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All photos by Harriet Cross ©2006

La Source Ancienne Ounfo &
The Island of Salvation Botanica & Magical Pharmacy

Wednesday, November 1st
3319 Rosalie Alley
New Orleans, LA.

La Source Ancienne Ounfo & The Island of Salvation Botanica & Magical Pharmacy peristyle is just one group that holds rituals in honor of Baron, Maman Brigitte, and the Ghedes. The people who come must all be fed, and the lwa who appear are also feasted from the donated food specially prepared for them.

Salie Ann Glassman New Orleans Voodoo Priestess.

Mambo Sallie Ann Glassman began by saying. "The beautiful city of New Orleans is broken but not beaten, is bent but not destroyed. Slowly, it is beginning to heal." "She is like a grand old dame who is suffering from a serious, life-threatening illness, and she needs every healing effort still." "Who better to call on now than Papa Guédé!"

Asking those present to honor the dead with their offerings, Mambo Sallie Ann also stated that the Loas have spoken to her in many ways since Katrina’s strike and that the spirit world is entreating all of us to be more mindful of the natural world surrounding us.

Following this, Mambo Sallie Ann bends down to the ground where she begins to draw in corn meal the intricate and powerful "veve" -- the otherworldly symbol that in this world is the mirror of the power of the spirit world. As she draws, pinching out the corn meal, her devotees will sing and circulate bottles of blessed water in which the audience is invited to wash their hands.

Ritual Voodoo drumming enticed everyone to dance with happy abandon in the Perystle as the ritual reached it's height. The feverish banda dancing went on long into the night. The artistry of the drummers ass incomparable, and even non-Vodouisants had come out their homes to watch. Just as in ceremonies past, the beautiful singing, drumming and dancing is designed to call Guédé, a powerful Loa, from across the Abyss to be present among us.

Jolie and a real Ghede Zombie Spirit Bottle.

Jolie brings her own personal voodoo offreing of a special made Papa Ghede Zombie Spirit Bottle for this night to the La Source Ancienne Ounfo Peristyle.

In the aftermath of Katrina, when all the city of New Orleans still appears to be dead, who, you might ask, would want to hang around this place now?

Voodoo druming fills the night.

It would have to be somebody familiar with great heartache desolation, that’s for sure, and not put off by day to day hard challenges. Someone who brings the party with him, so to speak; who knows just the prescription for these one year and 3 months later post-Katrina blues.

Fireworks and dancing marked the arrival of the Guédé among the celebrants blessed intentions through the warm November night and into the world of Spirit.

Calling ghede to appear.

Possession is a wide-ranging phenomena which is probably the most popular form of union with the divine in human history. Possession-oriented rituals are apparent in ancient Egypt and it has been shown that the earliest forms of Cabbalistic practice were oriented towards this type of experience. Possession was a recognised phenomena in ancient Greece, two examples being the Delphic oracle, and the practices of the Theurgists, defined by Proclus as "... in a word, all the operations of divine possession." Possession is a central feature of Voudoun, Santeria, and Macumba, religions which are gaining increasing popularity, and is apparent in most tribal cultures, from America to Australasia.

When Ghede mounts someone he often singles out people who pretend to be aloof from eroticism. He ridicules them, embarrasses them, exposes them (in more ways than one). He is especially hard on whites since they often have the puritanical sexual attitudes of western culture. Ghede is a clown, an interrupter, a coarse fellow. He is much loved because his appearance always brings laughter and joy, singing and dancing, though much of it is lude. He loves cigarettes and is often seen smoking two at a time. He is neither good nor evil, but is amused by humans and that's why he jokes around so much. He is usually the last to appear at a ceremony.

Another of Ghede's great powers is as the protector of children. He does not like to see children die. They need a full life. Thus he is the loa to go to when seeking help for a sick child. He has the power over zombies and decides whether or not people can be changed into animals. Any such black magic Voodoo must seek the help of Baron Samedi/Ghede.

