A Little Humor for Your Day – Magician and the Pesky Parrot

Magician and the Pesky Parrot

A magician worked on a cruise ship in the Caribbean. The audience would be different each week, so the magician did the same tricks each week. However, there was a problem, the captain’s parrot saw the shows each week and began to understand how the magician did every trick.

Once he understood, he started shouting out the secrets in the middle of the show, “Look, it’s not the same hat.” “Look, he is hiding the flowers under the table.” “Hey, why are all the cards the Ace of Spades?” The magician was furious but couldn’t do anything, it was, after all, the captain’s parrot.

One day, the ship had an accident and sank. The magician found himself with the parrot, adrift on a piece of wood, in the middle of the ocean. They stared at each other with hatred, but did not utter a word. This went on for a day, then another, and another.

Finally, after a week, the parrot said, “Okay, I give up. Where the heck is the boat?”

DailyHaHa.com Jokes

Samhain, the Time of the Ancestors

Samhain, the Time of the Ancestors

Author:   Sta Muertero Steven  
Although I honor and serve my ancestors year-round, All Hallows is the time when I go all out for them and prepare a large feast. However, I find little information in many of the marketed texts of Wicca and modern Paganism that deals with ancestor veneration, a practice that is a major characteristic of the vast majority of the world’s basic religions. I’d like to share my views on this and offer what I’ve found to be effective in establishing solid lines of communication with my ancestors, essentially a novena to bring them into my daily life to provide me with love, guidance, wisdom, and protection as I go about my way in this sometimes uncertain world.
In Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner, Scott Cunningham writes, “Many Wiccans do attempt to communicate with their deceased ancestors and friends at [Samhain], but it seems to me that if we accept the doctrine of reincarnation, this is a rather strange practice. Perhaps the personalities that we knew still exist, but if the soul is currently incarnate in another body, communication would be difficult, to say the least. Thus, it seems best to remember them with peace and love-but not to call them up” (p. 143).
Thus begins many beginning Wiccans’ view of the spirits of our ancestors, including my own in the beginning. No offense to the spirit of Scott, but I now beg to differ. Through my personal journey in ecletic Wicca, then traditional Haitian Vodou, and now Wica and Traditional Witchcraft, I have come to view the above as a rather naive and simplistic view of the soul and reincarnation. I feel the above concept of the ancestors comes mainly from a combination of a misinterpreted and simplified view of the Hindu doctrine of reincarnation and the typical Western concept of a single-component soul.
A previous co-worker of mine who is from India and a practicing Hindu both believes in reincarnation and honors the spirits of his ancestors. I’ve not asked him to explain how these seemingly contradictory beliefs are reconciled, however, I have to wonder if the explanation is in any way similar to the concepts found in Haitian Vodou, where there are many components to the soul, one of which reincarnates at some future time, one which joins the spirits of the ancestors in the waters below, while the others perform other functions and journey to different destinations. All of these components are important, and one should not be thought of as the “real” soul above the others.
In any case, I believe that one can adhere to a doctrine of reincarnation and honor the spirits of one’s ancestors, even bringing them into their daily lives for guidance and protection, without having the beliefs contradict one another in any way. This has been uncommon in my knowledge of the majority of eclectic Wicca and the modern Pagan religions, however, it seems this may be changing as more individuals and groups (re-) discover ancestor veneration. I feel this view can easily be adopted by the rest of them, giving a more solid foundation in the traditional practices found in almost all basic religions throughout the world. The eagerness with which many of the ancestors of those of European origin seem to flock to the service provided when a descendant begins the service of the Lwa Ginea, in other words, practicing Haitian Vodou, or another Afro-Caribbean tradition, is evidence enough for me that our pre-Christian ancestors possessed a tradition of honoring the ancestors that is long overdue in being re-established in some form by their descendants.
The following is a ceremony I have found effective based on my training in Haitian Vodou. I hope that by sharing this information, the long-forgotten ancestors of those who perform this ceremony will be brought back to this realm to bestow their wisdom and blessings upon their descendants to help guide them toward a more fulfilling life in every way.
The Ancestor Novena
This ritual, although seemingly simple, has enormous effect on a person in that if that person has never successfully established contact with one’s ancestors, this will allow for the ancestors to come fully into one’s life. The ancestors are how every person alive exists. We stand on their shoulders; we have their blood in our veins. Their spirits surround us through the tie of that same blood. For these reasons alone, we should honor them and invite them to be active in our daily lives. But also, they possess knowledge of ourselves and of the world and can provide protection that we would not have otherwise.
In the beginning, one should only establish contact with direct blood relatives, meaning parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and so on. In an ideal ancestor-venerating society, all other relatives, such as aunts and uncles, would be taken care of by their descendants. However, in this country (the U.S.) and in the majority of the Western world, as you may know, this is not the case. In some cases, passed extended family members may have had a greater effect on the person than parents, and so on, and those spirits may wish to be honored in the person’s line of ancestors, as well. That is fine, however, they should be invited after the direct blood relatives. Those extended family members and even the spirits of those not related to you by blood can be included in your service to your ancestors after this novena has been successfully completed simply by calling their names and asking them to join your ancestors during one of your regular services.
This ritual is effective even if one’s parents are unknown, because we all have never met the vast majority of our ancestors (three, four, five, six, seven, and so on, generations back). This ritual is also effective, and even essential, for a person who had a negative or abusive relationship with one’s parents or grandparents. Whatever that person or those people were like during life, they are now beyond the veil and have learned many things. That’s not to say that they’re more spiritually evolved by virtue of being dead, but that they can now see a larger picture and can be spiritually elevated if they so choose and if you help them to be. They are also now surrounded by the spirits of their parents and families and are possibly being guided by them, helping them understand where they may have gone wrong in life. This is essential for those people’s spiritual evolution because the unresolved issues with their ancestors tie them to the past, preventing them from moving forward. We are never completely free of the past; we are always connected to everything and every time–we are one.
Items to obtain for the novena

