We mill about the peristyle (our temple) waiting for the ceremony. Some of us catch up on the past week, or the past weeks, since we’ve last seen each other.
At no time in particular, the ceremony begins. Assons are rattled, the sound of bells fill the air. The drummers take up their sticks and pound out a rhythm. The singing begins. I struggle to find the song.
At this point the Lwa (the spirits) have not come. The songs are sung the best we can. The ceremony begins like so many have begun before. We reach out.
In me, I feel their absence. My song is not its best. It feels dry, but I carry on, responding to the call of the verses. People are slowly starting to move, but even my movements feel dry.
We move to the rhythms.
Without announcement the intensity changes, the Lwa are coming. The songs gain passion, take on soul. I’m no longer singing the songs, but feeling them. My motions are no longer choreographed but driven.
I feel the Lwa in me now.
The assons rattle on, in unison. The ceremony is fully underway. The tide has taken us, the ceremony a life of its own. Funny how we’re considered the living, but it’s the dead that bring life to this moment. We act as one, the visible and invisible. We move, we sing, we shake. The drums complete the scenery.
La Place makes its way around the temple. Offerings made, the veves (spiritual symbols) are now being drawn. I feel the Lwa fully; they’re carrying me to the timeless intersection of our worlds.
All is dim in the candle light; all is filled with song, with motion. No longer swaying, hips and shoulders are moving. We are fully entranced in ceremony, the audience in unison with us.
We sing and move as one.
The veves outlined on the ground, the Lwa are drawn into each and every one of us. We dance around the center pole, a moving ocean of bodies with the music, the drums – the drums!
This is the moment possession takes hold; we reach spiritual ecstasy. Which Lwa will join us? So many possibilities only the evening will say. The Lwa do come: converse with us and depart too soon. The ceremony comes to a close; I’m left feeling energized and exhausted at the same time.
I call Vodou a full-contact religion: it seems everyone is caught up in the action, no matter their background or belief. Vodou isn’t passive, but moves you in the celebration of life. All one has to do is take part: dance to the songs, move to the rhythm. It gets into your feet, calls to your voice, moves your body filling your soul; a celebration that brings the intersection between worlds present.
Whatever religion you practice or your spiritual beliefs; what I wish for everyone is to feel the beauty in the collective community of celebrating life as one. Moving, dancing, singing: the feeling when the spirits are with you.
There are many religions, meditations, reflections and activities that may bring this to you. You may find it in art, research or a more secular path. No matter how or where you find it, I hope you do.
I will return, to that place I was before, that place before me and feel it again. I hope your own beliefs catch you in this wave, and carry you off to that heightened state. I’ll see you there.