A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about dancing

Lake Eyasi: Hadzabe settlement

The last full-time hunter-gatherers in Africa


View Baby Boomers - Tanzania 2020 on Grete Howard's travel map.

Hadzabe

Alex picks us up early this morning, just after breakfast, for our visit to the Hadzabe Tribe. The access toad to their camp is rudimentary to say the least.

large_b3a14b00-d57a-11ea-9089-ff6052f090c8.jpg

The Hadza number just under 1,000 and is the smallest tribe in Tanzania. Some 300–400 Hadza still live as hunter-gatherers, much as their ancestors have for thousands or even tens of thousands of years; they are the last full-time hunter-gatherers in Africa.

large_0f017970-d57b-11ea-9089-ff6052f090c8.jpg

The Hadza are organized into bands, called 'camps', of typically 20–30 people, and the camp we are visiting this morning lies in the shade of a rocky overhang, where a number of men are gathered.

large_87908d80-d57c-11ea-a7e5-4fc4f2ac593f.jpg

large_5a81a140-d57b-11ea-9089-ff6052f090c8.jpg

large_130950a0-d57c-11ea-a7e5-4fc4f2ac593f.jpg

Women are chatting merrily under a tree, and a few children are running around. There is a relaxed atmosphere here and we feel very welcome.

large_959cb3f0-d57b-11ea-a7e5-4fc4f2ac593f.jpg

large_df701620-d57b-11ea-a7e5-4fc4f2ac593f.jpg

large_ed193f90-d57b-11ea-a7e5-4fc4f2ac593f.jpg

On the flat ground at the base of the rocks, a couple of straw huts provide shelter on dry nights, whereas the caves are used when it rains.

large_4d457500-d57c-11ea-a7e5-4fc4f2ac593f.jpg

The interior does not exactly provide a great deal of comfort. The Hadzabe people are nomads, and they don't really believe in material possessions - they own very little beyond their clothes, cooking equipment and hunting implements.

large_6fec9ca0-d57c-11ea-a7e5-4fc4f2ac593f.jpg

We are assigned a young man called Hant'anee as our guide, and he explains their hunting methods to us in the local language, translated by Alex. While traditionally classified with the Khoisan languages, primarily because it has clicks, the Hadza language appears to be an isolate, unrelated to any other. The Hadza lad is a real showman, and I am sure he deliberately uses as many words with the clicking sound as possible, for effect. And very effective it is too!


Understanding the language is not a prerequisite to being able to follow what he is explaining though, as Hant'anee is so animated in his description of how and what they hunt, making the noises and movements of birds and monkeys as well as the men's actions.

large_8b454630-d57e-11ea-93ec-45cbb2a32632.jpg

large_c96b27e0-d57e-11ea-93ec-45cbb2a32632.jpg

He explains the different types of arrows and which animals they are used for. The Hadzabe mainly kill birds and smaller mammals, such as hares and monkeys, although sometimes they will bag an antelope too.

large_1585baf0-d57f-11ea-93ec-45cbb2a32632.jpg

large_230b56d0-d57f-11ea-93ec-45cbb2a32632.jpg

Evidence of previous kills.

large_39f03d70-d57f-11ea-93ec-45cbb2a32632.jpg

large_4be54160-d57f-11ea-93ec-45cbb2a32632.jpg

large_55d0eda0-d57f-11ea-93ec-45cbb2a32632.jpg

Many of the men are sitting around smoking and our guide explains how they make fire in the traditional way.

large_192c90f0-d581-11ea-97c8-e3e1a8975192.jpg

large_2cf4a730-d581-11ea-97c8-e3e1a8975192.jpg

large_598ad670-d581-11ea-97c8-e3e1a8975192.jpg

large_75d37030-d581-11ea-97c8-e3e1a8975192.jpg

A clay pipe is filled with 'tobacco' and passed around.


large_bf765c70-d595-11ea-af14-556359ffb2bc.jpg

large_be547c40-d596-11ea-af14-556359ffb2bc.jpg

large_c9355df0-d596-11ea-af14-556359ffb2bc.jpg

large_d162fbf0-d595-11ea-af14-556359ffb2bc.jpg
The 'tobacco' leaves

Hant'anee demonstrates how they inhale the smoke, then cough violently to ensure the effect reaches the brain.

large_68bf4e40-d596-11ea-af14-556359ffb2bc.jpg

large_7b973820-d596-11ea-af14-556359ffb2bc.jpg

I try the pipe (minus the coughing), while David is not so keen.

