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“Vodou is like a gun” (and that’s how you spell it)

I walk down the narrow basement stairs with ease, but before I can cross the entryway into the warm candlelit temple, the oungan, a male priest in the Haitian Vodou tradition, hands me a ceramic jar filled with water. Pointing to the entryway floor, he motions towards three spaces and asks me to drop water for Papa Legba, the Vodou spirit who grants or denies human access to communicate with any of the Vodou spirits, or lwas.

I pour the water. My salute to the gatekeeper had been approved. I enter.

“If the spirits aren’t happy they’ll tell me,” he says, smiling slightly. “They’ll tell me what kind of energy you have.

“A lot of people come in just to see what Vodou is about,” he cautions. “The spirits can tell your intentions.”

When I reach for my camera, he objects. “Spirits don’t like pictures. As a priest you don’t do anything the spirits won’t be happy with.”

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