Monday, December 29, 2014

Welcome to the World of St. Expedite


Welcome to a world of wordplay, puns, mystery, and legends, from the year 303 to the present, from Italy to France, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, the Philippines and finally, New Orleans, Louisiana. Welcome to the cult of devotion for the Minute Saint, whose past obscurity is replaced in special circles with near celebrity. Welcome to the world of St. Expedite.
     
He’s on the fringe of Catholicism, the “black sheep” of the saintly family; though, not through any fault of his own. Even as he is accused of being a novelty, a joke, and a mistake, even as he has suffered decanonization by the pope and decapitation by tempestuous followers, St. Expedite continues to work his miracles with expediency, unlike any other saint. He is loyal to his devotees and they are loyal to him. He dispenses faith, hope and charity along with prosperity, work, and justice all in one tight little bundle, wherever and however you need it. And, he will help near about anyone. Catholics, nonCatholics, pagans, rootworkers, Haitian Vodouisants and New Orleans Voudouists—really, anyone who petitions him with a sincere heart and the promise of a piece of pound cake (Sara Lee, preferably), he will come to their aid. Just be sure to let the world know how great he is when he comes through for you—that’s about the only caveat.

When I first set out to write this book, I had no idea it would be as long as it is. One hundred and forty pages or so may not seem like a lot; but, for a saint who is best known for how little is known about him, it shows what a little digging can do. This book does not end my quest for learning all there is to know about this saint, however. That said, this book is the first and only book about St. Expedite that combines all the common knowledge with the uncommon knowledge, along with some of the mysteries of his presence in New Orleans Voudou, his relationship to Mardi Gras, Baron Samedi, and sorcery. I include an examination of entries about him in the Hyatt texts, as well as practical conjures of my own. All of the prayers you will ever need are contained within these pages—some of them are common Catholic prayers while others are prayers I have written using familiar Catholic format and verbiage. In short, this book contains everything a person needs to know about St. Expedite and how to serve him as a patron saint by anyone who cares to do so.
     
I looked high and low to find information on St. Expedite for this book. My thought is that everyone has a history, we just need to look until we find it. The task proved to be greater than I realized because there truly isn't a lot written about him, at least not in English. The French sure love this guy, however. Don’t dare attempt to tell them he is some sort of hoax. Because when the French endear themselves to someone as much as they do St. Expedite, trying to relegate him to status of urban legend in the presence of a die hard French devotee will leave you feeling like un parfait imbécile (a complete idiot)!
     
But, it’s not just the French who love St. Expedite. He is loved around the world and New Orleans is no exception. He is considered the patron saint of New Orleans by many, and the patron saint of New Orleans Voudou by many more. Where he is shunned by Roman Catholics, he is embraced by New Orleans Voudouists. He has a healthy following of those who appreciate folk Catholicism and a growing following of rootworkers. Despite being kicked off of the official martyrologies, downplayed on the Our Lady of Guadalupe Chapel website, ignored by devout Catholics and made fun of by Catholic priests, his cult of devotion remains strong. Try as they might, this saint’s not going anywhere—fast.
     
So, grab yourself a cup of coffee and chicory, or a glass of sweet tea if you prefer, put on something comfy and enjoy this labor of love I have created in perpetual homage to the Minute Saint. Glory be to St. Espidee!



Sunday, November 9, 2014

What is Religion Anyway, and Who Gets to Define it? A Follow Up on New Orleans Voudou as a Legitimate Religion


A little over a year ago, I wrote an open letter to Catherine Yronwode about her accusations of New Orleans Voodoo being a faux religion perpetrated by fakers. My letter to her was in response to an article she posted on her website about Hoodoo history, in the section called Hoodoo is Not New Orleans Voodoo. You can read the original post for the background info...I won't waste time repeating it here.

While there was a bit of a flurry as a result of my blog post, it pretty much died down, though comments have continued to be posted by folks who discover it over the months since it was written.

It recently came up again when someone discovered the link and posted it to my Facebook group. More than one person asked what Yronwode's response was to my email to her. I have stated she responded after several days of being "busy." But the topic of discussion that came up was a very good one, and one that, unfortunately, she did not deem important enough to continue. In fact, she never even looked at my response from what I can tell in my FB email, though her husband Nagasiva did.

