Ricardo Petit-Homme left Haiti when he was four, and was raised a staunch Catholic.
"From christening to penance and then confirmation, I did it all," the 30-year-old interior decorator said.
But not that long ago, he felt spiritually disconnected. He had dreams that needed to be interpreted, questions about his purpose and a burning desire to connect more deeply with his roots. He turned to voodoo.
"I like that, with voodoo, the spirituality comes from within," Petit-Homme said, as he joined in a voodoo ceremony in North Miami Beach, Florida. "I feel like I'm piecing together a puzzle."
Voodoo, also spelled vodou, is witnessing a resurgence among younger Haitian-Americans. In southern Florida, where the Haitian community is estimated to be close to 300,000, scholars and voodoo priests say more people in their 20s and 30s are finding the religion.
Voodoo blends African religions with Catholic saints. Followers believe there is one God and deities who manifest to serve different purposes, such as healing and protecting. The religion shares west African roots with Santeria practiced in Cuba, Obeah in Jamaica and Macumba of Brazil. Experts estimate that about 60 million people worldwide practice some form of voodoo.
It is hard to quantify the religion's growth since voodoo is often practiced in one's home, explained Elizabeth McAlister, a professor of religion at Wesleyan University, who has written extensively about voodoo.
But research shows the religion is becoming more prevalent among well-heeled first and second generation Haitians, as well as people of various backgrounds, she said.
Ruby LaCroix, 39, of West Palm Beach, became intrigued by voodoo when she began to study Haiti's history in college. She left Haiti when she was eight years old and had questions about some of the traditions she grew up watching her grandmother practice.
"I was looking to find out more about myself, about being Haitian and what that means," she said.
Gone, for most, is the shame that used to be associated with the stigmatised religion. Unlike some of their parents who practiced voodoo in secrecy, the newcomers to the religion invite friends to voodoo ceremonies, have altars in their homes and work to shatter the stereotypes.
Followers say Hollywood gave the religion a bad rap with representations of zombies, spells and dolls. They say those calling on spirits to do harm are practicing sorcery, not voodoo.
"A lot of people think voodoo is devilish. They think it's a doll with spirits but it's not that," said voodoo priest Erol Josue. "Voodoo is a way of life. voodoo is dignity, it's a celebration."
Referred to as a houngan, Josue, 38, does not fit the stereotypical image of a voodoo priest.
He's a musician raised in voodoo, with a MySpace page and a CD called Regleman, featuring voodoo music to a global beat. His CD was featured on The World's music segment on Public Radio International.
"We're not asking people to convert," he said. "But young people need to know where they came from."
On a recent Saturday, Josue hosted a voodoo cleansing ceremony at his house on a quiet street in North Miami, not far from the Aventura shopping mall. The ceremony, held at the beginning of every year, attracted people from West Palm Beach to Homestead, and lasted eight hours. Participants danced, sang and fell into trances.
Everyone began by dipping their hands in a white enamel basin filled with fragrant leaves, oils and water for good luck and protection.
The gathering of about 25 men and women ranged from teenagers to seniors, and included teachers, college students and artists.
Sherline Fontus, a 31-year-old mother who lives in Fort Lauderdale, said rediscovering the religion has filled her with a sense of freedom. "You feel like you're home."
The ceremony lasted through the night into the early morning, with the participants singing in call and response style, as Josue and others led them through richly textured songs in Creole.
"Ouve barye pou nou," they chanted - "open the gates for us."
Amid the singing and chanting, men drink beer as women hand out small cups of a Haitian soup with spinach, dumplings and meat.
The mood is relaxed, with bouts of intensity as people start to act out the characteristics of an invoked spirit. One woman, feeling moved by the spirit of the seas, sways like the tides of an ocean.
A table against the wall in the living room is filled with offerings for the spirits: eggs for Damballah, the fertile snake god of the waters; roses for Erzulie, the female spirit of love; a machete with a red handkerchief, for the warrior spirit Ogou - and bottles upon bottles of rum.
"Once upon a time everything connected to Africa was shameful, including skin colour and hair texture," said Dr Patrick Bellegarde-Smith, a professor of Africology at the University of Wisconsin. "But now you have a number of American scholars who are into voodoo."
