Women & Voodoo
Vodou, Psychoanalysis and Zora Neale Hurston
|By: Ed Cameron||
But she looked at me, or so I felt,
to speak for her.
In 1936 Zora Neale Hurston received a Guggenheim Fellowship to study Obeah practices in the West Indies. This fellowship, which was renewed in 1937, was the culmination of her anthropological studies under the renowned anthropologist Franz Boas of Columbia University. During her productive time in Haiti, Hurston not only composed her most famous fictitious work There Eyes Were Watching God, but she also completed the anthropological fieldwork on Vodou that resulted in her 1938 ethnographic study Tell my Horse: Voodoo and Life in Haiti and Jamaica. In Tell My Horse, Hurstons semi-professional narrative account of Vodou in Haiti maintains a precarious balance between the viewpoint of an outside observer and the viewpoint of an initiate.
This precarious balance has led to a conflict at the heart of the critical reception of Tell My Horse, a conflict that brings to light a deep tension running through Hurstons brand of ethnography. Early on while reviewing Hurstons use of Vodou in her literary work Alain Locke claimed that her folklorification of Haitian Vodou possesses the tendency to romanticize the past, and Richard Wright similarly argued that Hurston panders to her white readers needs by re-enforcing the stereotypical black superstitious primitive. More recently, Paul Gilroy has claimed that Hurstons desire to idealize African heritage has blinded her from seeing cultural transformation and made her resistant to social change. Willy Apollon has argued that folklorification, in general, is one of the most subtle forms of social control of Haitian Vodou and possibly tames the social crisis instigated by the Vodou practices by reducing it to the empire of signs (par. 11).
Others, however, view Hurstons ethnographic work from an opposing perspective. Amy Fass Emery, contrary to Apollon, argues that Hurstons celebrated folklore has the power to be aggressively subversive, that it gives a voice to those on the margins who seek to challenge their oppressors (328). Noticing Hurstons active participation during her studies and her refusal to merely collect field notes, Miriam DeCosta Willis argues that Hurstons unique brand of anthropology actually shows black art to be a living, breathing thing (87). Echoing this sentiment, Gwendolyn Mikell asserts that Hurstons text actually provides an insiders understanding of Vodou and is not written from the traditional anthropologists outsiders perspective (224). Ifeoma Nwankwo further notices how Hurstons ethnographic style refuses to completely silence her voice as a member of a community in order to play the role of the objective anthropologist (52).
Hurstons ethnographic style and practice may have been avante-garde and may have pioneered the new ethnography of the 1950s and 1960s, but it also leads to an unstable tone of voice in Tell My Horse, a instability tied to Hurstons conflicting desire to be both an analyst of Vodou and a participant. In his study of Vodou completed just eight years after Hurstons, Dr. Louis Mars has even concluded that during a Vodou ritual or ceremony the line separating spectators and actors is eliminated, forcing even an outside observer to take a double role (13). This dual role creates the double-edged voice Hurston utilizes to narrate her text, and this double-edged voice is responsible for the tension that critics have noticed. By introducing a psychoanalytic framework in order to account for Hurstons unique voice, one can illustrate how her narrative style replicates the double-sided voice that emerges within the Vodou possession ritual from where Hurston borrows her texts title. My essay, therefore, argues that the split nature of the mounted voice is performatively replicated in Hurtons ethnographic account of Haiti and Haitian Vodou rituals. Approaching her narrative through a psychoanalytically-inflected interpretation further illustrates how Hurstons split voice, which ultimately articulates an indirect discourse of possession, unconsciously attempts to undermine her support for the established protocols of anthropological investigation.
Vodou and Psychoanalysis
Even though most people would not draw a correlation between a Caribbean pagan religion and a Viennese pseudo science, Vodou and psychoanalytic practices, in general, share numerous characteristics. During her initiation into the Vodou cults of Haiti, Hurston mentions numerous cases of initiates being therapeutically relieved of their ill fortune from different loa (Vodou gods) like Damballah and Erzulie Freida. During these ceremonies, according to Hurston, specific sums of money are required for the initiates desired effect; sometimes the loa himself demands payment in gold (188). From an outsiders perspective this mandated payment may appear as a scam, but from the perspective of an insider payment displays faith in the success of the ceremony. One likewise often hears about the financial racket of psychoanalysis. Clients pay what for most is a large sum of money to some quack who makes the analysand do all the work, never telling his patients anything concrete about their psychological conditions. But payment for the psychoanalytic session has much the same strategy as it does in Vodou ceremonies: to elicit transference. Once the analysand or the initiate pays for his or her services, he or she illustrates the fact that he or she has transferred onto the analyst or the houngan or the mambo the faith that this figure knows what he or she is doing. Both practices realize that transference is an essential ingredient for the initial success of the respective ritual.
