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Robert Johnson - A Christian??????? Wah?

DigiTrad:
IF I HAD POSSESSION OVER JUDGMENT DAY
LOVE IN VAIN


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GUEST,Wiilie Brown XXIII 11 Jan 01 - 03:52 PM
Benjamin 11 Jan 01 - 03:58 PM
Max 11 Jan 01 - 04:21 PM
Liz the Squeak 11 Jan 01 - 06:15 PM
McGrath of Harlow 11 Jan 01 - 06:58 PM
LDave 11 Jan 01 - 06:59 PM
GUEST,JF 18 Apr 04 - 06:22 PM
GUEST,Penguin Egg 18 Apr 04 - 07:21 PM
greg stephens 19 Apr 04 - 04:44 AM
M.Ted 19 Apr 04 - 03:56 PM
Johnhenry'shammer 19 Feb 07 - 09:24 PM
GUEST 19 Feb 07 - 09:48 PM
GUEST,meself 20 Feb 07 - 05:06 PM
Scoville 20 Feb 07 - 09:32 PM
Azizi 20 Feb 07 - 09:51 PM
Azizi 20 Feb 07 - 10:15 PM
GUEST,Ian cookieless 21 Feb 07 - 04:57 AM
maeve 21 Feb 07 - 06:22 AM
Little Hawk 23 Feb 07 - 01:31 AM
GUEST,Mabon 06 Apr 07 - 06:25 PM
Peace 06 Apr 07 - 06:28 PM
michaelr 07 Apr 07 - 12:26 AM
GUEST,meself 07 Apr 07 - 12:38 AM
Q (Frank Staplin) 07 Apr 07 - 07:26 PM
GUEST,meself 07 Apr 07 - 07:35 PM
GUEST,LTP 26 May 07 - 03:07 AM
Arkie 26 May 07 - 11:53 AM
Big Al Whittle 27 May 07 - 07:38 AM
mattkeen 10 Sep 07 - 04:49 AM
Azizi 13 Mar 09 - 05:27 PM
Azizi 13 Mar 09 - 05:37 PM
Azizi 13 Mar 09 - 05:48 PM
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meself 13 Mar 09 - 06:30 PM
Bobert 13 Mar 09 - 07:54 PM
Azizi 13 Mar 09 - 10:07 PM
Azizi 13 Mar 09 - 10:27 PM
GUEST,Guest from Sanity 13 Mar 09 - 10:40 PM
Azizi 13 Mar 09 - 10:46 PM
meself 13 Mar 09 - 11:57 PM
Azizi 14 Mar 09 - 08:11 AM
Azizi 14 Mar 09 - 08:20 AM
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Subject: Robert Johnson - A Christian??????? Wah?
From: GUEST,Wiilie Brown XXIII
Date: 11 Jan 01 - 03:52 PM

Recently saw the movie "Hear The Wind Howl", the docu on Johnson and they claimed that while he (Johnson) was dying he converted to Chraitianity and even showed a note he had written ----since I've never heard this in any other documentary, or articl or book on Johnson I thought it was pretty weird -- does anyone know anything about this from another source? Seems a little wanky to me.


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Subject: RE: Robert Johnson - A Christian??????? Wah?
From: Benjamin
Date: 11 Jan 01 - 03:58 PM

Alan Lomax interviews his mother in his book The Land Where the Blues Began. Before he died, he told his mother that he was "Gods son now." Also according to his mother, he not only converted, he said that his guitar was the devils insturment.


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Subject: RE: Robert Johnson - A Christian??????? Wah?
From: Max
Date: 11 Jan 01 - 04:21 PM

I'm skeptical. There is little, except for recently, that recounts any such thing. If it was on his deathbed that these things were done, I'd call it insanity. Strychnine causes hallucinations, and pneumonia is no tea party. The old accounts say quite the opposite, that he was howling like a dog when he died.


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Subject: RE: Robert Johnson - A Christian??????? Wah?
From: Liz the Squeak
Date: 11 Jan 01 - 06:15 PM

Deathbed conversions rarely last long.... *BG*

LTS

Sounds like the sort of thing that frustrated evangelical relatives say.


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Subject: RE: Robert Johnson - A Christian??????? Wah?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 11 Jan 01 - 06:58 PM

Doesn't sound the least improbable to me. I'd always assumed he was a Christian all along anyway, given where and when he lived.

"Only sinners allowed in this Church" as they say on the Wayside Sermon noticeboards.


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Subject: RE: Robert Johnson - A Christian??????? Wah?
From: LDave
Date: 11 Jan 01 - 06:59 PM

What happened to that guy who claimed to be Johnsons' great-nephew? Was he a hoaxer?


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Subject: RE: Robert Johnson - A Christian??????? Wah?
From: GUEST,JF
Date: 18 Apr 04 - 06:22 PM

Didn't johnson die alone? how could there be a deathbed conversion if there was no one there to hear it?


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Subject: RE: Robert Johnson - A Christian??????? Wah?
From: GUEST,Penguin Egg
Date: 18 Apr 04 - 07:21 PM

Johnson's songs are very religious. He doesn't praise the devil but recognises his existance. Like most christians, Johnson uses the devil as either a reality, or analogy,to explain the dark side of human existance and why we do evil. Most blues singers in the 1930s Mississippi Delta were hell and brimstone christians and reference to the Devil came naturally to them. Skip James, who also sang about the Devil, was a preacher and saw no contridiction with that and singing the blues. Johnson could not convert to something in which he already believed.


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Subject: RE: Robert Johnson - A Christian??????? Wah?
From: greg stephens
Date: 19 Apr 04 - 04:44 AM

I always imagined he was a believer in Wicca and circle dancing, and a shiatsu practitioner.


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Subject: RE: Robert Johnson - A Christian??????? Wah?
From: M.Ted
Date: 19 Apr 04 - 03:56 PM

I think it he did aromatherapy, too.


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Subject: RE: Robert Johnson - A Christian??????? Wah?
From: Johnhenry'shammer
Date: 19 Feb 07 - 09:24 PM

"I went to the cross road
Fell down on my knees
I went to the cross road
Fell down on my knees
Asked the Lord above 'Have mercy now
Save poor Bob if you please'."

