Friday, March 27, 2009

Best Laid Plans (Part 17)

What would you ask of a voodoo priest? (Part 1)

Before going to Ghana, I found out about the history of the practice of voodoo in the country. Although today, the majority of the population of Ghana is Christian, there are a number of Ghanaians that still practice Voodoo. Robert, one of our guides told me that sometimes, if something happens to someone – say something of theirs was stolen, they'll go to a Voodoo Priest to find out who did it and to exact punishment. Both Richard and Robert explained that voodoo is not all negative though – that it’s not about hurting people, but rather about empowering yourself.

My personal experience with this practice stops at those kitschy voodoo dolls that a person can buy at a gift shop. And I’ve never thought of myself as particularly superstitious – though I do often find myself knocking on wood, and if someone asks me if I’ve seen a roach in my apartment I find I’m afraid to answer so that I don’t ‘tempt fate,’ so-to-speak. But beyond that, I walk on cracks in the sidewalk (is this why I trip so much?), I don’t throw salt over my shoulder (though to be honest, that might be because I know I have terrible aim) and I don’t think that when my ears ring it means that someone is thinking about me (or whatever significance that's supposed to hold). However, who am I to say that there isn’t magic out there? People spend their lifetime studying mysticism and voodoo and little ol’ me is certainly in no position to discredit anyone’s belief system. I choose not to question it not only because I am in no position to, but also because, to put it plainly, I would be terrified to piss a practitioner of voodoo off. So, although there was some part of me that feared the unknown, I was also on a mission to experience things in spite of my fear. Therefore, when Richard offered to take me to a voodoo village just beyond our work site, I found myself agreeing without reservation.

I was going to a Voodoo Village!

It was our final day of work and after lunch, Richard and Robert told the group that I had wanted to visit the village and offered to take anyone else who wanted to go. Turns out, everyone was just as curious as I was. So off we all went into the woods. We crossed the very stream that the villagers use to do their laundry and pick up their water and headed into the tall grass. My group was told more about the settlement. It was a healing community that was built for people to stay for the duration of their illness. It seemed that the only people who lived their full-time were the Voodoo Priest and his assistant. This news made me even more curious about what I’d find there. Would there be rows of cots with people extremely ill? Along with the priest, would there be a doctor there as well as a nurse? What types of illnesses did most of the people have? Malaria? Cancer? How did voodoo come into play with a person's sickness.

As we continued walking through the forest, both Richard and Robert told me that I should tell the priest why I was in Ghana. That I should talk to him about my divorce so that he could help me. Hmmmm...
Grateful for the offer, I explained to them that, while I was devastated at the abrupt demise of my marriage, I didn’t want to go back to New York and hear that my husband’s penis randomly detached from the rest of his body (or something along those lines). Again they promised that the priest’s focus would be on helping me, but I still declined.

The dirt pathway in the woods led to an opening, which led to... A Voodoo Shrine. Robert, a believer in much of the religion, turned to me and said quietly, “don’t touch anything.” I absorbed this warning with very wide eyes and an open mouth. Quickly, I turned to Joe who was filming the figure and chided, “don’t you touch anything!” He looked at me like a kid who was wrongly accused of bad behavior by their mother. Granted, he wasn’t touching anything but I didn’t want to take any chances. The shrine was a face with its tongue out. By face, I don’t mean to suggest that it was a statue of someone being silly and jutting their tongue out because trust me, it was nothing like that. It definitely had a more serious tone to it. Adding to that heaviness were objects that I guessed were offerings.

After taking in the shrine, I headed into the village...

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