Tell the Truth and Shame the Devil

•July 27, 2015 • Leave a Comment

After telling on myself via my blog post about my terrible case of spiritual bitchface, I’ve sort of sat still in some regards. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, not a lot of writing, and a lot of staring at altars and shrines.

I got my ass back in the saddle like I intended to by lighting up the Lwa’s altar and plopping down in front of it for a come-to-jeebus talk, of sorts. I apologized for being largely absent and very neglectful since May, and explained to Them why. First, what They see is what They get—I am nutty in my own ways and when I am under stress, the first thing to go still is my spiritual practice and doubly so when that stress is directly related to the comings, goings, and demands of the Unseen. It’s super dysfunctional and not helpful to me at all, but I am at heart an introvert and my processing time usually involves me in my metaphorical blanket burrito not talking to Anyone or Anything until I either figure shit out or pull myself together enough to be able to deal with Grand Central Station in my living room.

I also got really, really honest with Them in a way I haven’t before [though I suspect They knew what was on my mind anyway] and said aloud some things that I had been scared to before and haven’t talked much about with other people. Namely, at Fet Kouzen, more than one of Them told me They want me to kanzo/initiate due to the sort of work I need done on me. This isn’t news, really—it’s been a tickle for the last year or so and I have steadfastly refused to entertain the idea.

I was not happy then about this and am still not happy about it, and told Them so. Further, I told Them that I have zero desire to kanzo at the moment, have never really wanted to do so, and the idea makes me want to run screaming for the hills. I also told Them how generally pissed the way They couched Their desire has made me. I got the exact same line about how I needed to do the thing to help me, preserve my life, and protect me when maryaj was proposed, and I said yes to that because it felt like the right thing to do and my other divinities agreed.

Now, though, I feel fucking double crossed and like I have had the rug pulled out from underneath me. I agreed to one thing to address this problem and now the problem cannot be addressed that way and needs an international trip, a whole lot more money, a few weeks off from work, and a binding commitment to people and community? Nope. I logically know that this is very likely NOT a double cross and I am not being toyed with, but my logic talk the rest of me into this at ALL.

So, I’ve been pissy and distant while I fight the impulse to throw all Their stuff in boxes and put it on the corner in an effort to save my persona washing machine, but I’m trying to quell the pissiness so I can at least fulfill my responsibilities in a helpful and non-confrontational manner. Going to Them in full-on bitch mode won’t get me anything but push back and I need that like I need fifteen more divinities moving in.

I’ve had a lot of outside divination in trying to sort out what is going on from the perspective of my other divinities and none of it is particularly heartening because it sets me up between a rock and a hard place in terms of what the ripples of my decisions will be. Eshu says that kanzo is the best and fastest way to protect me against some things, but that there are other ways. I haven’t asked what the other ways are yet, but if it involves initiation into other religions, I will be punching air in frustration.

A big part of the issue right now is that I don’t have enough information. They dropped this on me at Fet Kouzen and then Manmi was basically unavailable between then and when she took off to Haiti for the summer. I’ve basically been left to dangle and spin on my own, which is nobody’s fault—it’s just the way things are. We have a lot of talking to do when she gets back about how far the Lwa would want me to go and, if that’s still not palatable to me or would affect my other divinities in ways I don’t like, what my options are. Things are too cut and dry for my taste and the moment and I know that there is a middle ground somewhere—there always is and the Lwa are nothing if not eager negotiators—but I can’t find it until I have more information available to me. I thought maryaj would be the middle ground as it often is, but that’s apparently not so.

The other thing that is really leaving me less than happy is community response. This all unfolded in such a way that a lot of people were privy to what was going on directly before the fete, thanks to some really illustrative dreams, and during/after. The absolute assumption has largely been that of course I am going to kanzo and I don’t like it in part because I haven’t made a decision yet and likely will not for quite awhile. I also don’t like the idea that I am going to create social discord if I say no. It’s not my problem if people get ass-y if I decide not to kanzo, but I really like the friends and community I have and don’t want to lose them. Like, they’ve already been telling me things about what I would need to do in life after kanzo and I just don’t fucking need to know. The less I know in that arena, the better—knowledge is dangerous to have. None of this is malicious at all and I haven’t spoken up about it because I haven’t had the opportunity to. I’m not angry or anything, really, but am just feeling put upon.

A piece of the peer pressure is really interesting in an exhausting sort of way. No one can find any record or even word-of-mouth account of any trans person being initiated as their appropriate gender, ever, and this is a Big Deal. Manmi’s house is rich in anthropologists and people who study vodou professionally and they’ve all been digging for me to see if anyone in a legitimate lineage in Haiti or the US has ever done this before, but there is absolutely nothing to draw on. I’ve been corresponding with an anthropologist who has specifically studied queer folks in vodou in Haiti and she’s got some work forthcoming, but there is really no history to draw on or anyone to talk to.

I hate this in particular because I hate being in the spotlight and I hate being anyone’s first anything. My anthropologist vodou friends are excited and I understand why, but I very much am NOT. Manmi has already said that if I kanzo, she would absolutely make me as a houngan, but I don’t think she has any idea what she is getting into—the blowback for her in Haiti would be huge. I brought this up to her and she basically said she gave not one fuck, but I’m not sure she understands exactly what it would mean.

My plan right now is to do nothing new and to move forward as quickly as I can manage with the maryaj in the hopes of taking some of the immediacy away from everything. I am in the middle of a huge life-changing job search that is going to relocate me back to the city and closer to Manmi. It sort of dropped on my head as an excellent idea a couple weeks back and I have run with it because I have been super stagnant and financially busted where I am now. A lot of the jobs that I’m qualified for in the city come with a significant pay raise, which would let me pay for maryaj and associated stuff in a much more expedient manner than I am able if I stay where I’m at. The idea of moving back to the city I used to live in/near excites me and gives me a sense of joy and happiness that I haven’t had in awhile, so I am trusting that this is the right decision and will pan out as it needs to.

