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Vodou Lessons

Mambo Racine Sans Bout

Vodou Lesson 1.
Part 1 - What is Vodou?
Vodou is a spiritual tradition whih ori!inated in "aiti durin! the period o# $renh
olonial sla%er&. 'arl& in the olonial histor& o# "ispaniola( the island now shared
)& "aiti and the Do*inian +epu)li( the ori!inal Taino and ,ari) peoples o#
"aiti were e-ter*inated )& the Spanish. A#rians o# *an& ethni linea!es were
transported )& #ore to "aiti( pri*aril& to ser%e as a!riultural sla%es. There was
so*e ontat o# ourse )etween esaped A#rians and sur%i%in! Tainos( )ut little
is dou*ented outside o# the sur%i%als #ound in Vodou ritual. Later( $rane
esta)lished he!e*on& o%er "aiti and i*ported A#rians pri*aril& )ut not
e-lusi%el& #ro* those re!ions o# A#ria oloni.ed )& $rane. Durin! this
historial period( 'uropeans #ro* $rane and other ountries( inludin! pro-Stuart
deportees #ro* Sotland( settled in "aiti.
/eause so *an& linea!es were represented( no one partiular A#rian ser%ie
ould satis#& all partiipants( espeiall& sine re%erene #or anestral lines was so
i*portant. There#ore( eah 0nation0 would ta1e it2s turn at a !atherin!. This 0ta1e
turns0 approah e%entuall& e%ol%ed into the ere*onial order o# the Vodou litur!&.
Durin! this #or*ati%e period( 'uropean pre-,hristian entities suh as /ri!id( or
3a*an /ri!itte in the Vodou tradition4 and in#luenes #ro* the nati%e Taino and
,ari) populations were also a)sor)ed.
There are deno*inations in Vodou( 5ust as in *an& other reli!ions. The #irst( and
*ost widel& 1nown( is the orthodo- Vodou. In this deno*ination( the Daho*ean
rite is !i%en a position o# pri*a&( and initiations are onduted )ased *ainl& on
the Daho*ean *odel. A priest or priestess reie%es the asson( a ere*onial rattle(
as an e*)le* o# priesthood. In this rite( a priest is 1nown as a Houngan or
so*eti*es Gangan( a priestess is 1nown as a Mambo.
In the orthodo- Vodou( 6oru)an lines are also !i%en pro*inene. Other 0nations0
or lines than the Daho*ean are represented as su)-headin!s in the ere*onial
order. This rite is widel& represented in "aiti( and onentrated in Port-au-Prine
and in the south o# "aiti.
The seond deno*ination is alled 3a1a&a. In this rite( initiations are less
ela)orate( and the priest or priestess does not reie%e the asson. A 3a1a&a priest is
alled a Bokor( and a priestess is so*eti*es re#erred to as 3a*)o( so*eti*es as a
sorciere( soreress. 7The ter*s )o1or and soriere are onsidered pe5orati%e in the
orthodo- Vodou( and )o1or an also re#er to an uninitiated speialist in *ale%olent
*a!i( also alled malfacteur. Suh indi%iduals are not ler!& in an&
deno*ination.8 The 3a1a&a litur!& is less uni#or* #ro* perist&le to perist&le than
the orthodo- Vodou( and there is a stron!er e*phasis on *a!i as opposed to
reli!ion. This rite is present in Port-au-Prine( and stron!l& represented in the
Arti)onite Valle& in entral "aiti.
A third deno*ination is the :on!o rite. As the na*e i*plies( it is al*ost
e-lusi%el& representati%e o# the :on!o tradition. The initiation #ollows the :on!o
*odel. A priest or priestess o# this line is alled a serviteur. 7In orthodo- Vodou( a
ser%iteur is *erel& one who ser%es the lwa( the dieties o# Vodou.8 This rite is
onentrated near ;onai%es in entral "aiti( and a *a5or annual :on!o #esti%al is
held e%er& &ear in Surie near ;onai%es.
All o# these traditions ha%e se%eral points in o**on< There is onl& one ;od(
alled Gran Met( or ;reat 3aster4 and also Bondye( #ro* the $renh Bon Dieu(
;ood ;od. There are lesser entities are alled lwa( and thou!h the& %ar& #ro* rite
to rite( the& are all onsidered i**ediatel& aessi)le throu!h the *ehanis* o#
spirit possession. Possession in the onte-t o# a ere*on& is onsidered nor*al(
natural( and hi!hl& desira)le( howe%er there is a ertain 0eti=uette0 to possession
whih will )e disussed later. All rites e*plo& pra&er( son!( dru**in!( ostu*e(
and danin! durin! ere*onies.
Part 9 - Who *a& partiipate in Vodou?
An&one *a& partiipate in Vodou. There are no !ender( raial( a!e( se-ual
orientation( or national ori!in re=uire*ents( neither is an&one as1ed to renoune a
pre-e-istin! reli!ious a##iliation. In "aiti( the %ast *a5orit& o# Vodouisants are also
+o*an ,atholis.
There are %arious le%els o# partiipation( o# ourse( 5ust as in *ost other reli!ions.
