Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Voodoo in Canada attempts to go mainstream

When thou art come into the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations.
There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch.
Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer.
For all that do these things are an abomination unto the LORD: and because of these abominations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee.
Deuteronomy 18:9-12

As reported by Ingrid Peritz in The Globe and Mail on September 27, 2010:

The stairs leading to Rolanda Delerme’s basement open onto a dazzling tableau: Pink and green feathers in jars, sequined bottles, a life-sized mannequin holding a knife, altars packed with Catholic saints.

"Welcome," the voodoo priestess says, dressed in a headdress and flowing white robes.

Voodoo temples such as this are said to have thrived for years in the homes of Haitian émigrés in Montreal, hidden from the judging eyes of outsiders. But now devotees have started a movement to bring voodoo and its rituals out of the shadows.

"I want to open my door. I want to tell people: We exist. We are not devil worshippers," said Ms. Delerme, a fourth-generation voodoo priestess, or mambo, who was born in Haiti but lived in the U.S. before settling in Montreal.

"We want to defend our culture and traditions," she said in her home on an ordinary suburban street in Montreal’s West Island. "Voodoo is still being stigmatized."

Ms. Delerme, 34, has taken on a daunting task – pulling back the veil to try to demystify one of the most secretive and misunderstood religions in the world. This month, she and a group of "voodooists" took the unusual step of holding a press conference in Montreal to announce a Canadian "national voodooist confederation."

The group has rented a tiny office in Montreal’s multiethnic Park Extension district, printed up business cards and let the news media into their once off-limit temples...

...Voodoo is a centuries-old belief that combines African religions with Western Catholicism; in Haiti, its public rehabilitation began after it was officially recognized as a religion in 2003. In Montreal, it’s impossible to know the number of followers because of voodoo’s covert nature. One expert said he’s heard estimates ranging from 30 to 80 per cent of Haitian Canadians, overwhelmingly concentrated in Quebec.

Despite the move to go mainstream, voodoo has long been taboo in the 100,000-strong Haitian diaspora. The religion was the focus of "anti-superstition" efforts by the Catholic church in Haiti that began in the late 19th century, which pushed voodoo underground even as some Haitians clung to its practises.

"Haitians are ambivalent about voodoo," said Emerson Douyon, a retired psychology professor from the University of Montreal who studied voodoo in Haiti for his PhD. "On the one hand, they’re very proud of their ancestors’ religion and their African roots. Voodoo is part of who they are."

"But Haitians know Canadians don’t necessarily approve of these kinds of practises. They worry about being considered primitive. That’s why it’s kept hidden."

That could change for good, when the Museum of Civilization in Gatineau puts on an exhibit on voodoo in 2012. It will combine artifacts collected from Haitian-Canadians along with a touring exhibit of Haitian voodoo that is currently being shown in Europe.

The fact that the Museum of Civilization will feature an exhibit on voodoo shows that the word "civilization" is apparently about as clearly defined now as the word "evangelical." The voodoo practitioners would be smart to hire Mormons to teach them how to promote their beliefs and practices as "mainstream."

No comments:

Post a Comment