Even in my pissiness, I am grateful. The Lwa have done so much for me, as have all my divinities, and I am lucky for Their presence in my life. One of my sadnesses right now [that I’m not sure is based in reality] is that I am afraid They will be hurt or ditch me if I say no to kanzo and that would be heartbreaking for me. I don’t think the leaving is likely, since I have promised to marry Them and They promised to marry me, but my neurotic and addled brain always reverts to that when things are complicated.

I hear the Mermaid’s song, though, and feel the ebb and flow of Agwe’s tides. He is ever-present and His cool and gentle presence relieves the heat that screams in my head. Manmi’s Dantor brought me to cool water once, too, and held me to Her chest, telling me* that everything would be okay and I would be okay. Despite my pervasive bitchface, I believe that. There is no crisis of faith, just displeasure on my part, and it will be tempered by water, Their love for me, and my own will not to be a fucking bitch at all times.

Big things are on my horizons, on all sides, and the path is as yet unseen but the adventure is on and I have the tools to rise to the challenge. I love and am loved, and, at the end of the day, I am content with that.

*Some Dantors speak—usually the young ones who are very tied to Haiti, apparently.

Current Mood: Ugh

•July 18, 2015 • 1 Comment

Things are okay, I suppose. I am about as busy in all aspects of my spiritual life as I usually am during the summer, which is to say it seems to be a bit lighter than it is during the rest of the year.

In vaguely tracking my past few years, it is entirely unsurprising that Sekhmet has gotten louder during the summer—She seems to do that with some regularity for me. Of course, She’s been louder since January-ish and I haven’t really been responding. The past few months, though, She’s solidly shown up and brought friends in the form of Her consort, Ptah, Sobek, and Sekhet.

I will admit that I have not been terribly gracious, at least inwardly and due to things I’ll mention in a minute, and my reaction has largely been ‘are you fucking kidding me?’. I know, not very welcoming of me, but I really didn’t expect or, honestly, need Her and Her crew crashing into my life at this very moment. My house is already crawling with altars and shrines and I really need more divinities peering at me like I need a shotgun blast to the foot, which is to say not at all.

But, They have shown up and been patient enough not to beat my impertinent, surly ass so it follows that I should do something, yeah? I mean, I could not but I don’t need the Lion-Headed Lady roaring in my ear so I guess I can be hospitable and sociable. Conveniently [or not at all], Wep Ronpet is calculated to be in just under a month from now for my location which gives me the perfect opportunity to do something nice and hopefully with the appropriate attitude. I don’t yet know what it will entail beyond installing an altar for all of Them in my living room and trooping out onto a hill at fuck-off o’clock in the morning on Wep Ronpet to say some prayers and make a few offerings.

In another unexpected twist, a variety of dead have shown up in force for me and I am feeling at least a little less bitchy about this. My blood ancestors have been making some noise and I need to step up my game in that direction, especially since They have been lending some manner of protection to me these days. They don’t seem to care how I step up my game, but please won’t I?

The ancestors that show up for me are all female with one notable exception, all of my matrilineal line, and all hilariously fancy-lady, which I am decidedly NOT in any possible extension of the idea. The most interesting part is the matrilineal part. I basically ejected and divorced my paternal ancestors a handful of years ago after they took umbrage that I wasn’t going to be a woman, wasn’t getting married, wasn’t popping out the babies, and got decidedly nasty about all of this, in the form of trying and almost succeeding in dismantling my career. I told Them that They could either have me as I am or not at all, and They took the not at all option and were summarily kicked the fuck out.

When the Ladies showed up, I sort of gave the paternal troublemakers the eyeball and said ‘want back in?’. They turned up their noses and sniffed in distaste, noting that I wasn’t really of their blood anyway so it was no matter. This gave a big, glaring confirmation to the theory I had been chewing on in terms of my family of origin—I don’t believe my paternal grandfather (the only male ancestor to come for me) was his father’s child, which makes me only physically related to half of that side of the family by a comparative thread.

On the flip side of the family, I am of my ancestors’ blood and carry a lot of the spiritual gifts found there, but I am a changeling and am not technically Theirs, either. However, They don’t seem to care at all. They also don’t care about me being trans or queer or being involved in spiritual or religious practices that decidedly are not things They did in life. So far, the Ladies are pretty cool which is at least doesn’t leave me any more surly. In life, one of Them maintained that St. Joan of Arc talked to her regularly and occasionally ‘lived in her’, and another was instrumental in bringing theosophy to the United States, which leads to a surprising amount of common language between us.

That’s not the only Dead twist, though. I started at a new program site a few months ago that is a huge old Victorian that’s been hanging around for several hundred years. It’s been a program for about 50 years and before that was lord knows what. In my second or third week, I was exhausted and took a nap on the couch during my [graveyard] shift and dreamed of a legion of Dead eagerly gathering around me while I slept. Several of Them came waltzing through the living room while I dozed and scared the fucking bejesus out of me because who expects dead people to walk through their place of employment?

They seem largely benevolent and are thrilled to pieces that there is someone there who can see and hear Them. At least a half dozen showed up in the initial parade and They are incredibly diverse—women, men, children—and OLD. A bunch of the women wore super dated gowns and spoke in a dialect of English that isn’t native to my area and hasn’t been in at least a century. I’m not entirely sure what They want yet because I haven’t asked and haven’t slept there since, but I know that They are horrified at some of the things that have happened in Their home while it has been a program and that it is sort of a Beetlejuice situation—They once lived in the house as a whole, but They have steadily been pushed into the basement and then very specific parts of the basement as a result of some of the unhappy things happening. I get the distinct sense [and had it confirmed] that I am not the first spiritual worker to work as a staff person there, but whomever else They twisted the ear of is long gone. So there’s that.