  1. One or two white 7-day candles (large, tall candles encased in glass), or a set of white tapers.
  2. Cascarilla (dried and ground egg white in the form of a compacted powder), or white chalk.
  3. A clear glass of water.
  4. Perfume or incense of a soft, light nature (with an incense holder).
  5. A corner of your home or small space that’s not in your bedroom which can be used (at least temporarily if you can’t dedicate permanent space) to house your ancestors.

Items to have for the ninth day

  1. A white plate.
  2. White flowers.
  3. Food that they may have enjoyed in life, cooked by you, with no salt added (if the ingredients inherently contain sodium, don’t worry about, but do not ADD salt).


  1. Clean the space you have chosen for your ancestors. If you plan to have an altar table, that’s fine, but during the novena, place everything directly onto the floor. If you have pets, partition this area off somehow so they will not have access to it, at least during the novena.
  2. Take the cascarilla, rub your finger into it, (or use the chalk) and begin to draw an arc on the floor from one wall to the one perpendicular to it. Make it a solid arc; this will take more work if you have carpet. If for some reason, you can’t use a corner but a section of wall instead, make this a half-circle, starting from one side of the area, moving around it, and closing it in on the other. The purpose is to spiritually close off this section.
  3. Using the cascarilla (or chalk), make nine short dashes along the arc or half-circle. It should look like railroad markings on a map.
  4. Place one 7-day white candle inside the marked-off area, along with the clear glass filled with water. Also, place the bottle of perfume or the light, clean scented incense inside the area.
  5. Choose a certain time of the day that you are sure you can be free to talk with your ancestors at the same time for nine consecutive days, beginning on a Monday.

