just do what everyone else does and cheat?” Polyamory can be more satisfying and honest than sneaking about in the shadows and lying, but it is not for everyone.
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If you often find yourself feeling stifled by the rules and regulations of conventional relationships, it may be something you want to consider . . . but before making that leap, you should keep a few things in mind. If you would like to introduce your partner to polyamory, you’re going to have a lot more luck doing so before you get involved with someone else. Open relationships require a great deal of trust—and cheating destroys trust. By bringing this up ahead of time, you have established that you are honest and willing to explore difficult topics with your partner. (To make sure you’re not misunderstood, try Simbi Andezo’s Communication 101 Spell beforehand.) If your partner has introduced this idea and you’re uncomfortable with it, be sure to express your discomfort. I’ve seen quite a few people who went along with polyamory because they felt it was the only way to save their relationship. Invariably, this resulted in emotional explosions and suffering for all concerned. If you’re not used to telling your partner what you want, use Papa Ogou’s Give Me Strength Spell (chapter 11). With Papa Ogou’s assistance, you’ll find you’re able to stand up for yourself and set the boundaries you need. Whether or not you decide to actually become polyamorous, it may be worth your while to consider some of the preconceptions you are bringing to the table in monogamous relationships. Learning why certain situations make you jealous can help you to understand more about yourself. Knowing what you expect from a partner will help you to find a partner who can meet those demands or will provide your current partner with guidance and boundaries. And if you’ve been a member of the “committed but cheating” club in the past, you may be happy to learn that there are honest alternatives to that kind of hurtful, dishonest behavior. Ultimately, there are no pat answers to the question of love triangles, quadrangles, or more-rangles. The best advice I can offer is this: be aware of the feelings of others, and do your best to minimize the hurt to all involved, including yourself. Sometimes there are no easy ways to resolve these situations. Honesty and compassion may lead to some pain in the short term . . . but in the long run it will be the best course for everyone.
The Toxic Myths of Love
Poets, artists, philosophers, psychologists, and biologists have
dedicated their careers to studying love. Writers have produced enough books on the subject to fill several libraries, and musicians have dedicated their careers to praising love. And yet despite all this attention, many toxic, dangerous myths still persist. These misconceptions encourage us to pick the wrong partners and perpetuate cycles of abuse and dependence. If we are going to find love, we need to know what we are looking for—and what we are NOT looking for. Once we know the difference between true love and some unattainable ideal that exists only in fiction, we’ll be in a better place to get true love. We’ll know what we need, what we deserve, what we can expect, and what we should not tolerate. Now that we’ve explored and debunked some of the myths surrounding magic, it’s time to take a long hard look at some of the toxic myths that may be causing us romantic grief.
Everyone Has One, and Only One, Soulmate Many of us think that there is one Special Person out there who will meet all our physical and emotional needs—our “soulmate.” Even those who scoff at the idea consciously may accept the myth without realizing 28
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it. It’s a common belief, and like many common beliefs, it can cause a great deal of suffering if you buy in to it. Couples frequently begin relationships with the discovery that “We are soulmates!” Caught up in the ecstasy of a new love, they declare eternal devotion to each other. Later, after the novelty has worn off, they find that they’re no longer quite so attracted as they thought they were. She discovers that Prince Charming leaves the toilet seat up; he discovers that his Fair Princess snores like a lumberjack. Each begins to wonder, “Are we soulmates after all?” And so, instead of building upon what they already have, they part and go in search of True Love. Others never even get this far. They measure every potential partner against their ideal, hoping that they will find that One True and Perfect Partner. Of course, reality has little chance against an ideal, and so many potential lovers are ignored altogether. “Where have all the good ones gone?” these people complain; “I can’t meet Mr./Ms. Right no matter how hard I try!” And meanwhile they are surrounded by eligible single people, many of whom are themselves looking for an unattainable ideal. Haitian Vodou, like most folk traditions, is a practical craft. If you can’t find a specific lithograph, you make do with a similar one; if you can’t find a Vodou drum, you beat the rhythms on a regular conga drum. This doesn’t mean that anything goes, but it does mean that Vodouisants will honor the spirit of the tradition even when they can’t follow the requirements to the letter. This attitude will serve you well when you enter the dating world. This does not mean settling for an abusive or unsatisfying partner, or jumping headlong into a relationship just so you can say you aren’t single. Rather, it means that maybe you should be open to meeting someone who might not, at first glance, appear to be everything you are looking for in a “perfect partner.” Use Legba’s Opening the Door Spell (chapter 7) and trust his wise, if sometimes bizarre, judgment. You may just find that fairy tale romance you were looking for. Remember that once Beauty saw past her own preconceptions and expectations, she recognized the Beast for who he really was.
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If you are starting to feel bored with your present lover, it could be that you have outgrown each other or that you have recognized serious and incurable problems in your relationship. But you may also be settling into a new stage of love. No longer are you walking on clouds; now you are back on earth. There may still be flowers and songs, but there will also be long hours spent weeding the garden and rehearsing harmonies. It isn’t always exciting, but it’s an inevitable—and ultimately more satisfying—part of growing together and sharing everything, not just the good times. (We should also remember what Kevin B. Burk calls the Universal Law of Relationships: “Our partners in relationships are mirrors. They reflect our own issues back to us.”1 Are we dissatisfied with our partner or with other aspects of our lives?) If you’re dealing with serious issues—physical abuse, an uncontrolled substance problem, repeated lying, infidelity, financial irresponsibility, or the like—get out of the relationship and get out quickly. If you’re just suffering from a basic feeling of dissatisfaction and boredom, there are a few things you can try that might help you to recapture some of that lost excitement. Are you having sexual problems? Do you feel like she’s just going through the motions? Does he seem to have a headache more often than not? Try Ghede’s Spicing Up Your Relationship Spell (chapter 14; see plate 3). If your problems persist, you should see a doctor or a counselor. Sexual dysfunction can be a sign of physical or emotional problems that need to be addressed. Ignoring the issues will not make them disappear, but dealing with them head-on just might. Perhaps you are having problems recovering from a bad argument or a stupid mistake that one or both of you made. You’ve forgiven each other, but you’re finding it difficult to forget. This may be a case for Papa Damballah. Get two white figure candles—one male and one female—an egg, flour, some rose water, and a white seven-day candle (a candle enclosed in a glass chimney which is approximately 8"/20 cm high). Place a pile of white flour atop the white saucer, and place the unbroken egg on top of the flour. (Like any snake, Damballah swal-
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lows his eggs whole.) Sprinkle a little rose water on the ground and ask Legba to open the gate for Damballah. Now light the seven-day candle. Take the egg from the flour and rub each of the candles. As you do, imagine Damballah healing both of you, taking away the hurting and giving you the strength to forgive each other and to move past this obstacle the way a snake can crawl over the highest wall and continue on the other side. Take the egg to the crossroads and throw it over your shoulder without looking back. Leave the flour and candles there as well, as an offering to Papa Damballah. End this with Damballah’s Healing Wounds Spell (chapter 8) and then work toward reconciliation. In time you may discover that you are truly soulmates, brought together to share each joy and pain. You may also discover that your time together has come to an end, and that you now must move on and lead your own lives. Whatever happens, you will be able to say that you tried your best, and that you got everything you could out of the relationship. Ultimately, one of the most dangerous parts of the soulmate myth is the idea that someone else can “make you whole.” Alas, no one but YOU can make you whole. If you are looking for someone to make your life complete, you will probably do best to complete your own life—and then look for someone with whom you can share it. If you are having problems with your self-confidence, I generally recommend burning a red candle for Danto on Tuesday, then performing Papa Ogou’s Give Me Strength Spell (chapter 11) on Wednesday. This will help you to become a stronger person on your own and better able to handle the responsibilities of a partner when one arrives in your life.
We Have Love . . . Who Needs Money? Some believe that once they are in love, nothing else matters. “Sure, we’re flat broke,” they say. “Of course it would be nice if he could continue his education, or if I could take that promotion that would require
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moving to another state. But those are just material things, and when you’re in love you shouldn’t let material things bother you. What kind of gold digger thinks about money when choosing a lover anyway?” I would never tell anyone to marry for money, nor would I ever tell anyone to break up for lack of money. On the other hand, it is foolish to assume that our material success (or lack thereof) will not have an impact on our relationship. Those writers who pen romances about starving artists living in drafty garrets generally are neither hungry nor cold. If your prospective partner has serious financial problems, they will become your problems too. (On yet a third hand, many people forget that wealth can stress a relationship as much as poverty. Your mother may have encouraged you to marry a doctor or a lawyer—but did she talk about the eighty-hour work weeks? Did she ever mention the people who are trapped in loveless marriages because they’re afraid of losing a standard of living to which they have grown accustomed?) As with most things related to love, the issue of love and money is a tangled and thorny one. There are no easy answers to these hard questions, and of course each situation is different. I cannot offer you any hard and fast rules on how to handle a situation like this. The best I can do is present a few pointers to keep in mind while making your decision. The first comes from that wise Houngan Socrates: “Know thyself.” All too often we have an unrealistic view of what we can and cannot tolerate—particularly when we’re basking in the warm glow of love. Unfortunately, when you’re choosing a life partner or getting involved in a serious relationship, you need all the stone-cold sober clarity you can get. You may think now that life as a broke Bohemian artist appeals to you. Will it appeal to you after you’ve spent a couple years eating ramen noodles and dodging bill collectors? Will you be able to accept these difficulties or will you always be vaguely disgruntled as you “tolerate” your significant other’s failings with a long-suffering sigh? A bit of divination and meditation now (see chapter 2) may save you a lot of problems later.
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The second pointer, which is equally important, is “Know your partner.” You believe that she can overcome problems with your help. That may be so, but does she want to? When I say “want to,” I mean “is committed to overcoming this problem, and is taking material steps to do so.” Is she making efforts to cut down credit card debt or spend more responsibly? Does she sit on the couch complaining about having no job, or does she spend the workday pounding the pavement, preparing resumes, and doing what it takes to find employment? She may talk about change, and that’s all well and good—but unless she is actually “walking the walk,” you’re not likely to see any kind of improvements. Are these financial problems temporary? A graduate student may be broke now, but earning a reasonable income in the near future. There are artists who earn a living from their work; they may not be rolling in dough, but they are able to pay their bills, keep a roof over their head, and fill their refrigerator by doing what they love. If your prospective partner has some chance of earning more money in the future, and he is taking real steps toward improving your material condition, that’s one thing. If he has big dreams but a small work ethic, that’s still another. You may have the financial resources to support your partner. Do you think you can do this without feeling resentful or contemptuous? Are you going to start feeling like you’ve put all of your dreams on hold for someone else? If so, think long and hard about this relationship. There are few things more uncomfortable for all concerned than a relationship poisoned by dependency and resentment. You’re not doing your partner any favors by treating him or her as a spoiled child who is holding you back—and if you resent your situation, that is exactly how you will end up behaving. There is no shame in saying, “This is more than I can handle.” If you need more than your partner can give you, better to figure it out now than wait until things get even more complicated. If fine social functions, fine clothes, and fine dining are important to you, you should admit that to yourself up front. You can also do La Sirene’s Catching a Partner Spell (chapter 10). She understands that sometimes you need a
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partner who can maintain you in the style to which you have become accustomed, and she will be happy to help you find a lover who will be better able to meet your needs. If you are asking yourself these questions and you can’t find an answer, do Papa Ogou’s Truth Be Told Spell on Wednesday (chapter 11), then follow up with Damballah’s Healing Wounds Spell on Thursday. Ogou will help you to see the situation clearly, with no sentimentality or self-delusion. Damballah will give you the peace of mind and serenity you need to do the right thing. It may not be easy, but a little bit of hard, cold honesty now may save you a whole lot of heartache later.
Love Conquers Everything Some would have you believe that if you love your partner long enough and fiercely enough, that person will be healed of old emotional wounds and reach the potential that you saw all along. In countless movies the hero or heroine is pulled from the brink of self-destruction thanks to a partner’s selfless devotion. Singers declare “with you I’m born again” and praise “the power of love.” It’s comforting, in a way: there is no problem that cannot be overcome with the application of a little patience and a whole lot of love. Comforting, maybe . . . but all too often dead wrong. Nobody claims that love alone is enough to cure cancer. No one writes romance novels about people who were once diabetic, but who can now snack on candy bars thanks to their partner’s undying devotion. And yet we have this odd idea that we can cure alcoholism, mental illness, or other pathological behaviors by love alone. What’s worse, we often blame ourselves when our unrealistic expectations aren’t met! (“If only I were a better partner, maybe he wouldn’t behave like that.”) A loving partner can definitely help the healing process along. She can give support; she can encourage the patient to follow a prescribed regimen and can provide comfort during the inevitable moments of depression. However, she cannot “cure” the illness. That can be done only with the assistance of professionals—and with the patient’s cooperation. Without
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that, all the love and concern in the world will not be enough. In fact, it may even prove counterproductive. Many addicts and abusers continue their self-destructive behavior with the help of “enablers,” loving partners who cover for them and allow them to maintain some semblance of functionality instead of confronting their problems. One answer to the cliché “love conquers everything” is yet another cliché—“you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” You certainly can provide your partner with opportunities to overcome her problems; you can reassure her that you love her and will be by her side through her struggles. But you cannot force your partner to change if she doesn’t really want to. The path of recovery and redemption is one that each person must walk alone. Your love for each other can certainly help, but only if it is combined with deeds and actions, not just words and promises. Keep in mind that “wants to change” and “wants to avoid the consequences of his or her behavior” are two different things. Does she want to stop drinking, or does she want to preserve your relationship while continuing to drink? Does she want to be more financially responsible, or does she just want to do whatever it takes to pacify you? Is she sorry about the harm she has caused or sorry she got caught? Ask yourself these questions, and ask your partner these questions. You may want to use Papa Ogou’s Truth Be Told Spell beforehand. You definitely don’t want to avoid these issues or let your partner avoid them. If you are being physically or emotionally abused, you need to take immediate steps to fix this situation. You are not being abused because you don’t love your partner enough; you are being abused because your partner is abusive. If you are trying to satisfy his or her needs, you are going to come up short every time. A bad day at the office, a confrontation on the highway, an unexpected bill—any of these things may trigger an abusive attack, even though you had nothing to do with the situation. I’m not recommending that you abandon ship the first time you and your partner have an argument (in fact, as we will see later, “Love makes everything perfect” is yet another toxic myth). Nor am I saying
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that you should leave a partner who realizes he has a problem and is taking steps toward fixing that problem—even if he stumbles a few times. What I am saying is that your partner will change if and when he wants to change. You can encourage change but you cannot force it. If you are concerned for your partner’s well-being, get two white candles, some rose water or Lotion Pompeia (a sweet cologne made by French perfumers L. T. Piver and available in many botanicas), a white cloth, and a white saucer. Sprinkle a few drops of Pompeia or rose water on the floor, and ask Legba to open the gates so that Damballah can come down. Now light both candles. Ask Damballah to bring peace and healing to you and to your partner. Sit quietly for a few minutes; don’t say anything or do anything, but wait for any message you receive. You may get images or words . . . or you may get nothing at all but a sense of peace. Damballah is a quiet lwa. Just because he doesn’t speak to you doesn’t mean that he’s not aware of your presence or that he isn’t interested in helping you. Sit there as long as you feel you need to be there. It could be a few minutes or it could be an hour. When you feel that you’ve been alone with Damballah long enough, thank him for his time. Now snuff out the candles, take them to a crossroads, and ask Papa Legba to give them to Damballah. You may want to do Damballah’s Healing Wounds Spell before (or after) doing this, or you may just want some more quiet time. Keep in mind that when you ask Damballah to heal both of you, he will do just that. Often that will result in a stronger, happier relationship; sometimes it will result in one of you breaking things off because that is what he or she needs to do. Painful as this may be, it will be necessary. Trust Damballah—and trust yourself—and things will be resolved in the best possible way.
Love Is All about Unconditional Forgiveness Every relationship is going to have its rough patches; sooner or later every lover will disappoint his or her partner. It is not a perfect world
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and we are not perfect people. We should not hold our partners to some unattainable standard of perfection. Neither should we be afraid to forgive in the face of sincere repentance and honest efforts to make amends and avoid repeating the mistake. No relationship can last long without forgiveness, nor is there any purpose in holding on to grudges over trivial matters. Some people take that logical truth to illogical conclusions. They believe that love means that you must forgive anything, and if you don’t it is a sign that you don’t really love your partner after all. They forget that there is a difference between forgiveness based on repentance and unconditional forgiveness. Forgiveness based on repentance is a necessary relationship skill; unconditional forgiveness, no matter how vile or prolonged the behavior, will quickly get you into trouble. Forgiveness can become a way of saying “things aren’t so bad” when they really are. In the name of “forgiveness” we tolerate our abuser and allow the abuse to continue. It also allows us to cast our resentment and blame inward. If we are uncomfortable with this abuse or feel that we should get out of this situation, it’s not our abuser’s fault for behaving abominably, but OUR fault because we are unable to forgive. Sadly, many abusers are good at pushing this particular emotional button and at shifting responsibility for their actions onto their abused partner. (“Baby, why can’t you let bygones be bygones? Maybe if you would let go of the past I would be able to move on from the past.”) By letting them off the hook, we are not helping ourselves to heal, nor are we behaving in a noble and unselfish manner. All we are doing is allowing abuse to continue and setting the stage for future victims. Forgiveness should be earned, not given freely. If your partner’s behavior has hurt you, he or she should acknowledge that fact and make efforts to avoid that behavior in the future. (Of course, this goes both ways: when you’re at fault, you shouldn’t stop at “I’m sorry,” but say instead, “I’m sorry, and this is what I plan to do to help make things right.”) True remorse involves an awareness that you have caused pain and a desire to heal the wounds caused through your actions or
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i nactions. Lacking that, all you have are pretty, empty words that will soon be repeated as the cycle continues. You can love someone and still set boundaries. Try to avoid saying, “If you loved me, you would (stop drinking, get a better job, buy me that new car I want, etc.).” Instead, try phrasing it as, “I can’t tolerate this problem, and if we can’t find some way to overcome it, I don’t know if I can stay in this relationship.” This isn’t a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength. If you wish to make your partner happy and to avoid things that cause him or her pain, shouldn’t you expect the same in return? Good fences make good neighbors—and well-defined boundaries, respected by both partners, can help preserve good relationships. Sometimes we need closure, not forgiveness. We can cut toxic people out of our lives, thereby removing their power over us. This doesn’t mean that you forgive them or that you are willing to “give them another chance.” Rather, it means that you’re turning your back on them and removing them from your life. You are no longer offering them rent-free real estate in your head; you have declared them unworthy of your love or your hate. In a situation like this, Papa Legba’s Closing the Gate Spell (chapter 7) or Ezili Danto’s Wash That $#!% Right out of My Hair Bath (chapter 13) will help you to move on without your baggage.
Love Is Eternal: If It Isn't Forever, It Isn't Real Love Today most marriages end in divorce, and most relationships end before marriage. The relationship that lasts “till death do us part” is more the exception than the rule in the age of no-fault divorces. According to some, this is proof that we live in a sick society, where partners are disposable and where true love is replaced by the quest for eternal sensation, stimulation, and novelty. Others point out that many of the “lifelong” marriages that are presented as an example condemned both partners to a life of
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misery and dissatisfaction, and argue that the freedom we have today outweighs the stability and security that earlier relationship models offered. Both views deserve consideration. Often we can benefit from working through our relationship problems instead of giving up and moving on to another partner (and, all too often, discovering that the problems from which we ran have followed us). Lifelong loving relationships may be increasingly uncommon, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t wonderful when they happen and well worth pursuing. Anything worth having is worth working for—and that includes love. However, we should also keep in mind that we don’t always get the things we work for. Sometimes we train our hardest and do our best but still come in second—or don’t even finish. That doesn’t mean that all those long hours of jogging and working out were in vain. Our efforts made us stronger and healthier people, and gave us the satisfaction of knowing that we tried our hardest and did our best. Long-term love affairs end for many reasons. Perhaps the most common is that people change and discover that the relationship is no longer meeting their needs. Your interests and goals today are probably quite different from your interests and goals in elementary school. Nobody thinks you are a failure because you didn’t follow up on your childhood dream of becoming an astronaut or a ballerina. As you matured you discovered that other things were more important to you and chose to pursue them instead. This might not help much with the pain you feel now, as a current relationship is ending, but it may be food for thought down the road. If you need to grieve and mourn now, don’t hold that back. Wait until you have cried until you can’t cry anymore, when you have wept and screamed and punched your pillow and done whatever you need to do to get the pain out. Then, when you are ready, try to think about what you have gained from the relationship. (You may want to do Damballah’s Transmutation of Love Spell, combined with Damballah’s Healing Wounds Spell, to help prepare you for the next stage of your life. See chapter 8.)
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Sometimes what we call the “ending” of a relationship is really a change. Instead of being lovers, you are now more comfortable as friends. It may take you some time to adjust to this new status, but ultimately you might find that you are far happier sharing good times with an old buddy than you were arguing yet again with your spouse. You may have a “till death do you part” relationship after all—just not a romantic one. Before you decide to be “just friends,” I might advise taking some time to cool off and let old wounds heal. If it hurts too much to be around your ex, take as much time away as you need. I’d also advise doing Papa Ogou’s Truth Be Told Spell to determine if you really WANT to be friends or if one or both of you see this as a chance to remain in contact and start the relationship up again. If cutting off contact is less painful for you than being friends with someone you still want a romance with, be honest . . . to him or her and to yourself. In the end it will be the best thing for everyone involved. Sunsets are beautiful even though they only last a few moments; flowers are lovely even though they only last a month or so. Just because something is not permanent does not mean that it is without value. The relationship you had with your partner may have been perfect for the time and place when it happened. Now that it has ended, you can look back fondly upon it as a good time in your life—or as a bad time that was made better by your partner’s love and support. Did this relationship “fail” or did it succeed in giving you exactly what you needed when you needed it?
Love Makes Everything Perfect Most fairy tales end with “and they lived happily ever after.” Once the Brave Knight won his Fair Princess and carried her off into the sunset on his White Horse, all their problems were over. He had defeated the Evil Dragon, she had found the pea beneath the pile of feather mattresses, and now nothing remained to cause them grief or stress. Nobody ever talks about the bickering that went on after the marriage. The Brothers
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Grimm never preserved any conversations like “You spend every weekend jousting with your friends and never take me anywhere!” and “Why does your mother always have to interfere with our business?” Many couples believe that arguments are a sign that their love is dying. As a result, they seek to avoid conflict at all costs. Often this means they stop talking about their feelings altogether . . . and before long wonder where the intimacy has gone. In reality, even the most loving and healthy relationships involve occasional arguments. Done properly, arguing can even help the relationship. It allows you and your partner to release tension, and lets both of you know that you can express your feelings without being abandoned or humiliated. If your arguments are degenerating into screaming and name-calling (“You’re a worthless bum!” “Oh, yeah? Well, you’re a nagging bitch!”) or into battering or abuse, then you have a problem. Occasional disagreements are nothing to be concerned about; indeed, they are healthier than stony, resentful silence and walking on eggshells. Even if you can’t solve all your disagreements, don’t give up hope. If you can’t come to an agreement, try to reach some form of closure—an “agreeing to disagree.” Try using Simbi Andezo’s Communication 101 Spell (chapter 12) to clear up these troubling conflicts. You may well find that once you understand where your partner is coming from, you can at least recognize why he or she arrived at a certain conclusion. You don’t have to be mirror images of each other. So long as you can live together in relative peace and harmony, and agree on most important issues, you can get along just fine. Nobody’s perfect, not even your partner. This doesn’t mean you should learn to live with an addict or an abuser, but it means that you should cut your partner some slack when it comes to nonabusive, nondestructive shortcomings. He may embarrass you by wearing ugly ties to dinner parties; she may continue to support political causes you find silly or even abhorrent. If everything else in your relationship is meeting your needs, these issues may not be so important. If they really bother you, you can always find workarounds—buying him some nice ties or giving
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d onations to competing political groups. There’s no reason to destroy a good relationship because it doesn’t match up to an unattainable ideal. The head-spinning, heart-fluttering, birds-singing, and flowersblooming stage of love is only the beginning. As you grow together, you will move into a quieter, more secure love. This doesn’t mean that you have to give up the passion (try some of the tips I gave above for spicing things up if you’re worried about that). But neither does it mean that you’ve “fallen out of love” just because you no longer feel the urge to write each other silly love notes. Infatuation is temporary; love lasts longer and ultimately is far more rewarding. Often those looking for the “perfect love” come from homes where there was little love to be found. Growing up with distant, unhappy, or abusive parents, they have no benchmark for what to expect in a healthy long-term relationship. Sometimes they tolerate dysfunctional relationships because they don’t know there’s an alternative; at other times they spend their lives seeking the ideal relationship they never saw at home. If you’re falling into either of these extremes, do Damballah’s Healing Wounds Spell (chapter 8) every Thursday for a month. Combined with other assistance (a few chats with a therapist or spiritual counselor, membership in Adult Children of Dysfunctional Families or some other support group), you may find that love isn’t what you expected—but it’s still pretty wonderful nonetheless!
Lovesickness Treatments and Cures
We often use the word “lovesick” to describe someone who is
pining over unrequited love. This is generally seen as a harmless condition, associated with “puppy love” and “mooning teenagers.” But there are also real, serious illnesses associated with love. At their worst, these disorders can be life-threatening; at best, they will be a serious drain on your spirit and a major stumbling block in the way of any successful relationship. If you are suffering from any of these problems, you should attend to them before you do anything else. Much as you would treat a broken leg before dealing with a bad bruise, you should take care of your most pressing emotional concerns before troubling yourself with romantic issues.
Codependency If you asked ten different professionals to define the word “codependency,” you might well get eleven different definitions. Originally, “codependency” was used to describe spouses and partners of substance abusers or other dysfunctional people. Today, it is also applied to people who continually focus on others, while neglecting their own needs. Some call it an addiction to another person; others say it is a 43
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set of learned behaviors that prevent individuals from having a satisfactory relationship with other people—or with themselves. Codependency can manifest in many different forms. Some codependent people may see themselves as “rescuers” or “fixers.” They constantly get involved with troubled people and try to save them. Others may take the role of “victim” or “martyr.” Their stormy relationships provide them with an excuse for all their other problems; by taking responsibility for others, they are spared the burden of taking responsibility for themselves. And still others play the “bully” role; they cherish the power they hold over their dysfunctional mates. A codependent person’s whole sense of self is wrapped up in somebody else. Because of this, codependent people often seek to control every aspect of the relationship and of the other person’s life. While codependent people may complain at length about their partners, they don’t really want them to change . . . in fact, they would be terrified if the partner did! Codependent people fear that their newly self-reliant partner would not need them anymore. Frequently they seek to “enable” their partner’s problems and will sometimes make active attempts to sabotage their partner’s recovery. Others will engage in “chaos making,” creating tense, dramatic situations so they can play the role of victim or nursemaid. Needless to say, this is no fun for anyone involved, least of all the codependent person. Codependent people live in constant fear of abandonment. They have based their entire sense of self-worth on another person, and so losing that person means losing everything. Many codependent people also suffer from anxiety, depression, and low selfesteem. Some experience fatigue, insomnia, sexual dysfunction, eating disorders, or other physical symptoms of intense psychological stress and self-neglect. Others become stuck in a continuing pattern of broken, painful relationships. They leave one “problem child” only to become involved with another, and still another after that. Many therapists trace codependent behavior to childhood trauma. Codependents are often the children of alcoholic parents; from an early age they find themselves acting as caregivers to their caregivers. They
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come to believe that this is what love really is, and so, in the name of love, they invent excuses for their partner, clean up after his or her messes, and repeatedly accept the same tearful apologies and heartfelt promises instead of insisting on real actions for change. In Alcoholics Anonymous the “adult children of alcoholics” phenomenon is well known, as are the “enabling” behaviors. We have also found that this learned behavior is not limited to children of alcoholic parents. Parents who suffer from chronic mental or physical illnesses can teach their children many of these counterproductive behaviors, as can parents who grew up in alcoholic families but who do not abuse substances themselves. Some therapists now speak of “adult children from dysfunctional families” to account for the various other ways in which these counterproductive behaviors can be learned. If you find yourself replaying the same roles in your relationships—if you keep getting involved with “the wrong people”—you could be suffering from codependency. Here are some of the traits that Co-Dependents Anonymous considers to be warning signs: Denial Patterns
I have difficulty identifying what I am feeling. I minimize, alter, or deny how I truly feel. I perceive myself as completely unselfish and dedicated to the wellbeing of others. Low Self-Esteem Patterns
I have difficulty making decisions. I judge everything I think, say, or do harshly, as never “good enough.” I am embarrassed to receive recognition and praise or gifts. I do not ask others to meet my needs or desires. I value others’ approval of my thinking, feelings, and behavior over my own. I do not perceive myself as a lovable or worthwhile person.
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I compromise my own values and integrity to avoid rejection or others’ anger. I am very sensitive to how others are feeling and feel the same. I am extremely loyal, remaining in harmful situations too long. I value others’ opinions and feelings more than my own and am afraid to express differing opinions and feelings of my own. I put aside my own interests and hobbies in order to do what others want. I accept sex when I want love. Control Patterns
I believe most other people are incapable of taking care of themselves. I attempt to convince others of what they “should” think and how they “truly” feel. I become resentful when others will not let me help them. I freely offer others advice and directions without being asked. I lavish gifts and favors on those I care about. I use sex to gain approval and acceptance. I have to be “needed” in order to have a relationship with others.1 Most of us will show at least a few of these traits from time to time, and few of us will show all of them. But if you find yourself agreeing with many of these statements, and if you have had a pattern of painful, dysfunctional relationships, you may well be suffering from codependency. If you are, don’t panic! Therapists may not agree on an exact definition for codependency, but they agree that codependent people can learn healthier patterns of behavior and have safe, fulfilling relationships with other people and with themselves. It may not be easy, but it is possible, and the rewards are well worth the effort. The first step is acknowledging that you have a problem—and for many codependent people that can be an enormous step indeed. You
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have learned from an early age that your feelings don’t matter, that your problems are not important. You have come to see any efforts to take care of your own needs as “selfish.” (Many codependent people are even reluctant to use the word “I.”) If you’re having problems with this step, get a red seven-day candle. On Monday light it, and ask Papa Legba to open the door for the other lwa and to show you the path you need to travel. On Tuesday light it for Danto, and ask her to give you the courage to depend on yourself, by yourself, for yourself. On Wednesday light it for Papa Ogou, and ask him to give you the strength to do what you have to do and the wisdom to see the truth. Understand that in doing this spellwork you are making major progress; you are acknowledging your problem and doing something for yourself. Now comes yet another difficult step: you have to do something about your problem. Co-Dependents Anonymous (www.codependents .org) sponsors meetings in many cities and states. Even if you don’t live near a CoDA meeting, there is a good deal of interesting and informative material on their website. Combine this with Damballah’s Healing Wounds Spell (chapter 8) for healing or Papa Ogou’s Give Me Strength Spell (chapter 11) to help you break free of your counterproductive behavioral patterns. If you can afford it, a few sessions with a counselor may prove beneficial. With those two steps out of the way, it may be time to confront a third step—your relationship with your partner. You must stop trying to control your partner’s behavior, and you are going to have to stop enabling his or her misbehavior. You will need to understand that you did not cause your partner’s problems, you cannot control them, and you cannot cure them. You can offer love and support, but you’re going to have to set boundaries. The days of claiming your partner is too sick to work when she’s really hung over must end; the days of complaining every time your partner empties your joint checking account so he can buy some frivolous gadget must pass. Take steps to ensure your physical, financial, and emotional safety and security.