The Lwa have been more or less quiet this summer, lending at least in part to the fact that Manmi is down in Haiti doing kanzo and other things. I told Them before she left that They really needed to keep Their stuff manageable without her presence, or manageable with the help of one of her children, until she returns.

To be bluntly honest, though, I haven’t gone seeking Them out. I haven’t sought out any of my divinities, really. I’ve done basic tending for some of Them, but this past week was the first time I have lit up the Lwa’s altar since late May, I think.

Why? I have spent much of the summer being a surly and sullen asshole, at least in regards to my spiritual life. There’s no particular reason why I’ve had such a crap attitude—nothing has been especially hard/harder than usual and I am not suffering any more than normal—but I have such a case of spiritual bitchface. There’s no real better way to put it, I don’t think. I’m not having a crisis of faith or a dark night of the soul, just a case of spiritual and religious ‘ugh’. Like, I look at my altars and go ‘really?’. I don’t even want to talk to any of Them or do anything. After close to ten years of knowing that the divinities are mucking around in my life, I think I sort of deserve some spiritual bitchface time, but…

I know this is the road to ruin, so I think this blog post is me telling on myself and making the first move to get back in the damn saddle. I have work and Work to do, a lot of it, and I know I can’t do any of it without Them or while I am being bitchy. It’s time to light everything up and pray for willingness and help adjusting my attitude before I get my ass in trouble. I haven’t been mouthy or purposefully disrespectful, but some of Them are not known for Their patience and I would prefer not to push the envelope too far.

So, that’s why there has been relative radio silence. There’s no use in hoping that things will change because I know that, if things are to be different, I have to change them unless I want Them to grab me by the ankles and start shaking.

Here, have a song [with some NSFW lyrics] in honor of spiritual bitchface by lyrical masters Anti-Nowhere League:

Tears, Miracles, and Love Songs

•June 1, 2015 • 1 Comment
I. Tears

I cry more often these days, and it’s unsettling in that am-I-going-crazy way. I know I’m not, but there is still that high-pitched screaming voice in the back of my head that assures me that I am losing my grasp on reality when the tears start sliding down my cheeks,

In particular, I cry when the Lwa are near. As soon as a song starts for a Lwa, I can feel my insides start to shake loose. By the time the reglemen has gotten to Agwe, there is a better chance than not that I will be sobbing like someone has kicked me in the face regardless of whether He comes down or not. I don’t have to see Him, or any other Lwa, embodied or have Them pay me any attention if They are, but if They are in the air [so to speak] I am weeping.

I had that uncontrollable sobbing when a second round of singing was begun for Agwe at Kouzen’s fet last weekend. For some reason, we had returned to Him and His accoutrements had come out again and I was suddenly sobbing in a way that I found utterly horrifying. I don’t like feeling like I am a spectacle and my very existence in the temple makes me one [to some people], so I don’t need any help. I was guided out of the way while I cried by Manmi, who assured me it was okay, and a houngan of the house cooled my head with a Pompeia-soaked scarf.

Prior to this, my body had not been cooperating with the idea of being at a fet and all that entailed–dancing, moving around, standing up–and I was in a lot of pain and was looking at a very long night in pain. When we started to sing for Agwe the first time, I started to pray. I told Him that I loved Him and I very much wanted to be at the fet, but could He make it hurt less? That sounds neat and tidy, but it was really a prayer of desperation as I started to go down the road of pain that would leave me unable to stand or use one of my legs.

He was in my head with an ocean of love, covering me with a giant wave, and that’s when I started to cry, as He passed through my head. It didn’t hurt or anything, but for whatever reason, my kriz Lwa seems to always be crying. Other people shake or contort, but I cry or sob or, if shit is getting real with a Lwa that rides hot, scream and howl. It’s more unsettling to me than anyone else present.

Like the tide, tears wash away what needs to go. HF tells me that perhaps the Lwa are giving me a gift–They compel me to cry in temple, possession or not, because it is easier for me to cry there than to have tears spill over into the other parts of my life.

II. Miracles

After I had calmed down post-Agwe-singing, I realized that all the pain in my body was gone. All of it. Just gone. It was so gone, in fact, that I could feel my other symptoms that usually are completely covered by my pain. Agwe took it because I begged Him to. He took it and swallowed it for me and buried it somewhere deep in His ocean because He loves me.

Me being me, I thought my divine painkiller would only last a little while. In fact, it lasted the whole of the fet into the next day and I am still going fairly strong. There’s some pain here and there, but not anything like I usually experience and not even enough for me to eye breaking out the not-divine painkillers.

This has left me sort of staring slack-jawed at Agwe. All I had to do was to make a desperate prayer? So noted. He is far better to me than I deserve, by as many leagues as His sea holds.

Later on, after I saw Kouzen, several Ogous came down furious and more angry than I had ever seen any of Them. They were hitting anything they could reach–walls, floors, doors, people who had angered Them, the heads of Their chwals–with Their machetes. It was truly terrifying in a way that left me unable to look Feray in the eye when He started to make the rounds. He was screaming and then He was sobbing [there is no heartbreak like watching a divinity you love sob in the arms of a priest] and then He was in front of me, perfectly calm.

