transformations of misfortune the case of vodun s ezili l.
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TRANSFORMATIONS OF MISFORTUNE : The Case of Vodun’s Ezili. January 22, 2001. But first…please:. sign the attendance sheet put on your name-tag if you need a syllabus and/or guide-sheet for Wed., get from me after class First segment paper topics distributed on Wednesday

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but first please
But first…please:
  • sign the attendance sheet
  • put on your name-tag
  • if you need a syllabus and/or guide-sheet for Wed., get from me after class
  • First segment paper topics distributed on Wednesday
  • Add-ons: see me at end of class
  • please have reading completed by Wed.
la sirenne
La Sirenne
  • A mermaid
  • Lives in the two oceans: the material one and the place of the dead
  • Governs the transition from life to death to life again
ezili danto
Ezili Danto
  • Manifests in the form of dark-skinned mother holding a child
  • Becomes present in images of the black Virgin Mary
  • Loving and tender
  • Fiercely protective
  • Not a virgin: has multiple husbands and gives birth to many children
ezili danto in action
Ezili Danto in action
  • Helps mothers fulfil their role
    • pushes mothers to feed their children better
    • pushes mothers to resolve conflicts with sons and daughters
ezili freda
Ezili Freda
  • Light-skinned, glamorous, bejewelled.
  • Love and romance
  • Weeps easily
  • offerings made not in ocean but in rivers
  • manifests in the image of Maria Dolorosa del Monte Calvario
ezili freda in action
Ezili Freda in action
  • Helps women deal with problematic lovers or spouses
    • Counsels love, patience, cosmetics, love magic
    • Pressures male partners
the veve of ezilia freda
The “veve” of ezilia freda
  • a heart skewered on a sword
  • overflowing love mixed with the pain of betrayal

Part II:

Levels of



transformations of west african belief 1
Transformations of West african belief, 1
  • La Sirenne
    • belief in sea goddesses common in West Africa, to whom offerings of flowers are made
    • Water regarded in West Africa as a site/source of transformation
      • Girls become women in the Mamy Water ritual through immersion in waters
transformations of west african belief 2
Transformations of West African belief, 2
  • Ezili Freda
    • Oshun of Yoruba tradition
    • a princess (crown)
    • a coquette (jewelry)
    • a lover, not a mother (association with sweet, not salt, water)
  • The African beliefs shaped the content of the vodou beliefs
  • Staying aware of the African origins of the beliefs nurtures proud sense of group identity -- important as a way to maintain dignity under slavery and now to maintain self-esteem in modern world
transformations of history 1
Transformations of history, 1
  • Lasyrenn
    • Beckons the living to come to her in the great watery place called Ginen, dwelling place of the wandering “bonanj”
    • What does “Ginen” mean?
    • Return to Ginen associated with learning, healing, rebirth, liberation
      • the souls of the dead benefit from the wandering souls: their love of freedom
      • women trained as healers in Ginen
la sirenne and slaving ships
La Sirenne and slaving ships
  • Looks like the carvings on the prows of slaving ships.
  • La Sirenne provides a way (from semi-conscious to unconscious) to cope with the collective trauma of the Middle Passage: by transforming this devastating historical experience into source of strength and meaning
transformations of history 2 ezili danto
Transformations of history, 2: Ezili Danto
  • Also known as “Ezili Je Wouj”: Ezili of the Red Eyes (of rage)
  • A Petro spirit: flies easily into a rage
  • Scars on her cheek: some tell story of battle against white slaveowners
  • No tongue: cut out in case she fell prisoner
  • Ezili Danto embodies at a semi- or unconscious level the trauma of slavery and the historical response to it:
    • rage against enslavement (her rage)
    • the historical experience of rising up in the Haitian Revolution (her scars)
    • the failure of that Revolution to achieve full liberation (her inability to speak)
transformations of history 3 ezili freda
Transformations of history, 3: Ezili Freda
  • Ezili Danto is dark; Ezilia Freda is light;
  • Ezili Danto knows no luxury; Ezilia Freda immerses herself in it;
  • Ezilia Danto rebels and is full of anger; Ezili Freda wishes to please and move up in the world
  • The figure of Ezili Freda allows the expression of the collective psychological problem of the light-skinned Haitian woman (mulattas) inherited from the history of slavery:
    • wants to be separate and distinct from black cousins
    • knows down deep that such separation is impossible, and so feels forever frustrated and jealous