Another similarity between Vodou and psychoanalysis revolves around the Paket Kongo, commonly known as the Vodou doll. It is a magical and/or protective bundle, often vaguely anthropomorphic in shape (Wyrick). This ouanga, or charm, can be used for malevolent or protective purposes through sympathetic magic. It functions as an indirect means of affecting someone because it supposedly houses externally the most intimate part of the person to be affected. In this way the Paket Kongo resembles the objet petit a utilized in the Lacanian clinical field, the virtual object that plays a fundamental role in forcing the analysand to traverse his or her fundamental fantasy.
Even more revealing is the connection between the zombie of Vodou and the uncanny in psychoanalysis. In Hurstons words zombies are bodies without souls; they are the living dead (179). Usually, an initiate has bartered the soul of a loved one to a bocor, a practitioner of supernatural Vodou, for some type of earthly benefit. The loved one soon dies and his or her soul is stolen by the bocor for services rendered. The deceased loved one is then left to wander the earth soulless as a cheap laborer. The truly uncanny aspect of the zombie is how it represents a return to the drudgery of slavery, a return to a state that, in Freuds understanding of the uncanny, should have remained long dead and buried. In Haitian culture zombification is a fate worse than death precisely because zombies act like theyre still living under French colonial or American military rule. Zombies are soulless to the precise extent that they are occupied by an outside force, and, in this way, they symbolize an uncanny return to a state when Haitians lacked autonomy over their own affairs.
While all three of these connections between Vodou and psychoanalysis are suggestive and may even prompt further investigation, the Vodou practice of possession, or mounting, draws together Vodou, psychoanalysis and Hurston into a more meaningful accord. In fact the title of Hurstons text Tell My Horse is derived from the Vodou practice of a loa mounting an initiate like a horse and speaking to the ceremonial congregation through his or her body and mouth. Tell my horse, therefore, refers to the verbal transaction between the spirit loa and the bodily initiate. The equestrian terminology used to denote the Vodou practice of possession stems from the untamed actions of the possessed initiate, which is reminiscent of the bucking of a wild horse, who feels the weight of a rider on his back (Metraux 122).
The Vodou loas only become incarnate in and through the bodies of their servitors. During a ritual, a houngan will demand of Damballah, the highest and most powerful of the gods (Hurston 118), the authority or permission to enter into communication with a loa, and then the loa will become incarnate in the houngan or in an initiate (Hurston 225). According to Joan Dayan, The language of possession [ ]that moment when the god inhabits the head of his or her servitorarticulates the reciprocal abiding of human and god. The horse is said to be mounted and ridden by the god. The event is not a matter of domination, but a kind of double movement of attenuation and expansion. For make no mistake about it, the loa cannot appear in epiphany, cannot be made manifest on earth without the person who becomes the temporary receptacle or mount. And the possessed gives herself up to become an instrument in a social and collective drama. Contrary to some traditional views that the possessed experience is one of psychic disruption, or proof of pathology, initiates possession is the result of intense discipline and study, for not everyone can know how to respond to the demands and expectations of her god (Dayan).
Possession usually occurs during religious ceremonies and the individual can become possessed for reasons varying from a means of an escape from an unpleasant situation to self-punishment to providing pleasure to those ground down by life (Métraux 134). Dr. Mars has outlined the basic symptoms of possession (24). The possessed individual takes on a new personality, belonging to the loa who has inhabited him or her. Possession then causes an appropriate change in the voice and facial features of the possessed individual, and the possessed individuals behavior will often be characterized by motor excitement: uncontrollable dancing, writhing in the dirt and/or cataleptic posture. Also, the possessed individual will develop glossomania, ranging from unintelligible speech to enigmatic utterances. Finally, the possessed will develop sensitivity abnormalities and suffer from post-possession amnesia. Even though some possession rituals appear very theatrical, Vodou custom dictates that no possessed individual is acting; rather, the possessed becomes the character of the loa who inhabits him or her. According to Métraux, the possessed individual becomes not only the vessel but also the instrument of the god (120). Since it is the personality and the thoughts of the loa that are expressed during possession, the individual in a state of trance is in no way responsible for his deeds and words (Métraux 132).