large_9ca60c80-d596-11ea-af14-556359ffb2bc.jpg

large_a8037130-d596-11ea-af14-556359ffb2bc.jpg

Having learned all about their hunting skills using a bow and arrow earlier, now is the time to put it all into action.

large_1bf9b8b0-d597-11ea-af14-556359ffb2bc.jpg
Alex goes first

large_5a919610-d597-11ea-af14-556359ffb2bc.jpg

large_67c93900-d597-11ea-af14-556359ffb2bc.jpg

large_767e5430-d597-11ea-af14-556359ffb2bc.jpg
I fare dismally

large_8add0520-d597-11ea-af14-556359ffb2bc.jpg
David does very much better

large_9a1029f0-d597-11ea-af14-556359ffb2bc.jpg
He's hit the target!

large_a9c1a680-d597-11ea-af14-556359ffb2bc.jpg
Pleased much?

Before we leave, they put on a song and dance for us.


large_dd5e3c60-d597-11ea-af14-556359ffb2bc.jpg

large_ea437990-d597-11ea-af14-556359ffb2bc.jpg

And the obligatory group photo, of course.

large_06663bd0-d598-11ea-af14-556359ffb2bc.jpg

It's time for us to make our way back to the lodge for breakfast, and everyone comes over to shake our hands. While the settlement is obviously used to accepting tourists, I still feel it is very much more genuine than the Maasai villages we have visited in the past, with no obligation to tip and no heavy sales pressure. In fact, I don't even see any items for sale. The Hadzabe are mostly self sufficient, and money does not hold the same value for them for that reason.

large_d2feed50-d5c4-11ea-8def-1f80ec3fcd60.jpg

We reach the lodge in time for breakfast, after which we change into swimming costumes and have a play around in the pool – which we have completely to ourselves.

large_089a0210-d714-11ea-8580-01fb9c58cd42.jpg

large_228daf50-d714-11ea-8580-01fb9c58cd42.jpg

large_2bac6ea0-d714-11ea-8580-01fb9c58cd42.jpg

large_370602c0-d714-11ea-8580-01fb9c58cd42.jpg
The small sunbathing area by the pool

Afterwards we have a wander along the meandering paths in the lodge grounds, followed by a snooze. Today is the first day of relaxation in the two weeks we have been in Tanzania. Having been up at 05:50 every single morning on this trip, out all day game viewing, and back just in time for dinner and bed, all this free time feels rather odd.

large_47cc4ab0-d714-11ea-8580-01fb9c58cd42.jpg

large_52e7eb70-d714-11ea-8580-01fb9c58cd42.jpg

large_6107f290-d714-11ea-8580-01fb9c58cd42.jpg

large_cce9a250-d715-11ea-8580-01fb9c58cd42.jpg
Smith's Bush Squirrel - a new species for us

At lunch we are no longer alone – the Americans are back. We hear via the grapevine that this is their first adventure trip, they are ardent cruisers and apparently high maintenance, with the attitude: “we've paid this much to be here, we want it now!” How not to endear yourself to the staff and locals.

large_cfe572a0-d714-11ea-8580-01fb9c58cd42.jpg
The restaurant at Kisima Ngeda Lodge

large_e13276c0-d714-11ea-8580-01fb9c58cd42.jpg
The bar

large_ec300830-d714-11ea-8580-01fb9c58cd42.jpg
The lounge

large_f8417aa0-d714-11ea-8580-01fb9c58cd42.jpg
The veranda overlooking the grounds and the lake beyond

As always we are extremely grateful to Tillya and Halima of Calabash Adventures; as well as their trusted driver and our very good friend, Malisa, for arranging another amazing experience. You guys are the best!

Thanks must also go to Alex Puwale for arranging this cultural visit.

large_55dc56d0-d715-11ea-8580-01fb9c58cd42.jpg

Posted by Grete Howard 05:30 Archived in Tanzania Tagged africa tanzania dancing squirrel swimming_pool ethnic smoking hunting cannabis cultural_exchange calabash_adventures lake_eyasi hadzabe alex_puwale kisima_ngeda hadze eyasi village_visit bow_and_arrow hunter-gatherers clay_pipe kisima_ngeda_lodge african_tribes ethnic_tribe smith's_bush_squirrel bush_squirrel africa_bush_squirrel Comments (2)

Wahiba Sands

Lunch in a Bedouin camp, sunset over the dunes and the stars at night


View Oh! Man! Oman. 2018 on Grete Howard's travel map.

