Every metaphysical discipline (I like to call them that because I think of the phrase as more inclusive than the word “religion”) has its own mythology of the soul. What happens to a person or animal or both after death is an important part of human thought, and must have given our ancestors a lot to debate about. Some animating force leaves a person when they die. But what is it and what happens next. Voudon, of course, has an answer that satisfies its world view and this Samedi and next we will meet the four components that make up the body and spirit of a voudonist.
The belief that all things, rocks, trees, water, bugs, animals, humans and so much more are part of the great God known as the Bon Dieu or Bondye is central to Voudon. There is nothing and no one left out. Bon Dieu animates us all but is so far from us, so busy with an entire Universe of worries and joys, that it (God is not thought of as male or female in Voudon) cannot do more than simply give us a bit of its energy and then let the intercession of both good and bad spirits help us along through life.
There are four components to the human creature, most of which are shared by other life on Earth with the important exception of just one. We will talk about the spiritual components next week. For today let us look at the mortal/physical portions of all things.
First is the body in which we abide known as the corps cadavre. It is not hard to imagine that this refers to the physical body which begins to deteriorate almost immediately after death. Corps cadavre literally translated means “body corpse” and at that point the meaning is clear. We are walking around in an animated shell, beautiful, strong, capable and intricate, but destined to rot from the inside out. Though not pretty, the concept is certainly honest.
The nanm is usually translated from Creole/kreyol as “soul” but this is deceptive. In fact, the nanm is an Earth-bound, animating force shared by all creatures on our planet. It allows us to move, talk and function while alive. When we die it quickly and without encouragement returns to the Earth from which it came. The idea of the nanm is not necessarily from either African or European spiritual traditions and could very well have come from the native Arawak and Taino people that originally inhabited Hispaniola.
And so we will end for today. Bon Samedi ~
Header: Photograph by the amazing Conrad Louis-Charles; visit his website here