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Tell My Horse: Voodoo and Life in Haiti and Jamaica
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Tell My Horse: Voodoo and Life in Haiti and Jamaica

4.0 of 5 stars 4.00  ·  rating details  ·  1,039 ratings  ·  66 reviews
A firsthand account of the weird mysteries and horrors of voodoo. "An unusual and intensely interesting book richly packed with strange information."-- "New York Times Book Review" "Strikingly dramatic, yet simple and unusual and intensely interesting book richly packed with strange information." "--New York Times Book Review"
Paperback, 311 pages
Published February 28th 1990 by HarperCollins (first published 1938)
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Margaret Langstaff
[review posted on my blog too]

I stumbled on a little masterpiece the other day, "Tell My Horse" by Zora Neale Hurston, in a rare bookshop. I'd been aware of this title for years (first published in 1938), but had never actually run across a copy. This particular edition (there are others more recent), published by Turtle Island Foundation, Berkeley, CA 1981, caught my attention because of its striking cover of a photograph of a Black man entranced deep within a Voodoo ritual. So I picked it up,
A jumble of a book with diary, travelogue, political commentary, and ethnography mashed together. I know it's not hip to not fawn over Zora Neale Hurston, but unless you really want to know about vodou in Haiti in 1937, I wouldn't recommend this book.

She deserves a significant amount of credit for her copious documentation of vodou ceremonies and songs, and for treating the religion with respect (as opposed to the sensationalist white writers of the time). But the book is lacking in context for
Around the World = Haiti

Tell My Horse is writer and folklorist Zora Neale Hurston's experiences in Jamaica and Haiti in the 1930s as she documented the voodoo rituals and beliefs practiced in these countries. Hurston also explores the African heritage shared by black Jamaicans, Hatians and Americans, and how their experiences inform their lives.

What makes this book outstanding is the depth of Hurston's personal connection to her subject; rather than giving a cool, scholarly observation of ceremo
In the late 1930s Zora Neale Hurston won a Guggenheim fellowship to travel to Jamaica and Haiti to study the "cult of Voodoo." This hard-to-define book -- not quite ethnography, not quite travelogue, and not quite fiction -- is the result of that fellowship, and it's an unusual and deeply rewarding outsider's look at a part of the world the author says has too rarely been studied closely. Her purposes are many: one, to capture the oral culture of Jamaica and Haiti in written language; two, to de ...more
Zora Neale Hurston had to have been an incredible woman. Consider her past. Hurston is black woman who had to make her own way in the world when she was fourteen. She had to struggle just to survive. Remarkably, she found a way to make it back to secondary school, and further, to complete a degree when she was 36. She became an accomplished writer and anthropologist. The tenacity and self-assurance to achieve so much in the time which she lived is...overwhelming to think about.

The writing in Tel
I originally found mention of this book while I was reading through The World's Greatest Unsolved Mysteries' chapter on zombies. My initial reaction was, and I quote:

"'One mother told Zora Hurston about her son who had died and been buried.' ...I would totally read a Zora Hurston collection of zombie sightings."

Turns out that Tell My Horse has very little to do with zombies. There's one chapter on them, and a few mentions here and there, but given the time this book was written, I don't blame H
Part I on Jamaica is scattered, though I would have been satisfied with an entire book about the Maroon hog hunt. Part II on Haitian history is far too editorial for my taste. But Part III on Haitian Vodou is fairly brilliant. Hurston's description of Vodou beliefs and rituals verges on romantic, but it is also well-informed, respectful and endearing. Primarily, this is a book concerned with recording legend and relating it to ritual practice.

I can't help but see the relationship between Tell M
Batgrl (Book Data Kept Elsewhere)
(April 2013) Reread this as part of the collection Folklore, Memoirs and Other Writing, reposting review and quotes here. All page numbers are from that version.