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When you do this, you’re likely to see some fireworks. Your partner has grown accustomed to you always being there; he or she may feel like you’ve suddenly changed the rules of the game. It may sound like a cliché, but you really are doing this out of love. By forcing your partner to take responsibility, you are treating him or her like an adult. You are giving the most precious (and most frightening) gift of all—the gift of responsibility and independence, with all that comes with it. Offer this as a gift, not an ultimatum; deliver your message with love, not anger. If you need help doing this, try Simbi Andezo’s Communication 101 Spell beforehand (chapter 12). The idea here is not to blow off steam; the idea is to repair your relationship and move forward in a healthy, mutually beneficial fashion. If you have just come out of a codependent relationship and are currently single, you can skip this step. What’s more, you should. Now that you’ve realized you have a problem, take some time to deal with your problem. Don’t go jumping headlong into yet another dysfunctional relationship. Take up a hobby; do something that you have always wanted to do. Treat yourself to a vacation or get a pet. Spend a few weeks, or a few months, getting to know yourself—not as half of a couple, not as a caregiver to the needy, not as a long-suffering spouse, but as yourself. Once you’ve learned that you’re worthy of being loved for who you are, not for what you can do for someone who is in desperate need of help, you’re likely to find that your new relationships go much more smoothly than your old ones. Your partner may be receptive to your new “tough love” stance or he may not. You can do your best to reassure him, and you can offer him support in making the right decision, but you cannot control his behavior. He may decide that he doesn’t want to take responsibility for his own failings and may decide to blame you for his failings. Of course, this will be painful . . . but, again, it is and always has been a choice that he, not you, must make. If you find yourself unable to deal with the turmoil, you can use Damballah’s Transmutation of Love Spell (chapter 8) to help ensure that the situation ends in the best possible way
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for both of you. If things get really bad, you may need to rely on Ezili Danto’s Wash That $#!% Right out of My Hair Bath (chapter 13), and of course, if your health or safety is endangered by your now-angry partner, you need to get the authorities involved and quickly. I’d be lying if I told you recovering from codependency would be easy. On the other hand, I’d also be lying if I didn’t say that you deserved to be loved for yourself, as yourself, and BY yourself. Rest assured that the lwa think so too—and they will be happy to provide you with the strength, clarity, and healing that you need to overcome this problem.
Sexual Addiction Talk show hosts spend hours discussing sex in all its glorious (and not so glorious) forms. Movies regularly feature explicit erotic scenes. If those don’t do it for you, you can get videos that show sex in all its glorious and not so glorious “reality”—or as real as plastic surgery gets. Magazines provide you with “Guides to earth-shattering orgasms” and “Twenty-one tips guaranteed to drive your lover wild in bed,” complete with ads featuring individuals, couples, and groups in various compromising positions. Given this constant stimuli, we can hardly be surprised that for many people sex has ceased to be an enjoyable activity and has become an addiction. Many people imagine that nymphomaniacs and gigolos are happy people, hopping from bed to bed and enjoying the kind of “uninhibited” sex life they can only dream about. In reality, sex addicts are as miserable as any other addict. Sexual addiction is a compulsion that wreaks havoc on family, friends, coworkers, and on the addict. Sex and the quest for gratification become the defining goals of the addict’s life. Some sex addicts spend thousands of dollars on pornography and sex chat phone calls. Others land afoul of the law for crimes ranging from voyeurism and exhibitionism to sexual assault. Unfortunately, the term “sexual addiction” has become a political label. Some people claim that anyone who enjoys BDSM, polyamory, or
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swinging is a “sexual addict.” A few Christian organizations have even claimed that all homosexuals or lesbians suffer from “sexual addiction,” which keeps them from having fulfilling (read “heterosexual”) relationships. While this may help reveal the moral preconceptions of these selfproclaimed “therapists,” it does little to assist with the real problem of sexual addiction. There is nothing wrong with enjoying sex, nor with recreational “no strings attached” sex. Kinky is in the eye of the beholder; so long as everyone involved is having “safe, sane, and consensual” fun, there’s really no problem. The difference between someone who indulges in occasional “booty calls” or “kinky sex” and a sex addict is like the difference between a social drinker and an alcoholic. Social drinkers can enjoy a glass of wine or a cocktail over dinner; alcoholics find that their lives are crumbling because they can’t stop drinking. A healthy person enjoys sex. A sex addict can’t stop thinking about sex or acting on his or her desires, despite the consequences. If you are wondering whether you are a sex addict, the Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health recommends you ask yourself these questions: Do I have a sense that I have lost control over whether or not I engage in my specific out-of-control sexual behavior? Am I experiencing significant consequences because of my specific out-of-control sexual behavior? Do I feel like I am constantly thinking about my specific out-ofcontrol sexual behavior, even when I don’t want to?2 Frequently, sexual addiction is accompanied by an all-encompassing sense of shame. The addict feels guilty about his or her problem. He or she tries to hide it from friends and family and slinks about in the shadows, terrified that someone might find out. This shame does not stop the addiction; in fact, it only feeds it. “I’m disgusting, weak, and worthless,” the addict reasons, “and so of course I’ll never be strong enough to
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overcome this problem.” To counter this feeling of weakness and powerlessness, you may want to use Papa Ogou’s Give Me Strength Spell for a while. This will help you to realize that you are a worthwhile person who is capable of taking control of your life. If you are a gay man who compulsively seeks anonymous sexual encounters in bathhouses and steam rooms to the exclusion of other activities, you may well be suffering from this kind of self-loathing and internalized shame. You may be convinced that being gay means you are a “filthy pervert” who deserves nothing better. You’ve come to equate being gay with sex, not relationships, because you can’t imagine that anyone would be interested in actually loving a sick degenerate like you. Talk to Mama Danto about this, using Ezili Danto’s Coming out of the Closet Spell (chapter 13). She’ll gladly set you straight with some firm, motherly love. Once you’ve learned that you deserve love, you’ll be in a place to seek love and pride, not sensation and shame. Sometimes those who suffer from sexual addiction will waver between periods of abstinence and periods of extreme promiscuity. During their periods of celibacy, they spend most of their time thinking about the sex they aren’t having; when they “relapse,” they feel guilty, and soon fall back into abstinence. Some therapists have compared this behavior to that of anorexics and bulimics. These addicts “binge” on sexual encounters, then “purge” by enforced celibacy. They set everhigher boundaries for themselves and live in constant terror of falling back into their “weakness.” The preacher with a stack of hardcore magazines in his desk, the “macho” guy who spends hours railing about “queer perverts” and discussing their sexual activities in graphic detail— these people are prime examples of this behavior. Instead of mocking them as hypocrites, we might do well to pity them as sick people whose illness will leave them eternally unfulfilled. If you find yourself in a constant struggle against your “sexual demons” and veering between release and recrimination, you may be suffering from this problem. To call on the lwa for help, get a small bottle of rum, a corncob pipe and some pipe tobacco, and some pocket
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change. Go to a crossroads, and drop the change on the ground. Turn to one of the places between the roads—do not face either path, but rather the space between the paths. Say, “Papa Legba, I’ve traveled the road of indulgence and it did not make me happy.” Turn 180 degrees, until you are again facing a place between the paths. Say, “Papa Legba, I’ve traveled the road of denial and it did not make me happy.” Turn now to the road; either road will do. Say, “Papa Legba, lead me down the road that will make me happy.” Now go back to your house, by whatever route Papa Legba chooses for you. After this you may also want to do Papa Ogou’s Truth Be Told Spell (chapter 11); this will help you to be honest with others and with yourself. You may be surprised to discover that your “shameful” secrets aren’t nearly as important to your friends and family as they have been to you . . . and you may be surprised to discover that there are healthy and rewarding ways to express your desires without turning them into compulsions. Many sex addicts are also victims of childhood trauma. Some were sexually abused as children. As a result, they have deeply conflicted feelings about sex, equate sex with love, or have other difficulties with intimacy and sexual relationships. Others grew up in deeply repressed homes and have never been able to overcome their equation of sex with shame and guilt. Both these groups could benefit from Damballah’s Healing Wounds Spell (chapter 8). Needless to say, all this spellwork should be done in addition to seeking outside help. A good therapist can help immensely with sorting out many of your problems and teaching you how to incorporate sex and love into your life in a healthy, nonthreatening fashion. Sex Addicts Anonymous (or, if appropriate, Survivors of Incest Anonymous or other groups dedicated to helping adults who experienced childhood abuse) can help you by introducing you to people who share your problem. Overcoming your problem will take some effort on your part, but it can be overcome. You don’t have to spend the rest of your life dealing with shame, fear, and frustration—and you are not alone.
Lovesickness: Treatments and cures 53
Stalking: Victims and Perpetrators After the murder of actress Rebecca Schaeffer by obsessed fan Robert John Bardo, California enacted an antistalking law in 1990. Today similar laws are found worldwide. Therapists and law enforcement professionals have become aware of the scope of this problem; by some estimates, as many as 7 percent of all women and 2 percent of all men will be stalked within their lifetime. Eighty-one percent of the women who were stalked by a current or former husband or cohabiting partner were also physically assaulted by the same partner, and 31 percent of the women who were stalked by a current or former husband or cohabiting partner were also sexually assaulted by the same partner.3 Professionals have defined several different types of stalkers. “Rejected stalkers” respond to a breakup by trying to get back together with their victim. They continue calling, sending letters and gifts, and trying to maintain contact despite being told repeatedly that further contact is not wanted. When it becomes clear that their efforts are in vain, they may become “resentful stalkers,” who now seek revenge instead of reconciliation. “Intimacy-seeking stalkers” pursue total strangers or people whom they barely know, believing that they are loved, or will be loved, by their victim. The people who pursue celebrities are typically intimacy-seeking stalkers. “Incompetent suitors” generally mean well, but lack the social skills for courtship. As a result, their advances are counterproductive at best and terrifying at worst. Finally, “predatory stalkers” get a sexual charge out of the fear they cause with their behavior.4 Does your ex, or a persistent suitor who is romantically obsessed with you, call you at home or work after you’ve told him or her to stop? Does he or she leave repeated, obscene, harassing, or threatening messages on your voice mail or answering machine? Does he or she drive by your home, school, or workplace frequently? Does he or she persist in leaving or sending unwanted letters, notes, cards, or gifts? Have you
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caught him or her watching you from a distance or following you? Does he or she often appear unexpectedly in your vicinity “just by chance”? Has he or she contacted, followed, or threatened you, your friends, family members, neighbors, or coworkers? If so, you are being stalked, and you need to take care of this problem immediately. Many cases of stalking escalate to violence and even to murder. Cut Off All Contact with Your Stalker Now
Any attention you give this person, even negative attention, will only encourage him or her. If you have not taken out an order of protection yet, do so now. Record Every Stalking Incident and Names, Dates, and Times of Contact
Save a tape of all the phone messages and packages sent to you by the stalker. This establishes a continuing pattern of harassment and also will protect you if your stalker decides to claim you are harassing him or her. Phony police reports and counterclaims are not uncommon when dealing with resentful stalkers. Many stalking victims do not report their plight to the police because they fear that nothing will be done or because they believe they have done something to encourage their stalker. Take Steps to Ensure Your Safety
Give friends, coworkers, employers, and neighbors a description of the stalker and his or her car. Ask them to record what they see or hear, and to call the police if necessary. Employers can bar the stalker from your job site; if he or she violates this, it may then be possible to arrest him or her for trespassing. Change your phone number, and change the locks on your door. Talk to your local victims services organization and determine what your options are. Check out the information available on the National Center for Victims of Crime website (www.ncvc.org). Once you’ve taken all the mundane steps needed to protect yourself, you can call on the lwa for their assistance. Here is one course of
Lovesickness: Treatments and cures 55
action that I might recommend for dealing with a stalker. It starts on a Monday, when you perform Legba’s Closing the Gate Spell (chapter 7). Ask Papa Legba to put up barriers between you and your stalker. Ask that your stalker lose his or her way every time he or she seeks to contact you, and that all his or her efforts to reach you are confounded. On Tuesday take a glass of rum, a red candle, and a kitchen knife. If you can find a lithograph of the Mater Salvatoris (or a picture of the Black Madonna of Czestochowa), get that as well. Sprinkle a few drops of rum on the floor, and ask Legba to open the gate so Ezili Danto can enter. Now light the red candle, and pass the blade of the knife through the flame. Feel Danto’s heat and power flowing through the blade. Walk around your living quarters, carrying the knife before you. As you do, ask Mama Danto to keep her knife handy and to use it on anyone who invades your space. Imagine her cutting any ties that remain between you and your stalker. When you have made a circuit of your living space, wrap the knife in a red cloth and place it by the front door. If you have a Mater Salvatoris of Czestochowa icon, hang that up near your doorway as well, so that Danto can look after you. On Wednesday take four iron nails, a cigar, a red seven-day candle, and a glass of rum. Sprinkle a few drops on the ground for Legba, and ask him to open the door so Papa Ogou can enter. Now light the candle and the cigar. Pass the nails quickly through the candle flame, then dip them into the rum. As you do, imagine that Ogou is entering these nails and blessing them so that they become powerful magical protectors. Place one in each of the four corners of your living space. (If you own a house or have a surrounding yard, you can bury one at each corner.) Sprinkle a little rum over each, and ask Ogou to keep guard over you. Now snuff out the cigar. Pinch off a little bit of the tobacco and sprinkle it on the floor, then sweep it out your front door. As you do, ask Ogou to sweep away your stalker and to remove him or her from your life. Close the door. You may also want to use this cigar and candle to create a Papa Ogou’s Protection Bag (chapter 11), just to make sure that you have everything under control.
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If you have been accused of stalking by a former partner, you need to sit down, take a few deep breaths, and decide what the problem is. The first thing that we need to establish, before going any further, is that no means no. If someone has requested no further contact from you, then you must honor that request. If you don’t, you are making a nuisance of yourself at best; at worst you are violating the law and could find yourself in jail. If there are custody concerns, and you are being denied contact with your children, this is another issue altogether. In this case you need to seek legal counsel. You may also want to use Papa Ogou’s Truth Be Told Spell . . . but remember that when Papa Ogou steps in, the truth will come out, even if it is unflattering to you. You may not think that you are stalking at all. Perhaps you are correct in the legal sense of the word; you may not have done anything that could get you arrested. However, if someone is claiming that you are a stalker, then your presence and your attentions are clearly causing discomfort. That is not going to help you win that person’s love, and is only going to cause both of you further suffering if you persist in your behavior. You’re probably in a great deal of emotional pain right now, and you need to address that pain. Trying to contact your ex will not help you to heal. Some rest and recuperation will be far more beneficial. If you can take some time to be by yourself, do so. You may even want to take a trip to a place at some distance from your ex, where the sights and scenery won’t remind you of your past. If that is impractical, give yourself some “recovery time.” Do some quiet reading and contemplation, about anything BUT your ex. Take some long walks. The exercise will do you far more good than sitting around feeling depressed. You may feel like right now you need your ex back more than anything in the world. You are mistaken. At present you need peace of mind more than anything in the world. You may want to concentrate on healing your relationship; what’s important now is healing your pain. You may also be very angry at your ex right now. You are hurt, and you feel like you’ve been treated badly. You may be harboring fanta-
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sies of revenge. Instead of acting on those feelings, why not dump that anger—and that bad relationship—once and for all? Take some things that remind you of your ex, and perform Legba’s Closing the Gate Spell. As you do this, ask that you be free of him or her. When you dump that bag and turn away, you are turning away from that relationship forever. If you are still feeling angry, talk to a therapist or spiritual counselor. You may want to look for a Batterers Anonymous group in your area, even if you’ve never laid a hand on your ex and would never dream of doing such a thing. If you are angry enough that you are fantasizing about violence, you will do well to speak with some people who have “been there and done that” and who have some constructive suggestions for ways you can cool off without getting yourself in trouble or doing something you will regret later. Instead of anger, you may be feeling profound sadness and remorse. You want your partner back and can’t imagine spending the rest of your life without him or her by your side. Your suffering is understandable. Few things hurt more than a breakup, particularly a breakup that you didn’t initiate and didn’t want. In time this suffering will wane, as your friends keep telling you. Unfortunately, that’s not a whole lot of consolation right here and right now when you’re feeling like stir-fried dirt. In this situation, your best bet is calling on Papa Damballah. I recommend Damballah’s Transmutation of Love Spell and Damballah’s Healing Wounds Spell. These will leave you feeling a bit calmer and more able to deal with your pain. If your depression persists or is so serious that it is interfering with your ability to function at work or in other aspects of your life, see a doctor. You may well need antidepressants or talk therapy to deal with your problem. After this you may need to do Ezili Danto’s Wash That $#!% Right out of My Hair Bath, just to break any ties that remain between the two of you. If you have a recurring problem with people perceiving your advances as threatening, you may need to reconsider your approach. This is definitely something you will need to discuss with a counselor or with a well-intentioned friend. You may be coming across as needy
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and desperate. To counter that, try using Papa Ogou’s Give Me Strength Spell. This will help you appear more confident and self-assured. You can also use any of the Freda spells I’ve included to help you become more attractive. Finally, you can use Legba’s Opening the Door Spell (chapter 7) to help you find a partner who will be as interested in you as you are in him or her, and Simbi Andezo’s Communication 101 Spell to ensure that your message is not misinterpreted.
m The Lwa
Meeting the Lwa
You can have Vodou without drums, without songs, without
priests, temples, or congregations—but you can’t have Vodou without the spirits. To Vodouisants, the lwa aren’t abstractions, symbols, or archetypes—they are advisors, protectors, and friends. And if you are going to do Vodou love magic, you must also get to know the lwa and make them a part of your daily life. But to do this, you will first have to explore some commonly held misconceptions about the spirits and the roles they play in the lives of Vodouisants. Some will warn you that the lwa are easy to offend, difficult to placate, and capable of wreaking havoc in your life should you be foolhardy enough to approach them. Others scoff and claim the doomsayers have bought in to racist mythology about “primitive devil worship”—the lwa are only there to help us and would never do anything that wasn’t for the greatest good. The truth (as is often the case) lies somewhere in the middle. Vodouisants see the presence of the lwa in every aspect of our daily lives. We know and respect their power; we see it in the blessings they bestow on us. But we also understand that our spirits can take away those things they have given to us if we don’t fulfill our obligations to them. Although unfashionable in many circles, that word “obligation” is important. We provide our spirits with offerings and veneration; 60
Meeting the Lwa 61
they return our attention by protecting us, healing us, and providing us with opportunities for success. We do not grovel before our spirits in terror, but neither do we take them for granted. Much of Vodou’s reputation for “danger” stems from the fact that the lwa hold us accountable for our promises. When they do things for us, they expect to be paid. In the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country, nothing comes for free; even the spirits demand compensation for their services. Vodouisants expect (and receive) great things from the lwa—but we are aware that they are neither omnipotent nor omniscient. As we are servitors lwa (servants of the lwa), we believe that the lwa, along with the saints and angels, are servitors bondye (servants of God). Bondye (from the French bon Dieu, “good God”) is a remote figure who receives honor but who plays little role in the day-to-day lives of His worshippers. The lwa are closer to us and inclined to pay attention to our prayers. They can grant us luck, health, and love—but they will warn us that all this is “as God wills.” They can help us in many ways and can teach us many important lessons, but their power, though great, is limited. This may be a tough concept to grasp for those of use who were raised on Hollywood magic; it is no great stumbling block for Haitian Vodouisants. Survival in Haiti requires a good grasp of the art of the possible. Vodouisants expect the lwa to improve their condition, not to rescue them from it. We will do well to follow their example. Instead of treating the lwa like they work for us, we should instead work with them to achieve our desired ends. Waiting around hoping for a deus ex machina to make your dreams come true will bring you nothing but disappointment and heartache. The best way to learn about the lwa is to meet them—and the best way to meet them is to call on them. Accordingly, I’ve provided you with spells you can use to work with the spirits. As you get to know the spirits, they will likely teach you spells of your own or suggest variations on the recipes presented here. For example, you may
62â€ƒ The Lwa
discover that Ogou wants you to give him red wine in place of rum or that Danto has asked you for a green cloth instead of a red one. This doesnâ€™t mean that you are doing something wrong. Far from it! It merely means that you have made a personal connection with your lwa, and that by your interactions you have ceased to be a seeker and become a true Vodouisant.
Legba Bringer of Opportunity
Behind Me—dips Eternity— Before Me—Immortality— Myself—the Term between— Death but the Drift of Eastern Gray, Dissolving into Dawn away, Before the West begin— —Emily Dickinson
When we come to the crossroads, we are forced to make a
choice. If we travel down one path, we cannot travel down the other. The crossroads have always been a place of meeting and a place of separations, a place for hellos and goodbyes. They are places where villages have sprung up, where trading centers were established, where people began their journeys, and where people made their way home. In Africa the crossroads were seen as a symbol of the creation of the universe and the location where the human and the spirit worlds intersected. Africa itself is a crossroads, where various cultures and traditions have mingled for millennia. Long before the Yoruba and Fon peoples were brought together in chains to St. Dominique, they were trading, making war, and exchanging religious concepts. The crossroads g uardian 63
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whom the Yoruba honored as Exu or Alegbara (and who is still honored as Ellegua in Cuba) became “Legba” among the Fon people of Daome (modern-day Benin). Today he remains one of the most revered spirits in Beninois Vodun and in Haitian Vodou, where he is served as Legba, the guardian of the gate.
Legba in Haiti When you first see Legba, you might think he is a shabby beggar rather than a powerful spirit. Limping down the road with his cane, he smokes a corncob pipe and carries a straw bag as his faithful dogs follow at his heels. But when you are dealing with Legba, you must remember that appearances can be deceiving. Legba’s humble appearance conceals deep mysteries. Vodouisants say that Legba limps because he has one foot in this world and one foot in the world of spirit. The cane that supports him is actually the axis of the universe, about which everything turns. His sack holds not only his pipe and his few belongings, but also blessings and curses, which he scatters as he goes. Legba may look unimportant, but he is the guardian of the gateway between the worlds. No spirit can enter this plane without Legba’s permission. Thus, he is the first lwa saluted at any Vodou ceremony. Like the Greek Hermes, Legba carries messages between people and the spirits, and, like the Greek Hermes, he can be a trickster. We must remember that Legba is the Great Communicator, but also the Great Miscommunicator. He is fond of riddles, paradoxes, and ambiguities. He allows us to speak with the gods, but often plays tricks with their messages. He gives diviners a glimpse into the future, knowing full well they will misinterpret his statements. In one of the paradoxes so beloved by Legba, he governs both destiny and uncertainty. He opens the way for both destruction and creation; he is chaos in the service of order. Given his fondness for ambiguity, we can hardly be surprised that Legba chooses to wear multiple masks. Many Haitian Vodouisants use
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images of St. Lazarus, the lame beggar who walks with a crutch, to symbolize Legba. Other houses use lithographs of St. Peter, the “guardian of the gates of heaven,” who is pictured standing before a doorway and holding keys. Still others use St. Anthony of Padua (the patron saint of lost items), while in other houses you may see Legba represented by St. Jude, St. Christopher, St. Roch, or other saints who are pictured leaning against a staff. Nor should we be surprised to find that some congregations honor him with yellow scarves, while others salute him with red and white, and still others with red and black. Some swear that he is served on Wednesday, while others pay him homage on Tuesday, and still others say Monday is his day. All agree that he opens the door for the other spirits, but after that things get complicated—which is just the way Legba likes them! Legba may be one of the most important of the spirits, but he hasn’t let his position go to his head. An occasional cup of strong black coffee, some grilled corn or peanuts (liberally sprinkled with cayenne pepper to warm his old bones), and a little tobacco for his corncob pipe will suit him just fine. He also enjoys an occasional drink of rum or gin, and a candle to light his way. With a straw hat to protect his head from the sun, a straw bag to hold his things, and a cane to support him, Legba is all set to travel around the world, leaving communication and confusion, blessings and burdens, and discipline and mischief in his wake. Some tricksters are considered emblems of evil; indeed, many folklorists have mistaken “the old man at the crossroads” for the devil. In Haiti, Legba is well liked and considered a benevolent spirit. His humble nature and his simple needs have endeared him to the community, which has fondly named him Atibon Legba. (In the best truly Legbaesque ambiguity, this name has been translated variously as “Good Little Legba” or “Legba the Old Tree.”)
Calling on Legba If you are going to work with Vodou, you are going to have to call on Legba. Every spell that deals with the lwa should begin by offering
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Legba a bit of whatever you are bringing to the other spirits, and with a request that Legba open the door for you. Legba is not demanding; he will be content with a few drops of rum, some pennies, or a piece of candy, along with a simple, “Hello, Papa Legba. I want to speak to the lwa, and would appreciate it if you could open the door for me.” However, if he is not given these offerings and if his position is not recognized, he will not allow any of the other lwa to come to you. You can burn candles, pour libations, and chant for hours—but without Legba’s assistance, all your spellcasting efforts will be in vain. You can also serve Legba in his own right, not just as the opener of the gateway for the other lwa. Legba is a powerful spirit who can help us in matters of communication, remove obstacles from our path, and “open the door” for positive changes in our lives. He’s one of the least demanding and most forgiving of the lwa, and he can bring us all kinds of new opportunities, romantic and otherwise. Working with Legba will help to ensure that your love life, along with every other aspect of your life, stays interesting. You can expect just about anything from Legba—anything but boredom, that is. To represent Legba you can use an image of St. Lazarus (see plate 4). They are readily available in most Haitian and Cuban botanicas. (In Cuba, San Lazaro represents not Legba but Babalu-Aye, a powerful spirit of healing and disease who is not served in Haitian Vodou.) You may also use one of the other saint images discussed above or some other figure. I’ve seen Ganesh, the Hindu bringer of luck and opener of doorways, used to represent Legba—and I know at least one Vodouisant who represents Legba with Bugs Bunny, that wascally purveyor of mirth and disorder. When in doubt, you can just ask Legba what he wants, and don’t be surprised if you get a bizarre answer. (“Should I serve you on Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday?” “On Thursday . . . and bring me a bobblehead dog. But not a Chihuahua. Those things make too much noise.”) Before you ask Legba for any favors, remember that he has a keen sense of humor and loves taking you by surprise. When he comes through for you, it’s likely to be in a totally unexpected and surprising
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way. He may even make you feel like a fool on occasion. If this happens, the best thing to do is laugh with him and learn from the experience. Everyone’s ego can use a little deflating on occasion, and Legba is notorious for letting the wind out of the pompous and self-important. He’s often fond of concealing great wisdom in puns and verbal games . . . so you may want to contemplate his jokes and requests and see what you can learn from them. You should also be aware that sometimes Legba can leave you feeling like your whole world has been turned upside down. You may feel like everything is falling apart, like everything you counted on has failed you. Yet after the smoke clears, you’ll generally find that you’re in a much better place. You’ll discover that those things you considered important really weren’t so important after all. People you never noticed, but who were right under your nose all along, will prove to be true friends and great lovers. As a tour guide, Papa Legba may take you through some rough neighborhoods, but you’ll usually find that you’re more than satisfied with the final destination. You should ask Legba for help only if you really want his help. I’ve met many clients who wanted to talk about their problems, who wanted to complain about their problems, who wanted to meditate on their problems—but who didn’t really want to DO anything about those problems. Legba can open the door for you, but for the best results you’ll have to go through the door yourself and see what you find there. If you sit around waiting for Legba to change your life, one of two things may happen. Either he will ignore you and nothing will happen . . . or he will notice you and make those changes despite your most fevered efforts to preserve the status quo. Above all, you should remember Legba enjoys a good laugh and much prefers happiness to sadness. His jokes may occasionally sting, but in the end he likes to tie up all the loose ends and make sure the good guys get what is coming to them. Think of him as a kindly grandparent who loves to amuse you. Approach Legba with a fully functioning sense of humor and you’ll find that he’s happy to keep you happy.
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Legba's Opening the Door Spell Whenever you’re feeling like you could use a little extra luck in romance—or anything else—you can go to your doorway and sprinkle some rum over the threshold. Welcome Papa Legba in, and tell him you need his assistance. Give him a candle in his preferred color and a glass of rum, and promise him that if and when things pick up you’ll make him some peanut butter and cayenne pepper sandwiches, or some other treat that he suggests. For a little extra oomph, you can even offer him a special present. Like any doorman or gatekeeper, Legba responds favorably to tips and gifts. If you provide for Legba, he will provide for you. By giving him occasional offerings, you can ensure that he will “open the door” for good things. To begin this spell, you need a small box. In that box you will place a corncob pipe and some pipe tobacco. You can also put in a little roasted corn, some popcorn, some change from your pockets, and a flight-size bottle of rum. If you have any particular wishes, you can write them down on a piece of paper and insert them in the box along with everything else. For example, you might add “I want to find a new boyfriend” or “I’d like to be more popular with the ladies.” Of course, you should also add a note thanking Legba for the good things he has done for you already. Close this box and wrap it in whatever gift paper strikes your fancy. Place a bow on top of it, and add a label: “To Papa Legba, from (your name).” Light a candle in Legba’s favored color, and pour him a glass of rum. Invite him to come and pick up his present. Now you need to put the box someplace where Legba can reach it. If you have your own yard, dig a hole by your front door. Now place the package in the hole, sprinkle it with a little more rum, and then cover it up again. This will ensure that Legba stays by your door and keeps on bringing good fortune in romance, finance, and everything else. If you cannot do this—if you live in an apartment building or if you don’t have a yard for some other reason—go to the nearest crossroads where you can dig a hole and
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bury it there. If you can’t even do that, you can just leave the box by the crossroads; Legba will still be able to pick it up and will still appreciate the gesture. If you’re going to leave Legba’s present by a crossroads where it can be seen by other people, you may not want to leave your name on the box. Instead, put “Your Secret Admirer” and insert your initials. If you have a magical name that is not widely known, you can use that; you can also use a nickname, draw a cartoon picture of yourself, leave an inked thumbprint on the label, or otherwise do something that will ensure that Legba knows who sent him the gift, but nobody else will. You may also want to make sure not to leave the package anyplace where it might be mistaken for a bomb. Put it in high grass or behind some kind of concealment in a relatively deserted area if at all possible. Now that you have done this, be on the lookout for new opportunities. You may meet a new partner or suddenly cross paths with an old flame. You may discover that your perfect man has just moved in down the street or that the lovely librarian at the reference desk has suddenly come into a pair of ballet tickets and needs someone to accompany her. If you’re particularly pleased by the outcome, feel free to leave Legba another present. He will appreciate the thought and will remember you the next time he has some extra good fortune in his bag.