Loas are said to ascend from below the water into the heads of their people much in the way unconscious thought might be said to emerge in speech. It is also said that the loas gain sustenance from the most intimate moments of their people and that they suffer when implicated in the general zombification of Haitians (Dayan). They indeed seem to represent a sort of life force of Vodou practitioners. When an initiate is mounted he or she possesses a vitality, a courage and a voice that is otherwise nonexistent. Examining the voice as an object of drive reveals the connection between Vodou possession and psychoanalysis. Interestingly enough, Hurston, herself, refers to one of the spirits as Grande Libido (236).
In psychoanalysis, voice is one of the five objects of the drive, along with breast, feces, phallus and gaze. The voice specifically refers to that in speech which is beyond the grasp of the signifier in general and, in religion, that which is beyond the word, corresponding to the ineffability of God (Dolar 22). It is, according to Mladen Dolar, not a function of the signifier, since it presents a nonsignifying remainder, something resistant to the signifying operations, a leftover heterogenous in relation to the structural logic which eludes it (10). But this notion of the voice has nothing to do with some unique individuality of the voice, some idiosyncratic quirk in the personal speakers voice because the object never fits the body. In this manner the voice as object of drive relates to the voice of the possessed Vodou servitor. During possession, the servitor speakes through his or her body and speaks relatively understandable utterances, but the voice itself remains an odd kind of object voice beyond the utterance.
Accordingly, psychoanalysis does not believe that we as humans can speak because we have been endowed with the bio-physiological capability to speak but because the object voice, the voice that used to belong to Mother as the first embodiment of the Other, demands that we speak. Without this demand our bio-physiological speech organs would be rendered useless. This demand, which is nothing other than drive itself, emanates from a sort of pre-historical realm of the individual and intervenes into the present. In the same manner the voice of the loa that emerges during the Vodou ritual of possession figures an ancient tradition intervening into the present. Not only is this voice of the loa a remainder or afterlife of African cultural memory, but it functions as a reminder in the present of the marrionage, the drive that resulted in the 18th-century slave revolts that led to Haitian independence.
That the Creole term for god loa is pronounced very similar to the French term for law (loi) can be very telling. When a houngan calls for the voice of the loa to speak through his body or that of an initiate, he is, in a sense, calling for the voice of the law. And in normal psychoanalytic parlance the voice pertaining to the law is nothing other than the voice of the superego, the voice that buttresses and supports the law. There simply is no law without the voice. The voice as remainder testifies that the law is founded only by an act. Therefore, the voice further bears witness to that which could not be absorbed by the law at its founding moment. And what is not absorbed by the law can serve one of two functions: it can either seal the law as the voice of the superego does, or it can haunt the law by giving voice to the laws lacking foundation. The voice then appears to be a voice that is inherently split, one side that endows the law with authority and one that irretrievably bars it (Dolar 30).
The latter voice is undoubtedly the voice in Vodou possession rituals that drove the Haitians to rebel from slavery and defeat the law of French colonial rule. It functioned as a loosening of libido away from support for the law and therefore had to once again fall under the service of the law after the War of Independence. According to Apollon, the very voice that drove the enslaved peasantry to overthrow the unjust law of colonial rule had to be transformed into the voice that supported the new law of Independence. During the order of Independence possession rituals were theatricalized and folkorified, emasculating and restraining the libidinal energies of Vodou rituals into a superstitious side show that supported the law of the new ruling elite. The erotic nature of the ritual of possession was simply aestheticized. After Independence, possession no longer constituted a historic socio-political crisis as it had under French rule. The Vodou ritual of possession simply became overdetermined by the political, and the staging of possession simply served a national fantasy.
This was most obvious in Duvaliers particular brand of noirisme. In what Dayan has called Duvaliers cynical exploitation of vodou for political ends, it became virtually impossible to envision Vodou possession as a practice in the service of collective liberation and renewed consciousness. Duvalier mimed Baron Semedi, the Vodou god of death, not only by donning his signature dark glasses and bowler hat but by sending thousands to the grave where his loa resides. Once connected to accounts of blood-drinking in the palace and the eating of enemies on the roads, Vodou became less a place of survival (or marronnage) and more a signal for sorcery, terror and the gratuitous exploits of the dread[ed] Tontons Macoutes, Duvaliers secret police (Dayan). Duvaliers heavy-handed incorporation of his secret police into Vodou ritual bears witness to the superegoic fact that the law requires someone or some supernatural force to do its hidden dirty work.