This was her response to my open letter, which was an email to her about the discovery of that slanderous, hugely inaccurate and lacking any scholarly citations to back it up, article that remains on her website to this day. I'm only posting an excerpt of her email which brings up the topic of this post:


Catherine Anna Yronwode
Denise, I have an opinion. It is based on my experiences in New Orleans during the 1970s and 1980s and 1990s and 2000s. I have been there many times over four decades and i have seen lots of pseudo-Voodoo there, from all the sources i cited in that article, and others i did not bother to cite but will be glad to if requested...

I will continue to call New Orleans Voodoo a faux-religion until i see that it offers what what real religions offer -- homes for the elderly, care for the sick, funeral services, education for the young, houses of worship, a true congregation that meets regularly for worship services. I am strict and old time in my understanding of what a religion is. Even my small church, tiny as it is, has a vast prayer chain for our members, sets free lights for those in need, and gives out hundreds of pro bono spiritual consultations and hundreds of dollars in pro bono spiritual supplies every year.

A religion is not a festival or a work of performance art or a magazine.

The hoodoo i know is NOT "New Orleans Voodoo" or any kind of Voodoo. We practice Christian folk-magic, and i think that you, in honesty, should be PROUD AND HAPPY to say "New Orleans Voodoo is not hoodoo." Because it's not.
Finally, and i mean this most sincerely, if you can demonstrate that New Orleans Voodoo is a new religion (in the same way that responsible Pagans and Heathens have finally begun admitting that their religions are new religions, after forty years of spuriously calling upon "ancient European pagan religions" as the sources for some of their most egregiously pseudo-Hindu cosmologies) then i will call it such, gladly -- but only if it meets the criteria of being a religion.


You should not look to me to validate your confabulated blend of conjure and Voodoo. I am only interested in historical truth. This should not make us enemies, but if you feel that i oppose you so strongly as to appear unfriendly, then all you need do, as far as i am concerned, is either show me the historical continuity of true Voodoo in New Orleans, or admit openly, as a responsible person that you are willing to leave behind the grotesque impostures of the likes of Gandolfo, Glassmann, and Caulder, and that you are practicing a new religion, which draws upon certain aspects of other religions, including Voodoo, as part of its foundation myth.

Cordially yours,
cat yronwode

What follows is my response to her, in which I thought I answered her questions rather succinctly. However, it appears she never even took the time to read it. Not reading it means she never responded. So, for folks who may also subscribe to her opinions about New Orleans Voudou and rather narrow view of religion in general, here is my response in its entirety:
I only have a couple of minutes as I've got a lot going on this week but wanted to let you now I have seen your response. A couple of things. First, the tone in your response is condescending and patronizing. I don't do well with those. That tone does match the offensive nature of the article however, where you have lumped me and others, in with one person who has been proven a fraud, and Gandolfo admittedly is guilty of pushing tourism Voodoo in a way I really wish he hadn't. Tallant is guilty for feeding into the sensationalism around Voodoo in New Orleans by describing rituals that did not occur, but they sure sound salacious. That is them, not me. To lump all of us together and judge a whole religion based on a few people is hardly reliable scientific methodology, not to mention, unfair and irresponsible. But BEHIND Gandalfo, as in associated with Gandalfo's museum, is Dr. Elmer Glover; around the corner behind Brandi Kelly, Mama Lola and Sunpie, to mention just a few legitimate practitioners who serve the community, as do Priestess Miriam and Mambo Sallie Ann Glassman.

Secondly, it is not a difference of opinion that I object to. Of course you have a right to your opinion, as I have stated previously. I do have an issue with the conclusions you have drawn as a result of your opinion, that lumps good people together as if we are all one entity and then write it on your page as gospel.

Your argument is coming from a place where you have defined religion for me and the rest of the world and if we do not subscribe to your definition, then we must be faux or fakers. Again, that is hardly a reliable, scholarly platform to take. Even in the discipline of anthropology, and the much broader field of the Social Sciences, there is no consensus as to the definition of religion. In fact, that has been an issue for a long time because who has the final word? The functionalists? Ethnologists? Reductionists? Biologists? Evolutionists? Culturalists? Analysts? In fact, it is interdisciplinary - there are many points of view and many angles from which to view and interpret religion. There needs to be a clear theory to back up your stance, not just naming a few authors who have nothing to do with religion in an academic field or from any formal religious or anthropological theory, with the exception of Hurston. In any one of the anthropological subdisciplines we can find differing theories of the meaning and function of religion. In fact the formal study of religion is relatively new (1800s - present), with most theories springing from the works of Tyler, Malinowski (functionalist), Boas, Frazer (functionalist), Pritchard, Geertz (interpretive), Radcliffe-Brown (social anthropology), Levi-Strauss and many others...each of whom built their theories on the basis of predecessors by either supporting and building upon previous theories or critically examining them and branching out into a different vein. Not one of these theorists subscribe to your definition of the necessity of having "homes for the elderly, care for the sick, funeral services, education for the young, houses of worship, a true congregation that meets regularly for worship services" - a definition that is prejudicial and biased in Western cosmology. Not one of these theorists would say that a particular religion is "faux" because it doesn't subscribe to their theory. Instead, they would look at the religion from their theoretical perspective and make sense of it in that way.

