In for a penny…

It has been a very long few weeks. I have sat down to write a few times and what has come out has turned out to be way more let-me-tell-you-a-story than I would prefer, so it has all been scrapped every time in the hopes that new writing would actually read more like reality and less like a picture book.

Between me needing time to sit and chew on things, being a bit lazy, and Manbo going to Haiti for the holidays, she and I didn’t get to sit to talk about the maryaj Lwa until just a few weeks ago. Unsurprisingly, this needed a leson/reading as well, which I am grateful she was able to provide.

In Haitian vodou, readings are done with a modified deck of playing cards and the process was fascinating to be a part of—there were specific prayers and actions, salutes, candlework, and even a way of shuffling the cards that I had never seen before. The cards are read differently than I have seen playing cards read otherwise and she is possibly one of the best readers/diviners I have ever sat with. She’s been reading cards for at least 30 years, so that’s not a surprise in the least.

Some of the leson was not a surprise to me at all—pieces of it touched on a lot of things that I am either intimately familiar with [such as my money problems and dissatisfaction with my dayjob] or suspected heavily [such as the reality that my health is not going to improve much, but whatever is wrong with me won’t get much better—though it won’t kill me].

The majority of what Manbo read and what the Lwa said to her metaphorically put me on the floor—I do not get shocked that often by the divinities anymore and have a good poker face even when I do, but I am fairly certain that I was broadcasting a very loud and bright distress signal in an unmistakable fashion. I spent a good few days just giggling to myself because of how insane it all got in a matter of forty minutes.

One of the goals of the reading was to ascertain what my esko/spiritual escort/group of Lwa that walk with me is. Everyone in vodou has some sort of esko of Lwa who walk with, protect, guide, teach, love and generally care for the vodouisant. In exchange for all of those blessings, the vodouisant provides regular service for Them at Their altar and cares for Them with prayers, singing, gifts, being part of the community, etc. Being that there are hundreds upon hundreds of Lwa, it’s important to know who you should be serving and paying attention to as serving the wrong Lwa or ignoring the ones you do have is disastorous—your Lwa get pissed and jealous if you are not paying attention to Them and other Lwa get angry that you keep bothering Them.

I expected just a few Lwa—enough to provide me balance between the Lwa that are considered cooling and considered hot and that’s it. I have a lot of other divinities in my life and, in the grand scheme of vodou and the sosyete I am a part of, I’m nobody—I help set up chairs for fetes, do what Manbo’s ti fey/children tell me to do, try to sing/dance/follow what’s happening, and maybe catch a body or two when the Lwa who has come down departs. I am, however, kind of an oblivious dumb ass from time to time.

Manbo started giggling when she began to read the cards and see which Lwa were stepping forward for me. I’m not quite sure I can adequately explain how terrifying that was, but I’ll try. Manbo is a very small and petite Haitian woman who is easily the most powerful person I have ever met in my ti fey entire life, bar none. I know a LOT of spirit workers of varying flavors and she makes all of us look like uneducated children who need an adult. I swear, if you gave this woman a bottle of Barbancourt and her ason, she could go to war all on her own without breaking a sweat or messing up her hair. She is also the most humble spiritual worker I’ve ever met, too, and ridiculously polite when she is working—she speaks softly and clearly and has a preternatural sort of calm about her. So, when she giggled, I started to sweat.

The first words out of her mouth [while chuckling] were ‘I don’t know how you don’t know this, but <group of Lwa> are very, very strong with you’. The Haitians I have met are incredibly blunt or, at least, are blunt when they respect you and I have come to value this so, SO much. Given how the rest of the reading went, I suspect this was her sort of cushioning exactly what the Lwa were saying.

All in all, she detailed thirteen Lwa who were stepping forward and asking for my attention, spread across every nayson of Lwa commonly served in most sosyetes. Every time she pronounced another name and gave me a sentence or two about what they wanted, I felt like I was about to turn into a pile of goo just a little more. As I said elsewhere and to some other people, in about a half an hour, I almost tripled the amount of divinities in my life. None of them were just sort of peeking their heads in and eyeing me with interest, either. They were all very, very present. I found out later from one of Manbo’s ti fey that, had I gotten my leson closer to when I had shown up to the sosyete, it very likely would have been a smaller esko to start, but since I had waited over a year, it was fairly enormous since they had seen me a lot and knew me. It was intimidating as hell.

