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Bois Caïman (Haitian Creole : Bwa Kayiman) was the site of the Vodou ceremony during which the first major slave insurrection of the Haitian Revolution was planned.
Haitian Vodou is a syncretic religion practiced chiefly in Haiti and the Haitian diaspora. Practitioners are called "vodouists" or "servants of the spirits".
The Haitian Revolution was a successful anti-slavery and anti-colonial insurrection by self-liberated slaves against French colonial rule in Saint-Domingue, now the sovereign nation of Haiti. It began on 22 August 1791, and ended in 1804 with the former colony's independence. It involved blacks, mulattoes, French, Spanish, and British participants—with the ex-slave Toussaint L'Ouverture emerging as Haiti's most charismatic hero. It was the only slave uprising that led to the founding of a state which was both free from slavery, and ruled by non-whites and former captives. It is now widely seen as a defining moment in the history of racism in the Atlantic World.
On the night of August 14, 1791, representative slaves from nearby plantations gathered to participate in a secret ceremony conducted in the woods by nearby Le Cap in the French colony of Saint-Domingue. Presided over by Dutty Boukman, a prominent slave leader and Vodou priest, the ceremony served as both a religious ritual and strategic meeting as conspirators met and planned a revolt against the ruling white planters of the colony's wealthy Northern Plain. The ceremony is considered the official beginning of the Haitian Revolution.
Cap-Haïtien often referred to as Le Cap or Au Cap, is a commune of about 190,000 people on the north coast of Haiti and capital of the department of Nord. Previously named, Cap‑Français and Cap‑Henri, it was historically nicknamed the Paris of the Antilles, because of its wealth and sophistication, expressed through its architecture and artistic life. It was an important city during the colonial period, serving as the capital of the French Colony of Saint-Domingue from the city's formal foundation in 1711 until 1770 when the capital was moved to Port-au-Prince. After the Haitian Revolution, it became the capital of the Kingdom of Northern Haiti under King Henri Christophe until 1820.
Saint-Domingue was a French colony on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola from 1659 to 1804, in what is now Haiti.
Dutty Boukman was an early leader of the Haitian Revolution, enslaved in Jamaica and later in Haiti. He is considered to have been both a leader of maroons and vodou hougan (priest).
In the following days, the whole Northern Plain was in flames, as the revolutionaries conducted acts of violence towards those who had formerly enslaved them. Clouded in mystery, many accounts of the catalytic ceremony and its particular details have varied. There are no known first-hand written accounts about what took place that night. It was first documented in the colonist Antoine Dalmas's "History of the Saint-Domingue Revolution", published in 1814.
The Haitian writer Herard Dumesle visited the region and took oral testimonies in order to write his account of the ceremony.He recorded what is thought to be the earliest version of the Bois Caïman speech made by Dutty Boukman. Translated, it reads:
Hérard Dumesle was a Haitian poet and politician.
…This God who made the sun, who brings us light from above, who raises the sea, and who makes the storm rumble. That God is there, do you understand? Hiding in a cloud, He watches us, he sees all that the whites do! The God of the whites pushes them to crime, but he wants us to do good deeds. But the God who is so good orders us to vengeance. He will direct our hands, and give us help. Throw away the image of the God of the whites who thirsts for our tears. Listen to the liberty that speaks in all our hearts.
This excerpt from the official "History of Haiti and the Haitian Revolution"serves as a general summary of the ceremonial events that occurred:
A man named Boukman, another houngan, organized on August 24, 1791, a meeting with the slaves in the mountains of the North. This meeting took the form of a Voodoo ceremony in the Bois Caïman in the northern mountains of the island. It was raining and the sky was raging with clouds; the slaves then started confessing their resentment of their condition. A woman started dancing languorously in the crowd, taken by the spirits of the loas. With a knife in her hand, she cut the throat of a pig and distributed the blood to all the participants of the meeting who swore to kill all the whites on the island.
Despite purported facts and embellishments that have dramatized the ceremony over the centuries, the most reoccurring anecdote is the sacrifice of a black Creole Pig to Ezili Dantor by the mambo Cécile Fatiman and the conspiratorial pact formed through its blood. Dalmas provided the first written account of the sacrifice:
A black pig, surrounded by the slaves believe to have magical powers, each carrying the most bizarre offering, was offered as a sacrifice to the all-powerful spirit...The religious community in which the nègres slit its throat, the greed with which they have believed to have marked themselves on the forehead with its blood, the importance that they attached to owning some of its bristles which they believed would make them invincible.
