Anse-à-Vodou: A Summer with My Father in Haiti

Anse-à-Vodou: A Summer with My Father in Haiti


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Anse-à-Vodou: A Summer with My Father in Haiti is a creative non-fiction memoir focused on the author’s personal experience with spirituality, paranormal and occult phenomena, and Haitian culture from a first-generation American perspective. The author's love for magical realism is apparent in her style.

Mary Gaetjens’ father was a Haitian Vodouist from a prominent Catholic Haitian family. An extreme nationalist, he was in exile under François Duvalier's regime when Gaetjens was born in the United States. When he returned to Haiti post-Duvalier, his dream was to help bring about economic and politcal reform. He wanted nothing more than to see his beloved country thrive, her people happy.

Gaetjens’ mother devoted her life to working for the greater good, always with equanimity, pleasure, and fearless abandon. Her passion for thwarting injustice rivaled her husband’s. She didn't think twice about marrying a black man in a prejudiced blue-collar town in the 1960s.

Gaetjens’ parenting encouraged her psychic gifts. At a young age she was exposed to Haitian Vodou and the indigenous practices of the Cherokee in northern New England. Both cutlures live with a holistic approach to the natural world that includes spiritual, mental, and physical aspects of existence, far more advanced than the ideals of Western culture.

Gaetjens’ parents’ belief that the secrets to a global utopian society were held in indigenous communities fueled her fervent interest in the plight of people living in service to the spirit of nature and her concern for preserving their cultures.

As an adult Gaetjens feels compelled to expose the appalling maltreatment of native peoples. She is passionate about shedding light on the beauty and purity of traditonal beliefs, customs, and relationships.

Gaetjen’s Uncle Joe, though Haitian, scored one of the top ten soccer goals of all time for the U.S. in a World Cup game vs England in 1950. Though he'd no political affiliation, in 1964 he was assassinated during François Duvalier's regime by Duvalier himself, who killed him as a warning to families that opposed him. Her father was also assassinated in Haiti, in 1990, shortly after her twenty-second birthday and three months before she planned to leave for Haiti to work with him for political reform.

Gaetjens went to Haiti for the first time in 1989. She spent as much time as possible in various Lakou – the home temple grounds of local Vodou communities. She photographed ceremonies and learned as much as she could about her ancestral heritage. She traveled deep into the countryside with Konpè Filo, a well-known Haitian activist, television and radio personality, and Vodou priest.

Woven into her book are her viewpoint as a young Western woman of her father's culture from personal experience with Vodou, a feeling of homecoming with ancestral spirits and an affirmation that others interacted with spirits, Haitian and American history, the story of her father's family, particularly his own and that of his brother Joe, and her self-healing journey. She began writing in 1989 and stopped after her father's murder in 1990, but never stopped thinking about finishing her book. She felt a haunting compulsion to make amends with the spirit she had spoken to on her first visit to Haiti, the spirit who'd prophesied her birth. “He told my father he had betrayed him by not writing a book on JFK twenty-five years ago.... To me he said, Do not betray me like your father did....honor the voice of spirits that hold both counsel and war in your blood.... The spirits gave you a connection between blan and Haitian...your own gateway.... a child of people born in slavery and aristocrats born in featherbeds.... Trust the path you have been given...."

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780985753221
Publisher: Group Alchemy Publishing
Publication date: 01/03/2018
Pages: 394
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 1.25(h) x 9.00(d)

About the Author

Gérard Alphonse Férère is a native of Haiti. Upon completing his primary and secondary education in Port-au-Prince under the tutelage of his father, educator Alphonse Murville-Férère, he obtained through contest a scholarship to study at the Naval Academy of Venezuela. After graduating from the Academy as laureate of the navigation class, he served as an officer in the Haitian Coast Guard from 1953 to 1958, until his dismissal for refusing to serve Dictator François Duvalier. Between 1958 and 1963 he was incarcerated five times, including twice at the infamous Fort Dimanche prison for alleged political activities against the dictatorship. In 1963, having been put on an assassination list together with many officers and former officers, he took refuge at a foreign embassy with his wife, and from there came to the United States whose citizenship he now holds.

Gérard Férère has a Master's Degree in French and Spanish from Villanova University, and a Ph.D. in linguistics from the University of Pennsylvania. For 34 years, from 1964 up to 1998 when he retired, Professor Férère taught French language and literature, Spanish, and linguistics at Saint Joseph's University, the Jesuit University of Philadelphia. During his academic tenure, and now while retired, he has remained constantly active in the Haitian community, in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Illinois, California, Washington, D.C., Maryland, Florida, etc., participating in conferences, publishing books and articles, giving lectures, as well as newspaper, radio and television interviews. Dr. Férère and his wife Nancy now reside in Boca Raton, Florida.

Mary Gaetjens was born into a richly diverse cultural background. She had the honor of studying with shamans, prophets, sages, mages, and witches from a very early age. At age 10 she learned to meditate from a Cherokee elder, an experience that placed her firmly on her path of service to Mother Earth.

As a young adult she was introduced to the healing trance states of Haitian Vodou and tasked by ancestral spirits with exposing the truth of Haitian Vodou: It is a way of life, not a religion. Its main teaching is that we are not separate from nature; we are the natural world. Its main values are peace, spiritual commitment, hope, and love. It is a beautiful, holistic, healing spiritual practice that has been grossly misunderstood and violated by prejudice and fear. She was also asked to touch on key events in the history of Haiti without writing a strictly historical book, and to draw from her experiences with indigenous healing practitioners from many traditions and distill them into words that express the common thread connecting them all. Through her story, she hopes to foster cross-cultural understanding and awaken humans' desire for the indweller - the source of energetic possibilities of unimaginable and unfathonable power.

