Friday, March 19, 2010

All Who Wander

I wrote this in bits and pieces between 1999 and 2002. Usually when I read something I wrote a long time ago, I wince. It always seems slightly foolish, poorly written and melodramatic; I have to resist the urge to rewrite it completely.

Although I think the writing holds up pretty well, this one was especially hard to read: not only was it was written during a time of particular melodrama and deep personal uncertainty, but the newborn puppies mentioned at the end are long grown, and gone.

These days I’m trying to have some compassion for my younger self, drama and all, and let her speak for herself.

* * *

I set forth into the mysterious, crumbling beast of the city just as the morning haze is dispersing under the sun. Delhi awakens: flower-sellers set out bright baskets of marigolds and roses; shawl-muffled taxi drivers huddle around small fires, steam rising from strong brewed cups of chai; diesel belching trucks careen along deserted streets. The buildings are dingy in the rising light, caked with decades of soot. There is no bustle to detract from the filth. Refuse is everywhere, the atmosphere nearly post-apocalyptic. My taxi stops at a light and I look out the window at  worshippers traipsing into a 15th century temple with an AT&T ad painted on the side. It is all so…Indian; for a moment it looks alien, a dirty leftover country, and I have a fierce and sudden desire for the clean, predictable lines of the West.

I wonder what I am doing back here, why the tide of my heart draws me, again and again to return to the country I fought to leave for so long. I hated India when I was dragged here by my parents, and spent my years tense and snarling like a dog on too short a tether, straining for release, for home, for America. At what point did the meaning of home slide in my mind from the west to the east? The irony of it sits uneasily on me; I suspect that returning to America gave me the luxury to feel unfulfilled.

The taxi drops me at the faded sign for Lodi Gardens. Once a glittering example of Mughal decadence, the sprawling, unsafe acres are now overgrown with wild vines and towering Eucalyptus trees, their bark as white and smooth as bones. I creep along a narrow maze of trails through walls of brambles. It is just after the monsoon; nature is riotous, lush and green. I relax as the smell of city fades into the overpowering scents of jasmine and magnolia.

I have not explored these acres for nearly eighteen years, but memory leads me to a decaying pavilion standing amid scattered stones and slumped column fragments. I clamber around the ruined walls, picking my way through refuse and broken marble screens, and finally settle myself on a cool, pockmarked block of sandstone. I have a partial view of a Frangipani tree, waxy golden blossoms weighing the delicate branches nearly to the ground.

I survey my surroundings cautiously, wondering if I really have sat here before, if this view moves me with its beauty or if some chord of memory resonates, too low to be heard by my conscious mind. When we arrived in India, I was ten years old, and saw these gardens from the hotel where we passed the first hazy, crazy days. My father took us for walks in these gardens, droning about history and culture while I straggled behind in sullen confusion. The gardens were maintained then, and I had to struggle against their beauty.

The sun has climbed higher, straggling rays waver through the canopy to illuminate the journal laying open in my lap. I have not written anything. Suddenly, I become aware of the haunting notes of a bamboo flute drifting over the abandoned gardens. Startled by the sound of the mountains here in the metropolis, and relieved to be rescued from the accusing glare of blank paper, I scramble down to begin a mostly aimless search through convoluted undergrowth for the source of this melody.

I burst into a grassy expanse of a small clearing; there, squatting under the spreading limbs of a Sal tree, sits the elusive flute player – an old, wizened, saffron-clad sadhu, one of India’s wandering sages. His matted dreads hang down his back, forehead anointed with rune symbols, begging bowl at his side, bare feet look hard as cracked earth…eyes closed as he draws fantastic music into the air. I hover, fascinated and afraid of intruding.

He looks up after a moment, and regards me without surprise. “Sister,” he speaks in oddly accented Hindi, “look, I have come upon a brother who is without his family. Come and sit, that we may send him out of this life with comfort.” For the first time I notice, laying on the ground, breathing in harsh panting gulps, a half-bald, filthy stray dog. The sadhu reaches over and caresses the  animal’s sore-ridden flank. “Sit.” The old man speaks again, dark eyes snapping, “He has no family, Sister, and he is afraid.”

