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Azaka is not muslim

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Dougan (Scribe)
March 11, 2017
(Updated Mar. 14, 2017)



In the pantheon of the Haitian ancestral tradition, exists the agrarian Jany or Lwa named Azaka, commonly called Zaka, Kouzen Zaka, Minis Azaka, Azaka Mede, etc. But ancient texts alluded to the name of Azaca in relation to the South America Natives, to the Peruvians, to be more precise :


 "Tandis que les manas d'Azaca l'arrachaient des bras de son amant, Therelle prenait avec Mural la route du Port..." (1)
Translation :
"While the manas of Azaca tore him off his lover's arms, Therelle along with Mural took the road of the Port..."
From this, the idea that Azaka, the peasant Jany or Lwa in the Haitian ritual, came from the tradition of the Tainos, the first inhabitants of the island. However, as early as 1981, Gérard Montilus demonstrated that Azaka drew its source in "Africa" rather than in pre-Columbian populations :
 "Also, the name of the agricultural deity Azaka can be traced to an African rather than a Taino source (Montilus 1981:73-84)." (2)
However, in spite of Montilus's clarification, the revisionists - whose mission is not scientific, but rather predatory (consciously or unconsciously), with aim of extirpating from the Haitians any elevating element and to credit it to others - prefer to attribute Azaka to the Native Americans (Tainos) who inhabited the island before the Europeans' arrival :
a)
"Zaka, whose name probably derives from the religion of the indigenous Indians of Haiti, takes his envisaged personae from Benin's Yalóde.*" (3)
b)
"Major Vodou divinities, in addition to Loko, link to our indigenous heritage :
 Zaka, the Lord of Agriculture and labor, whose representation is anthropomorphic and signifying land plots amidst the leaves, the neolithic era." (4)

We will deal elsewhere with the Native revision, starting from what historian Francis Arzalier calls the "historical voluntarism" of the Haitian :
"République "noire" née d'une révolution anti-esclavagiste, Haïti est à la jonction d'influences africaines et françaises. Seule, en ce melting pot, l'antériorité caraïbe est quasiment absente, tant les indigènes 'indiens" ont été dévastés. Le nom indien donné à Saint-Domingue, Ayti, relève du volontarisme historique." (5)
Translation :
""Black Republic" born of an anti-slavery revolution, Haiti is at the junction of African and French influences. Alone, in this melting pot, the Caribbean anteriority is almost absent, so much the indigenous 'indians' were devastated. The indian name given to Saint Domingue, Ayti, belongs to historical voluntarism."
In other words, despite the fact that his ancestors never met the island's first inhabitants who were eradicated nearly 150 years prior to the said ancestors' arrival**, the Haitian, while denigrating "Africa" of its origins, adopts towards the Taino a voluntarist attitude :
"Volontarisme: n.m. 1. Attitude de qqn qui pense modifier le cours des événements par la seule volonté. 2. PHILOS. Doctrine ou thèse qui accorde la primauté à la volonté sur l'intelligence et à l'action sur la pensée intellectuelle." (6)
Translation :
"Voluntarism: n.m. 1. Attitude of someone who thinks of changing the course of events by will alone. 2. PHILOS. Doctrine or thesis which gives primacy to the will over intelligence and to action over intellectual thought."
That said, let us return to the islamic revision, the purpose of this work. Opting for a non-Native route, revisionist writer Jeannot Hilaire proposed that Azaka originated from arab-muslim customs :


 "asaka, wolof  = prémices ; azata, fongbe = grenier; zaka, arabe & haussa = dîme payable en produits agricole (V.J. Guy-Grand 1890). - En cr.-haït., zaka, azaka - loa protecteur des paysans; il reçoit en guise d'hommage des dons en denrées agricoles." (7)
Translation :
"Asaka, wolof = premises; Azata, fongbe = attic; Zaka, arabe & haussa = tithe payable in agricultural products (VJ, Guy-Grand 1890). - In cr.-hait., Zaka, azaka - loa protector of the peasants; he receives donations of agricultural produce as a tribute."
 "zak(k)â / djakka, hausa = dîme religieuse payable en denrées agricoles; asakâ = prémices; zakat, arabe = dîme, impôt (M. Delafosse 1955, p. 151). - En cr.-haït., zaka = loa paysan: celui qui en est possédé circule habituellement avec une besace en fibres de latanier suspendue à son cou pour y recueillir des dons de la ferme en hommage des familles qui le reçoivent." (8)
Translation :
"zak(k)â / djakka, hausa = religious tithe payable in agricultural commodities; Asakâ = premises; zakat, arabic = tithe, income tax (M. Delafosse 1955, p.151). - In cr.-hait, zaka = peasant loa: the one who is possessed by him usually runs with a bag of latanier fibers hanging from his neck to collect farm donations in homage of the families who receive him."
At first glance, the Arabic word "zakat", that is to say, alms-giving, forming one of the five pillars of Islam, seems to have features resembling Azaka, the Haitian agrarian Lwa, to whom food sharing is key. However, history is written using facts, not lazy assumptions. And in the case that concerns us, finding the real origin of Azaka was not a particularly difficult task. But are there more blind than those who will not see?