As soon as the sun rises at 06:15 this morning, the peace is broken . It is a case of “Gentlemen, start your engines”. Except these are no gentlemen: the sound we can hear is cars revving up to trash the dunes by young lads who have come out from town for the weekend. They make as much noise as possible, take unnecessary risks on the steep slopes and leave a lot of rubbish behind in the desert. They are about as popular as stag parties in the UK.

I try to get down a little something at breakfast, but as I still have the runs, I also want to be careful with what I eat.

large_69FAE5DFFC49F61F52174CC275F90229.jpg

large_1000_Night..Breakfast_2.jpg

As I wander around the restaurant area taking photographs after breakfast, I somehow manage to miss a step and splat flat on my face. Thankfully I am able to avoid my camera hitting the hard concrete floor. Phew. My knee doesn't fare as well, unfortunately. Before I have even had time to realise what has happened, four strong men are there to help me up. Thankfully there are no serious injuries, so I am able to continue with my day.

Bedouin Camp

Today we are seeking out a Bedouin settlement to learn about their way of life and have lunch with the family.

large_Bedouin_Camp_1.jpg

large_Bedouin_Camp_17.jpg

large_Bedouin_Camp_2.jpg

We are visiting Salma and her extended family, with her two sons and a daughter living in the camp. The daughter and one of the sons are married, while the other son remains a bachelor as the family cannot afford the dowry (the going rate being around £14,000).

large_Bedouin_Camp_12.jpg

large_Bedouin_Camp_13.jpg

large_Bedouin_Camp_9.jpg

large_Bedouin_Camp_5.jpg

large_Bedouin_Camp_14.jpg
Salma's daughter-in-law and her children

large_Bedouin_Camp_16.jpg

Salma's daughter is expecting her ninth child; she already has two sets of twins.

large_Bedouin_Camp_18.jpg

We have lunch in their dining tent: chicken, biriyani, 'desert fish', vegetables, rice and Omani bread.

large_Bedouin_Camp_3.jpg

large_Bedouin_Camp_4.jpg

large_Bedouin_Camp_8.jpg

It is all very tasty, but I am still very conscious of my delicate tummy, so I just nibble a little of each dish. I hate for Salma to think I am being rude or fickle, so I ask Said to explain to her why I am not eating much.

large_Bedouin_Camp_11_-_Lunch.jpg

large_Bedouin_Camp_10_-_Lunch.jpg

large_Bedouin_Camp_7.jpg

After lunch, the Bedouin women dress me up in their traditional face mask and I ask Salma's daughter-in-law to paint my hands with intricate and beautiful henna designs.

large_Bedouin_Mask_1.jpg

large_Bedouin_Mask_3.jpg

large_Bedouin_Camp_19_-_Henna.jpg

We return to our camp in time for a pre-dinner drink in the 'Boat Bar'.

large_3C7C61A3DDA377ACE9EE75CBEA859F77.jpg

large_1000_Night..Snack_Bar_1.jpg

large_1000_Night..Snack_Bar_2.jpg

When I say “drink”, I am not talking about an alcoholic beverage unfortunately, as this, like so many in Oman, is a dry hotel. Chocolate milkshake it is.

large_1000_Night..Snack_Bar_3.jpg

We don't linger too long, as the place is swarming with pesky little flies.

Sunset

After a short snooze, we leave the camp once again in search of some suitable sand dunes for creating beautiful vistas as the sun goes down and the shadows become longer and darker. My favourite time of day.

large_Wahibi_Sands_Sunset_2.jpg

large_Wahibi_Sands_Sunset_4.jpg

large_Wahibi_Sands_Sunset_15.jpg

large_Wahibi_Sands_Sunset_16.jpg

large_Wahibi_Sands_Sunset_21.jpg

large_Wahibi_Sands_Sunset_22.jpg

large_Wahibi_Sands_Sunset_24.jpg

We are certainly not the only ones enjoying this evening's sunset.

large_Wahibi_Sands_Sunset_19.jpg

large_Wahibi_Sands_Sunset_26.jpg

large_Wahibi_Sands_Sunset_1.jpg

large_Wahibi_Sands_Sunset_27.jpg

We leave before the actual sunset, as we saw the big red ball in the sky last night, and it is nowhere near as bright tonight. I am really only interested in photographing the shadow-sculpted dunes anyway.

large_Wahibi_Sands_Sunset_29.jpg

large_Wahibi_Sands_Sunset_31.jpg

Entertainment

After dinner, a local Bedouin family entertain us with songs and dance.

large_Bedouin_Ev..rtainment_2.jpg

large_Bedouin_Ev..rtainment_1.jpg

large_Bedouin_Ev..rtainment_5.jpg

large_Bedouin_Ev..tainment_11.jpg

There is what appears to be a party of local lads and hearing all their cheering, clapping and whistling, you'd be forgiven for thinking they were watching a couple of strippers rather than this demure family-friendly display.

large_Bedouin_Ev..rtainment_8.jpg

large_Bedouin_Ev..rtainment_4.jpg

large_Bedouin_Ev..rtainment_7.jpg

The Stars at Night

When booking this trip, I paid special attention to the moon phase, to ensure we were going to be here in the Wahiba Desert where there is almost zero light pollution at the darkest time of the month.