Sounds like a good Christian man to me


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Subject: RE: Robert Johnson - A Christian??????? Wah?
From: GUEST
Date: 19 Feb 07 - 09:48 PM

Going to the crossroads doesn't require signing anything. You don't have to let a deal go down. Jesus is said to have turned one down himself.

I tend to believe R. J.'s mother.


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Subject: RE: Robert Johnson - A Christian??????? Wah?
From: GUEST,meself
Date: 20 Feb 07 - 05:06 PM

The late blues-harp-player "Little Hatch", in the notes to one of his two(?) CDs, related this anecdote: One day when Hatch was a boy, his mother spotted Robert Johnson walking down the road with his guitar. She called out to Johnson, asking him if he could play any "Christian songs" on his "starvation box"; he said he could, so she asked him in. He played "Christian songs" for quite awhile, and Hatch couldn't keep from dancing around the room - despite his mother scolding him for such irreverent carrying-on ...


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Subject: RE: Robert Johnson - A Christian??????? Wah?
From: Scoville
Date: 20 Feb 07 - 09:32 PM

It doesn't matter if anyone was there to hear it since (so I'm told) God knows, sees, and presumably hears all.

Blues and Christianity have never been mutually exclusive, in spite of what it might look like on the surface. A lot of blues musicians considered themselves Christians and sang religious songs as well. It's not a simple relationship.


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Subject: RE: Robert Johnson - A Christian??????? Wah?
From: Azizi
Date: 20 Feb 07 - 09:51 PM

Here's another perspective about the significance of "crossroads":

THE CROSSROADS IN HOODOO MAGIC and THE RITUAL OF SELLING YOURSELF TO THE DEVIL
"The crossroads -- a place where two roads cross at or about at right angles, otherwise known as "the forks of the road" -- is the subject of religious and folkloric belief all around the world.
In ancient Greece, marker stones commemorating the god Hermes in his priapic form were set at the crossroads. In ancient Rome the similar god Mercury was the crossroads guardian.

In India, the god Bhairava, an older version of great god Siva, is said to guard the crossroads at the outskirts of villages. Stone phalluses and statues of Bhairava's watchful eyes are erected to represent him as a guardian of the boundaries.

In Guatemala, the old Mayan underworld Lord Maam, under his Catholic Saint guise of Maximon or Saint Simon, is generally depicted seated at a crossroads in a chair, just outside a church.

In Africa, almost every cultural group has its own version of the crossroads god. Legba, Ellegua, Elegbara, Eshu, Exu, Nbumba Nzila, and Pomba Gira are African and African-diaspora names (in several languages) for the spirit who opens the way, guards the crossroads, and teaches wisdom.

Some modern anthropologists have given these crossroads gods a new collective name -- trickster gods. In my opinion this is a misnomer, for not all crossroads gods and spirits are tricksters (unreliable, clever, deceitful) and not all trickster gods or spirits are crossroads gods -- the water dwelling kapi of Japan, the shoemakers' elves of Germany, and the wide-ranging Coyote of Native Americas being prime examples of trickster gods and spirits who do not inhabit crossroads.

Because the crossroads is land that belongs to no one, a place outside the borders of town, it is considered a suitable site to perform magical rituals and cast spells. The use of the crossroads as an impromptu altar where offerings are placed and rituals performed is widely encountered in both European and African folklore.

American beliefs about the crossroads are many and they come in numerous variations. There are two major themes regarding crossroads rituals in the African-American hoodoo tradition. While these customs may contain an admixture of European folklore, they are primarily derived from African antecedents.

In hoodoo practice, after one completes a "job of work" or magical ritual, the most neutral way to dispose of remnants such as left-over candle wax, incense ashes, footprint-dirt, or ritual bath water is to carry everything to the crossroads, throw it into the intersection, turn and walk home without looking back. (Alternative methods for the disposal of ritual items include throwing them into running water for get away or moving spells, taking them to a graveyard for hard-core enemy work, or burying them in one's yard for drawing influences toward one.)
If a job such as a Follow Me Boy Spell is worked to link two people, then the trick may be laid at every crossroads between the home of the practitioner and lover's home, that is, each crossroads will be marked with ritual artifacts to cement the bond and draw the desired one closer. Contrariwise, in at least one form of Hot Foot or Drive Away Spell, ritual items are thrown into a series of crossroads leaving town, to push the hated person out of town and to act as guards against his or her return. Also, there is a version of the Crossing Spell in which Graveyard Dirt is buried at a crossroads.


Not all hoodoo rituals take place at an actual crossroads, but when laying tricks or casting magical spells, many practitioners make use of what can be called a "portable crossroads" or circle with a cross inside, known as an "X" or "cross-mark," generally. The cross-mark may br drawn on the ground or on a personal altar with sachet powders or it may be created quite subtly, with a mere five dots rather than with two crossing lines. In the latter case, the dots go at the four points where the crossing lines would touch the circumference of an imagined circle and at the intersection or center-point of the circle. When drawn this way, the pattern is not called a cross-mark but a "five-spot." Although folklorists tend to call the pattern a "quincunx" and some anthropologists use the term "cosmogram," in actual conversations with real practitioners, you will hear them spoken of like this: "You lay down your salt in the four corners and in the center, like the five-spot on dice" or "Sprinkle your powders in the form of a cross-mark inside a circle" or "They'd lay out powders by the door -- a big old X-mark --to trick you."

-snip-

There's more at http://www.luckymojo.com/crossroads.html


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Subject: RE: Robert Johnson - A Christian??????? Wah?
From: Azizi
Date: 20 Feb 07 - 10:15 PM

More on Elegba:

"In the Yoruba pantheon, Elegba is a deity, the divine messenger of Olodumare. Elegba is a guardian, protector and communicator. Through divination, he guides the fate of man. In West Africa and all through the Diaspora he is revered. The Fon call him Legba. He is called Èsú (eshu), Èlegba and Èlegbara among the Yoruba. In Brazil for the practitioners of Candomble, he is Exu. The Lucumi of the New World know him as Eshu Eleggua...