The black Creole Pig, although indigenous to the island, being domesticated centuries earlier by the Tainos, was a sacrifice to and a symbol of Ezili Dantor, the mother of Haiti (who resembles the scarred Dahomey Amazons or Mino, meaning "Our Mothers" in the Fon language). It was a mixing of the traditions of the army of the Dahomey, which was the ethnicity of many of the slaves in Saint Domingue with the Taino, who had fled to the high mountains of Haiti (Haiti meaning high mountains in Taino) in order to escape the Spanish colonial genocide.[ clarification needed ]
The Bois Caïman ceremony has often been used as a source of inspiration to nationalists and as a symbol of resistance to oppression.
During the 1990s, some neo-evangelical Christians rewrote the events at Bois Caïman as a Haitian "blood pact with Satan". [ citation needed ] These Evangelicals developed a counter-narrative to the official national story. In this narrative, the ancestral spirits at the Vodou cemetery were re-cast as demons. In their view, the engagement with demons amounted to a pact that put Haiti under the rule of Satan. While some Haitian Evangelicals subscribe to this idea, most Haitian nationalists vehemently oppose it. This belief was referenced by Christian media personality Pat Robertson in his controversial comments during the aftermath of the 2010 Haiti earthquake. Robertson declared the Haitian people "have been cursed by one thing after the other" since the 18th century after swearing "a pact to the devil". Robertson's comments were denounced.They were influenced by "spiritual warfare" theology and concerned that the Aristide government had made efforts to incorporate the Vodou sector more fully into the political process.
The recorded written history of Haiti began on 5 December 1492 when the European navigator Christopher Columbus happened upon a large island in the region of the western Atlantic Ocean that later came to be known as the Caribbean. It was inhabited by the Taíno, and Arawakan people, who variously called their island Ayiti, Bohio, or Kiskeya(Quisqueya). Columbus promptly claimed the island for the Spanish Crown, naming it La Isla Española, later Latinized to Hispaniola. French influence began in 1625, and French control of what was called Saint-Domingue—modern-day Haiti—began in 1660. From 1697 on, the western part of the island was French and the eastern part was Spanish. Haiti became one of the wealthiest of France's colonies, producing vast quantities of sugar and coffee and depended on a brutal slave system for the necessary labor. Inspired by the message of the French Revolution, Haitian slaves rose up in revolt in 1791 and after decades of struggle the independent republic of Haiti was officially proclaimed in 1804.
Hispaniola is an island in the Caribbean archipelago known as the Greater Antilles. It is the second largest island in the West Indies after Cuba, and the most populous island in the West Indies; it is also the eleventh most populous island in the world.
Erzulie is a family of loa, or spirits in Vodou.
Ezilí Dantor or Erzulie Dantó is the main loa or senior spirit of the Petro family in Haitian Vodou.
Boukman Eksperyans is a mizik rasin band from the city of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Grammy nominated for their debut album Vodou Adjae. The band derives its name from Dutty Boukman, a vodou priest who led a religious ceremony in 1791 that is widely considered the start of the Haitian Revolution. The other half of the band's name, "Eksperyans", is the Haitian Creole word for "experience", and was inspired by the band's appreciation of the music of Jimi Hendrix. The band was at the height of its popularity in 1991 when the presidency of Jean Bertrand Aristide was overthrown in a military coup d'etat. Like many other artists and performers, Boukman Eksperyans fled the country to live in exile. During their time abroad, the band performed and spoke out against the military dictatorship of Raoul Cédras. In 1994, after Aristide was restored to power, the band returned to Haiti, where they continued to play concerts, record albums, and perform at the Carnival celebrations.
François Mackandal was a Haitian Maroon leader in Haiti. He is sometimes described as a Haitian vodou priest, or houngan. Some sources describe him as a Muslim, leading some scholars to speculate that he was from Senegal, Mali, or Guinea, though this assertion is tenuous given the lack of biographical information from this era, and is highly contested. Haitian historian Thomas Madiou states that Mackandal "had instruction and possessed the Arabic language very well." But given the predominance of Haitian Vodou on the island, most assume Mackandal to be associated with this faith instead. In the book "Open door to Liberty," Mackandal was mentioned, talking about his life as a vodou priest and joining Maroons to kill whites in Saint Domingue, till he was captured and burned alive by French colonial authorities. Although the historical accuracy of Mackandal's life has been debated, his significance as a leader in the fight for Haitian independence has been immortalized through Haitian currency.
