On May 9th, I became an Oungan Sur Pwenn, a priest of Vodou. I serve the spirits. I chose the name François of the Crow; François after my grandfather Francis. I live on the Crow River. The Crow feeds into the Mississippi, which in turn flows down to New Orleans (NOLA), a sacred city to me.
Sur Pwenn means on the point; I’m at the beginning. While I can’t speak much of the actual process of initiation, it would nevertheless be meaningless. I’ll try to explain what I mean.
Now I Get It
After returning home I had a laugh to myself. I had a thought, “Now I get it,” thinking back on my initiation, when I remembered hearing pretty much the same thing said by others before.
I remember asking what I should do to prepare for initiation. I wasn’t given anything to prepare. No homework. Of course, I need to preserve the songs. I was already helping maintain our altar, but I was surprised at the answer. So I read.
But after initiation, I’m different. And that’s the point I now get. It’s an experiential thing. It’s something that happens, not something you study. You experience Vodou. You feel it, you know it.
Three years ago when we took that first trip to NOLA, I felt like I got hit by the Vodou stick. NOLA has an energy, a feeling that’s all around you. It gets into you. When I went in for initiation, it wasn’t that stick that hit me. I got swept up in a flood. It carried me like a river. It flowed through me. I experienced it.
And that’s the feeling I’m left with after. I couldn’t do homework for it. It’s something that happens. That’s what it meant. Now I get it.
I realize when I started writing this, I assumed that first trip to NOLA was earlier than it actually was. I was off by a year. I have some reoccurring events in my life – things I seem to miss until it’s time. I had tickets to Phantom of the Opera two times before I made it on the third attempt. Something would always happen at the last minute causing me to miss the show. The same thing happened with going to NOLA. I was set to go twice before I made it. Something would stop me each time, the trip would get cancelled at the last minute, once on the way to the airport. I wasn’t ready – the right circumstances hadn’t aligned. On that third time, after Katrina passed over me while in the Bahamas, I made it. It swept me up. I confuse how long ago it was because I had that timeless feeling I’ve written about before.
So the most common question I get is, “do you feel different?” The short answer is yes. I feel much different. I feel plugged in, a feeling of being connected. The closest analogy I can get is in deep meditation, in the moment of kundalini. Only it’s happening most of the time, not just in the point of breath, that moment outside of time. It’s constant. I see and feel the world differently. It’s a wonderful feeling.
I’m not assuming this is universal. Being experiential means it’s my experience. Different people may experience the Lwa in different ways. It is only my understanding at the beginning, of Sur Pwenn, of where I am at this particular moment in time.
Serving the Spirits
The spirits call. This is not meant to be a statement of ego, but rather a point beside it. At my best, putting ego aside, that’s where my service does it’s best. That’s what it means to serve.
They call it an initiation. It’s not an event, but a beginning. Understanding deepens with time and more experience, additional service. This is the point on which I stand, striving for a deeper awareness.
I feel good where I stand, on the point. There are more steps beyond it. Each moment of my life came together for this step; they continue beyond. Everything I perceive has a different meaning. It’s a beautiful thing.