You may have noticed the second novella in my Voodoo Trilogy was published last week. Since it draws, at least a little, on voodoo (or vodou, or voudun) practices I thought it would be worthwhile giving you some background.
Not being a practitioner myself, I drew on a bunch of sources – books and interweb stuff I’ll mention later.
The first thing they told me was that voodoo is a religion that probably started sometime in the mid-1600s but became more developed in Caribbean slave populations in the 1700s, based partly on Christian (mainly Catholic) beliefs and partly on older West African religions, generically labelled as vodun or voudun.
The second thing they pointed out was that there are several more or less distinct branches of voodoo, with both Haitian and Louisiana (or New Orleans) versions, plus santeria (in Cuba, and based largely on Yoruba rather than Fon and Ewe religious beliefs) and candomblé (Afro-Brazilian).
And the third thing was that the voodoo diaspora has spread worldwide as its adherents have migrated out of the Caribbean. So there are populations of believers in the US (particularly New York), Montreal, London and probably almost any other ‘world city’ you can name. Plus there are believers in West Africa where the original Fon, Ewe, Yoruba and other religions also still exist.
As it’s spread, of course, it’s become more varied. It started as a syncretic religion, putting together elements of other traditions. And it remains such, since it’s been taken up by a number of people who don’t (as far as I know) have roots or heritage in Haiti or New Orleans. So it’s still evolving, and that’s a feature I confess I’ve used to excuse a certain latitude in the way I’ve dealt with voodoo in the novella.
If you want to know more than Wikipedia will tell you, you should find (or at least I did) some books in your local library. Probably around shelfmark 299.67, which is where they are in my local library (you’ll find that shelfmark referenced in the novella).
I’d also recommend, from among a range of things I’ve read, Voodoo: Truth and Fantasy by Laennec Hurbon. You’ll probably only find it sporadically in Amazon’s ‘used’ lists, but the author’s written other similar books that I imagine are equally good. You’ll find this book name-checked in the novella too.
I can’t even begin to list the websites I looked at. A Tumblr blog, effyeahvodou.tumblr.com is a mine of information. Haunted America Tours is a page primarily for tourists to New Orleans and thus based on Louisiana voodoo, but contains a wealth of information and links. And in the UK, there’s a musician who’s also a voodoo practitioner whose blog is at www.doktorsnake.com. If you’re interested in visuals, the majority of stuff you’ll find on the internet is not of any serious interest. Some of it is Christian preaching against voodoo; some is deliberately sensationalist, and some is perhaps intended more for the low-end horror film market. However there’s one interesting documentary on Youtube that’s more anthropological in nature – Maya Deren’s 1945 ‘Divine Horsemen’ film of actual voodoo rituals, with a very open-minded take (it’s probably duplicated elsewhere on Youtube as well).
And so to the novella. Following on from part 1, ‘Ridden’ (also on Amazon.co.uk), our heroine Eloise finds herself back in London teaching English as a second language. Despite her change of location and culture, the lwa have a job for her. They don’t know the ultimate significance of it (which will have to wait for the third part of the trilogy) but they know it’s important. She’s nudged – in fact, thrown bodily – in the direction of doing their bidding. Eloise has certain supernatural powers that aren’t particularly flashy and spectacular in themselves, but only come into play in the course of sex that involves bondage and more. Hence she has to create the situations in which sex with very strong bdsm and fetish elements can take place. Which she does.
I’ve borrowed syncretically (i.e. mashed together) a number of real-life locations for the action, including a cemetery I know, and a magic shop (as in, it sold products for magical workings) that no longer exists but used to be close to where I lived in the days when I lived in London.
I might add that some of the scenes in the book are written from (ahem) personal experience, bearing in mind my connections with pagans who have been involved in sex magic. Not that I, or even they, have demon-battling experience or anything. But as a writer of imaginative erotica I’m entitled to stretch a point…