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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: email@example.com (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" (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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: email@example.com (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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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 Hoodoo in Theory and Practice -- http://www.luckymojo.com/hoodoo.html Lucky W Amulet Archive --------- http://www.luckymojo.com/luckyw.html
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