Azaka in the Saint Domingue colony

There were several individuals in the colony of Saint Domingue (Haiti) named Azaka. The case was so widespread that the writer Jean Baptiste Picquenard, a contemporary of the Haitian revolution, named "Azaka" one of the characters of his historical novel :


"Cependant, il y en a occasion où hommes bons être contraints d'être méchants. Vous, par exemple, ô bon ami à moi ! n'avez-vous pas été forcé de tuer le nègre-brigand Azaca?" (9)
Translation :
"However, there are occasions when good men are forced to be wicked. You, for instance, O good friend of mine, (bon ami à moi)*** have you not been forced to kill the Azaca negro-brigand?"
"La providence voulut que le noir Azaca, amant favorisé de la négresse Zerbine, eut la faiblesse de raconter tous les projets du père à sa maîtresse, en lui promettant d'avance l'argent et les bijoux dont il allait devenir possesseur." (10)
Translation :
"Providence wanted that the black Azaca, the favored lover of Zerbine, the negress, had the weakness to relate all the father's plans to his mistress, promising him in advance the money and the jewels which he was to possess."


"Quand Philémon eut fait ces premières démarches, il fit venir les nègres Jean-Pierre et Azaca, qui lui était très-dévoués, et leur dit d'un ton d'inspiré, que Dieu les avait choisis pour venger sa sainte religion, si indignement outragée..." (11)
Translation :
"When Philémon made these first steps, he summoned the negroes, Jean-Pierre and Azaca, who were very devoted to him, and told them in an inspired tone, that God had chosen them to avenge his holy religion so shamefully outraged..."


The origin of Azaka

Linguists have traced Azaka's provenance to traditionalist Benin :
"Azaka n. ‘loa’ haï. Azaka, Zaka ‘loa paysan’ (C-SSur ; HCED), Azaka ‘lwa of agriculture and farmers and the protector of travelers’ (Perusse Azacca ; ALH 1349/10 ; BHe 213-214) ; ► haï. Azaka-vodou, Azaka-mede, Azaka-si ‘loa’ (Métraux 1958/2007, 78) ; lwa Agann Zaka ‘loa’ (ALH 1349/10). ◄ Orig. afric. C-SSur : fon azaka ‘(Verger, Dahomey) vodoun de Tohossou’. – Peut-être rapport avec fon azà ‘chapeau’, azagbagbà ‘grand chapeau de paille’ (Se/Ra) (Azaka porte un chapeau de paille). – L’élément Agann reste à expliquer." (12)
"Azaka-si ou Azaka-Yombo n. pr. : Lwa considéré comme "le spécialiste de l'agriculture et de l'économie". Il remplirait les mêmes fonctions que Saint Isidore. Par pouvoir Ministre Azaka, l'Homme-Tonnerre. Azaka-Si, Azaka-Yombo-Vaudou, Azaka-Kola, Nègre Arompla Vaudou. Ago ! (ALEXIS, Les Arbres musiciens, p.198). Au Congo, AZAKA : terme qui renvoie à des divinités protectrices. En fongbe, AZAKA : fétiche de la région de Savalou + SI : suffixe entrant dans la composition de beaucoup de mots. Citons les cultes des Gédés de Canna et celui d'Azaka de Savalou qui ont presque disparu au Dahomey et sont très populaires en Haïti. (VERGER. Raisons de la survie des religions africaines… p.145). E (d)o Azaka'si : Entre les mains d'Azaka. Azaka sí : Femme vouée au culte d'Azaka." (13)
Translation :
"Azaka n. ‘loa’ hai. Azaka, Zaka 'paysan deity' (C-SSur; HCED), Azaka 'lwa of agriculture and farmers and the protector of travelers' (Perusse Azacca; ALH 1349/10; BHe 213-214); ► hai. Azaka-voodoo, Azaka-Mede, Azaka-si 'loa' (Métraux 1958/2007, 78); lwa Agann Zaka 'loa' (ALH 1349/10). ◄ Orig. afric. C-SSur : fon azaka '(Verger, Dahomey) vodoun of Tohossou'. - Perhaps in relation to fon azà 'hat', azagbagbà 'big straw hat' (Se/Ra) (Azaka wears a straw hat). - The Agann element remains to be explained."
"Azaka-si or Azaka-Yombo n. pr. : Lwa considered "the specialist in agriculture and economy". He would perform the same duties as Saint Isidore. By power of Minister Azaka, l'Homme-Tonnerre (Thunder Man). Azaka-Si, Azaka-Yombo-Vodou, Azaka-Kola, Negro Arompla Vodou. Ago! (ALEXIS, Les Arbres musiciens, p.198). In Congo, AZAKA: term that refers to protective divinities. In fongbe, AZAKA: fetish of the region of Savalou + SI: suffix entering the composition of many words. Let us cite the cults of the Gédés of Canna and that of Azaka of Savalou which have almost disappeared in Dahomey and are very popular in Haiti. (VERGER. Raisons de la survie des religions africaines... p.145). E (d)o Azaka'si: In the hands of Azaka. Azaka sí: Woman dedicated to the worship of Azaka."
So, Azaka was the name of a Vodun (Lwa) from the Savalou region. Although his worship would almost disappear in his Beninese land, Azaka, like the royal Vodun Agassou, still radiates in Haiti where a significant number of his Mahi ethnic worshipers were deported :