This question drove Gaetjens the most: If members of the Haitian Diaspora reclaimed the power that was stolen from them and twisted into something so dark that even now, hundreds of years later, their descendants believe that their own spiritual power is evil, if they challenged what was beaten into them by oppressors and gave voice to what was never fully broken for them - their spirits, could balance be restored? Could it be restored for the hundreds of other cultures that have suffered the same oppression?

Gaetjens has a background in traditional yoga, shamanic arts and faith healing. Her distinctive combination of insight, vision, and acceptance empowers individuals to discover new perspectives, awaken to their untapped vital energy, and lead active, healthy lives of inspiration, harmony, and peace. She offers clients a wide range of healing modalities, including one of her own creation, Samadhi Breathwork. Grounded in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Samadhi Breathwork uses ancient knowledge still widely respected today to unleash particular states ofdeep meditative trance to free innate consciousness. Samadhi Breathwork is a self-healing practice, using only breathing techniques, that permanently frees the spirit/mind/body of physical pain, PTSD, disease, and suffering.

Anthony Pascal, affectionately as Konpè Filo, was born in 1953 in Grand Goave, Haiti, and is the eldest of 12 children.

Pascal hosts Kalfou, a television show on Télé Radio Ginen. He hosts a radio show at Télé Radio Ginen as well. He is one of the most popular and respected journalists in Haiti. He began his career with radio theater and progressed to focus on human rights. He attended the National Conservatory in Port-au-Prince where he was trained as an actor.

When Mary Gaetjens first traveled to Haiti in 1989, she participated in Vodou ceremonies with him. He was a very dear friend of her father's and a Vodou initiate. Gaetjens is very grateful that Pascal was willing to let her accompany him.

Gaetjens recently asked Pascal how he got his nickname, Konpè Filo. His answer illustrated his unique method of activism. Throughout his life he's cared for Haiti and her people in the gentle, compassionate and fun-loving way his character, Konpè Filo, did in Morisseau-Leroy's Haitian adaption of Antigone. As a student in the play at the National Conservatory, Pascal played Konpè Filo, adviser to King Crayon (Creon, King Oedipus' brother). King Crayon was dressed as a member of the Tonton Makout (Duvalier's secret police force). It was a political risk the director of the play deemed worth taking, though in the end the director was beaten by Duvalier himself for insolence.

Konpè Filo is one of Haiti's most beloved citizens. He insists to this day that he's not political, but his influence is powerful. He managed what many did not, he stayed alive during François Duvalier's regime. He was not imprisoned for his liberal views until November of 1980, when he was removed from Radio Haiti while hosting his show. He was exiled in December of that same year. He returned to Haiti in February 1986 after Duvalier was ousted. He was honored by a hero's welcome and a crowd that walked with him from the airport north of Port-au-Prince across the city to its south border where he has resided for most of his life.

Antigone represented the tens of thousands of Haitians who were killed during the Duvalier dictatorship. She fought with compassion, but was emphatic about inalienable human rights. Creon defended his own brand of law and order, which was nothing more than the elimination of anyone who opposed his authority.

Ultimately, every character in Antigone, including Creon himself, realized that Antigone was right, but justice did not save her. As was true during the Duvaliers' regimes, the characters in Antigone suffered because they stood for justice. Antigone illustrated that acts of heroism were fatal.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements 9

Foreword by Gérard Férère 13

Family Tree 18

Map of Haiti 20

Lwa Dife – The Fire Goddess 21

– Ti Toto, July 1989, Vodou Ceremony, Anse-à-Veau, Haiti

Growing Up Mixed 23

– Ti Toto, July 1975, Littleton, New Hampshire

Gede and the White Child 31

– Ti Toto, July 1978,Whitefield, New Hampshire

That Summer 55

Journal Entries

– Ti Toto, July 1989, Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Reflections 93

– Mary, March 1994, Emeryville, California

After Words [I] 101

– Antonine, April 2013, Oakland, California

After Words [II] 129

– Antonine, November 2002, Isla Bella, São Paulo, Brazil

Manman Brijit – The Gede Queen 156

– Mary, September 1989, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

After Words [III] 163

– Antonine, April 2013, Oakland, California

Marinette Bwa Cheche – The Petwo Lwa of Fire 177

– Maya, February 2012, Oakland, California

After Words [IV] 197

– Antonine, September 2008, Ilha do Mel, Paraná, Brazil

After That Summer 273

Conversations from the Outside In

– Mary, May 1990, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

After Words [V] 293

– Antonine, 2005, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

“Saint Jude, help of the hopeless, help us in our despair.”

Contemplations from The End and After That 302

– Mary, 2007-present

Boston, Massachusetts; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania;

Franconia, New Hampshire; Oakland and Emeryville,

California; Ilha do Mel, Isla Bella, and São Paulo, Brazil;

Port-au-Prince and Souvnans, Haiti; Great Barrier Island,

New Zealand

Dad and Me 358

– Maya, November 2016, Oakland, California

The Day I Buried My Fat her He Had Been Dead

Twenty Years 364

– Mary, August 19, 2010, Oakland, California

Golden Flower 384

– Maya, February 2017, Great Barrier Island, New Zealand

Afterword: Of Dolls and Zombies 388

Bibliography 392


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