HBM103: Fate's Notebook

Somewhere in Maritza Gulin’s basement, there’s a typewritten notebook that belonged to her father, Reynaldo. The notebook contains essential advice and warnings to Reynaldo, his wife Flora, and their five children.

Content Note:
Suicide, mental illness, animal sacrifice, language.

In his younger life, Reynaldo’s atheism was strong and biting. But chronic migraines would often flatten him for days at a time. A stranger approached Reynaldo one day on the subway to tell him that he’d always suffer until he got right with God.

Reynaldo subsequently became an adherent to two related Afro-Cuban* religions: Palo Mayombe and Santeria. Palo focusses on veneration of spirits of the dead and of the earth. Santeria focusses on a pantheon of demigods called “Orishas”, who are usually represented by equivalent Catholic saints.

A dream about flamingos avoiding deep water, as interpreted by Reynaldo. (Photo by Maritza Gulin)

A dream about flamingos avoiding deep water, as interpreted by Reynaldo. (Photo by Maritza Gulin)

The notebook in Maritza’s basement is notable for its specificity. When she recently rediscovered it, she found warnings for her father against eating beans, sleeping with all the lights off, a requirement for white pajamas, a prohibition on horseback riding. Reynaldo followed these rules. He believed in fate, and was pretty accurate at predicting the time of his ultimate death from old age.

Michelle Santana is a childhood friend of Maritza’s. She’s a psychic medium who’s not been formally initiated into Santeria, but she often consults the Orishas and the dead while working with her clients.  She’s done a number of readings with Maritza. Michelle, too, believes in fate, saying that, cruel as it seems, some people are just destined live bad lives, die young, and nothing can be done to change that.

Maritza’s youngest sister, Vanessa, was born when Maritza was already an adult, so Maritza helped take care of her youngest sister. Vanessa experienced severe depression, especially after the birth of her first child. She committed suicide.

After her Vanessa’s death, Maritza and her mother Flora lost their faith. They asked: if the future’s written, why weren’t they warned? Why weren’t they told either in the notebook or during their regular psychic readings. Flora says she’s mad at God. Maritza says she no longer believes in destiny.

Reynaldo Gulin at his funeral, wearing the clothes he wore on the day he was initiated into Santeria. (Photo by Maritza Gulin)

Reynaldo Gulin at his funeral, wearing the clothes he wore on the day he was initiated into Santeria. (Photo by Maritza Gulin)

Despite this, Maritza still treads lightly around some of her father’s belongings. Some of this is due to respect for her father’s desires, and some of it is based on an abundance of caution. She recently deconsecrated a black metal cauldron that her father used in ceremonies. Michelle told her to bury it in her backyard or throw it in a river. Maritza did the former. Inside, she found a toy revolver, a pair of ram’s horns, railroad spikes, and other small items.

Santeria’s practice of live animal sacrifice wound up in the US Supreme Court in the early 90’s as Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye, Inc. v. City of Hialeah, in which a city in Florida passed an ordinance banning the practice of killing animals “in a public or private ritual or ceremony not for the primary purpose of food consumption”. The court ruled unanimously that this ordinance was unconstitutional, citing its attempt to restrict religious practice.

Producer: Jeff Emtman
Editor: Jeff Emtman
Music: Circling Lights, The Black Spot, Serocell

*Today, Santeria and Palo are practiced across much of the Caribbean, especially Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Republic. Other areas of Caribbean diaspora like Florida, New York and New Jersey also have significant populations of believers. However, solid numbers of followers are hard to estimate due to the religion’s decentralization, which also contributes to the varying beliefs across adherents of different origins. If you practice or used to practice Santeria/Palo/Ifa, we’d love to hear your thoughts. Tweet at us @HBMpodcast.

If you are feeling suicidal, the Suicide Prevention Lifeline can help in the USA (phone: 1-800-273-8255). Outside the USA, consult Suicide.org’s list of hotlines. If you’re experiencing postpartum depression, Postpartum Support International has links to local organizations that can help you.