The Novena

  1. When the time comes, settle yourself in front of the area, light the candle, and open the bottle of perfume or light the incense. Prepare yourself for spiritual communication and open yourself to the spiritual world, whether that is with the Our Father and three Hail Mary’s, or meditation, or a prayer to the God/dess, the Cabbalistic Cross, or whatever. Do this at the beginning of each session.
  2. Also at each session and after the opening part just mentioned, state your full name along with any other name by which you are known, and call to your ancestors both known and unknown. Ex: “I, Paul Michael Smith, Grey Wolf, call to all my ancestors, those I know and those I currently do not…”
  3. After you’ve gotten their attention, thank them for giving you life, for without them you wouldn’t be here.
  4. Next, talk with your ancestors the way you would family members at a family reunion, catching those up who have missed the latest bit of your life, and introducing yourself to those you don’t yet know, which of course will be the majority of them. Tell them what you’re doing (the novena) and why you feel it’s important to you. Chances are, they already know, but it’s necessary for you to speak this aloud to them; it gives purpose and power to your physical actions. Ask them to come into your life and help you do what you need to do.
  5. When you have said all you wish to say, thank them again. Tell them you will be back again at the same time and place to talk with them more the following day.
  6. Extinguish the candle, or allow it to burn the remainder of the day/night until you go to sleep, or allow the candle to burn continuously throughout the novena, which will require at least two 7-day candles. (All depending on how nervous you are about fire hazards. I allowed mine to burn continuously and asked my ancestors to guard the candle to make sure it didn’t tip over or catch anything on fire-nothing bad happened.)

On the Ninth Day

  1. Do your prayers as usual, talk with your ancestors, and then explain that this is the last day of the novena, and that from now on you will come to them once a week to light their candle, supply fresh water, and serve them food if they tell you they need it.
  2. At this time you can place the altar in the area, if you plan to have an altar. Then place all their items on the altar (this is “lifting them up”), give them the flowers you’ve gathered or bought, give them the food you’ve prepared, and thank them again for being an active part of your daily life.

After the Novena
Choose one day of the week (usually this will be Monday) that you can go to your ancestors, light their candle, give them fresh water, give them food if you feel they need it and whatever type they ask for (again with no salt added), give them flowers, alcohol, cigarettes, whatever they enjoyed in life, and talk with them. Place pictures of them and items they owned on the altar; truly make it yours.
While chatting with them share with them your good news and bad news. When you feel you need help in life’s difficult journey, ask them for support and guidance.
Once you have established a good relationship with your ancestors, let this relationship evolve as they dictate. In other words, this is only the beginning.
Brightest Blessings

Daily Horoscopes for Tuesday, July 23rd

We need to push past our personal desires today so we can focus on the realms of community and humanity. The greater good is of higher concern now that the Moon is visiting conceptual Aquarius. Although we’re comfortable in the world of thought, we might seem emotionally distant from others. Nevertheless, we must make choices about what we like and what we don’t like while resourceful Venus is moving through analytical Virgo until August 16.

Aries Horoscope

(Mar 21 – Apr 19)

You might be quite distracted from the emotional issues that have been building over the last few weeks. There is much to say, but you can’t bring yourself to say it. Lately, you are more concerned about what others think of you, so you often change the subject to something less threatening. Get together with trusted friends and share what’s weighing on your heart. Receiving their support will be well worth the risk of revealing your feelings. Nothing ventured; nothing gained.

Taurus Horoscope

(Apr 20 – May 20)

You want to be acknowledged for your unflappable behavior, but even if people say wonderful things about you now, you might not be open to what you are hearing. It’s important to be actively engaged with those around you; if praise comes your way, smile and say thank you. Don’t deflect the positive support because of your temporary insecurity or low self-esteem. On the other hand, don’t go fishing for compliments; they mean a lot more when they’re unsolicited. Be the friend you want to have and focus your attention on the happiness of others.

Gemini Horoscope

(May 21 – Jun 20)

New opportunities create alternatives today as you think about all the future possibilities waiting for you. Even if you’re still feeling stressed out, the potential for change is improving day by day. But don’t expect circumstances to suddenly transform. Rather, the dreams you hold on to now will begin to take shape gradually. Think big, but try not to be too disappointed if everything takes some time yet to manifest. Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Cancer Horoscope

(Jun 21 – Jul 22)

You may go through a weird phase this week as you attempt to distance yourself from your feelings in order to cope with what’s happening. Although this sounds difficult, gaining perspective can be quite helpful. Relationships might be easier than they have been for a while, since your current emotional detachment enables you to enjoy yourself without being overwhelmed. Be aware of your desires, but don’t spread them out on the table for others to see. Give yourself time to sort things out before you share them with anyone else.

