Mambo Chita Tann at Paganicon – Interview

As Mambo Chita Tann, Tamara L. Siuda is a Haitian Vodou priestess, and the author of Haitian Vodou: An Introduction to Haiti’s Indigenous Spiritual Tradition. She is the head of Sosyete Fos Fe Yo We, a Vodou house in the lineage of Mambo Marie Carmel Charles of New Orleans, Louisiana and Haiti, and has been a practicing Vodouisant for 15 years. Separately, Tamara is a professional Egyptologist and the founder and Nisut (spiritual leader) of the Kemetic Orthodox Religion, a modern form of ancient Egyptian polytheism.

Besides appearing as a Guest of Honor at Paganicon, March 18-20 in Minneapolis, Sosyete Fos Fe Yo We, is sponsoring a hospitality suite with sponsored activities all weekend (see schedule at bottom). I talked to Mambo T by phone:

MAMBO CHITA TANN (Mambo T)

Have you been to Minnesota before?

Mambo T: I have some friends there and have visited previously, but this is the first time as a presenter in the Twin Cities or at Paganicon.

How does Haitian Vodou differ from Ifa and other forms of voodoo?

Mambo T:  Ifa isn’t voodoo at all. Ifa is a practice that is exclusively from the Fon people, the people of the area of what we call Yorubaland, areas in what is now called Benin and Nigeria. There is another area not very far away on which is often referred to as Dahomey, another West African area closer to the sea. That area has its own practice of very similar magical tradition, or religion, depending how you want to call it. Calling any of these things religion is sort of imposed by the outside. The people living on the sea have a tradition that they call Vodu. Haitian Vodou is a tradition exclusively in the Western Hemisphere. It starts in Haiti and it includes elements of many things. It has elements of Vodu and Ifa, it has elements of the indigenous traditions from the Haitian island. It also has some European traditions in it, French things, Martinism, and even Freemasonry. Haitian Vodou is as much a creole as the language of Haiti is a creole. It includes things from many different places, and many different kinds of things. Ifa is much more culturally specific than what we do. We understand it — we actually have some of the same spirits — but Vodou is not limited to what they do in Ifa. There is an also an American creolization going on in New Orleans that contains a lot more Ifa and Yoruba content. The African people who came to New Orleans brought most of their traditions from the Yoruba lands. There is also a kind of American or United States based creolization of a form of voodoo from all the different places voodoo comes from, with root working, conjure, and all of those African and African-American traditions. In some ways the melting is confusing. As for my part, I just do Haitian Vodou.

What is a Mambo?

Mambo T:  A mambo is a priestess. There is a junior mambo and a senior mambo, and I would be initiated to the senior rank. In addition to doing work with the spirits, for people, and helping the community, I can also initiate other people in my own house. That is the major difference between the junior and senior ranks: if you have the authority to bring other people in. The male equivalent of a mambo is called a houngan.

What kind of course of study or path did you take to get where you are?

Mambo T:  I actually got dragged in! I never intended to be involved in Vodou, even though I always found it interesting. I had more than enough obligations on the Egyptian side of my spiritual life. I first got involved with Vodou when I was working with my Egyptian organization and ancestor veneration: knowing who your dead people are and approaching them. And I was doing a set of lessons around how to contact them better. One of the suggestions that had been brought up was to go into genealogy and find out things about the cultures from where they are from. So, I started to look into my own genealogy and found things around some Native American material, which we always knew was there. While peeking into that I started to find paperwork from people from Africa, and that intersected with Haiti. I looked into it, and I got dragged in! I also never intended to initiate as a priest. I just wanted to understand a little bit more about what my ancestors wanted from me. When they answered, then I considered becoming initiates. You don’t have to initiate in Haitian Vodou. Probably 90% of people practice and never go through an initiation; it is not required. You can also initiate just as a serviteur, as a practitioner, at a non-priestly level. But the message came back both from the Vodou spirits and from my Egyptian Gods that divination needed to be done to find out whether everybody approved. So we did divination from the Egyptian and the Vodou sides that came back and said I had to initiate at the same priesthood level in both.

