Laissez les bons temps rouler
One of the things that I find particularly enchanting about this city is the music. It's everywhere, from jug bands playing on the sidewalk, to raucous zydeco coming from the bars on Bourbon street, to the lone musician or singer busking on the corner. From the moment we leave the hotel, there's music. It counterpoints the natural rhythms of the city itself, and all the spirits that dance and wander here. It connects me to the city, to all its many layers like nothing else.
New Orleans has such a rich musical heritage. We know it as the birthplace of jazz and that's true. With its rich blend of African and Spanish influences it's a musical hot spot, a rich melting pot of rhythms and sounds and somehow, generation by generation magic happens. It's everywhere here. (I believe the first opera house in the U.S. was even built here in New Orleans). On a good day, hardly a street corner in the French Quarter seems bereft of a busker of some kind and not just musicians. Since we've been here, we've been spending a good five to seven hours a day just walking around the quarter : seeing what we could see and hearing what we could hear. We've seen fiddlers, jug bands, lone hippie musicians (with unfortunate lack of pitch), jazz bands, horn players, but also living statues, performance artists, and visual artists selling their wares. Most interestingly for us as diviners, there are "psychic readers" everywhere. We've seen dozens in the parks, Jackson square, on street corners, in shops selling their services. Magic is in the air here and there are plenty of people ready to capitalize on it.
I've no problem with that provided they are both competent and inspired but sadly we've found a dearth of both. it's really been a shocking eye opener to me. While we've been here, for shits and giggles we've each gotten a couple of readings. We've had one inspired reader who wasn't very competent with her system but was inspired and intuitive enough to give a decent reading, an uninspired reader, competent enough in his system to give an ok reading but utterly flummoxed at what to do with someone God-owned, and a caricature of a reader that couldn't even do a cold reading well. It's been fun. It's been enough to make us think about setting up shop here for part of the year because Gods know really good readers are a minority in this city. I find that so sad! It was so completely unexpected.
Divination is a sacred art. It's something that both Sannion and I have spent years mastering. We've sacrificed for it and hold it as one of the highest means of service to and for our Gods. Being in a place where the Ghede dance merrily through the streets, where conjure is as much a part of the city's variegated history as jazz, I never expected to find such a bevy of lackluster diviners. To divine is, at its best, to be filled with the fire and inspiration of the Gods, to sink into the flow of wyrd until your words and insights echo with it. It is to be broken open with ecstatic vision. At its most basic, it should be the act of accurately translating information plucked from the flow of wyrd, from the client's ancestors, from everything the client brings when he comes to the diviner's table. There's a process of synthesis that occurs, of translation and interpretation as the diviner looks at things most people simply cannot fathom or even see. Sadly, I didn't find any of that here and I am both a little stunned and grieving. I realize that dealing only with competent colleagues, diviners who are at the very least my peers has given me a rather more positive view of the profession than can accurately be found, at least in this city. Here the musicians busk and hawk their talents with joy, the psychics uninspired and with desperation.
Part of me wants to sit down and weep and another part of me wants to take them all in hand, sit them down and teach them what divination can and should be. The best i can do is save one of the recordings of a reading I had today (the psychic recorded it for me as a matter of course) for my own divination classes: as a perfect example of what not to do, how not to read, how not to be when in the presence of the sacred; and divination is indeed at its core, very, very sacred. The only decent reading I've had was an impromptu intervention by the Ghede through a local Voudoussaint, and that was less a reading and more her conveying a necessary message.
I suppose I simply do not know how people with any sensitivity at all can move through this city and not find inspiration somewhere. When you take up divination, you're taking up a lineage, connecting yourself to the work, the sacred work of all the diviners who came before you. It's not a game and while it is right and proper to charge, neither is it a quick way to make a little petty cash. Some people come to readers just for the novelty but some come with their hearts on their sleeves, with their spirits aching, with equal parts fear and desperate hope in hand. Mistakes here, incompetence here hurts people. It's not just about lack of comprehension for the tradition, it's about the harm that one can do, and the myriad ways an ill timed reading can muck up the relationship between a client and his or her cadre of spirits. We must as diviners tread gently but before we even reach that point, we must have some clue as to what it is essentially we're doing. i'm still looking here for someone with that clue.
On the upside, we had the pleasure of hanging out with Kenny Klein and his partner a couple nights ago, right before they went off to play at a local bar. Check out his blogs here and here. And next time you hear a musician busking on a street corner, maybe give them a little something, even if only your time and your ear. Their art is sacred too.
(the photo is mine of an unnamed horn player whom we ran into on Chartres street. He was kind enough to give his permission for me to photograph him).
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