8. Can you tell me something about Voodoos relevance today? Why or what draws people to it in the modern world?
9. What can you say about Voodoo Spirit Forces?
New Orleans was the number one port of entry for slaves throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. Literally hundreds of thousands of Africans and Afro-Caribbean people passed through the port of New Orleans on their way to their masters. This part is often glossed over by tour guides here. No one wants to really dwell on it. Yet it is the basis, the foundation for so much of the wealth of the city today: its mix of races and people, its music, its rich religious diversity including Voodoo. New Orleans was first a French colony. In 1763 it passed over to Spain (Charles III the king of Spain was also a Bourbon and a cousin to the King of France Louis XV). Spain kept Louisiana and New Orleans until 1803 when the colony returned to France. Just 20 days later, Napoleon sold the entire Louisiana territory to the US. So after a Spanish colonial period, Louisiana became French again, then American. Throughout all of those political changes, slaves were being brought up the Mississippi to the port of N.O. from French Africa, Portuguese Africa, French islands in the Caribbean, Spanish islands and British islands. In all of those different provinces, the original authentic spiritual beliefs of the people was to be systematically eradicated by the church. Often under threat of torture and death, slaves already traumatized by their capture, bondage, harsh treatment and terrible journeys were supposed to assimilate an entirely alien belief system taught to them in a language they did not understand!! It is in fact a great proof of their wisdom and strength that they were able to assimilate enough to survive the diaspora but also to recognize the essential similarities between their belief systems and the main teachings of the different Christian churches. Different forms of worship emerged that incorporated the essential framework of African spirituality coated, blended and fortified with elements of Catholicism (French and Spanish) and Protestantism
So Voodoo has regional differences, but the essence is shared and fluid. The Loa are universal.
In Cuba, Puerto Rico, Brazil we find Santeria, Candomble, and other forms of the blend of African mysticism and Spanish Catholicism. Santeria is in fact the worship of the Saints.
Fortunately in the last 100 years or so courageous people have tried to bring new knowledge to the West: yogis and Mahatmas and Swamis such as Swami Yogananda and Yogi Bhajan and Swami Muktananda, His Holiness The Dalai Lama as well as Theosophists such as Madame Blavantsky and many others famous or not. Little by little peoples minds are being opened to other possibilities: that the world is in fact a moving fluid organism made up of light particles and vibrations that are constantly arranging and rearranging themselves to achieve a state of harmony: to achieve Divine Presence.
We come into our body in our mothers womb with a certain karma, acquired through millions of previous lives and with karmic propensities (towards goodness, generosity, vanity, anger, etc.,). As a matter of fact it is our karma which brings us to the very birth we take. We can live our whole life unaware of this and onto t
Voodoo does not say no: though there are teachings and advice and admonitions, Voodoo accepts that God manifests differently at different times and places. You can be a Hindu and practice Voodoo, or a Buddhist or a Catholic of course. Voodoo is very tolerant. In that sense it appeals to many who are disheartened by all the intolerance in the world.
This being said, any negative thought-forms that are put out there against you CAN and may affect you. Particularly in times of difficulties, when you are weakened by preoccupations or illness, you can be adversely affected.
So during almost 2 centuries there was a constant influx of people into the city who had been subjected to very varied religious influences.
SOME FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT VOODOO
1. Do Voodoo dolls really work? Do they harm or hurt people? Can they be used only on one occasion or one person?
2. Is Magick real? Do spells really work?
The water Loa Yemaya and Oxun, La Sirena, La Baleine are my mother, my sister, myself. They make me cry. They comfort me and protect me and fill my world. I cannot describe what I feel when I am near them. Its beyond words. New Orleans is bordered on its north side by a huge lake which I travel across almost every day – both ways -. Never have I seen its waters the same colour. Not twice. Its appearance is always changing and often telling me things. No one could convince me that this lake is not a person with a soul. There, on her shores, we make our offerings to Oshun, Yemaya and La Sirena.
