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ESOTERIC | RELIGION | AFRICAN | DIASPORIC

TRINIDAD:
ORISHA WORSHIP, HINDU DEITIES,
KABBALAH, DE LAURENCE

Newsgroups:  alt.religion.orisha, alt.lucky.w Subject: 
Trinidad: Orisha Worship, Hindu Deities, Kabbalah, De Laurence 
Date:  Mon 04 Jun 2001 - Tue, 05 Jun 2001

-----

From:  Kevin Filan (mrharwer@SPAMBGONE.com)

I recently purchased *Spirit, Blood and Drums: the Orisha
Religion in Trinidad* by James T. Houk (Philadelphia: Temple
University Press, 1995).  If you can find this book, I
highly recommend it.  There has always been a large Indian
presence in Trinidad (in 1988 42.17% of the population was
of Indian descent, while 38.76% were of African descent),
but according to Houk only recently has there been any
appreciable blending of the two traditions in Trinidadian
Orisha worship.

The following excerpt comes from pp. 88-9 of Houk's book.
Before posting this, I should note that I have never been to
Trinidad and that I am not personally familiar with
Trinidadian culture or worship.  IIRC, we have one poster on
alt.religion.orisha from Trinidad: any comments or
corrections he might have are, of course, welcomed.

Peace Kevin Filan

*****

     As with other borrowings, the incorporation of Hindu
     elements into the Orisha belief system characteristically
     takes different forms around the island.  Worshippers
     usually simply superimpose the borrowed elements onto Orisha
     beliefs and practices.  Typically, one finds at an Orisha
     shrine a small area devoted to one or more Hindu deities.
     This area generally contains statues, statuettes, and large
     poster representations of the deities and an assortment of
     Indian brass receptacles, candles, incense and other
     materials.

     Among the Hindu deities most commonly found in Orisha
     worship are Hanuman, Mahabir, Lakshmi, and Rama.  Because
     virtually all the Hindu deities borrowed by Orisha are
     popular figures in many public Hindu festivals and
     ceremonies in Trinidad, even the most uninterested African
     will have some familiarity with them.  Hinduism also
     manifests to a small degree in the form of Osain (also
     referred to as Osanyin or Osa), who clearly has Yoruba
     origins and can be found in Orisha compounds all over the
     island, but whose shrine is often surrounded with Hindu
     religious materials.  Osain, sometimes referred to as "the
     Indian man," is, however, formally syncretized with Saint
     Francis (see Chapter Thirteen).

     Although Hindu-Orisha syncretism is rare, a few of the more
     knowledgeable worshippers do speak of an association between
     particular Hindu deities and African orisha.  The perceived
     similarities of the gods of both groups allow for a
     syncretism similar to the associations worshippers have made
     between the Catholic saints and orisha.  Leader Scott noted
     the following pairings (the Orisha are listed first):
     Ogun/Mahabir (or Hanuman), Osain/Mahadeo, Oya/Parvati,
     Oshun/Lakshmi, Mama Lata/Pahrmisar, Shakpana/Durga, Eshu/Dee
     and Obatala/Ganesha. Noorkumar Mahabir and Ashram Maharaj
     (1989, 194) also mention syncretisms involving Ogun and
     Hanuman or Mahabir, and Oshun and Ganga Mai.

     Nevertheless, in regard to the group as a whole, the
     relationship that exists between the Orisha religion and
     Hinduism is not a purely syncretic one.  Only a few Orisha
     worshippers, such as Leader Scott, recognize a syncretism
     involving African and Hindu deities.  Personal conceptions
     of relationship between various gods and spirits, involving
     as they do the association between concepts and beliefs of
     different religious traditions such as Catholic and African,
     or Hindu and African, reflect a sophisticated understanding
     of different belief systems as being functionally equivalent
     on some level.

     In addition to "mainstream" Hinduism, there is another form
     of Hindu worship in Trinidad which resembles Orisha worship:
     the Kali-Mai ("black mother") sect also practices ritual
     possession and animal sacrifice.  The Kali-Mai sect tends to
     be associated with the darker-skinned Madras people, and
     mainstream Hindus consider such worship "primitive" and
     "uncivilized."  According to William Guinee (personal
     communication) -- a folklorist who worked with Hindus in
     Trinidad -- as well as Leader Scott and many of the older
     Hindus, Kali-Mai worship was village-based at one time, and
     its practice was widespread.  Through time the sect
     gradually lost its appeal but has begun to make something of
     a comeback, although probably in altered form. For example,
     a large and elaborate temple in St. Augustine, only recently
     constructed by Kali-Mai worshippers, draws two to three
     hundred people every Sunday.