A Vodou ere*on& is pu)li( and an&one *a& enter the peristyle( or te*ple( and
o)ser%e. Sin!in! and danin! are enoura!ed. /eause there is no entrali.ed
hierarh& pa&in! salaries to "oun!ans and 3a*)os( and )eause a perist&le is
pri%ate propert&( it is onsidered nor*al #or uninitiated partiipants to *a1e a
s*all ash !i#t. This *one& is used to de#ra& the ost o# the dru**ers( #ood whih
is o##ered to the partiipants( and the !eneral up1eep o# the perist&le and o# the
"oun!an or 3a*)o in har!e. This is o#ten hard to understand #or people raised in
the >udeo-,hristian tradition( where priests( *inisters( and ra))is are salaried
Indi%iduals who ha%e an initiator& !rade *a& partiipate in pri%ate ere*onies
pertainin! to other indi%iduals o# their own !rade or lower. A person with a lower
!rade *a& not partiipate in a ere*on& on#errin! a hi!her !rade o# initiation(
)eause the 1nowled!e i*parted is seret and )eause the& are not o*petent to do
There has )een =uite a )it o# ontro%ers& in the United States in reent &ears o%er
ethni a##iliation and partiipation in A#rian-deri%ed reli!ions. So*e
unsrupulous "oun!ans or 3a*)os in "aiti will ta1e ad%anta!e o# the i!norane
o# a #orei!ner( per#or* )o!us ere*onies( and har!e e-or)itant rates. Others ha%e
an unspo1en understandin! that the& will not re%eal the 0seret0 1nowled!e o#
Vodou( *eanin! orret in#or*ation and initiation( to a non-)la1 non-"aitian.
"owe%er( other "oun!ans and 3a*)os hold the %iew that people are hosen )&
the lwa( and not the other wa& around - and that there#ore a "oun!an or 3a*)o
who re#uses trainin! and initiation to a #orei!ner sent )& the lwa will su##er #or it.
Initiation re=uires a si!ni#iant period o# stud&( and the o**it*ent shown )& the
#orei!ner is usuall& enou!h to o%ero*e an& retiene on the part o# the o##iiatin!
"oun!an or 3a*)o. I ha%e e%en seen a "oun!an %i!orousl& de#end his non-
"aitian andidate( and re#use all su!!estions that he 0rip o##0 the person.
"a%in! said that( I would note that respet #or A#rian and Western "e*isphere
)la1 people is inu*)ent on all who would stud& or #ollow the Vodou tradition.
Let us ne%er #or!et that unounted nu*)ers o# A#rian *en and wo*en were
#lo!!ed( raped( tortured( astrated( and )urned ali%e in an e##ort to eradiate the
Vodou. Vodou supported the i*petus #or the resistane to $renh olonial sla%er&(
and #ueled the onl& sues#ul sla%e re)ellion in the Western "e*isphere( whih
led to the )irth o# the he*isphere2s #irst independant )la1 repu)li. '%en as
reentl& as the United States *ilitar& oupation o# "aiti #ro* 1@1A to 1@?B( a
s&ste*ati e##ort was *ade to eradiate Vodou. Te*ples were )urned( prieless
anient dru*s destro&ed( and "oun!ans and 3a*)os )eaten( i*prisoned( and
Part ? - Na*es and !rades o# Initiator& Le%els in Vodou
There are a series o# le%els o# initiation in orthodo- Vodou( usuall& ahie%ed
se=uentiall& as an indi%idual !rows in 1nowled!e and standin! in the Vodou
o**unit&. All le%els o# initiation are open to *en and wo*en.
An uninitiated person who attends ere*onies( reei%es ounsel and *edial
treat*ent #ro* a "oun!an or 3a*)o( and ta1es part in Vodou related ati%ities is
alled a Vodouisant. This is a !eneral ter*( li1e 0,hristian0 or 0/uddhist0.
An uninitiated person who is assoiated with a partiular perist&le ( attends
ere*onies re!ularl&( and appears to )e preparin! #or initiation is so*eti*es
re#erred to as a hounsi bossale. Hounsi is #ro* the $on lan!ua!e o# Daho*e&( and
si!ni#ies 0)ride o# the spirit0( althou!h the ter* in "aiti re#ers to *en and wo*en.
Bossale *eans 0wild0 or 0unta*ed0( in the sense o# an unta*ed saddle horse.
The #irst !rade o# initiation on#ers the title hounsi kanzo. Kanzo( also #ro* the
$on( re#ers to #ire( and the #ire ere*on&( also alled kanzo( !i%es it2s na*e to the
entire initiator& &le. Indi%iduals who are 1an.o *i!ht )e li1ened to on#ir*ed
*e*)ers o# a ,hristian deno*ination. At a Vodou ere*on&( the hounsis 1an.o
wear white lothin!( #or* the hoir( and are li1el& andidates #or possession )& a
The seond !rade o# initiation is re#erred to as si pwen( sur point in $renh. This
ter* re#ers to the #at that the indi%idual under!oes #urther ere*onies( 0on the
point0 or on the patrona!e( o# a partiular lwa. The person is then onsidered to )e
a "oun!an or 3a*)o( and is per*itted to use the asson( or sared rattle
e*)le*ati o# priesthood. Indi%iduals who are si pwen *i!ht )e li1ened to
*inisters o# ,hristian deno*ination. At a ere*on&( the& lead pra&ers and son!s(
ondut rituals( and are al*ost ine%ita)le andidates #or possession. One intitiated
sur point( the& *a& initiate other indi%iduals as kanzo senp 7si*ple 1an.o8 or as sur
The third( and #inal( !rade o# initiation is re#erred to as asogwe. A "oun!an or
3a*)o aso!we *i!ht )e li1ened to a )ishop in a ,hristian deno*ination( as the&
an onserate other priests. Indi%iduals who are aso!we *a& initiate other
indi%iduals as 1an.o senp( si pwen( or aso!we. At a ere*on& the& are the #inal
authorit& on proedure( unless a lwa is present and *ani#est throu!h the
*ehanis* o# possession. The& are also the last resort when the presene o# a
partiular lwa is re=uired. A "oun!an or 3a*)o aso!we is said to 0ha%e the
asson0( the ere*onial rattle e*)le*ati o# priesthood( *eanin! that the&( and
the& alone( an on#er the asson on another indi%idual( there)& ele%atin! that
indi%idual in turn to the status o# aso!we.