Possession also appears in early Christianity - particularly with the manifestation of "speaking in tongues" which remains popular in modern-day forms of evangelical Christianity. St. Paul's dramatic experience on the road to Damascus bears all the hallmarks of a sudden divine possession, yet he was worried by the phenomenon, and found it necessary to lecture the Corinthian Christians on the need to carefully manage speaking in tongues:

"If therefore, the whole church assembles, and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are mad? not forbid speaking in tongues, but all things should be done decently and in order" (I Corinthians, 14)

The ability to 'loose control' appears to be a key factor in the possession experience..

This is not of course, an issue, in ceremonies where the entire assembly knows what to expect of the entity manifesting. William Sargant gives an account of a Voudoun ceremony he witnessed in Haiti, where two girls became simultaneously possessed by Ghede, a loa who is known to be particularly sexually active: "They half stripped each other and one girl symbolically raped the other with a masculine type of pelvic approximation. It ended with the total emotional collapse of both participants." Sargant goes on to say that the group was somewhat amused by this episode, and that the girls, who were normally restrained and quiet, had no memory of what they had done. He notes that the only people who were 'upset' by the incident were the boyfriends of the girls, but that they could say nothing, as it was the manifestation of Ghede. This in itself is an important point. In many possession-oriented cults, there is a tacit understanding that whatever a possessed person does, it is the action of the indwelling entity and as such, they cannot be faulted. Furthermore, after the person comes out of possession, they are not told about how they behaved.

The Baron Arrives!

Many awaited the grand appearance of Papa Guédé, who in fact did arrive dressed to the nines. His appearance this November warm night was foreshadowed by a great gust of the north wind and a deathly cold chill in the air. Those who were outside the Perystle felt his approach as the drumming reached a fever pitch inside and many of the dancers slowed from the heat filling the room. That’s when Guédé appeared and wanted to hear another song, have another drink, and eat another meal! The party for the dead really began. With top hat, dark sunglasses with one eye out, to symbolize his power in the world of the seen and the unseen. And with a large thick dark cigar he found with his offerings and with a smile all knew he was very pleased.

Ghede he is a masculine lwa with a nasal voice who carries a walking stick or baton, uses profanity liberally, and dresses in black or purple. He is considered the last resort against deaths caused by magic, because even if a magical spell should bring a person to the point of death, if Baron refuses to "dig the grave", the person will not die.

Ghede may possess anyone, anytime. Baron and Maman Brigitte, are absolutely notorious for their use of profanity and sexual terms and his gyrating banda dance make him unmistakable. There is a reason for this - the Ghede are dead, beyond all punishment. Nothing further can be done to them, so the use of profanity among the normally somewhat formal Haitians is a way of saying, "I don't care! I've passed beyond all suffering, I can't be hurt." In a country where disrespect for authority figures was until recently punished by torture or death, this is a powerful message.

A woman possessed by one of the Gede taunts passersby and swears at them. A New Orleans Voudun initiate is ridden (”possessed”) by Ghede. Photo below.

However, this profanity is never used in a vicious or abusive fashion, to "curse someone out". It is always humorous, even when there is a pointed message involved.

"He is the wise counselor and a shameless trickster; he is especially loving toward children, and is called the patron of children throughout the Vodoun world." "The Guédé family of spirits are the guardians of the dead and masters of libido. Mambo Sallie Ann had told all earlier in the night.

Guédé sexual personas arrival caused a disruption to the wild dancing. "He is fond of his liquor Glassman had remarked earlier, especially his favorite brand of rum." Guédé searched for it amongst the many wonderful offerings brought to him this night. "You can count on him to keep you from wallowing in your sorrows," Said Sallie Ann Glassman to the crowd. "Always Guédé arrives when everyone is tired, exhausted and ready to go home for much needed sleep."

Like many other types of magical experience, possession is a learned response. When an individual first experiences possession, it may have far-reaching consequences as a life-changing agent. It may occur suddenly, or gradually, and in some accounts of possession, it can be agonizingly painful. The degree of resistance to the experience is interesting in this light. Sargant notes that often, the more one resists the onset of possession, the more intense the experience actually becomes. I have noticed that, in my own experience of being possessed, whenever I have consciously tried to limit the depth of possession, it has in fact, proved to be much more intense than I expected. With practice, one may achieve a state of possession relatively quickly.