Legba's Matchmaker, Matchmaker Spell Many lonely people complain about how there are no eligible singles in their area. Unless they’re living on a desert island or in the middle of a deep and impenetrable forest, they are probably mistaken. The problem is generally not a lack of people—it’s a lack of opportunities to meet them. All too often we live like suburban hermits: we awaken in our apartment, surrounded by neighbors we barely know. We get in our car alone, and drive to our job, where we sit next to dozens or hundreds of fellow strangers . . . then we go home and watch TV or engage in other
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solitary pursuits. The world now has more people than ever, but fewer places where we interact with each other. In our wasteland of condos and cubicles, we need help breaking through those barriers and connecting with like-minded people. And when you need someone to help you with introductions, you couldn’t ask for a better matchmaker than Papa Legba. He can arrange things so that you’ll have a much easier time meeting prospective suitors. To perform Legba’s Matchmaker, Matchmaker Spell, you first need to figure out what kind of partner you want. What is most important to you? Do you want someone who is educated? Do you want someone who is handsome? Do you want a partner who enjoys your hobbies? Think about this for a little while. Now, go to a place that represents the qualities you are looking for in a partner. If you are looking for someone wealthy, you might go to a bank; if you are looking for someone who is a great writer, you might go to a library or a bookstore. Go to the crossroads that is nearest to the building and take a pinch of dirt from the side of the road (if you are in an urban area where dirt is scarce, you can take a bit of dust from the cracks in the sidewalk or from any trees or decorative plants standing nearby). Place that in a red flannel bag. Take another pinch of dirt from a place near the entrance of the building. (You can do this with several buildings if you have a couple of requests. You could take dirt from a bank and a library if you wanted to find a rich writer, for example. But remember Legba’s sense of humor, and be advised that you might wind up getting introduced to the guy who runs the newsstand outside your local savings and loan.) Now that you have this dirt in a bag, take it home. Light a sevenday candle, in whatever color Legba requests. Pour Legba a glass of rum, and provide him with a plate of popcorn sprinkled with cayenne pepper. Sprinkle a few drops of rum on the ground and invite Papa Legba in. Explain to him that you’re looking for a partner and would like him to introduce you to some eligible people. Add a little cayenne to your bag, then pass it quickly through the candle flame and sprinkle it with
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rum. This will “heat it up” and help draw the person you’re looking for. Now take the bag and put it in a safe place where no one but you will see it. (If someone else discovers it or if it turns up missing—as often happens when dealing with Legba—redo the spell.) Feed it periodically by sprinkling it with rum, and talk to it like you would talk to Papa Legba. Once this spell is completed, you’re going to have to do your part. Legba will help you meet new partners, but you will make his job much easier if you actually go out to places where you can meet people. If you’re looking for long-term relationships, “singles bars” are probably not your best bet; instead, try attending a group that is dedicated to your hobbies or interests. Political rallies can be good places to meet others who share your beliefs. Working with a volunteer organization can help you to meet compassionate, caring, and concerned people—all ideal traits in a prospective partner. The possibilities are endless, especially when Legba is involved. Try not to focus too much on romance. At best this will blind you to prospective friendships, while at worst it will give you an aura of desperation that may scare off potential love interests. Legba is fond of creating elaborate “Rube Goldberg” situations in which everything works out after a shaggy dog story that involves coincidences, synchronicity, friends-of-friends, and everything else but the kitchen sink. It’s entirely possible that the friend you meet after some chaotic near-accident will wind up introducing you to a second cousin who just happens to know someone whom you really should take out on a date.
Legba's Closing the Gate Spell Sometimes you want Papa Legba to open the door for new opportunity. At other times you would like him to close the door on old problems. Once Legba shuts the door on something, it can no longer harm you. It is on one side of an impenetrable barrier, and you are on the other. When you want to get rid of past baggage and move on, why not leave it
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with Papa Legba? Combined with effort on your part, Legba’s Closing the Gate Spell will help you to forget old lovers or overcome ingrained habits that have caused you unhappiness. To begin this spell, use a yellow candle (or a red candle, or a white candle, or whatever color you feel Legba prefers). You will also need a black bag. A garbage sack will work just fine and, indeed, may be ideal for this spell. You will also need some objects that remind you of your problem, a little bit of rum, and some popcorn sprinkled with cayenne pepper. Finally, you will need a smooth stone, one you can comfortably grasp in your fist. Put the rum, popcorn, and candle on a yellow cloth or on some other surface that appeals to Legba. Place the stone, objects, and bag nearby, where you can reach them easily. If I gave you a specific time to do this, he would insist on another date altogether—so I’ll save us both the confusion and say that you can do this on any day you wish, so long as you first ask Legba how he wants you to do it. Let’s say you are trying to forget about an ex who has been on your mind despite your best efforts to forget him or her. You will gather any gifts that he or she gave you and anything you have that reminds you of the times you were together. Now place it in that bag. If you are trying to overcome a bad habit, you will place things that remind you of that habit in the bag. If your gambling habit caused your last relationship to break up, you would place a racing form or some old betting tickets in the bag. If you let other people take advantage of you, you could get a doormat to symbolize your issue. Use your imagination and be creative. What is important is that you see the symbol as a representation of your problem and that it has meaning to you. Now take the stone and grip it firmly. As you do, pour all of your hurt, all of your pain, and all of your anger into that stone. All the suffering this problem has caused you, all the misery you remember from that relationship, is going into that stone. When your hand aches, when sweat is beading on your brow, and when there’s no more negativity to be pumped into that stone, you can let go of it. Now dump it into the bag along with the things you placed in there before. As you do, feel
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that suffering leaving you. It is now trapped in this stone, where it cannot affect you anymore. Light the candle. Sprinkle a few drops of rum on the floor and invite Papa Legba in. Tell him that you have a special gift for him. Present him with the cayenne-covered popcorn. If you want to include something else—a little sweet candy, some Red Hots, a corncob pipe, and some tobacco—feel free. Put this in the bag along with your problems and your stone. Tie the bag tightly, so that nothing you have put in it can escape. As you tie that bag, you are placing all those things in Papa Legba’s realm, in the space between our world and the world of spirit. Take the bag to a garbage can located at a crossroads, and dump it there. As you do, say, “Here you go, Papa Legba. It’s all yours. Take it away from me. I don’t want it anymore. Do whatever you want with it, but please make sure it doesn’t come back to me.” Now turn around, and don’t look behind your shoulder. Go home by a different route than the one you took, all the while looking forward. When you get back, take a shower or bath and change your clothes. Of course, this is not a cure-all. Legba may take your problem away from you. He may close the door on your problem and open the way to a new and better future—but it will be up to you to pass through that door. Now that you have given Legba your problem, you will need to take some time to fix the damage that the problem caused. Join a twelve-step group; see a therapist; take some time to heal from your broken heart. Make positive steps toward positive changes. You’ve been freed of a burden. What you do with that new freedom is up to you.
Damballah Bringer of Transformation
I am the serpent Sata whose years are infinite. I lie down dead. I am born daily. I am the serpent Sa-en-ta, the dweller in the uttermost parts of the earth. I lie down in death. I am born, I become new, I renew my youth every day. —Papyrus of Ani (Egyptian Book of the Dead)1
In the Western world, snakes have received a bad rap. In Christian
mythology they are most notoriously connected with Satan, who took serpent guise to tempt Eve in the Garden of Eden. Sneaky or treacherous people are scorned as “snakes in the grass,” and people trying to sell dubious products are accused of peddling “snake oil.” Snakes are called deadly even though most are nonvenomous and even the most lethal snakes will generally try to flee and bite only in self-defense and as a last resort. They are called slimy when in fact their skin is dry, soft, and silky. And all this bad press ignores the fact that pollution, destruction of habitat, and “snake hunts” kill far more snakes than snakes kill people! Not every culture has shared our dislike of serpents. In India, cobras 74
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are revered as nagas, wise snake spirits. Because they shed their skin, Hindus consider snakes a symbol of rebirth, immortality, and healing. The ancient Persians paid tribute to the great serpent Azhi Dahaka, creator of all the planets in the sky. The Gnostics had the Ouroborous, the snake devouring its tail. And the Fon and Ewe of Daome (modernday Benin) had the great serpent Da. Some say Fon looked up at the faint foggy light of the Milky Way and saw starlight reflecting off Daâ€™s scales. Others said he lived beneath the oceans, sheltered from the blistering African heat. Those who placed Da in the sky pointed to snakes that climbed trees to reach heaven; those who believed he lived below the sea reminded them that serpents favored water and could often be found near pools and streams. In Haiti, the slaves were brought together and agreed upon a compromise. Damballah, the Great Serpent of Haitian Vodou, stretches from the heavens to the depths; he can be found in the sky and beneath the oceans.
Damballah in Haiti Damballah is one of the most ancient of the lwa, so ancient that he can remember the time when the reptiles ruled the earth. He does not speak, nor does he walk. While other spirits may give specific advice or engage in entertaining chatter with their followers, Damballah brings peace with his very presence. He reminds us all of our beginnings and sees our suffering from the vantage point of eons, where even the worst difficulties appear trivial. He does not give us trivial gifts, but blesses us with the wisdom of ages. A person possessed by Damballah will fall to the ground and slither like a snake. Sometimes he will climb trees without using hands or feet, the way a serpent climbs. (When this happens, the Houngans and Mambos present will try desperately to coax Papa Damballah down, lest he depart and leave his servant stranded in a tree!) At other times he will seek water in which to cool himself, the way a large snake will
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seek the shelter of cool, shallow ponds. Those present will throw a white sheet on the ground when Damballah comes so that he doesn’t have to crawl in the dirt; they will put another sheet over him to shield him from the sun and from the prying eyes of the profane. Damballah’s color is pure, snowy white. He is fed with a white egg, which is placed atop a heap of white flour on a white saucer. The person possessed by Damballah will break the shell with his or her teeth and drink the yolk, much as a snake will consume an egg. When Damballah is being called, the area is sprinkled with Lotion Pompeia; if it is not available, rose water is used. He is given sirop d’orgeat (orgeat syrup), an almond and sugar-water concoction, to drink. Images of St. Patrick, the bishop famed for casting the snakes out of Ireland, are often used for Damballah. Other houses use pictures of Moses, the ancient white-bearded prophet; still others use images of white snakes. In Africa, Da’s temples frequently feature dozens of live pythons, while many villages in Benin still keep large snakes in their granaries to bring Da’s blessing and keep rodents from eating the grain. (This is rare today in Haiti, as the destruction of the Haitian forests has made boa constrictors and other large serpents far less common in Haiti.) In Haiti, Damballah’s feast day is celebrated on March 17, St. Patrick’s Day. Thursdays are Damballah’s day. Many writers of pulp fiction and B movies equated Damballah with the “evil serpent” of Christian legend. This says more about their fear of snakes—and African culture—than about Damballah. Damballah is actually the most benevolent and gentle of the lwa. Unlike some fierce, “hot” spirits, Damballah is considered the “coolest” of the lwa. He does not move quickly, but when he moves nothing can stop him.
Calling on Damballah White saucers, white seven-day candles, white flour, white eggs, and white silk cloths should be easy enough to find anywhere. Pompeia Lotion may be more difficult to locate. If you don’t have a botanica
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in your area, you can purchase it online or substitute rose water. You should have no difficulty locating an image of St. Patrick, particularly in the weeks leading up to St. Patrick’s Day. Should you not feel particularly drawn to St. Patrick, you can use an image of Moses or a picture of a white serpent. If you do not have the space to put up a permanent Damballah shrine, you can set up a temporary table and take it down after you finish your work or your offerings. Damballah loves purity and cleanliness. Place a clean white cloth atop any surface that will hold Damballah’s things. You should also clean the surface beforehand with Pompeia Lotion or rose water, and make sure the room in which you are doing the work is neat and tidy. Before doing any work with Damballah, you should take a shower or bath, then put on clean (and preferably white) clothes. He dislikes the smells of alcohol and burning tobacco, so do not smoke or drink alcohol around any shrine you have created for him. Damballah also does not like the scent of blood, so do not offer anything to Damballah if you are menstruating or if you have an open cut or wound. Refrain from using profanity around his things, and avoid arguments, idle chatter, and “hot-tempered” behavior. These demands may seem a bit intimidating, but there’s no reason to be afraid. Because he is the oldest of the spirits, Damballah is also one of the most understanding. Much as a parent will gladly display a scrawled crayon drawing at the office, Damballah will be pleased with any gift given to him with a pure heart and sincere reverence. You don’t have to approach him with terror or lie awake at night worrying that you didn’t make things clean enough before lighting his candle. Your honest best efforts will be enough for him. (Of course, the more effort you put in to making things nice for Damballah, the happier he will be.) Damballah is a powerful and compassionate elder, not a spirit you approach with trivial problems. Keep in mind that his definition of “trivial” may differ from yours. Much as children frequently want toys they don’t really need, we often want things that aren’t really
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that important or that might even be harmful to our well-being. We may think that our lives will never be complete until that cute person who works in the office across the hall pays attention to us. We may be certain that we’ve met our One True Soulmate and are prepared to throw everything else aside for him or her. And meanwhile Damballah watches, faintly amused at the things with which the youngsters occupy themselves. This detachment does not mean that Damballah is not interested in our well-being. He will not interfere with the lessons we need to learn, but he will not allow us to suffer unnecessarily. When the need arises, the slow-moving serpent can strike with tremendous force and speed. Damballah will protect his children and ensure their well-being, even if he doesn’t indulge their every whim. As the Father of Creation, he has our best interest in mind . . . even though sometimes we don’t realize it. Instead of calling on Damballah to do “work” on your behalf, call on him to bring you tranquility and calm. His presence can bring you a powerful peace of mind and can help you to recover from emotional hurts. If you are dealing with a broken heart or suffering the effects of emotional, sexual, or physical abuse, you will find Damballah to be a caring and compassionate healer. He can help you to overcome past hurts and can give you serenity and hope when everything else has failed. Much as you call on Legba to open the door before working with any other lwa, you should call on Damballah before you begin any important spiritual (or mundane) project. His presence will clear your head and give you the ability to assess your situation objectively. Those who begin working with love spells are frequently overwhelmed and emotionally distraught. If you’re reeling from an unexpected breakup, calling on Damballah can help you get your bearings. This will put you in a place where you can decide what, if anything, you need to do about your breakup. You will be able to function from a place of strength, not desperation.
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Damballah's White Bath In the short term, stress can cause irritability and depression; if it continues, it can lead to physical illness. Few things are more stressful than romantic difficulties. If you’re dealing with loneliness or with the pains of a crumbling relationship, you may well need peace of mind and tranquility before you look for anything else. Damballah’s White Bath can help get you back on the right track. The White Bath works both as a cleansing and as a cooling bath. It cleanses by removing the negative energy you have picked up in your daily life. Much as soap and water removes dirt, the White Bath removes psychic debris and grime. It also cools and soothes, helping you to overcome “spiritual inflammation.” Regular use of the White Bath can help you with controlling your temper and with overcoming fears and anxieties. Whenever you feel overwhelmed, a White Bath can help you become more grounded, focused, and centered. For best results, you should prepare this bath on a Thursday (Damballah’s day) or a Sunday. Try to respect Damballah’s taboos against smoke, alcohol, and blood: it’s best to avoid this spell if you are menstruating or if you have been smoking or drinking. However, if you are in a seriously bad way, you can do this at any time. It’s probably best to do it after sundown or at night, since you’re going to be sleeping in white clothing soon afterward. It is prepared using condensed milk, sugar, rose water (or Pompeia Lotion if you can find it), white flower petals, and a quart or so of clean spring water (bottled spring water from a store is fine if you don’t have access to a spring). You will also need a white seven-day candle, a clean white washcloth, and a fresh bar of white soap. Sprinkle a few drops of rose water or Pompeia Lotion on the floor. Ask Papa Legba to open the gate so Papa Damballah can come down. Light the white candle and greet him. Add a pinch of sugar to the spring water, and ask Damballah to make you sweeter. Add the white flower petals and the condensed milk, and ask him to make you more pure.
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Present the bath to him; feel his ancient, benevolent presence flowing through the room and filling the bath with his cool peace. After you have presented the bath to Papa Damballah, you can get undressed and step in the shower. Take the fresh bar of soap and the white washcloth and clean yourself thoroughly. Make sure you’re wellscrubbed and clean before the next step; as you remove the physical dirt from your body imagine that you are removing spiritual dirt as well. Not only will this prepare you for Papa Damballah’s blessings, it will also help you to get rid of psychic gunk and “bad vibes.” Now that you are clean, pour the White Bath over your head. As it washes over your body, feel Papa Damballah’s energy pouring over you. He is calming all your fears; he is stilling all your nagging doubts; he is cooling your anger and your resentment. His presence as he descends upon you cools your pain like healing salve cools a sunburn. As the White Bath rolls down your body and toward the drain, it takes that pain and suffering with it. Now step out of the shower and let this air dry. Do not towel off, but put on some clean white clothing. (White sweat pants and a white T-shirt will do.) Prepare your bed with clean white sheets if you can, and sleep alone for the night if possible. At the very least, do not have sexual intercourse on the night when you do this. Sexual intercourse “heats” you and raises your energy; after doing this you want to stay cool for at least a day. Avoid getting into arguments or any kind of excitement. You should also avoid alcohol and other mind-altering substances. Instead of stimulants like coffee or tea, drink warm milk (soy milk if you’re lactose intolerant or vegan) or lots of clean fresh water. Meditate or engage in other calm, peaceful activities, and try to get some rest. This bath is a good precursor to any kind of spiritual work. Since Damballah is considered one of the oldest lwa, he is frequently called upon by Vodouisants before they undertake any kind of operation. They believe that his ancient wisdom will help them to make the right decision and ensure that their magic is powerful and rightly aimed.
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Damballah and the Transmutation of Love I’ve dealt with many clients who have asked me to bring back a former lover. They weren’t concerned with the fact that their former lover was happy with a new partner. They didn’t ask whether a reconciliation would be in the best interests of their former lover. When their efforts at love spells prove futile, they often end up asking me to cast a curse. “Make their new lover leave them,” they hiss through clenched teeth. “Let them suffer the way they made ME suffer!” These people confuse love with the desire to possess. They “love” their target the way I might “love” a new sports car. I might think that car was very pretty and might wish that I had the money to purchase one . . . but would I have an unselfish interest in its well-being? I might “love” that car, but I probably wouldn’t say, “I have the money to buy you, but I think that this nice lady who is only going to drive you to church on Sundays will be able to take better care of you. Because I’m concerned about your well-being, I’m going to step aside and let her purchase you. Good luck, little car.” True, unselfish love empowers us: it makes us more noble and transforms us into a vessel through which the Divine can work in the world. Possessive love is a distraction at best and an addiction at worst. Much as an unchecked desire for alcohol or hard drugs can turn us into a shell of our former selves, an unchecked desire to own another’s heart and soul can destroy us. It fills us with jealousy, hatred, fear, and all the other negative emotions that bind us to the past and keep us from moving forward. If you’re trying to get over a breakup and honestly want the best for you and for your former partner, you can call on Damballah to transform your selfish desire into unselfish love. In the short term, this will help you to overcome your feelings of bitterness and resentment; in the long run, this will make both of you better and stronger people. To perform Damballah’s Transmutation of Love Spell, you will need
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one set of clean white clothes and one set of clean old clothes you don’t need anymore. You will also need a white candle, some spring water, and a white saucer with a heap of flour on it and an egg atop that heap. Be sure to wash the egg thoroughly before you put it on the flour, and be sure to wash the plate thoroughly before you pour the flour. Begin this spell by putting your old clothes aside, then take a shower or a bath. (If you have the time and resources available, take a White Bath.) Make sure you are thoroughly clean, then put on your white clothing. Afterward put on your old clothes on top of the white clothes. Go to the room where you are going to do the spell. Sprinkle a few drops of water on the floor, and ask Papa Legba to open the door so Damballah can come in. Light Damballah’s candle. Now greet Papa Damballah. Tell him how happy you are that he has come, and offer him the egg and flour you have prepared for him. Now unburden your heart to him: let him know how much you’re hurting. Explain that you want to heal, and you want what is best for you and for your former partner. Tell him how the love you once felt for each other has now become a chain holding both of you down. Ask him to transform your desire for your former partner into an appreciation for what you had and a love without jealousy, without possessiveness, and without bitterness. As you are speaking, imagine Damballah slithering around you and wrapping you in his coils (see plate 5). Feel his cool, white light and his soft, dry skin. (Contrary to popular belief, snakes are not “slimy.”) He is sharing his power with you; he is giving you the ability to transform. As a snake can shed its skin, you can shed your hurt and longing and become a new person. As his power fills you, remove your old clothes, revealing the clean white clothes beneath. The old clothes that you have shed represent your old life, your old pain. The white clothes are the new you; your bitterness and anger have been transformed like the snake is transformed. Your old, limited love has been replaced by a love that is without limits. You can love your ex for what he or she did for you. Your ex is now free . . . and so
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are you. The benefits you received from each other are still there, but you are now a different person. Snuff out the white candle. Throw out the old clothing. Take the flour and the egg to the crossroads and leave it there, so that Papa Legba can bring it to Damballah. Come home and rest, then take things easy for the next day or two. You’ve just shed your old skin, and you need some time to rest and recuperate.
Healing Wounds with Damballah Some people reading this book are recovering from emotional, physical, or sexual abuse. Others may have a history of abusing or mistreating their partners. Sometimes the lines between the two are blurred. Children who grow up in abusive homes learn to accept wife-beating or screaming temper tantrums as standard behavior . . . and often re-enact those childhood lessons in adulthood. This does not justify abuse, nor does it minimize the harm that abusers can cause. (If anything, it increases the danger of abuse: a blow or an unkind word can reverberate for generations to come.) However, it should remind us that abusers are not necessarily monsters, and those who stay with abusive partners are not necessarily “doormats.” They may be playing through old dramas, unaware that they can change their situation. If you are a victim of abuse, you need to know that you don’t deserve to be physically or emotionally battered. Unfortunately, you may not be in a place where you can understand that. Your abuser may have you convinced that you can’t make it on your own, and you may not feel like you will ever be able to find anything better than what you have right now. By going to Papa Damballah and asking him for healing, you will be able to find the strength you need to do the right thing. He will help you to leave an abusive relationship—and help you to avoid falling into another one. Perhaps you are an abusive spouse who wants to change. You feel
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awful about yourself, and you don’t want to hurt your loved one, but over and over again you find yourself replaying the dramas that you witnessed growing up. You feel like you can’t tell anyone about your problems, because they would only condemn you, and what’s worse, you feel like that’s exactly what you deserve. If you really want to overcome this problem, for your sake and for your family’s sake, you can count on Papa Damballah’s help. Please understand that this is not going to be an easy or a painless transformation. You will have to make arrangements to deal with real-world issues. You may have to talk to your local police department about a restraining order; you may have to turn yourself in on outstanding warrants relating to your past misbehavior. You may not be able to repair the damage that has already been done to your relationship. Your spouse may not take well to your leaving, and may become even more abusive once you are outside his control. You are going to be facing a lot of different issues, often with little or no help from others. It’s going to be rough . . . but when you are done, you will be a better and a happier person than you are now. To start this spell, you will need a white saucer, some flour, some spring water, a bit of condensed milk, a white washcloth, some rose water or Lotion Pompeia, and an egg. Before you begin, sprinkle some rose water on the floor and ask Legba to open the way so Damballah can come down to visit you. Now light a white seven-day candle, and prepare Damballah’s healing bath. Add the flour, condensed milk, rose water, and Pompeia to a basin or wide-mouthed jar filled with cool spring water. As you are doing so, call on Damballah and ask him to bless this bath and fill it with his power so he can cleanse and heal you. Stand in your bathtub or shower, then pour the bath over your head. As you do, feel Damballah coming over you and blessing you with his presence. Now wash yourself thoroughly with the washcloth. As you scrub yourself, imagine that you are cleansing away the dead weight of the past. You are removing the scars that have formed over your old
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emotional wounds, leaving them open once again. The abuse you have witnessed, the abuse you have suffered, the anguish you have carried with you—all this is being brought to the surface so that it can be properly healed. This is likely to be traumatic; go with the pain. Much as doctors remove the dead tissue from burns so that they can heal properly, you must remove layers of “coping” and “forgetting” so that you can truly overcome your suffering. Don’t be afraid to cry or scream; don’t try to minimize your anger or your hurt. When you are clean, put on clean white clothes. Place a small pile of flour on the saucer; atop this pile place an unbroken egg. Offer this to Damballah. Now take the egg and rub it over your body, starting at your toes and working your way up. As you run the smooth, cool shell over your skin, feel Damballah’s healing energy soaking through you. As his cool, white skin presses against yours, you can feel your wounds beginning to heal. The poison that has infected you is flowing into the egg, leaving you healthy for the first time in a very long time. It will not happen instantly, or even overnight, but it will happen. Take the egg out to the crossroads, and throw it behind your shoulder. Leave, and don’t look back. This is the first step in your healing process. Now you have to start doing things for yourself. Find a local support group. If you have been abusive to partners, look for a Batterers Anonymous group in your area or an anger management class. If you have been the victim of abuse, do whatever you need to do to ensure your safety. The mistakes you have made in your past are just that—past mistakes. You have the rest of your life to do the right thing. If you really want to change and break the cycle of abuse, you can do it now.
Freda Bringer of Beauty
All these things have you said of beauty. Yet in truth you spoke not of her but of needs unsatisfied, And beauty is not a need but an ecstasy. It is not a mouth thirsting nor an empty hand stretched forth, But rather a heart enflamed and a soul enchanted. It is not the image you would see nor the song you would hear, But rather an image you see though you close your eyes and a song you hear though you shut your ears. It is not the sap within the furrowed bark, nor a wing attached to a claw, But rather a garden for ever in bloom and a flock of angels for ever in flight. â€”Kahlil Gibran1
With annual per capita income of less than $400 and an esti-
mated 80 percent of the population living in poverty, Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and one of the poorest countries in the world.2 The daily struggle to survive leaves most Haitians with 86
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little time to worry about the finer things in life. Wealth is something they can barely dream of. Yet despite this (or perhaps because of this) Ezili Freda, lwa of beauty and luxury, is one of Haiti’s most well-loved and frequently served spirits. And her popularity is not just limited to Haiti or to Vodou: around the world many people have come to serve and adore this beautiful and loving (albeit sometimes temperamental and demanding) spirit. If you want to be more attractive, you couldn’t ask for a better teacher than Ezili Freda.*
Freda in Haiti In Haiti, wealth and status are intimately connected to skin color. For more than two hundred years, Haitian culture has been divided into a small ruling class of light-skinned milats (mulattos) and a much larger group of impoverished, dark-skinned negs (literally, “blacks” although a more accurate translation might be “poor person”). Freda is seen as having “European” features: light skin and long, straight hair. She speaks French, the language of the ruling class, rather than Kreyol, which is more commonly heard in the streets of Port-au-Prince and on the subsistence farms of the Haitian interior. Like the tales of the Fair Princess and the Beautiful Queen that we find in European folk tales, Freda is an image of wealth seen from the perspective of poor people. When Freda arrives at a ceremony, water is sprinkled on the ground so she will not be choked with dust. Perfume is spread on the floor so she will not be offended by any bad smells. If the preparations are lacking in any way, she will break down in tears. Her followers are quick to offer her presents and tributes. A poor Haitian laborer may save for weeks or months to buy Freda a bottle of perfume or a pretty dress; he may spend his life savings to marry her. They are also quick to console *“Ezili” (also spelled “Erzulie”) is Freda’s family name: she is sister to Ezili Danto and several other “Ezilis” like Gran Ezili (Grandmother Ezili) and Ezili la Belle Venus (Ezili the Beautiful Venus), patroness of our société.
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her when she breaks down in tears, sobbing at the many ways in which reality falls short of her dreams. Freda understands how her followers long for beautiful things that are beyond their reach, because she also longs for things that she cannot have. Like them she dreams, and like them she is often disappointed. Freda is married to three lwa—the great serpent Damballah, the mighty warrior Ogou Ferraille, and Met Agwe, king of the ocean. Yet in each case she is more mistress than wife. Agwe’s primary partner is the mermaid La Sirene, while Damballah favors the rainbow goddess Aida Wedo, and Ogou is partial to Freda’s sister, the hardworking country woman Ezili Danto. Freda constantly seeks an unattainable love. She may be wealthier and more beautiful than the people who serve her, but they know how she shares her suffering. Freda is filled with love and wants to share it with others. When Freda arrives at a ceremony, she will often hug and kiss the men who are present, and will propose marriage to those she finds particularly attractive. In exchange for marrying Freda and pledging the first Thursday of each month to her, Vodouisants believe she will look after their wellbeing and ensure their prosperity and health. Many Haitians believe effeminate gay men are ruled by Freda. (Some say that she likes them so much that she made them gay—that way no other woman could have them!) Freda is less affectionate with women. Most often she will acknowledge their presence with a nod or a quick handshake. As beautiful as Freda is, she is also very insecure. She often sees other women as competition for the affections and favors of men. Women who work with Freda must frequently lavish her with lots of attention, affection, and flattery. Only then will Freda be able to overcome her mistrust and accept them as dear friends and devoted servants. While most men are happy to be favored by Freda, they are sometimes fearful of her attentions. The marriage ceremony can be expensive, particularly since Freda demands the best you can give her. Still, they are reluctant to reject her proposal. They believe that if Freda is
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spurned, she will throw a jealous fit and bring them misfortune and romantic bad luck. Freda can be a demanding mistress, but she is so beautiful and so loving that most Vodouisants are happy to meet her demands and consider themselves blessed by her presence. Freda loves pretty things and would like to make everything more beautiful. Those whom Freda favors will often have a great sense of beauty and style. Many will work as makeup artists, hairdressers, buyers for clothing stores, or in other related fields. If you approach her with reverence, the way you might approach a beautiful princess, you’ll find she will be happy to make you more beautiful too!
Calling on Freda In Haiti, Freda is most commonly represented by the Mater Dolorosa (see plate 6). In this image, the Virgin Mary stands before a richly jeweled background. In her hands, she holds golden chains and jewelry; rings sparkle on her fingers. Still, her sorrow is evident: jeweled daggers are imbedded in her heart, and her expression is melancholy as she stares off toward the heavens. This image shows Freda’s wealth, beauty, and sadness. You can use whatever images you see fit. I have seen houses that represented Freda with a pink Kwan Yin statue or an elaborately customized Barbie doll. The symbol is only a vessel that the spirit can occupy; you may use any appropriate icon that represents Freda to you. Freda loves French perfume and cosmetics. She is also fond of jewelry, particularly gold and diamonds, and flowers, especially pink roses. She like feminine, frilly things, particularly lacy pink dresses and clothing. You can get a lacy pink cloth for Freda and place her things on this cloth when you call on her. To feed Freda, give her sweet pastries. Meringues, cream puffs, sweet tarts, and éclairs will be greatly appreciated. Freda will sometimes drink champagne, but is more often given orgeat (almond syrup) or sugar water. Her day is Thursday, but you can serve her on any day except Tuesday, the day set aside for her sister and archenemy Ezili Danto.
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Present her gifts in nice glasses and plates, which you have washed thoroughly beforehand. Burn pink or white candles to call on Freda, and sprinkle a bit of perfume-scented water on the ground as well. You should also make sure that the table or shelf on which you serve her is washed beforehand with soap and with perfumed water. Like any lady of wealth and taste, Freda likes her things clean. You should also straighten your living quarters before calling on Freda. Imagine you had invited a beautiful heiress over to your house for a visit. Wouldn’t you want things to look as nice as you could make them? When you are making offerings to Freda, think quality, not quantity. If you have limited resources (and most of us do), you’re better off spending what little you have on appropriately fancy items. Freda will prefer a small Godiva chocolate bar to a big bag of stale chocolates from the 99 cent store. She will take a small bottle of nice perfume over a large bottle of something cheaper. If you’re not sure whether Freda would like a particular item, just ask her . . . then follow your gut instinct. So long as you give her the best you can, you will not go wrong. An eternally gracious hostess, Freda will accept any gift you give her if you try your hardest. You may find Freda visiting you in your dreams and making various requests. Don’t be afraid to tell her, “I’m sorry, I can’t afford that right now.” Trying to give Freda everything she wants will quickly land you in the poorhouse. If she persists in asking, you can say, “If you give me the money to buy you a nice Waterford Crystal goblet, I will be glad to get you one” or “If you want a diamond ring, you will have to help me pay for it.” If she really wants these things, she will see that you get the money you need. (One warning: if she does give you this money, be sure that you buy what you promised; otherwise, you’re going to be dealing with a very angry lady.) Although many people call Freda a “love goddess,” she is actually more closely connected to romance and “courtly love” than to fulfilling relationships. Asking Freda to bring you love may result in a long, drawn-out affair that features a lot of mutual attraction but ultimately
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goes nowhere. Alternately, you may find yourself entangled in a passionate but stormy tryst that ends painfully for all concerned, or falling hopelessly in love with someone who is sweet and beautiful but unable to commit and irresponsible about finances. When it comes to partners, Freda is a smart woman who often makes foolish choices—and who is likely to make foolish choices for you. Instead of asking Freda to find you a lover, you should ask her to make you more beautiful. This will help to ensure that you gain the attention of a partner without becoming embroiled in the kind of romantic melodrama that often follows Freda. (You should also be sure to pay some tribute to Danto as well as to Freda. That will not only keep the two warring sisters from becoming jealous, but will also ensure that Freda’s romantic dreams are grounded with some practical realism.) You will be most successful treating Freda the way courtiers treated ladies-in-waiting. If you lavish lots of praise on Freda and show the appropriate humility and respect, you will be richly rewarded for your efforts. Her good fortune and good looks will rub off on you . . . and you can be sure that others will notice!