'%en a "oun!an or 3a*)o aso!we *ust de#er to the "oun!an or 3a*)o who
initiated hi* or her( to those in the sa*e perist&le who were initiated at the sa*e
!rade prior to hi* or her( to the person who initiated their initiator& "oun!an or
3a*)o and to that indi%idual2s initiates( and so on. These relationships an !row
rather o*pliated( and there is a point in an orthodo- Vodou ere*on& where all
"oun!ans and 3a*)os( sur point and aso!we( partiipate in a series o# ritual
!estures and e*)raes whih ser%e to eluidate and re!ulate these relationships.
Vodou Lesson 9.
Part 1 - The Anestors( and the Vodou wa& o# relai*in! the dead.
The anestors( zanset yo in "aitian ,reole( are e%er with a Vodouisant. "eCshe
li%es( )reathes and ats with the awareness o# their presene. The national anthe*
o# "aiti )e!ins( 0$or the ountr&( and #or the anestors( we wal1 united...0.
In the ountr&side o# "aiti( eah #a*il& o*pound inludes a #a*il& !ra%e&ard.
The to*)s o# #a*il& *e*)ers are as ela)orate as the #a*il& an a##ord. So*e
rese*)le s*all houses )uilt a)o%e !round( with the r&pt )elow. The strutures
)uilt #or wealth& #a*ilies *a& e%en o*prise a s*all sittin! roo*( o*plete with a
piture o# the deeased and !ood =ualit& hairs. When a newo*er enters the
#a*il& o*pound #or an e-tended %isit( ourtes& re=uires that her or she *a1e a
s*all li)ation o# water at the to*)s( so that the anestors will welo*e the person.
$a*il& *e*)ers and !uests *a& also( at an& ti*e( *a1e an 0illu*ination0.
,andles or )eeswa- tapers are li!hted( plaed on the to*)s( and a short pra&er is
In the it&( the law re=uires )urial in the it& !ra%e&ard. A!ain( strutures *a& )e
=uite ela)orate( and lar!e padlo1s and other seurit& de%ies are used to pre%ent
!ra%ero))ers #ro* *a1in! o## with the *etal o##in #indin!s( )ones( or other
artiles o# the dead person.
The )ones o# dead indi%iduals are onsidered to ha%e !reat *a!ial powers(
partiularl& i# the dead person was a "oun!an( 3a*)o( or in an& other wa&
nota)le or distin!uished( #or !ood or ill.
A Vodouisant is )uried with +o*an ,atholi ere*on&( and a wa1e is held #or
nine ni!hts a#ter the death. The ninth ni!ht is alled the denye priye( the last
pra&er. A#ter the last pra&er( the ,atholi part o# the death ritual is losed.
At so*e point either )e#ore or a#ter the +o*an ,atholi ere*on&( the Vodou
ere*on& o# desounin is held. In this ere*on&( the o*ponent parts o# the
person2s soul and li#e #ore( and the pri*ar& lwa in the head o# the person( are
ritualistiall& separated and onsi!ned to their orret destinations. The desounin
o# a well 1nown and hi!hl& respeted "oun!an( suh as *& initiator& "oun!an
Lu ;edeon( /on "oun!an >a*)e 3alheur( *a& )e attended )& hundreds o# white
ro)ed( weepin! *ourners. It is at this ti*e that the inheritor o# an& #a*il& lwa
li)erated #ro* the deeased is usuall& re%ealed( as the hosen indi%idual )eo*es
)rie#l& possessed.
One &ear and one da& a#ter the death o# the indi%idual( the ere*on& retire mo nan
dlo( ta1e the dead out o# the water( *a& )e per#or*ed. The spirit o# the dead
person is alled up throu!h a %essel o# water( under a white sheet( and rituall&
installed in a lean la& pot alled a govi. The %oie o# the dead indi%idual *a&
spea1 #ro* the !o%i( or throu!h the *outh o# another person )rie#l& possessed #or
the purpose. The !o%i is re%erentl& plaed in the devo( or inner roo* o# the
So*eti*es the spririt o# a departed anestor *a& return o# it2s own aord( as a
2lwa ;hede2 . 3& own initiator& "oun!an had in his head a ;hede na*ed ;hede
Arapie La ,roi-( who re%ealed to *e that he had one )een a )la1 "aitian *an(
)orn on No%. 9( All Souls2 Da&( in the /el Air distrit o# Port-au-Prine. "is
outspo1en nature and ina)ilit& to tolerate in5ustie !ot hi* *urdered )& a
nei!h)orhood stron!*an at the a!e o# 91. Then #ollowed a lon! spritual od&sse&
One da&( he saw Lu ;edeon in the woods with the !o%i o# another lwa( :an!a(
wor1in! on a ure #or a si1 person. Arapie as1ed :an!a #or per*ission to enter
the !o%i with hi*( )ut :an!a re#used( and *ade Arapie han! around i**ateriall&
outside Lu ;edeon2s perist&le #or another &ear. Then :an!a re=uired a ere*on&
o# installation #or ;hede Arapie la ,roi-.
