I finally got to see Manmi after she got back from spending most of the summer in Haiti. She’s been back since early August, but I figured she was going to be bombarded by everyone who couldn’t reach her while she was out of the country so I waited a few weeks to call her. I wasn’t wrong—she told me that she was getting phone calls the day after she landed asking about when kanzo would be in 2016 [she just finished 2015..] and asking for all the things people have needed while she was away. Before she left, I told my Lwa that anything that wasn’t an emergency would need to wait until she got back and was available, and that’s part of the reason why the summer was quiet. I had a week of intense dreams prior to her leaving, and the day I knew she was back in the country I started dreaming with the Lwa again. What was I dreaming? Seeing Manmi, talking to Manmi, and then seeing Manmi some more. It got to the point where I would wake up from one of these dreams and tell my ceiling that I would be calling her as soon as I was able and seeing her as soon as she was available.
That was this weekend, so I got in my car and headed off to see her after way too long. It was nice to catch up without there being the impending pressure of something to do right away to appease my spirits because they were kicking my door in.
We talked about a lot of things, but mostly kanzo and what that might mean for me. I was pretty straight with her about where I have been at with the Lwa repeatedly beating me over the head for the last six months that they want me to go to Haiti and go into the djevo—I am not thrilled about this request/demand and it is nothing that I would have gone to her asking for just because. Interestingly enough, she related that she had basically had the same experience and reaction as I have to being told I need to kanzo—she was told that she needed to do maryaj, and she did, but the Lwa told her during her maryaj ceremony that she must kanzo. She says she cried for days because, like me, she thought doing maryaj was going to take care of what needed taking care of. It was nice to know that I am not the only one who reacted like a cat being thrown into a bathtub when the spirits said they wanted kanzo. I appreciate that my Lwa didn’t tell me while I was marrying them, as I doubt my reaction would have been anything less than violent.
We talked a lot about what kanzo means in the immediate moment leading up to and while doing it, as well as what happens from then on. It is a lot less restrictive at first blush than I thought it would be [though forty fucking days of sleeping on the floor is..unpleasant], but I absolutely know I am not getting the full picture right now. We talked a lot about what I have been chewing on all summer and how that the decision for me to do kanzo was the right one and that it was the decision I was going to make.
Saying yes doesn’t take away any of the fear and reservations I have—if anything, it increases them—but I know without a doubt that it is the best possible decision and best possible outcome I can hope for right now. I told her this, and told her that part of my thought process is that I can hem and haw forever, since I am really quite good at putting off big decisions, but it won’t change the situation and the Lwa won’t magically say that I don’t have to do it anymore. I know that if there was a better option or one that was less invasive, it would have been presented to me at some point. Delaying and delaying and delaying will only make me suffer and possibly irritate them, so it doesn’t make sense to keep putting things off and especially if I need to do it soon.
Before going in to see Manmi, I sat with all my divinities and said the same prayer over and over to each one—that, unless they gave me a really clear omen to the contrary or Manmi dropped a piece of information that felt really off, it was my intention to say yes to kanzo the following day and that they had one night to intervene with omens or dreams if I was heading in the wrong direction or otherwise needed to do more work on discerning if this was the right thing. I got a pretty clear omen almost immediately from one of my divinities—a dedicated novena candle that sits on a particular altar burned hot enough for the wax on the side closest to me to collapse in on itself to basically make a big window/hole between me and the divinity in question. That combined with the sparks that came off the wick and flame gave me what I am interpreting as a very positive omen. No dreams [or no dreams of note—dreaming about Tom Hardy doesn’t count], so there was no reason for me to say no.
We talked about how far I would go and what would make the most sense. A significant amount of the decision about what I will initiate to—hounsi/house member, si pwen/priest who has the asson but cannot confer it, or asogwe/priest who has all liberties and can confer the asson—lays at my feet, as dictated by my own desires and needs. Being a child of a clergy member and having too many friends to count who are priests has given me a lot of insight on what it means to be a priest, and I largely want no part of that. I have no desire for a lineage of my own or to have the responsibilities that Manmi has and, once again, would never have sought this out of my own accord. I know I need the asson, though, and that leaves me with si pwen. Manmi was agreeable to that and it will be confirmed with the Lwa at some point. However, with how my life goes, I am fully expecting the Lwa to come back with the dictate that I must elevate to asogwe. Manmi made a good point in that when there is staying-alive things associated with going into the djevo, she usually recommends elevating to asogwe unless the Lwa specifically object as it means there will be no future demand to return to the djevo and make asogwe after making hounsi or si pwen. Less money overall and less stress.
