Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Dutty Boukman, Voodoo priest of the Haitian Revolution



 Although this picture has been described
as an image of Boukman Dutty, it was actually
the rebel general Biassou (J.-C. Dorsainvil,
Histoire d'Haiti, Henri Deschamps,
Port-au-Prince, 1934 ff, p. 78). Boukman
was beheaded fairly early in the revolution
and no portraits of him survived.

Bois Caïman
Bois Caïman is the site of the Vodou ceremony during which the first major slave insurrection of the Haitian Revolution was planned. Wikipedia

There may be no man more important in the Haitian Revolution than Dutty Boukman. A native Jamaican, his name literally meant “Dirty Bookman,” a likely reference to a secret book of occult lore he always kept close. He was an educated man, although a slave, who was sold by his British master to a French plantation in Haiti. Dutty Boukman would teach other slaves to read as well as instruct in closely guarded Vodou lore. But his fame would come in August 14, 1791 at the Bwa Kayman ceremony. Boukman was the leading Vodou Priest and called for sacrifice and slave rebellion. It is said that the Petro Lwa family was born from these rituals and from the Haitian Revolution itself. Only eight days later, on August 22, the rebellion began in the Haitian mountains in the north. Boukman was quickly captured and beheaded, but the Revolution had started and would lead to Haiti becoming the first independent Republic of Haiti. Boukman lives on today, immortalized as a Lwa in his own


 Boukman Dutty began the rebellion with a prayer to the people:

Boukman’s Prayer

Good God who created the Sun which shines on us from above, who rouses the sea and makes the thunder rumble; Listen!
God though hidden in a cloud watches over us.
The god of the white man calls forth crime but our God wills good works.
Our God who is good commands us to vengeance. He will direct our arms and help us.
Throw away the likeness of the white man’s god who has so often brought us to tears and listen to liberty which speaks in all our hearts.

Boukman’s philosophy was “Conquer or Die.” He was eventually killed and replaced by less effective, Negro, accommodationist leadership. As a result, Haitian independence took much longer than it should have.
By 1802, the revolution had fallen into the hands of a man of the same ilk as Boukman Dutty. He was an Afrikan War General named Jean-Jaques Dessalines. He became the liberator of Haiti.

Comparing the Legends of Bois Caiman

Comparing the Legends of Bois Caiman


OK, so what “probably” happened at Bois Caiman in August 1791?
Boukman probably set up the meeting at Bois Caiman to jump-start the uprising.
There probably was a religious ceremony. It probably was a Vodou ritual, which Boukman and Mambo Cécile Fatiman presided over. It probably involved the slaughter of a domestic black pig. The ritual probably also involved drumming and spirit dancing.
The meeting is reported to have included about 300 slaves. Many spoke in turn about their grievances with their French masters and the oppression they were under.
Boukman is believed to have been of Dahomey extract, although his followers were known to have called him “Zamba” Boukman. (A curious name, because Zamba was also the name that the Yaounde people of the Cameroons called their High God.)
Boukman was also known as a powerful Houngan or priest of Vodou. He may have been familiar with the Jamaican practice of Cumina, but was certainly familiar with some of the religious practices of the Dahomey people and others from around the Gold Coast.
Boukman, probably acting as a Houngan, offered an invocation to the Good God.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Background information
Where/when were they born?
What important things happened to them in their earlier life?
Who were they colonized by?
What are they well-known for?
How did they resist colonialism?
What major changes did they cause?
How are they remembered by people today?