My personal theoretical foundation is from a cultural and multidisciplinary perspective (cultural anthropology and cultural psychology). I find the works of Frazer useful in particular with regards to his seminal work on the categorization of magic, science and religion. He basically stated that we have to step inside the culture and understand the systems of healing and illness and their function in order to understand how religion is expressed. His work has proved useful in the studies of indigenous religious systems for this very reason. Geertz posited that religion is interpreted and expressed on a very individual level as a set of symbols that are meaningful to practitioners in any number of ways.

The whole discussion of religion requires much more than a simple reductionist view as you have presented. I am not going to write a thesis on it, but you may find this primer article useful http://www.indiana.edu/~wanthro/religion.htm

Padgett himself is highly respected.

So, that is one huge issue in the present discussion. I'm afraid until you understand that your way is not the only way, and because New Orleans Voodoo as a religion does not fit your definition and therefore must be fake, any further discussion is going to be difficult, at best.

Onwards. New Orleans Voodoo has very African and Native American roots. We can trace its origins to the first slaves that set foot in New Orleans, the Bambarans (refer to Hall, 1992). The religiomagickal system of gris gris, which became an integral part of New Orleans Voodoo and remains so today, is a strong example of religious and cultural continuity. We can trace some of our practices to the Congo, Bamboula and Calinda tribes in Africa. The name for Congo square comes from the African tribes with roots in the Congo region and is where some of the traditional dances come from. The gatherings in Congo square began in the early 1700s with the congregation of Africans, but had been considered a sacred place by the Houma Indians long before.

I think one thing that may be hindering understanding is getting stuck on the term New Orleans Voodoo. In my opinion, a better description would be Louisiana or Creole Voodoo because it would take people out of New Orleans proper and out of the French Quarter tourism that seems to be the only thing you are hanging onto in defining it. I have been slowly moving in that direction for quite some time. Even Marie Laveaux, who is considered the Mother of New Orleans Voodoo, and Jean Montenee, who is considered the father of New Orleans Voodoo, did not hold their rituals in the Frenchquarter. They were held on the bayous and in the swamps in secret locations so as not to be disturbed and to be in close communion with the spirits there. Based on these two individuals and their important role in the perpetuation, maintenance and representation of New Orleans today (from a functional perspective as well as symbolic - both valid interpretations of religion in the social sciences with theories to back it up), as well as serpent worship, we can trace New Orleans Voodoo to go as far back as the late 1700s. Marie Laveaux's and Dr. John's particular expression of Voodoo, which incorporated the worship of the African spirits, gris gris, serpent worship, and commercialization of working roots - with the add on of Catholic influence and working with the saints by Marie Laveaux - is the tradition in which I am familiar and this is how I define New Orleans Voodoo. There is one Creator being, a recognizable pantheon of spirits, a recognizable African component (spirits, dances, specific drum rhythms, gris gris, ancestor reverence) and Native American component (spirits, working with herbs and plants, ancestor reverence), and recognizable Catholic component (saints, psalms, Marionism) giving it a life much longer than the onset of "commercial hoodoo" in the 1930s or so.

In addition, there is community. It began with community but social and political circumstances highly influenced its expression from communal to individual and back to communal. The Code Noir had a lot to do with that as well as the role of Catholicism in Voodoo. You can find the code in its entirety here: http://www.crossroads-university.com/the-louisiana-black-code.html.  People were tortured and killed for practicing anything other than Catholicism, which gave rise to some very ingenious Africans and people of African descent to cloak the Voodoo religion with Catholic iconography. It changed and adapted in order to survive. The roots of Catholicism in the religion served a very specific function.

