lundi 1 septembre 2008

The Phenomenology of Voodoo (Part 3)

A funeral rite practiced after physical death, the “Desounin” is supposed to cut away any attachment between the dead person and the “lwa-protector” who must be transferred to the head of a living searcher under penalty of vindication by the Gods (Romain 1958:207-9). Many would argue this is a simplicity and pre-scientific rationalization of not-yet understood phenomena manifesting the interior life of man. This does not take away from the fact that though these concepts have revealed some profound and accurate intuitions corresponding to two major experiences in the life of the Voodooist; that man is essentially bound to a transcendent world on which he depends for his entire existence; the “Grand-Mèt”, the lwa with whom he enters into familiarity by the Kanzo or initiation semantization. It must be noted, first of all, that the voodoo religion is, above all, an “experience” to an observer alien to the Black Weltans Chauung, This practice apparently carries nothing really meaningful and involves more bodily aspects of the man than this brain.

According to Gusdorf (1953:16), mythical thought is a thought lived in before it is intellectually developed and formulated. It is a spontaneous way-of-being-the-world, a way of comprehending things, beings and oneself, and one’s conducts and attitudes, a way of inserting man into reality.

Nevertheless, when a voodooist drags a bird “un oiseau” across the body of a patient in order to transfer to the animal the sickness which he wants to take away from that person, he is acting according to a theory. Even in the hypothesis which says that the ingle believer is not able to explain what he is doing as a ritual, it is still true that he undertakes the action in view of a result which presupposes some meaning. From this, can be discovered in the Voodoo context two fundamental forms of knowledge:
There is, first of all, the knowledge of the high initiated, instead, is given the name of “Konessans lwa” (profound science). It is not unusual to hear a haïtian peasant declare with admiration that a person who possesses this quality is a “Gason-kanson”, a “Nèg-kanbré” (moral of a strong man). This statement connotes mystical power in the person so designated. It is believer that only those wise men would know exactly what they are doing when engaged in an action which requires this justifiable explanation that comes way back from the ancient African. As a consequence of this, support can be found for the existence of a hidden theory which is implied in even the smallest gestures.

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