July 29, 2006

Voodoo is Still Alive and Well

Snapshots In My Time...
Of My Time.....Hauntings.

In an annual ritual that ended Monday, worshippers from across the Caribbean nation arrived for the weeklong Saut d'Eau pilgrimage.

The ritual, among Haitian Voodoo's holiest, comes amid a surge of violence in Haiti's capital that U.N. officials say is an attempt to destabilize the new government of President Rene Preval.

Saut d'Eau's mystique owes to a 19th century legend that an image of the Virgin Mary appeared in the waterfalls. Believing the waters hold magical powers, followers strip to their underwear and scrub their bodies with aromatic mint leaves and soap.

Arms raised to the heavens, they ask the gods for help with fixing broken relationships, curing sickness and even lucky lottery tickets. Some collapse in convulsions, overcome by emotion -- or maybe spirit gods, called loas in Voodoo.

full story here

When I read this article it reminded me of my grandmother who according to my mother died a voodoo death or thanatomania. What happened to my grandmother, is something my mother still talks about. I find it hard to believe. My brain tells me that she had cancer or some other undetected ailment. My mother insists--NO! She said that on the day she died, she took her to the doctor twice and twice the day before....to the emergency room..and noone could find anything wrong. They prodded and poked and no one different doctor or nurse could find anything wrong with her. Yet she was dying. My mom said that my grandmother had consulted a root doctor that no one was aware of. My mother only knew because when she went to visit and saw how sick she was she collected her and all her things and brought her to her house to get medical help. My grandmother lived on a sea island in the south.

As they were packing, my grandmother indicated that she needed a small bottle of dark liquid that was next to the night stand. Medicine from the root doctor. It was inky and dark and my grandmother had to drink it everyday to undo what had been done to her. I am an anthropology major and I studied magic and rituals and I think that those things work only if you are in that culture and that is your belief system. Now my mother always stayed away from things like that and we were never exposed to that whole voodoo thing. But, she was as a child and insists that voodoo can affect people.

Just the other day she told me that someone put a hex on her sometime ago...years...when she was still working. I remember her telling me about odd smells in her work areas and even odder things. Weird frogs and white powder being all over the top of her desk in the mornings. She would wipe it away and about a week later it would be there again. Also in the breakroom she would see odd things there. She was always the first to get to work and put her lunch in the employee refridgerator. One moring that was what looked like a bundle of multicolored rags tied from a string hung from the ceiling over the break table. She was looking at it wondering what it was when another employee came in and saw it and yanked it down saying it was some sort of voodoo.

The thing that really sealed it for my mom that she was being hexed was her lunch. One day she brought in a salad. She put it in the fridge. Now she has always had a salad spinner to get all the water off the leaves so her salad was normally quite dry before any salad dressing. One day at lunch she got her salad and it was wet. The leaves were wet. She thought about it and then decided it must be condensation from the bowl and the fridge. She ate and got very sick. She was sick for about 2 weeks and she believes to this day that someome did something to her food. She went to the doctor and they could never find out what was wrong. She eventually got better.

Years ago as a joke, I told her there was a circle of chicken bones on the front porch. It was around halloween and she got very agitated saying that the might be voodoo. She would not go to the porch to see what I was talking about. She became so upset that I got scared and finally told her I had made it up as a halloween joke. Trust me, that was the last time I ever did that.

Voodoo and me? We are still at opposite poles. It is something I do not want much to do with. I remember when I was right out of college and still living in my home town, I was working with social services. We had some clients who were very distasteful. They did not want to do anything more in life than collect a welfare check. Now, I remember one of my co-workers telling me she got an envelope with a penny in it from someone in her case load. I had never heard of the penny curse. She said it was some voodoo curse that would bring money woes if you kept that penny. To counteract that, you had to mail the penny back to the person who sent it to you. Luckily I never got a penny curse. That was odd. She mailed that penny right back as soon as she saw what was in the envelope.

With Katrina and New Orleans, I wonder what is happening with voodoo there. It had such a stronghold in New Orleans. I did a google search and only found info on this voodoo shop trying to reopen after Katrina. Erzulies.


  1. Interesting. I'm am Haitian also and grew up for the most part here in the states. My parents never really talk about Voodoo. I've always meant to ask them about it. Reading this article reminds me to do just that.