"Here's your coffee, Brav."
Like many people, it has become my morning ritual to brew a pot of beautiful, exquisite coffee. Coffee is evidence of resurrection, I think, because it stirs me from the dead. How appropriate, I muse, that it's a standard offering to one of my lwa, Papa Gede. Papa Gede is the lwa of the first dead, the grand psychopomp of Vodou, standing at the crossroads to take the departed to the Underworld. He also stands at my personal crossroads, too, so I give service to him so that I may turn down the correct avenue in my present and future trials.
Although he is foremost among the blessed dead, the Gede, he is also the Lord of Life. Maya Deren, choreographer turned Manbo, speaks of him poetically in her book "The Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti" :
"If Legba was the sun, at first young, then growing old, Ghede is the master of that abyss into which the sun descends. If Legba was time, Ghede is that eternal figure in black, posted at the timeless cross-roads at which all men and even the sun one day arrive. The cross upon a tomb is his symbol. But the sun is each year reborn. If Carrefour is the night death which attends each day, then Ghede is the night sun, the life which is eternally present, even in darkness. The cosmic abyss is both tomb and womb. In a sense, Ghede is the Legba who has crossed the cosmic threshold to the underworld, for Ghede is now everything that Legba once was in the promise and the prime of his life. [...] Ghede is, today, the phallic deity also. If Legba was once Lord of Life, Ghede is now Lord of Resurrection; and the difference between them is Death, which is Ghede."
I am seeing myself in that Resurrection, in the coffee that I sip with him in the small service that I hold each morning. You see, I used to serve the lwa far better than I have been over the past 1.5 years. Life has given me some heavy hands. In some situations, it wasn't feasible to carry my altar to the new environment. That was no excuse to remove the sevis lwa, however, but other factors made most religious observance to be difficult. Those factors were mainly internal strife.
I was serving the lwa when my life was at its highest. I stopped almost everything when at its lowest. I see that circle is coming back around now, finally, after the worst year of my adult life. The lwa came back around through dreams, coincidently (perhaps) with the onset of the previous lunar eclipse. It's the first internal sign that I've seen in ages that things are coming back to as they should be.
Brav is insatiably hungry. He is Death-- death never stops consuming, you know? I have his altar in my kitchen, something of which I am certain was subconsciously motivated by him. In working with the spirits, intuition is heightened. Everytime I am preparing food, now, I feel a looming presence until some of it goes to his altar and upon his plate. As such, his service is not bound to Saturday's only, his traditional day of the week, although those are the larger ones. But, I see that in feeding him, I feed myself. Knowledge is not free; it almost always entails handing over something of which you've previously worked to get: food, ego and previously held convictions are all energy, and energy is capable of change. As are we.
But, I've not always been particularly fond of change. I resist it, sometimes. I abhor it during other times. It's pointless to fight it, I KNOW THIS!, but, I still do it. I am a glutton for punishment, a true situational masochist. It's this contrast of serving Papa Gede, I think, that I find the middle grounds. Death is both static and dynamic. It is something that will always occur, but it is a change within itself. You see it even within the Gede.
The Gede are SCANDALOUS and relentless tricksters! They'll arrive in a feast for other lwa and take their food. They'll play fight, trip, tell dirty jokes, emulate sexual gestures in dance and otherwise irritate the hell out of the most powerful lwa. "What the f**k you gonna do, kill me?" one might say. He'll arrive and, upon mounting a person, take a pair of sunglasses, poke out one of the lense and don it. Some say that this suggests the Gede sees both worlds: the living and the dead, the above and the below. But, one Gede told Deren "This is so I can keep one eye on my food."
But, if showing himself as Death's Head, Gede begins to emulate the sound of the gravedigger's pick as it hits stone in the cold, uncaring Earth. He's serious business, but it's just not the way he would prefer to reveal himself.
Although death, they remain the epitome of life. The life of the party, some say with a sense of grinning irony, because even in the gravest of change, life can become the most apparent. I am seeing that now. Finally. Just as there is life beyond death, and a Death that is life-- conversations with Brav Gede, affectionately the Papa of the Gede, is showing me that you can feel like you're a corpse deep in the ground, but if you'll just doing something contrary to your being, something absurd--- don't get even, get ODD-- those actions will flip your circumstances around. Whether it is seeing it in a new light, or the crossroads open up new doors, you'll find it. I'm finding it now, in being alive while serving death.
Mwen renmou ou, Papa Gede, ayibobo.
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