Haiti, Land Of Voodoo

 

In the ’70s, I had the privilege of having a prowl in Haiti — this magical country at a time when it still was. I don’t know if the sacred magic survived the murderous madness of the American elements and multinationals, in any case I have no desire to go and check. Journeys, now, I make them in astral. In memory of those years gone, I invite you in the footsteps of the young man I was.

 

An infinite sadness

In a Japanese jeep on high tracks, we visit the island and its traps. A young boy tanned us to serve us as a guide. His incessant verbiage does not prevent him from smiling. The clever little brother is not afraid of any mortal danger: neither snakes, nor mygales, nor tontons-macoutes, the worst of the three. He fears only one wound, as we shall see.

An Uncle Macoute is a member of the Volunteers de la Sécurité Nationale (VSN), a paramilitary militia created following an attack on President François Duvalier on July 29, 1958, and inspired by the fascist militia. It was then employed by his son and successor Jean-Claude Duvalier until the fall of the regime in 1986. Still very active in the 70s, the Macoutes were bandits without faith or law. To avoid!

Already far from Port-au-Prince, swinging south of the island away from tourists, the jeep runs along a field where harvesters work hard, when our intrepid young guide dives into the bottom of the jeep. He trembles with all his limbs. I lean towards him. His face has become grey. His features are distorted by terror. “Werewolf!” He blows me out reaching for the field with a trembling hand. All I see are harvesters with mechanical gestures, but nothing more terrifying. There, one of the harvesters turns to us. In his eyes, nothing but a grey puddle. The absence of eyes triggers the horror of an infinite sadness.

 

Werewolf

The jeep made a leap forward to the assault of the mountain. That day remained the day of the Werewolf, the black sorcerer, the devil made man. The four of us understood that around here, we don’t joke with the Werewolves. In voodoo land, we believe hard as iron to those evil sorcerers who surround themselves with undead rather gross. It’s black witchcraft, the worst kind. The voodoo sorcerer grabs a corpse shortly after death. Through secret rituals, it revives the body. Only the body, because the soul has followed its post-mortem path. Without consciousness, without will of his own accord, the zombie thus created becomes the sorcerer’s slave. The Werewolf exploits his zombies without respite or rest — the dead don’t need it.

This episode has completely changed our way of looking at the young guide. Another day, in Port au Prince, when I was drawing money with my credit card, he looks at me with envy. You white people are lucky, my dear. I too would like this piece of plastic that is worth more than gold. You have all the money without working.” I tried to explain to him how a credit card works. He will remain faithful to his ideas. Country out of time, Haiti actually maintains magical thinking among simple people.

Sometimes Haitians are mourned by an earthquake. They who have nothing, the fury of the elements reduces this nothing to a river of mud, blood and tears. Then comes the time to clean, to rebuild. And the smile returns with the work in common. And the songs too, which punctuate the hard work.

I keep this people in my heart forever, so many unforgettable memories. Of course, it was half a century ago. My Haitian readers forgive me if I make their island a dated description: I remember. Forgive me for being old.

 

 

Quatre Zoreilles at Saut-d’EauFour Ears at Water-Jump

We drive in the valiant jeep towards Saut-d’eau, famous Christian-voodoo pilgrimage. Saut-d’Eau (Sodo in Haitian Creole) is a commune of Haiti located in the department of Centre, district of Mirebalais. It seemed strange to me to find here this toponym which draws its source in everything else: it was the name given, in orgies, to the valet whose role was to “finish” these ladies.  It’s in Let the Party Begin! by Bertrand Tavernier — a must-see film that brings together for the first time three old friends from the conservatory, Jean-Pierre Marielle, Jean Rochefort and Philippe Noiret.

Too urban to appreciate mystical voodoo, our valiant guide did not come. Four zoreilles immersed in magic. Here whites are called so because of the large size of their ears. At the edge of the precipice, the jeep doubles the painted, noisy trucks, sending back and forth their human cargo into the yaws. Crammed into the dumpster like bags of cement, the cargo screams hymns to deceive fear: “Jesus takes the wheel”!

Finally, here is Saut-d’eau: rows of boxes along a path where the dirt is so soft that we took off our sandals to walk barefoot. The alleys climb up a hill teeming with ecstatic faithful, children and women.

 

Waterfall on My Head

Cock fights in colorful courtyards. Drunken sorcerers who spray rum on passers-by. Here one cuts a goat, there naked girls walk on a bed of embers, or else roll on glass shards and rise without a scratch, everywhere smells wild and screaming like colors like music; and at the end, a human anthill under the waterfall, the one that gave its name to this village, Saut-d’Eau-Ville-Bonheur. Wild and splendid, the distant echo of our forgotten divinity.

Receiving a twenty-meter waterfall right on the fontanel always makes the greatest effect. If it is sacred water, the effect, no doubt, is tenfold. We took off our clothes, we went under the harsh shower of voodoo baptism. A baptism that every good believer must take every year. And for me, a famous slap that turned me into a lunar Pierrot all afternoon. I see myself wandering through the dirt alleys amidst drums and laughter. It was as if I had never lived elsewhere, as I felt at home…

Four Zoreilles lost in the midst of 10,000 people — and not a single tourist. White, we were. But tourists? No way! We never considered ourselves as such. Nor did the pilgrims. What a warm welcome, what a pleasure even to see Zoreilles sharing their simple faith, their poignant convictions. With Micha, the mother of my children, we ran the world for ten years and more. Whenever we could, we joined the faithful in the great pilgrimages. No matter the religion, the language, the color of skin! Everything that vibrates makes me vibrate.