There is no way I am going to touch that animal. I open my mouth, but everything I consider sounds too petty, so I sink down to the dog’s side. The sadhu shuts his eyes and keeps playing. We sit as time passes around us, the music from the scarred bamboo lifts and trembles. Green parakeets wing through the trees, luminous streaks against dark foliage. I fell utterly disconnected from myself, yet painfully aware. Life ebbs slowly from the shivering dog who has somehow ended up in my lap, and as I look at him, this nameless animal of the streets, I feel a sense of vertigo. I am spinning away from myself, into myself, and I realize what this is to me, a dying dog in my arms, and I am taken, unwillingly, to memory.

* * *

Ruby was my first. First love, first death.

When we finally settled into our small town in the mountains, I began to fight bitterly with my parents over many unremembered things, but oh, I wanted a dog, needed one, as only lonely children can. My festering dislike of India had only grown with time, especially when I, the outspoken, sociable one, was unable to find much common ground with other children. My parents eventually relented, and I procured an unlikely companion: a 70 pound, military bred and trained Doberman Pinscher, the legendary Ruby Tuesday. She personified my rage: stubborn, protective and unpredictable.

We went nearly everywhere together, into the ancient hills, through the bustling bazaars. It was in the market that I often felt I had a glimpse of Ruby’s world, amid the varied and overpowering scents, I felt a kinship with her madly twitching nose.

It was not until after I had escaped India, finally, that she died of poisoned meat thrown over the wall by neighborhood thugs. I got the call from my mother in the middle of the night, waking in a cramped studio apartment next to my first lover. Like my rage, Ruby had been forgotten, buried deep. When I heard how she died, convulsing and vomiting blood, my anger overtook me and I realized how quietly things sink below the surface of life.

I had something of India taken away from me, and I wanted it back. I wanted to return to my wandering in the hills, easy in the saddle and my big, disreputable dog at my side. I wanted back eerie pine forests that filtered light into gloom, the impossible neon green of young rice paddy, and the serene sweep of the high Himalaya rising white and cool beyond the hills. As I sat sobbing on the edge of my bed in Minneapolis, I wanted, desperately, to have come home for her, just once more. The idea of her dying, waiting for me, was overwhelming. As I cried alone after my boyfriend rolled back over into irritable sleep, I realized the truth of every cliché about dogs. Ruby and I had been each other’s; in a way that only India had borne witness to, only India could understand.

I am back now. She is still gone.

The dog trembles once, spasmodically, and finishes dying.

I gingerly push the filthy carcass from my lap, thinking about fleas and communicable disease, and face the holy man’s shrewd face. He creaks to his feet and motions me to follow.

We wind our way through a corridor dressed with bold red slashes of hibiscus, talking about nonsense – Delhi traffic, crime, politics. I am in a daze and unable to contribute much. I cannot place the cadence of his speech, although it seems very familiar. I imagine he must be from some remote village with some dying dialect, perhaps raised by a family of priests, learning chants under the ancient pillared pavilion of a Banyan tree. I ask him where he from, and his native language.

He turns to me with a mischievous look, and says, in crisp, precise, unmistakably Oxford English, “I was raised to speak the Queen’s own, little sister.”

I gape. He ignores my stammered questions and explains that he was born in England, of Indian parents, educated at Oxford and practiced law. He never married, and he tells me, with an emphatic shake of dreadlocks, that every year seemed greyer than the last. He realized that he was living a life he hated. He sold everything, bought a one-way ticket to India, and has been wandering the sub-continent for the last fifteen years. The clipped accents of England emerging from this spiritual hobo totally disorients me.

“I was rich and comfortable, but ill at ease. I felt a lack without knowing what I longed for.” He speaks gently, as if to soothe a frightened animal.

I am still unable to speak, and only stare after him as he touches my head in blessing and dismissal. He moves off into the deep green shadows, empty begging bowl at his side.

* * *

It is a long time later, and halfway around the world that I find the image of the old sadhu reoccurring in my mind. Another dog is lying in my lap, breath rattling. Kalia is five, and has lived with me as long; she is in labor. Her usually sleek form is obscured with the bulk of pregnancy, her sides ripple with contractions. Her usually calm eyes are round and startled, as if she has no idea what is happening. I am exhilarated and terrified for her. It is a messy business, the bringing in of life, but with surprisingly little fuss, Kalia delivers nine wet, squirming Doberman puppies.

In a rare moment of accord, my husband and I sit next to the new family, proud as any grandparents. Urban glances over and gives me a wide, uncomplicated grin. I forgive him everything, for a moment.