They are my eternal friends. They are with me always: if I am out andabout and I see some nice flowers, I dont think:such nice flowers I could have I think: such nice flowers, Legba would like 3 of the red ones, Oxun would like the pink ones for sure, same with the pastry shop, the vegetable and fruit stand, the fabric store even the toy store…
I think if you buy a little mass-produced doll in a souvenir shop, it probably holds no power whatsoever. Its just that : a souvenir. But the moment you start working with it, you are giving it qualities – good or bad- so watch out. All the dolls I sell are made by me personally and blessed and offered to the Loa they are meant to work with. I guess in a sense they become the Loas servant. So the person who acquires my doll should see it as an intermediary and cultivate positive thoughts towards their desired aim. In that sense I would not advise passing the doll onto another owner. But you can order a doll for someone else – as a gift – if you wish and you know this person will act with respect towards their gift. In this case, you would not handle the doll very much but simply give it to them with the instructions I provide and let them work with the doll as they see fit.
As a doll maker and a voodoo priestess, I know that my dolls hold a certain power. For one thing when I am working on dolls I am often guided by my Spirit Guides: I start out with an idea, what the doll should look like, which colors or fabrics I will use, but always the doll takes shape as we go. Sometimes it turns out quite differently from what I had envisioned. Sometimes it is rather bland, sometimes it feels awesome. Sometimes it tells me its name: recently as I was working on a batch of new dolls, I was told Legba has a big head, he point the way. Legba is often prayed to as the Opener of the Way. This particular doll seemed to have a finger pointing. I sold this doll to someone who felt they were looking for a new direction at this time. The same day I was working on another Legba doll who seemed very happy, joyful, arms upraised in dance. He said I am King Legba so I felt this should go to someone who wants to cultivate joy and abundance at this time. Not all of the dolls I work on apeak so clearly or loudly. Most will take on personality and power as the person who works with them puts energy into them. So you see, it works both ways: the doll acquires a certain power as it is made but it acquires more power as it is consecrated and worked with.
Formal initiation into Voodoo is a formal beginning: a way of opening oneself up more completely and accepting ones place as a servant to the Loa. It entails responsibilities to the Loa and the community, as well as to oneself. It is not to be taken lightly and should never just be obtained on a whim or for a fee. Only after extensive divination can a priest or priestess establish the possibility of one becoming an initiate, which Loa should be received and which tradition is best suited to the apprentice. My initiation took place because I had already apprenticed with my Padrino and Madrina for several years, with no specific goal in mind. I only loved them both very deeply and was very grateful to know them and spend time with them. Joshua Frank the Voodoo King of New Orleans was a well-known and respected tour guide at the Voodoo Museum. He was a beautiful old man and I had a very close relationship with him similar to father and daughter. He sang Summertime to me in French all the time. We had fun. His daughter Rose and I worked well together and had a lot in common. I loved helping her in her practice. She would instruct me and I would buy all the foodstuff for the offerings for her work. Little by little I just knew what to buy, what was expected. She encouraged me to open up and listen. As a particular Easter season was approaching, she had asked me to help her prepare for initiations she was going to give. After a revealing dream, I asked her if she would give me initiation as well as it looked as if we may not see so much of each other in the near future. She showed no reaction of pleasure or displeasure: she immediately prepared for divination. It was not up to her, but to the Loa. The Loa spoke and welcomed me. But also forewarned that although she was herself initiated into several Voodoo traditions, including Yoruba, Santeria and Palo Mayombe, I should only be initiated into one tradition. I was further cautioned on many aspects of my practice. To this day I follow her prescriptions to the letter.
Once I was doing a ritual aboard one of the steamboats that cruises the Mississippi for a very large group. This was with my group: The New Orleans Voodoo Crossroads Drum and Dance Group. We made offerings for several Loa with drums beating throughout and various dances. I remember we even had 2 children dancing that evening: my daughter and her friend made a dance offering to the Marassa, the twin children of Chango. After we were all done, a woman approached us, tears streaming down her face. She told us she was from Cuba and we had taken her back home after all these years. It was very moving.
