There are leading men and character actors; there are rock stars and club favorites. Sometimes the most talented artists labor in relative obscurity, their skills known only to a handful of aficionados. The spirit world is no different.
Thus does Kenaz Filan in his enlightening The Haitian Vodou Handbook begin his discussion of the spirits known as Djabs. The Creole word djab comes from the French diable which is frequently translated to mean “devil” (lower case). This is a loose translation, however, as it is used in the conversation to mean a sort of bête noir. In any case, the djabs are a gray area in Voudon and in root work as well. Just like the more familiar “rock star” lwa, some djab are consistently well-meaning while others will happily work “on the left hand”.
In basic terms, a djab is a personal spirit. It is not something that most voudonists will readily talk about, but we all have one. I was personally informed of my djab over twenty years ago and it came as a bit of a shock to me. This spirit, once a living, breathing seaman who was born in
no less, apparently attached himself specifically to my branch of my family after his death for a kindness done to him when he was old, ill and alone by our ancestor. He picked me out of the modern generation, I was told by a mambo, because he knew that I would understand him and one day bring him back to the attention of the country he loved. Haiti
Having never heard the name of this man before the mambo told it to me, I was anxious (she claimed she could see “the little brown man” standing next to me all the time) and at first I resisted the idea. Time, research and age have brought me insight, however, and my djab and I are now dear friends. He helps me on the spirit plane when I need help and I, in turn, honor him like an ancestor – which, for those of you who know me and are speculating, he is not. He is swift to act, as well. To use Filan’s analogy, this club favorite appreciates his biggest fan where the rock stars just see me as one of the crowd. He looks after my home and my family with a pleasant joy; having him near is now my privilege, not my anxiety.
A djab is generally a family spirit, passed down from one generation to the next and treated like one of the clan. As I noted, most people do not speak of their djab even in
proper where there is an undercurrent of suspicion about such spirits. Some djab are troublesome and malicious, and those who work with them take careful precautions to keep them on track or, as they say, chennis: chained. These are the “left hand” spirits that are sent to bring misery to enemies and are best left to the experts who can control them. Haiti
Contacting a personal djab is something anyone on an honest spiritual path can do, but it is not the first thing one should attempt. Serving spirit in any discipline is not to be taken lightly. But if you have some experience under your belt you may already be in touch with a personal spirit. If not, consider adding a listening session to any meditation you may do. Open yourself to the idea of a personal spirit, make a little altar or niche for them, leave an offering. You might be surprised what you hear, and how helpful they can be.
That said, be warned. The darker spirits can be tricky and if you are vulnerable – for instance in an unstable mindset, meditating while “under the influence”, etc – they may play you for a fool. Just like you would with a new person in your life, don’t hesitate to take the “getting to know each other” phase slowly and block any entity you feel uncomfortable with. Psychic malevolence is very real; don’t open yourself to it. Enough said.
The safest way to look into a personal spirit is to first enquire around your family. “Crazy” Aunt Delilah may not be talking to herself after all. If that’s not an option – or even if it is – and you are serious in your quest, consider consulting a professional. Again, though, do your research. Anyone who starts talking about taking away curses in exchange for money is a charlatan. Run, don’t walk, away from that bogus BS. I personally don’t read other’s auras or spirits, but I always know an honest psychic when they walk up to me and say something like: “Has anyone ever mentioned the short, broad shouldered sailor that follows you around?”
Why yes. Yes they have.
Header: Spons de Libano by Edward Burne Jones c 1891