"This new and valuable book delves into the 'interior' experience of voodoo, as opposed to the usual outsider focus on ritual and cosmology. In telling the story of her own initiation and painstaking education in voodoo, Beaubrun takes us into the mystical dimensions of this ancient religion."—The Guardian UK
Like all the great religions, Vodou has an external, public practice of rituals and ceremonies—and also an internal, mystical dimension. Before Nan Dòmi, works about Vodou have concentrated on the spectacular outward manifestations of Vodou observance—hypnotic drumming and chanting, frenetic dancing, fits of spirit possession. But practically all reports on Vodou are outsider accounts, which means that they are stopped at the threshold.
Mimerose Beaubrun, educated as an anthropologist, set out to write another such work, but in the process she met the woman who would become her ultimate teacher and guide to the religion's internal mysteries: Tante Tansia, whose knowledge, wisdom and spiritual power govern the text of Nan Dòmi.
Nan Dòmi is the only account of Vodou's private, mystical, interior practice that has been offered to the public so far. Its content stands in the same relation to ceremonial Vodou as Zen to conventional Buddhism, Sufism to conventional Islam, the practice of the desert saints to conventional Christianity. Mimerose Beaubrun has been a student of Vodou for half of her life, but she is also adept, and in this uniquely valuable work, she divests herself of all scholarly apparatus to speak from Vodou's purest heart.
This English edition includes a fascinating introduction by Madison Smartt Bell, placing the religion and Beaubrun's memoir in historical context.
Praise for Nan Dòmi:
"Mimerose Beaubrun's book Nan Dòmi: An Initiate's Journey into Haitian Vodou—the first part of the title refers to a spiritual state—is a welcome addition to the canon of vodou scholarship, a deeply felt inside account of a faith of often daunting complexity."—The Miami Herald
"Nan Dòmi is a fascinating look inside the Haitian Vodou religion. Mimerose Beaubrun provides a valuable contribution taking us along into the world of Nan Dòmi, a dream state and stage in the initiate's journey to mastery . . . In the process the reader is introduced into a world that is far more than a religious tradition. Haitian Vodou is also a way of speaking about Haiti, as Beaubrun explains, 'its language, culture, even its way of walking, of preparing food, of dressing, of making love, of communicating with unknown worlds.' The book casts its spell on the reader who persists in the journey under the tutelage of Beaubrun and her teachers. Madison Smartt Bell's excellent introduction places the religion and Beaubrun's memoir in historical context."—Julia Alvarez
"Vodou is one of the most valuable—and misunderstood—of all New World cultural creations. Mimerose Beaubrun's remarkable work opens up for the first time the internal world of Vodou, and what emerges is a singular engagement with a system of belief that cannot fail to impress any reader with its sheer sophistication and complexity. Gradually, the author recounts the ways in which she came to know the timeless wisdom of Vodou. Absolutely essential reading for anyone interested in Haiti, or in religion and society more broadly."—Martin Munro, author and editor of Haiti Rising: Haitian History, Culture and the Earthquake of 2010
Preface, by Madison Smartt Bell
Chapter 1: Teaching of Perception with Aunt Tansia?
Chapter 2: Placement of the Head
Chapter 3: Loa or a State of Lucid Dreaming’
Chapter 4 The Double and the Dream Body
Chapter 5: The Purification
Chapter 6: Manipulating the Double
Chapter 7: Strolling in the Swarm of Stars
Chapter 8: Knowledgeable in Mystical Consciousness
Chapter 9: The Eye of the Water
Chapter 10: Establishing a Link for Communication
Chapter 11: Handling One’s Gift
Dream, tale, history, myth, legend?
Chapter 12: The Importance of Je
Chapter 13: I Remember
Chapter 14: You Must Be Perspicacious In Order to See or There are Conditions for Seeing
Chapter 15: Cold Eyes or the Fear of the Unknown
Chapter 16: Eyes Show Fear Relative to the Task or Indecision
Chapter 17: Watch your Feet or Constant Attention
Chapterr 18: Witness of the nannan-rèv—Witness of the Dream Body?