     It is interesting to note that although African
     participation in mainstream Hinduism is virtually nil, some
     7 or 8 percent of those attending Kali-Mai services are
     African.  It may be the strong emphasis that the Kali-Mai
     sect puts on healing that attracts the Africans.  At the
     four Sunday services I attended, it appeared to me that the
     Indian worshippers welcomed the Africans with an openness
     that is apparently uncommon at the ceremonies of mainstream
     Hinduism.

     There is little or no actual association between the
     Kali-Mai sect and the Orisha religion, but worshippers from
     each group are supportive of or at least sympathetic to the
     religious practices of the other.

          pp. 88-9 
          Spirit, Blood and Drums: the Orisha Religion in Trinidad 
          James T. Houk 
          (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1995)

-----

From: eballard@sas.upenn.edu (Eoghan Ballard)

Kevin,

You make the error of assuming that one author has a full
perspective on the subject. Houk's book is not bad, but
there are many areas in which his conclusions may be debated
and other authors, especially those with a stronger
connection to the island, have very different views and also
very different data.

That is not to say his book is weak. It happens to also be a
fairly interesting read, but it is a small and somewhat
skewed sampling in some ways. I am not really sharp on all
the details as it is something I have looked at only
sketchily of late, but I would advise you to dig deeper
before going off to post a ton of information.

Here are a few titles for you:

Beliefs, doctrines and practices of the Orisha religion in
Trinidad, 1958-1999. Henry, Frances; Mischel, Walter.  [St.
Ann's, Trinidad and Tobago] : s.n., 2000

Initiation at Mother Camara's shrine: an introduction to
Orisha in Trinidad. Lienert, Franziska. Zurich : F. Lienert,
1998

Praising his name in the dance: spirit possession in the
Spiritual Baptist Faith and Orisha work in Trinidad, West
Indies. Lum, Kenneth Anthony.   Amsterdam : Harwood Academic
: The Netherlands Publishers, 2000

Religion, diaspora and cultural identity: a reader in the
Anglophone Caribbean.  Pulis, John W. . Amsterdam, The
Netherlands : Gordon and Breach, 1999

Trinidad ethnicity. Yelvington, Kevin A., London : Macmillan
Caribbean, 1993

Eoghan

-----

From:  Kevin Filan (mrharwer@SPAMBGONE.com)

Eoghan Ballard says...

> You make the error of assuming that one author has a full 
> perspective on the subject. Houk's book is not bad, but 
> there are many areas in which his conclusions may be 
> debated and other authors, especially those with a stronger
> connection to the island have very different views and also 
> very different data.

I thought his observations were interesting not because they
were comprehensive but because they were the *only* thing I
had seen written on the subject.  Any other references you
can give in re Trinidad Orisha worship would be greatly
appreciated.

I did note some problems with Houk's views re the
development of "Trinidad Kabbalah."  He apparently believes
the Kabbalah as practiced in Trinidad today has its roots
among early French and Spanish settlers who brought the
*Zohar* and suchlike over with them.  Based on what little
information he presented regarding Trinidadian Kabballah
practitioners, I think it far, far more likely that their
Kabbalah came from DeLaurence Publications and suchlike.
(Very few Rabbis, be they Sephardic or Ashkenazic, are going
to recognize A.E. Waite's *Book of Black Magic and Pacts* as
a valuable text).

Peace 

Kevin Filan

-----

From:  "John M. Hansen" (jmhansen@erols.com)

I agree with this observation, as De Laurence  marketed his
materials and his occult products very widely, not only in
Central and South America, but in the Caribbean Islands and
in Nigeria. Before World War Two the De Lawrence Company was
one of the leading American exporters to Nigeria. His
products, consisting of sawdust, perfume, and coloring, were
highly regarded among many Nigerians, as they came from
America. His books were world wide best sellers, even in
India, where the people should have recognized his 'Indian
Magic' as pure B.S.