It makes a lot of sense, but my resistance has moved from agreeing to kanzo to agreeing to make asogwe. I don’t want the responsibility of asogwe, but I also do not want to have to do this twice and pay twice. I fully expect the Lwa to say that I need to go all the way, so I’m trying to at least mentally prepare for that so it doesn’t send me screaming into the sun when/if it comes down.
I don’t know when I’ll go down to do kanzo. Manmi said she’ll let me know when she sets the dates for 2016 and I expect that once she sets the dates and I do all the official saying-yes things, I will find that I must go at the earliest opportunity. Kouzen was the one who told me He wants kanzo from me, but He didn’t tell me whether it was right now or eventually. I expect right now since it is both a matter of staying alive and because I am who I am and nothing ever goes on the slow timeline for me. Kouzen said the money would come once I said yes, so I am trusting that if I am meant to go in 2016, the money for the kanzo fee and the money I will need for all the things that I will require [not unsubstantial]. I know I’m going to have to bust my ass for all of it since commitment is determined by blood, sweat, and tears, but it will come if it’s supposed to.
There’s a lot to do in between now and whenever I get my ass on a plane [oh god]. Once Manmi determines her teaching schedule, I’ll spend a few hours a week in the temple with her learning all of the stuff I’ll need for kanzo and by extension maryaj, which I will still have to do, plus all the hours practicing on my own. My Kreyol needs to be a LOT better than it is now and that’s more hours, too. This is going to eat my life until I am out of the djevo, finish my pilgrimage [visiting nine churches on foot in no more than two days], and get back on a plane. The pressure won’t be off then, as the learning will only really be beginning, but at least the big expenditure of money and time out of the country will be over with, even if I will be sleeping on my floor for a few months.
It’s hard to quantify what will change in my life between now and then. If I am going to even have a prayer of affording and accomplishing any of this, I need a better job and I need to live closer to Manmi. Both of those things are actively being worked on and my goal is to be much closer to her with a better paying job before the snow starts falling. I’ve been going on a ton of interviews and am waiting for the right salary to show itself, so I pray a lot and ask the Lwa to find me the job that will let me meet all my life financial obligations AND pay for kanzo without being utterly destitute. I know it will happen, but I struggle with patience.
I am unsurprisingly dealing with a lot of grief after outwardly deciding that I’m going to kanzo. This is never what I have wanted or expected for my life, and the divinities that pre-date the Lwa seem to feel similarly. It is the best way to preserve my life and strengthen me, but it is permanently altering the course of my life and will take some possibilities, no matter how small, right off the table. That’s how it’s gone with every spiritual evolution I’ve had—there is grief for a future lost, however unknown it may have been, and for every realization that I don’t drive the car in my life. I make decisions, but my fate ultimately lies in the hands of my divinities and will even more so once I enter the djevo. While I can logically understand this as the reality I’ve been living for the last decade, it is much harder to get my not-logical heart to follow. It’s a sacrifice in many arenas, including with my other divinities.
Manmi and I reaffirmed again that she will make me as a houngan. This is mostly for my own benefit, since it’s something that makes me nervous and is probably one of very few things that could make me take back the ‘yes’ were it not to be true. We talked a bit about the blowback she’s going to get for making someone who is sometimes read as female as houngan [versus a manbo], both in the future and in the immediate moment, as I’ll wear pants in the djevo and for all my ceremonies [a pretty big deal—clothing is pretty gendered in vodou]. She shrugs all of this off and notes that she gets plenty of hate now because she will make white folks and therefore, in the eyes of her detractors, has all the white money [she laughs and laughs when she says this because there is not one white person in her sosyete who has lots of cash, and she is not living a life of luxury either]. To her, getting the side eye for making someone as what appears to be the wrong category of priest is really no big deal, and that’s nice.
Of course, if I am to go spend three weeks in Haiti this year, it means my chest reconstruction is off the table. I won’t have enough time off to do three weeks out of the country and a few weeks of recovery. That is, of course, unless the Lwa have other plans. We’ll see, I suppose.
So that’s that. I am not bouncing off the walls in excitement about this, but I am also not crying on the floor. When I said I was in for the ride, Manmi just smiled and said ‘welcome aboard’. I may be clinging to the bumper, but I’m on the bus to kanzo even if the road is bumpy. The Lwa will carry me through and my other divinities will hold me up and love me as best they can while I flail through. I may not be the most thrilled about this, but I am grateful for the opportunity to have a different outcome than what already exists for me. Even when it feels like torture, I am blessed.