Skip to comments.Brooklyn Vodou: New York Spirit
Posted on 02/21/2014 9:36:26 AM PST by EinNYC
A vodouisantpracticer of Vodou*, the Haitian religionlies on top of a trough in East Flatbush, Brooklyn. Covered in a shroud, he waits for a spirit named Gede, representative of death and resurrection, to inhabit his body. And photographer Stephanie Keith is there to document his interaction.
For nearly eight years, Keith, a Brooklyn resident, has captured on film the Vodou ceremonies conducted by the Haitian immigrant population. She has participated in some 40 events.
The Vodou ceremonies, conducted in Creole, are timed to Catholic saint days and occur sporadically throughout the year. During the meetings, participants call on various Vodou spirits, demigods created by a god named Bondje, in order to worship them.
Sometimes the spirits enter the room; sometimes they dont. In either case, worshippers honor and sing to the spirits theyve called.
The events are spiritual and rooted in tradition. Theyre also nothing like the stereotypical, doll- and animal-sacrifice-filled ceremonies of movies and fiction books. The Vodou Ive come to know bears no resemblance to Hollywood Vodou, says Keith. Its not an evil, shrouded in mystery thing. Its all about bringing the community together and helping people out with their problems in life.
*Vodou is the Haitian spelling. Many people know it as Voodoo.
Keith documents various Vodou ceremonies below:
Mambo Marie Carmel dances during a party interlude called "chat" when participants sing about their grievances. Her rainbow-colored dress is representative of the spirit Dantor. There are seven Dantors in the Vodou pantheon, all symbolized with a different color.
During a Dantor ceremony, Mambo Marie Carmel readies herself to call a spirit by lighting candles in a homemade spiritual object.
At a spiritual wedding ceremony, Vodou practitioners marry the spirits in order to have a more personal relationship with them. Here, a Vodouisant shows off the three rings she will be using to marry three spirits (Ogou, Danballa and Cousin) that night.
An altar is set for Gede, the spirit of death and resurrection. Gede lives in the cemetery and is represented by the color purple, coffins and skeletons.
A Vodouisant calls a spirit at a Gede ceremony.
When Gede arrives to the ceremony, he first inhabits the head of a specially chosen Vodouisant, who lies on a trough covered in a shroud. The shroud approximates the "dead" nature of Gede.
Hougan Jean Claude is possessed by the spirit Ogou. Ogou is the male warrior spirit who wields a machete during the ceremony. Ogou is also considered one of the important motivating factors in Haiti's successful rebellion against their slave masters.
Mambo Stephanie is affected by the spirit Kafou at a Petro ceremony. Kafou is known to cause pain and suffering to people in general but also to those unlucky to feel Kafou's wrath at a ceremony. Petro refers to a group of spirits who are on the hot, intense, evil side of the Vodou pantheon
Hougan Jean Claude is possessed by the Petro spirit named Kriminel. Kriminel is known as one of the most dangerous spirits in the Vodou pantheon. While possessed, Hougan Jean Claude steps into fire but is not burned.
Hougan Jean Claude is possessed by the Petro spirit named Kriminel. He collapses when Kriminel leaves his body.
Mambo Marie Carmel hosts an initiation ceremony in the basement of a building in Flatbush, Brooklyn.
Hougan Rodolphe is possessed by the spirit Gede. When possessed, Vodouisants cover their faces with talcum powder to approximate the pallor of death.
Guess how that ends.
You play around with evil spirits and you will get burned
Pat Robertson was roundly criticized and mercilessly ridiculed when he recounted the 300 year old history of Haiti promising satan(or some other demonic entity antithetical to Christianity) eternal allegiance in return for liberation and self rule.
The condition of the island today demonstrates how well demons “keep their promises.”
When I talked with some friends who were Haitian immigrants, it seemed voodoo is about half of what is wrong with that mucked-up country - poisonings, murder, madness, superstition, distrust, mistrust, vengefulness, lawlessness.
If people are lucky enough to escape that, why revisit it here?
Obviously the people who were on top of the voodoo heap there would like to be on top of it here in the bountiful US, but people who were not should run far far away to Christian churches, and there would be no voodoo heap here.