I am a houngan asogwe in the lineage of La Fraicheur Belle Fleur Guinen, having undergone the kanzo rites of initiation in 2017 in the northwest of the Port-au-Prince area. The public name given to me at my baptem is Dyekidon Bon Houngan Daginen Menfo.
I came to serve the lwa after decades in other traditions, primarily English witchcraft and Hermetic Qabalah. The lwa always fascinated me, but in the earlier days of the internet there wasn’t much of a Vodou presence online, and what there was fell primarily into the category of firmly sketchy. My home city in eastern Canada has virtually no Haitian presence, and my life and responsibilities at the time made it nearly impossible to travel back and forth to Montreal.
By the 2000s things had slowly begun to change, and it became easier to make contacts, ask questions, and seek out advice from houngans and mambos. By the 2010s I had guidance and a practice in place, which culminated in my kanzo, in the spring of 2017, receiving the asson from Papa Loko’s hand.
Since then, my work has been to deepen my understanding of the lwa, to serve them, and to grow as much as possible. It has not been an easy road, and I’ve experienced “epiphany and apostasy” (in the words of the late Neil Peart), love and betrayal, elevation and debasement, transcendent happiness and dismal sorrow.
But Vodou contains all things within it–love and indifference, joy and hate, life and death, pleasure and pain, trust and betrayal, friend and foe, anger and sorrow, ego and humility, past and future, and everything else besides. Its worldview encompasses everything in a powerful and profound interplay between spirit and matter, the living and the dead, departed ancestors and their living descendants. At its heart is a delicate balance between all things, and a healthy community that includes flora, fauna, and spirits as well as human beings. It is a path towards healing of the individual and the collective, recognizing that each person forms part of a greater, interconnected whole.
It’s gross strokes are easy enough to learn and integrate, given time and devotion, but Vodou’s subtle gradations and teachings are the work of at least a lifetime to learn, and its vastness is far too great for any one person to ever grasp in more than the most limited sense.
While my walk with the Lwa has been filled with painful lessons and self-learning, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Through this blog I’m hoping to share a little of it’s beauty with those who choose to read it.
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Houngan James, thank you so much for sharing your story with us, and I am so excited to see your blog finally up!
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