 (...)
"En Haïti et à Bahia au Brésil, on trouve bien parmi les descendants d'Africains, le culte des Vodoun dont les noms sont connus à Abomey, mais ce sont tous des Vodoun qui appartiennent aux pays voisins (qui dit voisin dit ennemi) et que les gens d'Abomey, les Fon, ont adoptés par droit de conquête, d'alliance ou d'achat.
(...)
Agongono qui fut facilement trouvé être Agonglo.
Savalou ou Azaka (de Savalou) qui joue un rôle important dans le culte des Tohossou (Zomadonou)
Dadaho serait Agassou, le vodoun des rois d'Abomey." (14)
Translation :
"In Haiti and Bahia in Brazil, among the descendants of Africans, there is the worship of Vodoun whose names are known in Abomey, but they are all Vodoun who belong to the neighboring countries (the so-called neighbor) and that the people of Abomey, the Fon, have adopted by right of conquest, alliance, or purchase.
(...)
Agongono which was easily found to be Agonglo.
Savalou or Azaka (of Savalou) which plays an important role in the cult of Tohossou (Zomadonou)
Dadaho would be Agassou, the vodoun of the kings of Abomey."
It is also remarkable that beyond the cult of Azaka, the Mahi dance or the cult of Danmbala & Ayida Wedo****, which it provides, the region of Savalou is itself still celebrated on traditional Haitian soil. This following sacred song, from Northern Haiti where the ceremony of Bois Caïman (Bwa Kayiman) took place, testifies to that :


Savalou e Papa Pyè, Savalou e
Savalou e Papa Pyè, Savalou e
Papa Pyè, m pa manje gonbo, yo vle m lave chodyè, Savalou e
Translation :
Savalou e Papa Pyè, Savalou e
Savalou e Papa Pyè, Savalou e
Papa Pyè, I haven't eaten gonbo, they want me to wash the dishes, Savalou e


Savalou, Benin
 Source : https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Savalou


The Savalou Mountains

This Mahi Kingdom of Savalou, founded in 1557 is governed by the "Gbaguidi, meaning "powerful chief." This name was given at the time of this first king's coronation". (Transl.) (15) And of course, Gbaguidi is found in the Haitian Tradition as the Lwa Gagidi Bago, Nago Gagidi Bago, Nèg Gagidi Bago, etc.


(Royal Palace of Savalou)
Source : Bénin Tourisme. URL : http://www.benin-tourisme.com/decouvrir/ville/savalou

Another characteristic of Savalou is that it is mountainous :


 
(Savalou mountains)
Source : Bénin Tourisme. URL : http://www.benin-tourisme.com/decouvrir/ville/savalou

And, this topographic specificity of Savalou is anchored by this Haitian sacred song that speaks of Savalou's divine mountains from which originates Legba, the Jany, the Lwa, who opens the divine pathways :


Legba kore, anye Legba, Legba kore, anye Legba
M rele Papa Legba, Mouche Legba, ki soti mòn Savalou we
Legba kore, anye Legba, Legba kore, anye Legba
Translation :
Legba kore*****, anye Legba, Legba kore, anye Legba
I'm calling Papa Legba, Monsieur Legba, who comes the mountains of Savalou eh
Legba kore, anye Legba, Legba kore, anye Legba

video

"Celebration Maitresse Filomiz Sept 2013 - Societe LEGPHIBAO" ;
URL : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5t-XDJUP9Yw ; Timeline : 35:45 - 37:47.