When Lu ;edeon( /on "oun!an >a*)e 3alheur( )ea*e possessed #or the #irst
ti*e )& ;hede Arapie la ,roi-( Arapie de*onstrated his power and his lo&alt&
to Lu )& sittin! down in the *iddle o# the hu!e ere*onial )on#ire. Srea*s o#
#ear #ro* the on!re!ation and tears o# terror #ro* Lu2s #a*il& did not dissuade
hi* - and in a *o*ent the terror turned to wonder as not a hair o# Lu2s head nor a
thread o# his lothes was )urned. Arapie then entered the perist&le and was
re%erentl& installed in his %er& own !o%i( where he re*ains until toda&(
*ani#estin! throu!h one o# the &oun!er relati%es o# the late "oun!an.
Part 9 - The anestral lwa - /aron( 3a*an /ri!itte( and the lwa ;hede.
Part 9A E /A+ON
The head o# the #a*il& o# anestral lwa is /aron. "e is 3aster o# the ,e*eter& and
!uardian o# anestral 1nowled!e. "e has *an& aspets( inludin! /aron Sa*edi(
/aron ,e*etiere( /aron la ,roi-( and /aron ,ri*inel. In all o# his aspets( he is a
*asuline lwa with a nasal %oie who arries a wal1in! sti1 or )aton( uses
pro#anit& li)erall&( and dresses in )la1 or purple. "e is onsidered the last resort
a!ainst deaths aused )& *a!i( )eause e%en i# a *a!ial spell should )rin! a
person to the point o# death( i# /aron re#uses to 0di! the !ra%e0( the person will not
/aron( with his wi#e 3a*an /ri!itte( is also responsi)le #or relai*in! the souls
o# the dead 7see Part 18 and trans#or*in! the* into lwa ;hede. /aron *a& )e
in%o1ed #or ases o# in#ertilit&( and he is the di%ine 5ud!e to whih people *a&
)rin! their appeals( sin!in!<
7"aitian ,reole8
! kwa" o ibile #repeat$
!u pa we m inosan%
Oh( rossG Oh( 5u)ileeG
Don2t &ou see I2* innoent?
The !ra%e o# the #irst *an )uried in an& e*eter& in "aiti( whether the person in
li#e partiipated in the Vodou reli!ion or not( is dediated to /aron 7not ;hede8(
and a ere*onial ross is ereted on the spot. In #a*il& o*pounds in the
ountr&side( a #a*il& *a& eret a ross to /aron #or their own linea!e( and no
perist&le is o*plete without the ross o# /aron so*ewhere on the !rounds.
/aron *a& )e in%o1ed at an& ti*e( and he an appear without )ein! alled( so
power#ul is he. "e drin1s ru* in whih twent&-one hot peppers ha%e )een steeped(
and whih no *ere *ortal ould swallowG "is ere*onial #oods are )la1 o##ee(
!rilled peanuts( and )read. "e danes the re*ar1a)l& i*pro%isational banda with
!reat s1ill( and so*eti*es puts his wal1in! sti1 )etween his le!s to represent a
phallus. /aron is a %er& *asuline lwa.
One da&( I saw a /aron possess a ho*ose-ual "oun!an. A passin! wo*an teased
/aron that he was a 0*asisi0 7#a!!ot( disrespet#ul ter* #or a ho*ose-ual *an.8
/aron reared up and roared at the wo*an( 0I a* /aronG This "oun!an( *&
"oun!an( he is a #a!!ot( &es( )ut I( /aron( I2* no #a!!ot( I #H1 the )eauti#ul
wo*an 3a*an /ri!itteG0 And he stal1ed o## in hi!h dud!eon( swin!in! his )aton
*ost threatenin!l&.