Color Magic with Freda Many believe that “dressing magically” means hubcap-sized pentagrams, clusters of crystals, and bad Renaissance Faire clothing. Alas, these “magical outfits” evoke nothing but scornful looks from the Fashion Police. True magical garb is far more subtle . . . and far more powerful. Magic doesn’t shout from the rooftops; instead, it whispers. The most powerful magical clothing is that which is not recognized by the masses. It manipulates their subconscious, causing them to be favorably disposed toward the magician. One of the best ways to call on the energies of Freda is by using her favorite color, pink (a pale rose pink or “baby girl pink,” not a hot pink
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or magenta). Color therapists have long known that pink has a calming effect on people. Pink soothes tension and relaxes the muscles. A tint known as Baker-Miller Pink is known to law enforcement officials as “drunk tank pink,” since it is commonly used to calm violent prisoners in jails. Alexander Schauss, Ph.D., director of the American Institute for Biosocial Research in Tacoma, Washington, notes, “Even if a person tries to be angry or aggressive in the presence of pink, he can’t.”3 You don’t have to go overboard. A bright pink suit is not necessary and would even be counterproductive. (Freda is a subtle spirit, not a loud and vulgar one.) A pale pink shirt or a subtle pink blouse will do the trick; indeed, a pink-tinted white will work just fine. This will make you appear nonthreatening and likeable; without knowing why, people will think that you are “nice” and “friendly.” If you’re a man who believes “pink is for girls,” stop and think for a minute. If lots of girls like pink, and you’re wearing pink, doesn’t that mean they’d be inclined to like you? To work with the power of Freda’s colors, get an article of clothing in the appropriate hue. You don’t have to break the bank, but make sure it looks good on you. You can wear other colors besides pink, but make sure they are light colors. Freda does not like the color black, and wearing black with pink will drive her away and spoil the effect. (You should also avoid wearing pink with red, navy blue, or blue denim, since those colors belong to Danto.) Get the nicest clothes you can find and afford. Before you go shopping, you may want to ask Freda to help you find something that looks nice and that will make you think of her. Before you get dressed, put on a bathrobe. Now take the pink article of clothing. Hold it up and say something like, “Hello, Freda. I’m wearing this pink shirt because I want to be pretty like you.” As you put the clothing on, imagine Freda filling you with her beauty and her charisma. Feel the glowing pink light shining through you. It starts within your heart and expands to fill your entire body, then radiates outward until it shimmers around you. When you have buttoned, tied, or clasped the article, you will have bound that energy to yourself.
Plate 1. Ezili Danto, the fierce warrior mother, is extremely protective of children and can be a powerful ally when you or your children are in need of her assistance. Photo taken at Société la Belle Venus #2, Brooklyn, New York, by Kenaz Filan.
Plate 2. Damballah (who is often represented by St. Patrick) can help to heal the emotional wounds and scars attendant upon a breakup. Photo taken at Société la Belle Venus #2, Brooklyn, New York, by Kenaz Filan.
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Plate 3. Ghede, the foul-mouthed spirit of death, lust, and inappropriate behavior, can often help get your relationship mojo risinâ€™. Photo by Kenaz Filan.
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Plate 4. Kenaz Filanâ€™s shrine features a decorated statue of St. Lazarus, along with several offerings acquired through years of working with Legba. Photo by Kenaz Filan.
Plate 5. Lakshmi, a 13-foot albino Burmese python who is the centerpiece of Kenaz Filanâ€™s Damballah altar. Photo by Kathy Latzoni.
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Plate 6. The Mater Dolorosa, from the personal collection of Mambo Zetwal Kleye (Kathy Latzoni).
Plate 7. Shrine for Ezili Freda, decorated by Mambo Pat Scheu of Société du Marche. Photo by Société du Marche, Inc. Used with permission.
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Plate 8. Stella Maris statue given to La Sirene by Kathy Latzoni (Mambo Zetwal Kleye). Photo by Kenaz Filan.
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Plate 9. Shrines to Ogou—like this shrine created by Kenaz Filan—generally include a machete to help Ogou “cut through” the problems and obstacles facing his children. Photo by Kenaz Filan.
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Plate 10. Dwapo lwa (spirit flag) for Simbi, from the authorâ€™s collection. Photo by Kenaz Filan.
Plate 11. Danto boutey (Vodou bottle for Danto) decorated with an image of the Mater Salvatoris, from the authorâ€™s collection. Photo by Kenaz Filan.
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Plate 12. Harvey, Kenaz Filanâ€™s Ghede, enjoying a
Plate 13. Kenaz Filan possessed by Ghede.
quiet moment. Photo by Kenaz Filan.
Photo by Scott Monkhern.
Plate 14. Ancestral shrine set up by Morgan Page. Photo by Morgan Page. Used with permission.
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It will remain with you throughout the day. People who are psychically sensitive or who can see auras might notice the color that shines around you. Those who are not will not see it, but they will feel its effects. It will be a powerful magnet, drawing people to you and making you more attractive. If you can’t wear pink clothing for one reason or another—you wear a uniform at work, let us say—you can still use pink energy. Get some pale pink lip gloss or lip balm, the more pale and subtle, the better. Put a tiny bit on before you go out. Not only will it help prevent chapped lips, it will also draw Freda-energy to you and make you more subtly attractive. You may also use a pale pink lip pencil, some pale pink eye shadow, or other makeup. This will work for both men and women. The idea is not to look like you are wearing makeup—you will use such a small amount, in such a subtle shade, that no one will notice. Rather, the idea is to draw the energy through the use of color. In medieval times, troubadours would treasure a handkerchief given them by their lady fair. If you can’t wear pink clothing, you can carry a pale pink handkerchief, preferably one that is frilly, beautifully embroidered, and subtly scented with a nice perfume. Offer this to Freda and explain that you want to carry this with you so that you can think of her during the day. When you feel down, or before you want to make a favorable impression on someone, rub the handkerchief over your face. (Make sure you’re clean first.) This will send Freda’s energy through you and give you a quick boost.
Your Dinner with Freda Our fast-food culture encourages us to bolt down large quantities of unhealthy, unappetizing food. We indulge in greasy, sugary snacks, tossing them down as we sit in front of our television or our computer, then worry about our weight. But for all the time we spend thinking about food and its effects, we hardly ever contemplate what we are eating. Rarely do we truly savor our food or actually enjoy the stuff we are consuming.
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The old expression “you are what you eat” is true, but it tells only part of the story. You also are how you eat. If you shovel down your meals without thinking, you’re likely to behave in a similar way when dealing with the other things in your life. You will be the classic “passive consumer,” not a person who makes things happen, but one who lets things happen. Becoming conscious of what you are eating, and enjoying it instead of just swallowing it mindlessly, can be a good first step toward becoming conscious of other things in your life as well. “Conscious eating” does not involve calorie counting, nor does it involve stuffing yourself on sweet things. Becoming aware of your food and your body’s reaction to food can stop you from binging on highcalorie, nutrition-free foods, and can allow you to actually enjoy healthy meals without turning dinnertime into a joyless guilt-ridden task. (Of course, if you are suffering from an eating disorder like anorexia or bulimia, you should not consider this to be a substitute for professional treatment.) Freda can help you to appreciate the beauty in everything, and that includes food. By dedicating an occasional Thursday snack to Freda, you can become a lover of fine cuisine . . . and learn a new and powerful magical technique as well. Much as the Christian Eucharist involves the transformation of bread and wine into the body and blood of the Divine, you can transform a pastry into a vessel for Freda’s energy—and transfer that energy to yourself. To perform this ritual, get two pastries. If you cannot eat pastries or sugary things because of diabetes or other conditions, you can get some fruit: strawberries, raspberries, or whatever other fruit you prefer. Make sure you get the best you can find. If you have to search a while for some nice fruit or pastries, so much the better. The more effort you put in to finding Freda the nicest food you can, the happier she will be with your offering. You can bring this food into your home, or you can have a picnic in a nice garden, preferably one with lots of flowers. Bring a clean white or light pink plate for Freda and another one for yourself. You should also
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bring a pink seven-day candle and some perfume or rose water. Sprinkle a bit of the perfume or rose water on the floor, and ask Papa Legba to open the door so Freda can come down and visit you. Take the pastries or fruits and set a plate for yourself and one for Freda. Now light the seven-day candle. As the candle burns, imagine Freda’s glowing pink light filling the area and descending on the offering that you have just made. Welcome Freda; tell her how happy you are that she has come to eat with you, and how much you enjoy her company. Show her the plates you have laid out, and ask her if she would like something to eat. As you are talking to her, imagine her holding on to your offering. Feel her energy flowing through it, illuminating it until you can see it glowing faintly pink. Pick up your offering, and take a tiny bite of it. Concentrate on the taste, on the texture, on the way it feels in your mouth. Chew thoroughly (and keep your mouth closed; if you’re eating with Freda, you should use good table manners). As you feel the food dissolving in your mouth, feel the faint, sweet rose-water taste of Freda’s energy flowing from the fruit or pastry and into your body. Do this with every bite, until your plate is empty. As you do, feel yourself glowing with pink energy and becoming more beautiful. When you are finished, place Freda’s offering under a flower. Thank her for coming, and thank her for sharing her beauty with you. If you have a sweet tooth and are eating too much “junk food,” try offering your sweet things to Freda and giving her some before you indulge. Eating each piece of chocolate very slowly, and savoring the flavor, will help you to enjoy the experience. What’s more, you’ll find you’re eating a lot less. When you eat slowly and consider your meal, you’re going to consume less at one sitting than you will if you’re distracted and eating without thinking. Try this with all your meals: don’t just eat them, ENJOY them. Much as Freda looks for beauty in everything, look for beauty in your food. You may be surprised to discover that you don’t really like stuff
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you’ve been eating for years, and that you prefer healthier alternatives you may have scorned before. You’ll look better, and you’ll feel better too! Not only will this help you regulate your weight, it will give you the warm glow that comes with good health.
Freda's Perfume The scent of a female in heat can send a male animal into a mating frenzy; the scent of another male can trigger aggression. Many animals distinguish between members of their pack and outsiders by smell. Others use olfactory cues to “mark” their territory. Many biologists believe that salmon use scent memory to guide them back to their home stream during spawning season. While their effect on humans is more subtle, we too are keenly influenced by smells. The olfactory system, which senses and distinguishes between odors, is one of the oldest parts of our brain. The pathway between the nose and the brain is shorter than the paths for any other sense organ. Because the olfactory system functions on such a primal level, it can bring up powerful emotions. Smells can evoke vivid memories from the past. The scent of nutmeg and pumpkin pie can bring us back to our grandmother’s kitchen in childhood, while the smell of fresh-cut grass can call up our teenage years working at a local golf course. And, of course, smells can be powerful erotic cues as well. This does not mean splashing on gallons of perfume or cheap cologne. Far from making you more attractive, overuse of scented products will have quite the opposite effect and will also make you a health hazard for people with allergies . . . like the author of this book! As with the color magic presented earlier, true scent magic is subtle. The target does not know what causes the attraction. All that person will know is that he or she finds you enchanting and can’t stop thinking about you. To create a Freda perfume, start with a small quantity of the nicest perfume you can get. I recommend genuine attar of roses, if you can find it. It is expensive, but a very tiny amount will go a long way.
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Otherwise, try to get natural essential oils from an aromatherapy shop, or a good floral perfume. Don’t use cheap perfumes or “knock-offs”— they include synthetic ingredients and don’t smell as nice as quality fragrances. You can get a small bottle; you’re going to be using just a little bit for this spell. In addition to the perfume, you are going to need some spring water, a little bottle with a stopper or lid, a pink seven-day candle, and a lacy pink or white handkerchief. You should do this spell on a Thursday. Fill the little bottle with spring water. Sprinkle a few drops on the floor, and ask Papa Legba to open the door for Freda so that she can come down and visit. Light the candle. Now greet Freda and hold up the perfume bottle to the candlelight. Tell her that you have bought her a nice bottle of perfume and would like to give it to her. Then explain that you would like to use just a very tiny bit of it, so that people will like you the way they like her. Be sure to flatter her and tell her that you know you would never be as pretty as her, but you still want to be pretty and make sure people like you. As you talk to her, imagine her energy filling the room and the perfume bottle. After you’ve talked to Freda for a while, and when you can feel the bottle tingling with Freda’s power, take a single drop of the perfume and place it in the little bottle of spring water. Now close the bottle. Wrap the bottle in the handkerchief and put it away in a place where it won’t be disturbed. If you have a shrine to Freda, you can put the perfume there; otherwise, you can leave it in a garden under some flowers. (You can put a drop or two on another nice handkerchief and tell Freda you want to “have something so you can think of her.” She will be flattered and will be sure to think about you and bless you.) When you want to impress someone or when you want to go on a date, dip your finger in this water and rub a drop or two on your body. (Be sure to wash your hands first!) Nobody will be able to smell it, but they will be able to sense that something is different about you. You can wear this in addition to any other perfume or cologne you normally use . . . but you may not need to!
La Sirene Bringer of Glamour
Man’s works are graven, cunning, and skilful On earth, where his tabernacles are; But the sea is wanton, the sea is wilful, And who shall mend her and who shall mar? Shall we carve success or record disaster On the bosom of her heaving alabaster? Will her purple pulse beat fainter or faster For fallen sparrow or fallen star? I would that with sleepy, soft embraces The sea would fold me—would find me rest, In luminous shades of her secret places, In depths where her marvels are manifest; So the earth beneath her should not discover My hidden couch—nor the heaven above her— As a strong love shielding a weary lover, I would have her shield me with shining breast. —Adam Lindsay Gordon1
The ocean has always fascinated us with its beauty and its
danger, with its sparkling shallows and its murky depths. Few things are as eternal as the sea, yet few things are as changeable. In a moment, its 98
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placid surface may be lashed with storms; its most peaceful coves can hide dangerous undertows. La Sirene (literally, “the Siren” or “the Mermaid”) is as mysterious as the ocean she rules. If Freda represents the emotions, La Sirene represents the deepest parts of the subconscious. Freda’s joy and sorrow are easy to read; La Sirene is eternally mysterious and inscrutable. If Ezili Freda is a vulnerable Marilyn Monroe reaching out for love, La Sirene is an expressionless Greta Garbo staring at the sea. Those who are favored by La Sirene will often have an air of unearthliness about them. Like the merpeople or the faeries, La Sirene’s children and students seem to come from somewhere else. People find them unsettling yet unforgettable. They show the true meaning of the word “glamour”—a compelling aura of romance, mystery, and enchantment. La Sirene can give you real charisma—something that has little to do with physical appearance and everything to do with charm, magnetism, and presentation. You may not think you’re attractive, but with a little help from La Sirene you can become a real head-turner.
La Sirene in Haiti In Haiti, Vodouisants treat La Sirene with love and respect . . . but temper that with a good bit of caution. Most Vodouisants will not submerge their heads when swimming in the ocean; no matter how much they love La Sirene, they know that she, like any other siren, is perfectly willing to lure the unwary to a watery death. Depending on her mood, La Sirene can be a bringer of riches or of death. To highlight this, some La Sirene images show her with two sides, one white and one black. La Sirene will sometimes take those she fancies “beneath the waves” to Gineh, the mystical land under the sea where she reigns with her husband, Met Agwe. There she and other lwa will teach them magical secrets before returning them to our world weeks or years later. When they come back, they will have pale skin and straight hair like La Sirene . . . and will be powerful magicians. At other times La Sirene will take those she favors and never return them. Their bodies may wash
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up on shore, but their souls remain with La Sirene in her kingdom. Like the Sirens of Greek mythology or the Russalki of Russian lore, La Sirene is known for her beautiful voice. Like these lovely but dangerous water nymphs, her singing is associated with enchantment. Those who hear La Sirene’s voice near the ocean will be tempted to swim out toward it. By the time they come to their senses again, they may be too far from shore to return. Sailors will sometimes become enchanted by La Sirene’s song and wreck their ship on the rocks as they steer toward it. At other times she will warn them away from danger or guide them toward particularly rich fishing grounds. Some say that La Sirene is Ezili Freda’s sister; others say that they are cousins. The two ladies share many similarities. Both are known for their beauty and for their wealth; along with her husband, La Sirene controls all the bounty of the sea and all the treasures beneath the waves. Like Freda, La Sirene prefers French to the Kreyol spoken by working-class Haitians; like Freda, she is greeted with perfume so that she will not be offended by bad smells. Both are fond of jewelry and gems. (While Freda is partial to gold and diamonds, La Sirene prefers pearls, white coral, and aquamarine.) Although La Sirene is similar to Freda in many ways, they have many important differences. Freda is very emotional, filled with love for the men around her and for the beautiful things in this world. By contrast, La Sirene is aloof and distant. Freda will speak to the people who have come to pay her homage, offering her love and her advice. If La Sirene communicates at all, it is with an unearthly high-pitched singing. At other times she will spin about on her tiptoes like a ballerina, “swim” on the floor, or sit on a chair combing her long, beautiful hair, oblivious to those around her.
Calling on La Sirene To introduce yourself to La Sirene, burn a simple pale blue or pale green candle. Sprinkle a little salt water on the ground, and ask Papa Legba
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to open the door so La Sirene can come to visit you. Take some time to talk with her; give her your respects and tell her who you are. You should do this a few times before you start doing any kind of work with her. Like any rich and important lady, La Sirene is very busy. She’s not going to do favors for you until she knows you and likes you. When creating a shrine for La Sirene, Haitians often use the Stella Maris (Star of the Sea), a beautiful lady in white rising from the ocean. This image can be found in most Cuban botanicas, where it is used to represent the Ocean Mother, Yemaya. Since La Sirene is a mermaid, other houses use mermaids as her symbol. You can use these images or other images that remind you of beautiful ocean queens. La Sirene also likes blue flowers, seashells, coral, driftwood, sea glass (particularly light blue, clear, and green sea glass), sea floaters, and other things that have been taken from the ocean. Many Haitian images show La Sirene holding a comb in one hand and a mirror in the other. Giving her a nice comb and mirror—the finest you can afford—is a sure way to win her affection. La Sirene’s colors are white and pale blue-green, a color also known as “sea blue.” You can give her cosmetics in those colors, particularly eye shadow and lip gloss. You can also give her a nice clear crystal bowl. Put some sea glass on the bottom, along with some shells and other small sea items. Then fill it with seawater or with spring water to which you have added a few pinches of sea salt. Alongside this you can place a champagne glass, in which you give her offerings of orgeat, champagne, or some other sweet liqueur, and a nice white or pale blue-green plate on which you present offerings of white cakes, white candy, or other sweet white things. Place this all on a pale blue or white silk cloth. If you can’t set up a permanent shrine, you can wrap everything in the cloth and set it up when you have time and privacy. La Sirene is a wonderful spirit who will be able to help you in many ways—but she can also be temperamental. As with Freda, you must make sure that you follow through on any promise that you make to her. Otherwise, she is likely to take away anything that she has helped
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you to receive, and more. Keep her things away from any shrine or offering you have made to the dead, and do not give her anything black. If you smoke, be sure not to light up while you are working with La Sirene or around her things, since she dislikes the smell of tobacco. Like Freda, she expects her things to be kept clean; she also dislikes profanity, crude jokes, and “vulgar” talk. If you wouldn’t use a word or phrase in front of your first-grade teacher, you probably shouldn’t use it in front of La Sirene. Whatever else you do, be sure that you always treat her with the respect any diva demands. You don’t need to walk on eggshells around her, or tremble in fear, but treat any work you do with La Sirene as a serious endeavor. The more effort you put in to doing these spells, the more reward you will gain from them. By working hard to make things as nice as you can for La Sirene, you help to ensure that she will make things nice for you. Once you’ve gained La Sirene’s attention and affection, you will find yourself becoming more magnetic and charming. Some people may even find your newfound glamour to be a bit intimidating, but even they will want to learn more about you and find themselves unable to keep their eyes off you. You also need to remember that La Sirene is considered one of the “cooler” lwa. The changes she makes are generally slower but more longlasting than those done by “hotter” spirits. Picture the way the ocean reshapes rocks and you’ll have an idea of how La Sirene works. If you’re expecting these changes to happen overnight, you’re likely to be disappointed. If you stick with the work and allow La Sirene to do her gradual but powerful magic, you’ll see permanent and life-changing results.
La Sirene's Beauty Bath Since La Sirene is intimately connected with water, one of the best ways to work with her power is through baths. Not only will a La Sirene bath help to rid you of “bad vibes” and negativity you might have picked up in your day-to-day environment, it will also fill you
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with La Sirene’s energy and literally make you more “charming.” Doing this regularly—on the first Thursday of every month, for example— will cause positive, long-lasting changes in your life and your interactions with others. This will work for men or for women. La Sirene’s energy can make you more attractive and mysterious, almost “fey.” To make a La Sirene Beauty Bath, start with one or two quarts of water. If you have access to seawater, that is of course ideal. Otherwise, you can take clean spring water and add a few pinches of salt. To this salt water, you should add a little bit of sugar and condensed milk, because you want La Sirene to make you look sweeter. Add some blue flower petals, because you want her to make you look prettier. Put in a tiny bit of French perfume, so the bath will smell nice. Put the bath in a big glass jar. If you have a jug for making “sun tea,” that will be ideal. Place the jar on a windowsill where the moon is visible. Leave it there for at least one night, while the moon is waxing, to soak up the rays and energy of the moon. If you want, you can put some clear quartz crystals or some blue sea glass in the bottom of the jar; they will serve as “energy attractors” and draw more of the moon’s energy into the bath. After this bath is prepared, but before you use it, put the jar in the refrigerator for an hour or so to cool it. (La Sirene is a “cool” spirit, and this bath should be cool. There’s no need to make it ice cold, but it definitely should be cooler than room temperature.) When it is cool, take it out. Sprinkle a little bit of water on the ground, and ask Papa Legba to open the door so La Sirene can come and bless your bath. Now ask La Sirene to come into the bath and bless it. Ask her politely to help you become more beautiful and charming, like she is. Tell her how lovely she is and how you wish you could be as lovely as her. Don’t be afraid to flatter her; like anybody else, she appreciates compliments. Talk to her like you would talk to any important person. Be respectful and polite, but let her know what you would like. For example, you could say “I know how pretty you are. I want to be pretty too, so people
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will like me. I’m sure you could help me be much prettier, and I hope you will help me. I’m sure you will, because you’re very nice.” When you are done talking to La Sirene, go into your bathroom. If you have a tub, you can pour the La Sirene bath in your bathwater. If you only have a shower, you can pour it over yourself. Whatever you do, do NOT pour it over your head. Getting this bath on your head may allow La Sirene to “take you away.” This can leave you feeling “dreamy” or “spacey” for days or weeks. As you are soaking or showering, pull the bathwater up your body, starting with your feet and moving up to your shoulders. While you are doing this, imagine La Sirene’s pale blue light running through your body. Feel her taking away bad things and leaving you clean and pure and pretty. When you are done, you can get out of the tub. Wrap yourself in a clean white bathrobe, but don’t towel off. You want this bath to air dry slowly. As it dries, feel La Sirene’s energy flowing into you and making you more attractive. Go to sleep after you are done (making sure you are sleeping on clean sheets). If you have any dreams, be sure to write them down, but if you don’t, you don’t have to worry. The bath will still be working, and people will notice a definite change in you. Don’t be surprised if people at your office ask you things like, “Did you get a new haircut?” or tell you, “You look really great today!” And don’t be surprised if you start getting lots of attention from people who never noticed you before. A little bit of La Sirene’s charm and magnetism can go a long way.
Catching a Partner with La Sirene's Help Mystics in many traditions have connected the ocean to the “oversoul” and the collective unconscious. Like the sea, the collective unconscious has unexplored depths, with currents that pull and direct the individual, and cycles that are subtle yet as unavoidable as the tide. Some have even compared the individual ego to a piece of driftwood floating atop the vastness that is the group mind. As queen of the ocean, La Sirene
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has great power over this realm and if properly propitiated can use that to draw people toward you. To perform La Sirene’s Catching a Partner Spell, get some netting. Ideally it will be a piece of “working net”—netting that could be used by a boat to trawl for fish, shrimp, or lobster. However, decorative netting will also work. If you have access to seawater, fill a clean white bucket with seawater. Otherwise, you can take some spring water and dissolve a few pinches of sea salt in it. (For this spell, it will definitely be worth your while to get some sea salt instead of using regular salt. Sea salt is inexpensive and widely available at health food groceries or pet stores.) Add a few drops of nice perfume. If you’d like, you can also put some seashells in the water. On a Thursday, preferably a Thursday when the moon is waxing or full, dampen the net with the salt water. Shake a few drops on the ground, and ask Papa Legba to open the gates and let La Sirene come up from the depths to visit you. Light a pale blue or pale green candle so she can find her way. As you hold the net in your hands, describe to La Sirene the type of person you would like to find. If you want to meet a tall, blond computer programmer who enjoys jazz, ask La Sirene to introduce you to a person who fits that description. If you want to meet a writer from Eastern Europe who collects dolls and who is kind and gentle, or a smart, funny guy with glasses, ask for that. The more specific you can be, the more La Sirene has to work with. As you’re describing your ideal partner, cast the net out into the air. As you do, imagine that you can hear it splashing into the ocean. Smell the salt tang in the air; hear the seagulls crying out in the distance and the water lapping against the rocks. (If you can do this spell at the beach, so much the better!) Now, as you slowly draw this net toward yourself, imagine it filled with the treasures of the ocean. La Sirene is sharing some of her wealth with you. Among those treasures are people who will fit the description you gave La Sirene . . . the ideal partners you have dreamed of.
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Now that you have drawn your ideal partner to you, thank La Sirene for her help. Fold up the net and put it away. Snuff out the candle until the next time you want to talk to La Sirene. Rest quietly . . . and rest assured that you now have La Sirene looking for your ideal partner. Don’t sit around on pins and needles waiting for this person to drop into your lap. Go about your daily business, but keep an eye out for your new love interest. You are likely to meet at some unexpected juncture, in some unusual way. This will be La Sirene’s way of letting you know she has found a match for you. It will also be her way of letting you know that she expects a gift in return. When you have found a partner, be sure to reward La Sirene for her efforts. A nice comb for her lovely hair would be greatly appreciated; so would a pretty pair of pearl earrings or a little bottle of perfume. If you live near the beach, you can leave these on the shore at low tide and let the water wash them to La Sirene’s realm. Otherwise, you can leave them at the crossroads so Papa Legba can bring them to her. Or you could make a donation to an environmental charity dedicated to preserving the ocean. (You wouldn’t like people dumping garbage in your home, and neither does La Sirene.)
Speaking More Beautifully with La Sirene's Aid Pale blue-green is associated with the throat chakra, the energy center connected with speech, communication, and creativity. It’s not surprising that La Sirene, who is famous for her beautiful singing and her musical talents, would favor pale blue-green. By combining blue with green and white, you get speech (blue) and creativity (green) mingled, then raised again to a higher level by the addition of white. If you are feeling tongue-tied around a Certain Someone, or if you generally have problems talking with people, you can use these colors to improve your ability to communicate. When you know you are going to be talking to someone you like,
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wear pale blue or light blue-green clothing. This will help you to speak more eloquently about your feelings and make your words more attractive. Pale blue and blue-green also project an aura of spiritual “depth.” They make you appear mysterious and captivating, much like the Queen of the Ocean. And you’re almost certain to look good in pale blue-green; it’s one of those colors that clothing designers find work well with almost every complexion and body type. This will be particularly effective if you put something pale bluegreen against your throat. This will help to send La Sirene’s energy directly to where it will be most effective. It will make you a better speaker and will give you more confidence when dealing with people. You can prepare a powerful La Sirene talisman for this purpose with a few simple items. While you should do this spell on a Thursday, La Sirene’s day, you can purchase the items at any time. Get a nice aquamarine necklace (you can get an aquamarine pendant online or from many New Age stores) or a pale blue-green necktie. As with anything you do with La Sirene, make sure you get the nicest you can afford. You don’t have to break the bank or max out your credit cards, but do the best you can do. You will also need to get some white candies and a small bottle of champagne. (You’ll get better results using a split of a good French champagne than you will with a large bottle of cheap sparkling wine, and it won’t cost you much more.) Clean a white or sea blue plate and a champagne goblet. Fill a small crystal bowl with seawater or spring water with a little sea salt dissolved in it. If you have a pale silk cloth to place these items on, that will be nice; otherwise, you can put them on a clean white tablecloth or any clean surface. Once you have these items, put the candies on the plate and fill the goblet with champagne. Light a pale blue-green or a white seven-day candle. Sprinkle some salt water on the floor and ask Papa Legba to open the gate and let La Sirene come to visit you. Spend a few minutes in silent contemplation, waiting for her to arrive. (Like any lady of wealth and style, La Sirene can sometimes be “fashionably late.”) When you are ready, you can point to the candies and champagne. Tell La
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Sirene that you’d like her to have some champagne and candy. You can also tell her how pretty she is, and explain how much you admire her. Now hold up the necklace or necktie. Tell her that this is what you are going to wear when you want to make people listen to what you have to say. Explain that you know she has a very pretty voice, and tell her that you hope your voice will sound nice when you wear this. Pass the item over the candle flame; don’t get too close or you might burn it. As you pass it over the flame, feel La Sirene’s cool, watery energy filling it. Imagine her singing to you. Listen to her high, lovely voice and feel the necklace or tie vibrating with each note. Pass it over the candlelight five times, then pass it over the crystal bowl five times. When you are finished, snuff out the candle. Take the seawater, candy, and champagne and dump it out in the ocean if you live near the ocean. Otherwise, drop it at the crossroads and ask Papa Legba to carry it to La Sirene. Now put the necklace or necktie away in a safe place where it will stay clean. When you need La Sirene’s help in talking with people— before an important date, for example—wear it. Don’t do this all the time; if you save this talisman for special occasions, you will find that it is much more powerful. It will help you to be more magnetic and to speak your feelings more clearly when you do wear it. It will serve as a reminder of your intent and of your relationship with La Sirene. Don’t be surprised if your date comments on how pretty it is or asks you where you got it. Take it as a sign that La Sirene is working for you!
