The Vodou Bodies
| A few years ago, I was reading The Complete Idiot's Guide
to Hinduism, and I was interested in a passage that describes
"bodies" that humans have:
The reason this struck me was because it seemed so similar to a break-down that Wade Davis discusses in The Serpent and the Rainbow:
As far as I can tell, Metraux seems to be the first person to write about this break-down of the notion of the soul, possibly in a paper called "The Concept of Soul in Haitian Vodu" in Southwestern Journal of Anthropology (1946), although I haven't read that paper. Metraux also talks about the ti-bon-ange and the gros-bon-ange in Voodoo in Haiti.
Deren also talks about the ti-bon-anj and gwo-bon-anj and also uses the term "esprit" to describe the gwo-bon-anj, and she cites Metraux's paper. (Divine Horsemen was written before Voodoo in Haiti). It's not clear to me whether or not Deren had firsthand experience with the use of these terms.
Davis (in an endnote) says that when he was in Haiti the people he met used the terms slightly differently than Metraux (in particular, he noticed Haitians using the terms ti-bon-anj and gwo-bon-anj opposite to what Metraux reported).
A few others also talk about this break-down. Shannon Turlington mentions it in The Complete Idiot's Guide to Voodoo and Do You Do Voodoo. Houngan Ross Heaven, in Vodou Shaman talks about the three souls of man: the gros-bon-anj, the ti-bon-anj, and the met tet. He also refers to Ashe as a type of energetic power (I think his use is similar to the concept of n'ame, but I'm not entirely sure -- for my part, I've only seen the term 'ashe' in New Orleans and I'm not too familiar with it).
My maman kanzo was very explicit about not being familiar with the terminology. And I have not yet met an initiate who claimed to have learned that information from traditional teaching. I can imagine three reasons why this central information about the soul doesn't apply:
I'm personally very interested in hearing about anyone's direct experience with these teachings. If you've been taught about the Vodou bodies from your maman or papa kanzo, I'd love to hear about it.
Copyright © 2004 by B.C. Holmes. Last updated April 18th, 2004.
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