Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Community Then and Now: African Diaspora Religions and the Internet

During the course of a conversation yesterday, an Iyalocha and I got to talking about community and what it means in the African Diaspora traditions.  In the past these communities were defined by blood and geography. You served the spirits because your family and your village served the spirits.  Your participation marked you as a member of the tribe: it created a border which separated and protected you from hostile outsiders.  This aspect became particularly important during the days of the Middle Passage and slavery. 

Today entry into these religions is considerably easier.  A growing number of foreigners have become interested in Vodou, Ifa, Lukumi and other traditionally Afro-Caribbean faiths.  The Internet provides access to a number of blogs, discussion forums and mailing lists.  These online communities serve to distribute information (and no small amount of misinformation) about the traditions and cultures.  For many they serve as an entryway into offline participation: for others they remain the sole link to fellow servants of the Orisha and Lwa.

There are obviously enormous advantages to membership in an active house.  While personal devotions to the spirits are wonderful, they are no substitute for the experience of a group ritual. Honoring the lwa in your home is one thing: talking to the spirits up close and personal is something else altogether. But that's not to say that those online communities and online relationships are without value. There are many sincere practitioners who are not part of a meatspace community thanks to accidents of geography. They may not be practicing within the framework of an organized house but their devotion is real - and so are the rewards they reap from their service. 

African Traditional Religions have never been static: they have always redefined themselves in the face of new opportunities, resources and persecutions.  They have incorporated Christianity, Islam, Freemasonry and a whole host of other traditions and cultures. Undoubtedly they will find a place for the Internet. I would be interested in exploring what that place might be now and in the future.  

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Looking for Digital Photos of Your Altars

We're making final preparations for the release of Vodou Money Magic, and need some color photos of shrines and altars which people have created for their lwa.  Inner Traditions is particularly interested in shrines or altars dedicated to Agwe, St. Philomena, and Zaka. But we'd be happy to see any shrines you may have to any of the lwa covered in the book, to wit:

  • Legba
  • Damballah
  • Agwe
  • St. Philomena
  • Zaka
  • Ogou
  • Danto
  • Ghede
  • The Ancestors

We will give full credit (and a free copy of VoMoMa) to anyone whose contributions appear in the final book. 

Thanks for all your support! You can send any photos to kenazfilan -at- gmail.com.  

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

New Reviews of Vodou Love Magic

Natalie Maxwell at Feminist Review offers these thoughts:

Filan not only provides an in-depth definition of these issues; they are dissected and analyzed with the eye of an amateur psychologist with lots of “practical” advice on how to deal with them. So, what’s the first thing you should do if you realize you’re being stalked by a jilted lover, stranger, or an ex who just can’t accept it’s over? “Cut off all contact with your stalker now”, Filan recommends. Also: “Record every stalking incident” and “Take steps to ensure your safety.” If that isn’t practical advice, I don’t know what is.

Yet in this chapter, as in the rest of the book, the spells Filan suggests we consider trying in order to help us work through our problems will keep you interested. Having a hard time battling your sexual demons? Go to a crossroads with a tiny pouch filled with a corncob pipe, tobacco, a bottle of rum, and some loose change to consult Papa Legba (guardian of the gateway between the two worlds) for guidance. Feeling intense sadness and depression after a breakup? Performing Damballah’s (the most ancient and powerful of all the Iwa) Transmutation of Love Spell may help.

Ms. Maxwell comments that this book seemed a bit heavier on the psychology and self-help and a little light on the Vodou. I can definitely see that: I was aiming here at people who were seeking help through love spells.  After spending some time on various forums hearing things like "can you make my ex-boyfriend leave his babymama, remove the restraining order against me, and move back in once he gets released from prison?" I felt it was best to deal with safety and emotional health issues. Giving someone a spell when they really need a shoulder to cry on and a few sessions with a counselor does no good for anyone. 

Meanwhile, La Bianca waxed rhapsodic about the book at Latino Sexuality.

I've reviewed a fabulous book for one of my editors called Vodou Love Magic: A Practical Guide to Love, Sex, and Relationships by Kenaz Filan, which is a book for practitioners and those interested in this belief and value system.
It's always great to see that people are enjoying your work and finding it useful. Thanks,  Natalie and La Bianca, for your kind words!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Kenaz Filan and Raven Kaldera to appear on "Dawn of Shades"

On August 18, 2009 (Tuesday) Gia Scott will be discussing Drawing Down the Spirits on Dawn of Shades, her paranormal talk radio program.  While Raven Kaldera and I have given a number of presentations at Free Spirit Gathering and other places, this will be the first time we have been interviewed together about our book.

Ms. Scott and I share a number of interests, including animal welfare, New Orleans and gourmet cookery. I'm looking forward to appearing on her show and to chatting with Raven once again. We will be speaking with Gia from 8-10pm Eastern time:  if you miss it, the podcast will be available for download later.