For a few years we had a Nigerian drummer play with us. He used to always tell me I reminded him of his grand-mother. You do things like her he would say.
So dont make enemies. Keep to yourself. Do positive work. Put out positive thought-forms. If you feel negative influences around you, you certainly can provide yourself with protective measures: cleanse your house, your space, your aura. Im a great believer in cleansing baths, house cleansings and protection gris-gris or medicine bags. Enlist the help of your Guardian Angels and Spirit-Guides and Ancestors. Give them nice offerings. Listen to them and follow their guidance.
A friend of mine who is a Mambo is of Jewish descent. She freely incorporates her Jewish background into her understanding of the Divine.
In Haiti we have a different scenario. First of all entire tribes were sold out or kidnaped from Dahomey (now Benin) and transported to Hispaniola. This means that Voodoo priests, chiefs and all other echelons of African society arrived on the island and within the space of only one generation, the religion was reestablished with its hierarchy and local hounfors (temples). Though heavily influenced by the Catholic church, it remains essentially true to its Dahomey roots.
There is a saying I particularly like. It goes like this: The Magician rearranges the Universe to make him/herself the center, the Mystic rearranges him/herself to find the center. Magickal work has awesome consequences because you are pulling and pushing energies. Mysticism requires awesome discipline and patience. I believe that there is a very very fine line between the two, where one can live in relative inner peace, listen attentively and exert gentle pressure while remaining humble and unobtrusive. And have NO expectations.
Really if I want to say something about the Loa, I would say I love them.
10. Are love spells controlling, manipulative, immoral, wrong, or harmful?
I like to think of Voodoo dolls more as healing tools. Often times in Africa the WitchDoctor was called in to expel some illness out of a patient. Unable or unwilling to touch the patient the good doctor would work on an effigy of the patient which could be manipulated safely.
The second we accept this, we open ourselves to the presence of billions of spirit-entities who live with and all around us and manifest their presence to us throughout the days and nights. Angels, Archangels, Saints, Devas and Gandharvas, Spirit-Guides, Ancestors, Demonic Beings, Hungry Ghosts, Wandering Souls, Thought-Forms etc.. Who do we choose to acknowledge, to share energy with, to bring closer into our space, our presence, listen to and whom do we choose to keep at bay? That is the choice faced by the Magician on a minute by minute basis. For a true Magician, there are no idle moments: every action and/or thought is powerful: full of power in potentiality. A careful, measured, peaceful life is of the utmost importance to the Magician. The true Magician doesnt usually run around saying: look at me, Im a Magician, I can do Magick. The true Magician might answer your request with: hmm.. Let me think. Maybe we can pray. And a true Magician understands most of all about timing. About not rushing through things, not taking up space/time out of context that may be used right then by other energies. All this is very difficult in fact to translate into words because it is so very intuitive. Whenever I am asked to do a spell, I always understand it as humbly enlisting the help and protection of Spirit-Guides, Guardian Angels and Benevolent Ancestors. Nothing else. I can make offerings on behalf of my clients. But they are instructed to accept whatever results may come or not come with humility and gratitude. Thats it. As my good friend Reverend Kenneth says:Its not like we have God on a string, you know.
To make offerings I need a great deal of peaceful quiet time: I may think I will make offerings on Monday but all of a sudden on Saturday evening, I am propelled to do the work. It just feels right. I may have planned to buy such and such items but once in the store my Spirit-Guides (who get very loud) clamor for something altogether different. Whenever doing the works, one must become very obedient and keep a great sense of humor.
But the essential spirituality is the same. And this is reaffirmed to me over and over again. We often work together: I have assisted a Santero who was asked to come and make offerings at the house of a Mambo. I often make offerings with two very good friends both aligned with Santeria. I have worked with Obeah men and Spiritualists too.
