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I find myself impressed by “The Witch Doctor Is IN” (6/26); very good reporting. Definitely not, as was said on Page 16 of that issue, “Content-Free.” The subject is also sympathetic: a multitalented, learned, “religious manager” who has also shown, evidently, a courteous respect of the different mores of his country of refuge (the USA).

I’d like to point out that “Voodoo dolls,” whether or not they’re Haitian, definitely have been found elsewhere; our near ancestors (or their neighbors, or our neighbors’ near ancestors) practiced something similar. I quote from a novel set in rural England in the early 1800s: “…busied herself with a…superstition, calculated to bring powerlessness, atrophy, and annihilation on any human being against whom it was directed….She began molding the wax…produced a shape which…resembled a woman, and was about six inches high…a fragment of…red ribbon…tied round the neck of the image….She tied a bit of black thread round the… head….[T]o anyone acquainted…

the image would have suggested

Eustacia….From her work-basket…

the woman took…pins…as many as fifty were inserted [into the wax image]…. She turned to the fire…held it in the heat, and watched it as it began to waste slowly away….[T]here came from…her lips a murmur of words….It was a strange jargon—the Lord’s Prayer repeated backwards….As the wax dropped into the fire a long flame arose from the spot….A pin occasionally dropped with the wax, and the embers heated it red as it lay.” (From Thomas Hardy, The Return of the Native, 1878, Book 5, Chapter 7.)

I find Beauvoir’s saying, “Rock Creek Park is a…spiritual place…[unlike] Central Park,” completely comprehensible in somewhat different terms: Central Park is by and large a manufactured terrain, while (perhaps) Rock Creek Park is not, or much less so. To see a spirit in “Nature” is not unique to vodoun; a few European examples could be cited, one of which is William Wordsworth’s “Lines Composed…Above Tintern Abbey,” lines 88-89 & 93 f.

Arlington, Va.

via the Internet