Making Yourself Feel Pretty with La Sirene We might think that people who regularly spend hours before a mirror are narcissists engaging in self-adulation. It is more likely that they are obsessing over what they perceive as their ugliness and deformity. Britney, a young woman with body dysmorphic disorder, spent hours staring at her reflection and “feeling that I was so disgusting, hideously ugly, that I didn’t deserve to live. I thought that those around me shouldn’t have to suffer by being with me.”2 At its worst this condition
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can be fatal. An emaciated anorexic at death’s door may still see a fat person in the mirror. Although a mirror can be a dangerous weapon, it can also be a powerful tool for developing healthy self-esteem. La Sirene loves mirrors; if you want to make her happy, buy the nicest hand mirror you can afford. Then wash it with rose water, light a white candle, and (after asking Papa Legba to open the gate) say, “Hello, La Sirene. I know you like mirrors, so I got you a pretty one. I hope you like it.” If you have an altar or shrine for La Sirene in your house, you can put it on her table. Otherwise, you can wrap it in a light blue or white silk cloth and put it away in a place where it won’t be disturbed. When you want to make yourself feel more attractive, ask La Sirene if you can borrow her mirror. Light a candle for her, then stare into the mirror. As you gaze at your reflection, comment on your best features. If you have a cute button nose or a winning smile, talk about that. Praise yourself for your beauty, just as you might praise someone else. Tell yourself about all the good things you see in the mirror. Note your strongest features and think of ways you might accent them. Would new glasses bring out your pretty blue eyes? Could you start dressing to emphasize rather than hide your curvy figure? Listen for any advice La Sirene might whisper to you. She is an expert at making people look their best. We are constantly bombarded with unattainable ideals of physical beauty. The subliminal (and sometimes overt) message is clear: if you don’t look like a model, you cannot call yourself “beautiful.” This spell will provide you with a different, and truer, message—you are and always have been beautiful. And once you understand that, you will have a much easier time convincing others that you are beautiful too. Repeat this spell as often as necessary. Each time you do, you are building up your self-confidence. La Sirene can make sure that these affirmations find their way to your subconscious and begin resonating through every aspect of your life.
Ogou Bringer of Strength
Yes, makin’ mock o’ uniforms that guard you while you sleep Is cheaper than them uniforms, an’ they’re starvation cheap; An’ hustlin’ drunken soldiers when they’re goin’ large a bit Is five times better business than paradin’ in full kit. Then it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, ’ow’s yer soul?” But it’s “Thin red line of ’eroes” when the drums begin to roll, The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll, O it’s “Thin red line of ’eroes” when the drums begin to roll. We aren’t no thin red ’eroes, nor we aren’t no blackguards too, But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you; An’ if sometimes our conduck isn’t all your fancy paints, Why, single men in barricks don’t grow into plaster saints . . . —Rudyard Kipling1
In West Africa, ironworking was considered a religious
r itual and blacksmiths were believed to have mystical powers. Smelters and smiths engaged in elaborate purification ceremonies before they 110
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began work. At their furnaces they sang sacred songs and chanted mystical invocations to transform ore to iron. They guarded the secrets of ironworking jealously, passing down the skills and the magic to their sons by initiation. Their iron machetes were used to clear away underbrush; their iron hoes tilled the soil before planting. Yet they were also the makers of spears and, later, guns. They controlled a metal that both preserved and destroyed life, and hence were both respected and feared. Iron tools helped make possible the large-scale agriculture and hunting necessary to sustain large urban populations. Ironworking centers developed large populations, highly sophisticated cultures, and important artistic traditions. Iron helped fuel expansion through trade—and through conquest. Iron weapons helped to ensure the expansion of the African kingdoms of Daome and Yorubaland; iron chains bound the captives who were destined for the New World. All of these kingdoms honored the blacksmith spirit Ogou. Like his beloved iron, he had a dual nature. Ogou protected those who could not defend themselves—or slaughtered them when he fell into a blind rage. He was the soldier who oppressed the weak and the noble knight who fought to overthrow injustice. He was the skilled craftsman who made beautiful art objects and the bloodthirsty berserker. His color was the red of rust, hot iron, and dried blood; the warrior’s machete was his favorite weapon. Although Ogou was known for his hot temper, he was also known for his strength, his skill, and his honesty. Stories about him varied from region to region, but all were clear on his hatred of liars, oathbreakers, and traitors. To this day, Nigerians who practice their traditional religions swear oaths not on Bibles, but on pieces of iron, believing that Ogou will punish any foolish enough to lie before him. Those who are victims of an injustice will often go to Ogou to seek redress for their suffering. They believe that if Ogou is pleased with their offerings, he will clear the path for them with his machete and bring them justice when no one else will. He is both a merciless enemy and a faithful friend.
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Ogou in Haiti In Cuba and Brazil, Ogou (called Ogun or Oggun) is honored as the spirit who governs not only warfare, but also machinery, railroads, and prisons. Yet as important as he is to Cubans and Brazilians, he is particularly beloved in Haiti. Some credit Ogou with creating the red and blue Haitian flag. According to the legend, he possessed rebel leader Jean-Jacques Dessalines, making him take a French flag and “rip the white out.” Others say that it was Ogou who brought many of the dictators who have darkened Haiti’s history to power . . . and who later lent his strength to those who deposed those dictators. The slaves who came to the New World had been brought from different areas and often had different and sometimes conflicting stories about the spirits. In Cuba, they accounted for these variations by attributing different caminos (roads) to each of the Orishas (spirits served in Ifa, Lukumí, Candomblé, Cuban Santeria, and other Yoruba-derived traditions), including Ogou. In Haiti, “Ogou” became a family name. The Ogous are seen as separate spirits who are all part of an extended family. While each Ogou carries a machete and favors the color red, each works in his own sphere. Ogou San Jak is a crusading soldier, while Ogou Badagri is a wily general and politician, and Ogou Ferraille is honored as the patron of iron. But while these are among the most famous Ogous, Haitian Vodou honors many other Ogous as well. Some houses honor Dessalines as Ogou Dessalines; some pay tribute to the Cuban Orishas Osain, Obatala, and Chango as Ogou Osanj, Ogou Batala, and Ogou Chango. As in Africa and Cuba, all these Ogous are different, yet all share a reputation for strength, honesty, and reliability. Ogou is not a bloodthirsty killer or a rampaging bully. His strength is matched by his iron discipline: he is enormous energy harnessed to the service of his commanders. When necessary, he can also be the drill sergeant who won’t accept “I can’t” as an answer. He will protect us from others who wish to harm us—and call us out on our own bad judgment. Despite his rough edges, Ogou remains one of the most
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beloved spirits in Haiti, and with good reason. He may be harsh, gruff, and short-tempered, but Vodouisants know they can count on his assistance when the chips are down.
Working with Papa Ogou You may wonder why someone would call on a warrior spirit like Ogou to do love magic. The answer is simple: Ogou is more than just a warrior. While Venus represents grace, beauty, and refinement—characteristics associated in Haiti with Ezili Freda and La Sirene—Mars represents the force of sexual passion. Mars—and Ogou—are both hardworking and hard-playing spirits, fond of good times and particularly fond of the opposite sex. They are as exuberant in joy as in anger. Indeed, according to one popular chante lwa (song for the lwa), Ogou will even sacrifice dinner so he can look nice for the ladies. Ogou travay o, Ogou pa manje! Ogou travay o, Ogou pa manje! Ogou sere lajan l pou l achte yon bèl rechany Bèl rechany o, Ogou dòmi san soupe (Ogou works o, Ogou doesn’t eat Ogou works o, Ogou doesn’t eat Ogou saves his money to buy a nice suit Nice suit o, Ogou sleeps without supper) 2
Love can cloud our judgment, fog our reasoning, and make us do stupid things. We can get ourselves into all sorts of trouble and tie our fortunes to people who really aren’t right for us. Sometimes we can even put ourselves in physical danger. Having Ogou on our side can protect us from these situations. He may not be gentle about it; Ogou is not given to sugarcoating his thoughts. If you are being foolish, Ogou will let you know—and quickly. However, he will tell you only what you
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need to hear, and you’ll find you would do well to follow his advice. Ogou is one of the “hotter” spirits I’ve presented in this book. This means that he tends to work more quickly and forcefully than other spirits. When you go to Damballah with a problem, it may take him a while to respond. If you ask Freda or La Sirene for help, they may be busy with other things and slow in getting back to you. Ogou, on the other hand, will come charging in like an invading army, clearing away the debris, mastering the situation, and generally “laying the smack down” on those who need it. When Ogou works for you, he works fast and doesn’t let anything stand in his way. However, a bit of caution is also in order. Ogou is not evil, but neither is he patient. He may work quickly, but he’s going to expect you to carry your end of the burden as well. If you ask him for something, make sure that you want it—and make sure that you’re willing to do what it takes to get it. If you ask Ogou to help you with a problem, he’s going to help you with that problem . . . even if that means he has to drag you along kicking and screaming. Ogou demands your best, and he isn’t going to be interested in hearing your excuses. This can be unsettling to people who are not used to a “rough and ready” spiritual approach. Trust Ogou—and trust yourself—and you’ll find that you’re really accomplishing things, not just dreaming about them. (Because Ogou is so hot, you may also want to keep yourself “balanced” by working with a cooler spirit as well. If you’re doing weekly work with Ogou, I would recommend also doing weekly work with Damballah—and vice versa. Damballah’s cool, mystical presence will help to keep you from getting too “hot,” while Ogou will keep you from becoming too detached and cerebral.) In Haiti, Ogou is served with red scarves. At a Fet Ogou, his table will be covered with a red cloth, and a person possessed by Ogou will have a red scarf tied around his or her arm. Some Ogous use other colors in addition to red. If you have a strong feeling that your Ogou also wants a white scarf or a blue scarf, feel free to give him this as well. You can also provide him with a machete and with an appropriate
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image (see plate 9). In Haiti, Ogou San Jak is represented by St. Jacques Majeur charging on his white horse; other Ogou are represented by St. Michael the Archangel, St. Raphael, St. George the Dragonslayer, or other warrior saints or heavily armed angels. If you don’t feel any particular connection to the saints, you can instead use a symbol that has more meaning to you. I have seen pictures of Rambo and G.I. Joe dolls used for Ogou. My Ogou altar features a red statue of the Chinese war god Guan-Ti. Ogou also likes rum and fine cigars. (When he comes in Haiti, he will frequently drink several bottles of rum and eat a lit cigar!) You can get him a glass of rum and a cigar, then set it beside his offerings on a table, preferably on a red plate or on a piece of iron. Keep in mind that there are many different Ogous. Your Ogou may prefer gin to rum, or a pipe to a cigar. If you feel that your Ogou would prefer a different offering than what I have presented here, or you have a hunch that he wants you to make alterations to the spells I have presented, go with your instinct. So long as you serve the spirits with an honest and open heart and with good intentions, there is no “wrong” way to honor them. Ogou is stern and fierce, but he is also understanding. He will be satisfied with your best efforts and will help you to do better in love and in everything else.
Papa Ogou's Truth Be Told Spell Often love involves telling little white lies. Few will tell their partner, “Actually, you do look like you’ve put on some weight” or “No, your bald spot doesn’t make you sexier.” This isn’t always a bad thing. There is little sense in hurting your partner about something he or she can’t change or in not soothing his or her insecurities. At other times, dishonesty can get out of hand. Sometimes lies can hide serious problems in a relationship or can make us believe our partner is something that he or she is not. As bad as the lies others tell us can be, they’re not nearly so dangerous as the lies we tell ourselves. Often we know that our partner
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is cheating on us, that our relationship is dying, or that we are being treated like dirt. Yet we constantly ignore the signs, creating excuses for our partner that are more creative than anything he or she could have come up with. This is particularly true for those who grew up in alcoholic or abusive households. Children of alcoholics or abusers learn from an early age to make excuses for loved ones and to pretend problems don’t exist. These coping skills often carry over into adulthood, resulting in still more heartbreak and disappointment. Ogou’s love of honesty and dislike of liars is legendary. If you have doubts about your partner’s honesty, you can count on Ogou to reveal the truth. If you think you may be lying to yourself about a recurring problem, you can trust Ogou to let you know the score. Much as his machete can clear out the underbrush, he can hack through the most sophisticated deceit and drag the guilty parties out into the light. As with any Ogou spell, you should approach this one with caution. Ogou isn’t going to possess you and force you to say, “Yes, that dress DOES make you look fat.” He’s far too much of a diplomat and a gentleman for that. Ogou is honest, but he’s not a boor. On the other hand, he’s not going to be amused by the lies you’ve been telling your partner, no matter how much you think it’s all right because “she’s lying to me!” Nor is he going to be subtle about showing you the facts. Do this spell only if you really want to know the truth . . . and if you don’t mind your partner knowing the truth as well. To do this spell, you will need an iron nail, a red seven-day candle, a cigar and an ashtray, and a glass of rum. If you have a machete, you can bang on a hard object with it to welcome Ogou, but this is not required. If you can, you should do this spell on a Wednesday, but if not, any day will do. Sprinkle a few drops of rum on the ground. Ask Legba to open the gate so that Papa Ogou can come down and help you. Light the candle and welcome Papa Ogou. Light the cigar, using the candle flame. Offer him the cigar and rum. Now take the iron nail. Pass it quickly through the candle flame,
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then through the cigar smoke, then dip it in the rum. As you do this, feel Ogou’s power running through it and charging every molecule with his energy. He is transforming this humble iron nail into a magical tool, one by which he can defeat lies and fight for truth. Feel the hard, cold nail between your fingers. Say, “I ask Papa Ogou to give me strength that I may feel the truth.” Touch the nail to your ear. Say, “I ask Papa Ogou to give me strength that I may hear the truth.” Touch the nail gently to your eyelid. Say, “I ask Papa Ogou to give me strength that I may see the truth.” Touch the nail to your lips. Say, “I ask Papa Ogou to give me strength that I may speak the truth.” Now snuff out the candle. Take everything to a railroad track if you can; otherwise, bring it to a crossroads. Pour out the rum, and leave everything else by the roadside as an offering. Now you have asked Papa Ogou to show you the truth, and you can be sure that he will do his part to make sure that you’re not deceived, by yourself or by anyone else.
Papa Ogou's Give Me Strength Spell Many times we know what we should do, but lack the courage to do it. We may find ourselves hiding in the shadows every time that special (and very cute) someone approaches. We know that we should at least make an effort to start up a conversation, but we can’t work up the nerve. We find ourselves dealing with a relationship problem over and over. We want to set firm boundaries and tell our partner “this is unacceptable,” but we’re afraid to speak up and put forth our needs. We know that we should tell our dear friend that our feelings have moved beyond friendship . . . but we are terrified of what might happen if he doesn’t return our feelings. Love can be a frightening thing; rejection hurts. This is particularly true if we have had a history of bad breakups or were raised to believe
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that speaking out on our own behalf was “selfish” or “wrong.” The pain of rejection is less than the pain of loneliness or the pain of “shutting up and dealing with it.” Still, that doesn’t make it any easier, or any less painful, to take that chance. When you’re faced with tough choices, you need a tough mentor—and they don’t come any tougher than Papa Ogou. Papa Ogou’s Give Me Strength Spell starts with his favorite beverage, rum. You should do this one on a Wednesday (Ogou’s day) if possible. You will also need a red seven-day candle, a cigar, a plate or iron cauldron, and a machete or other iron objects. If you have a shrine or altar to Ogou, you can perform it in front of that. Otherwise, you can do it in any clean and reasonably private part of your house. Sprinkle a few drops of rum on the ground, and ask Legba to open the gate for you so Papa Ogou can visit you and give you some of his strength. Light a red seven-day candle and a cigar. If you have a machete, you can bang it on a rock or hard surface to get Ogou’s attention. Otherwise, you can knock together two iron railroad spikes or two hefty pieces of iron. As you are doing this, call on Papa Ogou. Tell him that you need his help and that you want him to give you some of his strength so that you will have the courage to do the right thing. Pour a very tiny bit of rum on a plate or, if you have one, into a small iron cauldron. (I mean a very tiny bit—all you need do is to barely wet the surface.) Now ignite this rum . . . but, of course, be careful! Ogou wants to make you stronger; he doesn’t want to set you or your house on fire. Use as much caution igniting this rum as you would use making Bananas Foster or other flambé recipes. Keep anything flammable at a safe distance, and keep a pot or fire extinguisher handy so you can smother the flames if they get out of hand. As the rum burns, smell the hot fumes mingling with the cigar smoke. Imagine that you are breathing in Papa Ogou’s strength. Feel his gruff, manly presence and sense his power. Breathe deeply of the hot rum. When it has finished burning, run your hands over the plate or cauldron, then slap your arms. As you do, feel Ogou’s heat racing
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through you. He is filling you with his power. You can do anything you need to do; you have the courage of Ogou, the Great Warrior. His hot blood flows through your veins; his musky breath fills your lungs. There is nothing you cannot accomplish, no task too great for you. Do this whenever you can use a little extra strength: for most of us, this is often. Many Vodouisants start their Wednesday morning with this offering to Papa Ogou so that they will have his courage and strength to help carry them through the week. As you keep doing this, you will quickly find yourself becoming more assertive and better able to deal with anxiety and rejection. You may also discover that prospective partners find you much more attractive. Most people prefer a strong, assertive partner to a doormat; they find strength and self-confidence a turn-on and insecurity a turnoff. By overcoming your fear of rejection, you may find yourself experiencing it far less. The blowups and arguments you feared when you started stating your needs might never occur; instead, you may discover that you prefer a partnership based on mutual respect for each other’s needs, rather than one based on fear, clinging, and resentment.
Papa Ogou's Protection Bag Some cynics say “Love is blind”; real cynics say “Love is blind, deaf, and stupid.” Love often causes smart people to make foolish choices; it can make the strongest, most self-reliant person vulnerable and easily manipulated. To make matters worse, there are people who will take advantage of this. Con artists cheat lonely people out of their life savings; predators and abusers pull emotional levers to get their prey, and to keep them. And then there are the innumerable people who are happy to play at love for the sake of getting sex, despite the emotional devastation they may cause to their “conquests.” The world of romance can be a dangerous place. When you’re dealing with people who think “all is fair in love and war,” you may need some protection—and there are few who can protect you better than Ogou.
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In Haiti, Vodouisants make pakets kongo—elaborate packages that are believed to contain spiritual energy and that have various magical uses. As their name suggests, these packets are derived from the traditions of Africa’s Kongo region. The Kongo slaves who were brought to the southern United States also preserved their ancestral magic traditions by creating gris-gris bags, tobys, and mojo hands—small leather or flannel bags filled with herbs, roots, and other items. Even today, those seeking love, protection, financial success, or gambling luck purchase these magical items from rootworkers and “spiritual doctors.” The making of pakets kongo is a closely guarded secret, revealed only to initiates and students, and few rootworkers will tell you exactly what goes into their “Triple Strength Protection Mojo Bags.” However, much of the information on these items and their construction is available, albeit widely scattered throughout various books and scholarly articles. I cannot teach you how my house constructs pakets kongo; that would be violating my initiatory oaths. However, I can tell you how to create a powerful and effective protection bag that draws upon the traditions of Haitian Vodou, African American folk magic, and Kongo religious beliefs. Papa Ogou’s Protection Bag will draw the right kind of people to you, while keeping away those who mean you harm. To start this spell, get a small red flannel pouch. If you’ve ever played role-playing games, you may have seen dice-holder bags; if you work with crystals, you probably have seen crystal pouches. One of these bags, in red, will serve as a perfect holder for your Ogou items. You will also need a tiny magnet and a pinch or two of iron filings. If you can’t find iron filings, you can make your own with a rasp and an iron spike or iron nails. If you have a machete, you can use that. Otherwise, get two good-sized pieces of iron—iron spikes, old auto parts, or something similar—that you can bang together to make a noise. Pour a glass of rum for Ogou, and place it on a red cloth with a cigar and a red sevenday candle. You should do this spell on a Wednesday, if possible, but can do it on a different day if necessary. Sprinkle a few drops of rum on the floor, and ask Legba to open the
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gate so Ogou can come and visit you. Now light the seven-day candle. Bang a machete on a hard surface if you have one. Otherwise, strike the pieces of iron against each other. As you do this, ask Papa Ogou to come and visit you. You don’t have to do this long—a couple of good, hard knocks should be sufficient to catch Papa Ogou’s attention. Light the cigar and place it on an ashtray where it won’t burn anything. Now take the little magnet and place it in the red bag. Pass the red bag, with the magnet, through the cigar smoke. As you do so, say, “Papa Ogou, I want a good lover who will treat me right.” Place the iron filings in the bag, then pass it again through the cigar smoke. Say, “Papa Ogou, protect me from people who would hurt me or who would do me wrong.” Stub out the cigar. Tear off a pinch of unburnt tobacco, and place this in the bag, saying “Papa Ogou, give me some of your strength and your courage, so that I will do right and avoid wrong.” Sprinkle the bag with a few drops of rum to “feed it,” then close the bag and tie it tightly shut. Now that you have made this bag, wrap it in red cloth and put it away somewhere safe, where it will not be disturbed. Feed it regularly with a sprinkling of rum and a little bit of cigar smoke. Talk to it, just as you would talk to Papa Ogou if he were sitting in front of you. Ask him to look after you when you meet someone new; ask him to bring new love into your life. If you need more protection—if you’re dealing with a stalking ex-lover, for example—be sure to follow through with the appropriate authorities in addition to working with Ogou. But for most situations you’ll find Papa Ogou is a strong and reliable protector who will steer you in the right direction and keep bad things from happening to you.
Simbi Bringer of Communication
And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it. —Roald Dahl1
Ezili Freda is frequently associated with clean, fresh rivers,
while La Sirene is intimately connected with the sea. Simbi, by contrast, is found in the places that are neither river nor ocean, in the brackish ponds and salty marshes that lie at the border of the inland and the coast. Because of this, he is considered a great communicator who is able to transmit messages between realms and people. And because the places in-between have always been areas of great magical power, Simbi is a powerful sorcerer. His guidance is sought by many bokors (independent magicians) and members of secret societies like the Sanpwel and Bizango. As befits a mighty magician, Simbi’s origins are obscure and controversial. Some connect him to deities once worshipped by the Taino Indians. When Columbus arrived, between one hundred thousand and one million Taino lived on the mountainous island they called “High Ground,” or “Haiti.” Within fifty years disease and overwork had wiped 122
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out most of the enslaved Tainos. Today little is known of their culture; all that remains are a few archaeological sites and some stone fetishes and idols representing the gods and spirits they served, the Zemis. Others trace Simbi’s roots to Africa. There was a large Kongo (southern and central African) presence among the slaves brought to Haiti. Many of them honored the high god Nzambi Mpungu, who made all things and who taught man the art of making magical fetishes.2 Even today, Paleros—practitioners of the Kongo-inspired Cuban path known as Las Reglas de Kongo or Palo Mayombe—associate this spirit with God the Father and say “Primero Nsambi” (God is first). Still others associate Simbi with the basimbi, Kongo spirits who have “died twice”—in other words, who are two steps beyond earthly existence. The basimbi dwell between the worlds of humans, who have only “died once,” and the realms of the undying deities. They are seen as very powerful but somewhat unpredictable because they have evolved beyond human concerns and feelings. Yet others remind us of the cymbees, magical but mischievous spirit-children who are found near streams, swamps, and ponds and who are prevalent in the folklore of the Gullahs, African American descendents of Kongolese slaves. There are various names connected with Simbi. Simbi Dlo is often associated with fresh streams and freshwater turtles, while Simbi Andezo is connected with brackish water. Simbi Anpaka is seen as a master of herbs and poisons, while Simbi Makaya is a fierce and quick-tempered sorcerer. Some will tell you that all these Simbis are Simbi and that the differences stem from the way he is called and the office he is asked to fill. Others will say that they are different spirits and that Simbi, like “Smith” or “Jones,” is a family name. In Vodou the lwa are divided into families, groupings that are loosely based on a spirit’s nature and geographic origins. The Rada lwa are saluted first during a ceremony. Most of the Rada can be traced to the Fon and Ewe people of modern-day Benin. They are generally considered benevolent and easy to handle. The Petwo lwa are “hotter” and more fierce, with roots in southern Africa and in
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the Kreyol culture that developed on St.-Domingue during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Many consider Simbi to be a Petwo spirit; others say he is a member of the Rada family. Most believe that Simbi walks “between the waters” and has connections to both the Rada and Petwo families. All this may have you throwing up your hands in confusion. If you’re going to work with Simbi, you might as well get used to this. Even those who know him best find him reserved. But while Simbi might not be the most gregarious of lwa, those he chooses to work with find him a powerful ally and trustworthy friend. This is what’s important to most Vodouisants. We call the spirits the misté (mysteries) because we realize that, although we work with them and honor them, they are beyond our understanding. Ultimately their origins are less important to us than the relationships we establish with them and the magic we can perform with their assistance.
Working with Simbi Simbi, like Damballah, is connected with snakes. But where Damballah is seen as a massive white python who stretches from the depths of the ocean to the stars, Simbi is more often associated with small, slender, fast-moving water snakes. Like a water snake he can seem timid; he would rather avoid attention and keep to himself in the shadows. Often he must be coaxed out of hiding by those who work with him. Like those snakes he can move with blinding speed, and once you get Simbi’s attention, you’ll find that he can work quickly and decisively for you. But that last part can be tricky: it can take a while to establish a relationship with Simbi. He can be choosy about his friends and may take some time to warm up to you. If he does something on your behalf, he will expect you to follow through and carry your part of the burden. And if he is disturbed too often for trivial matters, he may go away altogether or give you a cautionary nip to remind you that annoying a
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snake (or a snapping turtle) is a bad idea. Patience and persistence may be necessary: you may spend a few weeks burning candles and calling on Simbi with nothing to show for it, only to get spectacular results when you least expect them. Vodouisants use different colors to honor Simbi; generally, these depend on the Simbi being honored. Simbi Makaya is generally served with red and black, while green and blue are used for Simbi Dlo, and red and white for Simbi Andezo. An image of the Three Kings (as in the Christmas carol) is the one most commonly used for Simbi, although some houses use St. Charles Borromeo and others a picture of St. Andrew. Secret societies have special rites they perform on Simbi’s behalf and special images they use. Alas, these are, well, secret. (They also tend to involve large expensive parties and animal sacrifice, not to mention serious levels of commitment—things that go well beyond the scope of this book!) What I have given you here should provide you with an introduction to this powerful spirit. Once you’ve found your way into Simbi’s favor, he will likely provide you with other means of contacting him and other offerings that he enjoys. As with all the lwa, the important thing is not to follow a grocery list, but rather to gain the trust and protection of your spirits—and the best way to do that is by listening to them, following their advice, and honoring their requests.
Simbi Andezo's Communication 101 Spell When dealing with clients who have love issues, I often hear variants of “If only he (or she) understood how I really feel.” Often we are tongue-tied around our love interests. At other times we find that we have no problem with speaking . . . but, alas, we keep saying the wrong thing. Poets have a hard time finding words to express their love; how, then, can poor, average folk like us hope to convey what’s in our heart?
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For times like this, you can petition Simbi for assistance. Simbi is invoked to send messages between our world and the spirit realm; he can also relay communications between people. According to Milo Rigaud, “Simbi is the voodoo Mercury who conducts the soul from the visible to the invisibles.”3 By calling on Simbi, you can make sure that your broadcast reaches the proper ears. To perform Simbi Andezo’s Communication 101 Spell, you will need a seven-day candle, a glass of rum, and a cloth. The candle and cloth may be any combination of white and red. You will also need three bowls, one containing fresh water, one containing water to which a pinch of salt has been added, and a larger empty bowl. These bowls needn’t be fancy; cheap plastic bowls you purchased at your local dollar store will work just fine. Finally, you should get a small bottle of white rum (a nip will be sufficient), which you will pour in a shot glass as payment for Simbi’s assistance. Draw Simbi’s vévé on a plain piece of paper and place it in the empty bowl. If you don’t do a perfect job, that’s fine; what’s important is that you create it yourself. For purposes of establishing contact with Simbi, a badly reproduced drawing will be more effective than an immaculate photocopy. Place the bowl on the cloth, along with the candle. (You may want to put the candle on a saucer or other fire-resistant surface: as the candle burns down, the bottom of the glass chimney can get quite hot.) Get two pieces of brown paper (you can cut up a shopping bag for this). On one paper write your name; on the other write the name of the person with whom you would like to speak. Place the paper with your name in the bowl containing fresh water, and place the paper with your target’s name in the bowl containing salt water. Sprinkle a few drops of rum on the floor. Ask Papa Legba to open the door so that Simbi might come through. Light the candle and offer Simbi his rum. Take the bowl containing fresh water and your name and pour it into the empty bowl. Explain that you need Simbi’s assistance to help you get a message through.
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Take the bowl containing salt water. As you are holding it, talk to your target. Tell him or her exactly how you feel. Pour your heart out: say everything you have wanted to say. If you feel like crying, laughing, singing, dancing, or doing whatever else comes to mind, do it. Don’t worry about getting your words exactly right or saying the wrong thing. Simbi will make sure that your target understands the feelings you have in your heart. When you feel like you have said everything you want to say, pour the salt water and your target’s name into the large bowl. Snuff out the candle. Take the large bowl and put it in a dark and secluded place, where Simbi can do his work without being disturbed. With Simbi on the case, you will soon get a chance to relay your feelings to your target—or you may suddenly find that he or she understands without you having to say anything at all. This spell can be applied to nonromantic pursuits as well. If you think you deserve a promotion, but don’t have the nerve to tell your boss, have Simbi send a note. If you want to make amends to someone you’ve offended, but can’t bring yourself to face that person, ask Simbi to help you out. There are few situations that can’t be improved by some clear and honest communication. You don’t have to worry about “giving the wrong signals”—Simbi will see that your message comes through loud and clear. But keep in mind that this is not a coercive spell. The idea here is to get a message across to your desired target, not to turn him or her into your love slave. He or she may or may not feel the same way you do; he or she may be completely taken off guard by learning of your feelings. There are no guarantees in love; all this spell does is help to ensure that you will be heard and that you will be clearly understood. The rest is up to your target and, ultimately, to you. You may not get what you hoped for if you let your target know how you feel . . . but if you make no effort, you are certain to get nothing at all.
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Simbi Dlo's Internet Romance Spell Once upon a time we had the town square. People came there to buy necessities, attend to business, and socialize with their neighbors. Today many of us live in suburbs bisected with highways; we travel in steel cocoons to our appointments, then return to our gated communities. Although the landscape has changed, our need for human interactions has not. Where once we would go a-courting on the village commons, now many of us do much of our socializing (romantic and otherwise) on the Internet. Today online dating is big business. In June 2006, twenty-five million Americans visited a dating site. Others met partners through social networking sites like Friendster, tribe.net, or orkut.4 There are sites catering to Jewish singles (jdate.com); gay men (gaydate.com); lesbians (grrl2grrl.com); disabled people (lovebyrd.com); people interested in BDSM, swinging, or alternative sexuality (alt.com)—you name it. Yet despite this plethora of Internet dating opportunities, many people have had no luck finding online love. Many place ads only to find their mailbox filled with images of male genitalia and advertisements for pornographic webcam feeds. Others discover their correspondents have been something less than honest in their descriptions. That blond twenty-something surfer is revealed, upon the first meeting, to be a balding forty-five-year-old accountant who used someone else’s picture. The beautiful poet and grad student neglects to mention her substance abuse issues or her untreated emotional disorders. For everyone who finds love on the Internet it seems there are several dozen who have found nothing but heartbreak and horror stories. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the online world, don’t despair. Many Houngans and Mambos believe that Simbi rules over the Internet. He can help discourage the solicitations you don’t want and make your search for love in cyberspace a more pleasant and productive one. For this spell you will need a turtle figurine. Ceramic and jade
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turtle figurines are inexpensive and can be found in many Asian gift stores. (According to many schools of feng shui, turtles draw longevity, wealth, and good fortune.) You will also need a clear bowl containing spring water in which a pinch of sugar has been dissolved, a blue or green seven-day candle, cloth and ribbon, and a drawing of Simbi’s vévé. Sprinkle a few drops of the sweet water on the floor, and ask Papa Legba to open the way so Simbi can arrive. Now light the candle. Place the vévé atop the cloth, and place the bowl of water atop the vévé. Place the turtle in the bowl. Say a few quiet words to Simbi: ask him to watch over you as you traverse the pathless expanses of cyberspace. Imagine him flowing into the turtle that now lies in the bowl, filling it with his power. Take the bowl and turtle to your computer. Sprinkle some of the sweet water around your desk, and ask Simbi to bless you and look after your hardware and software. Remove the turtle from the water, then tie the ribbon around its body. As you tighten the knot, feel Simbi’s energy being “tied” to the figurine. Don’t worry. You aren’t capturing or enslaving Simbi. Much as you tie your shoes so they won’t slip off your feet, you are tying the turtle to Simbi Dlo so he can use it as a point of contact between our world and the spiritual realm. Put the turtle near your computer, preferably in a dark, quiet place where it won’t be disturbed. Behind your monitor is a good place; so is a drawer beneath your computer. You may want to put him in a bowl of fresh water so that he can move more quickly for you. While they may appear slow and clumsy on land, many turtles are speedy swimmers and hunters underwater. (Avoid sugar water for this purpose, since it will draw insects, and change the fresh water regularly lest it get stagnant!) Greet Simbi when you first sit down at your computer and say goodbye when you leave. Talk to him during the day when you are working at your computer, and ask for his advice and assistance. You can bring him occasional treats—Red Hots or other cinnamon candies are particularly good, since they will “heat” Simbi (make him more active), but
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at the same time ensure his disposition stays “sweet.” A cup of coffee with sugar may also be appreciated, as will a little bit of white rum. Not only should you talk to Simbi regularly, you should take the time to listen to him as well. Like a turtle peeking out from its shell, Simbi can provide you with sudden flashes of insight in the most difficult situations. It may take you some time to establish a relationship with him, but once you do you’ll find that he’s a powerful helper and friend—both online and off.
