Posted on August 23, 2015
Some time ago we wrote on the dire need for reform in the African Vodun tradition. Many received it well but for some it was a deer in headlights moment. Reality is reality. In that same light of reform, we wish to reveal to you some truths to bring this subject truly full circle. Every noted culture of the world has had its high and low points. Some have recovered (like Chinese, Indian, and Japanese traditions) and continued to thrive in a new way while still retaining its ancient integrity. Some went out of existence altogether like the ways of Rome and Greece. Yet, others have fallen only to become shadows of what they once were. In this case, the latter applies to our very own beloved African Vodun traditions. These words do not come from some anthropologist, archaeologist, detached historian or ethnographer. These truths come from one who lives Vodun as a complete way of life.
What you see now as “the face” of African Vodun is only a fragmented shell of itself; broken remnants of what this tradition truly is. Go to YouTube and other social media outlets and what do you see? Postings of thousands of animal sacrificial ceremonies, dilapidated and unkempt shrines and shrine buildings, worn down domiciles and even unkempt “palaces”. You see things like the craze of the Mami Wata mis-phenomenon happening which is but a foreign import not only bringing non-African imagery and practices but alao certain degenerate attitudes and behavior. This is not African Vodun. You see noted “chiefs” and “priests” worshipping Hindu gods and having images of them in their shrine houses all the while falsely calling these gods Vodun gods. This is not Vodun. You see hundreds of videos and pictures of people in Togo, Benin and Ghana doing parlor tricks (walking on coals, swallowing fire, “disappearing”, kwk) as if this is the meat of African Vodun. This is not Vodun. Honestly, what do you learn about true African Vodun cosmology from these spectacles? What do you learn about the Vodun concept of the soul? Reincarnation? Karma (are you even presented with the ancient Vodún word for ” karma”) and how it affects us? The Vodún worldview of spiritual realms and worlds and their applicability to life’s journey? What do these rituals teach you about being a better loving human being or how to develop your family? Are these rituals for the purpose of the removal an oppressor’s yolk?
What dominates and remains in the minds of people are possessions, sacrifices, parlor tricks (Why is Zangbeto paraded in the daytime as part of these parlor trick celebrations when his name and function reference him to nighttime activity?) and unexplained rituals. This is being presented as the face and even the core of African Vodun whether on purpose or by happenstance by many Afrikans. This is quite sad and definitely not a good look because real Vodun is is a beautiful system replete with many profound spiritual and moral teachings.
The Catalyst for Concealment
Why do these teachings have to be revived and re-revealed from the first place? Why were they seemingly lost? The fact is that these teachings were not altogether lost. Sometimes they were purposely kept in secret confidence by various lineages because of certain dangers that abounded. Many of the adepts saw what was coming. Many were experienciReng oppression within their own communities backed by the larger monarchies. So they saw it fit to withhold many of the high teachings with hopes that one day they would be revealed to posterity and at the right time.
What was the nature of the suppression? The primary answer to this lies in the fact of the enslavement of our ancestors. The “slave trade” impacted Máwùyi (Afrika) in ways that many of her own descendants still have not fathomed. The fact of the matter is that Africans sold other Africans. There is also a little known fact that the chief African participants in this tragedy knew this: it was taboo to sell your war captives or any other type of captives to someone, especially wholesale! This is one reason this type of behavior was not recorded before the coming of the Arabs. It was taboo and outside of an Afrikan protocol. They knew what they were doing was wrong. Why do you think that on many slaving ports, especially Xwéda (Wydah, Benin), that they did ceremonies designed to make the enslaved forget what had happened to them before shipping them off? Why do you think they did ceremonies to try to keep the souls of these people from coming back to haunt them? They well knew what they were doing.
That being said, we now know that many of the higher moral, elevating and spiritual teachings of African Vodun had to be suppressed and even attacked. Many of those who wished to still teach these traditions were imprisoned and most often sold into enslavement along with those suspected to be a threat along those lines. And this fact vanquishes the common myth that people of the same ethnic group never sold one another. This did happen quite often, especially in Danxome (Dahomey). To put it plainly, the kings, queens, chiefs, priests, kwk who were involved in the selling of other Máwùyimele (Afrikans) knew that their actions and the African Vodun teachings were in stark contrast to one another. They either had to stop enslaving people and live real Vodun or suppress the teachings. And this is exactly what they did.
This suppression took full force from the early 1700s onward. Many teachings were flipped around to replace the ancient solid teachings of love and prosperity. The teachings of xwé doté (a type of Feng Shui science which is indigenous to the African Vodun tradition) were suppressed. Xwe doté had to be suppressed because the allowance of it would bring attention to other higher teachings that produced it; teachings that have to come up when speaking about xwe doté. Indigenous meditative practices were suppressed and thrown out. One of the most profound teachings the world could have ever seen, the great Hwlɛngãn, was almost erased from history. Teachings about sàláwá (indigenous concept of karma) were definitely muffled and scratched when possible. The latter (suppression of sàláwá) truly set the solid tone that ushered in a perpetual era of negative juju work whereas the power-medicine of African Vodun would only be used in personal vendetta wars against each other that ended up almost destroying whole clans and sent many into enslavement to their true enemies – the enemies they were blind to.
Thus, we had the teachings being hidden for protection by certain wise ones due to the suppression and oppression, and the outright attempt to destroy the teachings from the memory of the populace.
Resurrection, Restoration and Reform
However, there are blessings. Some of our wise ones knew that one day posterity would receive these teachings when the conditions were right. We were personally blessed through the various African Vodun lineages we studied from that several of them had traditions of keeping the suppressed great teachings of African Vodun. Some even relayed oracular prophecies (as was done from Xevie) that told them it was now time to teach and share certain information before it was too late. Thus we became one of the blessed vehicles to return our true teachings to our true people.
Unfortunately, many African Vodun practitioners (in Africa) are still cut off from these teachings as is evidenced in what the current “face” of African Vodun has become. This unfortunate quagmire has spread to wherever Vodun is practiced. The pure fact is that even when the truer pre-nawonkuvo (pre-enlavement era) teachings are presented and evident to many, these truths will simply go over their heads or be rejected altogether. That is fine because the spirits are only concerned with those who wish to live and love nùgbó – truth.
The revelation of the Hwlɛngãn and its powerful teachings are now back and contained within an obtainable volume. As a sacred text, it holds the same high holy position for us as the Guru Granth Sahib does for Sikh practitioners. Its accompanying Gànhúmehàn, a smaller but powerful text-teaching within it, is yet another expression of the unveiling of the suppression. The revelation and the adjustment of the Vodún “zodiac” (Togodò Vodún) and an actual Vodun calendar (Azanlilen Vodun) is another. The higher teachings that we teach in the African Vodun video course is yet another. All of these restorative instructions presented by us are vital to the reformation of Vodun. We cannot afford anything less.