In Haiti, the Saut d’eau does not care about the colour of the skin. Here, there is something for everyone. At night, we slept in a filthy pig that the owner rented us ten dollars. An exorbitant sum for the clay from which he chased the tarantulas with a broom of leaves. When he paid, he refused our ten-dollar bill. He wanted ten green banknotes, not one! He had never seen notes other than those of one dollar … It was necessary to find a more civilized Haitian to make him understand his mistake. 

 

 

Undead

To those who have nothing, they take even the little they have. Now, what is a zombie? Neither a vampire that feeds on blood, nor an undead coming out of a grave to eat people. Please leave this crap to Hollywood. Zombie is a dead man or dead woman being harnessed by a sorcerer. And it is no kidding. By the use of magic, a real person, after death, becomes a kind of robot, driven by an appearance of life, able of physical acts, use tools, walk, but unable to run or talk. Haitians do have tricks to recognize zombies.

It’s useless anyway. Once you have seen one, you recognize all. The zombie has jerky movements, mechanical. And those eyes! A dull look, opaque and devoid of expression. Thus when we saw one, you never forget, even if you live 130 years. 

Some authors claim that these beings are simply poor drug addicts, being body and soul subjected to the wizard who keep them hard-working without respite or mercy. It is quite possible, the opportunity to make the dead work does not seem so extraordinary in the context of the bewildering oldest black republic in the world. Well, I mean the oldest if we consider modern times only, of course.

In distant antiquity, African blacks have developed a thriving civilization that have known the republic …. although since then, black people wisely chose the way of nature. What the whites have loosely opportunity to enslave them …. and they still abuse shamelessly plundering the mineral resources of the African continent.

 

Loa

If the zombies arouse the terror of Haitians, the Werewolves Garous, witches or sorcerers who enslaved them, inspire a more horrible terror. “It will always be a preferably old woman called a sizet (sucker) and never a man. The woman in question is bewitched either by voodoo objects that belonged to these ascendants, or by an unsatisfied “loa” of the latter’s sacrifices or simply by the inheritance of a mother who was herself a werewolf. At night, after performing certain rituals, the werewolf gets rid of his skin and adorns himself with turkey wings while smoke comes out of his armpits. This is the generally accepted concept in Haiti.”

Okay. I disagree, having seen with my own eyes this zombie leader, a man obviously, who our Haitian guide named werewolf. It doesn’t matter. Let’s figure out what a loa is.

According to the voodoo cult, God the Great Master is above everything and has created the spirits, the loa, which are at the service of man. After Catholic baptism, the adept is placed under the protection of his root loa, a kind of ministering spirit of the family. Then, during an initiation, he assumes a new personality.

From then on, he must serve the master-head loa, who assumes the direction of his life. The possession by this master takes place where during a ceremony where animals, poultry most often, are immolated. The officiants are the uga, voodoo priest, or mambo for a woman; the boko is the magician who can do good or evil, and the werewolf, the sorcerer.

This is the Yoruba cult, still practised today in much of West Africa.

 

 

A Yoruba cult

No wonder, since this land of West Africa is the country of origin of voodoo, which then reached the West Indies and Brazil, imported by black slaves. To see this African cult in Haiti, one marvels at its relevance: was it not born millennia ago, close to here, on the sunken island that Plato had named Atlantis?

History is an old stutterer who plays yoyo. It’s been here, it will come back. And the voodoo cult, at least in its zombie part, has conquered the planet young.

This is deserved. Zombies are not an invention of Hollywood, but the real life of Yoruba, Brazilians, Haitians and others. With all due respect to strong minds, the world is infinitely more complex than the image we have of it. A strong mind is often a sick head. Rationalist excess has eaten away at his neurons. He thinks, so he’s not. Blessed are those who have eyes to see, ears to hear, a heart to love! How many strong minds who only have hearts for heart attacks!They haven’t know the heart opening

The Inner Dancer

It makes doctors and butchers of human meat work. Movie vampires they are. They who feed on your flesh and blood, and live better than you! They make poisons to be stuffed into the body through all the orifices, as if the healing could come from the outside. The Source that springs into each of us can heal us in a fraction of an instant.

The Amerindians call it the Great Spirit, they also say the Dancer, or the Inner Healer. The Healer is lurking in you, waiting for his hour. When you are sick, he grieves waiting for a sign from you. He would never act without order, he respects you too much, he loves you more than anything. For him, you are God. And for you, who are you? Why should we believe the nonsense of television, religion or science any longer? All these priests eat our heads. To see the Truth beautiful and naked, no one needs anyone. What can we miss when we are All?  But here, the world gives us another image of ourselves. Dull, almost transparent by betraying our secret aspirations.

Birds of Paradise to whom dwarves have cut off the wings, we wander helplessly in a golden cage that cannot overshadow our Dreams. Then we go to the cinema to see the Zombies, men who are no longer deprived of true life, deprived of all greatness, empty of hope, emptied even more by their wounds from which flows the precious vital fluid, we adore them because they resemble us, these banishes that perfectly express our inconsolable despair:

All of us have been zombieed by the dwarves army.

“Zombie fashion has taken on the young planet. Bleached faces, dressed in black, bristled with wounds, zombie like. Emulation. Keep calm and make no mistake: they are not zombies, we are.” (Lao Surlam, 1953-2023)

Humanity is mentally controlled and it is little more conscious that an average zombie. (David Icke)

 

A first version of this article was published in April 2014. The current version has been extensively revised and expanded. The illustrations are new.

Where do I come from? Where do I go? I can tell you. I come from home and I’m going back.
Pierre Dac