So much has happened between us since I sat in the lush Indian garden, taking part in an experience that I think I have understood. We are on the brink of disaster, he and I, my mind spirals outward to the future, which has stopped being about us, and started being about me. India pulls me again, and I find myself looking at him and wondering what I am doing back here in America.

I have told Urban the tale of my strange encounter, read to him from my scarred old journal. When he looks thoughtful and says, “I understand.” I look at him with furious contempt, thinking, you couldn’t possibly.

* * *

Kalia looks very dark against the white walls of the waiting room, her attention focused completely on the plastic laundry basket full of puppies. They are three days old, blind and mostly ignorant of the world beyond their mother, who submits patiently to the prodding examination of the vet. There is something wrong with her, and I have forgotten India for the time being.

When the vet says “Lymphoma.” my hostility to Urban is also forgotten, and we reach for each other. Kalia, unconcerned, snoozes on the floor between us, nose pointed at her future.

I take her for a walk later, leaving the husband and the puppies to their own devices at home. The light has a peculiar bright cast, like deep water. Brilliant colours have bled the green from the leaves. The air feels alert with autumn. I climb around the crumbling, shabby cliffs of Minnehaha Park, slipping and scrambling against the rough, wild bark of oaks and maple. There are a few late wildflowers clinging through the season. I do not know their names. I wish Urban were here, and I long for the simple comfort of his presence.

This is our favorite place. My family used to come down here with a raucous band of neighborhood kids, chaos on the move. Urban and I have been coming here since we started going out, but this is my first walk by the creek since my return from India.

We come to the place where creek meets river. I haul myself up the twisted roots of trees, exposed by tenacious erosion and unreliable sand. The roots are over ten feet tall and look fantastic, otherworldly, as if the trees were in the process of humping themselves elsewhere. I am pleased with my perch. These trees have been here a long time, and the rate at which the sand has worn away from the roots has happily coincided with my growth. They are one structure I remember from childhood that has remained in proportion. Kalia cranes her head up and wags her stumpy tail uncertainly. When I pull out my journal, she huffs and trots off in disgust.

I have been scribbling for some time when I feel a sudden, familiar, dislocation, and look up, confused. For a moment, I swear I hear it, the deep notes of a flute, then I realize it is only my mind, memory plucking a note that resonates through me. I take a breath and look around, at this sweeping part of the world where I have lived, left, returned; at my dog, unfettered and flying across the beach; at the page open in my lap and the names of the two pups we are keeping, names chosen before we knew of Kalia’s dwindling days: Dagaz, the rune for the peak and turn of the cycle, and Asha, hope. I am drawn back to the image of an unlikely holy man, and of midwifeing a death in the garden of my childhood.

For the first time, I begin to understand.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Thaw

Spring is ugly. It is cold and muddy. The yard is sloppy and muddy, the driveway is flooded and muddy, the dogs are stinky and muddy, the horses are shedding and muddy. Even the sky manages to look muddy. I am muddy too.

All winter, I imagine a Technicolor spring. I long for little green shoots bravely poking out of the ground, returning birds, blue skies, a photogenic season. After months shut in the house with my thoughts, I want to picnic in the pasture, to lay down on warm earth and throw my arms open to the sun. I want to thaw.

Instead there are endless days of rain, fog and drear. Roadside snow turns icy, black and toxic-looking. The receding ice age reveals eternally bright plastic bottles and flattened paper artifacts stripped of color. On our farm, five months worth of horseshit is exposed. It drives me nuts. I stand at the paddock gate and assess. Half the paddock is still under a foot of snow, the rest is boot-sucking bog. I’ll have to live with it awhile longer.

The horses, wet, mud-splashed and apparently balding, are itchy and irritable. Jetta glares at me. Styx widens her eyes in an I-really-don’t-LIKE-this stare. They look like a Humane Society ad.

I bring them into the barn for grain and to dry off. Jetta hustles for her stall, the dogs hurry to get out of her way. Sabbath purrs around my ankles and avoids wet mud on my boots. Styx plods in, then stops in the middle of the aisle. We all turn and look at her. I can hear water gently dripping off her coat. She plants her hooves, stretches out her powerful neck, and gives an almighty shake. It starts at her head—her ears flap wildly-- and works its way down neck, shoulders, body, butt and tail. Muscles and skin ripple and blur. Styx weighs a thousand pounds: this more like watching an earthquake than an animal. Muck flies. Everything in a ten foot radius is splattered. Sabbath vanishes; I hear the cat-door on the tack room slap shut. The dogs, frozen in place and stippled with fresh mud, look impressed. Jetta, safe in her stall, chews hay and takes no notice.