Leo Horoscope

(Jul 23 – Aug 22)

You roar with all the intent of the Lion or Lioness, but others may react to you now in ways you don’t expect. The high tension between your will and the emotional response that you elicit today might anger you if you can’t have your way. But don’t follow your temptation to turn this into a full-blown argument. If you do, there won’t be a winner. Call on your inner patience today because you’ll most likely achieve your goals if you can wait long enough for others to come around to your point of view.

Virgo Horoscope

(Aug 23 – Sep 22)

Your ideas may be worth more than anyone perceives, but it’s difficult to get your concepts across at this time. If you are misinterpreted, your tendency now is to inflate your cleverness in an attempt to convince others of your intellectual merit. But the more you say, the less they understand. Loosening the reins of control prevents problems from developing later on. Your best tactic is to communicate as little as possible and let the day take its own course, without feeling the need to control where it leads.

Libra Horoscope

(Sep 23 – Oct 22)

You have lots of energy today to put toward creating enjoyment for you and those around you. You could choose to have a party since that would fulfill your need for spending time with your friends in a spontaneous manner. Also, your creative juices are flowing, so if there’s a project you’ve been putting off, today is the day to get it off the ground. He who hesitates is lost.

Scorpio Horoscope

(Oct 23 – Nov 21)

Processing your emotions may be tricky if it seems that you have nowhere to go with your feelings. If you express them honestly, you won’t improve your current situation. However, if you try to bury them, you’ll only make matters even worse. Thankfully, there’s an easy solution; simply steer clear of blame. Acknowledge what you’re feeling, but don’t attempt to describe the cause. If you stay in the present moment and remember to be kind, then a difficult situation can magically transform into a beautiful encounter.

Sagittarius Horoscope

(Nov 22 – Dec 21)

Today has all the earmarks of a highly busy day, complete with unusual social encounters. Although you may be looking for meaning as much as you are seeking a good time, the emphasis is on turning your day into an adventure. Of course, you’re nearly always up for a good adventure. However, problems arise if you make too much out of a minor event. If you’re going to the beach for a swim, don’t try to turn it into a Caribbean pleasure cruise.

Capricorn Horoscope

(Dec 22 – Jan 19)

Even if the emotional turmoil has started to calm down, you still might be embroiled in a bit of a power struggle that upsets you. Unfortunately, you can easily express your frustration at the wrong target, which doesn’t necessarily help you to regain your sense of balance. Instead of focusing on a current situation, look ahead to next week and do whatever you need in order to carry out your long-term commitments. Keeping your eyes on the future gives you the confidence motivation to successfully handle the current situation.

Aquarius Horoscope

(Jan 20 – Feb 18)

A close family member or a good friend may be the source of temporary trouble for you now. You feel like you haven’t done anything wrong, but someone still could get angry with you for no apparent reason. You might even see the black cloud coming and try to stop the oncoming storm, but to no avail. Don’t take it all too seriously, for the drama seems so much more important than it really is. Let the emotional barrage roll off you like water off a duck’s back. No worries; the sun will come out tomorrow.

Pisces Horoscope

(Feb 19 – Mar 20)

You can drift off into your own fantasy-land these days, but escape might not be such a bad thing now. Others get on your case and try to make you see the folly of your ways but you know there’s treasure to be discovered. Thankfully, there is no harm from taking your little mental holiday as long as you remember the difference between reality and your imagination. Embark on your journey, but make certain you’re back in time to do your chores.

The Witches Spell for July 22 – The One Shot Spell

The One Shot Spell

(Note: Do not use rum for this spell. As it is sacred to some of the Afro-Caribbean deities, using it as such may be offensive to Them).

Materials You Will Need:

1 shot of bodka, bourbon, gin or scotch

1 glass to hold the shot of alcohol

1 12oz. glass of water

Pour the shot of alcohol, then swirl it in the glass, saying:

(Name of target) you’ve become
(Name of target) you shall stay
And I’ve become the nemesis
Who will take your power away.

Take a sip from the glass, saying:

One sip and you feel weak,

Take another sip, saying:

Another makes you fall.

Then chug the rest of the shot and say:

As I toss back the rest of this
I own your power: All!

