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[ Sexually Objectifying Language and Possession in Vodou]

To: alt.religion.orisha
From: (Mambo Racine Sans Bout)
Subject: Sexually Objectifying Language and Possession in Vodou
Date: 25 Nov 2002 09:18:50 -0800

A long time ago, when Vodou was being described by "ethnographers" who
were anxious to dissociate themselves from the subject they were
studying, it was fashionable to seek sexual metaphors to describe
Vodou ceremonies and especially possession by lwa.

Seabrook, in "The Magic Island", wrote of "lust-maddened,
blood-maddened, god-maddened" ceremonies, for instance.  Even academic
types made all sorts of semi-sexual allusions based on the Creole term
"monte", meaning "to mount", as in, "the lwa mounted the person". 
Some even imagined that this is the reason for having lots of female
hounsis, because a lwa can more easily "mount" a woman than a man.

On New Orleans Voodoo, too, sexually objectifying stereotypes were
promoted in the past, in New Orleans mostly by the anti-Voodoo crowd. 
The newspaper articles of the day in the "Picayune" portrayed
ceremonies as wild orgies.  This is all ridiculous!

Even today, one fellow is even posting on the Internet about
possession in this way, although at least he is able to quote me
(without credit, that is to say, plagiarize my work) and explain that
possession "is considered normal, natural, and wholly desirable within
the context of a service".

Unfortunately, he apparently is fooled by one of these
"ethnographers", a certain Judy Rosenthal, who he quotes as follows:

" ...(paraphrasing) "the ecstasy of trance is the ravishing cradle of
Vodou(n) law. The lwa come to possess their children largely because
they want to dance in pleasure. The hounsi or vodounsi who is ravished
by his or her lwa becomes one with that lwa. The hounsi has taken the
lwa as surely as the lwa has taken the hounsi. The hounsi knows the
ecstasy of the lwa as his or her own. Knowledge and practice of the
laws of Vodou are the means by which the adept comes in to contact
with this pleasure of the lwa ..." (Rosenthal 1998).

Now, "ravish" has as synonyms "assault, defile, deflower, rape,
seduce, violate".  We are not assaulted or raped by the lwa!  Even the
less violent synonyms are sexually objectifying, when in fact
expressions of sexuality are not encouraged in Vodou service!  We are
not "ravished" by the lwa, and no sexual activity takes place during a

On the more spiritual level, again, it is untrue that "The hounsi or
vodounsi who is ravished by his or her lwa becomes one with that
lwa... The hounsi knows the ecstasy of the lwa as his or her own."

On the contrary, the hounsi who becomes possessed by a lwa knows
nothing, nothing at all!  No "ecstatsy", nothing.  Being possessed by
a lwa is like going to sleep, you don't remember anything about it,
it's not a "ravishment" or a sexual thrill or anything like that. 
It's a sacrifice, a sacrifice of the possessed person's time and
energy, allowing their body and their brain to be used by the lwa for
the betterment of everyone else present.

There is so much to marvel at in Vodou service, so much of genuine
value - there is no need to misrepresent Vodou in order to titillate
and intrigue non-Vodouisants.

Peace and love,

Bon Mambo Racine Sans Bout Sa Te La Daginen

"Se bon ki ra" - Good is rare
     Haitian proverb

The VODOU Page -

(Posting from Jacmel, Haiti)


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