Best Wishes, 

John M Hansen

-----

From: eballard@sas.upenn.edu (Eoghan Ballard)

Kevin,

I am not in a position to assess Houk's conclusions about
the Zohar. On the one hand I am inclined to agree with you
about DeLaurence because I don't view these traditions as
being especially antiquarian. On the other hand there are
several reasons to view the DeLaurence connection with
caution.

The first is that I have heard from primary sources of his
being active in Jamaica, I have not heard of any
corroboration of his visits to Trinidad. Further, there is
plenty of documentation of Kabbalistic practices in the
French speaking Antilles well before DeLaurence's time.

I suspect that it is more cautious to say that DeLaurence
might well have breathed new life into existing traditions.

Eoghan

-----

From: catherine yronwode (cat@luckymojo.com)

E. C. Ballard wrote:

> I am not in a position to assess Houk's conclusions about
> the Zohar.

I believe Kevin is correct to question Houk's statements
about the Kabbalah in Trinidad today having "its roots among
early French and Spanish settlers who brought the *Zohar*
and suchlike over" -- if indeed those practitioners quote
Arthur Edward Waiite. Jews do not bother to study Kabbalah
by reading books by Christian Kabbalists such as Waite!

> On the one hand I am inclined to agree with you 
> about DeLaurence because I don't view these traditions as 
> being especially antiquarian. On the other hand there are 
> several reasons to view the DeLaurence connection with 
> caution. 
> 
> The first is that I have heard from primary sources of his 
> being active in Jamaica, I have not heard of any 
> corroboration of his visits to Trinidad.

Eoghan, here again i agree with Kevin's suppositions:

L. W. De Laurence need not have been "active" in Trinidad as
you suppose, nor need he have ever "visited" Trinidad to
have an effect there. As John Hansen notes, he was a
mail-order book publisher in Chicago who specialized in
texts on occultism, hypnotism, spiritualism, and magic --
and who sold WORLD-WIDE, from around 1900 onward, including,
most definitely, into the Caribbean and the American South.
I have elsewhere documented his impact on African-American
hoodoo rootworkers, and John testifies to his impact in
Nigeria. As for the Carribean, a recent ebay auction of
antique postage stamps turned up an envelope dated 1952 
sent to 
     Monsieur De Laurence + Cie
     179 North Michigan Avenue
     Chicago -1, - 111, [sic]
     USA
by a customer in Fort de France, Martinique. I did not buy the 
envelope, but i did keep a copy of the image will place it on 
the web page that archives this series of posts. 



> Further, there is plenty of documentation of 
> Kabbalistic practices in the French speaking Antilles well 
> before DeLaurence's time.

Among non-Jews? Prior to the late 19th century? Please cite 
your sources. This is news to me!

> I suspect that it is more cautious to say that DeLaurence
> might well have breathed new life into existing
> traditions.

I disagree -- and believe that Kevin is correct here.

L. W. De Laurence was what was then known as a "book
pirate." Due to some anomalies between English and United
States copyright law, he got his start by printing
unauthorized facsimile editions of late 19th and early 20th
century books about Medieval, Renaissance, Hermetic, and
Ceremonial magic and occultism written by a variety of
well-known authors associated with the Hermetic Order of the
Golden Dawn (circa 1888 - circa 1900).

For convenience, i refer to these people collectively as
"Golden Dawn authors," even though it is understood that
their published books were not officially sanctioned by the
HOGD, that some books may have been published after the HOGD
disbanded, and that some of the authors may also have
belonged to allied British, Scottish, Australian, and
American fraternal orders such as