Jacqueline Manigat, a 28-year-old kindergarten teacher from Miami, was always curious about voodoo. When she was young, her mom had a "secret room" where she communicated with voodoo spirits. At the beginning of the school year, her mom would pray over a white pot of water - calling for the ancestors to guide her children and make their year a success.
Six years ago, Manigat became a voodoo priestess. Now she consults the same spirits for guidance she watched her mother call upon.
"I like that there is tolerance," she said. "No matter who you are in voodoo, you are welcome."
10 ways to control your anger - Professional expert’s advice
I am really emotional and excitable person. I think that there are two types of anger: constructive anger and a destructive one. In order to understand the anger phenomenon I decided to investigate the nature of anger, reasons of its appearing, key factors and anger management.
What does it mean this anger? Anger is a strong indignation feeling of our emotional sphere that is attended by self-control losing. Anger is a signal of our state. Glands produce an array of hormones that have a great and deep effect on all our body. The main participants of this process are adrenaline and cortisol. They activate cardiovascular system and consequently all organs. Adrenalin causes fast heart beating, rising blood pressure. These rich oxygenated blood streams to the places are responsible for reaction. Thus some extra energy is released.
There are 4 basic ways of anger expressions:
1. Straight and immediately (verbally or nonverbally) to show your anger. It gives an opportunity to free from the negative emotions.
2. To express anger in an indirect way. In this case usually suffer persons that are weaker, not dangerous and those ones who “come to hand”, usually they are our family and close relatives. Thus we hurt our dear ones. One of the best ways is to express your anger to the person who is the source of this very anger. If it is impossible- better find some compromise.
3. Restraining anger you “drive” it deep inside. So, negative emotions store will provoke a big stress sooner or later.
4. You may foresee situation of anger feeling, try not to expand this feeling but get to know the reason, understand and solve it. A Roman philosopher Seneca said: “When you are feeling of ascending “volcano”- stand still, not doing anything- not speaking, not moving.”
Anger is a normal and natural human feeling, especially nowadays as life is really fast and we have a huge amount of information to accumulate (in comparison with our previous generations). The range of anger is rather wide: from a slight annoyance to impetuous fury. Anger can be quick and long, lasting for years in form of bitterness, vengeance or hate. Anger can lead to health issues like depression, high blood pressure, hearth diseases, stresses, alcohol dependence and obesity. If you are anger- express it. If you feel discomfort from these “negative splashes”- then we can give some techniques how to manage your emotional anger:
- 1. Take a deep and continuous breath. Count up to 50 or imagine your aggressor just naked, only in socks. This will help you to calm and smile.
- 2. Have a walk. Look at high sky. Continue to breathe deep and easily. So you appraise the situation and calm down.
- 3. Do some physical exercises. When you are angry- your body is very tensed and tough. If you stretch your muscles it will relax your body, as you will spill out all your negative energy into action. Your brains will get more oxygen and it assists to clear your thoughts.
- 4. Write down all your thoughts. Write down that you are mad and why. Avoid being rational, logical or laconic. Write on paper all you are feeling this moment. Try to write all in details. The function of this technique is to shift all your anger out of your head on paper.
- 5. Be grateful. Find someone to thank. Do you not forget about yourself. Thank that you have woken up today, thank that that the Sun is shining for you, that the sky is blue and the grass is green.
- 6. Prayer. Ask God to be with you during this anger moment and lead you.
- 7. Meditation. Close your eyes, look into solar plexus, and be all your anger, breathing deeply.
- 8. Change of places. Move yourself on your enemy’s place. And look at situation from his point of view. Better look at the situation from the ceiling. Focus on details, especially on funny and absurd ones. Strive to forgive your enemy as well as forgive truly yourself.
- 9. Go back to your childhood memories. Recollect state when you were angry. Hug this child and say: “All is ok. I am here. You are good child. I love you and I will not leave you.”
- 10. Your values. What is the most significant thing in your life? Who are the most important people in your life? What kind of person do you want to be? Think and accept that point that you are living your life, and you are living your values. There is a good man inside you that wants to help you. I wish you good luck!
I am really emotional and excitable person. I think that there are two types of anger: constructive anger and a destructive one. In order t...
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