So this is a mere portion of the foundation of my "confabulated blend" of New Orleans Voodoo and conjure. There is historical evidence, both written and oral - primarily oral because most slaves and Indians were not literate from a Western standpoint. From the standpoint of their cultures, however, they were highly literate with their own means of recording history and transmitting knowledges (check out Gardner's 1983 work on the theory of Multiple Intelligences).

I can appreciate you have spent some time in New Orleans. But I grew up there. I have swamped in the swamps and I learned how to commune with the spirits from a very early age of 5 by my aunt literally along the bayou. How I learned and what I learned can never be learned from a book or a visitor. This gives me a perspective you will never have, although you could come to appreciate and benefit if you were to step outside of your current line of thinking and allow yourself to. I don't want, need or expect your validation; however, I merely offer up my life experience as another source of information, one that has contributed to my understanding of Voodoo in New Orleans.

I have always maintained that Hoodoo looks different in New Orleans based on the cultural diversity and other regional differences, than it does in other areas of the country. For me, like my Mother and Father, the Spirits of Voodoo work alongside the spirits of the Roots and the ancestors. There is not the same compartmentalization that has occurred for many outside of New Orleans. And as always, I have qualified this as my personal experience and my observations of other local practitioners. I personally had no interactions with protestant Hoodoo practitioners in New Orleans. I am sure there probably are some there, but the majority of folks are Catholic, and history explains why this is so. That doesn't mean I am going to say your form of Hoodoo doesn't exist or is faux. Of course it exists; to say other wise would be arrogant, ignorant, and irresponsible. My request is that you offer me the same consideration.

I really need to hop off the computer here as I have appointments to get to the rest of the day and tomorrow. But there is so much more to the discussion, and again, my reason for writing you in the first place was because I was offended by your description of the religion and offended that you lumped me in with a couple of unscrupulous individuals. I am sure that would be upsetting to you if the tables were turned. By principle, all academic stuff aside, it is just not right to disrespect a religion simply because you do not agree with its expression or understand it. The people believe in Voodoo, those that practice it, they believe in its healing energy, they believe in the Spirits, they believe in one common Creator being, they believe in the Power of the roots, the dances, the drum rhythms, the rituals, and first and foremost, the ancestors. And, our temples are many.

Blessings, Denise

This is the rest of that story, and I hope it helps to answer some questions about how a discussion of what constitutes religion cannot be based on one individual's perspective. Whenever we attempt to base the entire world on our personal worldviews, we will never see all there is to see.

People often refer to Yronwode as "scholarly." I disagree based on this type of attitude which informs her writings. For once, I would like to see some real academic references on those thousands of pages on the LM website. Alas, she is not an academic and so there are very few and that will likely not change. Being the child of academics does not an academic make. Given this fact, it would be refreshing to have other, real scholars' perspectives sought out and explored, such as Yvonne Chireau and Katrina Hazzard, for example. Louis Martine has some fabulous books about New Orleans Voodoo and anyone who sincerely wants to learn about the tradition, in addition to referring to my own writings are encouraged to read these books and journals:

Mojo Workin': The Old African American Hoodoo System
Black Magic: Religion and the African American Conjuring Tradition
Dr. John Montanee: A Grimoire: The Path of a New Orleans Loa, Resurrection in Remembrance
A Priest's Head, A Drummer's Hands: New Orleans Voodoo: Order of Service
Talking to God With Food: Questioning Animal Sacrifice
Hoodoo and Conjure: New Orleans (Volume 1)
A New Orleans Voudou Priestess: The Legend and Reality of Marie Laveau
The Voodoo Hoodoo Spellbook
Hoodoo and Conjure New Orleans 2014
Conjure in African American Society

These are but a few books available that address in part or whole the subject of New Orleans Voodoo and conjure. Note that I do not agree with everything in each of these books, but I don't have to and that is not the point. The point is to provide alternate sources of reliable information. The above works are either scholarly works or (New Orleans Voudou) practitioner written. Meaning, they are not based simply on blues songs and King Novelty catalogs and the "literary mining" of the Hyatt volumes.