HBM066: What Jacob Heard [EXPLICIT]

Jacob Sutton loved going to church when he was a little boy. He sang in the choir, and when he got older he led Bible studies and helped teach Sunday school classes. Eventually he learned to speak in tongues. Jacob grew up Pentecostal, the oldest son of a deacon. His father used to work with people who believed they were possessed by demons, and would use prayer and Bible readings to cast the wicked spirits out. All of his life, Jacob knew that demons and The Devil were very real, and that they could possess his body, if he allowed them.

Jacob felt deeply connected to his male friends when he was young.  As a teenager, he realized that what he felt was more than friendship. But Jacob’s church was, like most Pentecostal congregations, staunchly against homosexuality. Jacob’s parents, pastor, and peers all talked about homosexuality as if it was a terrible disease that could only be cured by God. For years Jacob tried to hide his attraction to other boys, and became increasingly involved in his church in the hopes that he could just work through ‘the problem’.

Jacob's senior picture.

Jacob at a school dance.

In his freshman year of high school, Jacob was feeling helpless against his gay attractions. Exasperated, he asked aloud for a demon to come into his body. He figured he was already evil, so he might as well “get something out of it”.

A few months later, just as he was about to fall asleep, he heard a voice in his ear. Jacob was frozen in fear. He could not speak. The voice was dark, gravelly, and spoke a language he’d never heard before. Jacob knew in that moment that it was the demon he’d invited into his body.  It left only once he spoke the word “Jesus.” He woke up his father and they prayed together.

"Father God, my son was visited by a demon tonight. 
We need your protection, so that he can go to sleep...
We ask that you give him the rest of the righteous."

 

The next day, Jacob signed up for “spiritual boot camp”. It was a three day retreat for members of the congregation who hoped to make a life change, led by Jacob’s father. For three days, Jacob joined fellow congregants in prayer and worship, hoping this would be the beginning of his healing from gayness. After the weekend, Jacob didn’t feel “cured”, but he did feel like he was closer to becoming the man God intended him to be.

That was 13 years ago. Jacob has since stopped going to church and believing in God and Satan. He eventually came out to his family once and for all, and this time, he was met with open arms. Today he lives in Seattle and studies fashion design. And as of the time of this episode release, Jacob and his boyfriend have been together for almost three years.

ABC Report on Pentecostalism and speaking in tongues.

This episode was produced by Bethany Denton.

Music: Serocell | | | AHEE

HBM052: Call 601-2-SATAN-2 [EXPLICIT]

Christian prayer hotlines are common in the United States. Less common are prayer hotlines for the other guy.  Since 2012, the Satanic Missionary Society in Olympia, Washington has managed a Satanic prayer line on their blog and receive prayer requests from people all over the country.  They ask for help with things like miscarriage, a romantic affair with a mother-in-law, a successful rap career, and more.

Among those callers is Tyler Higgins, a young man from New England asking for Satanic prayers to get into The American Musical and Dramatic Academy (aka. AMDA), his dream acting school. But Tyler was raised a Seventh Day Adventist.  And his whole life, his pastors and parents told him that all popular actors sold their souls to Satan in exchange for fame and success. With that in mind, Tyler researches Satanism online and found the Satanic Missionary Society and their prayer line. Desperate to follow his dream of acting, Tyler calls and asks for Satan's help to get into AMDA. A few weeks later, his devout Christian parents stumbled upon email exchanges between Tyler and the Satanic mission. They call the pastor over immediately to perform an exorcism.

The Satanic Prayer Hotline was started by a man who calls himself "The Anti-Chris" in Olympia, Washington. It is no longer active, but you can still hear the entire archive of prayer requests. And if you're feeling frisky, you can purchase a one-of-a-kind Faustian Bargain kit, including tools and instructions on how to sell your soul to the Prince of Darkness himself.

Below are varying depictions of hell and Satan.  Click images to enlarge and read about their origins.

Special thanks to The Anti-Chris, Ashlee the Blind Satanist and Lillith Starr for their help on this episode. 

This episode was produced by Bethany Denton with editing help from Jeff Emtman. Our editor at KCRW is Nick White.

Please review us on iTunes

Music by The Black Spot ||| Serocell ||| Swamp Dog