This summer and fall have been incredibly busy for me and I haven’t been able to post as much. As we draw closer to the colder and darker days of this fall season I am ripe with creativity and ready to get back in the groove! So to kick this off I am so excited to bring you another installment of “Interview with a Water Priestess” This time we get to learn all about the amazing Lilith Dorsey! Her new and best-selling book Orishas, Goddesses, and Voodoo Queens is out now!
Who are you and how do you practice?
My name is Lilith Dorsey and I live in New Orleans. I am a Voodoo priestess and practitioner of various African Traditional Religions. I practice daily by doing what I can to strengthen my connection to the ancestors, the Loa and Orisha, and the elements.
Can you tell us about your background, and any training you may have done to prepare for this role.
My parents named me Lilith, and I suppose that was the very beginning of a wild and wonderful magickal journey. I grew up being very aware of spirituality of every kind all around me. As I grew older I began to study magic and ritual both on a personal and academic level. Over time I was initiated into New Orleans Voodoo, Haitian Vodou, and La Regla Lucumí.
What is your path? And how does it relate to Water?
I consider each of the above religions as part of my path. In order to explain how they relate to water, I have to first explain the concept of Ashé. Ashé is a universal life force energy that permeates everything. Every different kind of water has its own specific Ashé and corresponding Loa or Orisha which not only embodies it, but on a deep and abiding level is it.
How do you think your path brought you here into this specific role?
My spiritual path brought me to water through initiation. In many different ATRs entry into the religion is done with a ritual washing or baptism that forms as a beginning initiation. In Haitian Vodou, it is called a Lavé Tet. In my own Voodoo house, we call it a headwashing.
Do you identify as a Well Maiden, Priestess, Caretaker, Shaman, or Witch?
I describe myself as both a Witch, because of my early witchcraft practices, and as an initiated Voodoo priestess.
What brought you to this sacred water path?
I feel like everything in my life brought me to this path. I grew up around water and have always lived near major wells, springs, lakes, oceans, and tributaries.
Were you drawn to the energy?
I wasn’t so much drawn to watery energy, more aware that water is inside me and all around me. Scientifically speaking it makes up the bulk of our hearts and minds, and also our planet.
Did a particular Water Goddess or spirit call you?
While not technically a goddess, the Orisha Oshun is the ashe of the river, in the religion, I was divined to be a daughter or “devotee” of Oshun.
What type of spirits do you work with
I work with ancestors, Orisha, and Loa in my spiritual practice, although not at the same time. Because I’m initiated into various different traditions, I have a practice that is in many ways separate but equal. As a daughter of Oshun, I honor her on her feast day with offerings, ceremonies, songs, dances, and the like. I also keep a special place for her in my home and temple.
How does water factor into a Voodoo Practice?
In my own spiritual group, The House of Maman Brigitte we also do water blessings, or headwashings when new people join our group. Water blessings are also a major part of our practice during rituals and feasts. Water plays a large part in both New Orleans Voodoo and Haitian Vodou practice. Here in New Orleans St. John’s Eve is our most publicly celebrated Voodoo holiday. It was popularized by Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau who used this time to offer blessings at two of the sacred water sites in the area, the Bayou St. John and also Lake Ponchartrain.
In Haitian Vodou the most widely known ceremony is the annual pilgrimage to Saut d’Eau. Legend has it that the waterfalls became sacred after the sighting of the Virgin Mary, who appeared on a palm tree there in the 1800’s. This tree is known to have been removed by a priest in a useless attempt to put an end to the belief that it was a sacred site. Ever since the falls have been the destination of those in search of healing, blessing, and rejuvenation. Saut d’Eau is located north of the capital city of Port Au Prince, and the powerful bathing rituals there, are a beautiful sight to behold.
What is the most important about Water in your personal practice?
While I was writing my book Water Magic (Llewellyn 2020) I kept coming back to the fact that water seeks it’s level. For me, that means the magickal power of this elements can rise up or lower itself down to meet you wherever you are. You can incorporate water into your practice by doing something as simple as charging the water you drink with intent and purpose, you can take a magickal bath, or just dance for the goddess in the rain, whichever path you choose you will find something which cleanses and refreshes you just like the element itself.
What inspired you to write Orishas, Goddesses, and Voodoo Queens?
At it’s heart, the book is a love letter to the divine feminine. It was the book I always wanted to read, and the book I knew I had to write when I had my own daughters and wanted them to know the power and beauty of their foremothers. So much of what has been disseminated about the African Traditional Religions is based on ignorance and stereotype. Written primarily by white misogynist appropriators, a trend which unfortunately still continues today. It makes me so happy now to read messages from young people who have read the book and discovered an accurate and respectful version of herstory that they never got in school or even at home.
