City of the Ghede
As much as New Orleans may be the city of Bacchus, first and foremost it belongs to the Ghede, the family of lwa that govern the powers of death and the dead. Their presence, their energy is everywhere. It surrounds, seeping out from every crack, bristling and snaking up from every paving stone. The houses are awash in it, and it lurks in the twilight air along every street. I knew this coming down to visit, but once here, i was swept away by the siren song of the city itself. I allowed myself to become distracted.
I really should have known better. Usually when I arrive at a new city, I will settle in at the hotel and then first thing, before anything else, walk the city, allowing my intuition and the city spirit itself to guide me. I"ll make offerings to the city spirit and to any governing spirits or Deities that I sense in whatever place I happen to be sojourning. It's the protocol I was taught and I almost never, ever deviate from it. This time, I did. I grew complaisant. I didn't forget to make offerings, but for some reason it seemed like a good idea to wait, to find the perfect time and perfect place. Maybe that would have been all right, but we proceeded to shop and dine and enjoy the delights New Orleans has to offer and the time of our offerings got pushed farther and farther forward. We both knew better and it was only a matter of time before we got "schooled." It's good to be shaken out of one's complaisance once in awhile and I'm grateful for the finesse and grace with which the Ghede did so today.
They are everywhere. I had found myself feeling stressed: tense and edgy for the past day or so. I was having physical symptoms -- muscle pain over and above what is normal for me (this is often a warning sign to me that i'm ignoring some spiritual duty). I kept feeling pulled toward a certain area (where we eventually made our offerings) but ignored it. I was unsettled as though I'd forgotten something. Then today a voudousaint with a strong gift of mediumship randomly pulled me aside and asked if i'd made offerings yet to the Ghede, and nailed several things that I'd been considering, and laughingly they poured themselves through her. I was well and thoroughly ashamed of myself for as they and she pointed out, "I know better." I asked where the best place to leave offerings might be (and received several suggestions until one of the ghede indicated a particular area…the self-same one i'd been drawn to the night before) and what offerings might be appropriate (rum and cigars will do. I also brought pretty little cakes). Then my partner and I made a bee line for the nearest liquor store and rum and cigars in hand went and did what we should have done on day one of our visit. We made offerings to the city spirit and the ghede that run riot in this place.
The sense of peace was startling. For awhile, quite awhile we sat where we'd made the offerings and it was as though we were deeply ensconced in ritual space. It was a place out of time. Then we got up and got about the rest of our day. The Ghede played a bit of a comeuppance joke on us within the hour, but it was both harmless and gentle, just enough to remind us how rude it is to promise a thing, or know a thing to be right and put off tending to it. It's good to be reminded of these things sometimes. It's all too easy to grow complaisant, even when you know better to the marrow of your bones.
They move through this city, behind and beneath all that we see and I praise them, I make offerings to them, one day perhaps I shall celebrate them with raucous abandon: the Ghede; and soon, they will be honored again at a local cemetery, this time with water as well as rum and tobacco, and this time also for the dead that rest above this murky, magical soil.
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