Does initiation involve a course of study, or are you called and then it’s done?

Mambo T:  The initiation ceremony in Haiti is actually multiple ceremonies, and takes days and days of ritual. Haitian Vodou does not have a central authority. Every house has its own rules or training. Most people in Haiti learn by doing and as children and through their whole life. There’s a lot of catch-up that needs to be done, coming from the outside. The particular house that I came into at the time of my first initiation in 2001 did not think it was particularly important to have prior experience. Initiation for them was more of a beginning. You would do the initiation and then learn to do the job. It was very difficult, and now, even 15 years later I still struggle with it. There is a certain basic level material that I think is very good to have. I have a different perspective now. And there is an ongoing issue with this in Haitian Vodou, about how to accommodate people who are not brought up Haitian. Do you just give them initiation and send them off, or do you ask them to learn something first? There are also unfortunately people out there who are more interested in getting money out of you, since it takes thousands of dollars for initiation. There are those who will take your money and tell you you’re a priest, but not do the ceremony correctly.

How do you get experience if it Vodou not practiced in your community?

Mambo T:  Haitian Vodou is a community-oriented practice, even when you’re doing something by yourself. You are still considered to be part of a family and part of the society and tradition and within a larger group. A good, healthy house does have direction. I live in Portland and my closest family is in New Orleans. if I wanted to see my mother or if I want to do a ceremony with people other than myself I have to fly to Haiti, New York or New Orleans right now. Practitioners often travel several times a year to their house, or their family, and also work on their own under the direction of the house. It is a challenge to keep yourself going when you’re isolated. The Lwa are calling people outside Haiti. We don’t know why that is happening, but it is happening They’re providing the way for all of us together. There’s a Haitian proverb that says, “If God calls you, he will pay your way.” If you are supposed to do this, the way will open.

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SHF Guest Joy Wedmedyk – Interview

Sacred Harvest Festival (SHF)  is coming up beginning Monday, August 2nd and many are wondering about the new site 90 minutes North of MPLS./St.Paul near Finlayson,MN.  Festivants will find many of the popular activities continuing with the move, some new additions, and a packed schedule of workshops, entertainment, and rituals contributing to the family atmosphere this festival is known for.

About the festival site, Paul Ferrise, Atchingtan Director reports:

“Atchingtan is happy to report that site for this year’s SHF is near complete. The electrical will be done by this weekend. Showers will be assembled on Sunday and the gravel required for the various areas, such as access road and RVs is coming in daily with the intentions to finish early next week. The main festival area is ready and final touch up will take place next week. We are excited to be hosting Sacred Harvest Festival this year. Atchingtan will continue to increase it’s event capacities for the many educational events planned for this year and the future. It has been a honor to be working with the Harmony Tribe team in preparing for the event and look forward to working with them in the future.”

Joy Wedmedyk

Joy Wedmedyk

SHF Featured Guest Joy Wedmedyk is offering workshops each day and a special “White Table Misa” , Spirit Mass Friday night. Joy has studied Mediumship, Divination, Symbolism, and Shamanism for over 35 years. Initiated in Regla de Ocha, Native American and African Shamanic traditions. Joy is an nationally recognized teacher, Medium, Shamanic healing practitioner and artist. I talked with her by phone from Cleveland.

How has your spiritual path developed since your appearance at Sacred Harvest Festival (SHF) in 2007?

Joy:   I have done a lot of work on my medium-ship skills and shamanic healing work. I have a shamanic healing practice now that is pretty steady. I continue to study with my elders. I have learned a lot more about spirit attachment and release and the underlying causes of unwanted possessions and illness. I believe my divination skills are much improved and developed. I have worked a lot more with the Spirit Mass, which I will be offering at SHF. I have been studying the cosmology and the divination system in my Lucumi Orisha worship. I have also been working more with the plant spirits and have created a line of my own spiritual baths and oils. I currently have a number of students that study with me privately.

