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Saint-Mery on Voodoo c. 1772-80

To: soc.culture.haiti,alt.religion.orisha,alt.lucky.w
From: Mamaissii 
Subject: Re: Saint-Mery on Voodoo c. 1772-80 (part 1)
Date: Mon, 02 Oct 2000 13:52:41 GMT

"However since he is a practitioner, I would advice him that knowledge
comes from practice much more than through readings."

This is correct.

One of the biggest problems that becomes more pronounced in "cultures
of the pen," is that more credibility and weight is given to those who
can demonstrate their knowledge of Vodou via the written word as oppose
to their actual legitimacy as practitioners of the tradition.

Though I cannot speak for Haitian Vodou, Dahomean Vodoun is not a
tradition in which its sacred knowledge can be transmitted publicly.
Not because its practitioners are illiterate, incompetent or incapable,
we simply know that it is impossible to learn the Vodoun via books.
More importantly,  it  is taboo to speak secrets, write books, or to
create public websites revealing sacred knowledge.  It simply will
never happen.  We are bound by powerful oaths which we do not violate.
To do so would  hasten the departure of our Spirits, and suffer the
wrath of our Ancestors which is often severe.

As a result, most  (not all) of what is written, (often by Western
anthropologist, ethnologists)  though woefully inaccurate as far as its
interpretative value,  often detailing  sensationalistic and morbid
accounts to satiate the Western palate; unfortunately becomes the
burden that we must carry in order to honor the Law of Secrecy.

More challenging, is those of us born in America, a culture in which
information is demanded in order to do our work, or claim "legitimacy,"
we must painfully suffer through many of these written accounts to
offer at least very basic information for the general public  such as I
have aattempted to do. We do this at great sacrifice and criticism from
other ATRs who freely display publicly all the secrets of their
tradition to either impress other practitioners, or under the pressure
of claiming respect and legitmacy. A dangerous and irresponsible
pattern by our standards.

Only genuine practitioners of Dahomean Vodoun know that "book" info.
(that offered to anthropolgists and others) is permissible for general
consumption. This is all one needs to know. In truth,  When the
(Dahomean) Vodou wants you to know them, they will come to you, and one
must suffer, suffer, suffer for the knowledge.

It is in this respect that we allow the  misconceptions that are
written, for it further acts to coneal and distance ambitious seekers
away until they are rightfully called to know. Only under the most dire
of circumstances do we come out to correct with specific facts glaring
inaccuracies, whose perpetuation would either threaten our personal
safety, or prevent us from practicing our tradition entirely.

Truly, we have no time to debate and offer up an intellectual discourse
of our tradition.  It only brings us suffering to do so. And though
many of us might prove somewhat articulate, we are not trained
as "talkers", but rather as "doers".  Talking too much is not good.

This is why we still must rely upon good, non-baised writers such as
Rosenthal, Aliplini, Hazoume, Pliya; the websites of Soutini (which I
like very much), other scholars to present our traditions in as
balanced a fashion as possible. They can speak many things that we are
not allowed to say.

I suspect that in spite of all the information available of other
African religions, ours (Dahomean Vodoun) will perhaps always remain
cloaked in secrecy, which is fine with us. However, more importantly
for us today, is the right to practice here in America
free from bias and overt discrimination.

Good disucssion.

Mamaissii Vivian

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