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…)

Saint Marron

17 09 2009


St. Marron, a folk saint unique to New Orleans, was the patron of runaway slaves; the name derives from the French word marron, meaning a runaway. He was usually represented by an image of St. Anthony, apparently this saint not only found lost people, he aided those who “got lost” on purpose.

-Carolyn Morrow Long, A New Orleans Voudou Priestess: The Legend and Reality of Marie Laveau

Through a Glass Darkly

5 06 2008

On Unsettled Souls and the Search

During my brief years as a monk, I kept a notebook that I would occasionally write in between the long hours of baking, packaging, and delivering I had to do for my monastic obedience. This morning, I thought of this particular quote, and I think it is foundational as far as what I now write is concerned. I have been mulling over recently what is the meaning behind the phrase, “aesthetic Christianity”. It is, in the end. a working title. But maybe this quote, written in the monastic metochion of Big Bear Lake on April 26th, 2005, will shed some light on this term:

The aesthetic principle: maybe avant-garde musicians and bohemians are closer to God because they are still looking for Him in what they do. For us proper “religious people”, we often think that we have found God, so we indeed are far away from Him. This does not excuse the evils and immoralities that these people commit; but if we can’t excuse theirs, how can we excuse our own (we, who supposedly know better)?
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In Search of a Strange Orthodoxy

4 05 2008

A Personal Testament and an Invitation

I know that the few people who read this blog may be shocked and a bit disturbed by some of the things I post. If you have been a long-time reader, you have also probably read some of the more edifying things that I have written which were often very personal and devout. I have to say, however, that I don’t think that I will be writing a whole lot of that type of stuff any time soon for a couple of reasons. The first is because I think the medium of the Internet is your least likely source of spiritual nourishment. For that, you would be much better off turning off all your electrical appliances, locking yourself in a room, and praying. Or you can take a walk with your rosary in the early morning, or a hike in the wilderness by yourself or with a few intimate friends. Reading this blog will NOT bring you closer to God, though I would hope that a thing or two that you read here might help you along the way. And the Lord knows that I have my own problems, but I’m not going to share them with you.
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