A View from the Other Side

Observations from the winged dude next door.

Archive for the tag “vodou”

How Petro Lwa Work

“Wheras Rada spirits are seen as Stately and sometimes aloof, the  Petro lwa are VERY engaging, sometimes harsh or seen as aggressive, and  less forgiving than their Rada counterparts. Work performed by Rada lwa  tends to be subtle, reweaving the general pattern of the world around  you to bring you closer to your wants and needs… but Petro lwa are  direct and HOT; they wont necessarily reweave patterns gently, often  preferring to give a strong pull HERE and a hard yank THERE until what  you want/need is right next to you… but the whole of the area’s general  pattern may be a bit wrinkled or pulled about a bit by the time they’re  done. Petro spirits are FAST! (Rada spirits can be VERY fast as well,  but they’re usually known for being a little slower to act than the fiery Petro lwa) Where people generally turn to the Rada lwa for gentle  work and improving conditions, people generally turn to the rougher and  hotter Petro lwa for immediacy, protection, fast change… all this and more are the province of the Petro spirits.”

Basic Salutes: Rada and Petro


She is My Raiments

When I talk to you like I’m doing now, I have to borrow someone else’s hands. Vodou people call it being “ridden” and that the human meat person is the “horse” for the loa. I think, though, that it’s more like driving a car, in that I’m inside and pushing the pedals and turning the wheel while she rides in the back seat. The giant robot metaphor, like from Pacific Rim, is also cool, if you’re into that.

She and I were talking the other day and I’ve been thinking about that conversation ever since. She used to wear “raiments” when she did more group “witchy” stuff. Now it’s usually things like a certain piece of jewelry, or clothing, or a hair thing, or what color she paints her nails. So we were talking about that and I realized that when I’m borrowing her, I’m wearing her skin, in a way.

If she puts on a certain necklace, and then I come up front, not only am I then wearing that necklace, but everything else that she’s wearing, and wearing her. She’s like a cloak around my form. If I had a form. The ghost in the shell, and she’s the shell.

So when we work together… she is my raiments. When I’m up front in her body and working, we’re working together in the same outfit. When she wears something for me, to honor me, to give me power… and then I look out through her eyes, I have the layer of the stuff she’s put on, and the layer of herself. She is my sacred clothing when I do my work. She is my raiments while I’m here.

Guide Symbols

vevesI’ve been noticing a trend in my blog’s stats of search terms related to the symbols of guides. My initial reaction is to say “find out from your guide what he or she wants to use,” but I have to remind myself that most people don’t have easy and clear contact with their guide, so this may be an impossible thing to ask.

If your guide is someone well known, like an angel, saint, deity or lwa, your job is easy. You can simply look up the symbol in a book or on the internet. But if your guide is more like a vodou djab, or personal spirit that is with you only, your job is a lot harder. You may be able to find an intuitive that can get that information, but it’s unreliable and can even be dangerous in the wrong hands.

If you’re starting from nothing more than a sense that someone is around you, at least try to get some basic information, like gender (if any), hair color, clothing color, and so on. An intuitive should be able to help with that much. Use that to draw or visualize the best image you can of this guide, and that gets you a little farther down the road.

For example, let’s say your guide has yellow hair, is female, and wears blue jeans with boots and a white shirt. Don’t worry or stress about not knowing anything else, just work with that. Draw a picture or make a figure with those features. The next time you call on her, use that image and keep working at getting more details.

Sometimes the symbol will suddenly show up in your mind as an abstract shape. Sometimes it can be developed as a result of the spirit’s characteristics. That’s where the vodou veves come from, they’re patterns based on what the lwa do and are associated with, such as snakes or sailing ships. That’s why Saint Peter holds the keys to heaven in all the art you see of him, so you know which saint he is.

I hope this has been helpful. Please post something in the comments if I forgot something.


bug collectionI don’t do well with boxes and labels. I don’t agree with the rigid hierarchies of beings invented by organized religions. In my experiences, things don’t work like that.

