on 31 May 2000
This is a beautiful and fascinating book which takes Voodoo seriously as a pagan, polytheistic religion whose beliefs and practices offer its followers spiritual experiences and hope in their very difficult daily lives. Maya Deren describes all the members of the Voodoo pantheon (the "loa") and explains how they are honoured by their followers and what Voodoo worship involves. She shows very clearly that Voodoo is not a deviation from Christianity, but a true faith which deserves as much respect as our over-vaunted monotheistic revealed religions. She also makes it plain that the centre of religious faith is the encounter between men and gods, not a series of petty do's and don'ts and a few meaningless rituals.
The most remarkable feature of the book is its description of how, during ceremonies, worshippers are "ridden" (i.e. possessed) by one of the loa. During one such ceremony Ms. Deren was herself possessed by the weeping "Magdalene" of Voodoo, Erzulie; this is sufficient proof of her sympathy with her subject.
Far too many people either despise polytheism or believe it is inferior to monotheistic beliefs. Many Westerners seem to be unaware that polytheism survives at all, or that it is a valid spiritual choice (except, perhaps, for Hinduism; and many Westerners do their best to make the Hindu pantheon fit their own belief systems). "Divine Horsemen" is an excellent introduction to a polytheistic faith, and a warning against automatic contempt for the belief systems of other cultures.