What would you like to tell young (and old) Practitioners about your path?
There’s been a lot of talk lately about Voodoo and the other ATRs being closed traditions. I think that’s the wrong word to describe them. In my experience, they are initiatory traditions and are taught within a community. Finding and being part of that community might be challenging, but receiving the guidance and knowledge that comes from joining a spiritual family is a beautiful and necessary step. In the same way, you need parents to help guide you into adulthood, you need spiritual parents, and hopefully also siblings that provide experience and knowledge to help you through life’s challenges and celebrations. We are always stronger together.
Do you have any advice for those seeking a relationship with water or the water spirits from a Voodoo perspective?
Find a reputable practitioner and get a reading or a consultation to find out how to proceed. These are living traditions and there’s no need to make things up or fly solo. I remember one witchy author who decided she was going to throw several hundred dollars worth of jewelry into the river in honor of Oshun. In addition to not getting what she was asking for, she was out the money and the jewelry. If she had sought out advice through divination, she would have gotten the necessary guidance to get what she needed, and maybe even what she wanted out of the situation.
What is your favorite Watery Practice?
I’m a big believer in spiritual baths and floor washes, there are lots of them in my books.
Do you have a Sacred Body of water you tend? Please introduce us to this place
I recently moved to New Orleans at the beginning of the pandemic. My new home is near the Mississippi River. Which many say is the reason the city has such a unique magickal character. As a sacred site, this was always one of my favorite places for offerings, rituals, and meditation when I visited, and this has only increased since I became a permanent resident.
What types of spirits dwell here?
The Mississippi was a sacred site for Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau. Also Annie Christmas, a local Hoodoo folk heroine. Locals also know that on Mardi Gras morning the Krewe of Saint Anne ends the parade at the river when many scatter ashes of their loved ones in the water. A tradition that began in the 1980s to commemorate many of the lives lost in the AIDS epidemic, and continues on today.
Tell us about the work you do now
I have taught several classes about Water Magic and Tarot and Astrology, and also classes about Sacred Baths and Washes. If people are interested there are a few up on youtube, or they can check my website lilithdorsey.com for any upcoming workshops.
Do you do healing work or rituals connected to water?
I frequently do healing work for my clients that involve all different kinds of waters: rain water, storm water, spring water, holy water, ocean water, you name it!
How do you feel about the current attack on water? Standing Rock? And Pollution in general?
I think everyone with a brain and a conscience should be seriously concerned about was is happening all over the planet with attacks on water and those trying to protect it. As a BIPOC I was disgusted by what occurred at standing rock, and continue to help in whatever ways I can, be it sharing information, donating money, or whatever else I can do.
Do you feel that your work is connected to this?
My spiritual and professional work is intricately connected to this, and it was very important to me to include resources and information in my books and on my blog Voodoo Universe so others can help too.
Do you participate in water activism?
Yes, I have volunteered for various water-related organizations and joined many protests over the years in support of water-related causes.
What have you done to protect your sacred body of water and the water of the world?
As for this question, I think I take a multi-layered approach. I do what I can to lead by example. I’m highly conscious of water in every way. I have always done my best to conserve, reduce, and recycle water in every way possible. Recently I even completed a water workshop given by a local non-profit organization.
I also created my own rain garden and french drains to help reduce water runoff and flooding in my own organic permaculture space. I’m in the process of adding rain barrels and catchment systems to further improve the process, and just the other day spoke to people from our local agricultural center who are going to my work as part of a video series to help show others how they can do the same.
What’s next for you?
There’s a lot going on here. I’m proud to announce the re-release of my first book Voodoo and African Traditional Religion on June 15th 2021. There will also be several online and in-person events coming up including LlewellynCon, Hexfest, Earth Warriors Festival, and many others. I’m also in the process of opening a Voodoo B and B in the other half of my property, so people can come, maybe get a reading, and visit and see the rain garden and the moon garden and everything else we have going on here.
Annwyn Avalon is a Water Witch, Water Priestess, and the founder of Triskele Rose Witchcraft, an Avalonian witchcraft tradition. She has devoted her life to the study of art, witchcraft, and magic. She is an initiated Witch and Priestess, Reiki Master Teacher, award-winning Dancer, published author and has a BFA in sculpture, BA in Anthropology with emphasis on plant and human interactions, and has received an apprentice certificate in Herbalism. She writes for the Magical Times Magazine in the UK and has contributed to other published works such as The New Aradia a Witches handbook for resistance. She is the author of Water Witchcraft: Magic and Lore from the Celtic Tradition and The Way of the Water Priestess: Entering the World of Water Magic. You can read more about the author here.