When we examine the name Elegbara, we find it is comprised of two words. The word "ele" means messenger. "Agbara" means power or authority. Accordingly this oriki defines the deity Eshu role as messenger and holder of Olodumare's àsé (power and authority). Symbols such as an Eshu figure holding a calabash, personify this attribute. Omo orisha throughout the Diaspora recognize Eshu Elegbara as a deity that holds the power to make things happen* - good or bad. For this reason he is propitiated to assure that all communication or action will not encounter negative influence or obstruction.

As trickster, Eshu is associated with disorder and destiny in the Yoruba pantheon. As "orisa orita" or "esu orita", orisha of the crossroad or the corners, Elegba represents the transitional or center point of the crossroad where one must make a decision. In this position, Elegba represents all the bewilderment and confusion one faces when attempting to make the proper choice. Once the choice is made, he is involved in the consequences and through his own devices guides us towards and along our proper path."

-snip-

More at http://members.tripod.com/omo_ileosikan/id2.html

**

My point in posting these last two excerpts is to suggest that Black people and non-Black people who are familiar with hoodoo cultural beliefs {even if they are not believers in Hoodoo} will 'get' more than one meaning from Robert Johnson's lyrics about 'crossroads'

"I went to the cross road
Fell down on my knees
I went to the cross road
Fell down on my knees
Asked the Lord above 'Have mercy now
Save poor Bob if you please'."

-snip-

Did Robert Johnson know that 'the crossroads' had {has} added significance for some people in African American culture?

I believe that he did.


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Subject: RE: Robert Johnson - A Christian??????? Wah?
From: GUEST,Ian cookieless
Date: 21 Feb 07 - 04:57 AM

I saw a blues documentary that stated RJ never told the well-known story about meeting the devil at the crossroads - the story was said about him posthumously by [insert name of well-known blues player whose name I cannot recall from the programme] and caught on for obvious reasons.

Death-bed conversion stories are fairly common-place - and always, I think, spurious - among certain Christians with an axe to grind. There is a story, for instance, that Charles Darwin recanted all his work on evolution on his deathbed and said creationism was right. The advantage of these death-bed stories for their intended purpose is that they are, of course, incredibly difficult to verify.

I would have thought that if RJ was *not* brought up a Christian he'd have been pretty unusual in the context.


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Subject: RE: Robert Johnson - A Christian??????? Wah?
From: maeve
Date: 21 Feb 07 - 06:22 AM

"It doesn't matter if anyone was there to hear it since (so I'm told) God knows, sees, and presumably hears all.

Blues and Christianity have never been mutually exclusive, in spite of what it might look like on the surface. A lot of blues musicians considered themselves Christians and sang religious songs as well. It's not a simple relationship."

Well said!


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Subject: RE: Robert Johnson - A Christian??????? Wah?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 23 Feb 07 - 01:31 AM

What's so hard to believe about Robert Johnson having heen a Christian? (at least nominally)


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Subject: RE: Robert Johnson - A Christian??????? Wah?
From: GUEST,Mabon
Date: 06 Apr 07 - 06:25 PM

Anyone that traveled with Johnson said that he always did have a constant urge to "keep moving." I believe he was running form something, or maybe even God, or the Devil. After his wife died maybe he turned on God and thought it was his fault. That feeling of the Devil coming after us and the fear of him is in all our hearts before the find faith and redemtion in Christ Jesus. Then, we fear no more. Before he died, Robert Johnson became a saved man. He feared no more.
Amen!


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Subject: RE: Robert Johnson - A Christian??????? Wah?
From: Peace
Date: 06 Apr 07 - 06:28 PM

OK.


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Subject: RE: Robert Johnson - A Christian??????? Wah?
From: michaelr
Date: 07 Apr 07 - 12:26 AM

Religious faith is always a kind of mental disorder.

Happy Easter,
To your keister,
Michael


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Subject: RE: Robert Johnson - A Christian??????? Wah?
From: GUEST,meself
Date: 07 Apr 07 - 12:38 AM

Live and let live ...


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Subject: RE: Robert Johnson - A Christian??????? Wah?
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 07 Apr 07 - 07:26 PM

In the song, Johnson was at the crossroads, trying to flag a ride, but everybody passed him by (2nd verse). The song may reflect his pessimism about getting ahead as a musician, but even that is speculation.
A lot of nonsense has gone into print. People like to make up a good story, but there is no reason to believe them.

Crossroads have significance because they offer choice, were a place where criminals were hanged (accessibility to the public), often were the site of a roadside calvary, where criminals sometimes were buried, where notices were posted, etc. In Johnson's time and in his environment, it is doubtful that any of the old 'magical' significances would have played any part in his thoughts.


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Subject: RE: Robert Johnson - A Christian??????? Wah?
From: GUEST,meself
Date: 07 Apr 07 - 07:35 PM

And, of course, it's a place where you'd go if you wanted to flag a ride ...


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Subject: RE: Robert Johnson - A Christian??????? Wah?
From: GUEST,LTP
Date: 26 May 07 - 03:07 AM

you overestimate the songs deppness first of all. they are all really shallow, second ofcourse he was christian all along.thirdly not a good cristian he was a rebel and a no gooder.fourth i think he ment to say that i had overgiven himself again after all he had done, beocouse he probobly hated god for what he had done to hi's first wife and unborn child.if somebody was whit him when he died, which there are no records of.and by the by nobody really know what he died of. beocuse the papers from the morg was merly half filled.


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Subject: RE: Robert Johnson - A Christian??????? Wah?
From: Arkie
Date: 26 May 07 - 11:53 AM

Azizi, thanks for the information on Crossroads symbolism.   I've had several occasions of late to think about that but had not got around to any research.


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Subject: RE: Robert Johnson - A Christian??????? Wah?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 27 May 07 - 07:38 AM

I wondered about the stones in my pathway - being like the stone that was in front of the cave where Christ's body rose from.

Good guitarist whatever....!