Now chase the shot with the full glass of water, drinking it down as quickly as possible. Then say:

In an hour’s time, I’ll piss you out
And you’ll be laid to waste,
Weak and lowly like the piss
And swimming in disgrace.
—Dorothy Morrison

I Married a Iwa: The Sacrad Nuptials of Haitian Vodou

I Married a Iwa: The Sacrad Nuptials of Haitian Vodou

by Kevin Filan

All is on earth. Nothing is in the sky. Nothing was made in the sky. No one needs to speak to the sky. Instead of talking about the sky, talk instead of the earth. André Pierre[1]

In most religions, devotees talk to the divine; in Vodou the divine talks to its devotees. Vodou is a very concrete school of mysticism. The lwa (spirits served in Vodou) are not part of some ineffable astral choir detached from reality; to their followers, they are as real as the local greengrocer or the noisy neighbor who lives down the hall. Vodouisants (devotees of Vodou, also known as serviteurs) come to their spirits with worldly concerns — difficulties in romance, financial needs, health problems — and ask for their intervention. In return, they provide the lwa with food, housing, gifts and, via the mechanism of possession, their own bodies. Many Vodouisants will show their love for the spirit in a time-honored fashion: by taking wedding vows in the ceremony of the maryaj lwa.

To understand Haitian Vodou, one must understand Haiti, and to understand Haiti, one must understand Haitian history. If Vodou is a mirror of Haitian culture, Haitian culture is a mirror of colonial St. Dominique. A study of the maryaj lwa — and of marriage in Haitian culture — can help to illuminate many of the ways in which a century of slavery, followed by two centuries of poverty and oppression, has shaped every aspect of Haitian life.

Bay kou bliye pote mak sonje (He who strikes the blow forgets; he who bears the bruises remembers.) Haitian Proverb

Among the various African tribes whose members came in chains to the New World, there were many different conjugal relationships. Some tribes were polygamous, while others were monogamous. Brideswealth marriages, cross-cousin marriages, slave marriages, secondary marriages and ritual marriages could all be found in Central and West Africa. Few of these customs had meaning in the harsh conditions of St. Dominique. Family relationships were regularly torn apart at auctions, while plantation owners who wanted to sleep with an attractive slave woman rarely considered their own marital vows, never mind those of their “property.” Slave owners forbade anything that smacked of African “heathenism” and “voodooism,” and brutally punished any slaves who were caught preserving their native traditions. Nor would the customs of any one tribe necessarily be reflected in the customs of another. To minimize the risk of organized uprisings, it was common practice to keep slaves from different groups together on a plantation; Africans separated by language and by ethnic identity were considered less likely to band together than Africans from the same region or tribe.

Flung together in this hellhole, the slaves were forced to recreate their ancestral religious traditions with whatever was at hand. A ceremonial reglamen developed to honor each of the ancestral nachons (nations or tribes) in order. Roman Catholicism, the religion of the French colonial masters, would also come to play an especially important role in Vodou.[2] Africans had never been afraid to incorporate the deities of neighboring tribes. Obviously the French gods were powerful: They kept their White followers in wealth and gave them mastery over the black slaves. And so the slaves appropriated many of the symbols and practices of Catholicism into their own religious melange, including the sacrament of marriage.

Even after a bloody decade-long revolution, and the 1804 establishment of the Free Black Republic of Haiti, the influence of Catholicism and European culture did not fade away. The ruling blans (whites) were largely replaced by gens du coleur, free blacks and mullatos who were known for being “more French than the French.” They identified African culture with ignorance and inferiority: Indeed, many gens du coleur had themselves been slaveholders before the Revolution. Free Haitian society quickly became stratified between a dark-skinned poor majority and a light-skinned wealthy minority ruling class, a situation that has persisted to this day. European customs and religious practices were identified with wealth and prestige– and, inevitably, power.

The sacred obligations of marriage are but Iittle regarded in [Haiti]; the two sexes live in a state of concubinage; and, according to M. de la Croix, many irregular unions have taken place. Niles’ Weekly Register, Baltimore, Nov. 25, 1820.

