“Each day is a little life; every waking and rising a little birth; every fresh morning a little youth; every going to rest and sleep a little death.” ~ Arthur Schopenhauer
Around this time last year, shortly after my amazing visit to St. Louis Cemetery #1 (the well-known “resting place” of the famous Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau in New Orleans, Louisiana) I was visited in a dream by the Lwas of Death. In a night-cloaked necropolis, Baron Samedi, often referred to simply as the Baron, stared into my soul, grinned, and offered me his hand. Some say you should never shake the Baron’s hand because he will drag you into your grave. With that sage advice in mind, I bowed my head in deference to his authority and reverence of his greatness. I did this instead of offering my hand in return and I firmly believe that in so doing I politely avoided dying in my sleep. As we walked among the gravestones, raised tombs, and crosses, we spoke of many things, but mostly of the dead, of their hunger for interaction with the living. He reproached me for being intermittent in my work with them.
Our stroll through the tombs led us to one of particular interest, the Baron gestured for me to step inside. I followed his instruction and when I crossed the threshold, I emerged into a little sunlit room with music from the 20’s or 30’s playing, a tangible fog of tobacco smoke, finely decorated tables of rich and decadent food, people taking a turn around the room, and other people sitting and chatting softly. Still others in the smallish but comfortable space simply stared at the strange woman who’d just walked into the room and who clearly didn’t belong because she was very much alive. I politely acknowledged everyone and continued to listen as the Baron helped me understand why he delivered me to this place.
Between useful bits of information, the Baron insisted on reminding me that I was in the land of death. He’d lift his shades and let me see the maggots writhing in his eye sockets or blow the stench of decomposition into my face. He thought it was hilarious every time I flinched. It was real work limiting my adverse reactions to only a flinch! I was thoroughly creeped out and the Baron knew it but I think he thought of it as desensitization therapy :). Just when I thought I couldn’t take anymore, Maman Brigitte emerged from one of the corners of the room. She looked nothing like what I expected but I knew it was her. Maman looked like a gardener. After greeting me and telling Baron to ease up on me, she walked over to the high windowsills and engaged the various plants growing there for a moment before returning to talk with me. She offered me some much needed advice and then indulged in more banter with the Baron. I thanked Maman for her hospitality and then the Baron ushered me out of the sunlit room and back into the dark cemetery. Among the stones I thanked the Baron for his time and aid. Before I left I asked him why this encounter was so clear. He relied that sleep is the little death and so when I sleep I am close to him. I thanked him for the clarification and exited through the main cemetery gate. I woke up after that.
Fast forward closer to the present now. Earlier this month, I had another dream involving the Baron and Maman. Accompanied by a psychodelic onslaught of skulls, crosses, and dissonant music playing just out of step with the current times, they instructed me to plan and host a Fet for them and the Ghede. I am neither a Haitian Vodou practitioner nor a New Orleans Voodoo practitioner so I do not know how this festival is done within those traditions. But, I will do research on the subject and try my best to use my knowledge base and magical skill set to give due honor to Baron Samedi, Maman Brigitte, and the Dead.
Before I began my current path, I was not a part of a spiritual tradition with a structured and ingrained theory and practice for honoring the dead. So, now that I am paving my own way, I often feel that I am blundering in the dark in my work with my ancestors and the dead in general. That is why my work has been intermittent. Via my dreams, Baron and Maman helped me to more deeply connect with the importance of communing with the dead – the dead are beings with powerful ties to this world, ties to the living, and those ties must be recognized and honored. The dead and the living are important to each other’s health and wellness. In a way, we have a symbiotic relationship. Baron and Maman’s visits helped me to realize that truth on a deeper level than I had in the past.
With renewed meaning and purpose, I relish the opportunity to engage in more regular cult for the dead/ancestors, and also to plan a Fet!
So be it.