By Joseph M. Murphy
"A awesome comparative examine of the workings of the Spirit between practitioners of African-derived religions. . . . A 'must learn' for college students of African, Caribbean, Brazilian, and African American religions." —Choice
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Additional resources for Working the Spirit: Ceremonies of the African Diaspora
Since the book is written in English and published in the United States, the emphasis on the similarities among diasporan religions allows North Americans in particular to see black religion in the United States in a larger context, a context which may challenge certain assumptions and illuminate new meanings. Once we know something about vodou and Revival Zion, the spirituality of the Black Church of the Page 4 United States is revealed in a new context. From a "hemispheric perspective," black religion in the United States can be seen as a special articulation of a spirituality which has kindred expressions throughout the Americas.
36 The pots are described by Dunham as large, white, china apothecary jars which are often hung with bead necklaces or decorated with ribbons. They contain ingredients symbolic of the new union of spirit and human being: bits of hair from the center of the initiates' head together with the sacrificial foods, drinks, herbs, and oils identified with their mèt tèts. The initiates sat cross-legged before these pot tèts and were instructed in their meaning and use. Dunham writes: Fadng our head pots, we were given the meaning of what was in them; why a sacrificed animal was considered fortunate to be allowed to take messages to the god to whom this animal represented an approach; how the prayers that were said to this fowl or goat or pig or beef and the Page 25 prayers for its safe conduct to the god made it indeed superior and privileged beside others of its kind who were butchered without care or rite.
Of course, growing up in America, this spirituality is not really alien to me. It has crossed over to shape all Americans' lives in its more secular forms of blues, gospel, rhumba, samba, and even rock and roll music. When the beat is right we all know that there is something that makes us want to shout. Though the music is popular among people who don't understand the heavy burdens these songs represent, I don't believe that this form of diasporan spirituality is necessarily inauthentic or compromised.