Georges Biassou was an early leader of the 1791 slave rising in Saint-Domingue that began the Haitian Revolution. With Jean François and Jeannot, he was prophesied by the vodou priest, Dutty Boukman, to lead the revolution.
Jeannot was a leader of the 1791 slave rising that began the Haitian Revolution. With Biassou and Jean François, he was prophesied by Dutty Boukman to lead the revolution, and fought with the Spanish royalists against the French Revolutionary authorities in colonial Haiti.
Rara is a form of festival music that originated in Haiti, that is used for street processions, typically during Easter Week. The music centers on a set of cylindrical bamboo trumpets called vaccine, but also features drums, maracas, güiras or güiros, and metal bells, as well as sometimes also cylindrical metal trumpets which are made from recycled metal, often coffee cans. The vaccine perform repeating patterns in hocket and often strike their instruments rhythmically with a stick while blowing into them. In the modern day, standard trumpets and saxophones may also be used. The genre though predominantly Afro-based has some Taino Amerindian elements to it such as the use of güiros and maracas.
A mambo is a female priestess in the Haitian Vodou religion. Haitian Vodou's conceptions of priesthood stem from the religious traditions of enslaved people from Dahomey, in what is today Benin. For instance, the term mambo derives from the Fon word nanbo. Like its West African counterpart, Haitian mambos are female leaders in Vodou temples who perform healing work and guide others during complex rituals. This form of female leadership is prevalent in urban centers such as Port-au-Prince. Typically, there is no hierarchy among mambos and houngans. These priestesses and priests serve as the heads of autonomous religious groups and exert their authority over the devotees or spiritual servants in their hounfo (temples). Mambos and houngans are called into power via spirit possession or the revelations in a dream. They become qualified after completing several initiation rituals and technical trainings where they learn the Vodou spirits by their names, attributes, and symbols. The first step in initiation is lave tèt, which is aimed at the spirits housed in an individual's head. The second step is known as kouche, which is when the initiate enters a period of seclusion. Typically, the final step is the possession of the ason, which enables the mambo or houngan to begin their work. One of the main goals of Vodou initiation ceremonies is to strengthen the mambo's konesans—knowledge that determines priestly power.
Vodou drumming and ceremonies are inextricably linked in Haiti. While drumming does exist in other contexts in the country, by far the richest traditions come from this distinctly Haitian religion. As such, before one can come to play, appreciate, and understand this music one should view it in its religious context. Haitian Vodou is a henotheistic religion, although viewed by many Haitians as a cultural practice, widely practiced in the country of Haiti. Vodou as practiced in urban centres in Haiti and some cities in North America is a ritualistic faith system that involves ceremonies that consist of singing, drumming and dancing. While certain aspects of this religion may share the same roots, it is completely contrary to the stereotype of black magic, witch doctors, pins in dolls, and zombies portrayed by New Orleans style Voodoo.
Limbé is a commune in the Limbé Arrondissement, in the Nord department of Haiti.
Cécile Fatiman, was a Haitian vodou priestess, a mambo (Voodoo). She is famous for her participation in the vodou ceremony at Bois Caïman, which is considered to be one of the starting points of the Haitian Revolution.
Black Power in the Caribbean refers to political and social movements in the Caribbean region from the mid-1960s to mid-1970s that focused on overturning the existing racist power structure. Guyanese academic Walter Rodney famously defined the movement as follows: “Black Power in the West Indies means three closely related things”:
The Indigenous Army, also known as the Army of Saint-Domingue, was the group of gens de couleur, free blacks; affranchi, mullatos; and basal slaves that fought in the Haitian Revolution . They were not officially called the Armée Indigène until January 1803, under the leadership of Dessalines . Led by famous leaders such as Vincent Ogé, Toussaint Louverture, and Jean-Jacques Dessalines, the Armée Indigène would consolidate their power and fight using guerilla tactics to make the Haitian Revolution the first successful revolution of its kind.