 In addition, it is noteworthy that in the above email Yronwode refers to her practice and understanding of hoodoo as "Christian folk magic."  I think it would be a great thing for folks who equate hoodoo with Christian folk magic to refer to their practice as exactly that: Christian folk magic. Once you read all of the books I have recommended above, you will see that hoodoo, conjure and rootwork does not fall so neatly into the category of Christian folk magic. And for those of you from the LM camp who will invariably want to regurgitate the same old argument that hoodoo is not hoodoo without the bible, please do not bother. Again, I refer you to the above list of books to read about New Orleans Voudou. Let's gain an understanding for what New Orleans Voudou is before branching out into tired, old perspectives that only describe a portion of conjure, and certainly does not adequately describe that conjure which is an inherent part of New Orleans Voudou.

For an alternate read on the topic of hoodoo, conjure and rootwork, check out the website ConjureDoctors.com and the article What is Hoodoo, Conjure and Rootwork? There is also a rather extensive reference section with many links to full articles about hoodoo and conjure in general for those who are sincere in their desire to learn about southern conjure traditions. Check out the page: Conjure Doctor Articles.

The website is a work in progress, but has some great information with more being added all the time.




Saturday, August 9, 2014

Conjuring the Pink Elephant




“Ego Integrity vs Despair.” There is an inherent human need to be able to reflect back on life and feel as if we made a difference and to feel fulfilled with our lives. To be successful is to feel wise; to be unsuccessful is to feel regret, bitterness and despair.


Human Behavioral Observation

Setting 

High school

Subjects

Multiple teenagers and adults

Incident #1

A teacher posted a mean note on the bulletin board outside of the school office aimed at a failed student and texted the same note along with a photo to whom the note was written to all the students in the school. The teacher also posted it on a public forum on the internet for the world to see. This teacher was surrounded by a group of mostly silent supporters, more accurately described as “followers” in that they did not question the teachers’ motive or actions. Upon discovery, the children and other teachers seemed shocked and offended (except the few who sent the note) evidenced by mouths agape, gasping, posturing and sudden and persistent incessant chatter about the incident on the school grounds.

The target of the hateful letter told the principle and teacher. They told all of their friends what happened. Many of the other students and teachers rallied around the victim, but only a handful of them dared speak openly about it, for fear they would be the next target, evidenced by statements to that effect in personal and public conversations. When confronted with the behavior, the teacher blamed the victim for causing their reaction that prompted the writing of the letter and public posting of same.

Incident #2

On the same day as Incident #1, a teacher wrote an assignment for a class that was directly in opposition of the school mandated curriculum. When the other teachers became aware, many became angry, evidenced by loud voices and arguing and declaring war on the opposition, others were glad, evidenced by smiling, and patting each other on the back. A third group questioned the mandated curriculum and the agenda behind the school for choosing said mandated curriculum. These individuals exhibited furrowed brows and asked questions not normally asked, such as “why?” and “how?” This small group appeared to agitate both of the other groups as their questions were met with sarcastic comments, condescension, and were told to stop creating conflict (in essence, told to be quiet). It is significant to note that this third group did not acquiesce to the demands of the other groups and maintained their stance, questioning the status quo.

Incident #3

Another student was angry at someone else for cheating on a test. This student decided to emulate the first scenario exhibited by the teacher and send their own hate-filled letter, posting it on the same bulletin board for the whole school to see, as well as on a similar forum on the internet where it became visible to the general public. This student belonged to the same group as the second group in Incident #2. When confronted by individuals belonging to group 3 (incident #2), this student became angry and defensive, evidenced by the tone of their voice and the words spoken (i.e. “step off,” “you wouldn’t understand,” “stop causing trouble”). This student claimed to be “bullied” when it was pointed out to them (by members of group 3 in Incident #2) that their behavior mirrored the behavior of the first scenario.

Interpretation

Conflict resolution does not appear to be a strength amongst the individuals observed. As is often the case with adolescents, they are impressionable and tend emulate the behaviors of those they look up to, even if the behavior is self-destructive. According to Erikson's stages of psychosocial development, it appears many among the observed groups are emotionally stunted at most, and emotionally regressed at least, across the board. The age group spans several generations, beginning with teenagers who normally experience what Erikson coins "identity vs role confusion," to older adults whose normal psychological development is at a stage called "ego integrity vs despair." The identity vs role confusion stage is characterized by a normal struggle with the individual figuring out a sense of personal identity, who they are and what they stand for. When this is accomplished, they feel success, a sense of accomplishment, and are able to stand up for what they believe in, even if the peer group is engaging in oppositional behavior. When they are unsuccessful, it results in a poor sense of self, a lack of self-worth and a lack of personal identity.




