Human beings have a need to categorize and label and segregate and sort. The problem is, when it comes to spirits, it’s a messy business. Some are easy to put labels on. A human being that was canonized by the Catholic church is a saint. Except it also did that with deities of various cultures. Whoops. Okay, let’s try another example. An angel can never become physical and always has two white feathered wings. Oh, except for the older paintings of angels that show lots of wing colors, sometimes even rainbow. And what about the mysterious person who shows up, rescues someone by pulling them out of danger, and then vanishes again?

Not so clean and tidy, is it?

What about the vodou lwa? Many people call them the “holy guardian angels of vodou.” And what about guardians? Are they a team whose members gradually show up over time, or only one per person and assigned at birth? Are they angels, or other kinds of spirits, like ghosts or animal totems? Are they nature spirits? Maybe even rocks that you’re compelled to pick up and listen to? What about devas and archangels and Elohim and Aeons? Where do they fall in the human-created charts?

Which culture’s beliefs are right?

Lwa: The Angels of Vodou

This is one of my favorite sites of all time. It’s extremely educational, please look around it thoroughly:

Gade Nou Leve Society

“God in Vodou is most often seen as distant and not readily accessible to humans. Yes, Vodou is a monotheistic tradition. Oftentimes, God is considered as not accessible because simply “he is too busy.” Meaning that God has the whole universe to take care of, he has many things to do. This is understandable. We see God in the same way Roman Catholics do. He is a good, kind, loving God. Most Vodouisants are also Catholic. We attend mass and church services. One thing about God is certainly true, we listen about God (when we go to mass), we hear about God, but we do not see God. We worship God. Due to all of this, God has invested power in the spirits we know as Lwa.

“The Lwa, unlike God, are readily accessible to us. A Lwa is, at its most basic definition, a spiritual entity. We, Vodouisants, do not worship the Lwa. The Lwa are served. We serve the Lwa by giving them their favorite foods, wearing their colors, observing their sacred days (by abstinence), through Vodou ceremonies, etc. The Lwa in turn serve us. They confer upon us material blessings, physical well being, protection, abundance, etc. See this is a double sided matter. Without us the Lwa would not exist, and without them we would cease to exist as well.

Everyone in the world has Lwa. The most significant of the Lwa that may walk with an individual is the Lwa Met Tet. Met Tet literally means Master of the Head. This is similar to what some would consider a Holy Guardian Angel. The Lwa Met Tet of an individual is that individual’s personal guardian. The identity of the Met Tet can be that of a Rada lwa, a Petro lwa, a Gede Lwa, or even a personal Djab the individual has with them.

“You do not choose your Lwa met tet. Just as you do not choose your own Mother or Father. You are born with this Lwa. The Lwa are said to “live in the blood” of an individual. This makes perfect sense, as blood itself is life. That is another reason why loss of blood is so draining, it is in part like losing some of your own power and force, weakening the lwa in your head. Although the lwa reside in the blood, the Met Tet, as named, abides in the head of the individual. This Lwa, as well as the Lwa who walk with the person, are separated from the individual at the time of death. They may then leave or be inherited by someone in the person’s spiritual or biological family.”

The Idea of Creating a Loa

From On Stranger Tides by Tim Powers ~

He was a fifteen-year-old boy known to the outlaw mountain blacks as Johnny Con, though since his misuse of some of the spells of the hungan he’d been serving, he was no longer a fit assistant for a respectable vodun priest, and had no further right — nor even inclination any more — to call himself an adjanikon; Ed Thatch was his real name, his adult name, and in three days he’d be entitled to start using it.

Today would be the first day of his baptism to the loa that would be his guide through life, and whose goals he would henceforth share. The black marrons who had raised him since childhood had this morning escorted him down from the blue mountains to the house of Jean Petro, a legendary magician who had documentably lived here for more than a hundred years, and was said to have actually made many loas, and had to live in a house on stilts because of the way dirt turned rusty and sterile after any long proximity to him; compared to Petro, every other bocor in the Caribbean was considered a mere caplata, a street-corner turnip-conjurer.