For most Haitians, a civil or religious marriage is a luxury. The most common relationship among peasants and the urban lower class is plasaj or common-law marriage. Haitians typically refer to any woman who lives with a man, keeps house for him and bears his children as a “wife.” The husband and wife often make explicit agreements about their economic relationship at the beginning of a plasaj. These agreements typically require the husband to cultivate at least one plot of land for the wife and to provide her with a house. Women perform most household tasks, though men often do heavy chores like gathering firewood. These unions are distinguished from vivavek or tizammi relationships, sexual affairs that carry less responsibility and are less stable than a plasaj.[3]

Among the Haitian elite, civil and religious marriages were the norm; the “best” families could trace legally married ancestors to the nineteenth century. Legal marriages were seen as more prestigious than plasaj, but they were not necessarily more stable or productive, nor were they necessarily monogamous. In fact, legally married men are often more economically stable than men in plasaj relationships, and so it is easier for them to separate from their wives or to enter into extramarital relationships. While Haitian women are expected to maintain sexual fidelity to their husbands, whether or not they are legally married or in a plasaj relationship, Haitian men are more free to pursue polygamous relationships. Polygamy among Haitian men is not so much a sign of virility as of social and economic success: few Haitian men can afford to keep more than one family.

Danto, she says to me “You have a choice: Be with me, mon amour or I’m not responsible for what will happen to you.” I could die, you know, anything could happen. Georges René, husband of Ezili Danto[4]

When the lwa possess bystanders at a ceremony, they will frequently offer advice and blessings — and make demands in return. Often their demands will include a request for marriage. The coquettish Erzulie Freda, lwa of love, beauty and luxury, often proposes to several men when she arrives at a ceremony, while the rum-swilling warrior lwa Ogou is known for his love of the ladies and often asks for their hands in marriage when he comes. Frequently these proposals are met with reluctance. A maryaj lwa is at least as expensive as a civil or religious marriage, and may cost several years in savings. In lieu of a marriage, a Vodouisant might offer to buy the proposing lwa a gift or to make some sacrifice that is less costly and onerous. Sometimes the lwa will be satisfied with these counteroffers; as spirits residing in an impoverished land, they have long since learned to accept what is available to them. At other times they will insist on the maryaj. Vodouisants who continue to ignore these demands will often discover their luck turning for the worse, as the spurned lwa brings them misfortune and sickness. Sometimes the lwa will even punish the Vodouisant’s partner, making him or her ill until such time as the marriage demands are met.

When the Vodouisant decides (or is persuaded) to marry the lwa, a ceremony is held. The space is prepared by the Priye Gineh, a lengthy ceremonial salute in which the lwa are honored alongside God, Jesus, the Virgin and various saints. A table is set up for the spirits who are going to be married. Cakes are prepared in their favorite colors (pink for Freda, red and blue for Danto, etc.). Their favorite offerings are placed on the table, alongside offerings for other lwa who might show up at the ceremony to give their blessings. The ceremonial clothing or objects of the brides or grooms will be close at hand. The human bride or groom, meanwhile, will be dressed in his or her finest clothing, as befits such a solemn ceremony.

After the Priye, the houngan or mambo (Priest or Priestess) in charge will begin calling the various lwa. Starting with Papa Legba, the gatekeeper who “opens the door” for the other lwa, s/he will salute the spirits in the order of the reglaman. At the appropriate time, the bride/groom spirits will possess one of the participants. That chwal (“horse”) will be dressed in the clothing of the lwa — a straw hat and bag for agricultural lwa Zaka, a denim dress for Ezili Danto, etc. Then s/he will be seated before the table beside the serviteur s/he is marrying. A pret savanne (literally “bush priest”) will recite the Catholic marriage ceremony; the lwa and the serviteur pledge fidelity to each other. The serviteur’s rings are “passed through fire” — incense smoke, really — and then the lwa places the ring on the serviteur’s finger.

This ritual is repeated for each lwa whom the serviteur is going to marry. Only rarely does one marry a single lwa: usually it is necessary to marry two or three so that their energies will be balanced. A woman who marries Ogou will also marry Damballah, the Great White Serpent, and Zaka: It is believed that Damballah will “cool” Ogou’s hot, intense energy while Zaka will help to “ground” it. And any man who marries Freda must marry her hardworking peasant sister Ezili Danto, and vice versa: the acrimony between these two women is legendary in Vodou and it is believed that marrying only one will cause the other to become enraged with jealousy. (Polygamy is also the rule among the lwa themselves: Erzulie Freda is “wife” to Damballah, Ogou and the sea king Met Agwe, while even Ogou has to wear the rings of both Freda and Ezili Danto.)

