Voodoo in the Park

Pat Robertson’s least favorite religion comes out in Brooklyn, N.Y., to celebrate the trigger of the Haitian revolution.

Deenps Bazile, center, leads a Vodou ceremony.

A few yards in front of Gran Bwa’s boulder sprouts the poto mitan, the pole through which the spirits are said to travel. Beneath it, a veve with images of two snakes is drawn for Damballah, a serpentine spirit of wisdom. To the right of Gran Bwa sits an altar table for Bossou, a strong and bull-like spirit, and behind Gran Bwa spreads an offering table with special foods and drinks for different spirits, according to their liking. A raw egg is on hand for Damballah, and a bottle of Haitian Barbancourt rum sits ready to quench the thirst of Ogou, the warrior and politician.

The clergy sing, dance and salute the spirits with candles and water and rum, and the drummers beat out the sacred rhythms that will call forth the lwa. For a time it appears as though the spirits aren’t interested in joining the festivities. Hours go by, with specific songs sung for the Marasa, the sacred twins; for Damballah; for Agwé, ruler of the sea. None decide to join.

Then, during the songs to Bossou, the spirit appears to seize control of a man’s body, tossing him about as though by the horns of a bull. But the spiritual possession does not fully take, and the man soon wanders out of the circle, disoriented.

Shortly thereafter, at 9:30 p.m., the police arrive. The permit for the drums expired at 9 o’clock. A group sings a final handful of songs, and there is some talk of continuing without the drums, but at 10:30, people begin breaking down the altars, and it appears as though the night will pass without any spirits making an appearance.