per amica silentia lunae

or, across the ferny brae with the evil voodoo celt

Previous Entry Share Next Entry
this is hallowe'en town
Every city has its gods, its genii loci and patron spirits. Some are so deity-ridden that you can scarcely avoid them as you walk the streets- London is one of these, I can attest to that, full to the brim with its local gods. Every city seems to accumulate at least a few over the course of its history.

New Orleans is no exception. The most obvious is the mighty Mississippi- Old Man River, one of T.S. Eliot's brown gods, defining the crescent of the city, a constant threat and source of lifeblood. The statue they erected to it is quite insulting- whatever else you can say about him, Old Man River is certainly fully equipped with arms and penis. (We decided that it was actually a statue warning about the "dangers" of masturbation...). Bacchus also holds sway here, especially during Carnival, especially on Bourbon Street.

But at certain times of the year, another power reigns supreme. On St. John's Eve, and also as the fall leaves begin their slow and brilliant combustion, and through the month of November, things get a little darker. Another family of spirits, who are always there, now comes to the fore. At Hallowe'en, New Orleans belongs to the Gede.

The Gede are the Vodou lwa (gods, patron spirits, etc.) of death and sexuality. Bawon Samedi- their "leader", as much as they have one- rules the graveyard, and is called on by those who would work magic to help or to harm. They stand at the doorway between this world and the next; they care for souls when it is time for them to pass, and let the morts come back when they wish to deal with the living. They are great healers (especially of children), and also great mischief-makers. They behave in a bizarre and comical fashion- one author has described them as resembling the Addams Family. They are great levelers- they mock pretense, and say the unsaid. They drink and eat ravenously, and their sexuality is always on display.

Look at the Hallowe'en revelers on the street- you see skulls and bones, people costumed as vampires and other undead; others wear outfits from every sort of sexual fantasy. Look at the clubs and bars and restaurants- the trappings of horror movies decorate them; there are less revelers there than on Mardi Gras, but the bawdiness is just as rich. Look into the souvenir shops and see the displays of "voodoo" curios- skulls and coffins abound, as well as voodoo dolls- echoes of the sorcery that Samedi can teach. Look at the cemeteries of New Orleans- veritable cities of the dead, with the tombs above ground like houses, apartments, mansions; this is the time of year when families go into the graveyards to care for the tombs, to leave flowers and other offerings for their ancestors.

Early in the morning on All Souls Day, monsteralice and I made our weary way to Café Du Mondé. We had been up for closing in on 24 hours at this point, and the daylight hours since waking had been filled with last-minute errands, shopping, and cooking. Then we had attended a Vodou Day of the Dead celebration in which we had danced, sang, shouted for hours, and seen several of the worshippers "ridden" by various of the Gede. Then (as mentioned in my last entry), we had gone to a graveyard to honor the dead. It had been an overwhelming and deeply moving experience, one that we were still processing. But we were at peace, although deadly tired.

There were a few dozen folks at the café at this ungodly hour, half-drunk partiers, weary lovers, night owls. monsteralice and I enjoyed the people-watching as much as our café au lait and beignets. There was a large and raucous crowd near us- some were in costume, others in formal wear, and others still in casual clothing; one guy even wore a full formal kilt outfit. They were in high spirits, joking and flirting, and soon began dumping the powdered sugar on each other until they were all liberally coated. As they began to leave, we noted how their faces were marked with the white powder, making dark hollows of their eyes. Laughter and skulls, sex and drunkenness and death... monsteralice and I looked at each other and nodded. The Gede was here, too.

  • 1

Cause you can't have too many

So when is someone going to make the "What lwa are you?" quiz?


  • 1

Log in

No account? Create an account