So here we are. The stars this evening are fabulously bright and I try to take some photos with the tents in the foreground and then wander into the car park to get a different view of the camp.

large_Stars_over..ghts_Camp_1.jpg

large_Stars_over..ghts_Camp_3.jpg

We get chatting to a couple of guys who had also been out taking pictures of the stars over the dunes, and when they complain that this is a dry hotel with no alcohol for sale, we invite them back to our room to share our rum and some great travel stories.
Sebastian and Kasper – if you are reading this – thanks for a fun evening!

Yet another fantastic day in Oman, thank you Undiscovered Destinations once again for arranging this trip.

large_3A0DCDDF905E7839B40DB3333FA6A036.jpg

Posted by Grete Howard 05:24 Archived in Oman Tagged night desert sunset travel sand shadows dancing drums sand_dunes oman stars henna singing rum bedouin astro bedouin_camp burqa wahiba_sands night_shots night_photography astro_photography wahiba 1000_nights_camp henna_painting dowry face_mask burka long_shadows stars_at_night Comments (4)

Port au Prince: Fet Gede / Day of the Dead

Party in the cemetery, believers possessed by their dead ancestors and sacrificed goats - it is all happening today!

36 °C
View Fet Gede - Haiti's Day of the Dead 2016 on Grete Howard's travel map.

Fet Gede

large_Day_of_the_Dead_3.jpg

Today we are setting out to see, experience and photograph the Fet Gede – the reason we made this return journey to Haiti.

large_Travelling_Light_Not.jpg
As a photographer, I have never perfected the art of travelling light.

Fet Gede, the 'Feast of the Ancestors', is a traditional Vodou festival which celebrates the Lwa (spirits) of death and fertility; a time when believers honour the ancestral dead who they regard as walking with us all our lives. Gede (the sacred ancestors) is considered an important part of every living person as we will all join them eventually.

large_Grand_Cime..a_Baron_11A.jpg

Fet Gede can be described as the Vodou equivalent of Mardi Gras, the Mexican Day of the Dead, and Halloween, all rolled into one incredible ritual with enough drumming, singing, alcohol and laughter to quite literally raise the dead. The Fet Gede celebrations are unique to Haiti, a blend of traditions brought over from Africa during the slave trade, mixed with colonial Christianity and a dash of ritual from the original Taino inhabitants of the island.

Haitians believe that the frisky Vodou spirits helped them win independence and become the world's first black republic. Tradition marks the beginning of the revolution at a vodou ceremony at Bois Caïman, where the call to arms was issued by a Houngan (Vodou priest), and within hours, the northern plantations were in flames. The rebellion spread through the entire colony and the rest is history as they say.

large_Grand_Cimeti_re_7.jpg

Grand Cimetiére

large_Cemetery_1.jpg

We start the day with a visit to the main cemetery. As you do. The Grand Cimetiére in Port au Prince is like a city for the dead within the living city. Like many cemeteries, it mirrors real life in its layout. Here you find various 'neighbourhoods': crowded slums with rotting tombs and muddy graves; stately communities with fabulous mausoleums, middle class suburbs and even a main boulevard.

large_Cemetary.jpg

We can't get anywhere near the cemetery by car due to the enormous crowds of people. After a lot of hassle, Wilson (today's driver) manages to find a spot where he can stop long enough for us all to get out. We are joined today by Sam from New York and a group of five international architect student who are here to learn the art of building bamboo houses. After shuffling our way through the crowds, we enter the necropolis through the main gate which reads “Souviens-Toi Que Tu Es Poussiere” (remember you are dust).

large_Grand_Cimeti_re_1.jpg

.