Orig. pub. 1938, traveling in Jamaica and Haiti, gathering folklore and voodoo lore. Participant-observer anthropology. (Note, for those it may upset: killing of various farm animals and a dog in ceremonies. Hurston's commentary in multiple areas makes it clear she doesn't enjoy this.)

Skin color in Jamaica is complicated:
p 281: "Everywh
scott noble
definitely a good read if you're curious about voodoo practices. haiti and jamaica are by far and away much more interesting places in regards to religion than our great country.

from a postcolonial perspective, i had some major issues with the way in which ZNH imposes herself into the Maroon community. she herself unconsciously colonizes the colonized. her dominating desire to get what SHE needed from them overwhelmed anthropological morale. her subversion of process makes me think that her self
Judah Martin
I might regret giving this book four stars. Certainly, there were some passages that troubled me- most notably Hurston's political commentary. Nevertheless I found that, for the most part, she wrote of Voodoo (Vodou) respectfully and with the purpose of dispelling Western myths that paint the religion as something other than that- a religion. I have a deep respect for Hurston and her love of the culture of the African Diaspora, which is why I don't too much mind forgiving her suspect political a ...more
Eleanor Toland
In 300 fast-paced pages, Zora Neale Hurston explores the history, culture, religion and folklore of Jamaica and (mostly) Haiti. Not only an informative book about a maligned religion, Tell My Horse is also a textbook on how to be an anthropologist and folklorist. Neale Hurston describes her methods in detail, listening, learning and exploring in order to gain as much authentic knowledge as possible about the rituals and beliefs that she's researching. Even when she encounters something offensive ...more
Drew Hoffman
Intoxicatingly written, "Tell My Horse: Voodoo and Life in Haiti and Jamaica" turns an unbiased eye on the religion and folklore of which Voodoo is the centerpiece. Hurston's well researched and experienced first hand book is a can't-put-it-down treat and I learned many things-- the truth about zombies, the poisonous efficacy of graveyard dirt, possession by the Gods, etc.-- all written in a lyrically arresting style. Brilliant.
A first-hand account of the mysteries and horrors of voodoo. Based on Zora Neale Hurston's personal experiences in Haiti and Jamaica, where she participated as an initiate rather than just an observer of voodoo practices during her visits in the 1930s, this travelogue into a dark world paints a vividly authentic picture of ceremonies and customs and superstitions of great cultural interest.
This book is the fruit of Hurston's research on Vodou and folklore in Haiti. It is fascinating ... I read it in high school and now reading it again. Really interesting ... she hypothesizes about what is used to make zombis, which was later confirmed by Wade Davis in his research approximately 40 years later.
Very interesting book. A first of its kind by way of anthropological forays into voodoo traditions in Haiti & Jamaica, but still there was a slight sense of U.S. paternalism even in Hurston's analysis. Surprising, but also interesting.
Zora Neale Hurston was an anthropologist as well as a writer. This book is an account of her initiation into voodoo in the early twentieth century.
Ah Bo Bo!! Interesting little read in parts. Kind of a mash up of short stories. Some more interesting than others. It does give you a bit of insight into voodoo practices. More of a pick and choose run of events than a flowing story. But I can say it kept me interested and I did learn a thing or two. Anyone with a interest in voodoo should get some things of interest from this book. It does deal mostly with Haiti. After reading The Serpent and the Rainbow,(one of my favorite books EVER!) I gain ...more
This is a book filled with culture, blessings, and curses. Tradition and heritage is recited to us so eloquently by the great Zora Neale Hurston about the peoples of Haiti and Jamaica. While I am currently reading this book, I feel such a connection to the culture that Hurston talks about.

