Tears, Miracles, and Love Songs

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….
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~ by Alex on June 1, 2015.

One Response to “Tears, Miracles, and Love Songs”

  1. This had me crying too 🙂

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