‘I chose you to marry.’

How do you quantify the most touching spiritual experience of your life and communicate exactly what it meant across a screen?

I’ve been chewing on this for a few days, and I don’t know that I have a simple answer…or any answer at all. Description in words is a cheap substitute for actual meaning in the ways that off-brand soda is a cheap substitute for champagne. It would be easier to shake my brain into yours and give you the picture of what was, in emotional technicolor and spiritual splendor. Memories are not like cornflakes, though, and no hinges exist on my skull. So, I write.

Kanzo gave me big things. Through the grace of my spirits, the work of my mother’s hands, and the support of the community, my life was saved. I gained a mother. I found a family. I solidified some spirit relationships as they relate to being a houngan. I have value and a purpose in a way that my brain can conceive of. None of these things are small or are to be overlooked.

However, these things pale in comparison to my maryaj lwa. Marrying my husbands was probably one of the most profound and spiritually significant experiences in my life. Kanzo is a community endeavor, maryaj is personal and solely for the individual. No one but my husbands can hold me accountable for my part in our maryaj, while the community and my mother and my godparents and my siblings can come down on my head if I am not living up to what they placed upon me and what I promised in exchange. It is strictly between them and me.

I really wasn’t the nervous ahead of the maryaj. My husbands made the lead-up rather easy for me, at least compared to everything that happened ahead of kanzo. Truth be told, I sat down in front of my table in early 2017 and told them that I needed this to be non-stressful and that I wanted to arrive in Haiti happy and excited to be getting married. They largely delivered on that and paved the way to the peristyle door as best they could.

The night my maryaj happened was heavy in all possible ways–the air was thick and chewy with unspent rain, the temple was full and sort of pregnant with anticipation (an admittedly odd-looking blan–one who looks kinda like a woman, maybe, but doesn’t wear a dress or cover their head–had returned and was now marrying an array of lwa in the first ceremony of the summer), and I could feel my husbands all around me before we even started. As the presiding priest prayed and blessed me with incense prior to the beginning of the service, I got goosebumps. They were there already, and they were there for me.

A maryaj proceeds like an elaborate fete. The regleman is adhered to, and the spirits are called. When the spirits who are to marry their spouse are called, they typically come down in possession and a pretty standard marriage ceremony takes place, complete with vows and rings and cake and champagne. I had been prepared for this, but was not ready for how intense a spiritual experience it would be.

It’s hard to really communicate the feeling of your heart being ripped open and love being placed deep inside. It’s hard to really find the words to describe the joy you feel when your spirits whom you have spent years developing relationships with arrive ecstatic to see you and proclaim their love for you loudly and without reservation. It is hard to describe the moment when reality tips and you suddenly see the mystery for all that is really is, in all it’s enormity, and it all clicks into place. It is hard to really describe what it is to know, without a doubt, how deeply you are loved, in public and in front of others.

The husbands came in force, and they came SERIOUS. Maryaj is big, serious business and they treat it accordingly. There is essentially no free spiritual lunch, and so they lay big conditions on the blessings they will give. Litearally: if you betray me/our oaths, I will kill you. If you do not respect my days (the days set aside for only them–no sexual activity otherwise), I will kill you. If you betray your mother, I will kill you. Ogou Feray–the screaming, howling mercenary soldier–took it one step further and placed the edge of his machete on my tongue–if I betray with words, he will cut my tongue out. They mean it, too–it is not hyperbole. It took me a minute and a discussion with my mother later to realize that this is standard maryaj talk and that I had not somehow committed a huge act of betrayal already.

And yet, in balance with such intense messages, they came full of passion. In some ways, the crowd was not even there and it was it’s own intimate encounter left between myself and them. Feray passed rum from his mouth to mine through a kiss. Ogou basically fellated my finger to put the ring on me–stuck it in his mouth and then slid it down my finger. Agwe all but climbed in my lap, and then made the bottle of champagne opened for him ejaculate all over me (really–the cork hit the roof and I wore about half the bottle, much to the delight of Agwe and amusement of the crowd), and then poured the rest over me himself. They all kissed me over and over (no tongue..get your mind out of the gutter) and I even kissed one of my best friends, who held one of my husbands in her head. And of course Gede showed up and graphically detailed what my duties as essentially his boyfriend (we don’t marry the dead) are, and then proceeded to refuse to place the rings on me until we danced the banda together. Several of them bathed me (over my clothes/on appropriately exposed body parts) and it was incredibly tender.

There was even a surprise in store for me–my Ezili Freda came down with blessings for me. She is a spirit who shows up big for me, but whom I struggle a lot with. I don’t do well with femininity or really understand it (go figure), and so I end up sort of at a loss with her. She has, however, made clear over and over that she is quite close to me and loves me a lot. She was saluted as part of the regleman, and no one was more surprised that me when she arrived with a big hug for me before she joined me at the niche. She fed me and I fed her, and she added material to the bath that my spirits collectively made for me as part of the wedding. We have Things To Do together.

One husband was unable to come to the wedding for a variety of reasons, but there was a beautiful moment with him later in my trip…and that is a tale for another blog post.

I had no idea how happy this would make me or how it would change my world. Joy is a choice, but also an experience.

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~ by Alex on August 5, 2017.

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