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Subject: RE: Robert Johnson - A Christian??????? Wah?
From: mattkeen
Date: 10 Sep 07 - 04:49 AM

Of course he was - albeit mixed with various traditional African symbolism and practice.

What part of the deep South do you think he came from then?


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Subject: RE: Robert Johnson - A Christian??????? Wah?
From: Azizi
Date: 13 Mar 09 - 05:27 PM

I'm refreshing this thread as a result of this comment in an unrelated* thread:

"Within living memory in rural areas of Ireland, local people used to gather regularly at a local crossroads to hold open-air dances (crossroads dances)."
-Jim Carroll (12 Feb 09 - 04:02 AM in The Day the Music Was Killed--Pakistan

*or at least a not directly related thread since "everything is (or can be) everything".

I'm interested in the presenting information about the significance of the "crossroads" in American culture and in other cultures.

Perhaps this information-and hopefully this discussion-would have been better posted on this archived Mudcat thread titled the crossroads or this archived thread also titled Lyr Add: CROSSROADS . However, both of those threads are very small (the first one has only 9 posts and the second one has only 5 posts), and most of the posts on this thread-including my previous posts-address the subject of the significance of crossroads perhaps more than they address whether Robert Johnson was a Christian or not. The question about Johnson's religious denomination isn't one that I will be addressing. However, given the previous posts to this thread, I believe that my comments on the broader subject of the crossroads won't be thread drift.

With that introduction (or re-introduction), I'll begin (again) posting comments about the crossroads in various cultures throughout the world.

I hope that others will also post comments on this subject.


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Subject: RE: Robert Johnson - A Christian??????? Wah?
From: Azizi
Date: 13 Mar 09 - 05:37 PM

Jim Carrol's comment about Irish dances at crossroads led me (eventually) to this wikipedia page and quote:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helena_Wulff

"Helena Wulff (b. Stockholm, Sweden, 1954) is a professor of Social anthropology at Stockholm University. She is best known for her writing on national identity, cultural studies and the anthropology of dance, in particular, the relationship between dance and society, social memory and modernity, and place


Dance and Culture in Ireland

In December 2007, Wulff published a monograph called Dancing at the Crossroads: Memory and Mobility in Ireland. In the past, dancing at the crossroads in Ireland used to be young peoples' opportunity to enjoy themselves in the country. However, this Irish dance custom was prohibited by the Public Dance Halls Act, which was enacted by the Irish government in 1935. It has contributed to the decline in the practice of traditional music and dance in rural Ireland. As a consequence, the notion of dancing at the crossroads has become a key metaphor in Irish cultural and political life. Dancing at the Crossroads combines a dance anthropological approach with cultural analysis and also includes debates on memory and mobility, tradition and modernity, and relates them to dance and culture in Ireland."

-snip-

(italics added by me for emphasis)

Maybe people at the crossroads because those were places that provided easy access for a number of people coming from different directions. But I wonder if there is any Celtic significance to "crossroads".


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Subject: RE: Robert Johnson - A Christian??????? Wah?
From: Azizi
Date: 13 Mar 09 - 05:48 PM

By entering the keyword "crossroads" in Mudcat's search engine, I found this post:

Subject: RE: Folklore: Rabbit, Rabbit! did you say it yet?
From: CapriUni - PM
Date: 07 Jan 07 - 05:33 PM

Seems to me that any animal seen as being powerful, especially if its power is associated with nature/fertility/the gods can be seen as either good or bad luck, depending on which side of the coin you look at (which facet of the belief survives through the generations).

I remember reading somewhere (forget where) that the supstitions we have about black cats originated with black rabbits (as cats were not native to Europe, until sailors broght them back aboard ships from the middle east).

Here, in America, black cats are seen as bad luck/evil. This fear runs so deep that many humane shelters won't adopt out any black cats around Halloween for fear that they'll be abused/tortured.

But in Britian, as I understand it, black cats are considered to be good luck.

Many years ago, I read (perhaps in the same place where I read about the rabbit/cat switch) that both these beliefs originate in Ancient Rome, where the black rabbit was seen as a companion of the Goddess Hecate, who was the goddess of the crossroads, as well as goddess of witchcraft. If you saw a black rabbit (or black cat) going along the road in the same direction you were traveling, that was a sign from the goddess that you were headed for good fortune, but if the rabbit crossed your path, that meant there was danger further down the road.


In Britain, they remember the first half of that belief, and in America, we remember the second half (which, if you ask me, is like blaming stop signs for car crashes)...

thread.cfm?threadid=97676#1929557
-snip-

This post prompted me to look up information on the goddess Hecate.

See this quote from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hecate

"Goddess of the crossroads
Hecate had a special role at three-way crossroads, where the Greeks set poles with masks of each of her heads facing in different directions[citation needed]

The crossroad aspect of Hecate stems from her original sphere as a goddess of the wilderness and untamed areas. This led to sacrifice to assure safe travel into these areas. This role is similar to lesser Hermes, that is, a god of liminal points or boundaries.

Hecate is the Greek version of Trivia "the three ways" in Roman mythology. Eligius in the 7th century reminded his recently converted flock in Flanders "No Christian should make or render any devotion to the deities of the trivium, where three roads meet...".


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Subject: RE: Robert Johnson - A Christian??????? Wah?
From: Azizi
Date: 13 Mar 09 - 05:58 PM

Here's an excerpt of a post in one of Mudcat's other threads on "crossroads":

Subject: RE: BS: The crossroads
From: GUEST,Sleepless Dad - PM
Date: 24 Jan 06 - 12:04 PM

http://www.mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=88281#1654894
"The crossroads is a place loaded with superstitions and stories. Back in the days before the automobile and paved highways, people traveled dirt roads through the wilderness and bayous either on horseback or by foot. The pace of the journey was generally slow and often caused the mind to wander in the trees and shrubs. In a way travelers were much more vulnerable. They did not have the safety of their cars or road side phones to call for help. And as darkness fell, I'm sure that all of the superstitions and stories of evil devoured their consciousness.