In conclusion, we will say that we only needed to barely scratch the surface of Haiti's historical and religious past in order to prove, without any doubt, that the agrarian cult of Azaka, as perpetuated in Haiti, originates exclusively from the ancestral religion in use in the Beninese Kingdom of Savalou. Similarly, we conclude that there is no connection between this cult of Azaka Mede Soubwa Vodou to any arabic-muslim tithe. Nor was it connected to any Native American heritage belonging more to xenophile fantasies than to reality. Besides, actions forbidden by islam, Azaka requires hard liquor (tafia), and his emblematic tchaka dish is a mixture of corn in grain, peas and pork :


(Tchaka)
Source : http://tchakayiti.com/home/tchaka-family-tradition/
"TCHAKA, A FAMILY TRADITION
INGREDIENTS 1 part red beans, 1 part dried corn, 1 salt-cured pork feet, Pumpkin (optional). Garlic. Salt & Pepper to taste. Piment bouc [Hot pepper]. INSTRUCTIONS Cook the beans and corn in unsalted water. Thoroughly cook the pork feet covered in water in a separate pot. When the corn and beans are ready, add the pork meat to the mix and season to taste. Let simmer until the desired thickness is achieved. Serve hot as a main dish." (16)



* Yalóde has nothing to do with agrarian worship in Benin nor in Haiti. There is, in Iyalode, a political-religious title attributed to women with warlike power (17) in the Yoruba-Nago Tradition of Nigeria and Benin. This sacred feminine title is retained in Haiti in "Eyalode" in the warrior Nago ritual. The revisionist author wanted, most likely, to speak of the Beninese cult of Sakpata, the Vodun of agriculture and smallpox. But Sakpata, the agrarian Vodun of Fon, differs enormously from Azaka, the agrarian Vodun of the Mahi people. For, "In Benin, SAKPATA is the king of the land. Whatever day, not just on Thursday, anyone who works the land must suffer from smallpox." (Transl.) (18) So, facing an uncompromising and threatening Sakpata, whose name Sapata is synonymous with maltreatment and torture in Haitian Creole, (19) the ancestors of Haitians preferred Azaka who is a jovial, accessible and amiable Lwa nicknamed amicably "Kouzen" (Cousin).
** 50 years after 1492, when Christopher Columbus and the Spaniards landed on the island which they named Hispaniola (composed of 2 countries : Haiti speaking a French Creole and the Spanish speaking Dominican Republic), the Taino, the island's Natives, were already extinct in the Western part which became Haiti. The Spaniards abandoned this deserted Western part for more than 100 years, until the French buccaneers made it home from 1654. (20) However, since 1570, 84 years prior to buccaneer presence in the Western side, the Taino Indians were already extinct in the Spanish East of the island. (21) As for the Haitians' ancestors, they first arrived, in the Western side, some 109 years post Taino extinction in the whole island. For it was not until 1679 that France began dumping captives in the West of the island, (22) which was not even its property. Thus, there was no contact between the fathers of the Haitians and the Taino Indians who had died long before. And as the first Haitian historian, Baron Valentin de Vastey, points out (23) only artifacts and bones of Taino bleached by time, were occasionally found in the footsteps of the Haitians. Certainly, long before the ancestors of the Haitians, there were Blacks on the island, as the revisionists like to repeat. Nevertheless, these Blacks resided in a foreign country, in the Spanish part, and because of the harsh condition of their captivity, had not lasted enough time to reproduce. Moreover, even if crossbreeding occured between the Hispanic Blacks and a few Taino before the latter extinction, this crossbreeding did not reach the French blacks. For, according to Gaspard Théodore Mollien whose one of the first to write Haiti's history, the Spanish and French Blacks did not mix, since they held each other in contempt. (24)
*** In the expression "bon ami à moi!" ("good friend of mine!"), we note once again that even the French authors have included the "à", that Northern Haitian Creole's possessive marker.  But still, those who arrogantly advocate the "Bwa Kay Iman" falsification cover themselves with ridicule by presenting a Southern and Western Haitian possessive form as an authentic expression from the North. For more on that, read our Kay + Iman in Northern Haitian Creole article.
**** Auguste Le Hérissé points out that at Savalou : "Simultaneously with the Djisô cult, was developed that of Dan-aïdâ-ouédo, the rainbow serpent, which is also Vôdoun of the Mahis, specially, we believe, that of the tribe of Djinou (people from above, fallen from the sky)." (Transl.) (25) Thus, it is understood that the obsolete Haitian intellectuals' obsession in writing the name of Danmbala, the Serpent Rainbow-God," Damballah" is only a poor attempt on their part to islamize this primordial Vodun of Savalou.
***** See the article on Tamerlan that mentions the Bambara origin of the mystical concept of "kore".


