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25746: Hermantin( News)Vodou Festival celebrates life (fwd)
From: leonie hermantin <email@example.com>
Posted on Sun, Jul. 17, 2005
Vodou Festival celebrates life
Annual festival honors Haitian religion's emphasis on the unity of nature and
BY PETER BAILEY
In Haiti, vodou gives life where poverty kills many.
This message echoed Saturday in Bayfront Park, where more than 100 people
gathered to celebrate the cultural importance of the most prominent religion in
Haiti and most misunderstood throughout the world as part of the second annual
Haitian Vodou Festival.
''In Haiti, vodou is life,'' mambo Carole Maroule Demesmin said. ``It's the
religion that was stolen from black people by the colonizers to oppress us.''
Demesmin was one of 10 spiritual elders, called mambos and hougans, leading a
ceremony to honor Ogou, the god of war.
The religion in Haiti was created by African slaves under French rule in
defiance of Catholicism. Dieties, such as Oguo, fall under the names of saints
because slaves would use their names as a guise while praying to their African
The sound of beating drums at the festival gave a rhythmic pulse to footsteps
in sync with the Sambi Lambi's instructions bellowed from a conch shell.
Candles and rainbow cloths was set up in front of each tree in the park as
elders used Barbancourt -- a Haitian rum -- and dance to summon the spirits of
Legba to open the door to the spirit world called Lwa.
With each member rattling an ason, the instrument of power bestowed upon every
elder, a mystic breeze filled the trees.
Vocals from the Haitian band Ra Ra hypnotized the growing crowd.
''Without this celebration, we'll be lost as a people,'' Desmesmin said.
``Discovering vodou is discovering one's self.''
That was certainly the experience of Frank Desire, who was raised Catholic but
now is devoted to vodou.
''The first thing Columbus put on the islands was a cross,'' he said. ``I
realized that the Catholic church was hypocritical; vodou is a way of life, so
every day you live you're practicing the religion.''
Elders say vodou embraces the ideology that nature and people are all connected
Those eager to embrace the religion must go through an initiation process that
lasts 41 consecutive days. It is never discussed with outsiders or the
Among those embarking on the 41-day process was Gilbert Fabriano, 16, who
traveled from Guadeloupe with family.
''I think [that] by becoming a spiritual leader, I'll be more connected to my
culture,'' he said.
Those attending the festival hope the activities will erase some of the
stereotypes surrounding vodou.
''There is a very negative stigma given to vodou because it is an African-based
religion,'' Desmesmin said. ``We're here today to dispel that lie.''