Simbi Makaya's Binding Love Spell Many people consider coercive love spells unethical, but this view has never held sway in Haiti. Americans (and most people living in the “free world”) place a premium on “free will,” but Vodou developed in a culture where “freedom” is a luxury few can afford and where one’s life is largely determined by accidents of birth and uncontrollable outside forces. Average Haitians get little chance to exercise “free will”—and hence see little reason to hold it in high regard or see it as an important ideal in their magical practices. Many Vodou love spells will seek to “bind” the individuals together. If pressed, many Houngans and Mambos would say that all love is binding done by the spirits: it is they, not we, who are in charge when it comes to matters of love and attraction. All we are doing is asking the lwa to work in our favor: make X love me instead of making him love Y. While this view may seem harsh to us, it has plenty of historical and contemporary precedent, from the ancient Greeks and the “arrows of Eros” to modern singers claiming “our love was meant to be.” This spell works with Simbi Makaya, a “hotter” form of Simbi. While this spell uses the same vévé as the other spells, it (like Simbi Makaya) is considerably more forceful and aggressive. Caution is advised before using this one. You will need a small ovenproof dish: a bread pan or something similar will work nicely. You will also need two business
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card–sized pieces of brown paper—you can cut these from a grocery bag—a darning needle, a red seven-day candle, one spool each of red and black thread, white rum, and Florida Water. (This is available at many botanicas and drugstores. If you can’t find any, regular rubbing alcohol will do.) You will also need to draw Simbi’s vévé on an A4 or an 8½ x 11 inch sheet of plain white paper. Sprinkle some rum on the floor and ask Papa Legba to open the gate for Simbi. Put a shot of rum next to the candle, and place Simbi’s vévé nearby. Place the dish on a fireproof surface, away from anything flammable. Sprinkle some Florida Water on a paper towel, then moisten the bottom of the pan. Place the darning needle in the pan. Call on Simbi to work his magic for you. Now ignite the Florida Water. As it burns, feel the hot energy of Simbi Makaya flowing into the darning needle and filling it with his power. Let the flames burn themselves out (this should only take a few seconds), and let the pan and the needle cool down. Don’t rush this—the needle is going to be HOT, and if you reach in too quickly you may get a blister for your troubles. Write your name on one piece of brown paper, and write your target’s name on the other. Take equal lengths of the red thread and black thread, about three feet of each will be enough. Put the threads through the darning needle. Now place the two pieces of brown paper together with your names touching, and sew them together. As you are sewing, imagine Simbi dancing between the two of you, bringing you together with quick and irresistible force. The flames that burned through the darning needle are now burning through you and your target. When you have stitched the paper together, fold the Simbi vévé around it. Now use the rest of the red and black thread to wrap the papers together. As you do, ask Simbi to bind your destinies and bring the two of you together in love, lust, or whatever you are seeking. Place the wrapped papers in a safe place where no one else will see them. Promise Simbi Makaya a reward (a bottle of rum, perhaps) when the magic is successful—and whatever you do, be sure that you live up to your promise! If you don’t, Simbi Makaya may take away everything he
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has brought you—then take a bit more just to remind you that the lwa hate oathbreakers. When you feel like your target is drifting away or feel like you could use a bit more assistance from Simbi Makaya, you can “feed” the charm by sprinkling it with Florida Water or cayenne pepper. Light a red candle for Simbi Makaya and pour him a shot of rum, then hold the paper and state your desires clearly and loudly. As you continue to feed the charm, it will grow stronger—and so will your relationship with Simbi. Should you do this spell, there is a very real chance that your target may become dangerously obsessed with you. Should that happen, or should you just discover that your target wasn’t all you hoped for, you will need to destroy the vévé and charm you have created. You will also need to give Simbi Makaya at least twice what you offered him in the first place to undo the wanga (magical spell) you had him cast for you. (Needless to say, you should take any other mundane steps required to protect yourself from unwanted attention, including calls to the police if necessary!) Looking at all these warnings, you may wonder why I included this spell at all. I wanted to talk Vodou in all its aspects, not just the easy and comfortable parts. Coercive magic and binding spells are a regular part of Haitian folk magic—and most magical traditions. I would be remiss in teaching were I to ignore this. I would also be remiss were I to minimize the very real dangers associated with this type of magic. Ultimately, I am trusting my readers to exercise proper discretion and caution. It is they who will reap the rewards, and responsibilities, of this and any other spell they perform. Accordingly, I leave that choice up to them.
Ezili Danto Bringer of Self-Reliance
If men swear that they want to harm you when you are asleep, you can go to sleep. If women say so, stay awake. â€”African Proverb1
If Ezili Freda sees things as they ought to be, Ezili Danto,
her dark-skinned country sister, sees things as they are. Danto represents the fierce, wild love of the single mother, protecting her child in a harsh and unforgiving environment. Since there are few environments more harsh and unforgiving than the slums of Port-au-Prince or the impoverished farms of the Artibonne region, Danto has become one of Haitiâ€™s most popular lwa. Images of the Black Madonna and Child can be found throughout the countryside, and drawings of her heart and dagger can be seen on many peristyle walls. In Haiti, many men are forced to relocate to the United States, Dominican Republic, or elsewhere in search of work. This has left an ever-increasing number of women left to raise their children on their own, with inconsistent support (if any) from their partners. Official weddings are a luxury, and single motherhood is more the norm than the exception. Faced with widespread poverty and few opportunities for advancement, these women are forced to make heroic efforts to keep themselves and their children alive from day to day. Danto understands the sufferings of 133
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her devotees because she shares in their sufferings. Because she is able to survive, she gives them hope that they can survive too. Danto is concerned with the well-being of those she loves; she doesn’t spend a lot of time worrying about how everyone else views her. She is known to take both male and female lovers, and is considered a particular patroness of lesbians and “butch” women. The Evangelicals and wealthy people in town may gossip about her affairs and dalliances, but she doesn’t let their foolish chatter or self-righteous moralizing bother her. If they try to harm her or hers, they will find themselves on the receiving end of her wrath. Otherwise, they’re free to talk as they will. At the end of the day their scorn will not take food from her baby’s mouth, nor will their hollow praise leave her any wealthier. Men who beat their wives may find themselves on the receiving end of Danto’s wrath; she is known to wreak a terrible vengeance on those who abuse or take advantage of her children and those who serve her. In a country where only the wealthy have any recourse to the law and there is little in the way of an organized justice system, Danto can help her devotees to “even the score.” When she is provoked, her rage is terrifying; like a she-wolf protecting her cubs, she will stop at nothing to save those she loves from suffering or injustice. Many outsiders (and quite a few Vodouisants) fear Danto; quite a few writers have referred to her as “evil.” She certainly can be intimidating. Her face is scarred and her tongue has been cut out; when she comes she grinds her teeth in rage and screams “Ke! Ke! Ke!” while gesturing with her knife. Still, she’s also one of the most caring and maternal of spirits. Her love has nothing to do with frills, lace, or romantic poetry. It is the love that endures despite all obstacles . . . and the love that won’t let you sell yourself short. Mama Danto (as Vodouisants call her) can be nurturing, but she can also be stern when that is required. She’s quick to offer you a hug when you’re feeling down, but she’s just as quick to tell you “Get over yourself, get up, and get on with your life” if that’s what you need to hear. One chante lwa describes Danto’s endurance even in the face of adversity:
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Set koud kouto, set koud pwenyad Prete’m dedin a pou m’al vomi sang mwen Sang ape koule (Seven stabs of the knife, seven stabs of the sword Hand me that basin, I am going to vomit blood the blood runs down) 2
While this may seem like a song of defeat, it is actually a boast of triumph. Danto may have been stabbed, but she is not giving up the fight: once she finishes vomiting blood she is going to wreak vengeance on the fool who crossed her. In Haiti, even the lwa are not invulnerable. Danto is powerful not because she cannot be hurt, but because she can keep on going despite her injuries. By her example she shows us how we can survive in the face of adversity and continue with our lives after physical and emotional hurts. Danto can enjoy the company of her lovers, but she’s also quite capable of surviving on her own. While Danto has many lovers, she ultimately relies on her own strength and endurance to see her and her children through the day. She loves not from a position of weakness (“I’ll DIE if you leave me!”), but from a position of strength (“I’m glad you’re here to share my life and glad we can make each other happier”). If you’re tired of being a doormat and want the strength to survive on your own, you can come to Danto for assistance. She may not sugarcoat things for you, but she will help you to become a stronger and more self-reliant person.
Calling on Ezili Danto Danto and Freda may be sisters . . . but they don’t like each other at all. You should keep their things separated; if at all possible, keep them in different rooms. That being said, you should not serve one without serving the other. Dealing with both will help you to remain balanced.
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Working only with Freda, you may find yourself becoming overly romantic and impractical; working only with Danto, you may find yourself becoming too concerned with practical matters and unwilling to take into consideration your emotional needs. Sometimes you need to keep your feet on the ground; at other times you need to look to the sky and dream. Working with both Freda and Danto can help you to strike a balance between those two extremes. While Freda is partial to frilly, lacy things, Danto favors the humble blue denim dress and red headscarf worn by many peasant women in Haiti. She is generally represented by the Mater Salvatoris (also known as Our Lady of Czestochowa), a black-skinned Madonna with scars on her face and a child in her arms. Vodouisants say she received the scars on her face when she got into a fight with Freda. She eats fried pork, red beans and rice or coarse brown bread, drinks rum or dry red wine, and smokes unfiltered cigarettes. She also carries a sharp knife and is not afraid to use it when she or any of her children are threatened. Her colors are red and dark blue, and her day is Tuesday. Danto’s love advice is rooted in practical concerns. She’s not going to bring you a talented but impoverished artist or a pretty partner who can’t hold a regular job. She has to pull her own weight, and she expects her partners to do the same. If you have fallen in love with one of these beautiful but impractical types, Danto may ask you why you are wasting your time and hers with this foolishness. The type of person she will bring to you will typically be a faithful and reliable provider, the kind of person who may not be much for romance, but who will always be there when needed. If you are a parent, Danto will try to ensure that your new partner or partners will be good to your children and will take care of them. They may not be sharp dressers or smooth talkers, but they will be steadfast and loving. Danto’s emphasis on material things may seem a bit off-putting to people who have been raised on a steady stream of romance stories and who have been led to believe that “love conquers all.” Still, a little bit of hard, cold economic reasoning may be in order when considering
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potential partners. Love does not pay the rent, nor does it put food on the table. Plenty of otherwise satisfactory relationships have fallen apart because of monetary issues. Marrying for money alone is generally a bad idea, but so is marrying without concern for your partner’s ability to accept responsibility. And if you’re one of those pretty but impractical people, Danto can help you to become more grounded and concerned with day-to-day life. When you must depend on others for your support, you are vulnerable to their whims. Danto does not trust the kindness of others; she depends on her own strength and hard work. She stays with her lovers because she wants to stay, not because she must tolerate their abuse or starve. If you follow her lead, you will be able to offer and receive love based on mutual respect and mutual aid, not on dependence and resentment. Learning to pay your own way and take care of your own needs will mean you can be a full partner in a relationship, not a pampered pet. Danto’s love is grounded in reality; she does not expect her partners to be knights in shining armor or courtly princes. She is capable of loving them as they are, not as she feels they should be. This does not mean she is tolerant of abuse or bad behavior; rather, it means that she is capable of accepting her lovers even though they might not measure up to some fictitious ideal. Many of us have been raised from an early age on a steady diet of “love stories.” It’s easy for us to overlook the solid love that is right in front of us as we search for some ideal mate that never existed outside a Hollywood soundstage. Danto’s love may not come with lace and perfume, but it’s no less real or powerful for that. Like everything else about her life, Danto’s love is rooted in the here and the now. If you come to her seeking assistance, you’ll find that she can work quickly on your behalf . . . and that she can just as quickly pull you up short and tell you to quit being a fool. There are times when we all need a little help from a loving but stern mother—and those are the times when you need to call on Ezili Danto!
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Ezili Danto's Child Care Agency Spell Many parents must struggle to make ends meet. Often their efforts to get help are met with layers of bureaucracy and an uncaring and sometimes hostile system. The plight of the poor has rarely been a high priority with politicians. They are more likely to rail against “welfare mothers cheating the system” than to offer constructive solutions to the problems of poverty. Our child protection agencies fail far too often, and our legal efforts to hold “deadbeat parents” accountable frequently fall short of their goal. If you’re trying to do the right thing by your children but feel like you’re fighting an uphill battle, you can call on Ezili Danto for help. She’s well aware of how difficult it is to raise a family on a limited income, and she’s a strong protector of children and the weak. While she may not provide you with winning lottery numbers or give you a free windfall, she will definitely help you to work with what you have and to get what is rightfully yours. If you’re owed child support, but getting nowhere in your efforts to receive it, you can call on Danto to help. Gather up any papers you have concerning your case—the orders of support, judgments, correspondence with various agencies, and so on. Put them in a manila envelope; place the manila envelope atop a blue denim or red satin or gingham cloth. A yard of cloth from any sewing store will do just fine, as will a plain headwrap. You don’t need anything fancy; Danto is quite happy to work with humble but serviceable materials. Now get a plate and place a red or dark blue seven-day candle atop it. If you can find a candle with the Mater Salvatoris image on it, so much the better; otherwise, a plain red or blue candle will work just fine. Put the plate on top of the manila envelope. If you can find some Florida Water (it’s available online, at most botanicas, and at many drugstores), you can sprinkle a few drops around the room. If you can’t, or if you are sensitive to perfumes, you can sprinkle a little bit of cinnamon and
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cayenne pepper on the plate. This will serve to “heat” Danto up and to draw her closer. You can also light an unfiltered cigarette for her if you want, although again this is not required if you are sensitive to tobacco or if you can’t smoke in your house. Sprinkle a few drops of water on the floor, and ask Papa Legba to open the door so Danto can come in and hear you. Now light the candle, and ask Mama Danto to help you out. Explain that you are trying hard to make ends meet and support your family, and you really need your former partner to pick up the slack and act responsibly toward your mutual child. Talk to her just like you would talk to a good friend; there’s no need to be shy or to worry about seeming irreverent. Danto doesn’t stand on ceremony; she is much more comfortable with straightforward plain speaking than with “Oh, Mother Danto, I humbly present you with my petition . . .” Talk to her for a few minutes or for as long as you feel like talking to her. If you’re upset, don’t be afraid to cry on her shoulder. Danto is a loving mother and is always happy to listen to her children when they need her. When you feel like you’ve said all you need to say, snuff out the candle. After it has cooled, wrap it in the cloth and put it away. You can light it again the next night, and keep doing this until you start seeing results. As you continue to work with this candle, you will be “working the point” and making it a powerful magical item. (When Danto comes through for you, be sure to do something nice for her in return. A nice knife or a plate of red beans and rice or fried pork will be greatly appreciated. She is a loving mother, but like any mother she expects gratitude and thanks from her children.) You can use this candle anytime you are having problems with your child. Compile the paperwork you’ve accumulated, and tell Danto all the efforts you have made to resolve the situation. Of course, Danto is going to expect you to do something to help yourself and your family. She will work with you but isn’t going to work for you while you sit back and do nothing. But you’ll find that she’ll be quick to “cut through the bureaucracy” and ensure that you get
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what you need for your family. It may not be luxurious, but it will be sufficient to meet your needs.
Ezili Danto's Coming out of the Closet Spell Like “welfare mothers,” gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, transgendered people, and other “queers” are convenient scapegoats for society’s ills. For some, coming out as queer means losing friends and even family; for others, it means becoming a target for verbal, emotional, and physical abuse. Many have internalized the hatred and scorn that is heaped on “perverts” and “degenerates.” Alcohol and drug abuse are widespread in the queer community, as are a whole host of self-destructive behaviors. If you are coming to terms with your own queerness, or if you are trying to get over your own queer self-loathing, Ezili Danto can help you. Many Vodouisants identify Danto as the patroness of lesbians and “butch” women. Others claim that she is actually a hermaphrodite who is both male and female. None will dispute that she loves her children regardless of their sexual orientation or gender presentation . . . or that she’s willing to protect them from bigots. If you are in the process of coming out to yourself or to others, you’re probably under an enormous amount of stress. You’re going through some major changes and may be facing difficulties from friends, coworkers, acquaintances, and family. The closet is a stifling and depressing place . . . but it’s a known quantity. Coming out can turn your whole life upside down. Dealing with your own feelings of guilt and confusion is difficult enough; combined with pressure from others, it can make you long for the bad old days of secret shame. If you’re still confused about your feelings and coming out to yourself, you can ask for Danto’s guidance. Set aside an hour or so on a Tuesday night. Prepare a glass of rum or dry red wine for Danto; light a red or dark blue seven-day candle for her. Ask Legba to open the way so that Danto can come down and help you. Spend a few minutes in quiet
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reflection, then tell Danto how you are feeling. Explain that you’re confused and frightened, and tell her that you need some of her strength. You can end it by saying “I think I’m gay,” or “I think I may be transsexual,” or even “I know I’m queer.” Do this once a week until you don’t need to do it anymore. Your next step may be coming out to a friend or to a family member. Ask Danto for the courage to admit to this person what you have admitted to yourself. Your friend may react with support, with shock, or even with rejection. If this happens, it will certainly be painful . . . but you will survive. Nobody will tell you that coming out is easy, but after the smoke clears you’ll find yourself a much happier person. You will no longer be living a lie, and you can be yourself, not some persona you have created to fool others. Those who love you will love you for who you are; those who do not never did. As you come out, you may find yourself faced with serious realworld difficulties. People have lost jobs and families for admitting their sexual orientation; others have been subjected to brutal physical attacks. You may need Danto’s protection to help get you through the rough patches. Offer a piece of red or dark blue ribbon to Danto, and ask her to look after you and protect you. Now carry that ribbon in your purse or wallet, and rest assured that she is keeping an eye on you. Danto will give you the strength to endure coming-out difficulties, but she will also expect you to do your part. If you are facing discrimination at the office, you would do well to seek the services of a good lawyer. You may also benefit from joining a support group: check with your local gay and lesbian center or do a bit of online research. Knowing that you’re not alone—that others have been where you are and have weathered the storm—can be invaluable during this time of crisis. (Not to mention that you’ll generally have better luck finding a healthy relationship through a support center than through a bar. Drunken flings are rarely as satisfying or productive as sober partnerships formed through common interests.) In time you will realize that if people have a problem with your
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sexuality, it’s THEIR problem, not yours. You will know that Danto loves you for who you are and that you are not alone, even though you may feel that way now. You will have Danto on your side . . . and, even more important, you will have your integrity and your self-respect.
Ezili Danto's Wash That $@# ! % Right out of My Hair Bath Most of us have found ourselves trapped in unhealthy, unfulfilling relationships. Sometimes these relationships involve emotional or physical abuse; at other times it’s a simple matter of the relationship lingering on after the love has died. We know that we’re unhappy, we know our partner is unhappy, and yet we can’t find the strength to break things off. Change is frightening, even when it’s change for the better. If you’re trying to get out of a situation like this, you can ask Mama Danto for assistance. She’s a loving mother and, like any loving mother, she wants to make sure you don’t sell yourself short. Much as your mother might have dragged you kicking and screaming into your first day of kindergarten, Danto will pick you up and put you where you need to be. Before you do this, you should make sure you really want to end this relationship once and for all. If you’re sick and tired of being sick and tired, if you’ve cried all the tears you want to cry over this person, if you know in your heart things are never going to improve—then you’re ready to call on Mama Danto’s assistance. Otherwise, you don’t want to waste your time, or hers. Danto is a loving mother, but she’s also a stern one. If you ask for her help, be prepared to receive it and don’t waste her time with foolishness. This bath should be done on a Tuesday if at all possible. It’s best if the moon is waning, since you’re doing a spell to remove things from your life, but that’s not essential. Since you will be going to bed after taking this bath, you should do it at night or before you usually go to sleep. (If you’re working the graveyard shift, it’s okay to do this bath in
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the morning before you turn in.) Whatever you do, do NOT take this bath on a Thursday, since that is Freda’s day. To prepare this bath, you will need a basin or wide-mouthed jar, some spring water, a pinch of cinnamon, a tiny, TINY pinch of cayenne pepper, a few dashes of Florida Water, a glass of dry red wine, a small glass of pineapple juice, and one new kitchen knife (an inexpensive one is fine; if you already have a shrine to Danto you can use her knife for this). You will also need a red seven-day candle, a blue seven-day candle, and a red headscarf or cloth. Begin by sprinkling a few drops of spring water on the floor and asking Papa Legba to open the door for Ezili Danto. Now light the red and blue candles and say hello to Mama Danto. Thank her for coming. Explain that you need to move on in your life, and ask her if she can give you the courage to do what needs to be done. Place the wine, cinnamon, pepper, pineapple juice, and Florida Water in the basin or jar, then place the knife in. Add spring water to this until the container is full. Now hold it up in front of the candles. Offer this to Danto, and ask her to fill it with her strength and her courage. Imagine her standing there before you, filling the bath with her power. When you feel her power, put the bath down. Remove the knife, but leave it close at hand. Now, step into the tub and pour the bath over your head. Let it soak your whole body. As it does, imagine that the ties that have bound you to this relationship are snapping. (Make sure you don’t get any of this in your eyes. This is why I recommended only a very little bit of pepper.) After you have poured out the bath, take the knife. Imagine Danto using that knife to cut away any remaining cords. Wave it around yourself in all directions; as you do, feel the ties that have bound you breaking. You are free of the past, free once again to do what you need to do, to go where you need to go. Take the red cloth and use it to wrap your head. As you do, imagine Danto wrapping her arms around you. She is there to protect you. You don’t have to worry about anything so long as you have her by your side.
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Let the bath air dry: don’t towel off, but allow the bath to dry on its own. As it dries, imagine Danto’s power flowing into your body. She is protecting you; she is giving you the courage to do what needs to be done. (Make sure you stay warm while you are drying off. Like any good mother, Danto doesn’t want you catching a cold.) When you are dry, turn in for the evening. If you have any dreams, be sure to write them down when you awaken. If you have a shrine for Danto, return the knife to her table. Otherwise, take the knife to a deserted crossroads and leave it there, so Papa Legba can see that Danto gets it. Now use your newfound courage . . . and do what you have to do. End the relationship if it needs to be ended; move on with your life if the breakup has already occurred.
Ghede Bringer of Booty Calls
As they were walking home from Ladies’ Night, two very drunk friends realized they both needed to pee. Since they were walking past a graveyard, one suggested they do their business behind a headstone. The first woman had nothing to wipe with so she took off her panties, used them, and threw them away. Her friend didn’t want to ruin her expensive underwear set, so she grabbed a large ribbon from a wreath that was on a grave and proceeded to wipe herself with it, then stumbled home. The next day the first woman’s husband phoned the other husband and said, “These damn girls’ nights out have got to stop. My wife came home last night without her panties.” “That’s nothing,” said the other. “Mine came back with a sympathy card stuck between her asscheeks that said, ‘From all of us at the Fire Station. We’ ll never forget you!’” —Anonymous
Long before Goths mixed death and sexuality, Haitians
were playing tribute to the Ghede. These vulgar clowns of the cemetery are among the most popular spirits in the Haitian pantheon. In most 145
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peristyles, Fet Ghede (November 1–2, the Catholic feasts of All Saints and All Souls) is the biggest party of the year, as people come from all around to enjoy Ghede’s suggestive dancing, hilarious antics, and crude but often pointed dirty jokes. If Legba is the kindly grandfather who loves telling knock-knock jokes, Ghede is the uncle who is always asking you to pull his finger. Ghede is a great entertainer, but he is also a powerful worker of magic. His counsel may consist of a few dirty words—or a lot of dirty words—but he is known to always speak the truth, even the truth no one else would dare to say. His blunt honesty is frequently welcomed by those who have serious problems, while his magical skills are often sought by people who want assistance in matters of love and lust.
Ghede in Haiti Neither alive nor dead, Ghede stands outside social rules and regulations. During a Vodou party, most spirits arrive within the reglamen, the “order of service,” which tells when each spirit is honored. In that reglamen, Ghede is the final spirit served—but he rarely waits his turn! He may show up at any time, ready to drink Ogou’s rum, steal Legba’s food, and peek up Freda’s dress. He will interrupt a salute to Papa Damballah with a ditty about the length, firmness, and staying power of his zozo (penis), or provide an off-key accompaniment to La Sirene’s singing. Because he is coming from below the ground, Ghede wears sunglasses. Frequently he will knock out one lens. Some say this is because he sees the worlds of both the living and the dead. Others say he does this in homage of his “one-eyed trouser snake.” People possessed by Ghede will powder their faces to mimic the pallor of a corpse and will wear battered hats or other ratty old clothes. Ghede’s favored drink is piman, a concoction made by soaking twenty-one Scotch bonnet peppers in a bottle of rum. Anyone trying to fake a Ghede possession will wind up gasping in pain should he or she be foolish enough to sip this
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fiery cocktail—but Ghede will suck it down like water, and even splash his face with it like it was after-shave. Ghede announces his presence by dancing the banda: keeping his back straight, Ghede dry-humps the air to the grinding, bumping staccato of the banda rhythm. To cheer him on—as if he needed any further encouragement—the crowd joins in on his songs, many of which feature graphic sexual descriptions, vulgar metaphors, and politically incorrect observations. Ghede will lead the crowd in these tunes by taking his cane—a long stick with the top carved so it resembles the head of a phallus—and waving it around in time with the music. Ghede takes particular pride in mocking the self-righteous. In Haiti, Ghede sometimes shows up at Evangelical tent meetings to begin his own profane version of “preaching to the choir.” If he sees his antics are making you uncomfortable, this will only cause him to become even more crude and vulgar. Still, while Ghede can be insulting if treated rudely (or if you try taking his food), his humor is generally good-natured. If you’ve ever seen an eight-year-old who has just learned a new dirty word and wants to share it with the world, you’ll have some idea of how the average Ghede uses profanity. He’s crass, crude, and obnoxious—but he’s having such a good time that you can’t help but laugh along with him. Vodouisants believe that Ghede is “the voice of the forgotten dead.” Those who did not receive proper funerals, those who have been neglected by their descendants, or those who died in difficult circumstances may return to this world as Ghede. Once these forgotten dead get their voice back, they are rarely silent—and may speak in a multitude of different languages. Since people around the world die, we find Ghede from all cultures and all walks of life. Near the Dominican border you will find Spanish-speaking Ghede, while I’ve met Italian, African American, and Jewish Ghede in the United States. In Kreyol, “Ghede” is both singular and plural; there are many different Ghede, each of whom are addressed by name. These names can range from “Brave Ghede of the Cross” to “Ghede Little Fart Behind
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the Cross” and all points in between. Most Ghede have the surname “de la Croix” (of the cross) because of the crosses usually found on Haitian tombs. The Jewish Ghede I know goes by “de l’Etoile” (of the star) and gets rather offended by implications to the contrary. I presume other non-Christian Ghede would have appropriate surnames, but have not yet met any who could verify this.
Calling on Ghede Ghede is known to work quickly. Because he is so close to the material realm and the world of the living, he can make fast changes in our situation and our lives. He also has little patience with hypocritical notions of how “good girls” and “proper people” deal with their sexual urges. If anyone can understand the need for some occasional no-strings-attached fun and games, it’s Ghede. He knows that there’s nothing wrong with recreational sex between consenting adults—and will be happy to help you find a like-minded partner or partners if you ask him. Before working with Ghede—or any dead spirit—you should purify the general area. Not all dead spirits are charitably disposed toward the living, and if you attract a parasitic or angry ghost you may find yourself in serious physical and spiritual trouble. Thankfully, it is fairly easy to avoid creatures like this by taking a few simple precautions. Make sure the space in which you are calling the spirit has been thoroughly cleansed. Wash the floors down with a combination of water and a pinch of salt. (If you can find it, add a sprinkle of Florida Water as well.) You can also fumigate the area by burning frankincense, myrrh, or sage. Now make sure everything is neat and tidy. Empty any cups or containers that hold stale liquids and get rid of any stale or spoiled food you have lying around the house. Decaying food, stagnant water, and cluttered conditions tend to draw negative spirits, who will cause fatigue, depression, and illness. By contrast, clean and orderly places are more likely to attract the attention of positive entities, who will make you feel
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happier, healthier, and more alert. When John Wesley said “cleanliness is next to godliness,” he was on to something. Once you have the place in order, you can set up a table for Ghede’s offerings. Because Ghede come from different cultural and social backgrounds, their wants and needs differ. In Haiti, Ghede’s shrines are usually decorated with black and purple cloths. Some Ghede, however, prefer purple and white, black and white, black and red, or other color combinations that include either purple or black. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on these. In fact, ragged, faded, and moth-eaten cloths will work particularly well for honoring Ghede. When you’re calling on Ghede, you’ll want to light a seven-day candle. Many people who come to Vodou from other traditions have learned that black candles are burned only for “evil” or “demonic” magic. This is not entirely true; black candles are regularly burned for Ghede. If you don’t feel comfortable burning black candles—or if you can’t find them—you can also use a purple candle. In Haiti, many people use images of St. Gerard Majella or St. Expedite to represent Ghede; others use cardboard skeletons or other images connected with death. I’ve seen Jack Skellington from Nightmare Before Christmas, the Joker from Batman, Grant Morrison’s “Jim Crow,” or Beetlejuice placed on American altars dedicated to Ghede, so just about any picture that makes you think of Ghede will work just fine. Put a pair of old sunglasses atop this cloth, so that Ghede will have something to shade his eyes from the sun. You can prepare a bottle of his favorite drink by steeping twenty-one Scotch bonnet peppers in rum, but be careful with this stuff! If you spill even a little bit on your skin, you will regret it. If you live near a cemetery, you can get some graveyard dirt to place on Ghede’s shrine as well. To get this, bring a bottle of rum and some pocket change with you. Pour some rum on the ground and then leave the change as an offering in exchange for the dirt. When you are calling on Ghede, you can put a tiny pinch of this dirt on the candle after you light it. You should keep Ghede’s things away from any items dedicated
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to other lwa. Freda will run away when she sees Ghede, while other spirits find him a bit loud, crude, and obnoxious for their tastes. You don’t need to put him in another room (although most Vodou temples in Haiti will set aside a small room just for Ghede), but you should definitely put his things in a separate drawer, box, or closet and keep them away from things you use when working with your other spirits. Most Vodouisants consider Friday to be Ghede’s day; you should avoid doing any Ghede work on Thursday (Freda’s day) or Sunday (which most Haitian Vodouisants dedicate to Bondye, Jesus, and the Christian saints and angels).