The cemetery is teeming with life and people thronging through the narrow alleyways. We make our way along the main boulevard, along with thousands of others. The atmosphere is convivial and friendly, with not a hint of sinister or threatening undertones.

large_Grete___Friend.jpg

Kwa Baron (Cross of Baron)

large_Kwa_Baron_1.jpg

Vodouists come in a spiritual pilgrimage to the cemetery to pay their respect to the dead, but first, permission of passage has to be obtained. The grave of the Papa Gede, the first man who ever died. Ancestral services are held at this 'crossroad', considered to be the bridge between life and death. Kwa Baron is the Lwa guardian of the cemetery and head of the Gedes.

large_Grand_Cime..Kwa_Baron_9.jpg

large_Papa_Gade.jpg

So, who is Papa Gede?
The corpse of the 'first man' can in many ways be compared to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier who is revered at memorials throughout the world - he may not necessarily be Haitian - just like the Baron is not Haitian nor African, he may be 'other' (foreign). Papa Gede is a psychopomp who waits at the crossroads to take departed souls into the afterlife, although he does not take a life before its time. Papa Gede has a very crude sense of humour, and a cunning ability to read people's minds, knowing everything that happens in the worlds of the living and the dead.

large_Grand_Cime..wa_Baron_10.jpg
Skulls and bones are removed from the crypts and turned into a makeshift shrine

large_Grand_Cime..wa_Baron_14.jpg

Pimam

Making an offering of Pimam (a mixture of raw rum known as clairin and 21 habareno chillies) is said to help the Gede (ancestral spirits) become warm and passionate again. Having been 'sleeping in the cold', the rum and chillies helps to 'heat them up' so that they can offer advice on such things as job hunting, love and marriage.

large_Grand_Cime..wa_Baron_12.jpg

The floor is awash with rum (and also coffee, which has been offered by the cup-full too). The smell is quite overpowering, and the bottom of my jeans are soaked in the stuff. I guess I'd better wash those before going on the flight back to the UK. We brave the crowds to venture further into the maze of alleyways in the cemetery.

.

large_Grand_Cime.._Kriminel_1.jpg

large_Baron_Kriminal.jpg

Baron Kriminel ('Baron of Criminals') is the enforcer of the Gede. As the first person to commit murder, he is Gede of murderers and perpetrators of violence against others; thus victims' relatives pray to him for revenge. His 'chevals' (possessed followers) are said to have an insatiable appetite for food, biting and chewing on anything and anyone (even themselves), they will attack those around them until they get fed. Thankfully none of the chevals present today seem to be possessed, as I don't fancy becpming breakfast.

large_Grand_Cime.._Kriminel_4.jpg

large_Grand_Cime.._Kriminel_5.jpg

large_Grand_Cime.._Kriminel_2.jpg

There is nothing formal about any of the celebrations here, people push and shove, stand on the graves to get a better view, and even put their feet on the altar.

large_Grand_Cime.._Kriminel_3.jpg

All this, and the enormous crowds everywhere, makes photography a real challenge! I am impressed, however, at how the sea of people seems to magically open up as I try to get closer to the action – spectators actively move aside and even encourage others to do so in order for me to see what is going on. Lots of locals are photographing the event too, and even the TV and radio stations are out in force.

large_Photograph..tographer_1.jpg

large_Vodou_1.jpg

The occult has always fascinated me, and voodoo is no exception. In reality, voodoo is one of the most misunderstood religions in the world, something I became more and more aware of as I did my research some ten years ago before our trip to West Africa. The word 'Voodoo' is in fact a bastardisation by Hollywood of 'vodoun', the original West African religion (also known as vodun). (One interesting observation here is that ‘voodoo’ passes the spellchecker in Word, ‘vodoun’, ‘vodun’ or the Haitian version of the religion, known as vodou, do not.) Hollywood also gave the world the idea that vodoun (or voodoo) is an evil black magic cult setting out to spread death and destruction. Films like the James Bond ‘Live and let Die’ also fuelled this misapprehension with its violence and bizarre rituals. Ask an average member of the public what they first think about when they hear the word ‘voodoo’ and they are most likely to answer something along the lines of ‘black magic’, ‘zombies’, ‘human sacrifice’ or ‘sticking pins in dolls’. I would love to be able to say “nothing is further from the truth”, but of course there are some associations to all of these within the vodoun religion, but there is so much more to it.

large_Grand_Cimeti_re_9.jpg

Vodoun is a religion that can trace its roots back at least 6,000 years; some sources claim 10,000. It is freely practised in West Africa, and was in fact accepted as the state religion of Benin in 1996 where 80% of the population is followers. It is believed that over 60 million people practise vodoun worldwide, 30 million of which are thought to be in West Africa. Vodoun is widespread throughout the Caribbean, notably on Haiti where vodou was proclaimed the state religion in 2003 where is is popularly stated that the people are 80% Catholics and 110% vodouists. It is also found in Brazil, the Guianas, Dominican Republic and parts of USA, introduced by the slaves.