Well, in Voodoo we call them Loa. In Santeria they are known as Orisha. I often refer to them as Spirit/Saints. Some are also Angels and Archangels.
I always do a reading before doing spiritual work on behalf of a client. The reading itself is part of a ritual that entails offerings and asking the Loa for clarity and understanding. The Loa will not tell me to proceed with the spell if the outcome is wrong. The offerings will not be accepted.
Again, one should use restraint, examine ones motives carefully and restrict oneself to simple and positive spells. And do them only for the right ually a reading will uncover a lot about a problem that seems hopeless: it will uncover the underlying reasons for the problem, whether it can be worked out or not and how to proceed. A reading should be done by one who is experienced and selfless. It is very hard to read for yourself if you are in the middle of great difficulties. The mind – who is the chief of the senses- will make you see and hear what it wants you to hear and see.
Control is a big issue here, because most people want a voodoo doll because they wish to feel more in control of some aspects of their lives. But we must realize that at any given moment in space/time, the universe is moving towards a state of harmony. So we must respect the fact that what we wish may not be in accordance with the laws of Heaven right now. We must have patience, acceptance, practice those qualities. Yet, we can work towards what we want to achieve, towards positive goals. So we can use the dolls in positive ways, as tools of meditation and visualization. As we work with them, they acquire more and more power. A connection is made. They are like transmitters.
It often seems that it would be best to instruct clients on how to do their own ritual work but it often turns out to be too difficult and time-consuming. When people are in the throws of great difficulties, they cannot achieve the calm needed to let their own intuition direct them. So they engage us to make offerings on their behalf. I always request of my clients that they accept the outcome. I also request that they do certain preparations on their own, such as take certain baths, do not become intoxicated for the duration of the works, make certain offerings in conjunction with our offerings etc..
During the Haitian revolution, many planters fled to New Orleans and many Africans went with them whether as free people of colour or as slaves.
12. What is the Law of Three, Threefold Law, and/or Law of Return that I keep hearing about?
5. How can someone tell if someone else is working Magick on them?
When I was young one of our favorite TV programs which we watched every week was about world explorers and I particularly remember one episode that described the illness brought onto a member of some native tribe – I seem to think it might have been in New Guinea – by an enemy simply by leaving a specific evil power object in the path of the victim, where he would not fail to see it. Within 3 days the victim had fallen ill and subsequently died. Did the object really hold power or was it simply power of suggestion? The same question obviously applies to voodoo dolls.
Well, we never know, do we?? Thats where you have to have a sense of humor. Many years ago I was conducting a ritual at the New Orleans Voodoo Museum. I was not supposed to conduct this ritual because it caused me to work with a Loa (Spiritual Entity) whom I am not supposed to work with. But I was so stuck up with myself, I was not going to miss an opportunity to show off to the public.. As we were finishing the ritual and had made all the appropriate offerings, I instructed those present to not be surprised to see sudden changes. Right then the Loa whispered in my ear (I really dont hear voices, its more a ready-made sentence that suddenly is right there, as if heard from the outside. Most clairaudiant will describe their voices in the same way). The Loa said: Well, if your house was broken in and your computer missing, that would be a change now, woulnt it?. I left, drove home, and found my front door ajar with my old TV abandoned on the front steps: they had found the brand-new computer instead! Home computers were just beginning to be widely available then, and still very expensive. Needless to say I have never worked with this Loa again. This does not mean this Loa is evil or even negative: only that my own energies are at odds with this particular Energy. My pride got in the way of my knowledge. The result was instantaneous.
They speak to me, arrange my life as they see best: I only need to trust and surrender. They give me signs and dreams. My job is to remain aware and faithful and serve them well.
Yes and no. It is different because as I stated above, I was cautioned as to my practice and the Loa I was called to serve. But we must go back a little into the history of New Orleans.
I am an intercessor: I will speak to the Ancestors and the Loa for you. I can make the offerings and ensure that theyll be accepted.