Many countries such as the European countries, India, Greece and Japan, as well as people such as the American Indians, subscribed to the superstitions and folk tales of the crossroads. At these intersections, demons, evil spirits, ghosts, Kobolds and fairies were found. It is a burial place for suicides and murderers and a dump heap for parricides. The crossroads is a rendezvous for witches who use this place for Sabbat rituals. Sacrifices were offered to the gods to protect humans from the evil which lurked here.

Legba is a trickster deity and god of entrances and crossroads. He is part of the belief systems of blacks of Dutch Guina, Brazil, Trinidad, Cuba and the voodoo cult of Haiti and New Orleans. In the new world, Legba goes about in tatters and he functions in cult rituals "to open the way" for the gods to possess their devotees. For this reason his songs are sung first at all rites. In the new world syncretism he is often equated with the devil. With this information, we can assume that when Robert Johnson made his claim of meeting the devil, he was referring to Legba."
-snip-

(italics added by me for emphasis)

See my 20 Feb 07 - 09:51 PM post and my 20 Feb 07 - 10:15 PM in this thread about Elegba. In my next post to this thread, I'll add one other quote that adds additional information about how Elegba was considered in "the new world syncretism".


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Subject: RE: Robert Johnson - A Christian??????? Wah?
From: Azizi
Date: 13 Mar 09 - 06:08 PM

This exerpt is from http://members.tripod.com/omo_ileosikan/id2.html "Who Is Elegba"?

"In the Yoruba [Nigeria, West Africa] pantheon, Elegba is a deity, the divine messenger of [the Supreme God] Olodumare. Elegba is a guardian, protector and communicator. Through divination, he guides the fate of man. In West Africa and all through the Diaspora he is revered. The Fon call him Legba. He is called Èsú (eshu), Èlegba and Èlegbara among the Yoruba. In Brazil for the practitioners of Candomble, he is Exu. The Lucumi of the New World know him as Eshu Eleggua. These references are sacred praise names or "oriki" for Eshu-Elegbara. Oriki is used to describe the attributes or to recount the adjectives that describe an orisha.

As trickster, Eshu is associated with disorder and destiny in the Yoruba pantheon. As "orisa orita" or "esu orita", orisha of the crossroad or the corners, Elegba represents the transitional or center point of the crossroad where one must make a decision. In this position, Elegba represents all the bewilderment and confusion one faces when attempting to make the proper choice. Once the choice is made, he is involved in the consequences and through his own devices guides us towards and along our proper path.

His ambivalence to orisa and man makes Elegba a complex, neutral force. For those who live in accordance to social and religious law, he is a great benefactor and guardian. Those who choose to live contrary" will meet him on their path as the "law enforcer" or "divine policeman".

The personified characteristics of Elegba are contradictive. For example, he is a loyal friend and very generous. He is the dispenser of punishment and shows loyalty to no one, man or orisa. Practitioners are quick to say "Elegba will lift you up very high with his hands and in the next instance open his hands so that you fall". These contradictive aspects Elegba represent the belief that Olodumare (a descriptive name for God) is all-powerful and not bound by any rules.

All that is good and bad lies within Olodumare's power (àsé). Esu Elegbara as the holder of Olodumare's àsé (the power to make things happen) dispenses it in accordance to the Olodumare's will."

-snip-

Also, see this excerpt from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eleggua

"Eshu (other names include Exú, Esu Eleggua, Esu Elegbara, Eshu Elegbara, Elegba, Legba, and Eleda) is an orisha, and one of the most known deities of the Yoruba mythology and related New World traditions.

He has a wide range of responsibilities: the protector of travelers, deity of roads, particularly crossroads, the deity with the power over fortune and misfortune, and the personification of death, a psychopomp. Eshu is involved within the Orisa (also spelt Orisha or Orixa)-Ifá system of the Yoruba as well as in African diasporic faiths like Santeria/Lukumi and Candomble developed by the descendants of enslaved West Africans in the Americas, where Eshu was sometimes identified with Saint Anthony, Saint Michael [1] or Santo Niño de Atocha , depending on the situation or location. He is often identified by the number three, and the colours red & black or white & black, and his caminos or paths (compare: avatar) are often represented carrying a cane, shepherd's crook, as well as a pipe."

-snip-

(italics added by me for emphasis)


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Subject: RE: Robert Johnson - A Christian??????? Wah?
From: Azizi
Date: 13 Mar 09 - 06:19 PM

It's interesting to me that in the legend about Robert Johnson meeting with the devil, he meets a Black man. I'm wondering if there is some connection to the man being Black, and the black cat mentioned in CapriUni's comment that I reposted.

And is it just a coincidence that the Yoruba god of crossroads, Elegba's number is three, and the number three is sacred to the Greek goddess Hecate?

-snip-

Because Mudcat is a folk culture forum, I'd like to end my posting of material about the crossroad that I found today with this poem about Elegba:

One who starts a fight, then stands aside

Old man at the crossroads

One who recompenses good with ill and ill with good

Do not undo me

Do not change my 'yes' to 'no'

Do not change my 'no' to 'yes'

Jealous man

Láàróye
(Ogundipe, 1999)

http://members.tripod.com/omo_ileosikan/id2.html


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Subject: RE: Robert Johnson - A Christian??????? Wah?
From: meself
Date: 13 Mar 09 - 06:30 PM

In one of those big blues documentaries from a few years ago (Martin Scorsese?), it was stated that the "sold his soul to the devil" story actually started with Tommy Johnson - who told it of himself - and was only later attached to Robert Johnson.

................

Incidentally, Hecate makes an appearance in Macbeth; she is summoned by the three witches, and gives them a scolding for their dealings with MacBeth - it is actually rather subtle; she is miffed that the witches are helping out Macbeth, because he is only interested in the dark forces as the means to get himself ahead, rather than for their own sake. The scene is thought not to have been written by Shakespeare, but added by a later director/playwright.


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Subject: RE: Robert Johnson - A Christian??????? Wah?
From: Bobert
Date: 13 Mar 09 - 07:54 PM

First of all, Robert Johnson's mentor was Son House... Son House was a preacher who had a life time struggle between playing what many older black folks referred to as the "Devil's Music" and his Faith... There is a very good video out there that was recorded of Son House doing a monolouge before doing "John the Revelator" and you can see the genuine anguish in the man's face and body language...

