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17: Sacrifice

Rod Davis University of North Texas Press ePub

17

SACRIFICE

The issue of sacrifice has been one of the most difficult for those wishing to approach or understand voudou, but to the true believer, it is the essence of the religion. From the point of view of the voudou priest, ebo is a necessary fulfillment of Ifa divination. It is the way in which humans seek direct intervention—or direct nonintervention—in their particular fates. Sacrifice placates Elegba—or any of the other orisha, or the ancestors, who may affect our lives. Sacrifice is a way of honoring the gods while seeking their assistance. It is karma’s hedge against chaos.

Ebo is at once a bribe, a tithe, a token of fealty and a eucharist. To seek divination and then fail to pay the gods their due—ebo—would be to welsh on the deal, and to risk either losing a good fate or falling into a bad one. Sacrifice is among the holiest of obligations of the voudou worshiper. Omission of sacrifice could be one of his or her most dangerous failures. The voudou gods are not Christian angels. They are angry, brave, jealous, vengeful, generous—very human in emotional response, as were the gods of the Greeks or Romans. They take offense and they reward devotion.

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4: Countertop Voudou

Rod Davis University of North Texas Press ePub

4

COUNTERTOP VOUDOU

Lorita lived such a cash-and-carry life it was difficult for me to see how she’d managed to lease two-thirds of a brick triplex at the corner of Iberville and Dorgenois, just off Canal Street about a mile from the Quarter, as the new home for her church and the first home for her own botanica. But she’d been in business there about a year, St. Lazarus Church Supply facing one street, St. Lazarus Spiritual Church the other, her own private spiritual reading room squeezed in a narrow interior office space exactly in between.1 The surrounding neighborhood was better than the one on Metropolitan Street, but also no stranger to gunshots, sirens, and mayhem. Still, it was lively like a Covarrubias painting, and with a fish market next door, a down-home waffle shop up the block, and a Cuban clothing boutique across the intersection, Lorita’s alternative to the high-priced F&F Botanica that had weaned her seemed for all the world like a corner grocery store.

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5: Preacher to Priestess

Rod Davis University of North Texas Press ePub

5

PREACHER TO PRIESTESS

Consistently, effortlessly, she strode the line between voudou and Christianity—a path so strange and precipitous I could only watch in amazement. In the end, I could barely distinguish the two modes of Lorita’s spirituality, for they were as close to each other as the two sides of a zipper.

From childhood, she studied the Bible every Sunday, modeling herself on neighborhood preachers like the late Mother Fannie Bee Jorden (JUR-den) who ran the Holy Family Spiritual Church out of her own home, and took Lorita under wing, maybe saving her life. Even now Lorita refers to her own home back in the Ninth Ward as “Amityville”: a stepfather who beat her, a mother who called her crazy. Brothers killed. A nephew murdered. One of her sisters killed her man for beating her and cheating on her with her own daughter.

The church gave Lorita the family she needed. Before the santeria, before the palo, before all the movement into that strange terrain that would mark her as an avatar of that which had been lost from Africa—before all that came the Spiritual Church.

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21: Orisha Anew

Rod Davis University of North Texas Press ePub

21

ORISHA ANEW

For months I had followed the spirit, drifting with it from Texas into New Orleans, tracking its peaks and depths across the South like lines on a Richter scale chart. I had jumped up into Brooklyn and back down to Miami. And now I would jump again.

A call had gone out across the voudou network: history was going to be made in Atlanta. For the first time ever, American blacks would conduct, in the symbolic capital of both the Old and the New South, a full orisha voudou initiation in the traditional manner. Not santeria, not hoodoo, not some ersatz mix.

Initiations were not uncommon in the U. S., but mostly they were taking place in the urban ports—New York and Miami—or at Oyotunji. To conduct one in Atlanta was evidence the renaissance had moved openly into the heartland. But there was something even more special about the event: the initiate was from New Orleans. With one stroke, the two most important cities of the old slave belt were united in what was once unthinkable—perpetuating the vo-du in America. And it was almost too perfect that the woman chosen to forge the link was the dancer Ava Kay Jones, and that the site of her initiation—to the goddess Oya—was the home of Baba Kunle and Baba Tunde, the two priests who had given me my first taste of sacrificial blood.

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Appendix II: The Revolution Denied

Rod Davis University of North Texas Press PDF

APPENDIX II

THE REVOLUTION DENIED

FROM ALMOST THE inception of the slave trade, kings, constitutions and legislatures codified the incubating negative ideologies about Africans into edicts and ordinances, creating a legal and rationalist framework. As early as 1493, only a year after Columbus made landfall in the West Indies, Pope Alexander

II ordered Spanish explorers to convert pagans (Indians and, later, slaves) in the New World territories. In 1685, as the French moved into the Caribbean plunder zone, Louis XVI issued the infamous Code N oir (Black Code) requiring, among other things,

Catholic baptism for all slaves (as well as expulsion of Jews).

One of the most important applications of the Code Noir, however, was its adaptation by Louisiana's territorial governors, who implemented their own Code N oir in 1724, which yielded to the Black Code of the Louisiana Territories of 1806, sustained until the Civil War. The other Southern colonies (and then states) enacted Black Codes of their own to regulate ownership, maintenance and punishment of slaves, free blacks, creoles and mulattoes.

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