That’s the miracle–if He had come in front of me screaming or crying, I probably would have folded. After difficult conversations with Kouzen and watching Feray scream and cry, I had been doing quite a bit more crying of my own and I felt like I was made of paper. He didn’t scream or cry at me, though. He looked at me and saw that I was hot mess who was scared to death of Him in the moment and just smiled when I greeted Him in my busted half-Kreyol [‘Bonswa, Papa Ogou. Mwen so happy we ou.’]. I don’t know if it was a smile of pleasure that I am picking up words and phrases or a smile of ‘oh, look at the puppy trying to do a trick’. Regardless, it was a smile and it settled down the irrational fear that He was going to open His mouth and eat me alive.

That didn’t mean our conversation was all unicorns and pink clouds–that’s not Ogou and that’s not my life–but He says hard things because He loves me and wants me to be and do well, not because He wants to terrify me so that I ruin my whites. I walked away from that conversation supremely frustrated and unhappy in the moment, but, after sleep and emotional space, a new plan to get shit done and take advantage of my inner strength.

III. Love Songs

Several years ago, when Manmi was getting the first wave of non-Haitians into her house, two of her ti-fey sat down with her and recorded her singing many of the most common chante Lwa. There’s thousands of songs for the Lwa, but there are probably a hundred or so that are used as the first line of chante when the Lwa are called. Non-Haitians or Haitians that didn’t grow up in contact with vodou needed a resource to learn the songs, so the unofficial house Dropbox was made and it gets passed around to new members called by the Lwa as needed.

I listen to the songs with some regularity to learn them, but also because they are prayers and calls to the Lwa in their own right–there is no one purpose for anything in vodou. The undercover purpose, though, beyond being songs, being a way to call a Lwa or a specific aspect of a Lwa, and being prayers is that each chante is a love song, in it’s way.

Nowhere is this more clear than listening to the sosyete’s Dropbox and hearing Manmi sing each of the songs she knows by heart for innumerable Lwa. She sings and the Lwa perk up and look at me [while I fiddle on my phone to my find my favorite songs..]. Even though I can’t sing all of them yet and usually can’t get more than a line or two out in my own voice before I forget what comes next, they are my love songs, too, because learning them from Manmi has paved that road for me. They are not just words, they don’t just have double meanings, and they aren’t just a beacon down Gran Chemin for the Lwa. They are intimate in a way that’s hard to communicate, like a letter between close friends or lover is. It it sung by more than a hundred people at a fete and by thousands upon thousands daily and in history and it it still a personal letter between the singer and their Lwa.

Vodou is about many things–more things than I can possibly understand these days–but one of those things is love. Vodou is about how the spirits love the people and the people love the spirits. It’s expressed through service and favors and promises made and kept, but it is love through a Haitian lens spread into the diaspora. Haiti can be a hard place and vodou is a hard religion–it won’t coddle you and it will challenge everything you know to be true, but the spirits love their people as fiercely as the sun is hot and the ocean is deep. They meet you at the back of the mirror and under the water when you sing for Them and They sing back to you with the hope that you return better than you arrived.
This is a miracle, too, and it’s one that I didn’t expect to experience. How could spirits from Ginen love someone like me? The roots go deep.
Agwe o!
Siyen lod o!
Jou’m angaje, map rele
Agwe o….

•May 3, 2015 • Leave a Comment

giftsgiven

For prayers answered, gifts given, and because I said I would.

“Big Pharma” & Privilege: Or Why I Wish Allies Would Stop Using This Phrase

•April 22, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Alex:

All of this. As my own diagnostic spiral focuses in on what seems to be some soet of neurological malfunction on a massive level, I find myself at the butt end of too much of this bullshit.

Yoga leaves me unable to walk properly for a day or two because my muscles shut down after too much work. I would love to eat what might be considered a more healthy diet, but I can’t stand up for as long as it would take me to prep and cook a meal and doctors appointments and medication eat up a lot n of cash. I’ve been in therapy for years and all of my providers think that I wouls feel better if I, you know, felt better.

My attitude is that if one of my providers thinks it would be good to try a thing, I try it. However, I bristle at the yoga/eat only purple things/shadow work/pray more solutions offered because if that shit fixed what was wrong with me and others like me, i’d be all over it like white on rice. Can yoga cure MS? Will that eliminate the lesions on the brains and spines of an MS patient?

What offends me most is assuming my medical stuff is because I am too dumb to try ALL THE THINGS to be better or because I choose not to chase down every single thing some random idiot on the internet suggests, like copper bracelets, foot detox baths, and fucking swimming with dolphins and becoming one with my inner indigo child. The internet does not hold an MD.

Originally posted on Foxglove & Firmitas:

A friend posts an article on Facebook about how the United States’ medical system does not meet the needs of those with chronic pain. This is a reality that I have experienced. This is a reality that I regularly speak to others who experience chronic pain have also experienced. About a month ago when I was at the doctor’s office for my annual exam, I overheard 2 medical workers talking about how they hate when patients say they’re in pain, because they know they’re over-reacting. I was horrified, but it wasn’t the first time I’d heard someone in the medical field say something like this.

When we talk about chronic pain, and disability in general, inevitably someone pops up to say something like the following:

I think chronic pain (and other illnesses for that matter) should be tackled with a holistic approach. Putting our faith completely in the medical system…

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Fet Damballah 2015

•March 17, 2015 • 2 Comments

It has been just about 48 hours since fete Damballah ended. It was emotional in a very unexpected way and I am still trying to sort out how I feel about it and why I feel particular ways. Out of all the fetes and all the rites and rituals, Damballah’s fete ripped me open in ways that I absolutely didn’t expect or, to be very honest, desire. However, I now have commitments to the Lwa and stepping into the spotlight of those commitments is consent for things to roll along, regardless of whether I have grasped the intricacies of what will happen and why.