Styx, wet hair spiking out in all directions, lowers her head and regards me with one dark eye. She does not move. I step forward to wrap my arms around her neck; her coat is cold and dirty but underneath she is warm, steady and strong. I lay against my horse’s heartbeat. After a moment that seems to last a season, I straighten up and step back. She blows out a breath and clomps into her stall. I wipe God-knows-what off my face and go get the grain.

Friday, March 5, 2010

The Vodou that I don’t

A few weeks ago I had a post titled The Vodou that I do, about my struggle to be, and to be honest about being, a priestess of Vodou. It can be hard to talk about, for reasons that I imagine are obvious. Most people don’t even realize Vodou is a religion, and some can be remarkably committed to that view.

So I’m pleased that, after years of frustrating conversations, I finally have a  conclusive way to prove that Vodou is a REAL religion! Is it that Vodouists believe in a Supreme Being? It is that it’s about the human quest to understand the unseen world? No! It’s that Vodou has as much judgment, intolerance and factionalism as other, better known faiths. We’re in the club, people!

I’ve been pretty active on various Facebook groups relating to Vodou, and am happy to have found an incredibly welcoming, diverse and compassionate online community. Of course I have my Vodou family in New Orleans, but I don’t live there. My friends and family here are very supportive, but it gets a little lonely up here in Minnesota. It was wonderful to find others to talk to.  The earthquake in Haiti brought the Vodou community in the USA into conversation, everyone was shaken, everyone was (is) doing something to help our brothers and sisters in Haiti.  Everyone is talking, reaching out, holding each other together.

One particular FB group is a great resource, with mostly kind, informed and helpful people. But, as I discovered -- in a discussion topic on how to deal with ignorance and misinformation about Vodou, of all things – that it wasn’t such a great place to express my uncertainty  about how to respond to said ignorance (I think that’s what’s meant by “irony”). Some people were supportive; others, not so much. My use of the phrase “turn the other cheek” provoked a veritable roar of outrage: I was informed that Vodou is not a “turn the other cheek” sort of religion. Apparently, machetes are required. If our family is threatened, we will draw blades! I was like, AH! NO! Stop now! Bloody metaphors are not particularly helpful in, wait, what were just talking about? I mean, really, it’s funny: let’s address misinformation and fear with some really violent imagery, because clearly people aren’t scared enough of us already. *sigh*

I don’t expect everyone to agree with me (where’s the fun in that?) but neither did I expect the metaphorical machete lady, also a group admin and a fellow Mambo, to tell me that my statements illustrate my lack of understanding of Vodou. That Vodou is not this but that. One thing led to another and, suddenly I realized I was in conversation with Vodouists who believe that because I 1. did not kanzo (initiate) in Haiti and 2. do not offer animal sacrifice, I am not a “real” Mambo. To these people that I found welcoming and interesting and cool, I practice “Pseudo Voodoo” and am not a priestess. Ouch.

Now, to be fair, this is my own fault. I asked for this. I knew there were people who would not recognize my initiation because of these things. I was like, ok, they can chill with the other 4 billion people (or 2 billion, or 5.9 billion, or whatever) who don’t recognize any religion other than their own. Given the choice to kanzo in Haiti or New Orleans, I would choose New Orleans every time, every day, from now to eternity.

Anyway, I believed that people would not recognize me as a Mambo, but I didn’t BELIVE believe it. You know what I mean.

The group admin/Mambo, whom I have been FB friends and very cordial with for over a year, actually unfriended me after the revelation of my New Orleans lineage and wimpy, non-sacrificing ways. I have to admit that I’m (perhaps inappropriately) delighted to be unfriended on FB over Vodoun ideological differences. I mean, doesn’t that make you feel like anything is possible?  But I’m also saddened and pissed off by the contemptuous tone of her words.

It’s not the differences or disagreement that bother me—I love to argue, live to argue—it’s the blatant arrogance and disrespect inherent in telling someone they 1. do not understand their own religion and 2. what they are practicing is not legitimate religion anyway. WTF? What makes someone think they have the authority to ascribe legitimacy?