Of course I love getting nice results, especially for others, for clients. I know there will be good results because I always get something good in return too. But I usually cannot comment upon those because it would be vanity and vanity will lead you astray each and every time.
They can be. Yes. You have to examine your motives, your goals, your aims. What is the intent in your heart??
To this day in New Orleans, everyone is free to practice Voodoo as they feel is best in their soul and per the recommendation of their teachers. We have Santeros who are Cuban inspired and Mambos and Hougans initiated in Haiti and others rooted in Obean (rootwork from Belize, the Bahamas, Dominica..) or in the Spiritualists Churches or following the Yoruba tradition of Nigeria. So the influences are very diverse and different. New Orleans was also ringed by a thriving Indian population of many smaller tribes. Runaway slaves often sought refuge with those tribes. Certain aspects of New Orleans Voodoo draw from Native American spirituality. The famous Indian Chief Black Hawk is considered a Voodoo Saint and is often included in ritual work. I very strongly recommend his autobiography which is a wonderful example of dignity under adversity and strength.
But I trust the Loa implicitly. Because they are in a different world from ours, they are not so restricted in their vision and understanding. They will not honour a request that is inherently wrong. As a matter of fact they may punish you! Take something away from you.
Sometimes we expect a certain result, so we do not see the real changes taking place. For instance a client asks for a ritual to be done to bring romance back into their life: they usually are stuck upon an old beau they desperately want back. Or maybe hes found someone else and their need to control is asserting itself with a vengeance. We make the offerings and they complain that he just married that other girl. But the whole time, they are not paying the slightest bit of attention to the nice man who just moved in across the street! This is just an example: when we get stuck on certain expectations, we often miss seeing the real answer, the real magick.
6. Can a complete beginner start working ritual and spells (without initiation into Voodoo)?
About a year ago, I conducted another beautiful ritual for a group of German doctors visiting New Orleans. This time a light-skinned black man was very moved – particularly by the snake dance. It turned out he is from Haiti, now living and working in Germany. He had no difficulty perceiving the Loa moving through the dance.
7. The Voodoo that you do, is it different than that which is practised in Africa, Haiti, or South America?
My friend Reverend Louis and his wife, Voodoo practitioners both also study Tibetan Buddhism. It is in fact through their generous intercession that I was able to receive the empowerment of the Boddhichitta from His Holiness The Dalai Lama. We have often reflected on how the old religion of Tibet – known as Bons- is very similar to Voodoo and Tibetan Buddhism incorporates elements of the old religion with the Buddhist beliefs brought in from India by the Sage Milarepa.
They live in a different dimension than we do. Yet they are very near, very close to us. Legba will clamour to me in the grocery store: I want candy, some sweet cake would be nice. How about rice pudding.. You promised. It s like having a 2-year old with you. Just last week, I was getting some supplies to feed the Ancestors for a client and Legba saw a bottle of coconut-flavored rum.. Such whining!!
Again, this shows the difference between people who want to play at being magicians and real servants to the Loa. That is why we use this particular expression. We revere the Ancestors and serve the Loa. Thats it. They are not there to fill our every whim. But if we approach them with humility and reverence and nice offerings, they will protect us and help us. In fact they will be compelled to do so.
Obatala whom I refer to as Sacred Sky since I live on ancient Native American land is awesome, beautiful, wonderful. I work a lot with Obatala. Sometimes I think hes my favorite. But I know his wrathful form also who is female. He brings peace and justice. Harmony. He gives me depth and height of vision.
Voodoo dolls are the most popular and best known element of Voodoo. Everywhere you go in N.O you see voodoo dolls for sale. Stick and moss dolls, clay faced dolls, penis dolls (I think you can figure out what they look like), juju dolls that are covered with little jujus (beads, sequins, small objects), etc.. Yet most people know little about the dolls and are more or less afraid of them and what can be done with them.