Are you practicing within your tradition?

Joy:   I am connected with an Ile in Michigan and I travel there to work and learn. An Ile is a house, and I also have my own house because I am crowned to Yemaya. I work within my own Ile and then work helping the Ile in Michigan with their initiations. It takes about 20 people to perform an initiation to become a priest so I haven’t done them at home except for the smaller initiations such as the giving of the beads. As a priest of Yemaya I am responsible for the spiritual progression of the people that have come to study with me.

You are offering a Spirit Mass Friday night, what can you tell me about it?

Joy:   The Spirit Mass is a syncretized tradition from Allan Kardec, raised a Catholic who founded Spiritism in Europe. In America this was called the Spiritualist movement. His books were translated from French to Spanish and arrived in the Caribbean. The slaves there picked up on the séance aspect, very popular at that time, to speak with their ancestors and the séance was adopted into their traditions. What I offer is called a “White Table Misa”. We set up a white table with water, flowers, candles and cigars. We will recite some of Kardecs original prayers and I have added in some more Pagan style prayers. We will also sing gospel songs. We believe this service allows the spirits of our ancestors to receive “light, evolution, and progression”. Later we open up the service and anyone present may get or transmit a message, unlike events with a single medium present. We pass rum and smoke cigars (optional) and sometimes people are called out for a blessing or a healing. We may use a sheet to lift a spirit off a person. People usually receive very useful information and may hear from one who has crossed over. It is not a possession ritual, per-SE, though it can happen. There are particular spirits which are connected with the Misa, who may appear.

What is the Initiation workshop about?

Joy:   This is a presentation covering general styles of initiation, like going on a spiritual quest, or confronting the roles of good and evil, among others. We talk about the main aspects included in most initiations, such as the enclosure, a change, and a rebirth. I will offer tips and guidelines for the Pagan community on how to perform successful initiations and avoid common pitfalls. It is important to have your whole community involved. When any one person is initiated in a community, everyone goes through a change. This workshop is also very helpful for healers to understand how people move through the world spiritually.

>What is the “Art of the Question?”

Joy Wedmedyk

Joy:   This is for people already doing meditation or praying at an altar or are wanting to learn to connect, and have been trying to get answers or information. It also covers making connection with the ancestors because the belief in my tradition and many others is that they are the ones that care about you, and want to help you the most. I cover how to ask better questions to get the information you need. People may ask a question and get one answer, and then go with that when further focused questions may better define the situation. If you are doing a reading and can’t quite figure out the answer, being able to ask questions in a different way is helpful no matter what system you use.

In healing or shamanic work you may have some information about what the person needs but knowing what comes first?, what does it look like?, what does this do? etc.. and using good questioning can offer more helpful and useful information. It helps to stick with the questioning process and fine tune the information you are working with to get the answers you need or the results that are desired.

How did you learn Mexican folk healing?

Joy:   I had my shamanic awakening in the mid-eighties and about 2007 it became more important in my practice. I had a call to do a shamanic healing on a man, and he brought his wife from Mexico. I did a reading for her to, and I was told to do a healing for her with flowers. We did the healing and it was beautiful, by the end she was covered in flowers. After the healing she was asking me questions about my practice. She said, “You heal like my grandmother from Mexico”. She used many of the same practices. I got very interested and the first book I picked up opened to Mexican flower healings! The next book I opened talked about the practices used in Curanderismo, Mexican folk healing, and I realized I used most of them and fit that example. I studied more and found it is similar to my work. They use flowers to deal with things like grief. The spirits of the flowers help with healing. I had already used flowers in spiritualism as a reading tool, and I already had that relationship with them. It was easy for me to integrate this new information.