She also read cards about the maryaj Lwa proposal. Despite Manbo saying it was basically an impossibility, I had held out hope that I would only need to marry Agwe, the Lwa who proposed at Fet Gede. We had talked about it prior and she doesn’t believe marrying one Lwa is safe in that it doesn’t provide enough balance, nor that it provides enough protection. In her house, people who get proposed to by the male Lwa usually marry at least three of them, and sometimes four. I held onto a tiny string of hope, though, because my spiritual life tends to be anything but by the book. I had very much hoped I would be the weirdo, but, after seeing all the Lwa step forward for me, I had basically accepted my fate.

She laid down cards [more giggling] and SIX Lwa stepped forward for maryaj with me in a major way. SIX. Agwe basically stormed the cards right away and was all ‘about time you turned up. Why have you been ignoring me?’ and one of the others was irritated that I had waited so long since Agwe’s proposal to get going on these things. SIX. Some of them were stronger than others—Agwe made it very clear that He is leading the Lwa He is often married in conjunction with and one of the Ogou’s literally said ‘don’t you dare forget about Me in all this. I get My share’. One of them was there because He needs to be in the ‘formula’ of how maryaj Lwa is done, but that’s not to say He was not present or strong—He’s just not quite as insistent as some of the others. SIX.

After those parts were nailed down, Manbo and I talked about what I would need to do for the maryaj, as it is not a small undertaking [and doubly so for someone who was not raised in the religion] and it isn’t cheap. One of the practical things that makes me happy is that I will only need to wear four rings instead of SIX. Agwe shares a ring with another Lwa, the Ogou’s share a ring, and the other two Lwa will each have a ring. It seems silly to be relieved about something like that, but it was a serious pragmatic concern for me—not only will the rings be a serious investment, as they will need to be real metals and, if I can swing it, real gemstones, but I have very small hands and I already wear one ring full-time for the Mister and another ring part-time for Sekhmet when I do Her work. Too many rings and I will basically jingle at all times, or at all times when I wear them [since wear time varies with each vodouisant].

I told Manbo that I want to do the maryaj. There will be a small ceremony next month on the same day as Fet Damballah where I will officially say yes and then the real work of getting ready begins. Before that, I’ll have one last round of general divination to make sure the Mister is still okay with how everything has fallen out, and then the deal will be sealed. My hope is to do my maryaj within a year, but that depends on how much the Lwa can help with getting the money for the ceremony and for everything I will need for it and how fast and how well I can learn everything I need to learn to do it.

I am incredibly grateful that I got led to this Manbo and this sosyete. She’s the right Manbo and it’s the right sosyete. I was very nervous about discussing the proposal because I was afraid she would balk at marrying me in my appropriate gender, as the concept of transgender is still gaining ground in Haiti and Haitian culture—gender is very much tied to sexuality in Haiti. I barely had the question of wearing pants and using male pronouns in the ceremony out of my mouth when she informed me that we will do whatever makes me comfortable. She asked me a few questions about being transgender and was shocked that my insurance won’t cover any surgery for me and that some ADR practitioners didn’t want me to come to their ceremonies because I won’t wear a skirt. To her knowledge, Manbo has never had a transgender person in her sosyete, nor has she ever married a trans person to the Lwa and doesn’t believe she knows anybody who has. But, she’s willing to do the work and has been more than welcoming and working to educate herself. Right manbo, right sosyete, right time.

The morning after the leson, I got woken up at 8AM by Ogou Feray standing next to my bed and staring at me. I work nights and don’t get up that early on my days off, EVER, so it was more than a bit unnerving to be intruded upon and not allowed to go back to sleep until I had finagled together an altar that the Lwa thought was passable. It wasn’t anywhere near complete—vodou altars are extensive and require a lot of stuff—and it still isn’t, but it’s getting there. I’m not getting dragged out of bed at ungodly hours to Do Things, so I suspect They are at least pleased with my efforts in getting SOMETHING together for Them.