The $east o# the Anestors( $et ;hede( is onsidered the end o# the old &ear and
the )e!innin! o# the new( *uh as in the 'uropean Wian tradition. An& de)ts to
/aron( 3a*an /ri!itte( or ;hede *ust )e paid at this ti*e. /aron :ri*inel sin!s
to his de)tors<
7"aitian ,reole8
Bawon Kriminel" map travay pou ve de te yo" m pa bezwenn laan #repeat$"
Bawon Kriminel" !& 'ane a bout o" map paret tan yo(
/aron ,ri*inel( I2* wor1in! #or the wor*s o# the earth 7lowl&( poor people8(
I don2t need *one& 7repeat8(
/aron ,ri*inel( ohG The &ear has ended( oh( I2ll appear( to wait #or the* 7to pa&
Part 9/ - 3A3AN /+I;ITT'
3a*an /ri!itte( surprisin!l& enou!h #or a Vodou lwa( is /ritish in ori!in(
desended #ro* /ri!idCSt. /ri!it( the ,elti 0triple !oddess0 o# poetr&( s*ithra#t(
and healin!. She *ust ha%e o*e to "aiti in the hearts o# deported Sottish and
Irish indentured ser%ants. There is e%en a son! we sin! in ere*onies whih !oes
Maman Briit" li soti nan anglete( 3a*an /ri!itte( she o*es #ro* 'n!land...0 7I
thin1 that /ri!id was *ore Sottish than 'n!lish( )ut in "aiti perhaps at one ti*e
the word anglete represented all the /ritish Isles.8
Nowada&s( 3a*an /ri!itte is onsidered to )e the wi#e o# /aron( 3aster o# the
,e*eter& and hie# o# all the departed anestors( 1nown as lwa Ghede. The !ra%e
o# the #irst wo*an )uried in an& e*eter& in "aiti is onserated to 3a*an
/ri!itte( and it is there that her ere*onial ross is ereted. She( as well as /aron(
is in%o1ed to 0raise the dead0( *eanin! to ure and sa%e those who are on the point
o# death #ro* illness aused )& *a!i. "ere is a %er& #a*ous son! a)out 3a*an
/ri!itte sun! in Vodou ere*onies<
7"aitian ,reole8
Mesye la kwa avanse pou l we yo&
Maman Brigitte malad" li kouche sou do"
)awol anpil pa leve le mo #les morts" *r($
Mare tet ou" mare vant ou" mare ren ou"
+o prale we ki an yap met a enou(
;entle*en o# the ross 7deeased anestors8 ad%ane #or her to see the*G
3a*an /ri!itte is si1( she lies down on her )a1(
A lot o# tal1 won2t raise the dead(
Tie up &our head( tie up &our )ell&( tie up &our 1idne&s(
The& will see how the& will !et down on their 1nees.
73eanin!( tie up &our )ell&( 2!ird up &our loins2 to prepare #or the strain o# wor1(
we will *a1e the people who did this e%il spell !et down on their
1nees to )e! pardon and reei%e their punish*ent.8
3a*an /ri!itte( li1e the rest o# the /aronC;hede onstellation( is a tou!h-tal1in!
lwa who uses a lot o# o)senities. She drin1s ru* laed with hot pepper( so hot
that a person not possessed )& a lwa ould ne%er drin1 it. She also is 1nown to pass
hot "aitian peppers on the s1in o# her !enitals( and this is the test to whih wo*en
are su)5eted when the& are suspeted o# 0#a1in!0 possession. She danes the
se-uall& su!!esti%e and re*ar1a)l& artisti banda( and the %irtuosit& o# her
danin! is le!endar&.
3a*an /ri!itte and /aron are the *other and #ather who relai* the souls o# the
dead and trans#or* the* into lwa ;hede( re*o%in! the* #ro* the *&sti waters
where the& were without o!ni.ane o# their own identit& and na*in! the*.
There is a plainti%e son! a)out the ondition o# souls in the *&sti waters( whih is
also sun! when an initiate is )ein! prepared #or the period o# selusion( ritual
death( and re)irth o# the initiation &le<
7"aitian ,reole8
Dlo kwala manyan" nan peyi sa maman pa konn petit li"
,an peyi sa" fre pa konn se li" dlo kwala manyan(
Water 1wala *an&an 7not ,reole words8( in that ountr& a *other does not
1now her hild(
In that ountr& a )rother does not 1now his sister( water 1wala *an&an.
Part 9, - T"' LWA ;"'D'
The lwa ;hede are an enor*ous #a*il& o# lwa( as *an& and %aried as were the
souls #ro* whih the& ori!inated. Sine the& are all *e*)ers o# the sa*e #a*il&(
spiritual hildren o# /aron and 3a*an /ri!itte( the& all ha%e the sa*e last na*e -
'a -roi.( the ross. No *atter what other na*e the& )ear( their si!nature is alwa&s
La ,roi-.
So*e ;hede2s na*es inlude< ;hede Arapie la ,roi-( /ra% ;hede de la ,roi-(
;hede Seretaire de la ,roi-( ;hede Ti-,harles la ,roi-( 3a1a&a 3ososso de la
,roi-4 and suh sad and de!raded soundin! na*es as ;hede Ti-3op&on De&e la
,roi- 7;hede Little ,ra) Louse /ehind the ,ross8( ;hede $atra de la ,roi-
7;ar)a!e ;hede o# the ,ross8( ;hede ;wo Jo.o nan ,re1 Tone de la ,roi-
7;hede /i! ,o1 in Puss& )& Thunder o# the ,ross8 and so on. There is a reason
#or these odd na*es( whih will )eo*e lear as we !o alon!.
The %ast *a5orit& o# ;hedes are *ale( )ut there is at least one #e*ale ;hede whih
I ha%e seen( alled 0;hedelia0. "er na*e is also e*)la.oned on a #ew )uses in
Port-au-Prine( )ut I ha%e not deter*ined whether she is a well 1nown ;hede who
*a& appear in al*ost an& perist&le( or whether she is a uni=ue 0#a*il&0 ;hede.