Some of the older teens would be expected to be in Erikson’s “intimacy versus isolation stage.” This is the stage where people are normally developing loving, intimate relationships with each other. When they are successful, they feel a sense of belonging and purpose. When unsuccessful, they feel a sense of loneliness and isolation.

The teachers in the above scenarios are from middle adulthood in the stage Erikson coins “Generative vs Stagnation.”  At this stage in life, the well-adjusted adult seeks to engage in activities that will leave a legacy, something that will represent their deeds in life. They nurture and create things that will outlast them often for the benefit of others. When successful, they experience a sense of accomplishment and usefulness. When unsuccessful, they experience nothing more than feeling stuck and a shallow involvement with the world. 

The oldest members in the above scenarios belong to the stage Erikson calls “Ego Integrity vs Despair.” There is an inherent human need to be able to reflect back on life and feel as if they made a difference and to feel fulfilled with their lives. To be successful is to feel wise; to be unsuccessful is to feel regret, bitterness and despair.

According to Erikson’s theory, when individuals do not develop within normal psychological parameters, crisis occurs.

With the exception of group three as described in Incident #2, the group as a whole appears to display various forms of ego regression. According to Freud’s psychoanalytic theory, ego regression, which is a form of coping defense mechanism, occurs when faced with a threat to one’s personal sense of self or schema. The anxiety that results is too great to bear psychologically and emotionally. Therefore, the mind being the wonderful thing that it is, unconsciously brings into play a variety of strategies aimed at lessening and eliminating the anxiety. Some of these defense mechanisms include manipulation (i.e. sending letters, using public display as humiliation, intimidation and fear tactics; garnering peer group sympathy), rationalization (blaming someone else for one’s behavior; feeling justified to attack another because they cheated on a test;  minimizing the severity of their behavior), distorting reality (i.e. taking on the role of “victim” instead of taking responsibility as perpetrator; telling lies), expressing anger as the motivation for one’s actions, and denial, which isn’t a river in Egypt.

In the context of Erikson’s Theory of Psychosocial Development, we see regression going back to infantile and toddler emotional and psychological stages of trust vs mistrust and autonomy vs shame and doubt. Is there consistent care by the school (archetypal Mother)? Are students adequately self-sufficient to survive betrayal of trust? And as to the psychological developmental stage of the 3 to 6 year old, initiative vs guilt; are students able to overstep the boundaries of the Mother without feeling guilty? Can they, and are they willing to, stand on their own two feet, express their own opinions without fear of reprisal? 

Psychological defense mechanisms are part of a healthy psyche. We all have them, and we all use them thank Buddha. They only become pathological when used persistently to such a degree that they have an adverse effect on one’s mental health.

In addition to the above observations, there also appears to be an element of antisocial behavior amongst some of the subjects. I’ll let the reader decide whether this rings true for them or not. But, just for shits and giggles, here are 16 characteristics of sociopathy described by Cleckley (1941) as cited in Thomas (2013):

  • Superficial charm and good intelligence
  • Absence of delusions and other signs of irrational thinking
  • Absence of nervousness or neurotic manifestations
  • Unreliability
  • Untruthfulness and insincerity
  • Lack of remorse and shame
  • Inadequately motivated antisocial behavior
  • Poor judgment and failure to learn by experience
  • Pathologic egocentricity and incapacity for love
  • General poverty in major affective reactions
  • Specific loss of insight
  • Unresponsiveness in general interpersonal relations
  • Fantastic and uninviting behavior with alcohol and sometimes without
  • Suicide threats rarely carried out
  • Sex life impersonal, trivial, and poorly integrated
  • Failure to follow any life plan


In many aspects, both groups 1 & 2 resemble a dysfunctional family unit with group members taking on roles of parents and children, brothers and sisters. Take a look at the top image and the chart below to get an idea of what I am referring to. These roles develop within alcoholic and abusive family systems.

What is your role in your conjure family?
http://img.docstoccdn.com/thumb/orig/22042565.png










 

Conclusion

In all three observed scenarios, the pink elephant in the living room has yet to be acknowledged and agreed upon between all members of the groups. Unfortunately, this will likely leave them divided as individuals as well as amongst themselves. Group three will continue normal psychosocial development, while groups 1 and 2 will likely continue to deteriorate psychically, emotionally and communally until they accept personal responsibility for their role in keeping the pink elephant hidden in plain sight.



http://www.freemanformula.com/blog/fitness-tips/bridal-fitness/attachment/pink-elephant-733153




References

Erikson, E. H. (1950). Childhood and Society. New York: Norton.

