I think I safely speak for almost all Americans when I say that I'm keeping my fingers crossed not only for New Orleans but for every city and town along the US Gulf Coast as the evacuations begin and predictions of a terrible Hurricane Gustav tearing a track of fury roll in. While I don't hold to the culture and politics prevalent in the places most likely to be affected by this storm, I don't want to see people being killed or losing their homes, either.
Still, even while relatively sane people are hoping for the best and perhaps making donations to relief efforts ahead of time, we can also take good old American pride in a degree of intellectual degeneracy that also gives us a contingent of whackaloons who believe that they're doing something positive... by doing Voodoo rituals. There's just nothing like slaughtering a few chickens and splashing oils and powders about to change the path of a hurricane that binds within itself more physical energy than a few hundred nuclear weapons.
Because I threw a few barbs at Christian nitwits this morning, I thought it only fair to sharpen up the lampoon harpoon. A couple of weeks ago, rightwing Christian types were suggesting that people pray to their favorite invisible being for rain to fall during Obama's acceptance speech in Colorado. Today we get a wizard from Flushing, NY telling voodoo afficianados how to pray to his favorite invisible being for a hurricane not to hit their houses. In terms of the mentality behind these things, is there really any difference?
This is a ritual I just posted to Tristatevodou and American Voodoo Forum in response to an anonymous correspondent who was concerned about Hurricane Gustav and Hannah.One can sense that the Harry Potter wannabe almost knows that this is ineffectual, inane occult gibberish when he starts out by giving himself a ready excuse for why lighting candles and slathering oils across the floor isn't going to accomplish anything; he's absolutely right insofar as stating that hurricanes can't be controlled, least of all by religious rituals. This doesn't stop him from going on to tell readers how to be protected from a hurricane by praying and sprinkling and supplicating and generally carrying on as if anything other than preparedness and sheer chance makes the difference between who escapes unscathed and who takes it on the chin.
To calm a hurrricane is impossible: Gustav and Hannah will land where they will. Even the lwa can only work "as God wills." You can certainly pray to God, Jesus, the Saints, Angels, Mysteries and Lwa that Gustav cause as little damage as possible. But in the end storms are as inevitable as any other force of nature.
In my experience, Haitian Vodouisants generally spend little time trying to protect the world from harm and a great deal of time protecting their family and loved ones. Instead of holding a Danto ceremony to empower battered women and abused children, a Houngan or Mambo would call her to protect a battered niece or a bruised child from the daycare center. Danto (and most of the lwa) don't have a lot of time for generalities: when they interact with humans, they are eminently concerned with practical and daily affair. Abstractions don't rile them up: real people and their real sufferings are what catch their attention.
You might petition Agwe so that you and yours make it through the storm with as little damage as possible. If there are specific places you would like to see spared, or specific people/groups whom you hope make it through Gustav and Hannah relatively unscathed, you can ask Agwe to protect them. Write out their names, along with their addresses. Be as detailed as possible in your request: the clearer the better. For example:
"Save our family home, located at 123 Anytown Lane in Stormside, Mississippi. Protect our dogs Fido and Spot; look after our cat Fluffy and please make sure our basement doesn't flood again. Please also watch over the Jackson family, our cousins, who live in Beachfront, Texas and our spiritual father Houngan Claude Debussy and all the members of our house, Société la Pluie et la Vent in and around Jeremie, Haiti. Look after my aunt and uncle, Janet and Carl Palmer, who live in Floodplain, Alabama: Uncle Carl is still recovering from surgery and it will be very difficult for him to evacuate. Watch over all my friends along the coast... "There's no need to put these in any particular order or edit the list for spelling mistakes and such. Agwe understands that this is an emergency and you have to get this list together as quickly as possible. Write from your heart, and don't feel guilty because you are more concerned about your loved ones than strangers. This is a natural response: humans and spirits both play favorites. If you have any pictures or artifacts connected with these people, you can put them on a white cloth along with your other Agwe items and your list. If you don't have any Agwe items, you can draw his veve. You will also need a white or crystal bowl full of salt water to which you have added a little Lotion Pompeia or rose water.
Light a white candle (you want the highest and most peaceful face of Agwe for this) and sprinkle some Lotion Pompeia or Rose Water on the floor. Ask Legba to open the door so Agwe can come through. Now sprinkle a little more Lotion Pompeia on the floor and ask Agwe to come and visit you. Feel the *Imamou* coming as you smell the perfume; hear his horn calling above the roar of the oncoming storm. Although the waves are very high and the seas rough it keeps moving forward across the swelling waters; its sails billow but do not tear in the high winds. It is Agwe's flagship and no storm can sink it. Agwe stands on the deck, wearing a naval commander's coat. His face is impassive and his green eyes unblinking as the rain drives against him. This storm does not trouble him: he has seen many that were greater.
Petition Agwe for help. Ask that Gustav and Hannah expend their energies at sea, or make landfall in a place where they will do little damage. But if that is not possible, ask Agwe to look after those you love. Read your list to him. When you are finished spend a few minutes in reverent silence, then place the list in the bowl of salt water. In doing so you are entrusting them to Agwe's keeping. Thank him for taking his time to listen to you. Leave the candle burning as an offering to Agwe: when the storm has passed, thank him appropriately for his help...
Here's my advice, then, for those wishing to perform some sort of ritual to prevent being harmed by Gustav.
First, procure for yourself a number of sheets of plywood. Sanctify them by securely nailing them over the windows of your house. Feel free to paint colorful sigils and mystical signs upon them. Now, listen to the magical talking boxes known by those steeped in arcane wisdom as "radio" and "television." When the head shaman of your village or state tells you that it's time to climb into the mystical transport machines and head out of town, do so. If you're so inclined, you can clap your hands, sing and babble in tongues all you like. But please, keep your eyes on the road to avoid slowing down the evacuation.
Please, don't waste your time with chicken bones and crucifixes, though. If you have enough extra time to dance about and sprinkle powder around your living room, you also have enough time to go help a neighbor prepare for the storm. The latter is a much better use of that time.
Best of luck to all in getting through this storm, and here's to hoping that there will still be a New Orleans next week.