Chapter 19: The Farewell Ceremony
"So Haiti, known for its natural and sociopolitical calamities, offers us a book about the immaterial, trans-rational spirituality of its Vodou, about the world beyond time and space. Most works about Vodou until now were, according to Madison Smartt Bell’s superlative preface, about its 'external' elements. Thus, Beaubrun’s personalized account of her spiritual itinerary is even more valuable . . . Such observations illustrate the fascination of this book, which enlightens us about Haitian spirituality and provides invaluable insights into Haitian culture.”—Robert H. McCormick, Jr., World Literature Today
"For those looking for a first-person guide&mash;and importantly, a Haitian guide—into the ways of Vodou, Mimerose Beaubrun's Nan Dòmi is a unique, indispensable, and mysterious primer."—Amy Wilentz, author of The Rainy Season: Haiti Since Duvalier and Farewell, Fred Voodoo: A Letter From Haiti
"Nan Domi stays localized in Haiti, yet its universality, like that of Buddhism or Hinduism or any of the enduring religious worldviews, becomes apparent from Beaubrun’s instructive guidance into this transferable territory. She directly confronts the same questions that arise in every worldview, every philosophy, every religion, and every science . . . Beaubrun takes us along the Vodou path to comprehending the nature of the universe, the nature of the ordinary and the divine, and also into the mired terrain of darkness and light, evil and suffering, and human frailty and strength, the twin threats of being and nothingness . . . Her story courageously unfolds her personal extension and deepening of awareness, not as a substitute for ordinary Western ways but as expansion of comprehension and competency . . . These are the lessons of this important book.”—LeGrace Benson, Associate Editor, Journal of Haitian Studies
"Reading Mimerose Beaubrun's Nan Dòmi: An Initiate’s Journey into Haitian Vodou is like crossing the threshold into a dream-state of boundless mysteries. Beaubrun’s training as an anthropologist is evident in this captivating book. Each page is replete with the intricate details which only a seasoned researcher can provide. What begins as an expedition to uncover the inner workings of a Lakou/community leads to acquiring the esoteric knowledge which only an initiate may gain."—Katia D. Ulysse, author of Drifting
"What makes Nan Dòmi a standout from other texts on Haitian Vodou is Beaubrun’s willingness to share her personal accounts of Vodou, and to resist the urge to justify Vodou’s mysticism to a Western audience … Nan Dòmi is not a Vodou apologist text. It neither deliberately recoups Vodou from an avalanche of negative portrayals and stereotypes, nor does it provide a base understanding of Vodou philosophy through a systematic and linear articulation of major themes and concepts in Haitian Vodou in a way that might be more digestible for Western readers. Instead, Nan Dòmi, posits Vodou’s universality … perhaps those with the most to gain from reading Nan Domi, are fellow scholars and academics of Haiti/Haitian Vodou who, similarly to Beaubrun believe they have a sufficient understanding of the theoretical concepts and workings of Vodou."—Haiti: Then and Now
"Mimerose Beaubrun’s Nan Dòmi opens the barriers between this world and Ginen anba dlo ('Africa beneath the waters'). What distinguishes Beaubrun’s text from the many anthropological studies of Vodou previously published is that it eschews the public ritual aspects of the religion, to focus entirely on its private, inner, mystical elements as experienced by an initiated vodouist. Beaubrun allows her readers to accompany her on her path, with all its trials, terrors, dead-ends, frustrations, and revelations from the kalfou (crossroads) of this world, to the realm of Nan Dòmi (a state of lucid dreaming) and the mystic heart of Vodou, where in the state of possession ego is abandoned and the initiate incarnates as a divine spirit.”—Simon Lee, The Caribbean Review of Books