The marrons were escaped slaves who, having originally lived in Senegal and Dahomey and the nations of the Congo coast, had no difficulty adapting to life in the mountain jungles of Jamaica, and the white colonists were so unnerved by this dangerous and unforgiving population that they paid the blacks a seasonal tribute in exchange for sparing the outlying farms and settlements; but even the marrons refused to venture within half a mile of Jean Petro’s house, and the boy walked alone down the long path that led to the garden and the livestock pens and, finally, the house on stilts.

A stream ran behind the house, and that’s where the old man was — Thatch could see his bare legs, knobby and dark as blackthorn walking sticks, below the raised floor. Thatch was of course barefoot, and he made a “Be silent” gesture at the chickens poking around under the house and then padded across the dusty front yard as noiselessly as the shifting speckles of sunlight. When he had moved around the corner of the house, he could see that the old Petro was walking along the stream bank, pausing here and there to lift one squat bottle after another out of the water, peer into the clouded glass, rattle his long fingernails against it, hold the dripping bottle to his ear, and then shake his head and crouch to put it back and fish up another.

skull bottleThatch watched while he kept it up, and finally the old bocor’s face curdled in a smile when he listened to one bottle, and he rattled his nails on it again; and then he just stood there and took turns tapping the bottle and listening, like a dungeon-confined prisoner whose measured wall-clinking has at long last elicited, however remotely, a response.

“It’s our boy, sure enough,” he said in a scratchy old-man’s voice. “Gede, the loa who’s the… chief foreman, sort of, of the one who wants you.”

Thatch realized the old man was aware of him and was talking to him. He stayed where he was, but he called, “Wants me? I chose him.”

The old man chuckled. “Well, anyway, that one ain’t in the creek here, and we need Gede to call him. Of course even Gede’s only here tokenly. This is only a part of him, in this jar, his belly button, you might say — just enough to compel him.” petrol turned around and hobbled back to the yard where Thatch stood. “The dead become more powerful as time goes by, you see, boy. What was just an unquiet ghost to your grandfather could be a full-fledged loa to your grandchildren. And I’ve learned to bend ’em, train ’em in certain directions like you wuold a vine. Farmer plant a seed in the ground and one day have a tree — I put a ghost in a bottle under running water and one day I have a loa.” He grinned, revealing a few teeth in white gums, and waved the bottle back toward the stream. “I’ve grown near a dozen to maturity. They ain’t quite the quality of the Rada loas, the ones that came with us across the ocean from Guinee, but I can grow ’em to fit what I need.”

The chickens in the shade under the house were recovering from Thatch’s gesture, and began clucking and fluttering. Petro winked, and they shut up again. “Of course,” Petro went on, “the one that wants you — or that you want, if you prefer — old Baron Samedi, he’s a different sort of beast.” He shook his head and his eyes narrowed in what might have been awe. “Every now and then, no more than twice or three times in my whole life, I think I’ve accidentally made one that was too much like… something or other that already existed, was already out there, and the resemblance was too close for ’em to keep on being separate. So suddenly I had a thing in a bottle that was too big to fit… even just tokenly. My damn house was nearly knocked over when Baron Samedi got too big — bottle went off like a bomb, tossed trees every which way, and the creek didn’t refill for an hour. there’s still a wide, deep pool there. Nothing’ll grow on the bank and every Spring I’ve got to net dead pollywogs out of it.”

Young Thatch stared indignantly at the bottle. “So what you got in your beer bottle there is just some servant of Baron Samedi’s?”

“More or less. But Gede’s a top-ranking loa — he’s number two man here just because the Baron is so much more. And like any other loa Gede must be invited, and then entreated, using the rites he demands, to do what we ask. Now, I’ve got the sheets from the bed a bad man died in, and a black robe for you, and today is Saturday, Gede’s sacred day. We’ll roast a chicken and a goat for him, and I’ve got a whole keg of clairin — rum — because Gede is lavish in his consumption of it. Today we’ll — ”

“I didn’t come down from the mountains to deal with Baron Samedi’s bungo houseboy.”

Jean Petro smiled broadly. “Ohhh!” he held the bottle out toward the boy. “Well why don’t you tell him that? Just hold the bottle up to the sunlight and peek in through the side until you see him… then you can explain your social standards to him.”