Robert Johnson had to have been influenced greatly by Son House and even snuck into juke joints at a very young age to hear Son House play and to talk with him...

As for the Crossroads, the blues historian and former White Panther/Top-Ten-Wanted John Sinclair says that it wasn't Robert Johnson who had these issues with the Devil but Tommy Johnson... Those stories back in the 20's about spiritual stuff, mojos were part of the culture and the stories were told and retold both in song and in story so it's no wonder that Robert Johnson would be familiar with that story...

As for Robert Johnson being a Christain??? Well, I believe he probably was exposed to lots of church... Does that make one a Christain??? Well, no... But he did seem to have some relationship with God and his songs make lots of references to the Lord...

I went down to the croosroads
I feel down on my knees
I prayed to the Lord above
Have mercy if You please

Now this in itself isn't proff one way or another that Robert was a Christain... We do, however, know that he was exposed to the stories associated with Christianity and that his mentor was a "Baptist preacher"...

Another thing we know is that Robert sho nuff knew all about sin and was purdy good at it... Might of fact, it cost him his life...

Bobert


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Subject: RE: Robert Johnson - A Christian??????? Wah?
From: Azizi
Date: 13 Mar 09 - 10:07 PM

It seems that there is more that I should say about Legba.

I mentioned in my post today that Legba is a Yoruba diety. I also mentioned in my earlier posts that Legba is also a diety of the Fon ethnic group of Dahomey, West Africa (now Benin) and the Southwestern part of Nigeria. Religion in Dahomey involved the worship of gods or Vodun "Vodun" became known as "voodoo" or "hoodoo" in the Western Hemisphere.

**

Legba is very similar to the Greek God Mercury (Roman god-Hermes; German god Wotan) in his/her role as a messenger of the Supreme Diety, in the god's male/female identity, in the god's role as a trickster, and in the god's association with the arts (which after all, is a form of communication).

See these excerpts from
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mercury_(mythology)

"From the beginning, Mercury had essentially the same aspects as Hermes, wearing winged shoes talaria and a winged petasos, and carrying the caduceus, a herald's staff with two entwined snakes that was Apollo's gift to Hermes. He was often accompanied by a cockerel, herald of the new day, a ram or goat, symbolizing fertility, and a tortoise, referring to Mercury's legendary invention of the lyre from a tortoise shell.

Mercury in particular was reported as becoming extremely popular among the nations the Roman Empire conquered; Julius Caesar wrote of Mercury being the most popular god in Britain and Gaul, regarded as the inventor of all the arts. This is probably because in the Roman syncretism, Mercury was equated with the Celtic god Lugus, and in this aspect was commonly accompanied by the Celtic goddess Rosmerta...

-snip
(the italics were added by me for emphasis)

Also, see this quote from that same Wikipedia page that mentions the number 3 that is also mentioned regarding Legba and Hecate:

"In Celtic areas, Mercury was sometimes portrayed with three heads or faces, and at Tongeren, Belgium, a statuette of Mercury with three phalli was found, with the extra two protruding from his head and replacing his nose; this was probably because the number 3 was considered magical, making such statues good luck and fertility charms. The Romans also made widespread use of small statues of Mercury, probably drawing from the ancient Greek tradition of hermae markers."

-snip-

The story of Robert Johnson (or Tommy Johnson?) making a deal with the "Devil" and thereafter playing his music so much better makes sense (even if it is just a "story") if the Devil here is a substitute for Mercury/Legba, the trickster, messanger diety who is in charge of communication and the arts.


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Subject: RE: Robert Johnson - A Christian??????? Wah?
From: Azizi
Date: 13 Mar 09 - 10:27 PM

In his 1988 book, The Signifying Monkey, A Theory Of African-American Literary Criticism, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. has much to say about Elegba (Eshu). I'll post some excerpts in this thread.

[Novelist Ralph] Ellison tells a marvelous story about himself when he was a student of music at Tuskegee [University]. Having failed in an attempt to compensate for a lack of practice with a virtuoso style of performance, Ellison had sought some solace from the brilliant Hazel Harrison, one of his professors, with whom he has s sustained personal relationshop. Instead of solace, however, his friend and mentor greeted his solicitation with a riddle. The exchange is relevant here:

"Alright", she said, "you must always play your best, even if it's only in the waiting room at Chehaw Station, because in this country there'll always be a little man hidden behind the stove".

"A what?"

"She nodded. "That's right", she said, "there'll always be the little man when you don't expect, and he'll know the music and the tradition, and the standards of musicianship

This little man, who appears as such out-of-the-way places as the Cheshaw Railroad Station, is of course, a trickster figure surfacing when we least expect him, at a crossroad of destiny."

(Gates, The Signifying Monkey: New York, Oxford University Press, 1988) p.64)

-snip-

Gates then indicates that traditionally the Yoruba people and the Fon people describe Elegba as "a little man".

I'll post more on that in my next post.


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Subject: RE: Robert Johnson - A Christian??????? Wah?
From: GUEST,Guest from Sanity
Date: 13 Mar 09 - 10:40 PM

When you die, you can take it up with him, then. Personally, it makes complete sense to me....some of you act like it is an indictment to your personal lameness.


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Subject: RE: Robert Johnson - A Christian??????? Wah?
From: Azizi
Date: 13 Mar 09 - 10:46 PM

The poem/song about Elegba that I posted in my 13 Mar 09 - 06:19 PM post to this thread ends with the word "Láàróye". "Laaroye" is an "oriki" (praise name) for Esu/Elegba.

**

Here is another excerpt from Henry Louis Gates's book The Signifying Monkey:

"Esu, thus is the potential for resolution, a role profoundly linked to his role as the interpreter. Esu is a figure of doubled duality, of unreconciled opposites, of living in harmony:

Laaroye, one who can be good or bad
One who can be tall or short
One who can be short or tall.