Notes
============
(1) Joseph de Rosny. Le Péruvien à Paris, ouvrage critique, historique et moral. Vol.1. Paris, 1801.
(2) Guérin C. Montilus. Africa in Diaspora: The Myth of Dahomey in Haiti. In : Journal of Caribbean History. Vol 2. 1981. pp.73-84. ; cité par David Geggus. "The naming of Haiti" In: New West Indian Guide/ Nieuwe West-Indische Gids 71 (1997), no: 1/2, Leiden, 43-68 ; URL :  http://www.kitlv-journals.nl
(3) Leslie Gérard Desmangles. The Faces of the Gods : Vodou and Roman Catholicism in Haiti. North Carolina, 1992. p.171.
(4) Rachel Dominique-Beauvoir. "Reclaiming Indigenous heritage in Haiti- Our Taino Culture is alive and well.". [online] URL : http://www.tainolegacies.com/154087477 ; Retrieved on June 4, 2016.
(5) Francis Arzalier. Introduction dans : Moeurs d'Haiti - Gaspard Théodore Mollien. Paris, 2002. p.xxx
(6) Dictionnaire Petit Larouse en couleurs. Paris, 1990.
(7) Jeannot Hilaire. L'édifice créole en Haïti, Fribourg, 2002. p.302.
(8) Jeannot Hilaire. Ibid. p.336.
(9) Jean Baptiste Picquenard. Adonis, ou Le bon negre : anecdote coloniale. Paris, 1798. p.234
(10) Jean Baptiste Picquenard. Ibid. p.149.
(11) Jean Baptiste Picquenard. Ibid. p.148.
(12) Annegret Bollée. Mots d'origine non-française ou inconnue "A". [online] 2015. p.29.
(13) Pierre Anglade. Inventaire étymologique des termes créoles des Caraïbes d'origine africaine. Paris, 1998. p.56.
(14) Pierre Verger. "Le culte des vodoun d'Abomey." ‪Études dahoméennes‬, Volume 8. Porto Novo, 1966. p.23.pp.5-28 
(15) Bénin Tourisme. "Savalou" [online]. URL : http://www.benin-tourisme.com/decouvrir/ville/savalou
(16) "Tchaka : a family tradition" Wednesday November 5th, 2014. [online] ; URL : http://tchakayiti.com/home/tchaka-family-tradition/ ; Retrieved on July 29, 2016
(17) African Folklore: An Encyclopedia. Philip M. Peek, Kwesi Yankah (édited by). New York. 2004, p.768.
(18) Pierre Anglade. Inventaire étymologique des termes créoles des Caraïbes d'origine africane. Paris,1998. p.174.
(19) Prophète Joseph. Dictionnaire Haïtien-Français. Montréal, 2003. p.100.
(20) Houdaille Jacques. Quelques données sur la population de Saint-Domingue au XVIIIe siècle. In: Population, 28e année, n°4-5, 1973 pp. 859-872.
(21) Ibid.
(22) Slavesvoyages.org ; URL:  http://www.slavevoyages.org/tast/assessment/estimates.faces
(23) Baron de Vastey, Valentin. Le Système Colonial Dévoilé. Cap-Henry, 1814.  p.3.
(24) Gaspard Théodore Mollien. Moeurs d'Haiti. Paris, 2006. p.93.
(25) Auguste Le Hérissé. L'ancien royaume du Dahomey, moeurs, religion, histoire. p.118.  Paris, 1911. p.118.
 




How to cite this article:
Rodney Salnave. "Azaka is not muslim".
March 11, 2017 ; Updated Mar. 14, 2017. [online] URL : http://bwakayiman.blogspot.com/2017/03/azaka-is-not-muslim.html ; Retrieved on [enter date]


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