Supreme chief of Haitian voodoo Max Beauvoir stands close to a relief painting representative of a voodoo ceremony on Febuary 24, 2010 during interview with AFP in Port au Prince. AFP PHOTO/Thony BELIZAIRE (Photo credit should read THONY BELIZAIRE/AFP/Getty Images)

Kevin Sullivan and Rosalind Helderman have two new stories out on the Clinton Foundation's recent high-profile work in Haiti, but Bill and Hillary Clinton's interest in the country goes back much, much further than that.

In his memoir "My Life," the former president wrote a vivid account of a trip the couple's first trip to Haiti in 1975 -- which had been a wedding gift from their friend David Edwards, who had some business to do there for Citibank and some extra frequent flyer miles.

Bill Clinton wrote that "the most interesting day of the trip" came when he, Hillary and Edwards got a chance to see voodoo in practice in a village near Port-au-Prince. The priest was Max Beauvoir, a former chemical engineer who had studied at the Sorbonne in Paris. Beauvoir had abandoned that career when his voodoo-priest grandfather died and named him as his successor.

Beauvoir gave the three visitors what Clinton described as a "brief course in voodoo theology." And then the late-afternoon ceremony began. Clinton wrote:

"After several minutes of rhythmic dancing to pounding drums, the spirits arrived, seizing a woman and a man. The man proceeded to rub a burning torch all over his body and walk on hot coals without being burned. The woman, in a frenzy, screamed repeatedly, then grabbed a live chicken and bit its head off. Then the spirits left and those who had been possessed fell to the ground."

 

Clinton wrote that his "brief foray into the world of voodoo" furthered his fascination with "the way different cultures try to make sense of life, nature, and the virtually universal belief that there is a nonphysical spirit force at work in the world."

The trip to Haiti also came at a pivotal time for Clinton himself. Then a law professor, he had lost the political campaign he had waged, a race for Congress. He was trying to decide whether it was worth giving running for office another try. There was going to be an opening for Arkansas attorney general.

"By the time we got back from Haiti, I had determined to run for attorney general," Clinton recalled. This time, he won -- and was on his way to the White House.

One lesson he took from Haiti, he wrote: "The Lord works in mysterious ways."

[How the Clinton's Haiti development plans succeed -- and disappoint]