Thus he is the epitome of parodox:

Swift footed one!
Agile and restless one!
One who scatters himself abroad
One who, once scattered, cannot be put together again.
One born on the way to the market
He walks through the peanut patch
His head hardly shows
But for his tallness.
He has eyes yet with his nose weeps
Tip of the razor blade
He sleeps rested against a cudgel.

Esu, as Ogundipe concludes, is "the personification of flux and mutability:

Worthy of worship like Fate!
My mother's husband!
Owner of the golden whip!
Consumer of sacrifice to save man
As restless as a tale bearer.
-snip-

(Sources noted on pages 30-31 of Henry Louis Gates'The Signifying Monkey)

**

Perhaps all creative people must "sell" themselves to "the devil" and in so doing, become more creative, that is to say, becoming closer to God.


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Subject: RE: Robert Johnson - A Christian??????? Wah?
From: meself
Date: 13 Mar 09 - 11:57 PM

I think this is an area where African and European mythology overlap - there is a long tradition of characters selling their souls to devil in European story - Faust being probably the most famous. Or whatsisname from The Devil and Daniel Webster. Or the aforementioned Macbeth, in a less direct way.


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Subject: RE: Robert Johnson - A Christian??????? Wah?
From: Azizi
Date: 14 Mar 09 - 08:11 AM

meself, I definitely think that there is a lot of overlap between African & European mythology-and that the reason for this-to a large degree is because one of the main sources for European mythology was African mythology (Egypt/ancient Ethiopia and other ancient cultures). But while I appreciate your comment, I don't want to get sidetracked on that discussion. However, with regards to what some people might read as your point, let me say this:

As far as I know, in neither the traditional Yoruba/Fon religions nor in the Western Hemisphere versions of those traditions (Santeria, Lucumi, Candomble or any others)Legba (Eshu) is notdidn't/don't refer to being possessed by Legba (Eshu) or any other orisa/vodu as "devil possession". As a person learning through reading about traditional African belief systems, it's my understanding that the the concept of and belief in "the devil" in traditional African religions is different than it is in Christianity.

The subject of the religious beliefs of enslaved Africans in the Western Hemisphere is very complicated, and even more so when you include Islam since a significant number of Africans in the Caribbeen, The United States, and in South American were captured from areas in which many people had been Muslim for centuries.
See this brief quote from http://www.barkati.net/english/ The History of Islam:

"As far as Africa is concemed, Islam entered into East Africa at the very beginning of the Islamic period but remained confined to the coast for some time, only the Sudan and Somaliland becoming gradually both Arabized and Islamized. West Africa felt the presence of Islam through North African traders who travelled with their camel caravans south of the Sahara. By the 14th century there were already Muslim sultanates in such areas as Mali, and Timbuctu in West Africa and Harar in East Africa had become seats of Islamic leaming."

-snip-

Given the centuries that Islam has been in West Africa, to fully discuss the religious beliefs of Africans who were enslaved in the Western Hemisphere, one would have to talk about a belief in jinns and other evil spirits. But, as I said, I really prefer not to "go there" (get into that discussion).

I've found a lot of online references to Robert Johnson and selling one's sould to the devil. I'll add a few excerpts from several of those websites in my next post to this thread.


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Subject: RE: Robert Johnson - A Christian??????? Wah?
From: Azizi
Date: 14 Mar 09 - 08:20 AM

Here's an excerpt from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Johnson_(musician)

"Folk tales of bargains with the Devil have long existed in African American and White traditions, and were adapted into literature by, amongst others, Washington Irving in "The Devil and Tom Walker" in 1824, and by Stephen Vincent Benet in "The Devil and Daniel Webster" in 1936. In the 1930s the folklorist Harry Middleton Hart recorded many tales of banjo players, fiddlers, card sharps and dice sharks selling their souls at the crossroads, along with guitarists and one accordionist. The folklorist Alan Lomax considered that every African American secular musician was "in the opinion of both himself and his peers, a child of the devil, a consequence of the black view of the European dance embrace as sinful in the extreme".[22]

In recorded Blues, the theme first appeared in 1924 in the record by Clara Smith "Done Sold My Soul To The Devil (And My Heart's Done Turned To Stone)". An influential song, Smith's tune was covered during the following decade by blues artists Merline Johnson (the Yas Yas Girl), Casey Bill Weldon, and John D. Twitty. A cover was also recorded in 1937 by the white Western Swing band named after their business manager Dave Edwards.[23][24]"

-snip-

Note that this quote refers to African American traditions and not African traditions.


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Subject: RE: Robert Johnson - A Christian??????? Wah?
From: Azizi
Date: 14 Mar 09 - 08:25 AM

I see that I messed up at least one sentence in my 14 Mar 09 - 08:11 AM post. Since it's such an important point, let me try again:

As far as I know, in neither the traditional Yoruba/Fon religions nor in the Western Hemisphere versions of those traditions (Santeria, Lucumi, Candomble or any others) was/is Legba/Eshu considered to be the devil. Nor was/is the belief in being possessed by Legba (Eshu) considered to be devil possession.


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Subject: RE: Robert Johnson - A Christian??????? Wah?
From: Azizi
Date: 14 Mar 09 - 08:48 AM

Back to Robert Johnson:


I'll forgo posting quotes from any other website but this one.

Here's a long excerpt from Jerry Jazz Musician-Interview about Robert Johnson

In Robert Johnson: Lost and Found, Barry Lee Pearson and Bill McCulloch examine the full range of writings about Johnson and sift fact from fiction. They compare conflicting accounts of Johnson's life, weighing them against interviews with blues musicians and others who knew the man. Through their extensive research Pearson and McCulloch uncover a life every bit as compelling as the fabrications and exaggerations that have sprung up around it. In examining Johnson's life and music, and the ways in which both have been reinvented and interpreted by other artists, critics, and fans, Robert Johnson: Lost and Found charts the broader cultural forces that have mediated the expression of African American artistic traditions...

The genesis of the myth of Johnson selling his soul to the devil
JJM How did the myth of his selling his soul to the devil begin?