The real question is: why does it bother me? I’ve been a member of a little-understood tradition since birth. Never mind what most Americans or Brits I’ve lived among think, I have found other Hindus to be the most disrespectful, judgmental and dogmatic people imaginable. I guess the closer we are to something, the more it can threaten us. There’s no feud like a family feud. To explain: Hinduism is really really a real religion made up of countless factions, philosophies, views and practices…but some are more prominent than others. I’m sort of a religious minority among Hindus, what with this weirdo meditation stuff. Many Hindus also don’t consider me a priestess—they have a problem with that “ess” thingy on the end of the word that indicates my gender isn’t male. Some traditional, caste-obsessed Hindus even consider me literally, not just metaphorically, illegitimate. My mother, a priestess in her own right,  was not born in India, so she wasn’t Hindu enough for my parents’ marriage to be recognized in some hidebound Brahmin circles.  My feelings on these matters? Whatever. Screw you and the narrow-minded, misogynistic caste you rode in on. I would never waste my time arguing about this stuff (although I’d recommend people watch what they say about my mom; I do have a machete around here somewhere). I’d stew my teeth, roll my eyes and forget it by the end of the day. Ok, no, I’d probably rant about it for awhile, but you know what I mean. It rolls right off of me.

So, if half a billion (or however many) conservative Hindus don’t bother me, why do a few Vodouists? 

I’ve been mulling that over for awhile now. I’ve ranted, talked it out, even sat in front of my altar all night and sort of sulked about it….and I’ve come to some really uncomfortable conclusions.

This is about my arrogance, not anyone else's. When Hindus denigrate or disrespect me, I can ignore them, in part, because I know what I know. I know who I am. I can be like, yeah, why don’t you go study the Vedas in Sanskrit, then get back to me? You want my lineage?  Sit down, honey, this is going to take awhile. I’ve got crumbling manuscripts and however many generations of ancients backing me up. My family’s land was granted by the mother of the dude who built Taj Mahal, around a hundred years before the founding of the United States. Our spiritual heritage is far more ancient. I’m terrifically proud of my history, and do my best to fulfill the responsibilities that come with it. Although I’ve struggled to make sense of my place in my tradition –-as a woman and someone with, it’s been pointed out, somewhat strong opinions— I’ve never doubted that there was a place. It was my choice to take it or leave it (well, not really, but that’s a post for another day). Basically, I can out-Hindu most Hindus. 

Then the Lwa found me in New Orleans and everything was chaos and I discovered Vodou. (Although the Lwa havr been with me my whole life, I didn’t realize until then.) It’s a tradition I knew little about. I have no privilege of birth, no credentials or education that come with it. I have to speak for myself in a different way, to find faith in myself in a different way.  The very things I love about Vodou—its capacity to level, its lack of hierarchy—are the very things that stir the doubt in my depths. In Vodou I am no one. I am leveled. I have to struggle through my fear and frailties in order to find or make myself. And I’d rather there not be any witnesses to that journey. It’s bad enough that I have to witness it.

These people I’m in disagreement with affect me because they  reveal things about me that I’d rather ignore. Anger I can embrace. Lack of confidence is something I have a hard time accepting, assessing and forgiving myself for. The closer we are to something, the more it can threaten us.

However, feeling insecure and like maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about might slow me down but does not shut me up. It’s  also been pointed out that shutting me up can be a little, um, challenging.

Here is my response to a very lovely post from another group admin describing traditional Haitian Vodou which stated, among other things, that there is one true Vodou, and (although nothing was directed at me personally) I am not a part of it.

~If for some insane reason this post is not long enough for you, and you feel the need to see the whole conversation, you can view it here and here.~

  * * * * * * *

I'm going to try and tread carefully here. I do not intend any of what follows to be an analysis of your tradition, I am trying only to respond to your comments regarding yours being the one true Vodou.

I agree that someone cannot take a class or read a few books and then expect to be accepted into a tradition, although the books and the class may lead them to find a tradition. Discipline, guidance and commitment to one's tradition are necessary.

I also agree that people should not label what they are doing as traditional Haitian Vodou if it is not. That is both disrespectful and delusional. Where I disagree is with your statements that other paths are "Pseudo-Voodoo" which threaten your tradition's future. Please let me be clear that I am not referring to doing things haphazardly or randomly, but to other different or emergent traditions and communities that respectfully serve the Lwa.

As someone born into a very ancient spiritual lineage, not hundreds but thousands of years old, (see? I somehow manage to drag that in) I understand the need to preserve and pass on tradition. It IS a calamity for these ancient and wise ways to vanish. However, I don't think that the existence of different, syncretic or parallel traditions in any way threatens the ancient way of doing things.

