In a Dantò frame of mind.

I have been rolling around the idea of writing about Ezili Dantò  for quite awhile, but I’ve hesitated over and over for reasons that seem like a bit of a cop-out, honestly. Dantò is often a quiet spirit for me, but she lives in the pieces of my heart that are the softest, the most bruised and full of pain, and the most distrustful and skittish. After learning that she was indeed one of the spirits who had decided to take up residence in my life, I avoided the hell out of her (and every other female-presenting lwa who showed an interest) for as long as I could but no lwa and especially no Ezili will put up with being ignored for too long.

I have deep-seated issues with femininity in all it’s forms for reasons I haven’t quite been able to sort out. I appreciate it in others and value the important part it plays in many people’s lives, but when it becomes intimately involved in my life? NOPE, not interested. There’s this level of discomfort and dis-ease that makes me want to take my skin off with a cheese grater to feel better. It reduces me to this level of vulnerability that is really, really uncomfortable, and especially when that femininity is embodied in someone who is being nice to me, or maternal, or comforting, or gentle. I act like a kicked dog and hide in the corner and can’t even be coaxed out with the tastiest treat. Throw me in a room with Ogou screaming and howling and vomiting blood and beating everything within reach with his machete and I will be fine. Put me in a room with Dantò just standing there and smiling and I will claw my way up the wall trying to get away from her, leaving my fingernails in the plaster as a sign of my struggle. I deal about as well with upset/angry/irritated women, too. Part of my avoidance of Dantò and all my other female lwa was that I didn’t want to deal with any sort of mother-y aspects, but I damn sure didn’t want to deal with any raging female spirits, either.

However, I am not entirely without common sense and self preservation. When Dantò and other female Lwa showed up, I kept my distance but got them some of the things they desired and set them on my altar and prayed that they would just leave me alone because GOD this would be easier if I didn’t have to open the Pandora’s box of my issues with women. That lasted about as long as it took me to form the thought, though.

Dantò has always been the hardest for me to pin down because she has never been what I expected. Lasiren came as her beautiful, shapeshift-y, mermaid self and threw me into this laughing, joyful ecstasy that fills me with energy and the pounding of the drums. Freda showed up, looked me up and down, and judged me worth her time in some way before ensconcing herself as the head diva in my homo-tastic bachelor pad. Dantò, though, was difficult.

I expected Petwo Dantò, the woman betrayed by her sister and/or the revolution who is filled with raging grief and fire, or I expected Ge Wouj, Dantò’s sister and similarly strong-tempered woman who was all business and was not about to put up with any of your shit. I braced myself for that incoming siklòn/whirlwind, but it never came. I waited and sort of eyeballed her and reached out for the space where I thought I would find her, but nothing was there. I counted myself lucky and went about my business.

My health took a turn for the seriously fucked-up right before Fet Damballah last year, and I was in a really bad way. I was having trouble walking or standing for very long and was at the end of my proverbial rope trying to work 50+ hours per week and keep up with my religious duties. One night in a fit of exhaustion, I asked my lwa if my health would improve if I were to kanzo. I didn’t say I would and I didn’t say I wanted to, but I was basically asking for options. As a result, I was sent on a LSD-worthy dream sequence that answered the question but also introduced me to my Dantò. When I related the dream to my manmi at the urging of HM, who ordered me to write down every detail of the dream so I remembered it all, I told her about a woman I met after I had seen some things on my whirlwind dream excursion to Haiti.

I found myself naked in a shower with this woman who I had never seen before and it was immediately awkward. I am not so big on being naked around people I don’t know, never mind showering with them, and I was mindful that I was in Haiti in someone else’s house…naked in a shower. She was the most beautiful woman I had ever been in proximity to, with long dark hair that stretched past her hips and some of the darkest skin I had ever seen. She was young and gorgeous and smiled at me when I started to make excuses about why I needed not to be naked in a shower with her. She wouldn’t let me leave and instead gathered me in her arms under the cool water, put my head on her shoulder, and her voice was in my head telling me everything was going to be okay.

When vodouisants talk about dreams, we get bluntly specific with details. What was the person wearing? Were they light-skinned or dark-skinned? How dark-skinned? Darker than <person>? Darker than coffee? Was their hair natural or straight? Did their lips move when they spoke? Did they smile or cry? What was going on when you saw them? Did you smell anything? Was it sexual or platonic? I went through all those details with a very attentive manmi who smiled and exchanged knowing glances with her other children present as we dissected my dream.

I had met my Dantò, or at least the Dantò that was most interested in me in the moment. I learned a lot of things that night, but I also learned that there is a Rada Dantò, and she comes as a young, beautiful, dark-skinned woman, often with long, flowing hair. She is Dantò before she was betrayed and before grief and anger and regret became such a well-known part of her. She is not without those things—she knows what happens to her, has seen it, and embodies this undercurrent of sadness—but they are different in her, at least in how I know her. For me, she shows that you can hold grief without it consuming you, that your heart can be hurt and fractured and torn to pieces but that you are not broken, that vulnerability is not always to be exploited but to be nurtured and held and cared for. This Dantò knows she is going to hurt and that the betrayals she suffers are inevitable, but she knows she will survive and come out the other side as an older Dantò with a different sort of wisdom. My Dantò holds the space for me to hurt, from feeling small and vulnerable to sobbing on the floor with a broken heart. She isn’t cruel, but she doesn’t let me turn away from the bits of my heart that rot like a cancer.

This Dantò carries a blade, though, and that is my reminder not to underestimate her and to know that her smile can turn to tears in half a minute and that her knife can still find my heart. She asks me for a blade that she can hide easily—a boot knife or a knife that could be hidden easily in the waist or bodice of her dress (if she chose to wear one—the lady shows up for me all Lady Godiva-like and just covered with her hair)—and it’s not for decoration. She is the embodiment of what is to come, which means potential sings in her skin and that there is only a moment between her and what came for her when her tongue was snatched and her face slashed.

I adore her beyond measure, she who is the mother of the secret places in my heart and who sees me as I am with no preconceptions or prerequisites. She asks hard things, but gives cool water and reassurances in return to the skittish kid who side-eyes her from across the room and only begins to trust when he can see both hands.

Ezili o, ke ou vre..

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~ by Alex on March 26, 2016.

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