Ghede's Quick Pick-You-Up Spell Most of us have experienced sexual dysfunction at one time or another in our lives. Women who are under a lot of stress sometimes find it difficult to have an orgasm, while men may find it impossible to get an erection. A cottage industry has sprung up (pardon the pun) around our fears of sexual inadequacy. Magazines offer “Ten Steps to EarthShattering Orgasms” and “Tantric Secrets to Better Sex,” while pharmaceutical companies (not to mention spammers) make fortunes with drugs designed to keep your flagpole from drooping at half-mast. In Haiti, Houngans and Mambos do a brisk business consulting with men who suffer from impotence. Erectile dysfunction is often traced to a supernatural cause. An angry spirit may punish a neglectful or disrespectful follower by “taking away his nature”; a jealous rival (or scorned lover) may use magic to get revenge. In these cases Ghede is often called on for his expertise in healing; his dual connection to the realms of death and fertility means he usually can get a stalled love machine up and running again in no time. If you are having persistent problems with impotence, painful sexual intercourse, or lack of sexual desire, you should consult a physician to make sure there is no underlying medical or psychological cause that requires medication or therapy. If, on the other hand, you just want to
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make sex a bit more enjoyable (and who doesn’t), you might want to ask Ghede for a bit of assistance. He can help you to overcome some of the barriers that are causing you to have problems, and give you what you need to have a more fulfilling sex life. If you can, begin this spell on a Friday. If you can’t, do it on any day but Thursday or Sunday. Get a black or purple cloth, some sunglasses, a small bottle of rum with peppers soaking in it, and a black or purple candle. If you have a favored image that you use to represent Ghede, place that atop the cloth along with everything else. You can also add a tiny pinch of graveyard dirt or other appropriate Ghede-related items. Since you’re going to ask him to help you, you will need to give him something. Provide a glass for Ghede’s drink; a chipped cup or wellused bar glass will be perfect for this spell. For this spell you will also need a representation of your sex organs. If you can find a “penis candle” or a “vulva candle”—candles that are made in the likeness of male or female genitalia, respectively—these will work especially well. (They are available online from several suppliers if you can’t find them in your neighborhood.) If you don’t happen to have any genital candles on hand, you can certainly improvise. A photo of your endowments will work just fine, as will a drawing. You can even use a picture of someone else’s genitals if you are shy; those are widely available in books and magazines. The idea here is to create something that will represent the member that is going to be getting a boost from Ghede. Creativity is welcome and encouraged. Once you have everything you need, sprinkle a few drops of the peppered rum on the ground. Ask Legba to open the gates of the spirit realm, and ask Baron La Croix (the ruler of the cemetery) to send Ghede to you. Now light the seven-day candle (not the penis or vulva candle, if you are using it), and say hello to Ghede. You don’t have to come up with anything fancy or formal; a simple “Hey, Ghede . . . glad to see you!” will do. Offer him a glass of peppered rum. Now take the genital image or candle. Splash some of the peppered rum on the gloves, then use them to rub your phallus/vagina substitute.
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As you do, imagine Ghede’s power coursing through it. His energy will destroy anything that stands between you and greater sexual satisfaction. As you are doing this, explain what it is you want. Would you like to stay harder longer? Would you like to have earth-shattering orgasms when you’re having sex, not just a warm tickly feeling that leaves you feeling disappointed? Tell Ghede exactly what you want, and don’t be shy about using four-letter words. The more explicit you are, the better. As you do this, continue to rub the peppered rum into the image or candle . . . and don’t be embarrassed by any comments from Ghede as to what it looks like you are doing. After you have done this for a few minutes, put the image or candle down. Wash your hands, then remove the gloves. Snuff out the sevenday candle. Wrap the phallus/vagina substitute in the obituary section of a newspaper. If you live near a cemetery, you can dispose of it there; otherwise, leave it at the crossroads so that Papa Legba can take it where it needs to go.
Ghede's Boogie Shoes Spell “Foot track work”—spells done using dust from footprints or involving the feet of the target—are an important part of African magic. Some workers will “cross” a doorway with powders or other substances to enchant their victim when he or she walks across the threshold. Others will take dust from a footprint and use it to create a link with the target, while still others will place magical items in their shoe to bring good luck. While African and African-derived magic places particular emphasis on footprints and foot magic, their interest is not unique. Eastern Europeans believed that anyone foolish enough to drink water from a wolf ’s footprint would become a werewolf on the next full moon. At Imbolc, Celts would scatter ashes on the hearth; if they found a footprint in them the next morning they rejoiced because Brigid had visited their home, thereby ensuring a year of prosperity. Today reflexologists
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believe by stimulating certain points on the foot they can improve health throughout the body. The foot is our point of contact with the earth. It is the point where our energy returns to its source . . . and the point from which we draw earth energy into ourselves. With a little help from Ghede, you can put foot magic to work in your life. The next time you’re stepping out on the town and looking to meet new people, why not put on Ghede’s Boogie Shoes? This spell will help put bounce in your step and give you some mojo that Austin Powers would envy. For this spell, you will need to travel to your nearest churchyard and gather a few pinches of graveyard dirt. As noted above, you will have to leave some pocket change and a little bit of rum at the cemetery gates before you gather the dirt. You may be (and probably are) wondering, “Why would I use graveyard dirt in a love spell?” The answer is very simple; graveyard dirt is a powerful magical tool. European magic tends to connect death with evil and harm. In African magic, death is seen as an integral part of life, and the dead are often called upon to work positive magic. By blessing this graveyard dirt, you are removing any negative influences and tapping in to the power of the positive dead. You will also need some dragon’s blood incense and a charcoal on which to burn it. (If you don’t have a censer or incense holder handy, don’t fret. You can burn it on top of an old coffee can and get the same effect without scorching anything in your house.) Get a black or purple seven-day candle for Ghede, along with a glass of peppered rum and his other tools—his cloth, sunglasses, images, and the like. Finally, you’ll need some spring water, a new pen or pencil, a feather (black or purple, if possible), and a piece of paper that is approximately 4 × 6 inches (10 × 15 cm, more or less). The thick brown paper used for shopping bags will be particularly useful for this purpose, but any kind will do. Begin this spell by blessing the spring water. You don’t need to do anything fancy. A simple “I bless this water in the name of the Divine, so that the light of the Divine may flow through it” will be sufficient. As you are blessing it, imagine light flowing through it, so that it becomes
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a vessel for positive energy. Dip the tip of the feather into the water, and sprinkle the paper. (A few tiny drops will be plenty.) This will help to purify the paper and ensure that you create a powerful and effective talisman. Now sprinkle a few drops on the graveyard dirt. As you do, imagine powerful positive energy and light filling the dirt. Sprinkle a few drops of peppered rum on the ground. Ask Legba to open the gates, and ask Baron La Croix (“Baron of the Cross,” the lwa who has the thankless task of maintaining order over the Ghede) to send Ghede to assist you. Light Ghede’s candle and greet him. Spend a moment talking with him, explaining what it is you want. A simple “I want to get laid more” will work; feel free to go into more detail, and don’t worry about censoring yourself. Now take the new pen or pencil. Write your name on each corner of the paper. Now, in the center of the paper, write exactly what it is you want. Try to use affirmative language in this talisman. Instead of saying “I want to get laid more,” say “I am going to get laid more.” Instead of saying “I want to meet some hot blond stud for hours of sweaty sex,” say “I am going to . . .” Once you are done writing this, take a tiny pinch of the blessed graveyard dirt, just a few grains. Place it in the middle of the paper. Now fold the paper, and fold the paper again. Light the charcoal and burn a bit of dragon’s blood atop it. Purify the talisman by passing it through the incense fumes. Pass it over the candle flame (but be careful not to burn it). As you do, imagine that you are heating this up with Ghede’s energy. When you’re going out for a night on the town, put this folded talisman in your shoe or your sock. This will connect you with Ghede and will help you to walk into some good times and great sex.
Ghede's Spicing Up Your Relationship Spell What if you’re already in a committed relationship and you’re thinking, “Gee, I wonder if Ghede could help me get some action on the side?” Monogamy may be the default setting in our culture, but all too often it’s
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honored more in the breach than in the observance. Many relationships go by the “don’t ask, don’t tell” model; cheating is expected and tolerated, but never discussed or acknowledged. Other people engage in serial monogamy. They stay with partner A until the luster wears off, cheat on A with B, then set up house with B, only to repeat the cycle again. When your relationship is going well everywhere but the bedroom, it may well be worth preserving. Instead of looking elsewhere for a quick and potentially devastating fling, why not try to rekindle the sparks you felt when you first started dating? It is often easier to treat sexual doldrums than to treat the relationship damage caused by infidelity. While cheating and lying are generally Bad Ideas, I also advise clients that they have a right to a satisfying sex life, regardless of their age, weight, orientation, marital status, or anything else. With Ghede’s help, you can exercise that right and improve every aspect of your relationship. As with anything else magical, you also need to deal with the mundane issues. If your partner is having sexual problems, you should first make sure to investigate any mundane causes. A lack of sexual interest can be a sign of depression or stress-related exhaustion. (It’s difficult to feel sexy when you’re running on too little sleep and worried about the overdue cable bill, the leaky water heater, the latest big project at the office, and Junior’s softball game!) Some medications can cause impotence or suppress sexual desire, as can certain medical conditions. And old resentments and emotional issues can sometimes boil up when you least expect them. If a doctor, a couples therapist, or a credit or job counselor can be of assistance, why not take advantage of their professional services? To perform this spell, you will need a black or purple seven-day candle, a glass of peppered rum, and a new container of cayenne pepper (you can get this at most stores). If you have a Ghede shrine set up, you can perform this spell there; otherwise, just put down a black or purple cloth and set up a temporary space for him. (You can use any images or items that you’ve acquired to make him feel especially at home.) Sprinkle a couple drops of rum on the floor (be careful not to get
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this on your skin and be ESPECIALLY careful not to get it in your eyes or any other sensitive parts of your body). Ask Papa Legba to open the door to the spirit realm. Now sprinkle a few more drops and call on Baron La Croix. Ask him to send Ghede to help you. Now light the candle and welcome Ghede in. Take the container of cayenne pepper in your hand. As you hold it, describe to Ghede exactly how you would like to see your sex life improve. Be specific and graphic. Hold the spice container tightly as you describe the details of what you want, and don’t hold back or censor yourself. No one is going to hear you but Ghede, and you’re not likely to shock him. Talk about what you want for a few minutes; as you do, feel your lust and frustration pouring into that container, until the cayenne pepper becomes filled with your energy. Now dip the bottom of the container into Ghede’s glass. As you do, feel his energy coming into the pepper and joining with yours. Pass the container above the candle flame. Feel Ghede exploding into action with the heat. He has now charged this container of cayenne pepper and turned it into a talisman to bring you what you desire. Go into your bedroom (or whatever room you prefer for sexual trysts) and sprinkle a little bit of this cayenne pepper under each corner of your bed. You don’t have to use a lot; a tiny bit will do the trick. Now take the cloth and wrap up the remaining cayenne pepper, then put it in a dark place where it won’t be disturbed. Pour out Ghede’s peppered rum in a graveyard if you live near one. If you don’t, drop it at a crossroads and ask Papa Legba to see that Ghede gets the drink you prepared for him. Whenever you feel like a night of passion, take the cayenne out of its hiding place and sprinkle a little bit in each corner. With regular use, your long-term relationship can stay sizzling.
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To forget one’s ancestors is to be a brook without a source, a tree without a root. —Chinese Proverb
We all have role models who have influenced us, teachers
who have educated us, supporters who have kept us going during our darkest hours. Their influence does not end with their deaths, but lives on. Do you remember that kindly chemistry teacher who first got you interested in science? Your degree in molecular biology is just one of the marks he made on the world. Every time you go to the ballet, you honor the dance-loving aunt who first took you to see The Nutcracker. Our lives are an ongoing tribute to those who came before us. African and Afro-Caribbean traditions have always placed great emphasis on honoring deceased ancestors. The ancestors are seen as powerful intercessors who can help their living relatives . . . or bring ill fortune and sickness if they are ignored. Because they are now in the realm of spirit, the ancestors are closer to the lwa and to God; because they once lived on earth, the ancestors are close to this plane and to their relatives and friends. In exchange for the support they receive from the living—material things like food, water, and gifts as well as spiritual offerings like prayers and rituals—the ancestors protect their 157
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kin from sickness, death, and misfortune and bring them health and prosperity.
The Ancestors in Haiti In Christian doctrine those people who are especially devout can become saints after they die. These saints can perform powerful works of healing and magic as intercessors between man and God; to this day Christians still make pilgrimages to saintly shrines and venerate their images and relics. This worldview is also found in Vodou. Those ancestors who were powerful, talented, or otherwise special can become powerful ancestral spirits after they leave this plane. They can provide guidance and power to those descendents who honor them. The grandson of a famous drummer might make libations to his grandfather before sitting down behind the drums, while the daughter of a deceased politician might ask for her father’s assistance in an upcoming election. Indeed, some lwa began their spiritual careers as ancestral spirits: because of their power and wisdom, others outside their immediate family and tribe began honoring them. Haitians will go to great lengths to honor their dead. Most houses in the Haitian countryside include family graveyards, many with elaborate tombs and even small houses with “sitting rooms” for communing with the dearly departed. Even the most humble grave will be kept clean, regularly sprinkled with water, and frequently decorated with lit candles to provide illumination for the dead and for those who wish to speak with them. In urban areas like Port-au-Prince, tombs in city graveyards are guarded with locked gates and heavy chains to protect the dead from grave robbers and from sorcerers who use human bones in their rituals. In Vodou there are different kinds of ancestors. There are the ancestors whom we receive “in our blood.” They are relatives, greatgrandmothers, great-great-uncles, thrice-removed cousins, and others who are part of our genetic heritage. There are also relatives we receive “in spirit.” When a Vodouisant is initiated, he or she becomes a “child”
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of the house. Those who performed the Kanzo (initiation) are called “Mama Kanzo” and “Papa Kanzo.” They can call upon the spirits of that house—the lwa and the deceased Houngans and Mambos who trained their initiatory parents and grandparents—for assistance in working magic and for protection against evildoers of all sorts. When we consider the word “lineage,” we can understand more clearly why the ancestors have an interest in our well-being. We have all incarnated on this plane, in this place, to do something. Religions around the world may disagree on what that “something” is, but they all agree that we are here for a purpose. The ancestors—those who came before us—were also born with a purpose. Our task is to finish the things they started and bring their plans to a fruitful conclusion. By helping to improve the world, we can also improve the conditions in which the ancestors will be reborn. Many Africans believe that the ancestors return to this world through their descendents. An American might say that John “is the spitting image of his great-grandfather, who died before John was born.” Africans might say that John is his grandfather, come back to earth to continue his work. However you say it, our ancestors have a vested interest in improving our lot in life . . . and in finding us a partner who will be both a good spouse and a loving parent. Because the ancestors are so close to us, they can work powerful magic on this plane. Because they want us to succeed in our tasks, they will be happy to help us find supportive, caring partners who will help us through the good times and the bad. Where Ghede is happy to help us find some enjoyable but temporary physical satisfaction, our ancestors will help us find the people we need to be happy and prosperous for a lifetime—and beyond.
Calling on the Ancestors This chapter may be the most important part of this book. Everyone has ancestors . . . and everyone can benefit from serving them. Working with your ancestors can help you learn more about yourself. When you
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understand the forces that shaped you, you can better understand your own strengths and weaknesses. Learning ancestral veneration and incorporating those practices into your daily life can remind you that you have roots and keep you grounded and centered in the face of difficulties. Some claim that the term â€œancestorsâ€? applies only to family members and blood relatives. To the Africans brought to the New World in chains, the term was hardly so narrow. They came from societies where the community was seen as part of an extended family. Of course your father, mother, and immediate family were particularly important to you, and you were expected to show them love and respect and to care for them when they needed aid. But you were also expected to show respect to the head of your tribe, to the village elders, and to other community authorities. Your interactions with all of these people helped to form your identity. Individuals saw themselves not only as X, son of Y, or A, daughter of B and granddaughter of C and D, they also identified themselves by their clan, by their tribe, and by the spirits they served. There was a considerable amount of interaction between these tribes. Spirits like Ogou and Legba may have been served first in Yorubaland, but they became extremely popular among the various peoples living in Benin. Christian and Muslim traders passing through the region brought their religions with them; even before the slavers came, elements of Christianity and Islam had become incorporated into African traditional practices. Sometimes these traders took wives and settled in the communities where they sold their wares. At other times adventurous youths who had journeyed for one reason or another would return to their homes with wives and children in tow. The tribe was always an open unit, which one could join through birth, through marriage, or through service to the community. After they died, these onetime strangers might be honored by their family and by other members of the tribe, and in time be recognized as important and powerful ancestral spirits. Anyone who influenced your life and who made you the person you are today is an ancestor. You can pay tribute to that kindly chemistry teacher, to the neighbor who taught you how to play softball, to
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the foster mother who helped you learn to trust and love again after a miserable childhood. Their good deeds are more important than their genetics. It takes a village to raise a child—and we should recognize the contributions of everyone who helped. By the same token, we should not feel obligated to honor those who did not help our childhood. Abusive parents, sexual predator uncles, or other negative influences may well have forfeited their right to your affection. In African societies only those who led righteous lives were honored after their deaths. If you grew up in a dysfunctional family, feel free to honor the people who helped you during your childhood, even if they weren’t blood relatives . . . and don’t feel obligated to serve the spirit of anyone who treated you badly in life. When you are working with the ancestors, you also must keep in mind that they have retained many of the prejudices and misconceptions they held in life. Passing over gives a broader perspective on things, but it does not make one infallible. Your beloved Uncle Albert may still rant about “black people” ruining the neighborhood; your dear Aunt Pearl may wonder when you’re going to meet a nice boy and get married, even though you told her (and told her, and told her, and TOLD her . . .) that you are a lesbian. While they may have your best interests at heart, their idea of “best interests” may be different from yours. That being said, it may be worth your while to understand their side before you dismiss their observations out of hand. That doesn’t mean accepting them wholesale—you are your own person and must live your own life and find your own way. But it does mean considering the ways your upbringing has influenced you. Even if you have rejected your family beliefs, they may still have left their mark on you. Some people act out blindly against their parents, becoming rabid critics of the family’s beliefs and politics. Others reject the structures and imagery of their family heritage, but still follow most of the basic beliefs. Former fundamentalists seek the “one true way” of following a spiritual path. The children of drill sergeants “refuse to take orders,” which generally translates into “everyone else must do things MY way OR ELSE.”
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With the aid of our ancestors, we can seek to overcome many of the problems that have kept us from having a fulfilling love affair. They can help us with raising our children, with resolving conflicts in our relationships, and with meeting partners who will treat us right and help us achieve our full potential.
The White Table Due to Haiti’s long history of poverty and oppression, many Haitians have left the island in search of freedom and economic opportunity. Others have been forced off their ancestral land because erosion and deforestation have destroyed their once fertile farms. They can no longer go to the family graveyard to talk to their departed relatives and family friends; those tombs may be several thousand miles away. To make up for this loss, many Vodouisants have set up “White Tables,” or Bovedas, in their homes (see plate 14). While these originated among the Espiritistos y Espiritistas (spiritualists) of Cuba, they have become increasingly popular with Haitian Vodouisants. You can set up a white table on any available table or shelf. You should keep it away from your other spiritual tables if at all possible, preferably in a different room. If not, set up some kind of screen to separate it from the lwa. Some lwa do not like being in close proximity to the dead, while others may make your ancestors uncomfortable. (Putting your soft-spoken grandmother next to Ogou would be rather like moving her in next to a drill sergeant, while placing her things by Ghede would likely result in horrible embarrassment for all concerned, including you.) Start by cleaning your prospective white table thoroughly. If you can find Florida Water in your neighborhood, sprinkle a few drops in a quart of spring water; if not, add a teaspoon of lemon juice. Scrub down the surface using a clean white washcloth that has never been used for any other purpose. When the table is thoroughly clean, allow it to air dry, then cover it with a clean white cloth. If you have any pictures of your deceased ancestors, you can place
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them on the white table. Don’t put any pictures of living people on the white table; you should trim them out of any photo in which they appear and leave only the dead on view. (It is believed by Vodouisants that placing pictures of the living on an ancestral shrine can lead to their premature demise.) If you don’t have any pictures, you can place a copy of their obituary, letters written by them, or other artifacts that link back to their days among the living. You should also include holy symbols from your family’s religion or religions, such as a Qur’an if they were Muslim, a Bible if they were Christian, a crucifix blessed by a priest if they were Catholic. (If, like many people, your family came from different religious traditions, try to honor all of them.) Do this even if you no longer follow the “faith of your fathers (and mothers).” This shows respect to your ancestors and lets them feel comfortable in your house. If you have issues with their religion, you can “agree to disagree.” Reasonable people can get along despite different beliefs about the Supreme Being—and none of us, living or dead, knows the Whole Truth about the Divine. You can also place items that represent things of interest to your ancestors. You could give your old French teacher a Victor Hugo novel en français; you could provide your late uncle the mechanic with a wrench or an old toolbox. These items will not only provide your ancestors with a link, they will help them to work for you and intervene on your behalf in worldly matters. Place several clear glasses filled with water on the table. These will help keep the spirits “cool” and peaceful. If you like, you can give them some of their favorite food, but prepare it without salt. (While different traditions give different reasons for this taboo, most agree that the dead don’t care for salty food.) Traditionally, the dead are served on white plates that are clean but chipped or cracked, because their bodies are now broken. You can also place a bell on the table, which you can use to call the ancestors. A chime, Tibetan temple bell, or any object that makes a sharp, high-pitched ringing sound will work for this. Finally, bless this space. You can offer a few traditional prayers
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on behalf of your ancestors—readings from the Qur’an, recitations of psalms, and so on. You can also do a cleansing and banishing ritual that works for you, something like “I call on the forces of light to dispel all negativity and evil from this place.” Fumigating the table and the area with frankincense and myrrh will help to give your space a positive vibration while driving away negativity and malevolent forces. Once you have the table set up, take a few moments each week to speak with your departed ancestors. Light a white candle and say a few prayers, and then talk to them as you would have talked to them in life. Discuss things they found interesting during their time on this plane. Tell your cousin the baseball fan how her beloved Yankees are doing, and let your uncle know how beautifully the rose bushes he planted in the backyard are blooming this year. Now let them talk to you. Sit quietly and wait for that small inner voice that is characteristic of spirit contact. It may take you a while to hear them, but with practice you’ll soon find it easy to commune with the dead. If you have ancestors who were happily married for a long time, you can ask their advice on how they dealt with relationship problems. If you are just feeling down and need some nurturing and reassurance, you can rest assured that love does not die with the body. Those ancestors who cared for you in life still care for you now. They will watch over you and guide you when you need their help.
Healing Family Love Curses Many unscrupulous spiritual practitioners will try to convince naïve clients that they are suffering from “family curses,” which of course can only be cured by complex and expensive ceremonies. As a result, many people figure that there is no such thing as a “family curse” and that anyone who says otherwise is just trying to get your money. Alas, family curses are all too real. Much as our ancestors have shaped us for good, so have they shaped us for ill. We learn their weaknesses as well as their strengths. Sometimes these problems are
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easy to trace to their roots. Children of abusive parents often grow up to re-enact the violence they experienced in their homes, while children of distant, emotionally detached parents often have problems accepting or sharing intimacy. At other times these influences can be more subtle. Men who grew up in alcoholic homes may find their family addiction popping up as compulsive “skirt chasing” and infidelity, while those who faced emotional abuse all too often become “doormats” who seek to avoid conflict and yelling at any price. Perhaps the worst family curse inherited by the children of dysfunctional families is the lack of realistic role models. If you’ve never seen a healthy relationship, it’s going to be difficult to create one. All too often, people rely on television and the mass media for models of how “good families” behave, then suffer guilt when they can’t recreate the idealized world of TV sitcoms and romantic movies for themselves and their loved ones. At other times they assume that the emotional and physical abuse they experienced in childhood was normal, healthy family behavior. If you are the adult child of a dysfunctional family, you may wonder if you should do any work at all with your ancestors. The answer is yes—but you may need to take a few special precautions. Honor those who influenced your life positively, regardless of their biological relationship. Do not feel obligated to honor those who don’t deserve your honor, whether they are related to you or not. According to traditional African customs, no one can become an honored ancestor without having led a moral life. Those who made your childhood better, those who worked to ease your suffering—they are your real ancestors. You are under no obligation to forgive those who injured you in childhood. Often we are pressured to “forgive and forget” abuse. At best, this places blame back on the victim, instead of the abuser. (“Right or wrong, they’re still your parents, and you must be a horrible person for hating them!”) At worst, it gives the abuser the freedom to seek other victims, knowing that he or she will not be held accountable for wrongs already committed. True forgiveness can come only after the hurting has been acknowledged. It is the last,
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not the first, stage of healing—and many people never reach that. Instead of forgiveness, adults abused as children may need to content themselves with closure. You will have to put the abuser in a place where he or she can no longer harm you. Take something that belonged to the abuser or that reminds you of that person. Use that as the focus for all the anger and hurt you’ve been holding through the years. Now take it outside, away from your home and away from any place you visit regularly, and bury it. As you are digging the hole, imagine that you are burying that person once again. This time you are burying all the hurts the abuser left with you and all the bad behavior you learned from him or her. You are free to move on now. Combine this one with some Damballah healing work and, if needed, some therapy. You should also do some white table work with those departed who had a good influence on your life. Sometimes our ancestors were wrong, but not so wrong that we need to cast them out. They may want to help us avoid their mistakes and to make amends for their shortcomings in life. You may not want to put these ancestors on your white table just yet—but you can provide them with unsalted food, clear water, and white candles to “guide them to the light.” Set this shrine on the floor, on a plain white cloth, away from your white table and your other spiritual things. Ask these troubled ancestors to help you overcome the problems that you share with them. If you inherited their alcoholism, ask them to help you find sobriety. If you inherited their habit of choosing bad partners, ask them to help you find a good partner. When you’ve seen positive results from working with them, you can move them to your white table. Not only will this help you, it will help them to fix some of their mistakes and let them move on to bigger and better things in their next lifetime.
Peace in the Home with the Ancestors Love is wonderful, but sometimes it’s also a lot of work. Tensions are inevitable as the day-to-day grind of living together brings out the
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i nevitable stresses and disagreements. Financial problems can lead to relationship problems; teenage angst can turn into parental drama. Even a relationship with no major problems can be tested by minor ones. Just because you aren’t getting clawed to pieces by a bear doesn’t mean you can’t be nibbled to death by ducks. Instead of letting these issues break you apart, why not ask the ancestors for help? They can provide you with advice on how to deal with these problems—because they have dealt with them in the past. They can help provide for your monetary needs and can help defuse little arguments before they turn into big ones. Most important of all, they can provide you with a feeling of having roots. They can make your partnership feel like a family and can make your house feel like a home. If you own your own home and can bury things in your yard, you can “set” a beloved ancestor to watch over your house and help you through hard times. To do this, get something that is connected to that ancestor. If you have a photo, something with his or her handwriting, or something else that represents that ancestor, use that. (A copy will be sufficient; you don’t have to give up an irreplaceable memento for this.) Place it in a small white box. Now sprinkle the box with a few drops of water, and say something like, “In the name of the Divine, the angels, and the spirits, I dedicate this to my beloved ancestor (insert name here).” Now take this to a nice place in your yard: if you have a tree, bury it beneath there, or in your flower garden. Place a small cross or other appropriate decoration above the hole after you fill it in. Sprinkle it with water again and say “Rest here in peace, (insert name here), and watch over your family and those who love you.” If you don’t own your own yard or if you may be moving in the near future, you can bury this box in a houseplant or a windowbox. (If you don’t have a green thumb, an artificial plant will do just fine.) Place a tiny cross or other appropriate religious symbol to mark the buried box; it doesn’t have to be large or even visible. Feel free to hide it behind leaves, foliage, or something else if you don’t want to draw attention to your practices. You can have multiple ancestors set in this fashion . . . indeed, if at
168 The Lwa
all possible, you should do just that. When you are caring for several generations of ancestors, you have several generations of people looking out for you. The more ancestors you serve, the more “rooted” your home will be. For most of history, people were buried in their family plots, not far from their homes. This not only allowed “dust to return to dust,” it consecrated and sanctified the ground in which the dead were buried. Churchyards were literally holy ground: they were a place where the spirit realm met with the material world. By taking care of our ancestors’ remains, we were literally keeping them near us. Keep the space around this “gravesite” (wherever you place it) clean. Sprinkle it regularly with a few drops of spring water, and leave small gifts—flowers, sparkly stones, or the like—to decorate the burial ground. Whenever there is trouble in your home, go to this place and have a brief chat with your ancestors. Ask them to help you keep things peaceful and look after you and your family. Meditate quietly, and wait for any observations, illuminations, or answers they may give you. If you have to move from this place for any reason, be sure to take the buried boxes along with you. Dig them back up, wrap them in a white or a black cloth, and pack them until such time as you can rebury them in your new home. (If you are keeping them in a houseplant, just bring the houseplant along when you leave.) By moving these items to your new property, you will ensure that your new house quickly becomes a home. Should you forget them, you can set up a white table, offer profuse apologies for your neglect, and create another box—but it will be best if you bring the original along. If for some reason the box is gone when you try unearthing it—it was dug up by animals or something similar— take a few pinches of the dirt from the original hole and place that in a box along with another ancestral memento, then rebury that when you get to your new location.
