| poetry & writing | Feasts
A Look into the Life of a Vouduin Priest
By Bakka Bushiyama; Sibylline Priest
The beat of the drum starts to affect your mind and then it becomes the beat of your heart. You feel yourself start to sway, moving to the rhythm that seems to come from everywhere and yet you know it only exists in your mind. You consciousness begins it's journey to that "elsewhere" place, that place where you no longer can feel, touch, taste, smell or hear the "here and now". You become a God and you realize the scope of your physical self has no concept of the enormity of the Universe. Then, from the height of this new awareness, you see the problem and the solution simultaneously and you fix it. Now it is time to return to your three-dimensional body, but you're caught up in the music that is the Universe. This is the most dangerous time of ritual. Here is where you must exert iron strong control and call on all of your training and experience for this is the point of payment. If you fail, then you pay with more than your life. You pay with all that you are: past, present and future. Finally, you come back to yourself and take a look at the here-and-now. You feel a sense of loss, but when you look into the eyes of the person that you have just helped, you realize that you have really won.
This is an introduction to the way the mind of the Vouduin Priest. I related this to you to show the divergence of the Vouduin mind set and much of the rest of the World.
The pathway that I have chosen is a tradition that is as old as the first African man. Vouduin or Orsha-Baku is a religion that comes to us watered down from the original African religion. The pathway of Vouduin is not for shirkers or anyone that is looking for "quickie way" to do something that they could have done themselves by applying a little "elbow grease", sweat, and time. If you enter into this tradition with this mind set, then the Loa will quickly let you know you have chosen the wrong path!
In the life of the Vouduin, everything has a price. What you are willing to pay, spiritually or physically, must be weighed thoroughly before each undertaking. For the Vouduin Priest or Priestess believes that once you start a working you owe the price, whether you complete it or not. The Loa do not accept partial payment for an unfinished working. This may sound harsh, but there is a reason for it. A working to ask the Loa for help, guidance, or to grant the Priest power is only done if the Priest has exhausted every other resource available to them.
I follow the Loa called Shango by some, Chango, Chan-Goh, Santa Barbra, The Fire Orsha-Baku. These are all different faces of the same entity. In some offshoot traditions, He is depicted carrying a flaming sword in one hand and a golden chalice in the other. Sometimes He is depicted as a laughing god that has a flaming double-edged ax floating over his head. Others depict Him as carrying a flaming spear and a green moss shield. However, all sources agree on just what He does. He carries with him the power to Heal or to Judge. When He grants the ability to heal, there is no illness that his Priests cannot conquer, but when He chooses to grant the power of Judgment, woe unto the one judged. He is the Loa of laughter, for laughter is truly a great medicine. He is also the Loa of lost things: knowledge, skills, hope, love, etc. He can choose to help an individual find these lost things or He can choose to make an individual, that is taking these things for granted, lose them. Of all the Loa, the worship of Chango is second only to the worship of Ellegua.
As a Priest of Chango, I have daily rituals that I must follow. They MUST be done. There are no excuses to the Loa. Some of these I cannot relate to the uninitiated of Chango, they are private. I do not let anyone see these, not even my life partner. But there are some that anyone who wishes to pay reverence to Chango may do. Chango offerings are alcohol, red and white flowers of any kind, tobacco, and sweets made of honey. These should be changed every three days. Each morning, at sunup, the alcohol that was used for offering can be poured in equal measures at the four cardinal points of your property to ensure the health of all who dwell there. The flowers can be pressed for their essence and used to make oils for healing, prosperity, strengthening of a person's gifts, and for attracting ones' true love. The sweets can be eaten for fortifying one's inner strength or continued good health. The tobacco can be scattered over one's property for protection from negative energy. The tobacco can also be applied in a poultice for extracting poisons from a wound.
"But, what of all the things we have heard about? The gris-gris or mojo bags? The curses of Mamayagas and Papayagas?" These are stories that are used in the Vouduin community to teach lessons to the young. They have been overheard or out right told to Outsiders and the meaning has been lost. The reason behind the story has fallen on deaf ears or has been misunderstood.*
The sacrificial animals that we hear so much about, is revered as a sacred being and treated with respect and a gentleness, something that Hollywood and others choose to ignore or deny through cultural bias. Yes, this animal will be used in ritual as a sacrifice, but it is treated with more care and respect than the cattle that process through the meat packing plants and then wind up on your supper table. Think about that. These animals are treated as the children of the gods and goddesses (Loa)! They are fed, bathed and revered for months before they are given up to the Loa. They are killed quickly and cleanly, then a small portion is given to the Loa and the rest is consumed in the Feast of the Loa afterward by the Priests and Priestesses of the Loa. The remainder of the animal is then given to the rest of the Vouduin community for their tables. The portions served to the Loa are then buried with the same reverence as if the Priests and Priestesses were burying one of their own.
Many have the idea that sacrifice is done for frivolous reasons. This could not be further from the truth. These sacrifices honor the Loa and the bounty that they have provided by teaching us the things that we needed to survive in the first days of Human Civilization. Let us look at the word sacrifice. To sacrifice something is to make it sacred to a Deity. To make something sacred is to hold it in reverence. The Old Testament of the Bible speaks of sacrifice. The sacrifices in those instances were not even consumed by the Priest! When Abraham speaks of burnt offerings, he is talking of half burnt carcasses of a lamb that is left to rot on top of a mountain! Vouduin reveres and consumes the sacrifice. In my opinion, this to be a much better way of worship.
Ultimately, Vouduin is a tool as well as a religious path. Like any tool, it can be misused. Religion and belief can be misused. The main thing is to understand that Vouduin is a pathway like any other. If you choose to walk this pathway then you will be dealing with an amassed religious power base, that is eons old. The lessons of this pathway are most often harsh, but necessary. If you wish to know more, you should think long and hard about whether you are willing to pay the price of choosing a Loa for a Patron.
* There are traditions that are offshoots of the main tradition that have 'bastardized' the proper rituals for their own means.
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