Teachings of the Santeria Gods: The Spirit of the Odu, by Ocha’ni Lele
Destiny Books, 9781594773327, 270 pp. (incl. glossary and index), 2010
Teachings of the Santeria Gods centres on the diloggun, a method of divination involving cowrie shells cast on a mat. The backs of the shells are filed down, but the important thing is the “mouths” of the shells—how many are facing upward gives the diviner the number of an “odu.” Each odu comprises an almost-endless array of stories (the pataki) about particular orisha, or cautionary folk tales. This is what makes this style of divination so interesting; the choice of the story to be told to the querent, and the ebo (sacrifice to be made in order to banish the querent’s ill-luck, avert disaster, or appease angry spirits, among other things) to be made gives a diviner near-infinite possibilities. Continue reading
Victor Hugo’s Conversations with the Spirit World: A Literary Genius’s Hidden Life, by John Chambers
Destiny Books, 1594771820, 372. pp, 1999, 2009
I’m sure that, at one time or another, many of us have played with a Ouija ™ board. And we may have gotten “messages from beyond.” Most of us, I am sure, tired quickly of it, or had serious doubts about the information coming through the board.
Well, Victor Hugo lived before the Ouija ™ board was created. He did, however, live during the time when Spiritualism was in its heyday. The use of small, lightweight, three-legged tables to tap out messages was commonplace in parlours across Europe. The uncommon aspects of M Hugo’s attempts were quite extraordinary, however. They included the people involved (writers, philosophers, and military men) as well as the “sources” of this information (living individuals [Napoleon III], concepts [Civilization], as well as the more common discarnate individuals). Continue reading
The Haitian Vodou Handbook: Protocols for Riding with the Lwa, by Kenaz Filan
Destiny Books, 1594771251, 204 pp., 2007
I have a certain level of trepidation as I read any book devoted to a religion which actively incorporates the use of magic in the daily life of its followers. The gods (or in this case, the lwa) know that there exists a surplus of spell books on the market today. There are plenty of books which reveal the inner workings of non-traditional (read: mainstream) religions. And the number of authors out there who claim high degrees of initiation which prohibit them from saying anything intelligible is legion. This is not one of those books and/or authors.
Filan carefully draws a distinction between the lwa, angels, and God, which may be surprising to many in the Neo-Pagan community as well as the more accepted Christian community. He does point out, however, that his beliefs may not be shared by all Vodouisants. He is honest enough to state that disagreements do not mean one side is right and the other is wrong, merely that they differ. Continue reading
Vodou Money Magic: The Way to Prosperity through the Blessings of the Lwa, by Kenaz Filan
Destiny Books, 9781594773310, 212pp., 2010
While I enjoyed this book it has left me with fairly mixed feelings. Many parts of the book I really liked and appreciated, but there were also parts that just rubbed me the wrong way. I’ll first air my issues then continue with the rest of the book.
Hoodoo is a cousin, so to speak, to Vodou and related traditions, but Hoodoo is a system of magick, where as Vodou is a religion. This book seemed like it was advocating a personal devotional religion for financial aid. It just seemed to be going the wrong direction, imagine “Join the Church, learn how Jesus can get you money” as a parallel, and that’s what felt off with the book. The religion is one of dedication and personal relationships, and I think undertaking such a relationship only for financial gain is the wrong path. “The better you understand Vodou’s roots, the more effectively you will use Vodou to your advantage.” This is sound advice, but a touch muddled by having this book as an intro to the religion, and focused on money magick, not the practices as a whole. Continue reading