Vodouisants open the Petwo section of our ceremonies with
“Oné la maison, oné la famí”—honor to the house, honor to the family. We know that no tree can grow without roots. We know that we carry in our blood and our souls the wisdom and weakness of those who have lived before us. We know that our successes and our flaws will survive in those who carry on our work when we have gone to join the dead. We are individuals, but we are also an inextricable part of our community. Like Vodou, love is a community affair. You are not going to find the love of your life hiding behind your video game console or beneath your television’s remote. You can burn candles, make offerings, and practice positive thinking until the cows come home. It’s not likely to help unless you go out there and meet people. Yet in some ways, this is more difficult than ever before. We are the generation of the Walkman and the iPod. We can live to a soundtrack that entertains us—and blocks out those who share our space. We reside among strangers in high towers or in gated communities. We toil anonymously in cubicles and learn as children that we must never talk to strangers. It’s not surprising that scholars have called our modern times “the Age of Alienation.” But Vodouisants know that no matter what is taken away, something always remains. We have learned to find treasures in the most 169
unlikely places. Our rituals and our customs were created by people wrenched from their villages and families. Today, throughout the Haitian diaspora, Vodouisants pay tribute to the spirits of a homeland they may never see again. Vodou is well acquainted with alienation: we know what it is, and we know how to overcome it. Vodou united the slaves who overthrew a colonial empire. Later, Vodou helped its followers to survive a continuing heritage of poverty and oppression. Torn away from everything they had known, the first Vodouisants risked their lives to build a community. Vodou’s continuing survival is proof of their wisdom. Vodou’s power is rooted in Bondye and the mysteries, but also in the lives and works of those who serve the lwa and in so doing serve their fellows. Separating the spirits from their servants is like separating Legba from his crossroads. They work with us and for us and through us to bring help and healing and hope. Right now there are people around you who need you. Volunteer organizations need helping hands; political groups want to make sure your message is heard; citizens’ associations want to make your neighborhood a better place. In joining them, you reestablish your roots to the land and to its people. By working to better your society, you establish your place in it. You become part of something greater than yourself. In giving to your community, you cannot help but be rewarded in return. If you feel like your partnership is becoming stale or you find yourself bickering, try reconnecting with the people around you. “Cabin fever” can set in when people find themselves trapped in close quarters— and after a while even the most spacious home can start feeling like The Shining’s Overbook Hotel. Having mutual friends and acquaintances can keep your relationship from imploding due to excessive familiarity. Welcoming your neighbors into your life and taking an interest in theirs can strengthen both your neighborhood and your marriage. It’s not hard to find “Singles’ Nights” and clubs dedicated to meeting people; many websites promise to find you the perfect date or the ideal mate. These may have their purpose, but they also have their
l imitations. You are meeting people who share your loneliness: what else do they share with you? As the old proverb goes, the people you meet in bars are the sorts of people you meet in bars. The folks you meet when you’re making a difference are making a difference too. In the end, Vodou is a holistic tradition. We understand that it is not enough to cure the symptoms; we must address the disease. If we would heal our own pain, we must reach out to others who are hurting. In doing so we may find the love we are seeking. We will undoubtedly discover that we are part of something greater, and we will know that we are not alone. You obviously have some interest in this topic: you’ve stayed with me through several tens of thousands of words! Now it’s up to you to take what you’ve learned and put it into practice. The world is full of lonely people. It’s up to us to reach out to them. We have a responsibility to reach out to the suffering; indeed, it is the only hope for our own condition. We can call on God and the lwa for help and know that They will answer. Let us be ready to answer Their call in return.
Recommended Books Some works on Vodou are sloppy compilations of racist falsehoods; others are ponderous academic tomes aimed at a postgraduate audience. The books below are solidly researched and factual, but generally accessible to an interested novice. Mama Lola: A Vodou Priestess in Brooklyn by Karen McCarthy Brown (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2001). Mama Lola is a wonderful introduction to Vodou and its role in the lives of Haitians and Haitian-Americans. Brown is both an anthropologist and an initiate in Vodou. Her work combines scholarly rigor with a practitioner’s love of the tradition. Sacred Arts of Haitian Vodou edited by Donald J. Cosentino (Los Angeles: University of California Press/Fowler Museum of Cultural History, 1995). This one can be hard to find and expensive when you find it—but it’s well worth the trouble! This coffee table–size tome was originally released in conjunction with a major museum exhibit and contains many breathtaking photos. Many scholars consider Haiti’s art the finest in the Caribbean; read this book and you will understand why. Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti by Maya Deren (Kingston, N.Y.: McPherson & Co., 1983). During her lifetime, Deren was more famous for her avant-garde film and dance work. Today she is remembered largely for this excellent study of 172
Vodou: originally published in 1953, it remains wonderful and timely. If you’d like to learn more about her, you may also enjoy the 2002 documentary In the Mirror of Maya Deren (Im Spiegel der Maya Deren). Also look for the DVD Divine Horsemen (2007), a posthumous compilation of footage Deren shot at Vodou ceremonies between 1947 and 1951. The Haitian Vodou Handbook: Protocols for Riding with the Lwa by Kenaz Filan (Rochester, Vt.: Destiny Books, 2006). My first book contains more information about the lwa covered here and discusses other spirits who are not mentioned in Vodou Love Magic. Vodou Visions: An Encounter with Divine Mystery by Sallie Anne Glassman (New Orleans: Island of Salvation Botanica, 2007). Glassman contributed the artwork to the gorgeous (and highly recommended) New Orleans Voodoo Tarot; this book explores those images in greater detail. Vodou Shaman: The Haitian Way of Healing and Power by Ross Heaven (Rochester, Vt.: Destiny Books, 2003). In 2000, Heaven, a well-known British author and shamanic practitioner, was initiated as a Houngan si pwen (junior priest) in Jacmel, Haiti. Vodou Shaman tells some of the story of that initiation and offers suggestions on how readers can incorporate Vodou practices into their daily lives. Voodoo in Haiti by Alfred Métraux and translated by Hugo Charteris (New York: Pantheon Books, 1989). From 1948 to 1950, Métraux led a UNESCO anthropological study in Haiti’s Maribel Valley. Already famous for his work with Amazon Indians, Métraux brought the same objective approach and keen eye for detail to Haitian Vodou. Secrets of Voodoo by Milo Rigaud (San Francisco: City Lights Press, 2001). Rigaud spent years traveling through Haiti and compiling information on folk religious practices; he was an initiate in Vodou and in several French esoteric sects. While this book can be a challenging read, it will reward close study. A note to Francophone readers: the French original—La tradition voudoo et le voudoo haïtien (son temple, ses mystères, sa magie) (Paris: Niclaus, 1953)—contains a great deal of material that is not included in the English translation.
Additional Reading Here are a few introductory guides to the techniques described in these chapters.
Chapter 2. Talking With the Spirits Divination Tarot for Your Self: A Workbook for Personal Transformation by Mary K. Greer (Franklin Lakes, N.J.: New Page Books, 2002). Total I Ching: Myths for Change by Stephen Karcher (New York: Little, Brown, 2004). Taking Up the Runes: A Complete Guide to Using Runes in Spells, Rituals, Divination, and Magic by Diana L. Paxson (San Francisco: Weiser, 2005). The Fortune-Teller’s Bible: The Definitive Guide to the Arts of Divination by Jane Struthers (New York: Sterling Publishers, 2008).
Dreams Psychic Dreamwalking: Explorations at the Edge of Self by Michelle Belanger (San Francisco: Weiser Books, 2006). The Dreamer’s Book of the Dead: A Soul Traveler’s Guide to Death, Dying, and the Other Side by Robert Moss (Rochester, Vt.: Destiny Books, 2005). The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Interpreting Your Dreams by Marci Pliskin and Shari L. Just (New York: Alpha Books, 2004).
Scrying Scrying the Secrets of the Future: How to Use Crystal Balls, Fire, Wax, Mirrors, Shadows, and Spirit Guides to Reveal Your Destiny by Cassandra Eason (Franklin Lakes, N.J.: New Page Books, 2007). Exploring Scrying: How to Divine the Future and Make the Most of It (Exploring Series) by Ambrose Hawk (Franklin Lakes, N.J.: New Page Books, 2001). Scrying for Beginners (Llewellyn Beginner’s Series) by Donald Tyson (Woodbury, Minn.: Llewellyn Publishing, 1997).
Omens Nature-Speak: Signs, Omens and Messages in Nature by Ted Andrews (Jackson, Tenn.: Dragonhawk Publishing, 2004). How to Read Signs and Omens in Everyday Life by Sarvananda Bluestone (Rochester, Vt.: Destiny Books, 2002).
Chapter 3. It Takes Two . . . and often More Not “Just Friends”: Rebuilding Trust and Recovering Your Sanity After Infidelity by Shirley P. Glass (New York: Free Press, 2004). This book may prove helpful to those involved in a love triangle (or moreangle), whatever their role in the drama. Love Without Limits by Deborah Anpol (San Rafael, Calif.: IntiNet Resource Center, 1997). This book remains the best guide to polyamory. Other very useful websites include Loving More (http://lovemore.com) and the alt.polyamory homepage (www.polyamory.org). Those seeking polyamorous lovers may find like-minded souls on Poly Matchmaker (www .polymatchmaker.com).
Chapter 4. The Toxic Myths of Love Smart Women, Foolish Choices: Finding the Right Men, Avoiding the Wrong Ones by Connell Cowan and Melvyn Kinder (New York: Signet, 1986). This book is a classic which, despite the title, has much to teach to both genders.
Chapter 5. Lovesickness: Treatments and Cures Good Grief: Healing Through the Shadow of Loss by Deborah Morris Coryell (Rochester, Vt.: Healing Arts Press, 2004). If you are still reeling from a breakup, you may need to concentrate on healing before you do anything else. This book will help you in coming to terms with your pain and moving on.
The Stalking Victims Homepage (www.stalkingvictims.com) may provide comfort, advice, and community for those whose lives are darkened by an obsessive suitor. The Co-Dependents Anonymous website (www.codependents.org) has lots of excellent information for those who are codependent or simply lovelorn. Other books which might be useful include: Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself by Melody Beattie (Center City, Minn.: Hazelden, 1986). Daily Meditations for Women Who Love Too Much by Robin Norwood (New York: Tarcher, 1997).
Supplies If you don’t live near any of these suppliers, don’t despair—they all take online orders! Ezili’s 807 Rue Royal (Corner of St. Ann & Royal St.) New Orleans, LA 70116 Phone: (504) 525-2055 Fax: (504) 525-2099 www.Ezilis.com Ezili’s sells a wide selection of oils, powders, candles, and other Vodou paraphernalia, as well as materials for Witches, practitioners of Egyptian traditional religions, and others. Indio Products 236 W. Manchester Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90003 Phone: (323) 778-2233 Fax: (323) 750-7048 www.indioproducts.com/webstore/ Indio Products provides many of the floorwashes, baths, and various accoutrements you will find in your local botanica.
Island of Salvation Botanica 835 Piety St. New Orleans, LA 70117 Phone: (504) 948-9961 www.feyvodou.com Mambo Sallie Ann Glassman’s store features many of her hand-crafted items. The Spirit Sticks and Spirit Boxes are particularly impressive. Lucky Mojo Curio Company 6632 Covey Road Forestville, CA 95436 Phone: (707) 887-1521 Fax: (707) 887-7128 www.luckymojo.com Although she’s not a Vodouisant, Lucky Mojo proprietor Cat Yronwode is one of the world’s leading experts on Hoodoo (African American folk magic). Her website contains an encyclopedic collection of spells gleaned from various sources, as well as herbs, trinkets, and curios from around the world. New Orleans Mistic P.O. Box 740516 New Orleans, LA 70174 Phone: (504) 218-5305 www.neworleansmistic.com Run by Houngan Tribble, New Orleans Mistic carries a complete selection of Vodou supplies, including images, perfumes, and Haitian herbs, which can be difficult to find. The Voodoo Boutique 211 Amherst Drive SE Albuquerque, NM 87106 Phone: (505) 962-2525 www.spellmaker.com Rev. Samantha Corfield (better known to her clients as “Mambo Sam”) is an old hand at this stuff: she learned New Orleans Voodoo from her grandmother before studying Haitian Vodou. Many satisfied clients swear by her spell kits.
Chapter 2. Talking with the Spirits 1. “Lateral Thinking,” The de Bono Group, www.debonogroup.com/lateralthinking.htm (accessed June 1, 2007). 2. Aitareya Upanishad, trans. Swami Prabhavananda and Frederick Manchester (The Vedanta Society of S. California, 1957), Erowid Hinduism Vault, www.erowid.org/spirit/traditions/hinduism/hinduism_ upani_aitareya.shtml (accessed December 28, 2006). 3. Edward M. Eveld, “Psychologist Recommends Stone Age Lifestyle to Ease Modern Depression,” OC Register, March 3, 2007, www.ocregister.com/ ocregister/healthscience/healthfitness/article_1593756.php (accessed June 7, 2007). 4. Stephen LaBerge, “How to Remember Your Dreams,” The Lucidity Institute Inc., www.lucidity.com/NL11.DreamRecall.html (accessed December 4, 2006). 5. Vaughn Paul Manley, “Synchronicities & Omens—Signs of the Times,” AstrologyForTheSoul.com, www.astrologyforthesoul.com/vp/ synchronicities.html (accessed June 7, 2007). 6. Aleister Crowley, Magick in Theory and Practice, chap. 17: “Of the License to Depart,” Internet Sacred Text Archive, www.sacred-texts.com/oto/aba/ chap17.htm (accessed June 7, 2007). 7. “Schizophrenia Symptoms and Diagnosis,” Schizophrenia.com, www .schizophrenia.com/diag.php (accessed November 28, 2006).
Chapter 3. It Takes Two . . . and Often More: The Ethics of Love Magic 1. “alt.polyamory Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ),” version: 2.3.1a, Internet FAQ Archives, www.faqs.org/faqs/polyamory/faq/ (accessed August 1, 2008). Chapter 4. The Toxic Myths of Love 1. Kevin B. Burk, The Relationship Handbook: How to Understand and Improve Every Relationship in Your Life (San Diego: Serendipity Press, 2004), 20. Chapter 5. Lovesickness: Treatment and Cures 1. “Patterns and Characteristics of Codependence” (Co-Dependents Anonymous, 1998), Co-Dependents Anonymous World Fellowship, www.codependents.org/foundation-docs-patterns.php (accessed August 1, 2008). 2. “Am I a Sex Addict?” The Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health (SASH), http://sash.net/content/view/46/53/ (accessed May 31, 2007). 3. “Stalking,” Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence, www.caepv.org/ getinfo/facts_stats.php?factsec=9 (accessed May 31, 2007). 4. Christine Lehmann, “Stalker Classification Aids Diagnosis, Treatment,” Psychiatric News 36, no. 12 (June 15, 2001): 8. Chapter 8. Damballah: Bringer of Transformation 1. The Papyrus of Ani (The Egyptian Book of the Dead), trans. E. A. Wallis Budge, Hermetic.com, www.hermetic.com/texts/ani.html (accessed May 30, 2007). Chapter 9. Freda: Bringer of Beauty 1. Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet (1923), chap. 25: “Beauty,” www.geocities .com/Athens/5484/Gib25.htm (accessed August 1, 2008). 2. “Haiti: The Development Challenge,” U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), www.usaid.gov/policy/budget/cbj2004/latin_ america_caribbean/haiti.pdf (accessed May 24, 2007). 3. “Color Matters: The Body: Drunk Tank Pink,” AKVIS (Creative Tools for Digital Cameras), http://akvis.com/en/articles/color-and-body/ drunk-tank-pink.php (accessed May 24, 2007).
Chapter 10. La Sirene: Bringer of Glamour 1. Adam Lindsay Gordon, “The Swimmer” (1870), Perry Middlemiss Website, www.middlemiss.org/lit/authors/gordonal/poetry/swimmer .html (accessed May 24, 2007). 2. “Body Dysmorphic Disorder,” HealthyPlace.com: Eating Disorders Community, www.healthyplace.com/Communities/Eating_Disorders/ type_body_dysmorphic_disorder.asp (accessed May 29, 2007). Chapter 11. Ogou: Bringer of Strength 1. Rudyard Kipling, “Tommy” (1890), Gutenberg Project, www.gutenberg .org/dirs/etext00/1vkip11.txt (accessed May 30, 2007). 2. Recorded by Ben Hebblethwaite, January 10, 2000, in Bèl Rivyè, southeastern Haiti, web.clas.ufl.edu/users/hebble/HAI_3930.pdf (accessed May 30, 2007). Chapter 12. Simbi: Bringer of Communication 1. Quoted in Jubilee Books Author Profile: Roald Dahl (2004), www .jubileebooks.co.uk/jubilee/magazine/authors/roald_dahl/roald_dahl.asp (accessed August 1, 2008). 2. Edwin W. Smith, African Ideas of God: A Symposium (London: Edinburgh House Press, 1950), 159. 3. Milo Rigaud, Secrets of Vodou (San Francisco: City Lights Press, 1985), 93. 4. Michael Arrington, “Online Dating 2.0: Thirteen Sites to Find Love,” (July 23, 2006), TechCrunch, www.techcrunch.com/2006/07/23/onlinedating-20-thirteen-sites-to-find-love (accessed August 1, 2008). Chapter 13. Ezili Danto: Bringer of Self-Reliance 1. “African Proverb Quotes,” ThinkExist.com, http://en.thinkexist.com/ quotes/african_proverb/3.html (accessed May 30, 2007). 2. Houngan Hector Salva, “Mambo Ezili Danto (a.k.a. Ezili Dantor): Seven Stabs,” http://ezilidantor.tripod.com/id2.html (accessed May 30, 2007).
asogwe, houngan asogwe, mambo asogwe: Senior priest or priestess; highest rank in Haitian Vodou. asson: A sacred rattle wielded by houngans and mambos. Bondye: God (from the French Bon Dieu). djevo: The room in which candidates are secluded during the kanzo ceremony. dwapo: Decorated and sequined flags used in Vodou ceremonies. fet: A Vodou ceremony, from the French féte (festival, party). Florida Water: a sharp, citrus-scented cologne offered to Ogou, Danto, and other “hot” or energetic spirits. Gineh: Literally ancestral Africa: in Vodou mythology it has become the underwater home of the lwa and the ancestors. houngan: A priest of Haitian Vodou. hounsi kanzo: The first degree of Vodou initiation. iluminasyon: A ceremony used to seek guidance in a dream. kanzo: The ceremony of initiation as a hounsi kanzo, mambo/houngan sipwen or houngan/mambo asogwe. lave tet: Literally “head washing”; a ceremony that can cleanse negativity and serve as an introduction to a societé. lwa: The spirits of Haitian Vodou, also called les anges (the angels) or les mistés (the mysteries) mambo: A female priestess of Haitian Vodou. peristyle: A Vodou temple. (Also called a houmfour.) Petwo nachon: Fierce but protective spirits served with pepper, gunpowder, and whip cracks. 181
Pompeia Lotion: a sweet-smelling perfume made by French company L. T. Piver. Offered to “white lwa” like Damballah, Agwe, and Freda. pwens: Magical objects or “points” that concentrate spiritual energy. Rada nachon: The name Rada comes from “Arara,” a slave port in modernday Benin. The Rada nachon consists of popular spirits like Legba, Damballah, and Freda. Rada lwa are generally considered “cooler” and more benevolent than the hot-tempered Petwo lwa. sipwen, houngan sipwen, mambo sipwen: The second grade of Vodou initiation. Société: A society of Vodouisants; typically led by a houngan and mambo. vévé: A ceremonial drawing used to symbolize and to call upon a lwa. Vodouisants: People who practice Vodou. (Also known as servitors lwa or servants of the lwa.) wanga: The act of performing magic (“doing wanga”) or a specific magical operation.
abuse, 20, 28, 30, 35–37, 41, 45, 52, 119, 134, 137, 140, 142 childhood abuse, 52, 78, 165–66 sexual abuse, 52, 78, 83–85 substance abuse, 44–45, 116, 128, 140, 165 See also stalking Adult Children of Dysfunctional Families, 42, 45, 165 Africa, 63, 75, 76, 111, 112, 120, 123, 181 Agwe, 88, 99, 182 Aitareya Upanishad, 10 alcohol, 11, 34, 44, 45, 50, 77, 79–81, 116, 140, 165, 167. See also abuse: substance abuse Alcoholics Anonymous, 45 Ancestors, 10, 18, 157–68, 181 Healing Family Love Curses Spell, 164–66 Peace in the Home Spell, 166–68 White Table Spell, 162–64
argument, 30, 35, 41, 77, 80, 119, 167 Bardo, Robert John, 53. See also stalking Batterers Anonymous, 57 BDSM, 49, 128 Beauty Bath Spell, 102–4 Benin, 64, 75–76, 123, 160, 182 Berkowitz, David (“Son of Sam”), 15 Bible, 111, 163 Binding Love Spell, 130–32 Bondye, 61, 150, 170, 181 Book of Mormon, 13 Burk, Kevin B., 30 candle, 1–2, 4, 13, 24, 30–31, 36, 47, 55, 65–66, 68, 70, 72–73, 76–77, 79, 82–84, 90, 95, 97, 100, 105– 9, 116–18, 120–21, 125–27, 129, 131–32, 138–40, 143, 149–56, 158, 166, 169, 176 Catching a Partner Spell, 33, 104–6 183
Catholic, 146, 163 chante lwa, 113, 134–35 cheating, 25–27, 116, 155. See also infidelity children, 17–18, 23, 42–25, 83, 116, 133–34, 136, 138–40. See also Adult Children of Dysfunctional Families Child Care Agency Spell, 18, 138–40 Christian, 50, 74, 76, 94, 148, 150, 158, 160, 163 Closing the Gate Spell, 19, 55, 57, 72–73 cloth, 36, 55, 62, 72, 76–77, 89, 101, 107, 109, 114, 120–21, 126, 129, 138–39, 143, 149, 151, 153, 155–56, 162, 166, 168 codependency, 43–49 Co-Dependents Anonymous, 45–47, 176 Color Magic with Freda Spell, 91–93 Coming Out of the Closet Spell, 51, 55, 141–42 Communications 101 Spell, 25, 27, 41, 48, 58, 125–27 Crowley, Aleister, 15 Cuba, 8, 64, 66, 101, 112, 123, 162. See also Palo Mayombe, Santeria curse, 9, 64, 81 Healing Family Love Curses, 164–66 Czestochowa, Black Madonna of, 55, 136. See also Danto: Mater Salvatoris Dahl, Roald, 122
Daome, 64, 75, 111. See also Benin Damballah, 11, 16, 23, 24, 30–31, 36, 74–85, 88, 114, 118, 124, 146, 166, 182 Healing Wounds Spell, 19, 31, 34, 36, 39, 42, 47, 52, 57, 83–85 Moses, 76 St. Patrick, 76 Transmutation of Love Spell, 20, 39, 48, 57, 81–83 White Bath Spell, 79–80 Danto, 12, 31, 87–92, 133–44, 181 Child Care Agency Spell, 18, 138–40 Coming Out of the Closet Spell, 51, 55, 141–42 Mater Salvatoris, 55, 136, 138 Wash That $#!% Right Out of my Hair Spell, 20, 38, 47, 49, 57, 62, 142–44 Dickinson, Emily, 63 divination, 8–10, 12, 14, 16, 32, 174 divorce, 17, 21, 23, 38 djevo, 10, 181 dreams, 10–12, 13–14, 16, 23, 33, 39, 61, 87, 88, 91, 104–5, 144, 174 drum, 29, 60, 110, 158, 162 DSM–IV, 15 Ewe, 75, 123 facade.com, 10 fet, 6, 181 Fet Ogou, 114 Fet Ghede, 146
financial problems, 30–33, 35, 37, 167. See also money Florida Water, 131–32, 138, 143, 148, 162, 181 Fon, 63–64, 75, 123 forgiveness, 36–38, 166 Freda, 7, 13, 58, 86–97, 99–102, 113, 114, 122, 133, 135–36, 143, 146, 150, 182 Color Magic with Freda Spell, 91–93 Freda’s Perfume Spell, 96–97 Kwan Yin, 89 Mater Dolorosa, 89 Your Dinner with Freda Spell, 93–96 Gandalf, 4, 6 gay, 21, 50, 88, 128, 140–41. See also homosexual, lesbian Ghede, 7, 12, 145–56, 159, 162 Beetlejuice, 149 Boogie Shoes Spell, 152–54 Jack Skellington, 149 Joker, 149 Quick Pick-You-Up Spell, 150–52 St. Expedite, 149 St. Gerard Majella, 149 Spicing Up Your Relationship Spell, 30, 154–56 Gibran, Kahlil, 86 Gineh, 99, 181 Give Me Strength Spell, 27, 31, 47, 51, 58, 117–19 Gordon, Adam Lindsay, 98 Gullahs, 123
Haiti, 8, 61, 75, 86, 101, 114–15, 120, 122–23, 130, 133, 135–36, 145, 149–50, 162 Ancestors in Haiti, 158–59 Damballah in Haiti, 75–76 Freda in Haiti, 87–89 Ghede in Haiti, 146–48 La Sirene in Haiti 99–100 Legba in Haiti, 64–65 Ogou in Haiti, 112–13 Healing Family Love Curses Spell, 164–66 Healing Wounds Spell, 19, 31, 34, 36, 39, 42, 47, 52, 57, 83–85 Hollywood, 4–5, 61, 137 homosexual, 50. See also gay Houngan, 1, 5–8, 10, 19, 32, 75, 125, 128, 130, 150, 173, 177, 181–82. See also Mambo impotence, 150–51. See also sex: sexual dysfunction infidelity, 30, 155, 165, 175. See also cheating initiation, 10, 111, 159, 181–82. See also Kanzo Internet Romance Spell, 128–30 Jung, Carl, 15 Kanzo, 159, 181. See also initiation Kipling, Rudyard, 110 Kongo, 120, 123 pakets Kongo, 120
La Sirene, 13, 88, 98–109, 113, 114, 122, 146 Beauty Bath Spell, 102–4 Catching a Partner Spell 33, 104–6 Making Yourself Feel Pretty Spell, 108–9 Speaking More Beautifully Spell, 106–8 Stella Maris, 101 Legba, 15, 24, 31, 36, 47, 52, 63–73, 78–79, 82–84, 95, 97, 100, 103, 105–6, 107–9, 116, 118, 120, 126, 129, 131, 139–40, 144, 146, 151–52, 154, 156, 160, 170, 182 Bugs Bunny image, 66 Closing the Gate Spell, 19, 55, 57, 72–73 Ganesh image, 66 Matchmaker, Matchmaker Spell, 69–71 Opening the Door Spell, 29, 38, 58, 68–69 St. Anthony of Padua, 65 St. Christopher, 65 St. Lazarus, 65 St. Jude, 65 St. Peter, 65 St. Roch, 65 lesbian, 21, 50, 128, 134, 140–41, 161. See also gay Lukumi, 8, 112. See also Santeria lwa, 1–2, 5–7, 10–14, 16, 36, 47, 49, 51, 55, 60–62, 64–66, 75–76, 78, 80, 87–88, 99, 102, 113, 123–25, 130, 132, 133–35, 150, 154, 157– 59, 162, 170–71, 173, 181–82
magic, 4–6, 7, 13, 15 ethics of magic, 17–27 See also wanga Making Yourself Feel Pretty Spell, 108–9 Mambo, 1, 6–8, 10, 19, 75, 125, 128, 130, 159, 177, 181–82. See also Houngan marriage, 17–18, 20–21, 32, 38, 40, 160, 170 marriage to Freda, 88 Mars, 113 Matchmaker, Matchmaker Spell, 69–71 money, 18, 31–33, 90, 137. See also financial problems Morrison, Grant, 149 National Center for Victims of Crime, 54 New Orleans, 1n, 173, 176–77 New World, 111–12, 160 Nostradamus, 12 Ogou, 7, 11, 13, 15, 47, 55, 62, 88, 110–21, 146, 160, 162, 181 Badagri, 112 Batala, 112 Dessalines, 112 Ferraille, 88, 112 Give Me Strength Spell, 27, 31, 47, 51, 58, 117–19 Guan-Ti, 115 Protection Bag Spell, 55, 119–21 Rambo, 115 St. George the Dragonslayer, 115
St. Jacques Majeur, 115 St, Michael, 115 Truth Be Told Spell, 19, 24, 34, 35, 40, 52, 56, 115–17 omens, 12, 14–16, 175 Opening the Door Spell, 29, 38, 58, 68–69 Palo Mayombe, 123 Papyrus of Ani, 74 Peace in the Home Spell, 166–68 Petwo, 123–24, 128, 181–82 photo, 151, 163, 167 polyamory, 25–27, 49, 175 Pompeia, 36, 76–77, 79, 84, 182. See also rose water possession, 7, 146 Protection Bag Spell, 55, 119–21 Rada, 123–24, 128, 182 relationships, 9, 18–20, 21–27, 29, 30–33, 35–42, 43–48, 50–52, 56–57, 71–72, 79, 83–84, 90, 108, 115–17, 137, 141–42, 154–56, 162, 164–65, 167, 170 rose water, 36, 76–77, 79, 84 scarf, 114, 136, 143. See also cloth Schaeffer, Rebecca, 53. See also stalking scrying, 12–14, 174 sex, 26, 30, 46, 49, 53, 78, 80, 83, 113, 115, 119, 128, 140, 142, 145, 147–48, 154, 155–57, 161 sexual dysfunction, 30, 44, 150–52
sexual addiction, 49–52 See also abuse Simbi, 122–32 Three Kings, 125 St. Andrew, 125 St. Charles Borromeo, 125 Simbi Andezo, 123, 125 Communications 101 Spell, 25, 27, 41, 48, 58, 125–27 Simbi Anpaka, 123 Simbi Dlo, 123 Internet Romance Spell, 128–30 Simbi Makaya, 123 Binding Love Spell, 130–32 slaves, 75, 112, 120, 123, 170, 182 Smith, Joseph, 13. See also Book of Mormon Société la Belle Venus #2, 7, 87n Socrates, 32 soulmates, 25, 28–31, 78 Speaking More Beautifully Spell, 106–8 stalking, 53–58, 176 swinging, 26, 50, 128 Tainos, 122–23 Transmutation of Love Spell, 20, 39, 48, 57, 81–83 Truth Be Told Spell, 19, 24, 34, 35, 40, 52, 56, 115–17 vévé, 12, 13, 126, 129, 131, 132, 182 Vodou, 1–2, 1n, 5–7, 10, 18, 29, 60–61, 64–66, 75, 87, 112, 120, 123, 130, 132, 146, 149–50, 158, 169–73, 181–82
Vodouisants, 1, 6, 10, 16, 29, 60–62, 64, 66, 80, 88–89, 99, 113, 119– 20, 124–25, 134, 136, 140, 147, 150, 158, 162–63, 169–70, 182 wanga, 132, 182. See also magic Wash That $#!% Right Out of My Hair Spell, 20, 38, 47, 49, 57, 62, 142–44
White Bath Spell, 79–80 White Table Spell, 162–64 Your Dinner with Freda Spell, 93–96 Yoruba, 63–64, 111–12, 160 Yorubaland, 111, 160 Zen Buddhism, 13
Electronic edition produced by
“Did you ever wish that your heart came with an owner’s manual? Well, this is it. Kenaz Filan explains how relationships work, how to form them, and how to fix them when they’re broken. Vodou Love Magic is a practical yet entertaining manual for romantic fulfillment, ideal for practitioners of Afro-Caribbean magic and also suitable to people new to the tradition. Most highly recommended.” Elizabeth Barrette, author of Composing Magic: How to Create Magical Spells, Rituals, Blessings, Chants and Prayer
Haitian Vodou, like other folk traditions, is an eminently practical craft. Vodou practitioners see their relationship with the lwa—the spirits honored in Haitian Vodou—as mutually beneficial rather than one-sided. In return for sincere offerings, the lwa are happy to provide protection and support in dealing with life’s problems—which more often than not concern love. In Vodou Love Magic, Kenaz Filan details the myriad aspects of love and sex governed by the different lwa and explains what services each can provide in attaining fulfilling relationships—and who will likely offer the best wisdom for your needs. If you are having trouble meeting people, Legba’s Opening the Door Spell can resolve this difficulty. If you wish more fire in a relationship, then you should work with the warrior spirit Papa Ogou. Filan presents easy-to-follow instructions for numerous love spells and also reveals how the lwa offer counsel for dealing with ending relationships, toxic behavior patterns like codependency, and romantic triangles. Vodou Love Magic does not provide a magic genie who will fulfill every wish, but it does offer access to a team of spirits who can help transform dreams into realities. Kenaz Filan (Houngan Coquille du Mer) was initiated in Société la Belle Venus in March 2003 after 10 years of solitary service to the lwa. Filan is the author of The Haitian Vodou Handbook and has written articles for PanGaia, Planet Magazine, and Widdershins. Filan is managing editor of newWitch magazine and lives in New York City.
Destiny Books Rochester, Vermont www.DestinyBooks.com Cover design by Peri Ann Swan Cover illustration courtesy of Art Resource
Vodou Love Magic
“Vodou Love Magic is a seductive velvet hammer. It is both a primer filled with practical advice on relationships and a luscious, fun-to-read book that gives the reader the straight dope on magick and spirit work.” Tannin Schwartzstein, coauthor of The Urban Primitive: Paganism in the Concrete Jungle