large_Grand_Cimeti_re_10.jpg

Vodou in Haiti

There are also an awful lot of misconceptions that vodou originated in Haiti. Yes, it is the state religion in Haiti, but it was brought here by the slaves from West Africa during the French colonial time, when it mixed with local Taino religious beliefs and European mysticism, taking on a camouflage veneer of Roman Catholicism after it was outlawed by the slave masters.

large_Grand_Cimeti_re_2.jpg

Vodou (a derivation of the West African Vodun and the New Orleans Voodoo) is mysterious and complicated, inherently mistrusted, frequently maligned and often misunderstood religion. Its reputation was badly tarnished by the 1960s dictator Papa Doc, who encouraged his people to believe he was Baron Samedi, the vodou spirit of darkness and dead. Most westerner's exposure to Haitian Vodou is through Hollywood portrayals such as the 1973 James Bond's Live and Let Die blockbuster (in which Baron Samedi featured as a villain), something that has created further suspicion and discredit in Vodou as a serious religion.

large_Grand_Cimeti_re_13.jpg

Having witnessed a Vodun ceremony first hand in Benin in West Africa a few years ago, I was keen to find out a little more about how this enigmatic, cabbalistic doctrine plays out for the Haitians.

large_Vodun_Benin_2006.jpg
Vodou ceremony in Benin 2006

I have tried to gain some sort of understanding of Vodou, and here I will try and give you a very brief synopsis of what I have gleaned from talking to our guide and other Haitians, as well as various websites.

large_Grand_Cimeti_re_11.jpg

Lwa

Their top dog – the Supreme Creator – is called Bondye but doesn't really want to have anything much to do with mere mortals, so the people direct their worship towards one or more of the many spirits, known as Lwa. Each Lwa has a particular aspect of life which they are responsible for – much in the same way as Christian saints, Hindu deities and Greek gods. Voduists create altars, participate in ritual ceremonies involving music and dance; and make offerings to appease their chosen Lwa.

There is no one definitive form of Vodouism, each priest has a different style of worship, depending on the Lwas his 'house' honours. Priests can be either male (houngan) or female (mambo) and are said to have supernatural power to hurt or kill people in addition to doing good by helping and protecting others from spells of course. A Haitian Vodou temple is called an Hounfour or Peristyle.

large_Grand_Cimeti_re_5.jpg

The Lwa and the humans belong to each other and are interdependent – the humans supply food, the Lwa provides protection from evil spirits, health and good fortune.

large_Grand_Cimeti_re_3.jpg

In Vodouism, your soul is said to take the form of two parts – the Big Good Angel (gros bon ange) or Little Good Angel (ti bon ange). Big Angel is in charge of the more physical aspects of your life, such as breathing and the flow of blood; whereas Little Angel is the ruler of your personality, nature and willpower – basically, the Big Angel decides what to do and the Little Angel works out how to do it.

large_Grand_Cimeti_re_8.jpg

Unlike the evil portrayed by popular media, Vodou moral code of conduct focusses on the vices of dishonour and greed, on love and support within the family, respecting your elders and giving alms to the poor. Much like Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and most other religions.

Baron Samedi

The ruler of the graveyard and the Lwa of the Dead and is known for disruption, obscenity, debauchery, and having a particular fondness for tobacco and rum. Sounds like my kinda guy.

large_Grand_Cime..on_Samedi_2.jpg

.

Baron Samedi is a very sexualised Lwa, frequently represented by phallic symbols such as this skeletal hand between his legs.

large_Grand_Cime..on_Samedi_3.jpg

Fet Gede celebrations are huge here in Haiti and everywhere we go in the cemetery there are people taking photos and videos; plus all the TV and radio stations. Here Baron Samedi is interviewed for the daily TV news.

large_Grand_Cime..on_Samedi_5.jpg

While most devotees are merely here at the cemetery out of curiosity, some come to worship, and a small number of believers actually become possessed by the Lwa (spirits). As this guy goes in to a trance, he loses control of his senses, flails his arms and legs around and staggers about as if he has been given a hefty push in a drunken stupor. As we are all on top of a crypt at this stage, with steep steps and a throng of people, there are a few hairy moments as he tumbles down through the crowds and onto the ground below. Fortunately no-one is hurt on this occasion and he is helped by a number of bystanders as he recovers from his bewildering state of possession.

large_Grand_Cime..Possessed_1.jpg

.

