The Way Leads On to the Way

It’s been a busy couple weeks over this way, and a lot of stuff is happening both rapidly and slowly.

Last weekend, we mounted lave tet in Boston, which made for a long weekend Doing Stuff with family. It was a really lovely and intimate experience for me with some of my siblings, and it was good to spend time with them without the hustle and bustle of a big ceremony going on around us. Ceremony of any sort leads me to and leaves me with new understandings of the spirits and how they move in the world, which is a blessing I am grateful for.

Yesterday was Michaelmas/Feast of St. Michel Arcange, and one of my husbands walks with St. Michael, so I began a novena for him several days before lave tet began which was an interesting challenge for myself. Several nights had ceremony ending in the wee hours, which meant I would begin my prayers in the wee-est of wee hours since I prefer to make most of my big prayers right before I sleep. Some nights I was too exhausted to do anything but the main novena prayer, so I owe Agaou some rounds of rosary-saying.

Today was Haitian dance class, which meets weekly here in the city, and while I have been before, it had been a long time since I had been. One of my brothers was teaching, though, so I wanted to go support him and I really do need to lean how to dance. It was so, SO much fun. I joked later that it usually takes me a plane ticket and a passport to enjoy sweating profusely so much with my friends, but LORD it was good. We danced a little yanvalou, parigol, a whole lot of Djouba and Nago, and ended with a bit of banda.

As soon as the drums started,I really felt alive–I live for those damn drums because they are the heartbeat of the spirits, and it is so joyful to hear the rhythms. I didn’t do too badly, overall–there is some stuff that I am really not good at yet (my spine does not yet want to move like my brother’s, but it will get there), but I picked up the footwork and could get it going. I love me some Djouba and Nago dances, though, and it was really amazing to start to learn how to move my body like the spirits do when they are down in possession. I really can’t wait to go back.

Today is also the 120th anniversary of the death of St. Thérèse of Lisieux/ Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face. She has shown up for me in a big, big way after kanzo, and it’s likely because of my pre-kanzo praying to her. Part of my bargain with my spirits to get to Haiti and into the djevo was that, if they would help the money come, I would attend Mass weekly. The church I attended Mass at had a votive altar for her, and I knew her to have the reputation of being deeply faithful and possessing a lot of internal spiritual strength and fortitude–she entered the cloister at 15 and never left the convent after that, eventually dying of tuberculosis inside the walls. So, I prayed and asked her to grant my strength to do what I needed to do to fulfill my promise to my spirits and to have faith in their plan for me. They were prayers of desperation, honestly, since things were burning down and I had no idea how I was going to make it all happen. To be frank, if my mother had told me that praying to the light bulb would have helped me, I would have done it. She didn’t tell me to go speak with Thérèse, but I decided that nothing was off limits so to  Thérèse I went.

Imagine my surprise when she started talking back, after I had settled down from kanzo. I have dreamed her over and over where we sit down and talk about things or where I find things that have her image on them. Hell, right before kanzo someone gave me a statue of Thérèse. I wondered out loud to my mother why a saint known to be a very Catholic-y Catholic would start talking to me, and my mother looked up from her task and said ‘because she was listening’. Duh.

Thérèse doesn’t seem to have any sort of issue with me–despite me being the worst version of a Catholic you have ever seen, complete with my happy living in sin of various sorts and the whole trans thing and on and on–and even seems pleased with my attention. She outright doesn’t care about the vodou thing, which was super surprising, and the more I read about her, the more I understand how she and her philosophy of devotion fit within my spiritual sphere and personal development. Once I get settled into my next home, she wants a space of her own and I guess since I was screeching at her pre-kanzo, she is exempt from my ‘absolutely no more spirits’ declaration I made post-kanzo. So, she’ll get her shrine.

Her attention and presence has coincided nicely with a request from one of my husbands to attend Mass regularly, which, in the dream he gave me that informed of this in a ‘why don’t you attend Mass more? why don’t you participate?’, resulted in my dream-self sort of telling him off (’the Church doesn’t want me and I don’t want it’). My mother’s take on all of this was super pragmatic–if your husband is telling you to go to church, you probably should get your ass to church’. So, I have been bouncing around to a variety of churches to find one that I like. Tomorrow, I go to Mass at the chapel at the local Carmelite monastery for a special Mass in honor of Thérèse, since tomorrow is her official feast day.

All of this keeps being drawn together in one fat care package for me of ‘things you need to work on’ from my spirits. I was not raised Catholic, but grew up in a fairly religiously combative Protestant household with involvement in what amounts to a Christian-flavored cult and am a pastor’s kid. I have a lot of baggage to unpack there and they are making sure I get to it. In a lot of ways, it is circles just being looped in tighter and tighter to form one whole, which, basically, is me. It’s nice, in it’s own way, if not completely comfy.

The title of this post is part of that idea of tightening circles, kind of. One of the big misconceptions that a lot of folks have about kanzo is that once you’re out, you’re good. Like, things are in place, life will be smooth, you don’t have a lot to keep chugging on, and I sort of laugh at that because I totally see where that comes from–you’ve essentially just climbed a huge spiritual mountain complete with ice crevasses and sheer cliffs. Surely this means Done, right?

Nope. For me, I got lucky–I didn’t even have the time/space to consider what came after kanzo as the world was basically ending on the date I was scheduled to head to Haiti. Anything after didn’t matter and I didn’t think about it, so it wasn’t that huge a deal when it was clear that, oh no, kanzo is really just a beginning of the work. In that framework, the way leads on to the way. There is no finished and no good enough. There will never be a point where I can point to something and say ‘yeah, I got that’. There is always a way to make something a little better or a place to learn a new thing or, at the very least, a new challenge from the spirits.

In that vein, priests never really retire, in any sense. There will always be spirits to tend and feed, always stuff to do, always ceremonies to put on, always clients to help, and so I will always work, in many spheres. The way leads on to the way. I will always needs to have income, if only to make sure my spirits stay happy, and I will always need to develop myself as a person so that I can be the best priest-tool and best version of myself for my spirits. There is no sitting still, only moving forward, even if I am crawling.

So, the way continues to unfold, and I am glad for it. It means I am not dead yet and that I have purpose at my finger tips, even if all I want to do is scratch at the walls when things are uncomfy.

Lots of stuff coming up for me, too! A book I wrote a piece for on queer magic in vodou will be coming out in April which is super exciting. I will be doing an AMA/ask me anything on Reddit as soon as I get myself together and submit the post (and I will link it here if anyone wants to go read) and have a day where I am not running around doing a million things. I am starting to plan for top surgery in the not-distant future, which means I have a lot of things to plan out and work to do since this will not be a small undertaking at all. More stuff is on the cusp of coming to fruition, and it’s all good.

Things are good in general, and I feel blessed to wake up every day and feel gratitude for all that has transpired in the past few years and gratitude for all that my spirits have done for me. All that I have descends from them–my hands may have done the work, but it is by their grace that it all has come to be. These days, I can only pray to know their will for me and to see their faces out in the world and on the inside–they take such excellent care of me, and I am so damn small and inconsequential.

It is rainy and overcast here today, which I love, and I hope you are having as satisfying a day as I am!

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~ by Alex on September 30, 2017.

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