My preparation for the fete began mid-week. I hadn’t expected to be held to the standard of ritual purity that vodouisants who have been made are, but it was very clear by the rising level of anxiety in my life when I made plans NOT to be ritually clean that I was absolutely supposed to keep that standard. It’s a deceptively simple process—abstain from sexual activity and stay away from spicy/hot food. Of course, I had a date planned in there which had to be rescheduled for mundane reasons but it was pretty clear that had I gone ahead with the date and the planned sexy times, I likely would have been in some trouble.

Two days before the fete, I had a dream where I was informed that I needed to do a bath before the fete. Spiritual baths are a fairly common thing in vodou and many of them can be self-administered. No big deal, really. I try not to bother Manbo prior to fetes, since she is being yanked in eighty billion directions at once, so I called my houngan friend [HF] who is her initiatory child to ask Him if I should do the bath that I usually do. Being that I have commitments and will be going under ceremony in the near-ish future, he directed me back to Manbo because he didn’t want to prescribe the wrong thing and get us both in trouble.

Manbo and I had a quick phone call where it was clear that she was already being run ragged and we decided that I would do the bath at her house just before the fete, since it would save me a trip into Boston and her from having to try and schedule something between shopping trips and other preparation.

I had taken the night before the fete off to get a good night’s sleep since I would be spending all day Saturday helping get everything ready at Manbo’s house and then be up all night at the fete. I went to bed at the decadent hour of 12AM and slept for exactly four hours before being wide awake and scowling at my ceiling. I knew what not being able to sleep meant—I would be up for at least 24 hours straight [turned out to be more like 28] and that’s just not good for me, but what are you going to do?

It turns out that almost no one else in the sosyete did much sleeping, either—Manbo crashed on her couch at 2AM and was up at 5AM to start prepping, HF only got a few hours sleep, and the houngenikon who does most of the singing AND the cooking didn’t sleep at all. By the time I rolled up to Manbo’s house, the kitchen was in full swing—there were pots and pans on every surface, all the spare electric burners had been hauled out and were going full bore, and Manbo was brewing her famous coffee. HF was passed out on the floor and woke up when Manbo told him to get his hounsi butt in gear.

After coffee, HF and I went off on errands. We hit the fabric store, the liquor store, and he took me to a Haitian botanica where I bought lots of things I can’t otherwise get outside of Haiti. As an almost after-thought, I bought a blue glass rosary for Agwe, Who had asked for one for the fete a few weeks prior. I had ordered one online, but it didn’t reach me in time and He was insistent that I have one. He had been very, very present during the week via popping up with ocean and ship-themed things every single place I turned [since when do grocery stores carry replica buoys?] and after I got to Manbo’s house, He was practically crawling up my spine.

It was a bit unsettling in that I am not used to that level of attention and affection—He was basiscally whispering sweet nothings in my ear all day and, while it was very sweet, it made me squirm in a restless, uncomfortable sort of way. It’s unsurprising that He is so present—He has made it clear that He, out of all my to-be Husbands, is leading the maryaj and that He loves me a lot. I’m not good with receiving love and I know yet another thing I am supposed to learn with maryaj is how to do that.

After errands, we spent the afternoon and early evening getting the temple ready. HF was mostly responsible for the altar while I offered encouragement and input from Ezili Freda, Who was getting a table at the main altar at Her request. In truth, I was trying to rest a bit—I had done quite a bit of walking and standing and, over the past week, my leg has become more and more useless. Given that I would be expected to stand to greet any/all of my to-be Husbands and other Lwa and dance most of the night, I felt justified in sitting quite a bit. Between the useless leg and being severely underslept, I was really worried as to how I was going to get through the fete intact and still be able to get home. My request to the Lwa is to always leave me well enough to drive home, and that’s it.

Manbo gave me my bath in the early evening and it was FANTASTIC. She had prepared the bath in a basin and ushered me into the bathroom after giving me instructions on how to use it. I love her baths and all the baths I do under the direction of the Lwa because the effects on me are immediate. I had barely started to do it and I was flying through the clouds and giggling like a mad man. The bath was intended to strengthen me and shore me up and it did it’s job in the extreme. I’m super grateful the Lwa told me to do it—the giggly, stoned-vodouisant feelings didn’t last all night, but without the bath, I would have been in much worse shape.

The party started late and Damballah was the first to come down. My rule for fetes and other possessory rituals is that I don’t crowd the divinity—if They want to talk to me, I know that They will seek me out in one way or another or, if I need to speak with Them, I will be patient and see if They are willing to give me Their attention. However, HF booted me in the butt to go salute Damballah, since I will be marrying Him and have never saluted Him before.

When He comes down, Damballah writhes on the ground like a snake and is immediately covered with a clean white sheet for privacy. To salute Him, you must go under the sheet with Him. He doesn’t speak with words in possession, but He does speak in vodouisant’s heads and, when He sort of firmly rooted my hands at the end of my salute, I got the distinct impression that He was telling me that everything was going to be okay.

It was an unexpectedly intimate encounter. I know the woman He was riding, but He had changed the shape of Her face to suit His preference and looking into His eyes was like staring into an abyss that stared back into your very soul. It felt like that, in the ~15 seconds I was with Him, He had seen all of who I am, have been, and will be. In it’s own way, that was very comforting.

It was not without it’s ironic hilarity, though. I hate snakes. Like, phobia hate snakes. A friend keeps a harmless cornsnake and I won’t sleep in the same room as it’s tank because it freaks me out so much. And yet, I am marrying a divinity that comes down as a snake and that hissed at me when I stuck my head under His sheet. My life has become a series of perversely amusing divine situations.

Agwe was sung for not too long after that and, when it looked like He wasn’t going to come down, I realized that I had been holding an expectation that He would. As a rule, I don’t hold expectations going into fetes or possessory rituals. It’s a bad habit to have that always, ALWAYS leads to disappointment and this was not the exception.