As for altering tradition, most ancient traditions change as the years go on, in subtle as well as obvious ways. Do you think that a tradition that excludes women from being clergy is destroyed when women become clergy? One comment I have heard from an African practitioner is that women cannot be "real" priests in the way men are. Someone in Africa might well consider Caribbean traditions "pseudo voodoo" that threatens to corrupt and destroy their ancient tradition. (Although most of the traditional African practitioners I know do not see boundaries around their faith. As it was put to me, Vodou is "everywhere and everything").

Alterations, evolution or innovation aside, even some ancient traditions do not recognize other, equally ancient, traditions. (Hindus have been disagreeing with other Hindus for literally ages). We can choose to recognize the legitimacy of other people's faith, in the same way we hope our own faith will be respected. That does not mean we understand or agree with it.

We all have a hard time taking our younger siblings seriously! Africa is the soil of Vodou. Caribbean traditions are younger and different from African traditions, not less real or less authentic. They are not African traditions altered for personal preference. They are birthed, evolved from and perpetuate ancient ways, not particular practice, but the deep knowledge, the pulse that underlies and gives life to the visible.

Likewise, there are ways to serve the Lwa that are not traditional Haitian Vodou as you describe it, and "different" does not mean watering down or corrupting something authentic. Practitioners of your tradition's path are not the only ones who have real relationships with the Lwa. As an East Indian I frequently often offer guests something they have never tried before...quite often they like it. Does that significantly change them as a person? Are they less of who they are because they had some chai? If the Lwa don't like something, they are, as you pointed out, very capable of saying so. If the guest is as happy with chai at my house as with chicken at yours, what is the problem?

I'm going to use the example of New Orleans Vodou, as it's what I'm familiar with. New Orleans has its own Lwa, some of which are Haitian and before that, African. Others are local. Just as Haiti looks to Africa, New Orleans looks to Haiti. For a Haitian practitioner, going to Africa to initiate into the ways of the Lwa is not necessary; their Lwa are right there in Haiti. For the practitioner of New Orleans Vodou, their Lwa are right there as well. The pulse of New Orleans is Vodou, deep and real and true.

There is also "Pseudo-Voodoo," or "tourist voodoo" as it's often called, in New Orleans: souvenirs, performances and so on. I imagine the same is true in Haiti?...the intent is to entertain and bring in tourist dollars. That is what makes it "pseudo." People may confuse this with Vodou in the peristyle. It is not.

From what I understand, there are many native Haitian practitioners who do not feel that there is "one true Vodou" as defined in the terms you set forth. There are also those who share your views. I'm sure, as with all traditions, there are some who feel that one must be born into it.

Which of these views represents Vodou? One of them? Two? All three? Are the ones who recognize or perform kanzo outside of Haiti not "real" Vodousiants, despite their being born and initiated into generations-old lineages in Haiti? Do people not born in Haiti and not raised in that culture, have the authority to tell native Haitians that what they are practicing is not real, or that they have no authority to interact with their family Lwa or practice their own ancestral traditions in the manner of their choosing? (I have no idea where you're born, I'm just trying to make a point about the dangers of using only one tradition as a synonym for authenticity.)

Isn't that what happens when the missionaries come? They start deciding what is religion and what is not?

I understand the need for distinct markers by which to define what is and what isn't a particular tradition. Much of your post is a great example of how to do that. These traditions MUST be preserved. But where we differ, is that I think it is possible to define, practice and perpetuate a tradition without labeling everything outside of it as false.

Isn't that our complaint about conservative, proselytizing Christians? That they think everything outside of their tradition is a 'pseudo' religion which threatens and destroys the one true faith? Don't we keep saying that those views are based on ignorance and fear?
I'd ask you to consider the same thing I ask the conservative Christian to consider: How, exactly, does the way I worship in my home threaten the way you worship in yours? Who has the authority to judge what is real religion?

One way of worship offers no insult or threat whatsoever to another...until we choose to denigrate a different way of life as false and set ourselves, and our tradition, above all others as the sole authority for truth. Is that Vodou? If so, you're right, what I practice is not Vodou at all.

  * * * * * * *

~If you’re going to leave a comment, and I wish you would, please keep in mind that some of the people I’ve discussed (probably not the infamous, Unfriendly Mambo) may read this, and thus your comments. So, be nice. We may disagree, but they are still my sisters. And if you threaten my family, well… I might have to get the machete out.