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Richard Ward: BORN OF BLOOD AND FIRE Paperback

Richard Ward: BORN OF BLOOD AND FIRE Paperback


1st 2021 192pp Scarlet Imprint trade paperback. Illustrated. NEW.


Richard Ward’s Born of Blood and Fire is a study of the origins, history, practices, evolution and influence of the Petwo rite that was pivotal in the Haitian slave revolts and subsequent revolution. Petwo is concerned as much with magic and sorcery as it is with religious devotion; thus it continues to be perceived as dark, even evil, by many Haitians, as well as outsiders. Lurid tales of zombi, cannibalism and human sacrifice abound in the early literature. But the truth is complex and ambiguous; Petwo is neither black nor white. The Petwo rite is uncompromising and aggressive, particularly when contrasted with the gentler Rada, but as Richard Ward shows, this is for good reason: In comparison with the Rada rite, Petwo only truly comes alive at night. That was the time when it forged its path in Haitian history, cutting the air like the crack of a rawhide whip accompanied by the ignition of gunpowder, as powerful spirits were called to help free the enslaved.


Richard Ward examines the origins, character and syncretism of the principal Petwo lwa, and discusses the figures of the oungan , manbo and bòkò , and the semi-legendary founders of Petwo. The book also covers initiation rites; secret societies; the Rara and Kanaval festivals; the lougawou (werewolf) and animal transformation; zombi; vèvè, of which 32 are illustrated; pwen ; the magic of the paket ; the sorcery of wanga , and traditional songs for the lwa. The rites, pantheon and influence of Petwo now extend far beyond the island of its birth, and Ward’s study gives an account of the cult from its origins to the wild esoteric Vodou of Michael Bertiaux and the quantum Vodou of Dr Reginald Crosley; but also shows that the rites responsible for Petwo still exist in their original form in parts of rural Haiti.

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