Flash Fiction: Port-au-Prince, the Vodou spirit and a ritual of the human heart

by LJ Frank

My partner and I disembarked from the ketch and made our way along the wharf of Port-au-Prince, thanking the captain and crew for passage. We breathed in the waves of scents pouring from the harbor and streets.  A taxi was waiting for us. “I plan ahead,” my partner winked.

Within an hour we were greeted by the doctor on the outskirts of city at the end of a tree-canopied driveway.  “Welcome to my home! He beamed in a rich baritone voice.  “I hope you’re able to stay for a couple nights before you venture forth.”

“Thank you,” my partner greeted him with a hug.

The doctor led us into the house and a guest room, then asked us to join him on the screened in veranda with its scenic view of the sea.

As we walked on to the veranda I noted conch shells, masks affixed to the wall and stand-alone pieces of sculptures carved in wood – male, female, androgynous figures and animals along with an assortment of candles.

The doctor offered us an herbal drink. The three of us were then joined by his wife. We sat down. A warm breeze blew in from the Caribbean when the doctor’s wife began to speak. “I see you might have Benin in your blood,” She said to my partner.

“I do,” my partner said. “ My father was from Benin and my mother was from China. I was born in Haiti and after my parents died I was fortunate as a teenager to be adopted.”

“Oh so this is the woman you spoke of,” She said to her husband.

The doctor nodded and proceeded directly to talk about the reason we were there. “As you are aware Voudou is filled with imagery, not unlike most religions.  There exists a reference for our ancestors who experienced the struggles of slavery. The vodou spirit like many others share their links to past colorful pious humans. We have a faith in one invisible creator who can manifest himself in different forms. I’m reformed but still find magic in symbols.”

His wife added, “ much of what is popular among tourists is manufactured in Hollywood and those seeking to distort for financial reasons. One needs to go on the spiritual journey with what is comfortable to the person, though when I think of drinking the blood and eating the body of a savior I find it repulsive. Our ancestors saw enough blood shed as most cultures do when others seek power over them.”

“You see,” the doctor said, “before we share with you a very unique ritual for your journey you must understand that the first ceremony begins in the human heart and the rituals that follow whether dancing around a fire, wearing a painted mask, speaking in different voices, touching and releasing, our actions about what is presented to us also begins within each of us. We love to laugh, sing and enjoy life. We are humans alone on this Earth except for each other as Hamlet might say, to be. The rituals that entail magic begins with our fears and hopes and emanates from right here,” the doctor said pointing to his heart. “This is my perspective.”

The sun was setting.

“And now, after you return to your room, please remove all your clothes and shoes and dress in these cotton wraps and return here. The wisdom that you gain from the ritual will help you on your journey if you care to accept it.”

We smiled. What could we lose?

Removing our clothes and wearing only a cotton wrap we kissed and then returned to notice the house darkened with only the candles on the veranda offering light.

Feeling our way with the candle light as guide, we heard the doctor’s voice, “Are you ready?”