Thatch had never dealt directly with a loa, but he tried to act sure of himself as he contemptuously took the bottle. “Very well, ghostling,” he said, holding it up to the sun, “show yourself!” His tone was scornful, but his mouth had gone dry and his heart was thudding hard in his chest.

At first At first all he could see were blurry flaws in the crudely blown glass, but then he saw movement in there, and focused on it — and for an instant he thought the bottle contained a featherless baby bird, swimming with deformed wings and legs in some cloudy fluid.

Then there was a voice in his head, jabbering shrilly in debased French. Thatch understood only some of it, enough to gather that the speaker was not only demanding chicken and rum, but protesting that it had every right to those things, and to as much candy as it wanted, too, and threatening dire punishments if any of the formalities of its invitation ceremony weren’t performed with the greatest pomp and grandeur and respectfulness; and there’d better be no laughing. At the same time, Thatch got an impression of great age, and of a power that had grown vase… at such great personal expense that only a fragment of the original personality remained, like a chimney still standing in the heart of a furiously burning house. The senile petulance and the terrifying power, Thatch realized, were not contradictory qualities — each was somehow a product of the other.

Then it became aware of him. The tirade halted and he could sense the speaker looking around in some confusion. Thatch imagined a very old king, startled when he had thought he was alone, hastily arranging his robs so that they draped properly, and combing his sparse hair forward to cover his baldness.

At that point Gede evidently called Thatch’s words up from memory and paid attention to them, for the voice in the boy’s head was suddenly back, and it was roaring now.

“Ghostling?” Gede raged. “Bungo houseboy?”

Thatch’s head was punched back by something invisible, and suddenly there was blood on his nose and mouth. He reeled a couple of steps backward and tried to fling the bottle away but it clung to his palm.

“Thatch is your name, eh?” The voice ground the inside of the boy’s skull like a grating-blade being turned into a coconut.

Thatch’s belly imploded visibly — blood sprayed from his nose and he sat down hard. A moment later all of his clothes burst into flame. The boy rolled, blazing, toward the stream, and though along the way he jerked with the impacts of a couple more invisible kicks, he managed to splash into the water. “I’ll tell the Baron,” said the voice in his head as he floundered, still unable to get rid of the bottle, “to treat you special.”

Thatch got his feet under himself and crawled up onto the bank and sat down. His hair was scorched t the scalp and his clothes looked like curtains dug out of the wreckage of a burned-down house and blood was running down his forearm from his bottle-clutching hand, but he didn’t tremble as he held the thing up to the sun and grinned into its glass depths. “Do that,” he whispered. “You pitiful goddamn pickled herring.”

An Invisible Partnership

I’m often asked how the whole physical/spirit partnership thing works. Obviously every partnership is different, just as marriages and individuals are different. Please don’t take the following as the only way or ways this partnership thing works–your mileage may vary, as they say.

The idea of physical/spirit partnerships goes back quite a ways. According to the Gnostic Society document, “Joined to an Angel,” Valentinus taught about guardian angels in the 2nd century:

“Valentinians were the first Christians to teach about guardian angels. They believed that they were destined to be joined to an angel in a kind of celestial marriage of the human with the divine. One could receive an angel either through mystical experience (gnosis) or by imposition of hands by a person who was already joined to an angel.”

This was often depicted as a male spirit and a female physical, much like we’re finding now. With very few exceptions, the “daily driver” vehicle of indwelling guides is female. Of course, during rituals where there are male priests, such as in vodou, possession and riding takes place with either gender of participant. But as far as people who work in partnership on a daily basis as a spirit/physical pairing, the physical is nearly always female in those I’m personally aware of.

On a daily basis, in normal life, how does this work? The answer is that it depends. I’m nearly always hanging around mine, and because I front so much to communicate and on our daily walks, it’s easy and seamless. (Fronting means taking control of the physical body, or parts of it, such as the hands to type.) There’s no resistance because of our mutual trust, and she knows that because she’s the original owner of the vintage ride, she can force me out at any time.