Are you comfortable identifying as a shaman?

Joy:   The reason I use the term “shaman or “shamanic practice” is because when I described to people what I do, they responded with a blank stare. I work with people’s ancestors to bring healing through their lineage. If there is a story there, abuse, illness, or such, the first thing I do is speak to the ancestors and try to resolve any conflicts in that lineage. In Native American tradition I learned we heal for the seven generations after us. From my work with the indigenous traditions of Africa I learned we also go back seven generations to do that healing. That is what makes us whole. When I tried to explain, I just ended up saying. ”I do shamanic work, I journey for answers to help with health and family.” This people were willing to accept, that is why I use it. It is a simple way to explain the mix of practices I use. I am not a “shaman” in any one tradition but use many tools that shamans use.

What should people know about your appearance in Minnesota?

Joy:   I want the people who attend to know the reason I teach is because I want people to have as much information as possible to be able to move forward spiritually and to know prosperity and abundance in all levels of their life. I love to encourage people to develop their own skill set, and perhaps offer them a different perspective about a practice they may already be doing.

Sacred Harvest Festival runs from Monday August 2nd – Sunday August 9th, at Atchingtan Education Grounds – 14730 135th Ln, Finlayson, MN, 55735 .  Advance Registration ends Thursday July 30th at midnight, but gate registration is available for a day, weekend, five days, or the full week.

Nels Linde

Nels is a member of Harmony Tribe.

SJ Tucker – Interview

SJ Tucker is on the road. Sooj will be performing at Pagan Spirit Gathering (PSG) Jun 14 – Jun 16, and then onward the next weekend to Free Spirit Gathering 2015 at the Ramblewood Retreat Center, Maryland, June 20 – Jun 22. We talked at Heartland Pagan Festival.

How does it feel to be the “Face of NeoTribal Paganism?

SJ: It is not that different from the way that life has been for me, up to this point. I feel the same support from this community that I have had from the very first time I stepped on a Pagan stage in 2002. I am humbled that I still get this level of love,  people coming to tell me that I have changed their lives just by being around and singing. That’s the part that tells me that I am still doing what I’m supposed to do, still getting that level of love and feedback. People saying to me that hearing a certain song changed something in them, it taught them how to dance again…I don’t think I would hear that if I were in any other niche than this. I don’t think I would hear that if I was playing in bars all the time. Why would I want to be anywhere else? I don’t have a textbook definition of “tribal” Paganism.  As I understand, it’s festival space. It is where we all live and hang out, in circles and churches, and our gatherings like this one. I am kind of spoiled because you don’t get this kind of love anywhere else. When I come back out of this world, for instance when I go to the grocery store, then everyone’s not necessarily going to be friendly. I forget about that when I am in this nurturing, collaborative space.

Is all your music done in some kind of Pagan space?

SJ:  For the most part it is. Pagan festivals and events, and sci-fi conventions, those are my two most typical types of events. I wouldn’t like it to be any other way. Here you have people who are already predisposed to like what you do, whether it is off the wall, or from a certain spiritual place, or a certain nerdy place. The benefits are through the roof.  Outside of festivals and cons, I would much rather sing in a community center or a VFW, and make it into my own space, than work myself into a restaurant or bar gig.  I have friends that are doing very well, and make good money at that. But the connections that you can make when you meet people on a level where they are searching for a certain thing, and it is a thing that you know how to tap into, is important to me. If you are performing on stage at a bar, your job is not to play well, your job is to help the bar sell booze. That’s not why I do what I do.

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Paganicon Guest Lupa Greenwolf – Interview

Lupa Greenwolf

Lupa is a pagan author, artist, eco-psychologist and amateur naturalist living in Portland, OR. She has spent her life being utterly captivated by the natural world around her, a fascination that led her to earth-based spiritual paths. She is the author of several books on nature spirituality, including “New Paths to Animal Totems: Three Alternative Approaches to Creating Your Own Totemism” (Llewellyn, 2012) and “Plant and Fungus Totems: Connecting With Spirits of Field, Forest and Garden” (Llewellyn 2014).