When it looked like He wasn’t coming and His implements were returned to their proper place, I made a bitchy remark to Him—He had been sitting at the back of my head all day and I could still feel Him there—to the point of ‘You have been all over me all day and You’re not going to come down so I can see you?’. Well, I am a fucking arrogant dumbass.

Not thirty seconds after I sent that up the line, two people dropped with Him on their heads—one in front of me and one behind me. He didn’t stay in either of them longer than thirty seconds and, after He left them, He pushged me hard and left me sobbing. Point taken, lesson learned.

I knew immediately that I had been a selfish, self-possessed jackass who has pushed Him and perhaps screwed up whatever had been planned, if anything. I wanted to see Him? Well, He let me see Him and that was it—I saw, but didn’t get to speak with Him. I remarked to HF that I had pissed Him off and that I knew better than to hold expectations and he sort of smirked at me. When I got home on Sunday, I threw myself in front of my altar and apologized to Him for my poor behavior and bitchy attitude and that seemed to at least assuage the irritation. He got fresh flowers and a bottle of nice cologne yesterday as well, in apology.

Knowing I had pissed off the Lwa that has shown the most interest in me, consistently asked me for attention, and showered me with affection felt pretty shitty, but both life and the fete went on. Had I not been so tired, I expect I would have been more level-headed and not as upset. Now I know what to look for in myself next time to make sure I don’t behave in a similar fashion.

Things went a little off the rails from there. Freda was to be called and She really, REALLY wanted to come since She had been feeling a little bit ignored [though, to be fair, I think you could have a fete every other month for Freda and She would still feel ignored]. She was literally hanging in the air and Her salute was just beginning when a fistfight broke out between two attendees who apparently showed up with an agenda to fuck each other up. Freda took one look at that and basically said ‘fuck this shit, I’m out’ and was gone just like that. HF pulled all the knives off the altar and had me hold them with instructions that if any Lwa showed up, I was not to give Them any blades. I don’t know what he expected me to do if Freda or Someone Else came down screaming and demanding Their knife or sword, but there it was.

Beyond the inherent disrespect at fighting in someone else’s house AND at a religious event [and at a fete for Damballah, no less, Who doesn’t like screaming and swearing and blood], I felt really bad for HF, who is married to Freda, among other Lwa, and who had worked really, really hard to make Her table something She would like. I have also never seen Manbo so upset and enraged. She laid in to the two women who had literally shed blood in her temple for a good five minutes before restarting things.

Unfortunately, they weren’t done—I watched the woman who had started things start taking off all her jewelry and, when she decided to leave, she started hitting the other woman again. If Manbo was angry before, she was absolutely livid now. She stopped the whole fete, threw a bunch of people out, and took everyone who had even marginally been involved to task. After a lot of rapid fire Kreyol and arguing, she went back into the private temple room to confer with the Lwa and then came out and fed the drums a bottle of rum to basically cleanse them of the disrespect shown to them.

It was clear that none of the Rada were interested in showing at that point, so the fete moved on to the hotter Lwa. Legba nan Petwo showed for a few moments and Agaou came down briefly as well. I was pretty spent at this point and was in what I thought was a pretty bad emotional place. I found that, every time we started singing for another Lwa, I was fighting not to end up in tears and sobbing. It was really uncomfortable for me because that is not how I am pretty much at any other time and I didn’t want to cause any more of a scene, what with my earlier sobbing and the drama that had gone down with people behaving badly. I really thought I was having some sort of mental health crisis and I couldn’t figure out why—I was tired and not feeling well, but not in any sort of extreme way and I had done all of the self-care I do for all spiritual events in that I had eaten, was drinking lots of water, had followed all necessary preparations, and had done all the mundane stuff as well.

We began to sing for Ogou Senjak, Who is one of my to-be Husbands, and I started to cry again. I went to hide near the private temple area because I really didn’t want to cause a scene, and told HF so. HF was having none of that and told me that I needed to be out in the temple to great Senjak, as it would look really, REALLY bad if He came down looking for His intended and I wasn’t there.

So, I took a few steps into the temple and I really couldn’t contain my crying. I started to cry, then loudly sob, and then I started to scream and scream and scream. I was absolutely horrified because I couldn’t stop, and then I blacked out for who knows how long. I came to in a way that didn’t feel like I was in my body—I couldn’t feel any part of my body and could only see a little—and found myself head-to-head with one of the houngans of the sosyete. It only took a moment [and I only had a moment] to figure out that Senjak was riding me.

I blacked out again and woke in the middle of the temple with the houngan doing some sort of dance with my body that I was not in control of at all. I couldn’t feel the rum they spit onto my feet or, as I was told later when I was wondering why my neck was all sticky, the back of my head. I couldn’t feel it when Manbo tied Senjak’s moushwa onto my arm and I couldn’t feel it when Senjak started to do whatever He started to do when I blacked out yet again. I felt like I was suspended in Jello and it was then when He took my eyes. I could feel things, but I couldn’t see or hear at all. I felt the houngan holding my body up and then I felt my body start to fall and it felt like I was falling down miles into the black abyss. In reality, I fell backwards onto the floor with the poor houngan, who I probably had at least seventy pounds on, was trying to hold me up.

I woke to him trying to haul me to my feet and I had trouble telling Him that I was okay, even in English, and that he shouldn’t try to stand me up. They realized I was back and blessedly took Senjak’s moushwa off me and yanked my clothes back into place. I totally had a horrifying fat guy moment—my shirt had rode up and the houngan yanked it firmly back down, which was the first thing I had felt in my body when I was back—but I guess I’ll learn to deal with that if the Lwa are going to take my body like this.