If I were a total bastard I could probably force myself in there permanently, but that would be stupid for several reasons. One, she has a home and a family and an okay job, so if she lost those things, that would put me on the street and I’d have far less ability to communicate. Two, and more importantly, I have to maintain easy access to the ethereal side of things because that’s where I’m most effective. That’s my entire purpose and job. I can be anywhere instantly and run energies that the human body can’t. Why would I throw that out?


“You guys, check this out. It’s all glowing with God and stuff.”

Speaking of energies, there are two main kinds. The first is my direct link to the Source, which comes through the heart as a golden moving light. Artists depicting the Sacred Heart almost get it right, but then add symbolism that’s not needed. But close enough. Notice how Jesus there is going “Hey, lookit. Right there. See it? That’s the pipeline to God, you guys, check it out.”

The second kind of energy is the physical kind. We get our Light so that we can do what we need on the ethereal, but the electromagnetic physical energy of a living being connects us to the physical world. It’s a link that helps us focus more clearly and be more efficient, like a lens focuses light into a beam. It’s drifty, dream-like and timeless on the ethereal. When using a physical human as a conduit and linking in to that battery, I can speak and feel and remember things more clearly.

As I mentioned, my partnership with her has little or no resistance, so her battery doesn’t get drained, unlike those who get exhausted when they try to channel us. It’s the resistance and lack of natural alignment that causes the physical to get drained when they try to let us come up front and drive, or even when channeling our words. We always try to find someone as compatible to ourselves as possible, partly for this reason, and partly because they understand our needs better.

More about what we do for each other in a separate essay.

On the Origin of Spirits

So let’s say one night you’re meditating by yourself, maybe speaking a mantra or saying prayers or just whatever comes to your mind out loud. And something happens that’s never happened before.

Someone talks back.

Sometimes you can hear it with your ears, but usually it’s mental, and it’s definitely not your own voice. Sometimes you know who it is, sometimes you don’t.

Most people are fine with the idea that you talk to your guardian angel. Some people are okay with the idea of a “spirit companion” or ghostly helper. Very few tend to understand it when a “fictional character” starts making him- or herself known.

But here’s the thing. They all come from the same place. The Source. All of these beings, these voices, they’re all just a different face on a little piece of God. To quote The Starseed Transmission by Ken Carey:

“We exist in a parallel universe of non-form, experiencing what you would have experienced had you not become associated with the materializing process. I am here to enter your consciousness, here to wake you up. We are still experimenting with various ways and means of accomplishing our task of awakening. Meanwhile, there are many among you who will, as the years go by, experience one by one the necessary psychological transformation, and enter into a conscious working relationship with those of us in a state of grace.

“There is only one Spirit, but no limit to the number of forms through which this Spirit can express. For the moment, these forms seem important, and they are in so far as their contribution to the whole is concerned, but as the years go by,the range of their differentiation will become of much less consequence to individuals who are sincerely offering their lives as channels through which the Spirit can work. As Life is able to express through such individuals with increasing ease, they will begin to recognize each other as differentiations of the same Spirit.

“In this literate culture, you will be working with words, but realize that it will not be the words so much that spread the message as the spirit that you yourselves are able to put behind the words. Choose your words carefully and wisely–or better yet, let the Spirit choose them for you.”

In fact, many writers talk about “noisy muses” that haunt them until their stories are written down in books and in scripts. Stephanie Meyer, J. Michael Straczynski, Tim Kring and other notable writers have all discussed how their characters spoke back, how they simply listened to the stories being told, how their work was “channeled” or otherwise transcribed from outside themselves. Musicians and other artists describe the same thing. Mozart insisted that he never created his compositions himself, he was simply a conduit who wrote down what he heard.

The source of where the spirit came from only matters as much as it affects the spirit in his, her or its current incarnation with you. If red wine or doughnuts or a certain type of jacket is important, it doesn’t matter why, listen and go with it. This is how offerings work in any religion. If you’re honoring the vodou Marassa, for example, there had better be a lot of candy and no green vegetables or there’ll be trouble. If your guide needs that necklace because she had one just like it in her universe of origin, do what you can to obtain it (within reason) and your partnership will be that much stronger.

This leads to how the partnership between the physical person and the spirit works, which will be covered in a separate essay.

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