;hede *a& possess an&one( an&ti*e( e%en Protestants 7to their enor*ous
e*)arass*ent and displeasure.8 I ha%e a wo*an #riend in "aiti who one da& was
o)ser%in! a !roup o# wo*en possessed )& ;hede( a%ortin! and danin! the
banda. She said so*ethin! li1e( 0Loo1 at those dis!ustin! whores( the& ha%e no
respet #or the*sel%es.0 On the spot( a ;hede possessed *& #riend( threw her to
the !round( and delared #ro* her prostrate )od& that he would ta1e her to 5oin her
anestors #orthwithG Pleadin! and interessions #ro* her #a*il& *e*)ers #inall&
pai#ied the ;hede( who pro*ised to relent - on the ondition that the wo*an
)eo*e a 3a*)oG 3a*)o Delireuse now praties in a rural area near Petite
+i%iere de l2Arti)onite( in entral "aitiG
The ;hedes are %er& *uh transitional #i!ures( standin! as the& do )etween the
li%in! and the #inalit& o# death( )etween the anestors in ;uinea and the li%in! *en
and wo*en o# "aiti. Perhaps this is wh& the ;hede are honored *idwa& throu!h
the #ull orthodo- Vodou ere*on&( a#ter the +ada 7pri*aril& Daho*ean and
6oru)an8 and )e#ore the Petro 7pri*aril& Western "e*isphere8.
The ;hedes dress *uh li1e their #ather /aron - )la1 or purple lothes( ela)orate
hats( dar1 !lasses( so*eti*es *issin! a lens( a wal1in! sti1 or )aton. The& also
dane the )anda( )ut the& retain *ore o# the indi%idual personalit& o# the person
#ro* who* the& ori!inated. $or e-a*ple( the Spanish-spea1in! ;hede I ha%e
alread& disussed turns his )aton around and holds it li1e a !uitar. "e pretends to
stru* as he sin!s lo%e son!s to una muer. This is a )it at&pial( )ut *an& ;hedes
prolai* their !eo!raphi ori!ins - 0I o*e #ro* Tho*a.eau0( 0I2* a Port-au-
Prine !u&0.
The ;hede #a*il&( inludin! their #ather and *other( /aron and 3a*an /ri!itte(
are a)solutel& notorious #or their use o# pro#anit& and se-ual ter*s. There is a
reason #or this - the ;hede are dead( )e&ond all punish*ent. Nothin! #urther an
)e done to the*( so the use o# pro#anit& a*on! the nor*all& so*ewhat #or*al
"aitians is a wa& o# sa&in!( 0I don2t areG I2%e passed )e&ond all su##erin!( I an2t
)e hurt.0 In a ountr& where disrespet #or authorit& #i!ures was until reentl&
punished )& torture or death( this is a power#ul *essa!e.
"owe%er( this pro#anit& is ne%er used in a %iious or a)usi%e #ashion( to 0urse
so*eone out0. It is alwa&s hu*orous( e%en when there is a pointed *essa!e
There are so*e %er& statel& and di!ni#ied son!s sun! #or ;hede( partiularl& the
older( racine or root aspets suh as /ra% ;hede. Nowada&s howe%er( the aent is
on the se-ual and o)sene hu*or the ;hede lwa pro%ide. "ere is a popular son!
sun! #or ;hede in pu)li ele)rations and Vodou perist&les<
7"aitian ,reole8
/i koko te gen dan li tap mane mayi griye"
/e paske li pa gen dan ki fe l mane zozo kale&
7'n!lish - hold on to &our so1s( #ol1sG8 -
I# %a!ina had teeth( it would eat roast orn(
It2s )eause it has no teeth( wh& it eats peeled penisG
In the sa*e %ein( ;hede is said to )e a thie#. It is true that he appropriates what he
li1es #ro* streetside %endors( )ut one the seller aedes to ;hede2s de*ands his
pil#erin! is usuall& li*ited to a #ew sraps o# oonut *eat or a )it o# roast orn.
At $et ;hede( *ost perist&les oo1 #ood espeiall& #or the hundreds o# ;hedes
whih appear and wander throu!h the streets. "ere is a son! that a rowd o#
;hedes san! as the& went to the house o# a well 1now and partiularl& !enerous
3a*)o in the ,arre#our area o# Port-au-Prine( na*ed 'amesi 7#ro* the $renh
'a Merci( the than1s8.
7"aitian ,reole8
0ing ting ting ting kay 'amesi"
1hoi mama"
Kay la Mesi gen yon kochon griye"
1hoi mama&
Tin! tin! tin! tin! La*esi2s house
Whoi *a*a(
La*esi2s house has a whole roast pi!(
Whoi *a*aG
Lesson 9( Part ? - $ete ;hede in "aiti Toda&
No%e*)er 9( All Soul2s Da&( o**onl& alled *et Gede 7pronouned ;A6-da&8(
is a national holida& in "aiti. ,atholis attend *ass in the *ornin! and then !o to
the e*eter&( where the& pra& at #a*il& !ra%e sites and *a1e repairs to #a*il&
to*)s. The *a5orit& o# "aitian ,atholis are also Vodouisants( and %ie %ersa( so
on the wa& to the e*eter& *an& people han!e lothes #ro* the white the& wore
to hurh( to the purple and )la1 o# the lwa Gede( the spirits o# the departed
/& *id*ornin! the streets o# Port-au-Prine are thron!ed with thousands o#
people. Do.ens are alread& possessed )& a ;hede( and their nasal %oies( o)sene
5o1es( and !&ratin! banda dane *a1e the* un*ista1a)le. ;rand ,e*etiere( the
*ain e*eter& o# Port-au-Prine( is 5a**ed with people. ,rowds press lose
around the twel%e #oot hi!h ere*onial ross o# /aron and the near)& s*aller
ross o# 3a*an /ri!itte. 3an& )rin! o##erin!s o# )la1 o##ee and ru*( whih
the& pour at the #oot o# the rosses. The& also )rin! #ood o##erin!s o# )read( !rilled
peanuts( roast orn( and so*eti*es pepper& oo1ed #ood. Oasionall& a person(
usuall& a "oun!an or 3a*)o( will sari#ie a hi1en or a pair o# pi!eons or
do%es. The o##erin! is =ui1l& appropriated )& the *an& )e!!ars who thron! the
e*eter&. So*e people sell andles( )eeswa- tapers( and reli!ious i*a!es o# saints
onsidered to represent /aron( 3a*an /ri!itte( and the ;hedes.