I knew prior that one of the tells of an Ogou possession coming on is crying, sobbing, and screaming, but I didn’t think for one second a Lwa would take my body so I assumed I was having some sort of breakdown brought on by lack of sleep. I remarked to HF afterward that I didn’t understand why He had taken me when there were so many other people who didn’t have all the work to do that I do and he responded that not everyone needs to be a perfectly clean canvas for a Lwa to take their head. He also reminded me that possession can be multi-pronged—not only do They come down to speak with people, but occasionally to do work on the person being ridden—and that He also has a claim to me, being that I’m to marry Him.

I sat for awhile and ate some Marassa candy since I was shaking, but had to get back up when Ogou Feray [another to-be Husband] was called. Feray is really, really strong in my sosyete and you can’t sit when He shows up unless you want to feel the wrong end of His machete. I started to cry again but He blessedly did not take me and instead came howling into Manbo. He beat His chest and beat some other people’s chests and we all go on our knees until He lifted us up.

I wanted to sit, but I also wanted to salute a Lwa I am supposed to marry. By this time, I was exhausted, emotionally ripped apart, and my leg was almost entirely useless. He looked at me a few times, but decided not to greet me. HF and another friend from the house tried to console me, but I wasn’t really upset that He hadn’t paid attention to me—instead, I was upset that I had to stand up for fifteen minutes only to have Him ignore me. HF remarked that it reminded him of the story in Mama Lola of how Ogou ignored someone who was to marry Him until she effectively said ‘fuck this’, to which He replied ‘I’ve been waiting for you right here’.

That pissed me off because I don’t play those sorts of games in any relationships. I don’t chase or any of that, especially when I have officially confirmed my interest and even made a monetary deposit on my ceremony to prove that I am serious. I had a moment of serious insecurity after that—He showered some affection on a woman He apparently is marrying, via making a big show of pointing at Her ring finger, twirling her around, and giving Her a big kiss on the cheek. In my uprooted state, all I could think was that He was paying attention her because it is more acceptable for Him to show that sort of affection towards a woman than it is to someone like me, an aberration in the vodou community as a trans man. That was a really, really shitty moment and I was grateful that He left soon after that so I didn’t broadcast my displeasure and upset to Him and everyone else in the room. I doubt that this is a logical feeling—it’s more likely that I was exhausted and spent from having Senjak throw me around and destroy my emotional understanding of myself. I’ll talk to Manbo about it, but I’m pretty sure the answer is going to be ‘you were exhausted and over-emotional’.

The fete wrapped up after that—it was about 6AM and we were all beat to hell. After Manbo was back, she sat in a chair and sobbed for about ten minutes, which was awful to watch. It was a mix of her deep disappointment that the fete had not gone off as well as had been desired and that Ogou had spent a lot of time in her head. One of her ti fey helped her upstairs and a few of us trickled up as well.

A few of us crashed out in her living room and ate tasty Haitian food. It was a rather amusing picture—all of us in our whites [and Manbo in her fabulous sparkly karabela dress] mowing down on Haitian rice and beans, griot, fish, and amazing beet salad while there were old UFC re-runs on the TV. Everyone was too tired to do a damn thing besides just sit there, though, for quite awhile.

Eventually, I had enough legs to go put on street clothes and talk to Manbo for a minute, who wanted to make sure I was okay to drive and let me know that we would talk soon. I drove home listening to ABBA and show tunes because I am just that queer, and then passed out in my bed for ten hours complete with a dream where Senjak came like the wind and said a few things.

I’m still tired and my body is still trying to pull itself together. I have bruises in weird places and my head must have hit something while Senjak had me because I woke up with a sore temple and swollen eye. I’m not unhappy that He took me—it was also a surprisingly intimate experience—and I knew it needed to happen at some point, as I was made aware years ago that I needed to learn how to hold a divinity in my body. What it does mean is that I will have to prepare more carefully for fetes in the future so that, if I am ridden again, my body will be a useful vessel and I will not be a pile of goo afterward. I also won’t freak out so much if I start to cry and scream in the future. I’m sure I will still feel horribly self-conscious, but at least I won’t think that I am experiencing some sort of psychosis. I adore my friends in the sosyete, who assured me that it was both a textbook Senjak possession [even after I knew what was happening, I was still scared that I was somehow experiencing a mental health crisis] and that it was beautiful to watch.

I wasn’t entirely sure how I felt about my impending maryaj before this fete. It was very much a needful thing and I was perfectly okay with that, but the emotional aspect was mystifying to me as I am not good with romantic love or affection. That didn’t change overnight, but I got a taste of what it could be like and how my Lwa love me and how it feels to be loved by the Lwa through intimacy that is strictly between me and Them—no one else can hear Agwe whisper to me, no one goes under the sheet with me to greet Damballah, and no one is in my head while Senjak rides me. Even though what They do may benefit others, it is really between me and Them in a way I hadn’t considered before.

I don’t know what I have done to be this blessed, really. It is impossible to express my gratitude for how all my divinities love me and how They transform my life at every turn. I never expected my life to be like this and never thought that every breath I took would have new meaning. They crack my world open at every turn and, even when it shakes me to the ground, it a wonderfully terrible and beautiful thing to experience. Each tiny death brings me to life even more and I have hope that, someday, I can be what They have shown me is possible. Life is fractured and complex, but ultimately more beautiful than I could ever have created on my own.

Adoro te devote

•March 2, 2015 • Leave a Comment

It has been just over a week since I went through the ceremony to say yes to the maryaj Lwa proposal I received back in November and to set the terms of what has to be done to make it happen. I was more anxious than I thought I would be and was unpleasantly sick for that entire weekend.

