In Eluding Darkness, author Raguel Charles reveals some of the island's secrets. Growing up in Haiti, Raguel was quite familiar with voodoo. He was taught to not pick up objects left in the street, to not give a stranger the correct time of day, and to never trust anyone.
But Raguel's journey through Darkness became one of victory. Through a voyage fraught with the ups and downs of moving to the US, learning how to responsibly provide for himself, and living through the agonizing deaths of several family members and friends, Raguel learned the life-giving secret of true power and joy. And, within Eluding Darkness, he shares that secret with you.
When I was fourteen years old I owned a shirt that read, “You’ve
come a long way, baby.” It was one of my favorite shirts and it spoke
volumes about my life. A former crush of mine from the seventh grade,
reading the statement on it, posed the question, “Where did you come
from?” Before I could answer, she guessed my hometown, Gonaives. Then
she said, “That’s not very far.”
“Farther than that,” I answered. She sighed before walking away. Her
sigh implied that we weren’t on the same page. The truth is, she had
no idea where I had come from. It wasn’t a physical place that could
be found in any country in this world, yet it was here in this very
world that I traveled that long path. For me, the implication of the
statement on that shirt was the descriptive nature of the spiritual path
I had traveled. It’s a path traveled by many, yet unique to each.
It’s a dimension that separates Darkness from Light.
I was born in a small town in Haiti called Bwa Deyor on July 14,
1972—a fact that I have denied quite often. I think if you were to
visit this town today, you’d understand my reason for that. I am the
last of the three children of my parents. My dad had another five
children, each from a different mother. Yes, you are right—he was a
very busy man.
My father was the only tailor in the town and one of only two in a
twenty-mile radius, a profession that allowed for many acquaintances. My
mom was a homemaker. My father had a twelfth-grade education. My mom was
home schooled to perhaps a sixth-grade level in her adulthood.
Haiti is a country primarily of West African descent. It’s a small,
heavily populated island about the size of Massachusetts. Eighty percent
of the population identifies with the Catholic religion. Sixteen percent
are Protestant. Half of the people will practice voodoo at some point in
their lifetime. Don’t bother to do the math.
Voodoo originated in West Africa. West Africans were captured from their
homeland and forced into slavery. Some were taken by their so-called
masters to the new world, in which lay a strange land known today as
Haiti. They brought with them their customs, cultures, and religion.
During slavery, white French masters forbade the pursuit of voodoo as a
religion. In 1685, King Louis XIV of France issued a decree known as
Code Noir. The Code Noir determined the conditions of slavery in Haiti,
put restrictions on the activities of free Negroes,andprohibited any
religion other than Roman Catholicism. It also demanded that all slaves
be baptized and instructed in the Roman Catholic faith. The slaves, who
were deeply rooted in their own religion, were forced to use the images
of Catholic saints in order to keep practicing their ceremonies. They
pretended to pray to saints while in reality calling out to their own
gods. These ceremonies took place frequently.
Conditions for slaves in Haiti were the most brutal in the world. Slaves
were treated inhumanely until they finally revolted, no longer able to
endure the savage treatment of the white French masters. Jamaican voodoo
priest, or houngan, Dutty Boukman and voodoo priestess, or mambo, Cecile
Fatiman, organized one of the biggest revolutions in history.
Boukman was a Jamaican-born slave who had been traded by British to
French slave owners because of his attempt to teach other slaves how to
read and write. Fatiman was born as the result of a rape of her slave
mother by a French slave owner. The decision to revolt took place at
Boukman’s house in a famous meeting known as the ceremony at Bwa Kay
Imam (or some call the ceremony “the woods at Imam house”). Belief
regarding the name of the ceremony differs among historians. During that
ceremony they sacrificed a black pig to their god, who they believed
empowered them to take on the powerful slavemasters. Fatiman was
possessed by the spirits that night. The slaves killed thousands of
slavemasters. Their orders were to take no prisoners except women and
Because of their belief in spirits, many Haitians felt that they
achieved their freedom through voodoo. Some critics have labeled that
revolution as a “pact with the Devil.”
Despite strong feelings of indebtedness to the spirits, it took a
struggle of many years to keep the voodoo rituals alive. The wealthy,
powerful few didn’t want to be associated with it and sought to oust
it. Despite many attempts to destroy it, however, voodoo continued to
hang on. It was widely believed that Francois Duvalier rose to power by
means of voodoo. The Duvalier regime brought voodoo back, in part to
tighten its grip over the Haitian people. During the years of his
presidency, Duvalier succeeded in infiltrating the most powerful voodoo
houses in the country. His acceptance of voodoo opened the door for its
Although at times as many as half the people of the country have
practiced voodoo, few publicly admit to it. Ironically, when Jean
Bertrand Aristide, a former Catholic priest turned politician, was
elected president in 2003, he declared voodoo an official religion.
Excerpted from "Eluding Darkness" by Raguel S Charles. Copyright © 2017 by Raguel S Charles. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.