Since then, two more Lwa have shown up via dreams and asking for specific items that only They get which leaves me with more than twenty divinities represented in my home. Once you open the door to the Lwa, They tend to pile through…but I had no idea it would be like this. Their altar-in-progress is woefully too small, but it will have to do for now until appropriate furniture has been acquired. I have practically begged the universe not to send me anymore deities until I am in something of a groove with what I have now. The only answer to that is that I have not been able to put aside any of my ‘freelance’ spirit work—it stands as a reminder that I do not get to put both feet fully in one world, which is an echo of my larger spiritual work and Job.

There’s a lot more new stuff to write about, such as my ancestors standing up in the leson and asking to be a part of my life, but those things deserve their own blog post. Life is so strange sometimes and so weird and unpredictable, but I have been blessed beyond belief and the gifts just keep on coming. I never know what to think of this, but, lately, the right answer has been to throw myself on my knees and give thanks. They think I’m ready for the ride, and I hope I can keep deserving and earning my seat.

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~ by Alex on February 11, 2015.

9 Responses to “In for a penny…”

  1. You popped into my head just the other day, and I was wondering how things were going. (Okay, I was wondering if I’d managed to unfollow your blog without meaning to — reading WP on my phone makes that happen sometimes. Touchy androids). This . . . well, you’ve got a lot on your plate. All I can really say is, “oh. Oh, my.” Best of luck! Though, it’s not really gonna be luck, is it? It’s gonna a lot of People doing a lot of Work. So, I guess, I hope all the best for you, is more appropriate, and more useful than, oh, oh my. . . .

  2. While I haven’t as many divinities demanding my attention, I am relieved that I’m not the only one being told that polyamory is Required.
    I have two spouses so far. Odin, my Husband, recently informed me that in our astral/dream wedding, I didn’t marry one person but FOUR.
    I also date Loki and Morgan le Fay. I’m not sure how I’m going to manage my time to be a good partner to everyone. It’s wonderful and terrifying.
    Fortunately, the demands on me are small until I get my anxiety in a quieter state.

    So yeah I relate to your alarm.

    • It’s interesting because polyamory really isn’t even a concept in Haitian vodou–maryaj is not so much about a love match or love relationships. it can be and might be, but I have no idea how this will pan out and particularly because I have not met several of the Lwa I will marry. As I figure more of it out, I’ll write about it. It’s very much about building alliances, protection, and balancing out the vodouisant’s personality, though, in general. Strange stuff in many ways but very pragmatic.

      • I really appreciate you writing about this topic; it’s helping me deal (a little) with Future Husband #2, because while there is love there, it’s not the same situation as I have with Husband #1 (which seems /very much/ about the love), and I’ve got the sense that part of FH#2 being FH#2 and not just another god I worship has to do with balance in my life/spirit work/something something. Something more pragmatic, anyway, though I might actually have an easier time with Him being FH#2 if it seemed purely pragmatic, rather than a muddle of stuff.

        Needing to commit to multiple deities, no matter what the terminology is or type of relationship . . . that’s a big thing. o_O

      • I’m glad it’s helping. I’m quite sure I’m going to get nailed with some love stuff in here somewhere, as that’s an Issue for me and it’s as good a place as any to mash that button, especially since there’s a whole community of people who are doing this with the same or similar divinities. I am super nervous about this piece, because of said Issues and because I don’t have a good grasp of what this means in context yet, but it will do what it’s going to do and be what it will be. I expect that I won’t get a lot of depth of understanding until after I do the maryaj, but that’s par for the course, I think.

      • Intriguing that polyamory isn’t really a concept. That makes a lot of sense about protection and balancing out one’s personality. Hmmm. I wonder if Odin ensured my marriage to those three others to keep a balance?

      • Only way to find out is to ask!

  3. I’m very glad you found the right sosyete and manbo.

    I’m very sorry you’re inundated though. I recall a few NOLA practitioners who had entire rooms dedicated to the lwa because of the sheer numbers. Hopefully you get a handle on this.

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