I guess you mean the law of karma. I think I explained this fairly well above, talking about dolls and spells.
This is where apprenticeship is important. You can get a book of spell and start casting away and end up in a lot of trouble. Because really you do not know which is being accepted by the Loa and which is not.
Anyone in their right mind would never use a doll (or anything else for that matter) for negative purposes or control. The laws of Karma are real and we must abide by them if we are wise. Everything we do or even think has power. We can liken the universe to a big pond and our actions and thoughts are like pebbles thrown in the pond: they create ripples which are transmitted outwardly. It is extremely arrogant to think that we can just go about our temple room or our house raving and ranting and throwing ill wishes on a variety of things and people and that it has no effect whatsoever. Or that we have absolute control over the consequences.
Karma is very misunderstood in the west. Superficially. We think that if we steal $20.00 then someone will steal the same from us. What you sow, you reap. Well, in a way, that is Karma. But Karma is more.
4. How long does spell or ritual work take to work?
No. This is not done. If you think of the Loa as Angels, then you immediately understand why you cannot ask to reverse a spell. They are not puppets to be manipulated to and fro. That is very very arrogant. We must always make our requests with the utmost humility and be very very sure. You know what they say: Beware what you ask for.
Yes, if the Spirit calls you to do so. I dont think one should practice Voodoo because its the in thing, but only because there feel compelled to do so. Then of course, there are no rules that forbid anyone from making offerings. In particular, offerings can be made to the Ancestors who may include ones own biological ancestors of course but also archetypal Ancestors. One can work with the Saints and Angels and Archangels, who are after all an inherent part of the Voodoo pantheon. And one could make offerings to the Loa if one is fairly assured of their relationship to those.
Magick does work. Thats the scary part. We can manipulate the universe to a certain extent by aligning ourselves with some of its forces and then exercising subtle pressures. But what are the consequences going to be?? This should be the foremost question in the mind of the Magician. Is the aim to be achieved truly important enough to justify bending energies which will create a ripple effect for an infinite amount of space-time??
I love them all. They are as real and close to me as my best friends. More.
Well, again this is a very restricted view of things. There are in the world at any given time powerful magicians who could put a spell on you for negative purposes, but why would they even want to?? Do you know any of them? Not likely. Again, if anyone walks up to you and says: Im really powerful,you know and Im going to put some bad stuff on you or as they say here, Im going to put roots on you, they are likely not the real thing. If they could really do this, they would not brag about it. And if they really knew something of Magick they would be too awed by its universal workings and consequences to do it. Also consider the reasons they are wanting to do harm: to the real Magician, who has a vast if not almost unlimited vision of the universe, there is very little in this world that matters enough to warrant him or her taking such drastic steps. Relax. This is mostly all in the realm of superstition.
Once again we encounter the question of control versus humility. In the West, we are often brought up with a very narrow view of the universe we live in. We are not told about the millions of other universes out there. We are taught (sometimes) that we have a soul but there are great differences of opinion as to what happens to the soul after death. We are mostly taught that animals and other living things do NOT have a soul. That we have dominion over them. We often grow up believing that our actions have limited consequences: if I get angry and break a plate on the floor, thats it: the plate is broken, I can buy another one. We see a static material world made of solid bodies and solid objects and beings that seem to move more or less haphazardly through a space/time allotted to them but seemingly without rhyme or reason.
Today we live in a world of instant communication. No one is isolated anymore. We can turn on the television and connect with a Dani tribe in New Guinea or descendants of the Incas in Peru. Like it or not we are encouraged to broaden our horizons and our understanding of one another. Yet the established churches remain static for the most part – entrenched in dogma established centuries ago. Voodoo is very appealing to many because it opens avenues of communications yet you are free to retain your original religion if you wish.
11. What if I want to reverse the spell I have cast?
Any dollmaker that says they are sending you pins with their dolls should be regarded with great suspicion. I only use pins to hold their clothes together if necessary, never to work the doll.