The serviteur is now married to the lwa. S/he will be expected to set aside at least one night per month — and perhaps as many as three nights a week — during which s/he will not have sexual relations with anyone else. During that time many spouses of the lwa will sleep alone in a bed that they have specially prepared for the occasion. They may wrap their heads with a cloth in their spouse’s color, and will almost certainly wear their wedding rings. On that evening they are frequently visited by their husbands/wives in dreams that may have sexual content or which may involve more platonic counsel and advice.

While most wealthy planters in St. Dominique were having sexual relations with one or more of their slaves, few would admit to this publicly. They might grant favored status to those women and their offspring, but always in private. The whole process became an open secret, one of those things that everyone knew but no one discussed. Among Haiti’s wealthy, the same could be said of Vodou. Rather than holding public fetes in their homes, or attending ceremonies, wealthy Haitians might honor the lwa privately through a maryaj lwa performed in their homes. This allows them to serve the lwa discreetly. By setting aside days for the lwa and maintaining an inconspicuous shrine, they can gain the spirit’s continued protection and blessings without incurring the social stigma that open service to the lwa would bring. If poor Haitians marry the lwa, rich Haitians take them as concubines.

Entering the Vodou is like choosing a whole new family. Choosing a family is rightfully a serious undertaking. Houngan Aboudja[5]

The maryaj lwa ceremony is not only costly; it also involves considerable responsibility. Violating your wedding vows is seen as extremely dangerous. Edeline St.-Amand, a Haitian Mambo living in Brooklyn, tells the story of a man who married Erzulie Freda, then had relations with another woman on the day set aside for Freda. “He says his nature is gone,” Mambo Edeline explains. “I try to call Freda for him so he can say he’s sorry. For three hours I try to call Freda, but Freda won’t come. Finally I call Brav (Brav Ghede, a dead spirit with whom Edeline works frequently). Brav come and he say `Freda don’t want to talk to you.’ He beg Brav, tell her I’m sorry, tell her I’m sorry. Finally Brav tells him, `Okay. Freda say you got to go to Mass every day for 21 days, then you need to throw a big party for Freda. Then maybe she think about forgiving you.”[6]

Whether rich or poor, Vodouisants see the maryaj lwa as both a sign of devotion and a guarantee of success. The Vodouisant throws a party for the lwa and sets aside special days for the spirit’s honor. In exchange, s/he expects the lwa to provide support and protection. The maryaj lwa, like marriage and conjugal relationships, is as much a promise of mutual support as a sign of undying love. Kathleen Latzoni, an American woman who recently married Ogou, Damballah and Zaka, says that her maryaj had a pronounced positive effect on her life. “I’ve become much more productive at work; and while I still have a demanding job, I feel that things around the office have started to run more smoothly. I also feel less anxious and better able to cope with whatever life throws my way — no matter what happens, I’ve got somebody (or three somebodies!) on my side.” For Latzoni, the Maryaj also served as a community-building experience. “Even though my cultural background is very different from most of the Vodouisants I know in Brooklyn, I feel more bonded to them now, as if this shared experience gives us something in common.”[7]


[1]Sacred Arts of Haitian Vodou, Donald J. Cosentino, Editor. Los Angeles: UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History, 1995. p. xxiii.

[2]For an excellent and extensive study of the interplay between African religions and Catholicism in Haiti, see Leslie G. Desmangles, Faces of the Gods: Voodoo and Roman Catholicism in Haiti. (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1993).

[3]Haitian Women’s Role in Sexual Decision-Making: The Gap Between AIDS Knowledge and Behavior Change (II. Presentation of Findings),  available at http://www.fhi.org/en/RH/Pubs/booksReports/haitiwom/haitpres.htm

[4]Cosentino, p. 292.

[5]From a post entitled “Living in the Spirit,” to the mailing list “VodouSpirit,” http://groups.yahoo.com/group/vodouspirit/, December 11, 2002.

[6]Conversation with Mambo Edeline St.-Amand, February 2003.

[7] Conversation with Kathleen Latzoni, October 2003.

