A World’s Voodoo Trance

Rites, Rituals and Voodoo Trances

Day of death, by ©Cristina García Rodero

Day of death, by ©Cristina García Rodero

If for some, Rite is more connected to religion and Ritual to paganism, for others, Rite is connected to death and Ritual more of a celebration of life. With or without the need of priests or conductors to play and bless them, Rites and Rituals have been part of human existence since always. Since the Palaeolithic we can say, which is enough far from us for me to remember, as I spent my Palaeolithic times in a numb trance performing rituals to my own hunting Gods.

If we connect to Gods, we have to connect to the other human’s creation: Evils. And this you can easily find nowadays from the Catholic exorcisms performed by special priests to take the devil out from your body. Not to different from the origins of Voodoo, where people get their souls and bodies clean by coming into trances, baths, flames, body paintings and animal sacrifices. Evils are connected to animals with horns, so if you kill a goat and offer its blood and guts to the Gods, maybe you get some kind of salvation and purification. But it can be a black chicken too, as it’s often done in Brazil’s “macumbas” by the “Maes de Santos”.  These rituals are not an African of Brazilian thing. We have rites and rituals with animal sacrifices everywhere in the globe: as long as there are humans, we will always have rituals and trances and animal sacrifices. It’s part of human nature to create gods and evils to have excuses to do everything else.

Drugs included. And dances in trances. Bodies getting dirty in their own nakedness to purify the skin and the souls within.

by ©Gaël Turine

by ©Gaël Turine

One of the rituals I found quite interesting when I did the “B Shot by a Stranger“, (till now with only white skin beings from US, Australia and Europe), was that most of the guys takes a bath subconsciously as a soul’s cleaning. In a bath you’re allowed to cry, as you’re already wet. And they feel more clean and protected.

Water has been always connected with rituals and rites in every culture, and you can see the importance of it in the Christian Baptism, or at the Hindu bath in Ganges, for example. Water purifies. You can add some earth too and get a mud bath. But if you have fire even better: light some candles, burn incense.
Thinking better, if you can connect the 4 elements in Oneness, you will have perfection: Water, Earth, Air and Fire.

Go into a trance with drugs, leave your body dance to the sound of drums and get dirty: cleaning yourself.

Stoned Hand, by ©GBénard

Stoned Hand, by ©GBénard

Well, it’s a bit more than just this.

That’s not funny to do it alone, like we do when we have a warm salty bath at night smoking our joint at home, with candles and incense burning all around. It gives you pleasure. But a good ritual needs a bit more: some kind of human theatre as witnesses to show off our purification and metamorphosis of the soul. If you can pay to some weepers even better. They do well the screaming part, which is important if you want the Gods to listen to you.

There are even some people who believe in God, or Gods, depending on their needs. So they act as if the god who they believe in comes into their body to expel the devils they have created. And they scream to be listened by them. Some people take this very serious and it’s really impressive to be honest.

Horned, by ©GBenard

Horned, by ©GBenard

These different Gods and Devils are used also to give an explanation to death, to make sense to our lives as humans, as we need to understand and give excuses to everything that we don’t understand.

But without the need of gods or devils, try to be a bit more pagan, get naked in the middle of a forest, smoke a good joint (or 2) and dance under the moonlight till you get into a trance spinning around enlightened by the moon. If you do this with few of your friends, it’s even more fun. And you’ve just created a ritual to the moon, till you get knocked out and you wake up next morning feeling cold and dizzy. But hey, at least you had fun doing it and somehow if you do believe that you got your soul cleaner, you did get it.

No matter if it’s a Rite to death or a Ritual to life, it’s always a question of belief. Of Faith. Of Dogmas. If you believe in what you’re doing, there’s no need of a priest or a prophet to put some ashes on your forehead for the devil within you to wake up and make you start dancing around.

Voodoo Dance ©GBénard

Voodoo Dance ©GBénard

But yes, Rites and Rituals and other Voodoo trances do exist all over the world, public or private, in small or larger scales and as any other culture it should be respect.

Finally, we have magnificent photographers to register some of them.

Few years ago I had wonderful conversations with a Brazilian photographer that I most admired: Mario Cravo Neto, who at the time was living in the middle of Amazons. Cravo Neto knew the Rites and Rituals quite well and staged some to depict them in photography. A magnificent work that he left us, and that I had the pleasure to organize and coordinate in a book edited for a major exhibition of his work in Lisbon.

by ©Mario Cravo Neto

by ©Mario Cravo Neto

by ©Mario Cravo Neto

by ©Mario Cravo Neto

by ©Mario Cravo Neto

by ©Mario Cravo Neto

Mario Cravo Neto was son of a great sculpture, and his son, who he used also as model for some of his works, is now a great photographer: Christian Cravo.  Christian has been shooting in Brazil, Africa, etc, but it was in Haiti where he did fantastic images of Voodoo rituals: live, not staged.

by ©Christian Bravo

by ©Christian Bravo

by ©Christian Bravo

by ©Christian Bravo

by ©Christian Bravo

by ©Christian Bravo

As Christian did, another photographer that went to Haiti to witness these rituals, was the Spanish Magnum photographer Cristina Garcia Rodero, from whom I have a magnificent book titled La Diosa de los Ojos de Agua (The Goddess with the Eyes of Water).

Spiritual Cleaning, by ©Cristina García Rodero

Spiritual Cleaning, by ©Cristina García Rodero

Tobaco and Rum, by ©Cristina García Rodero

Tobaco and Rum, by ©Cristina García Rodero

And Athina Kazolea, whose work from Ethiopia I had the pleasure to know very recently at SOME/THINGS space in Paris, and that you can see at their wonderful book CHAPTER005.

by ©Athina Kazolea

by ©Athina Kazolea

by ©Athina Kazolea

by ©Athina Kazolea

You can also find the great work of the Belgium photographer Gaël Turine on rituals. (make sure you see Gaël’s other works here)

by ©Gaël Turine

by ©Gaël Turine

by ©Gaël Turine

by ©Gaël Turine

by ©Gaël Turine

by ©Gaël Turine

Alone you can be your own God, your own Devil, the possessed and the cleaner. With no need of drugs, just early morning self-trance trying to put myself in the mood of a voodoo cleansing of my own soul, getting my body dirty, worshiping life and death in Oneness. That was how I explored some Rites and Rituals, performing myself in front of the camera.

Ritual With Horns, by ©GonzaloBénard

Ritual With Horns, by ©GonzaloBénard

Ritual #1, by ©GonzaloBénard

Ritual #1, by ©GonzaloBénard

Stand Up Ritual, by ©GonzaloBénard

Ritual #2, by ©GonzaloBénard

And then God came and showed how Love can be performed in nature, sending us Gregory Colbert to register the most amazing life rituals. Humans, animals, earth, fire, air and water. In one. In “Ashes and Snow”.

Ashes and Snow, by ©Gregory Colbert

Ashes and Snow, by ©Gregory Colbert

Ashes and Snow, by ©Gregory Colbert

Ashes and Snow, by ©Gregory Colbert

“Feather to fire,
fire to blood,
blood to bone,
bone to marrow,
marrow to ashes,
ashes to snow.”

Ashes and Snow, by ©Gregory Colbert

Ashes and Snow, by ©Gregory Colbert

Ashes and Snow, by ©Gregory Colbert

Ashes and Snow, by ©Gregory Colbert

Proving that there can be life without devils in your mind.

The Prophet, by ©GBénard

The Prophet, by ©GBénard

text by ©Gonzalo Bénard for 2HeadS
Jan, 2013
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