Tuesday, 3 August 2010

evangelical voodoo

The constant, savage sound of voodoo drums is both terrifying and hypnotic. It is a manic sound that beats and beats and beats inside your head and through to the bone. It is repetitive, continual, and as it pounds through your head it is easy to see how people become possessed.

It is said that this country is 80% christian and 100% voodoo and last night was proof of that. I had been asked by some texan missionaries to attend a performance at a nearby christian refugee camp, and with nothing else to do decided to join. What we expected however and what we got could not have been more different. It was the most eery performance I have seen and left us drained and exhausted. In the case of the Texans, who had been looking forward to a christian sing along, it left them scared and angry.

In a small dark room at the centre of this foul and muddy camp the dancers leapt and fell and swayed for over an hour. Not once did the drums stop beating or the men stop dancing. They portrayed every character from Haiti's culture, and overseeing it all was Baron Samedi; god of the dead. We watched as they mimicked human sacrifice, slave murders, and otherworldly possessions. They prayed both to the ground as well as the heavens, and they contorted their bodies in ways I thought not possible. As the night continued the evangelicals beside me began to huddle together as the dancers slapped the ground, cracked whips and beat their chests. 

The frenzy grew and grew and reached its peak as Samedi blew flames towards our heads. The heat was intense and if any of our group had not realised this was a celebration of paganism they certainly did then. One of the girls screamed and clutched at her pastor, he in turn had a look of horror on his face and shielded her from this blasphemy. 

Soaked in sweat these dancers got closer and closer to the group. A one armed man began to body pop and then bizarrely dropped to the floor and did the worm. The lights went out but the drums continued, they got louder and louder and in the candle light all we could see were big white grinning mouths. I desperately wanted this to end, and was not sure I could take much more. At the same time however I feared the silence that would follow, and when it finally came it was as if something had left us.  I was mesmerized. Nobody moved and nobody spoke, we just sat there in the dark before eventually filtering out one by one. I looked down at my notebook and saw deep teeth marks in the cover.

That this performance was not at odds with their christian belief is amazing, but then so much about this land is at odds with itself. It is also amazing to think that this was not a real voodoo ceremony, for that I will have to go inland.

I politely declined the offer of an evening prayer session and left the texans. I headed straight for the only hotel with a bar, for if anything warrants a drink it was this. Walking alone through darkened Haitian streets after such craziness was strange indeed. The streets in the old town are all deserted -  barely one house in the area is safe following the quake. I had a feeling people were lurking in the shadows though and I quickened my pace.

Walking into the hotel I was thrown into another amazing scene - it was a Haitian wedding. At the centre of the group were 2 men sitting face to face. They were reading french poetry back and forth in quick tempo while women in white frilly dresses looked on and swayed. I don't really know what was going on but intend to find out.

I had arranged to meet a friend who runs a maternity clinic. She texted me soon after I arrived to say she would be late. She was at her clinic and about to deliver a dead baby - her 5th that week. When she arrived soon after I found out that the mother had refused to deliver.  She had wanted to keep her still born a little longer.

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