Nan Ginen, nan Ginen o, nan Ginen!
Si w pa rele Ginen, solèy a pa leve. . .
(In Ginen, in Ginen o, in Ginen!
If you don’t call Ginen, the sun won’t rise. . .)
In Vodou, all things begin and end with song, so it seems fitting to start like this. These lines are from a song that speaks of Ginen, the home of the lwa, the holy spirits of Vodou. Here, the singer announces that the ancestral and divine power of Ginen is so necessary for life that, without it, nature will abandon its course and the sun will fail to rise.
I felt urged to start this blog because, while my job is to produce information about Haitian Vodou, the requirements of the Academy–ranging from the kind of language one uses, to the places one publishes–make that work nearly inaccessible to Vodouisants themselves. This blog is an attempt to make my work broadly available both to Vodouisants and to well-meaning others who may wish to know more about this faith tradition. In the process, I hope that it will inspire robust conversations among Vodouisants about the issues I am raising. At the same time, this blog is an attempt to be accountable to Vodouisants for representing their religious lives in a way that is honest, recognizable, and sensitive to anxieties that have arisen from a long history of being misrepresented.
As a scholar, I write about a wide range of topics relating to Haitian Vodou. My work especially focuses on the way that Ginen–a mystical place with deep ties to ancestral Africa–figures centrally in the lives of Vodou practitioners. I also write about the importance of dreams in Vodou, and the damaging effects of pop culture images of “voodoo.”
In addition to being a scholar of Vodou, I am also an initiated priest. In 2007, I was made oungan asogwe by Manbo Marie Maude Charles Evans, lineage head of Sosyete Nago. When this happened, I became the adopted bearer of a remarkable and long tradition of Vodou that Manbo Maude received from both her mother and father–as well as from her initiatory mother, the celebrated diviner Selide Bo Manbo (Mme. Maurice Sixto, Miracea Zephyr).
Some of the first entries in this blog will explore what it means to be both a scholar and a practitioner of Haitian Vodou, as well as a convert to the tradition. I hope that, through comments and emails, this will turn into a conversation about what is gained by not taking such identities for granted–including what it even means to call the religion “Haitian Vodou.”
Thank you for sharing your time with me, and I hope that you will continue to read and comment on this blog.