When this beauty first came through, she came fast and furious and when I asked her name she said Erzuli. I was quite taken aback as I knew this name and it comes from the Vodoun* tradition. At first I rejected that this was who she was as Vodou is not my spiritual tradition and I didn’t want to go anywhere near the realm of cultural appropriation. I thought I had to have misunderstood.
She has repeatedly insisted, however, that she is Erzuli and her message is indeed for me. She also reminded me that Gaia has many daughters and many traditions depending on the land we call home. However, the essence of her messages are the same even if the visage and spiritual tradition of the messenger changes. I also had a conversation with a good friend of mine who is a Vodoun Manbo (Priestess). She told me that learning from a Lwa/Loa (a Spirit or Goddess) and embracing their wisdom is not the same as taking on as our own the spiritual tradition from which they come.
So she is Erzuli, a Vodoun Lwa – a type of Spirit or Goddess – with many different faces each with slightly different characteristics. Overall, however, she is the Lwa of Women (as a fierce protector), Passion and Beauty (especially luxury and sumptuousness) and reigns over Elemental Forces, specifically water. She is also the only Lwa who has the ability to both conceptualize and dream along with the ability of artistic expression, especially dance. Because she appears to be so uniquely human, there is the belief that she bridges the gap between humans and the gods and is seen as an oracle, a seer, a mystic bringer of messages. She is both dark and light and also aligns with both Kali and Nuit.
With every painting, there are always things we learn. Artistically, painting this canvas stretched me. It was a small, 9×12, canvas with crackle paste. Painting a face in a small space and with the texture was a challenge and, yet, she came through quickly and was a lot of fun to bring forward.
However, as for her messages I am at a loss. Beyond knowing her name and the attributes above, she has told me nothing specific of the why of why she has come to me.
So, I lean in, I listen, I allow.
I accept her as she has come, honoring the rich lineage from which she births while staying very clear around the ideas of cultural appropriation. She does not come from my lineage, but she has come with a message for me and I honor that Spirit takes many forms and comes to us in the way(s) we need at any given time.
I must admit I am in LOVE with her and find myself just sitting and staring at her. I feel that Erzuli has much to say and I look forward to having many conversations with her.
Already she has taught me not to question who comes through the portal.
Erzulie, Art and Words by Arlene Bailey, ©2019
*The religion of Vodoun/Voudon/Vodou/Vaudou is not the same as Voodoo (a Hollywood construction) nor is it Hoodoo (Southern Folk Magic and not a religion).