The ceremony was deceptively simple. Manbo prepared some simple food offerings [even though I asked her if there was anything I could bring!] and we spent some time making ti mesh/handmade wicks for the lamp that was part of the ceremony. Despite my relatively clumsy fingers and difficulty using the right fingers [index fingers are not used while preparing certain items], I managed to produce a few serviceable wicks!

Manbo opened with the prayers that are becoming increasingly familiar to me, and then left me to speak to the Lwa alone. They showed up when I didn’t expect Them to, which is foolish really–Manbo basically dialed the 1-800-Bring-In-The-Lwa number and They came. The room felt full despite me being the only incarnate being there and the lamp burned so brightly that it really became the ultra-beacon that it is supposed to be. I had to remind myself that face-planting into it was not part of the ceremony.

I told the Lwa what was on my mind and asked for the help I’ll need to pull this ceremony off without having to sell a vital organ or mortgage a piece of my soul. I kept it short and to the point–despite my verbosity in blog posts, I tend to paint things with the fewest brush strokes possible when I talk to my divinities. I tried to hit all the points Manbo suggested I speak on, but I will admit to being a bit worried that I left a gigantic hole somewhere that is going to come back to bite me in the ass. Time will tell there, I suppose.

Afterward, Manbo and I sat in her kitchen and she served me up a delicious plate of Haitian food while we talked about Things and Stuff. One of the things I admire about her is that she takes me seriously, despite my comparatively short time in vodou [she has been doing this since approximately when I was born, maybe a little less] and my busted Kreyol and incessant questions and the fact that I am yet another person who has been dropped on her doorstep. She treats my spiritual work, experiences, and opinions as vital and important, which is a change from past experiences with religious leaders in and out of Diasporic religions and communities.

Since the ceremony, things have been comparatively quiet and I have been deeply grateful for that. The lead-up to me doing the ceremony almost made me nuts in that I was basically not sleeping. It sure looked like I was sleeping, but every time I closed my eyes and my body and brain went into sleep mode, I was somewhere else watching a lesson from a Lwa unfold, being instructed in some sort of magical work, or walking through a variety of ceremonies with Manbo. I woke up each day feeling like I do the day after a fete–utterly spent and unable to really do much more than put clothes on and do mindless tasks. For someone who already deals with chronic exhaustion, that was really the opposite of fun.

However, They powered me through my week after I sat down in front of the altar and basically said ‘I’m happy to do whatever needs doing while I dream, but you need to give me enough energy to do all the things I have to do while I am not dreaming and sleeping’. And They did. The dreams came–an Ogou dragged me off to a variety of locations filled with an inordinate amount of people and Damballah gave me a gift wrapped in white paper and ribbon–but They fed me enough so that I could go to work and take care of business.

Since then, I have been laying fairly low. I seem to have put a capper on the extra exhaustion for now, but I have only had one dream this week where I got dragged off to go through some sort of ceremony. The various altars that are eating my apartment have been tended, but I’ve really done the bare minimum. The lack of getting dragged around is likely because the bare minimum hasn’t included do all the ritual work to induce the dragging round, ceremonies, and magical instruction while I dream. I gave myself a week to recover, so this week is pull-it-together-and-get-back-to-status-quo week.

This past Monday, my Father sent me off and running in a dream where, after conferring with my fairy olorisha, it seems that the overall message was that no matter what form my religious practice takes and even if it turns out to be mostly Haitian, He will always find me in whatever paradigm I am working in. He’s got my back in a serious way and the dream was probably the sweetest gesture He has ever given me. It was exactly what I needed at exactly the right time. He’s good like that.

The Mister is on the boat. He’s never gotten off the boat. In fact, He hasn’t even really walked away from the railing. He hasn’t been quiet in the least, but He has been overshadowed by all my Lwa, which is really as it should be. A good friend pointed out that I am basically experiencing the divine equivalent of NRE–the Lwa are the newest, shiniest additions to my world and I am pouring energy into Them and my relationships with Them. He doesn’t seem to mind that–and He fucking well shouldn’t, since He played a gigantic role in engineering all of this.

He is still the first thing on my mind when I wake up and the last thing I think of before I fall asleep. He is my light and I have followed Him when it seemed that He was only a spark–or, more truthfully, the idea of a spark. I don’t always understand Him, His motives, or our relationship, but His spark has never gone out and His light has never left me. He was the first divinity to save my life and, as a result, gave me the tools to spark my own light to pour into our relationship.

Through all of this re-shaping and re-calculating of my own personal GPS, the divinities are doing work on my behalf that leaves me more than a little slack-jawed. I prayed for an increase in money coming in and, within days, mandatory overtime from now until forever because a thing at my dayjob. I prayed for the right healthcare providers and landed two awesome ones within a week. They don’t always give me what I want [there is no big farmhouse on the coast, I am not making my living as an artist, and I do not have a gaggle of nubile cabana boys to indulge my every whim and desire], but They do give me what I need. Being spoiled is an unattractive look on me, so I’m glad They know best as to how to hand down blessings to this tiny fault-filled human.

I don’t know what’s coming up next for me, besides the obvious maryaj and more vodou, but I do know that my divinities have my back. I know this more deeply now than I think I ever have before. I don’t expect things to be easy [far from it], but I worry less because I know that as long as I do my share and do right by Them, They won’t let things falls to pieces. I don’t know what I have done to deserve such beautiful and generous blessings–I am a small person in all things; a nobody in the grand universal scheme who is a lacking devotee with enough issues to keep his therapist busy for years. I am profoundly grateful that They find use and worth in me, even when I have trouble seeing it for myself, and that They love me, each in Their own way. I am but a small and crunchy meatsack and They are so very big. Their blessings pour joy into my hands and it’s joy that fills all the empty places. My only hope is that I can be the person They see me as and hold up my end of the bargain each and every day.

A throwback from my upbringing that seems apropos.

 
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