The Sphere, c1897. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .(London: Florence Farr)
Herm. Soc. of the Morgenrothe, 1902. .(London: Felkin, Brodie-Innes, Bullock)
Order of Light, 1902 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (Bradford: T.H. Pattinson)
Stella Matutina (S.M.) [Amoun], 1903 . . . . . . . . . .(London: R.W. Felkin)
Holy Order of the G.D., 1903 . . . . . .(London: A.E. Waite, Blackden, Ayton)
A.'.A.'. (Astron Argon), c1907 . . . . . . . (London: A. Crowley, G.C. Jones)
Zos Kia Cultus, c1910. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (London: A.O. Spare)
Smaragdum Thalasses/Whare Ra (S.M.), 1912. . . . . (New Zealand: R.W. Felkin)
Ordo Templi Orientis [orig. c1895 Zurich: Reuss], 1912 . (London: A. Crowley)
Alpha et Omega 2 (Northern), 1913. . .(Edinburgh & London: J.W. Brodie-Innes)
Cromlech [Solar Order], 1913 . . . . .(Edinburgh & London: J.W. Brodie-Innes)
Hermes (S.M.), 1916. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (Bristol: R.W. Felkin)
Merlin (S.M.), 1916. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .(London: R.W. Felkin)
Secret College in London (S.M.?), 1916 . . . . . . . . .(London: R.W. Felkin)
Guild of St. Raphael, 1916 . . . . . . . . . . . (London: Felkin & Roseveare)
Fellowship of the True Rosy Cross [Salvator Mundi], 1916 (London: A.E. Waite)
Shrine of Wisdom, c1916. . . . . . . . .(Hermon Hill, N. London: A.E. Waite?)
Nuada (Druid Order), c1916 . . . . . . . . . . (Clapham, London: G.W.M. Reid)
Alpha et Omega 3 (Southern), 1919. . . . . . . . . . . (London: M.M. Mathers)
School of Ageless Wisdom, c1920. . . . . . . . . . . .(Chicago: Paul F. Case)
Fraternity/Society of Inner Light, 1922. . . . . . . . (London: Dion Fortune)

[this list courtesy Steve Cranmer and the Golden Dawn
reference file at http://www.luckymojo.com/altmagickfaq/gdref]

The Golden Dawn authors were -- particularly when one is
speaking of the Jewish Kabbalah -- not part of an "existing
tradition." Rather, they were cultural appropriaters who
mined whatever "exotic" magical, mystical, and religious
texts they could readily translate from secondary sources,
namely scholarly German and French books that contained
material previously translated from other languages.

All of the Golden Dawn authors' interpretations of the
Kabbalah are highly uniform because all the authors derived
their knowledge of this tradition from the limited array of
texts found in Von Rosenroth's German compilation and
translation -- NOT from primary Hebrew sources. For this
reason, what the Golden Dawn authors taught about the
Kabbalah is severely limited in ways that any Jewish
scholar, familiar with the broader tradition, will
immediately recognize. See Gershom Scholem's valuable
analysis of the Golden Dawn authors as interpreters of
Jewish mysticism in "Kabbalah." (Dorset, 1974).

Among the Golden Dawn authors whom De Laurence ripped off
shamelessly, the foremost were S.L. Macgregor Mathers (who
translated portions of Von Rosenroth's German translation of
Hebrew Kabbalistic texts into English) and Arthur Edward
Waite, who translated magical texts from Latin and French
originals (e.g. "The Book of Black Magic and Pacts"), and
also wrote many original works, including "The Key to the
Tarot," which De Laurence issued with his own name on as
author!

At some point around WW I, De Laurence was either threatened
by the Golden Dawn authors in question or the copyright laws
changed, for on later books he affixed the actual English
authors' names to the works, although he may have cheated
them out of royalties. Eventually, as the list of titles by
the original Golden Dawn authors played out, De Laurence
hired ghostwriters who were associated with other occult
orders to produce new works under his name. For instance, i
have been told on good repute that several of the circa
1920s books De Laurence claimed as his own were written by
Charles Stansfield Jones a.k.a. Frater Achad, a disciple of
Aleister Crowley, the latter a former member of the Golden
Dawn. 

Jones belonged to the Crowley-led break-away jurisdiction of
the Ordo Templi Orientis, which had split from the original
OTO circa 1912. His views on magical and mystical topics
(including the Kabbalah) were heavily influenced by Crowley
and thus by the earlier Golden Dawn authors who in turn
derived their ideas from Von Rosenroth's limited German
compiltion of Kabbalistist texts, that being the Golden
Dawn's source-book. 

Thus, although Jones had never belonged to the HOGD (he was
too young), he was, in the broad sense that i use the term,
also a Golden Dawn author, and as a ghostwriter, he
continued the tradition of disseminating Golden-Dawn-style
mysticism and magic to the world, under the De Laurence
aegis.

cat yronwode

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