Divine Horsemen – The Living Gods of Haiti

12 01 2010


Two excerpts from the Maya Deren film, shot in the 1950’s. Notice the rosary is said preceding the rites shown in the second excerpt.

Maya Deren observed in Haiti that people never asked if she believed in Voudou, but if she did Voudou. This reflects the sentiment that I read of another scholar who said that the point of Yoruba religion had little to do with what we would call faith or morals, but rather with the ways that supernatural forces can be invoked and manipulated.

Such a paradigm is useful in understanding such phenomena as rootwork, hoodoo, and folk Catholicism, often at the margins of various forms of Christianity. In this sense, there is no such thing as a “folk Catholic”, but rather a person who performs folk Catholic ritual. Catholics who believe in “folk Catholicism” do not perceive it as being all that different from “normal Catholicism” (if such a beast exists outside of the Internet and the American suburb). It is often not a matter of belief that separates these people from “regular” Catholics, but a matter of practice. “Folk Catholicism” only exists insofar as it works, and ceases to exist once it doesn’t work. To the outsider, it can seem to be an attempt to manipulate the divine. The common worshipper has enough “cognitive dissonance” to not perceive it that way.

(to be continued…)


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5 responses

17 01 2010
fidelina

la Oracion de san Pedro me salbo de un fuerte accidente meditandola en ese momento y sali libre sana!!! la copie para tenerla gracias

17 01 2010
mcmlxix

“Maya Deren observed in Haiti that people never asked if she believed in Voudou, but if she did Voudou.”

I’ve observed that Christianity places a much greater emphasis on orthodoxy than other religions do. Judaism and Hinduism, as only two examples, while they do propose beliefs, are much more concerned with orthopraxy. One doesn’t believe in the Mosaic Law, one practices it. Yet, on the contrary one believes in Christ.

I also think that this orthodoxy-orthopraxy divide becomes more pronounced the further away from the center (temporally and spatially) of Christianity (premodern & sacramental) you go where belief is inseparable from ritual.

This shows up in traditional Protestantism (modern & textual), and it also informs our culture beyond religion to where “believe” x, y, or z is used in place of “prefer” x, y, or z. Hard focus on orthodoxy has also impressed me as slightly Gnostic. It’s as if the correct belief is itself salvific.

Now Christianity has moved into emergent forms as well as into post-Christianity (postmodern & contextual). As with postmodernism generally, here creeds are simultaneously denied and demanded…something like…believe your own thing, but believe it just like us, or you’re not believing it right. Here, once again, practice has become important and is of two types. Ritual, separated from belief, is deconstructed, reconstructed, or purely constructed. Then, America being culturally Calvinist, “doing one’s part” socially/politically speaking is a religious obligation.

This is how to go full circle and not to return where you began.

PS…I just had to see this whole film, and as it would be, the video store two blocks from me had it.

14 01 2010
Adrian

For Haiti –

The prayer of Boukman, magician and revolutionary (the Bwa Kayiman prayer):

The God who created the earth. Who created the sun that gives us light. The God who holds up the ocean. Who makes the thunder roar. Our God who has ears to hear. You who are hidden in the clouds, who watch us from where you are. You see all that the white has made us suffer. The white man’s god asks him to commit crimes. But the God within us wants to do good. Our God, who is so good, so just, He orders us to revenge our wrongs. It is He who will direct our arms and bring us the victory. It is He who will assist us. We all should throw away the image of the white men’s god who is so pitiless. Listen to the voice for liberty that sings in all our hearts.”

13 01 2010
13 01 2010
Jonathan

This is most definitely true.

When I found Tradition (I can’t stand using that phrase, it sounds so sterile, not to mention it doesn’t describe me at all.) at first it was fun. Basically it was me repeating everything I heard on blogs and forums etc. . But then I realized that those weren’t my thoughts and this was not the form of Catholicism I was raised with. The caricature (yes I said it) I was trying to live up to was just a facade of what I was expected (or rather what I thought I should live up to) to live up to as a Traditionalist (I’m still looking for someone to better flesh out what that means. Currently I don’t adhere to that particular label, I’m just Catholic.). I observed the people around me and felt myself more and more alienated. I finally came to the conclusion that my folk Catholic heritage was just like any other (I’m Puerto Rican just in case people aren’t aware.) and that I should not be ashamed of it. Sure people are going to point and whisper, but let them, GOD knows my intentions not them.

What I find odd is that people think Traditionalism can exist WITHOUT folk Catholicism (I don’t see a distinction between the two “forms” as they need one another. They’re both Catholicism in my book.). There has always been what you say and do in Church and what you say and do at home. I would assume The Ancient Jews observed folk Judaism depending on their geographic location. What that may have looked like I don’t know, but still there is probably a precedent for it.

Anyway after all that is said and done, I PERSONALLY prefer Eastern Catholicism as my Liturgy (The Church form) and Folk Latin Catholicism (as my home form).

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