Erzulie

This tree represents Erzulie, the Haitian African Lwa (spirit) of love and passion. She is fond of money and clothes, but especially of doll, and she enjoys receiving them as gifts.

large_Grand_Cime..i_Mapyang_1.jpg

Devotees come here to attach dolls to the tree, in order to send messages to their dead loved ones and ancestors; which in turn will then ensure that Erzulie brings them luck. This practice is thought to have been the base of the misunderstanding and misinformation (perpetuated by popular media) that Vodouists stick pins in dolls to cause harm to their enemies.

large_Grand_Cime..i_Mapyang_3.jpg

Peristyle - The Vodou Temple

From the cemetery we continue (via the supermarket for water and toilet stop) up into the hill towards Petionville to attend a vodou service to commemorate Fet Gede, the Feast of the Ancestors (or Day of the Dead).

Wilson drives the minibus as far as he can up roads that become narrower and more uneven as we climb higher. Eventually we reach a point where the road has been washed away (possibly by the recent hurricane?) and the surface is down to the bedrock. We scramble up further on foot and enter a series of tight alleyways occupied by children and goats. There is no sign of the Vodou Temple until we are right upon it and even then it is unrecognisable as a place of worship as we know it.

The immediate area outside the temple is full of people hanging around, smoking, drinking and chatting. There is an 'off-licence' by the entrance where worshippers can buy their rum for offering and personal consumption.

The temple itself can best be described as a small wooden shack, the inside of which is beautifully adorned with white and purple balloons, Halloween-style decorations and an altar awash with offerings - people bring with them food or drink particularly enjoyed by their ancestors when they were alive.

large_Vodou_Ceremony_14.jpg

large_Vodou_Ceremony_13.jpg

large_Vodou_Ceremony_12.jpg

Music

A group of special people, known as houn'torguiers, provide the music in the form of shaking rattles, playing drums and blowing a trumpet. Three drums, covered with ox-hide, provide the rhythm. They represent the three atmospheres of the sun: the largest represents the chromospheres, the middle one the photosphere, and the smallest one the solar nucleus. The instruments have to be purified prior to the ceremony.

large_Vodou_Ceremony_15.jpg

Everyone seems to be taking photos or recording video, and the TV crew are in attendance with their huge camera and microphone. As was the case in the cemetery, we are the only white people here.

large_Vodou_Ceremony_16.jpg

Maman Brigitte

Soon after we arrive, the ritual reaches a crescendo as (a devotee possessed by) Maman Brigitte (Baron Samedi's wife), frees the souls of the followers. She is a colourful character, both in appearance and speech, and is known as the guardian of the dead. As a psychopomp, she leads the dead to the afterlife.

large_Vodou_Ceremony_1A.jpg

.

large_Vodou_Ceremony_2.jpg

large_Vodou_Ceremony_3A.jpg

Dancing

Dancing is an expression of spirituality, and is seen as a connection with divinity and the spirit world. The dancing and drumming intensifies repeatedly and repetitively until the dancer is possessed by their Lwa, by which stage they appear to completely lose control of their body and some even appear to lose consciousness. Their limbs go stiff, they appear to fall backwards of they flail their arms and legs about, thrashing anyone and everyone in their way. This is the Lwa’s way of having a bit of fun with the devotee.

.

.

Vodou devotees believe that everyone has a soul which is made up of two parts: a gros bon ange or 'big guardian angel', and a ti bon ange ('little guardian angel'). The ‘little angel’ is the one that leaves the body when the Lwa possess the dancers during a ritual, and it can be quite scary at times to watch. The Lwa will take over every movement of that person, they become the spirit and are no longer themselves, and the spirit will talk through the possessed – sometimes in a language they do not understand or even knew before they were possessed. The Lwa will convey – through the possessed – advice, desires and warnings.

large_Vodou_Ceremony_17.jpg

.

.

During the Vodou service, prayers are offered to the Lwa, followed by songs for the Lwa accompanied by shaking a calabash rattle (asson) filled with rattlesnake bones, as well as hypnotic drumming. Like many Hindu devotees, most Haitians have a 'favourite' Lwa, and as 'their' song is played, they believe that the spirit takes possession of their body and is thereby able to speak and act through them. They trust that by following the directives and taboos imposed by their particular Lwa, the Lwa will help them in life, enabling them to discard any toxic influences from the past as well as offering thanks to the ancestors and accepting beneficial help for the future. Fet Gede is a celebration for reconnecting with the past, and preparing for the future. By offering insight into the past, Fet Gede frees people from any futile or unacceptable patterns and habits that they may inadvertently repeat, thus preparing them for a better future where greater happiness can be achieved. Conversely, by ignoring the advice of the Lwa, all sorts of misfortunes will befall the worshipper.

large_Vodou_Ceremony_18.jpg
Other worshippers help the Houngan (Vodou priest) to stay cool (if that is at all possible in the stifling heat inside the Peristyle) while he is possessed.

