Saut D'Eau, Haiti (AFP) July 18, 2010
Thousands of Haitians have flocked to a hilltop voodoo festival, offering a special prayer to the spirits to find them new homes and ease their plight six months after a massive quake.
Dressed in white, they clambered up the hill to bathe in a waterfall and take part in an annual ritual which has drawn the faithful for almost 200 years to the town of Saut d'Eau in the central Haitian plateau.
On this spot in 1847, the Catholic saint Our Lady of Mount Carmel is believed to have appeared in a nearby palm tree.
Fearing the vision could trigger a flood of religious zeal, a Catholic priest cut down the tree. But he was too late, and ever since sometimes as many as 20,000 people have made the annual pilgrimage here.
Voodoo remains an official state religion, and it is estimated more than half of Haiti's population practices at least elements of it, but it is often followed alongside Catholicism, in rare mixing of the faiths.
This year fewer people than usual turned out for the two-week long festival, which culminated on Friday. For many Haitians, devastated by the January 12 earthquake, the trek from the capital Port-au-Prince was beyond their means.
But those who came had fervent prayers for the voodoo spirit Erzulie -- the spirit of the waterfalls and the voodoo equivalent of the Virgin Mary -- to find them a new home.
It was the first large gathering since the earthquake that killed over 250,000 and left some 1.5 million homeless.
"Many people are coming for the first time because of the earthquake," said Paul-Erick Mereilier, who lost his home and a brother and has been unemployed since graduating high school.
Mereilier, 23, from Tabarre, on the capital's outskirts, rode for over three hours in a crowded truck and spent the night sleeping on its hardwood benches.
The crowds sacrifice animals, usually chickens and goats, and smear their white clothes in the blood, chanting and dancing, often sending themselves into a trance.
Others bathe in the waters of the waterfall, hoping their wishes will be granted.
Shaking in the cold water, Mereilier said he always believed in voodoo, but had never thought of coming here before.
"I came to look for possibilities, I would like to ask the spirits for a chance," he said.
Nearby, a young girl in a bright swimsuit shook in a trance, and as relatives kept her from hitting her head on the rocks, other bathers came to touch her and whisper requests in her ears, believing her to be possessed by the spirit Erzulie.
All around, hundreds of men and women of all ages bathed with soap and mint leaves, some naked, others fully clothed. Some chanted verses from the Bible, while young men sipped rum and children played in the water.
Under a tree by the waterfall, Andre Chevry, a thin 50 year-old dressed in the red and blue colors of voodoo priests, welcomed worshippers to light candles and practiced mystical rituals for a fee.
"People come here to find satisfaction and solutions to their problems," said Chevry, sipping clear liquor and warning listeners that it was God who had brought about the earthquake.
"Everyone finds what they are looking for," he said, but when asked whether the ritual would suffice to solve Haiti's problems, he answered, "I can't guarantee anything."
Roland Wilfred lost his house and garage in the earthquake and sent his wife and three children to live with relatives in the south of the country, while he scrapes by in Port-au-Prince.
"I'm strong like a rock, I work hard, but since the earthquake everything has been bad, I don't feel right anymore," the 39 year-old mechanic said.
While he says he believes Haiti needs more than just spirits, he has been coming to the pilgrimage since he was a child.
"When I come here I feel like everything is going to be all right," he said, before slipping into the water. "But I really need a house."
Haiti is struggling to cope with the aftermath of the earthquake. But for many, the pilgrimage is part of the healing process.
"People feel happy here, after so much stress they finally have a place where to put their problems," said Ruth Paul, a 40 year-old mother who stopped to cool down by a stream during the hike up to the waterfall.
Paul said she had not lost her faith and came to ask that her two sons do well in school and that her destroyed business -- a wedding gowns rental -- picks up again.
"It's like when you have a problem and you go to a friend. Even though your friend can't help you 100 percent, you feel comfort anyway," she said. "It's better than keeping it all to yourself."
Share This Article With Planet Earth
Bringing Order To A World Of Disasters
A world of storm and tempest
When the Earth Quakes
27 missing after bus plunges off road in southwest China
Beijing (AFP) July 18, 2010
At least 27 people were missing feared dead Sunday when a passenger bus fell off a mountainous road and into a river in southwest China, a local official and state media said. The accident occurred in Sichuan province's Aba prefecture, a region largely populated by ethnic Tibetans and other minorities, a Danba county government official who declined to be named told AFP. The cause of th ... read more
Voodoo rite draws Haitian faithful praying for comfort|
27 missing after bus plunges off road in southwest China
The Life-Saving Capabilities Of Storm Shelters
World Bank-managed Haiti aid fund only 20 percent full
One Tiny Satellite In Space, Whiz Kids Plan Two More
iPad and other gadgets drain Asia of electronic components
Art In Space - Or, How To Set Up A Formation
Tokyo trials digital billboards that scan passers-by
Indian Ocean Sea-Level Rise Threatens Coastal Areas
Ancient species discovered in Barrier Reef depths
Sucking The Ocean Through A Straw
Indian Ocean levels rising, study shows
Himalayan ice shrivels in global warming: exhibit
Footloose Glaciers Crack Up
Arctic Climate May Be More Sensitive To Warming Than Thought
US scientist in race to learn from Indonesia's dying glacier
Thailand to unleash swarm of wasps on crop pest
AgBank shares to start trading in Hong Kong
China seizes eight tonnes of endangered pangolins
China's AgBank makes tepid Hong Kong IPO debut
Flash floods stain Singapore's reputation as urban paradise
146 dead in China rainstorms and floods: state media
At least 67 dead as Typhoon Conson calms in China
Hunt for Philippine fishermen after killer typhoon
Kenya goes hi-tech to curb election fraud
Northrop Grumman Wins African Training Contract
G. Bissau president warns army top brass, drug traffickers
Religious intolerance threatens Nigerian democracy: Jonathan
Malaysia's 'forgotten' tribes left behind by development
Baby Brain Growth Mirrors Changes From Apes To Humans
Timor-Leste warms to Australia asylum idea
U.S. government challenges Ariz. law
|The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2010 - SpaceDaily. AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by SpaceDaily on any Web page published or hosted by SpaceDaily. Privacy Statement|