But everywhere that Vodou rituals function to support the law or are controlled by those practitioners in privileged relationships with the loas, the law is also secretly re-worked from within by possessions libidinal duplicity. The mounting by the loas has also often been seen as a threat to ruling hierarchies and corrupt social order and as method of peasant self-expression (Lemothe 166). I.M. Lewis argues that spirit possession [often] represents a quasi-covert form of social protest for women and for marginal, oppressed groups of men for whom any open protest would be exceptionally dangerous (qtd. in Trefzer 306). This form of ritualized rebellion (Trefzer 306) as a more or less covert form of protest almost has to be allowed by a repressive law that perversely legitimates itself within the rhetoric of Vodou nationalist fantasy. Although this reverse side of possession operates within certain limits, by giving a voice to those on the margins, it does allow for a certain amount of subversive protest and empowers the powerless.
In another manner, however, when the houngan sings to Legba to open the door to the possession ritual, he opens the way to memory, not fantasy. In this manner Vodou functions as a collective imaginary that resists its folklorification and nationalization by re-staging the noxious quality of the drive. When a servitor is possessed he or she is possessed by the object voice that predates the founding of Haiti; it is a voice that re-awakens the memory of Africa. As Dayan has pointed out about Haitian culture, beneath the tinsel cover of elegance, fashion, and good French, lay the dark and heady substratum of Africa. While it is true that Vodou is linked to African cultural memory, it is not true that Vodou is nostalgic or primitivist. Again, as Dayan points out, the gods of Vodou exist more as unconscious drives than as superstitious spirits:
During possession, Black Haitians return not to some idealized fantasy of Africa that they have lost but to Guinee, an irretrievable non-place from which the object voice emanates. In fantasy the subject adopts the Others object as the sine qua non of it own desiring (Copjec 256), and this is what happens when Vodou possession is guided into service for a ruling law that, in turn, restrains its libidinal energy. Apollon would call this the extinction of the libido at the hands of the political (par. 17). But the object voice of possession can also drive the servitor toward its previous inanimate state, forcing the subject to engage in symbolic life in the name of the lost Other, not to represent its demand but to encircle it, illustrating the law as incomplete or internally inconsistent (Copjec 260). By idealizing the object voice, by subscribing to the superegoic voice that supports the law or loa, possession points to an object that is above us and out of our reach, a sublime voice like Duvaliers behind the law, substantiating and legitimizing its rule. But the voice of possession can also function as a sublimated voice. Rather than idealizing the voice, this mode of possession de-idealizes the voice and delights not in the object itself, but in the act of installing it (Copjec 261). In this manner the event of possession ruptures the fantasy structure of idealization by substituting for the satisfaction provided by the object voice itself the satisfaction derived by the very act of voicing, thus demonstrating that there is really nothing, no voice, behind the law, the loa, nothing supporting the law but its own act of installment.
Vodou, Psychoanalysis and Hurston
The double-nature of the voice is performatively re-enacted in Hurstons writing style as she herself struggles to find her voice throughout Tell My Horse. This is notable in the juxtaposition of the first two chapters of Hurstons text. The opening chapter of the Haiti section of Hurstons treatise, entitled Rebirth of a Nation, not only appropriates and re-inscribes the title of D. W. Griffiths thematically racist film but also is written as a very lyrical telling of the events that led to the nineteen-year U.S. occupation of Haiti in 1915. She writes about the 1915 uprising as if it were the second coming of the revolt against slavery and French colonial law and authority. However, according to Hurstons narrative, this time Haiti was revolting against its own corrupt internal authority. Throughout the chapter she focuses on what she calls the voice in the night, which figures the growing restlessness of the Haitian people with authority and their horrific response to President Jean Vilbrun Guillaume Sams execution of 167 political prisoners. This chapter is also written in what Henry Louis Gates would call Hurstons highly idiomatic black voice, as opposed to her more professional literate narrators voice (296). Indeed, Hurstons tone of voice in her opening chapter often makes her account sound more like a folktale than a professional ethnography, as when she provides an account of the inevitable arrival of the U. S. military in 1915:
In fact, Hurston writes the entire chapter in the voice of the masses, referring to president Sam as a greedy, stupid pig lacking in good manners (68) and acknowledging how the outraged voice of Haiti had changed from a sob to a howl (72). This chapter not only provides the reader with an unorthodox historical account, but it also establishes Hurstons voice as, at least partly, aligned with the unofficial voice of the folk.