BLP That is a very popular traditional legend, as it is in European folk tradition with the Faust motif. It is also found in African tradition, where a person becomes involved with a spirit helper, and makes a pact with it. In almost every version, the person gets scared and runs away. They are more cautionary tales than anything else, but Robert Johnson supposedly had it attached to him in a 1960 article by Pete Welding in which he quotes Son House suggesting that Johnson, in his months away from home, "Sold his soul to the devil in exchange for learning to play (the guitar) like that." We found no one who could corroborate that -- no one who worked with Son House ever heard him say anything similar to that. And we were also suspicious because the statement is not in quotation marks, nor is it quoted directly from any interview format. It really doesn't sound like Son House's language, although I suppose one could argue about that. So Welding's article was the first time a person put that accusation into print, and it was based, essentially, on the idea that Robert Johnson learned to play the guitar in a hurry.

JJM Right, because the story is that he wasn't a particularly good guitarist. But he went away for a few months and came back a virtual virtuoso.

BLP Yes, but in fact he was probably gone longer than a few months. We found out later that he had someone teach him play, and that he possessed a lot of great, unrefined ideas prior to taking lessons. People would say the same thing about Charlie Parker. He was just as bad as he could be until he went away and became great.

JJM Sure, but we don't say Charlie Parker sold his soul to the devil.

BLP True, although one could probably do so and generate as much evidence or more for him as they do for Johnson. As I said, there are a lot of artists who sang about the devil, but for some reason during that time, it was an interesting kind of marketing hype...

BLP ...That is another thing we noticed about the myth building of Robert Johnson -- that one writer would try to outdo the previous one in terms of how wild their theories could get. My favorite Welding passage was in the liner notes to the second Johnson LP, which tried to present him as a rock and roll innovator, but he still used the same language and some of the same material, in fact, from that earlier "Hellhound On His Trail" essay. He refers to him as an Orpheus on his journey along the Labyrinthian path of the human psyche, and he says, "In his songs one hears the impassioned, unheeded cries of man, ruthless and purposeless, the acrid stench of evil turns ever in his mind." I mean, really! What did Howlin' Wolf say about him? He said Robert had a nice personality, and was a nice looking guy that women went for. Willie Mae Powell says he was the "cutest little brown thing you ever saw."

"There are some people who want to try to get some glory because Robert is so popular. They say they knew Robert, and they don't know a damn thing. They talked about him selling his soul to the devil. I want to know how you do that. If anybody sold their souls to the devil, it's the groups that have to have a million dollars worth of dope and have a million dollars in money to play. I don't like the way they are trying to label him. He was a blues musician. Just like the rest of them."
- Robert "Junior" Lockwood

JJM The musicians clearly heard his music differently than the literary critics did.

BLP Yes. Martin Scorsese says he was pure legend. While our book may not change people's reaction to the legend or the mythology -- because that is firmly in place -- it is reasonable to think it will cause us to take another look at what Robert Johnson was like as a person, and what his initial audience thought of his music. It may also cause people to think about who benefited from the creation of these reconfigurations of Robert Johnson"...


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Subject: RE: Robert Johnson - A Christian??????? Wah?
From: meself
Date: 14 Mar 09 - 08:53 AM

Of course, what exactly is meant by "the devil" can be hard to pin down, once Christianity and the English (or other European) language have been imposed on people of non-European culture. Traditional deities become "devils" in the teaching of missionaries, so those who still deal with those deities are "dealing with the devil". And "the devil" might seem less the totally evil spirit that Christianity portrays and more of a trickster (in line with what you have already said). Or, in some cases, a neutral underworld deity (like Hades, whose name still is sometimes substituted for that of Satan and/or hell). In Brazil, I believe it is, there is a custom among Native miners to make little shrines in their mines to honour "Satan" - who in that instance seems to be an incarnation of an indigenous underworld deity.

Understood in that light, the idea of "making a deal with the devil" does not seem quite so "evil". But it is understandable how a person who had done so might feel conflicted, if they are subjected - or subject themselves - to heavy doses of fundamentalist Christianity.


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Subject: RE: Robert Johnson - A Christian??????? Wah?
From: meself
Date: 14 Mar 09 - 08:55 AM

(Which is not to say, I hasten to add, that I believe any of that necessarily applies to the real Robert Johnson - as opposed to the RJ of myth).


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Subject: RE: Robert Johnson - A Christian??????? Wah?
From: Azizi
Date: 14 Mar 09 - 09:01 AM

And the beat goes on...

Some contemporary marketing of hip-hop and the contemporary opposition to hip-hop re-introduces this meme of rappers selling their souls to the devil in return for earthly fame & futune.

See for instance this excerpt from http://raphiphop.tuneforums.com/thread_view.php?page=2&threadID=155

..."In his autobiography "The Doggfather", Snoop Dogg says the devil came to him to make a deal that he would be rich and famous in exchange for his soul. Snoop accepted the devil's offer (by his own words) and identifies that the point at which Calvin Broadus dies Snoop Dog was born...

It turns out Satan was not happy that Heavy Metal was not reaching Black people. So he created that Hip Hop to reach 'brothers' and cross all kinds of ethnic & cultural barriers.

Hip Hop is not 'our' music. It is the devil's music. He wants the people in the club to recognize him and adore him. When people dance to his music and his artist, they are dancing to the devil's beats, songs and ideals. Gangsta Rap pretty much started with Snoop Dogg who sold his soul to the devil and took off - now everybody is crazy about making hard gangsta beats like Dr. Dre. All the beats in hip hop have to be hard - just the way the devil wants it. You can't put out a album now unless it's gangsta"...

-snip-

And the only think I have to say about that, is the more things change, the more they stay the same.


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Subject: RE: Robert Johnson - A Christian??????? Wah?
From: Azizi
Date: 14 Mar 09 - 09:27 AM

When I wrote "I'll forgo posting quotes from any other website but this one", I meant that I wouldn't post any more quotes about the legend of Robert Johnson selling his soul to the devil.

As you can see, I didn't promise not to post any more excerpts :o)

**

meself, I agree with the points you made in your 14 Mar 09 - 08:53 AM and your 14 Mar 09 - 08:55 AM posts.


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