Paganicon 5 will be Friday, March 13, – Sunday, March 15, 2015  and registration is still available at the door.

I interviewed Lupa by phone recently.

 

Nels: Is this the first time you’ve come to the Midwest ?

Lupa: I am very excited to attend! I grew up in the Midwest, but this is only my second time visiting Minneapolis.

Where did you grow up?

Lupa:  I grew up in rural Missouri. Then I lived for two years in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania which some people consider the Eastern edges of the Midwest.

What is bio-regional totemism, the subject of one of your workshops?

Lupa:  A bio-region is a particular area of land that has the same basic types of animals, plants, and fungi. The same geology and the same climate. For example I live in the watershed of the Willamette River and for the most part the living beings that you find here, the types of geological formation are similar throughout the area. This is one particular bio-region I spend time in. Bio-regional totemism is a way to connect with the land that you live on. Similar to the totems of the beings that also live there. Using the bio-region as a way defining that space of land.

Will an animal present as a different kind of a totem in a different bio-region?

Lupa:   No, not in my experience. I have worked with animals indifferent bio-regions, for example a red tailed hawk I’ve worked with both in the Midwest and out here in the Pacific Northwest. It is still a red tailed hawk in both locations. The setting that we meet in during my meditation is a little different. It is still the same being, it just may have different things to say about a particular piece of land as I’m living on it.

Are you using your own personal gnosis and meditation in your spirit work, or where does this information come from?

Lupa:  I am self taught as far are my knowledge and work goes. I am a white girl from the Midwest. While I have known a few folks who practice indigenous paths I am not a part of those cultures and also not part of the cultures of my ancestors, Czech and German and so forth. I grew up primarily here in the US and that is the cultural background that I came from. I grew up in a Catholic household and didn’t have an animistic tradition to are draw on already, I had to create one from scratch based on my own experiences and trading notes with other practitioners .

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Through Time – A History of Belly Dance in America – Saturday Jan 24th

Belly dance is an empowering daBDTimence form that has been embraced by the Pagan community for many years.  Women of all ages and backgrounds join together in classes and troupes to explore  the range of styles and expression drawn from diverse cultures around the world. This Saturday the Twin Cities gets a chance to see it all on one stage!  Originally produced in 2006, “Through Time – A History of Belly Dance in America” is returning bigger and better!

Saturday Jan 24th

Four Seasons Dance Studio  1637 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55403
DOORS OPEN AT 6:30 – SHOW STARTS AT 7:00  Purchase Advance Tickets

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Alana Mari


The key purpose of this show is to educate how belly dance was introduced to the American public, how it was perceived and evolved to the variety we have today. Starting with Little Egypt at the World’s Fair in 1893, we travel through time to present day; watching as this art form which was introduced as exotic and mystical grew to become about empowerment, creativity and strength.

Amina Beres

Amina Beres

 

 

 


In this show, a variety of belly dance artists from the local dance community will be bringing their interpretation of periods of time and where belly dance was or was perceived by audiences; from ‘I Dream of Jeannie’ lounges to Gothic Fusion Belly Dance; from the Silent Screen with Rudolph Valentino to the creation of American Tribal Style within the streets of San Francisco.

The Bourgeois Bohemians

The Bourgeois Bohemians


And to add to the madness, this show will be a multi-media production. Music, video, dance and a presentation on Little Egypt are all in store for this evening.

 

Come join us on this journey. Learn, explore and enjoy.

Visit Through Time  website for more information,  full cast  list and performer websites.

Kamala Chaand Dance Company

Kamala Chaand Dance Company


Lesley Inman  (Producer, Show Director, Performer)

Lesley Inman
(Producer, Show Director, Performer)

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