Vodou Child

A vodou ceremony in the burbs? Who'da thunk it?

Then he slips out of the spell.

He gulps a mouthful of rum and blows it around the room in a large, misty spray. He walks over to Chantal, swigs some rum, and sprays it on her. She is holding the machete in front of her, its blade inches from her face. Without a word, Erol calmly takes the machete from her hand and passes it to a woman standing nearby. He embraces Chantal and she, too, slips out of the trance. The room is quiet.

There is more singing, in soft voices now, and a few candles are lit. The ceremony is over. Erol is physically drained. The spirits have come and gone.

C. Stiles
C. Stiles


Watch an audio slideshow of Erol Josue leading a Little Haiti Vodou ceremony.

It is 5:30 a.m. Friday. The oak-tree-lined street in Hempstead is beginning to stir. Lights illuminate windows, and people in suits walk to their cars to begin their commutes to work.

Erol and the others from the basement emerge and stand on the lawn. Erol jokes and chats softly with Florence, while Huguette and the other women shake the fabric of their skirts and cool off in the morning air. Everyone is still dressed in their white ceremonial clothes, and they glow like ghosts in the predawn half-darkness. They discuss plans to continue the vodou rituals at Chantal's house later that evening; the chicken sacrifice needs to be taken care of.

Erol is moving slowly, his eyes heavy with exhaustion. He has to get back to the city, to his sister's apartment. He wants to sleep. He's not sure what time the ceremony will begin later that night, but it doesn't really matter. Vodou, he says, has no time.

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