Hurstons second chapter, The Next Hundred Years, switches tone to a more orthodox anthropological voice, a tone she wavers through until a return to the lyrical in the texts final chapter. In this chapter, Hurston moves away from the lyrical, poetic voice of the peasantry and into the typical voice of the ethnographic outsider:
In this passage, Hurston speaks of Haiti as an observer, as one who possesses a most general understanding of the complicated situation of this unique island nation. But, even though Hurston stylistically trades her idiomatic voice for her literate narrators voice, thematically she re-enforces indirectly the divided-nature inherent in any attempt to understand Haitian culture. One can understand Haiti from an educated perspective, as the stylized voice of the second chapter indicates, or one can understand it ethnically, as Hurston attempts to display in the first chapter. It is almost as if, in the passage cited above, Hurston is figuratively charting out the topology of her own narrative, charting the distinction in her own authorial commentary, hovering between a super-egoic voice in support of the dominant culture and a sublimated voice that de-idealizes her subject matter.
On one level, Hurstons text appears to be guilty of all the criticisms that were mentioned above. Her voice seems to truly re-enforce the dominant authority of anthropological discourse. At certain moments, Tell My Horses anthropology figuratively echoes the zombification of Haitians much in the same manner as the French or US occupational rule. Ifeoma Nwankwo, in fact, points out that Hurstons text reads more like a conversation with other Americans about Haitian culture than it reads as if it were written by one who is a genuine insider (67). Arguably, Hurston re-inforces the superiority of American blacks over Haitians by subtly utilizing a civilization-versus-barbarism hierarchy several times in her analysis (Nwankwo 73). Early on in the text, Hurston refers to the unconscious cruelty of the Haitian people as displayed in the peasants treatment of animals but also in the elites ruling practices. Combining this complaint with what Hurston refers to as the most striking phenomenon in Haitithe Haitians habit of lying, Huston recounts a debate she had with Jules Faine:
Critics also note that Hurston tends to identify with the educated elite of Haiti (Mikell 225) and that her search for the truth behind zombification would appear blasphemous to any real initiate of Vodou (Nwankwo 65). In fact, as Amy Emery has argued, Hurstons desire to photograph the Haitian zombie woman in the hospital yard in Chapter 13 epitomizes and even allegorizes the primary gesture of anthropologyto extend meaning while simultaneously embalming:
But at the heart of Hurstons narrative there is also an ambivalence about her own learned methodology of remaining alienated from her subject. Just as the Haitians have been victims of the possession of foreign masters, Hurston seems to recognize in their Vodou rituals a sort of transformative mastery of possession. Her voice itself may at times appear as possessed by the ethnographic methods of her master Franz Boas, but when she treats Haitian Vodou formally as an internally coherent system, she herself seems to recognize the ability of Vodou to possess would-be colonizers like herself. In her account of the annual Vodou ceremony of the Head of the Water, in which hundreds participate and which takes place at the sacred waterfalls at Saut dEau, Hurston claims, for example, that the Ceremony of the Tete LEau is a thing to induce the belief in gods and spirits (226), illustrating the power such ceremonies had over her. By the end of her account, she appears completely under the influence of the ceremonys power, assigning the Vodou ceremony more importance than any purely Christian ritual, which, according to Hurston, functions to restrain the libidinal force unleashed during a typical Vodou ceremony. Her own opinion moves in this direction when she accounts for the minimal cases of possession occurring during this ceremony where she was a participant:
Although Hurston maintains her literal position as an observer throughout this extended passage, speaking more of what she saw and not what she felt, it is clear, by the end of the passage when she denounces the laws practice of restraining the libidinal force of the ceremony, that she is recounting her feelings as much as her observations.
Hurston recognizes precisely how the practice of possession forms a resistance to colonial strictures and post-colonial rule. She devotes a chapter to the practice of mounting by the gods entitled Parlay Chevel Ou, creole for Tell My Horse. She maintains that the Vodou gods (if not gods in general) always behave like the people who make them (219). For instance, the boisterous god Guedé (pronounced geeday), the only loa who is entirely Haitianno background in Europe or West Africa, is the loa of the peasants, the market women and the domestic servants precisely because he says the things they are unconscious of wanting to say. Often peasants and domestic servants are mounted by Guedé so he can take occasion to say many stinging things to the boss (219). It is through the loa Guedé that the lower class blacks of Haiti, according to Hurston, effect their strongest means of social criticism. Guedé is also the only Vodou loa who lacks a hounfort, a ceremonial temple or sanctuary, because he is housed not in any place but in the people. This is the very type of possession that occurred during Hurstons participation in the Ceremony of the Tete LEau when many of the adepts became possessed by Guedé in order to use their possessed voices to denounce the Catholic priest who had brought the police to stifle the ecstatic practices of the Vodou celebration. Hurston illustrates the quasi-political use of the possessed voice that allows the powerless to retaliate against an oppressive colonial religious law.