Freud, S. (1923). The ego and the id. SE, 19: 1-66

Thomas, M. E. (2013.) How to Spot a Sociopath. Psychology Today. Retrieved from: http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/201305/how-

Monday, June 23, 2014

Lessons from Our Elders Part 2




To follow up the story about the use of Crystals in indigenous traditions, I wanted to share another lesson taught to me from a Grandmother. This involves the horned toad, a lizard that lives in the Southwestern United States. Called "Chei Yaazh" in Navajo, meaning "Little Grandfather," these little guys are sacred creatures. The ones in the photo are just little babies and just cute as can be. The photo is of my son holding them, we had found them while going on a walk. This is how we teach our children. he knows about Chei medicine because I taught him. He holds it in his hand, on that day and many other days. He knows how to use the medicine, he knows who they are. He knows because I know. I know because Grandma taught me. And no, this is not another "grandmother story." This is the truth, a real grandmother story, knowledge passed down the old way, via oral tradition.

One day, I was standing outside with grandma, we were enjoying the beautiful day. This grandmother did speak a little English. All of a sudden she said look ! Chei Yaazh naagha! meaning look, there goes Little Grandfather! I have always loved horned toads, lizards, snakes and reptiles in general, so I bent down and picked him up. he was an adult, bigger than the ones in the photograph. She told me to give him to her so I did. She whispered something to the little Chei and held him to her heart. Then she pulled out her medicine bag that contained corn pollen and she sprinkled a tiny amount onto the back of the little Chei set him on the ground and told him in Indian to go in beauty...hozhoogo nanina.

In the Indian way, we have to be careful about asking things of our elders. We are taught to observe, observe and you will learn. Speak and you only hear your own voice. Or as the Cherokee saying goes, "Listen or your tongue will make you deaf." I learned about that saying in a not very pleasant way at all, but I'll save that story for another time. Anyway, I looked at grandma with the question, i wanted to know what did she just do? what did she say to Little Chei?

She told me.

Horned toads, Little Grandfathers, are wish takers basically. Whenever you see one, you can pick it up and whisper your wish to it, say a prayer, give it an offering of corn pollen and send it on its way with blessings. Blessings to carry your wish to the Creator and make it manifest, and blessings for it for a safe journey in life.

How cool is that?

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Lessons from Our Elders Part 1





I have never shown this to anyone, but I decided to share it along with a little story in an effort to dispel the myths about crystals and indigenous religions. There was the questioned asked in my Facebook group whether or not crystals are used in Voudou and Hoodoo, and I responded by expanding the answer to include the African Diaspora religions as well as Native American traditional religions - all of which I include under the umbrella term indigenous traditions. I have been criticized before as adding Wicca or new age elements to New Orleans Voudou, which I have not. What HAS happened, is that those who have made the accusations are uninformed and assume that because they have not ever heard of it before, then I must be making it up. It's an old dynamic I am used to dealing with. I have even had people from other countries, less than half my age telling me what my tradition is and is not, which I find frankly, humorous at best.

Anyway, my response was this: Working with stones is not a new concept,,,it is as ancient as humankind. There is a similar misconception as it pertains to Native American traditions. For example, crystal scrying is an extremely old and traditional means of divination among the Cherokee and the Navajo among many other tribes. Different stones have different meanings and purposes ascribed to them according to culture. The use of crystals have been used in the African Diaspora traditions for eons...but because there has been a disconnect from Africa and the US due to the slave trade, and because of the disconnect from elders and the internet, people who learn primarily from online sources (which is a large driving force behind the renewed interest of the various traditions) this portion of the body of knowledge is not commonly known. The reclamation or reintroduction of them seems like it is new. But it is not. it is as old as the religions themselves.

Now, the crystal in the photograph was given to me by a medicine man who was 78 years old at the time. He used crystals similar to this one to divine events and inquiries, and interestingly to find lost things. At a particular hospital where I worked as a traditional counselor, we had elders on staff for the express purpose of passing on the traditional ways to the youngsters who were our patients. At the time i worked in the adolescent behavioral health unit. Because many of the children were frankly outcasts and throwaways, we were often crossed. Grandpa would consult the crystal to find out whether or not there was something buried in the ground, who buried it and where it was buried. Then he would go outside and dig it up. This medicine man did not speak English - not a word of English. He was Navajo. he did not really come to respect me until he knew I could speak at least some of my native language, and once he hear me speak and sing songs, then he shared some things with me. Then he showed me how to use the crystal.