Zora Neale Hurston travels to the "dark lands" of Haiti and Jamaica during the 1930's. Hurston reports to her readers about her adventures not as an outsider looking in, but as an insider speaking out. She per
I'd been meaning to read "Tell My Horse" since I heard about it a few years ago from an acquaintance, and although undoubtedly it has been included on university reading lists for many years and for good reasons, it's definitely not written in a stuffy, academic, jargon-filled style. The author explains each of the Jamaican and Haitian Creole words used and clarifies idiomatic expressions or those that are otherwise unclear to readers. There is quite a bit of commentary regarding the political s ...more
Margaret Langstaff
[posted this on my blog 12/10/11 too]
I stumbled on a little masterpiece the other day, "Tell My Horse" by Zora Neale Hurston, in a rare bookshop. I'd been aware of this title for years (first published in 1938), but had never actually run across a copy. This particular edition (there are others more recent), published by Turtle Island Foundation, Berkeley, CA 1981, caught my attention because of its striking cover of a photograph of a Black man entranced deep within a Voodoo ritual. So I picked
Nicholas Whyte[return][return]very much worth reading. Hurston combines the research instincts of the anthropologist with the communication skills of a born story-teller, and looks in detail at local cult practices, especially regarding the undead, in Jamaica and especially in Haiti. It was especially interesting to reread this the week that Doonesbury reran the plot sequence where Duke becomes a zombie in the service of Baby Doc Duvalier, written fifty years later. W ...more

I liked the book. It took me awhile to get through mostly cause I wanted to really pay attention to what Hurston was trying to bring to the table. It's a collection of spices from Haiti from religious views (Voodoo), to prejudices, folklore, and history. It's obvious Hurston fell in love with Haiti and it shows in this book. It also shows some brutal honesty.

While I enjoyed the book I wouldn't recommend it to a lot of my friends. It's graphic depictions of animal abuse and torture is very hard t
What a fascinating little book. I've owned it for decades, but never read it: was it from my time at Vintage? A book that was bought but cancelled for my ethnic studies degree at UCSD? Not sure. So glad I finally pulled it out and poured through it--because we're going to JAMAICA for honeymoon/Christmas! And this was a fascinating history/anthropological study of women, hunting, food, voodoo, and life in Jamaica in the mid-30s through that eyes of an African-American woman. We'll have to beware ...more
Early PoMo travelog. Even if the reader accepts her "Featherbed" resistene of writing for two audiences, Hurston still comes off as a religious mystic.
Rianna Jade
I liked some parts but I was reminded a lot that this was written in the 1930's or maybe I just a little sensitive because she was writing about Jamaica.
Of course the one to read is Their Eyes Were Watching God and all the rest is really more in the nature of background to this great work. That said, though, this is a very interesting book. My book group decided to read this in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake and I don't think anyone was disappointed. Although I don't think it would meet the anthropology standards of today, there's something quite compelling about her more casual style. In particular, I found her description of a wild boar ...more
Apr 02, 2014 Amy rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2014
"Gods always behave like the people who make them."
Love her writing, made up stuff or not:)
Read it for my 495, an interesting anthropological study of Jamaica and Haiti and how they are very different, and how their perception of white people, especially the US is, how racism and sexism in their countries are rampant (how they all want to be white and how there is extreme racism within the black culture lighties vs. darkies) and very interesting and thorough details about Voodoo which helped me understand the religion much better.
Hurston uses limited and selective participant observation methods to learn the culture of Haiti and Jamaica.

Of particular interest is her section titled Voodoo in Haiti, and the chapters on Zombies, Sect Rouge, Tell My Horse, and Graveyard Dirt and Other Poisons.

Wonderfully detailed descriptions of various ceremonies dedicated to the loas are included, as well as musical scores and the Creole lyrics of some of the ceremonial songs.

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Zora Neale Hurston was an American folklorist and author. In 1925, shortly before entering Barnard College, Hurston became one of the leaders of the literary renaissance happening in Harlem, producing the short-lived literary magazine Fire!! along with Langston Hughes and Wallace Thurman. This literary movement became the center of the Harlem Renaissance.
Hurston applied her Barnard ethnographic tr
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