Santeria Stationary Cleanser

Santeria Stationary Cleanser

Many Santeria space cleansings use water as a defensive mechanism, on the premise that evil and psychic toxins will dissolve in water in the same manner as salt or sugar.
1. Dissolve a square of camphor in a pan of water.
2. Keep it under the bed.
3. Change the water weekly. However, if an unpleasant odor emerges, dispose of the water immediately and replace it.
4. Disposal of the water is part of the spell: ideally it’s thrown out the back window. If this isn’t possible, flush it down the toilet but smudge the disposal area immediately.
5. Never dispose of the water in the kitchen sink or elsewhere in the house. You want to eliminate any possibility of lingering toxins.

National Geo Photo of the Day for 8/24

Tarpon and Silversides, Grand Cayman

Photograph by Mike Sutton Brown,

The picture was taken at Eden Rock, Grand Cayman. For just a short time every year these silversides swarm caves and swim-throughs at Cayman’s dive sites. The picture was taken late afternoon just as the sun was going down. I was hiding behind the silversides, low in the rocks. As the tarpon swam through the silversides, they eventually saw me and turned away. Just like you see in the picture

Herb of the Day for April 28 is Mace

Herb of the Day


Botanical: Myristica fragrans (HONK.)
Family: N.O. Myristicaceae

—Synonyms—Arillus Myristicae. Myristica officinalis. Myristica moschata. Macis. Muscadier.
—Part Used—The dried arillus of the fruit or nutmeg.
—Habitat—Moluccas and Bandy Islands, New Guinea, West Indies, etc.

—History—The name is derived from a mediaeval word for ‘nut,’ meaning ‘suitable for an ointment.’ The tree is a small evergreen, not more than 40 feet in height, with smooth, greyish-brown bark, green on the younger branches. The alternate leaves are oblong-ovate, acute, entire, smooth, and dark-green. The flowers are very small and unisexual. The fruits, smooth and yellow, resemble a pear grooved by a longitudinal furrow and contain a single erect seed about 1 1/4 inch long, the nucleus being the wrinkled ‘nutmeg,’ and the fleshy, irregular covering, scarlet when fresh and drying yellow and brittle, the ‘mace.’

The principal harvest at Bencoolen is usually in the autumn, the smaller one in early summer. The fruits, which split open when ripe, are gathered with a long-handled hook and the products are separated. The mace when dried is often sprinkled with salt water to preserve it. If packed too moist it breeds worms.

Most of the supply comes from the Banda Islands by way of Java and Sumatra.

The ‘blades,’ ‘bands,’ or flattened, lobed pieces are about 25 mm. long, smooth, irregular, translucent, brittle or flexible, and if scratched or pressed exude an orangecoloured oil.

An inferior Mace is obtained from the long nutmeg, dark and very brittle and lacking the fragrant odour and aromatic taste of the official variety.

The medicinal properties resemble those of nutmeg, but it is principally used as a condiment.

—Constituents—The principal constituent is 7 to 9 per cent of a volatile oil, protein, gum, resins, sugar and fixed oil. The volatile oil contains much pinene, and a little myristicin, which must be distinguished from the glyceride of myristic acid.

Two odorous fixed oils have been separated, a yellow one insoluble in boiling alcohol but soluble in ether, and a red one soluble in either.

The powder is brown or buff, orangetinted.

Oil of Mace is practically identical with distilled oil of nutmeg or Nutmeg Butter.

—Medicinal Action and Uses—A flavouring agent, stimulant and tonic.

Both Mace and Nutmeg help digestion in stomachic weakness, but if used to excess may cause over-excitement. They increase circulation and animal heat. They have been employed in pestilential and putrid fevers, and with other substances in intermittent fevers, and enter into the composition of many French medicaments.

—Dosage—5 to 20 grains.

—Other Species—
Myristica malabarica, yielding Bombay Mace, which is deficient in odour and taste. Several chemical tests provide means of detecting the substitution. It yields a much higher percentage of ether-soluble matter.

M. argentea, yielding Macassar Mace, which is of a dull brown colour with an odour like sassafras. It is too acrid for medicinal use.

M. otoba, yielding a Mace which, incorporated with fat, is used in gout and rheumatism.