He was around 78 years old at the time and this was nearly 18 years ago. That means he was born around 1918 or earlier. His teacher, another medicine man who also volunteered at the hospital was older than him, though I don't know how old he was.

Now there are many things we can take away from this story, but two things are important. One is that, even at 78 years old, he still had a teacher. In the Indian way, the medicine is not bought and paid for. It is not a destination. It is a journey. We spend our entire lives learning and honing our skills. Some medicine people spend their entire lives learning just one ceremony because of the complexities involved. They are specialists.

Second, do you think he got his knowledge from a new age book or course?

Third, in the South, Africans and Indians exchanged many ideas and practices. The use of rocks and crystals were common between them, and the practice continued among the elder folks. I happened to be lucky enough to have several elders in my life along the way that were willing to share the practice with me. And, this is what I share with you today, and this is what I share in my writings. Not something made up. Not something Wiccan. On the contrary, something real, something authentic and something not written about because it is passed down via oral tradition. That is why so many have not heard of it. It is something much older than Wicca, and something much older than New Age. This is the tradition of our ancestors, our elders. And I for one, honor them.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Get Rid of Enemies and Restore Justice





"The so-called dark side is not wholly an evil or negative place or force; after all, some things remain in the shadows because we've placed them there out of fear or squeamishness." -- Jay Kinney



Banishment and Equalizer Spell


This spell asks God to be the mediator between you and your enemy by protecting you and punishing the person who hurt you.

This spell can be used as a means to settle the score with an enemy, by causing them to be ostracized, resulting in mental anguish, and eventually going away. Since you are asking God to intervene for you, you are not subject to any ill effects or bad karma.

You will need:

  • Piece of parchment paper 
  • Black Arts Oil 
  • General purpose Voodoo doll 
  • Black pin 
  • Black cloth

Directions:

Write the name of your target on the parchment paper and anoint with Black Arts oil. Tuck the paper into the Voodoo doll. Recite Psalm 55 nine times over the doll, and stick one pin through the parchment paper and into the doll. Wrap the doll in a black cloth and hide in a dark place, careful to choose a place where no one can find it and handle it.

Each day for eight more days (for a total of nine days), take out the doll and recite Psalm 55 nine times over it and stick a pin through the parchment paper and into the doll. Wrap the doll in a black cloth and hide away in a dark place, away from prying eyes.

On the ninth day, take the doll and the black cloth and bury it near a cemetery. Alternately, you can burn the doll and throw the ashes in a cemetery.  Or, you may keep the doll and remove the parchment paper and nine pins from the doll and either bury them in or near a cemetery or burn and throw the ashes in or near a cemetery. If you keep the doll for future use, you may only use it for the same person, and you must keep it wrapped up and away from view, except when you wish to speak to your enemy through it.

Psalm 55

Have mercy on me, O God, for man hath trodden me under foot; all the day long he hath afflicted me fighting against me.

My enemies have trodden on me all the day long; for they are many that make war against me.

From the height of the day I shall fear: but I will trust in thee. The height of the day... That is, even at noonday, when the sun is the highest, I am still in danger.

In God I will praise my words, in God I have put my trust: I will not fear what flesh can do against me. My words... The words or promises God has made in my favour.

All the day long they detested my words: all their thoughts were against me unto evil.


They will dwell and hide themselves: they will watch my heel. As they have waited for my soul,


For nothing shalt thou save them: in thy anger thou shalt break the people in pieces. O God, For nothing shalt thou save them... That is, since they lie in wait to ruin my soul, thou shalt for no consideration favour or assist them, but execute thy justice upon them.


I have declared to thee my life: thou hast set me tears in thy sight, As also in thy promise.


Then shall my enemies be turned back. In what day soever I shall call upon thee, behold I know thou art my God.


In God will I praise the word, in the Lord will I praise his speech. In God have I hoped, I will not fear what man can do to me.


In me, O God, are vows to thee, which I will pay, praises to thee:


Because thou hast delivered my soul from death, my feet from falling: that I may please in the sight of God, in the light of the living.



Whoop Ass Conjure