I*a!ine a 3a*)o in %olu*inous s1irts o# )la1 and la%ender( a #louned )odie
o# the sa*e olors( se%eral sil1 1erhie#s wrapped around her head( and strin!s o#
)eads at her ne14 as she approahes the ross o# 3a*an /ri!itte with her hounsis
7those who ha%e reei%ed the #irst !rade o# initiation.8 She arries sti1& )eeswa-
tapers whih she a##i-es to eah ar* o# the ross and to it2s enter. Then she
produes a )la1 hen #ro* her straw 1napsa1( and passes it downward o%er the
)odies o# her hounsis( re*o%in! all e%il in#luenes. A#ter pra&er( she 1ills the
hi1en =ui1l& 5ust as she would #or an ordinar& *eal. The )lood spurts on the
ross( and she donates the hi1en to a hun!r& )e!!ar wo*an awaitin! al*s. The
3a*)o )eo*es possessed )& 3a*an /ri!itte( and prophesies the e%ents o# the
o*in! &ear. One o# the hounsis who has )eha%ed )adl& is disiplined with a #ew
!entle taps( and one who is ill is !i%en the reipe #or an her)al toni. Then 3a*an
/ri!itte drenhes her ross with ru* and sets it ali!ht( sin!in! and danin! the
banda with !reat %irtuosit& to the 5o& o# all present. A #ew *o*ents later she
lea%es the head o# her 3a*)o( who( returned to onsiousness( o*poses hersel#
and lea%es the e*eter& with the ut*ost di!nit&.
Aross town at the e*eter& o# Drouillard( wherein are )uried the poorest o# the
poor( the people o# the ,ite Soleil nei!h)orhood( the worship is &et *ore intense.
/ands o# Vodouisants #ro* %arious perist&les *arh sin!in! )ehind tea*s o#
dru**ers( with *ore and *ore people under!oin! possession as the& near the
e*eter&. Those who re*ain in their nor*al onsiousness %isit the !ra%es o#
#riends and relati%es( spea1in! to the* as thou!h the& an hear under the !round.
0Loo1( Papa(0 sa&s one wo*an( 0I2%e )rou!ht #ood #or &ou.0
0Older )rother(0 weeps a &oun! *an( 0the Ar*& 1illed &ou( we #ound &our )od& in
piees( )ut all o# &our piees are there( )rother( are the& not? 6ou will not pla& the
dru*s #or us a!ain( dear )rother.... 3other *isses &ou( she wanted to o*e )ut she
is ill.... see the ru* I ha%e )rou!ht #or &ouG0
The ;hede lwa( epito*i.in! de#iane( sweep throu!h the rowd shoutin! o)sene
5o1es and sin!in! o)sene son!s at the top o# their lun!s. "ere is a son! popular
a*on! the ;hedes last &ear in the Drouillard e*eter&<
7"aitian ,reole8
2ozo" tone& 3 la yon bagay ingra" #repeat$
Koko malad kouche" zozo pa bouyi te ba l bwe"
Koko malad kouche" zozo pa vini we l(
7'n!lish - with aution and apolo!ies to those o# deliate sensi)ilites8
Penis( )& thunderG What an un!rate#ul thin!( 7repeat8
Va!ina is si1 l&in! down( penis does not )oil tea #or her(
Va!ina is si1 l&in! down( penis does not o*e to see her.
7The words zozo and koko are atuall& %er& nau!ht& ter*s #or the parts
in%ol%ed( not at all li1e 0penis0 and 0%a!ina0.8
Last &ear I( an A*erian 3a*)o( le#t a perist&le with a "oun!an and our
on!re!ation. The "oun!an had a %er& power#ul /aron in his head alled
Seretaire de la ,roi-( )ut Seretaire was re#usin! to possess the "oun!an(
)eause the "oun!an had ta1en so*e o# the *one& !i%en hi* #or $et ;ede and
used it #or his own purposes. The "oun!an was %er& hu*iliated( and deided to !o
diretl& to the e*eter& to as1 #or #or!i%eness.