Oddly enough, Hurston seems at times to take on this anti-colonial mounted voice. She devotes a chapter at the end of her text to the expatriate American and former marine from the US occupation, Dr. Reeser, a man who runs the insane asylum in Pont Beudet. She also refuses to ask him for any information about Vodou as most American visitors or fellow anthropologists do because, as she says, she considers herself amply equipped to go out in the field and get it [her]self (252). Hurston even admits that she is breaking a promise with Dr. Reeser by mentioning him at all in the book. She even purposely misspells his name as Reser in her text, as if she is protecting his identity. This calculated joke of Hurstons sets up wha Emery calls a parodic representation of Dr. Reeser. Emery has further pointed out that Hurstons strategic misspelling of Reesers name both illustrates Hurstons signifying art and creates a palindrome that suggests that the reverse of what she says she is saying is also true (332). Hurstons change of the mans name indicates that she is signfying, that her use of repetition with difference is motivated, in [Henry Louis] Gatess sense, and her intentions ambiguous (Emery 332). By slightly changing the spelling of Reesers name, Hurston tips off the reader to a subtle denunciation underlying her recounted intimate visits with a former occupier. Through her parodic representation of Reeser, a leftover from the American occupation of Haiti, Hurston finishes her text by subtly undermining any of her own earlier praising of the modernizing effects of the U. S. occupation (Emery 333). The palindrome forces the reader to hear this undermining, and Hurston accomplishes this through the very indirect signifying that she has herself witnessed in the Vodou ritual of possession.
Also, throughout the chapter devoted to Dr. Reeser, Hurston adopts the tone of an interrogating ethnographer in a manner not witnessed anywhere in her relations to native Haitians. Oddly, enough, she never asks him questions about Haiti and Haitian culture, let alone questions about Vodou, only questions about himself: how he became so popular in Haiti, where he is from, etc. Hurston is not interested in learning about Haitian culture from an American resident of Haiti; she seems more interested in learning what impact Haitian culture has had on a foreign resident. Eventually, Hurston is able to persuade Dr. Reeser into revealing his firm belief in the power of Vodou. Lastly, she reveals how Dr. Reeser, a member of a former occupying force, has become, in turn, completely possessed by the libidinal energy of Vodou:
Just like Hurstons enthographic study, it appears, on the surface, that Dr. Reesers discourse follows the proper laws of Aristotelian logic, but underneath it burns with the possessed libidinalized voice of Vodou.
Thus, a question and a puzzle always remains about Hurstons text: which voice is hers and which is she possessed by? Is hers the voice that reinforces the superiority of her haughty patron Charlotte Osgood Mason and the American audience who is the supposed receiver of her discourse? Or does she embody the voice that skillfully utilizes indirect discourse in order to subtly undercut this reinforcement? Rather than providing a fitful conclusion to her anthropological fieldwork in the final chapter entitled Gods and Pintards, Hurston finishes in the voice of the peasantry. She tells a folktale that poetically provides insight into the vagabond drive of the sublimating voice. In the tale, God sends first Michael, then Gabriel and then Peter to scare the pintards away from his rice fields. All three fail in their attempts because they find themselves under the influence of the pintards rhythmic voice. When God finally approaches the birds himself, he too notices the double rhythm of the pintards song (261). Also becoming seduced, God decides against scaring the birds away from his crops in favor of sending them down to Guinea. This is how the vagabond libido that is staged during Vodou possession ritual came to Haiti. It is a rhythmic voice that, according to Hurstons folktale, only God recognizes as possessing a double rhythm, at least consciously recognizes. Here, it is as if Hurstons learned ethnographic voice has become unconsciously possessed by the nomadic voice of those very folk she seems at other times to dismiss through her institutionalized anthropological authority.
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Ed Cameron is Assistant Professor in the Department of English at The University of Texas-Pan American. He has published numerous articles on topics ranging from Gothic fiction and psychoanalysis to serial homicide and religious cults. He is currently finishing a book on Gothic literature and psychopathology.