Saturday, July 9, 2011

Samedi: Honoring the Mo

Ancestors, whether well remembered or long forgotten, are an important part of Voudon in daily practice.  When a soul passes, we are told, it retreats to the primordial waters of Ginen where it learns the secrets of life and death that no living human can know.  Once this transformation has occurred, the soul joins the ranks of the mo; the dead.  They can aid their descendants with a variety of issues, sending dreams to lead us on the right path.  They’re not much inclined to help out, however, if we ignore them and forget.

It is common practice in many homes of various religions to keep pictures of our deceased loved ones.  In my father’s Creole culture, for instance, pictures, votive statues, crucifixes and candles are often arranged on a fireplace mantel.  Grouping the pictures and other items together, on a form of altar, is a great way to begin to serve the mo.  Interaction with the ancestors does not have to be elaborate.  If it is sincere, however, the benefits will be enormous.

The mo, whether or not we know them by name, are always thankful for an offering of food and/or drink.  If you knew the person in life, take pains to offer them something they enjoyed.  A favorite offering at my ancestral altar is the occasional martini.  All four of my grandparents and my father were fond of a before dinner martini with an olive; I make sure the glass is chilled and has five olives in it – one for each.

For more ancient ancestors that you know something about, offerings of food or drink from their culture will always be appreciated.  My New Orleans ancestors like Creole chicken, for instance, while my French ancestors enjoy sparkling wine.

Knowing nothing about the ancestor is not by any means prohibitive to making offerings.  An excellent bit of advice in this regard is offered by mambo Sallie Ann Glassman: fresh water and any food made with grains will always be appreciated.

Most of the mo will never join the ranks of the lwa, but that doesn’t mean that their memory should be lost or that their help should not be actively sought.  Next week we will talk about setting up an altar at home and hopefully encourage you – whatever your spiritual path – to reconnect with those who came before you.

Header: Barataria Bayou c 1975; one of my ancestral homes


Timmy! said...

Always a good idea, Pauline...

Pauline said...

I tend to agree, although in all fairness I've been remiss in my dusting...