So last night, music was heard outside of the FEJ gates again. I asked around and was told that there was a Haitian Vodou Ceremony happening outside. There was loud music, drumming, people chanting, and an eerie deepened voice speaking when the music stopped for pauses. I was curious, but it was something that was happening in the background. Everyone continued about their evenings and I was left with my curiosity. Just before I headed to bed, I had asked the missionaries here at the orphanage and they had a very strong reaction to my questions. They told me that the Vodou people are here because they know that there are believers here on-site. They told me that the music and the chanting are evil thoughts and prayers to deter us from the righteous path in life. The missionaries said to pray to the lord and stand my ground and not to swayed toward the evil side. So those were the thoughts in my head when I headed to bed.
When I laid down to bed, the music sounded like it was just right next to my ear. It was being blasted from speakers I would imagine? I have no idea how people here could get music that loud, so it was quite hard to ignore. The music sounded like island music, but then it didn't. There were very specific drumming beats in the music and someone would always start shrilling after a mysterious voice would speak in a language that was not familiar to me, sounded more tribal than anything. Then there would be silence, and the drums would get louder and louder and more high pitched yells would continue. It went on like this until around 3am in the morning. I couldn't help but record some sections of the chants since I was not able to fall asleep from the loud noise and the very distinct smell of burning animal flesh in the mid-night air. I guess animal sacrifices are a normal part of these ceremonies, but the smell was making me sick to my stomach. The whole experience of it was just not so pleasant. The music was eerie and it just made me....uncomfortable in a way that I cannot describe. It was interesting and I wondered what they were saying throughout the night. So it was just me, the darkness, the Vodou music, and the burning smell of animal flesh last night.
So today, I was doing reports all day, but in-between breaks this was what I dug up about the religious practice on the internet (Wikipedia):
"Haitian Vodou has been practiced on the island for almost 300 years now. It is based upon a merging of the beliefs and practices of West African peoples (mainly the Fon and Ewe), with Arawakian religious beliefs, and with Roman Catholic Christianity mixed in. Vodou was created by African slaves who were brought to Haiti in the 16th century and still followed their traditional African beliefs, but were forced to convert to the religion of their slave masters."
"The main belief in Haitian Vodou is that deities called Lwa (or Loa) are subordinates to a god called Bondyè. This supreme being does not intercede in human affairs, and it is to the Lwa that Vodou worship is directed. Other characteristics of Vodou include veneration of the dead and protection against evil witchcraft."
"After a day or two of preparation setting up altars, ritually preparing and cooking fowl and other foods, a Haitian Vodou service begins with a series of prayers and songs in French, then a litany in Creole and African "langaj" that goes through all the European and African saints and lwa honored by the house, and then a series of verses for all the main spirits of the house. As the songs are sung, participants believe that spirits come to visit the ceremony, by taking possession of individuals and speaking and acting through them. When a ceremony is made, only the family of those possessed is benefited."
"The most historically important Vodou ceremony in Haitian history was the Bwa Kayiman (Bois Caiman) ceremony of August 1791 near the city of Cap Haitien that began the Haitian Revolution, led by the Vodou priest named Boukman. During this ceremony the spirit Ezili Dantor came and received a black pig as an offering, and all those present pledged themselves to the fight for freedom. This ceremony ultimately resulted in the liberation of the Haitian people from their French masters in 1804, and the establishment of the first and only black people's republic in the Western Hemisphere, the first such republic in the history of the world."
So that about sums it up in a nut-shell! What an interesting thing right? You won't be seeing me participating in an Haitian Vodou Ceremony anytime soon, but it was great getting to learn about a new practice and belief. This helped me understand a little bit more about this mysterious island of Hispaniola.
Just a little recording I did from my bed last night...