Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

African Mythic Science or Vodou Methodology

Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

African Mythic Science or Vodou Methodology

Article excerpt

African Mythic Science or Vodou Methodology

Atibo Legba, open the barrier for me
Papa Legba, open the barrier for me
To let me through,
When I come back, I will salute the loa
Voodoo Legba open the barrier for me
When I return, I will thank the loa (1)

"Voodoo," Papa or Atibo Legba guards the threshold between the physical and spiritual worlds according to the Haitian Vodou tradition. He also delivers messages to and among the lwa, who are the deities, divinities and supernatural powers in the Vodou cosmos. For these reasons, he is the first lwa petitioned during Vodou rituals. He is saluted first here because the purpose of African mythic science is to present a method for analyzing the experience of African peoples using African myth as a frame of reference. In other words, mythic science connects the physical world of experience with the spiritual world of myth--similar to the way African cultures themselves interpret their own experiences.

This article introduces the basics of an African mythic science or Vodou methodology by first describing myth from an African cultural perspective and then discussing how myth is a living phenomenon by applying prominent archetypes in African myths to the African/African-American experience. Lastly, the article presents tools for a mythic analysis or developing a "mythic mind." The tools include recognizing and decoding symbols, metaphors, patterns and archetypes described in myths, again demonstrated by analyzing the lived experience of African people. With this foundation, the reader will be able to use the principles in African myth to generate a holistic African-centered analysis of African people.

Mythic science is an integral part of an African-centered theoretical perspective which challenges the researcher to place African values at the center of their analysis. With myth as a valuable, if not pre-eminent, source for knowledge and meaning within African culture, it is a necessary component for an African-centered methodology. Myth details creation, origins, deities and their functions, the first people and ancestors, animals, nature and the relationships amongst them all. African cultures view their societies as extensions of their myths. The mythic events flow directly into society in a very tangible way. Far from being fanciful and fantastic, African myth contains knowledge necessary to negotiate the various rhythms of life. Myth supports all religious, political, social, and cultural activities. Therefore, a methodology based on myth enhances the discussion of any aspect of culture. Mythic science is holistic enough to allow for a multidisciplinary analysis and specific enough to support an analysis from a single discipline. In these aspects, plus the fact of being rooted in a most essential aspect of African culture, mythic science resonates with African-centered theory and methodology.

African mythic science is described as a Vodou methodology because, like Legba, who opens the gate between the worlds, it opens the world of experience to the world of myth. It also comes from the exquisite ability found in Vodou to choreograph the rhythms of various mythic/spiritual traditions and cultures into the Haitian experience. Vodou includes the essential elements from the sacred cultures of Africa, the harsh experience of enslavement, the joy of emancipation, the presence of French Catholicism, the reality of poverty and the enduring struggles to live a full life in harmony with each aspect. The diverse elements of Haitian Vodou are bound together by Guinen. (2)

Guinen is the spiritual essence of Africa and the means by which Vodou is validated. According to Joseph Murphy, Guinen is "the criterion for harmonious and moral action" and the standard of authority for tradition. (3) Harmonious and moral action is none other than Maat from Kemetic culture and the authority for Vodou is based on spiritual knowledge from Africa. …

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