The Baron answered many questions and mingled amongst the many in attendance that filled the Perystle and surrounding grounds, puffing furiously on his large dark thick cigar. Most of all many here wanted to speak to him, because he possess the accumulated wisdom of all that are dead. As the Avatar of Death it is within his power to effect healing, and if ever there was a need for healing, it is here, now in New Orleans.

Ghede is said to be a thief amonngst the crowd. It is true that he appropriates what he likes from anyone, but once the person accedes to Ghede's demands his pilfering is usually limited to a few things very minor such as demanding a dollar bill or two. Glassman recounts that when you make a request of Baron Samedi, you use a something other then your hand, a stick anything but your hand extended in place of your hand. When the Baron is ready to leave, he takes with him whatever he's holding. By substituting something, you don't loose your arm!

Possession remains a powerful form of magical work. It can be used to derive oracular information (as used by the Greeks and Tibetans), to charge magical weapons, to share in the power of the God (as in ritual Masses) or 'live' a particular mythic transformation. In constructing possession-workings, it can be useful to examine magical and religious paradigms where possession is a recognised and culturally-defined technique. The experience itself can be related to wider phenomenon such as religious conversion, hypnosis, and abreactive therapy. As with all types of magical technique, it's use requires careful analysis and evaluation if it is not to devolve into a habituated limitation. In general, magical possession is both useful and enjoyable, if a little hair-raising at times.

At Fet Ghede, Glassmans peristyles followers also cook and bring plenty of food especially for the many of Ghedes which appear unexpectedly and wander through the streets to the ponding call of the drums.

Ghede Is Everywhere!

Many Guédés dressed in top hat and smoked glasses danced, ate cursed and sang into the night.

It seems that some years ago, under the regime of President Borno, there suddenly appeared in the streets of Port-au-Prince a crowd of Ghedes (all of them houngans possessed by Ghede) wearing the "formal" costume of the lord: the tall top-hats, long black tail-coats, smoked glasses, cigarettes or cigars, and canes. An enormous crowd naturally collected about them, and joined them in their march to the National Palace. They all took the guards by surprise, and, singing, swerved throught the gates and up the drive and to the door itself, where they demanded money of the President. President Borno, who is reputed to have been sympatheic to Voudoun ritiual (secretly so) and yet feared bourgeois opininon was in great dilemma. He finally gave in, obstensibly merely to quiet the mob, and the Ghedes with their supporters left the grounds. But Ghede had make his point. Death, who has consumed so many heroes, bows before no man and will remind even the most illustrious that one day he too will be consumed. So Ghede had gotten his money and went off to gorge himself, singing...

from Divine Horsemen by Maya Deren [p107]

Note: If you are visiting New Orleans in the hazy month of June, do not miss this opportunity to experience this authentic open to the public voodoo Marie Laveau ritual hosted by one of the most powerful practitioners of the religion in the South, Sallie Ann Glassman. Featured on the Scifi Investigates Premier.

Ms. Sallie Ann Glassman is the author of Vodou Visions, published by Random House in May, 2000, which has received acclaim from Vodou practitioners around the world. She is co-creator and artist for The New Orleans Voodoo Tarot, published by Destiny/Inner Traditions, and is the illustrator of The Enochian Tarot, published by Llewellyn.

Counted as one of the twenty most active Voodoo practitioners in the United States, And as one of the top ten in New Orleans, Priestess Sallie Ann Glassman is known for promoting positive thoughts through her Voodoo faith. She is also a historian on Voodoo tradition and its roots in Hatian Vodun. Like many native religions, Vodou (often referred to as "Voodoo") has been scorned and ridiculed in mainstream Judeo-Christian communities. "The word 'Vodou' sends chills down the spines of most people, and conjures up age-old terrors of sorcery, black magic, and bogeymen lurking under the bed," writes author Sallie Ann Glassman (New Orleans Voodoo Tarot/Book and Card Set). This enticing compendium of the origins and practice of Vodou makes for a fascinating read, explaining how music, dance, and artistic expression are the heart and soul of this complicated religion. "What I discovered was a vibrant, beautiful, and ecstatic religion that was free from dogma, guilt or coercion," says Glassman, a thoughtful and articulate Jewish woman who first began studying New Orleans Vodou in 1975.

Island of Salvation Botanica
Island of Salvation Botanica · Sallie Ann Glassman ...

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