The Gédé spirits are lewd and raucous, and those possessed by them during ceremonies can be wildly provocative and sexually charged – like this guy tying a goat to his belt by a rope, and simulating sex with it on the dance floor.

large_Vodou_Ceremony_10.jpg

large_Vodou_Ceremony_4.jpg

.

Chanting

Chanting is also an integral part of the Vodou ceremony. The chorus is made up of a group of people, led by a strong spiritual devotee. The idea of the chanting is to attract the Lwa on the astral plane in order to draw them down to earth.

large_Vodou_Ceremony_5.jpg

.

large_Vodou_Ceremony_11.jpg

large_Vodou_Ceremony_9.jpg

.

Pimam

Pimam is an 'altar wine' made from klarin (Haitian moonshine) with habareno peppers – it can quite literally be described as 'fire water.' Once a worshipper is 'possessed', he (or she) drinks or rubs themselves with the pimam as a signal that they are really a Gede (spiritual ancestor), in other words: dead and need warming up.

large_Vodou_Ceremony_6.jpg

large_Vodou_Ceremony_7.jpg

Devotees also sprinkle alcohol on the ground to attract the spirits.

large_Vodou_Ceremony_8A.jpg

large_89886FFC98D03AF74797797F585DF85D.jpg

Sacrifice

large_AEF2833BF7F0A893DA0C848285BF59AA.jpg

Fet Gede celebrations nearly always involve an animal sacrifice (never virgins I am assured!). Since the earthquake in 2010 goats and chickens are favoured over cows.

Unble to bear the heat inside any longer, we leave the temple for some fresh air (not that it is much cooler outside), and almost immediately Serge beckons me to come down a set of stairs with him.

There, without much pomp and circumstance, is a goat with his throat being slit.

large_Sacrifice_1.jpg

The blood is drained into a bowl as the head is severed off completely.

large_Sacrifice_3.jpg

.

The rest of the body is slung aside (still kicking) while the next goat is fetched.

large_Sacrifice_4.jpg

The goat is hit over the head with a mallet to stun it, then stabbed in the skull with a sharp knife.

large_Sacrifice_5.jpg

.

The blood from the bowl is smeared on the forehead and tongue of believers (who have paid 50 gourdes for the privilege). By drinking the blood whilst possessed by the Lwa, it is believed that the Lwa’s hunger is satisfied and the devotee will receive forgiveness for any wrongdoings.

large_Sacrifice_6.jpg

After the sacrifice has taken place, the animal is cooked and shared out amongst the villagers. This way, nothing goes to waste. The killing of an animal is believed to release life, which the Lwa receive to rejuvenate themselves during the rapture of the ceremony.

large_Sacrifice_2.jpg

large_And_Now_fo..ight_relief.jpg

Still overwhelmed and buzzing from the powerful experiences today, we return to our hotel to get ready for a night out with Jacqui from Voyages Lumiere.

large_Grete__David_and_Jaqui_N.jpg

Jacqui brings along her friend Kelli from the US who has just adopted an adorable little Haitian girl called Vanedjina.

large_Kelli_and_Vanedjina.jpg

We have a lovely relaxing evening with good food and great company – the perfect way to end a frantic but captivating day.

large_Spicy_Pizza__Creamy_pasta.jpg

Thank you Voyage Lumiere for making this happen.

large_8AAA52C39AE0CEBB8C9C5EB3132C37A8.jpg

Posted by Grete Howard 05:17 Archived in Haiti Tagged altar temple travel vacation skeleton cemetery halloween crowds holiday necropolis tv dancing drums photography coffee killing candles spirits graves bones goat skulls ancestors rum sacrifice crypt celebration voodoo dolls mardi_gras haiti offerings crossroads trance day_of_the_dead chanting peristil port_au_prince baron_samedi vodou possessed fet_gede fete_guede fet_guede fete_gede gede feast_of_the_ancestors lwa loa vodum vodoun grand_cimetiere kwa_baron cross_of_baron papa_gede tomb_of_the_unknown_soldiers pimam clairin clarin klarin maman_brigitte habarenos baron_criminal occult peristyle erzulie zonbiw erzulie_mayang vodou_temple voodoo_temple houn'torguiers psychopomp houngan mambo vodou_ceremony voodoo_ceremony Comments (0)

(Entries 1 - 3 of 3) Page [1]