I had the use o# a pi1up tru1( so we #illed it up with *e*)ers o# our perist&le
and dro%e throu!h the ho1ed streets to the e*eter&. We !ot stu1 in tra##i( and
as we sat and sat( /aron Seretaire de la ,roi- )ea*e i*patient and too1 *& head
As #ar as I a* told( there was a ar in the ono*in! lane( also stu1. Seretaire
leaned out the dri%er2s window o# the stopped pi1up and )e!an to tal1 with the
oupants o# the ar( who were %er& surprised to see a /aron in the head o# a
#orei!n 3a*)oG Two %er& wealth& ladies were seated in the )a1 o# the ar( and
/aron paid the* speial honor.
0;ood e%enin!( ladies(0 said /aron.
0;ood e%enin!( /aron( Papa(0 the& !i!!led.
0And how are &our litorises toda&?0( in=uired /aron %er& seriousl&. 0I# &our
litorises are not well( &ou *a& tell *e( and I will tell those two )i! old penises in
the #ront o# the ar to !o to wor1G0
The wo*en( who under an& other iru*stanes would ha%e )een #urious( roared
with lau!hter( as did the two *en in the #ront o# the ar. The older wo*an leaned
out the window and replied to /aron.
0Our litorises are %er& well( /aron Papa. Than1 &ou %er& *uhG0
And in a #ew *o*ents the tra##i 5a* )ro1e up and /aron released *e #ro*
possession( lea%in! *e to dri%e the pi1up tru1 to the e*eter& and !ro%el with
e*)arass*ent as our perist&le *e*)ers( lau!hin! h&steriall&( related the inident
to *eG
In the e%enin!( eah perist&le holds a dane in honor o# /aron( 3a*an /ri!itte(
and the ;hedes. The people who o*e *ust all )e #ed( and the lwa who appear are
also #easted #ro* 1ettles o# #ood speiall& prepared #or the*. Danin! !oes on
lon! into the ni!ht( e%en until da&)rea1. The artistr& o# the lwa is ino*para)le(
and e%en non-Vodouisants o#ten o*e to wath. Then the e-hausted worshippers
return ho*e( to await the o*in! o# $ete ;hede the #ollowin! &ear.
Vodou Lesson ?
Part 1 - ;eneral harateristis o# Vodou lwa
Vodou is o#ten *isunderstood as )ein! pol&theisti( s&nreti( or ani*isti. These
*isoneptions will )e leared up as we disuss the harateristis o# the lwa.
Vodouisants )elie%e in one ;od( alled Gran Met( or ;reat 3aster. This ;od is all
power#ul( all 1nowin!( )ut re!retta)l& he is onsidered to )e so*eti*es distant and
detahed #ro* hu*an a##airs. "e is ne%ertheless e%er present in the dail& speeh o#
"aitians( who ne%er sa&( 0See &ou to*orrow0( without addin! 0i# ;od wants0.
The lwa are lesser entities( )ut *ore readil& aessi)le. Aside #ro* a !enerali.ed
lo%e #or the hildren o# A#ria( the lwa re=uire a *utual relationship with the
worshipper. The lwa ser%e those who ser%e the*. Lwa ha%e well de#ined
harateristis( inludin! sared nu*)ers( olors( da&s( ere*onial #oods( speeh
*anneris*s( and ritual o)5ets. A lwa( there#ore( an )e ser%ed )& wearin! lothes
o# the lwa2s olors( *a1in! o##erin!s o# pre#erred #oods( and o)ser%in! se-ual
ontinene on da&s sared to the lwa.
3an& lwa are arhet&pal #i!ures represented in *an& ultures. $or e-a*ple(
'r.ulie $reda is a lo%e !oddess o*para)le to Venus( Le!)a is a lwa o#
o**uniation o*para)le to "er*es or 3erur&. These orrespondenes( and
so*eti*es pure oinidene( ha%e led "aitians to see parallels )etween aspets o#
the lwa and i*a!es o# +o*an ,atholi saints as the& are represented in popular
litho!raphs. Durin! the da&s o# $renh olonialis*( when the *a5orit& o# )la1
people in "aiti were sla%es who had )een )orn in A#ria( worship o# the saints
pro%ided a on%enient o%er #or the ser%ie o# A#rian !ods and !oddesses. '%en
the priere Guinea( a lon! pra&er reited near the )e!innin! o# orthodo- Vodou
ere*onies( inorporates %erses a)out the Vir!in 3ar& and %arious saints.
This does not *ean( howe%er( that the lwa ha%e )een s&nreti.ed with the ,atholi
saints. No one on#uses O!oun $eraille with St. >a*es the ;reater( it is si*pl& the
i*a!e that is used. I# St. >a*es is in%o1ed( he is onsidered di##erent #ro* O!oun.
Althou!h the priere Guinea inorporates %erses a)out ,atholi entities( no one
on#uses a Vodou ere*on& held in a perist&le with a ,atholi ser%ie. >ohn
3urph&( in his )oo1 Santeria( proposes that s&*)iosis *i!ht )e a *ore aurate
ter* than s&nretis*.
Lwa are so*eti*es onsidered to reside in trees( stones( or rarel& the )odies o#
ani*als. "owe%er( the lwa in the tree is not the lwa of the tree( and ere*onies
onduted at the #oot o# the tree are direted at the lwa( not at an& ani*isti
priniple o# li#e ener!& pertainin! to the tree.
Vodou lwa *ani#est their will throu!h drea*s( unusual inidents( and throu!h the
*ehanis* o# trane possession. Possession is onsidered nor*al( natural( and
desira)le in the onte-t o# a Vodou ere*on& and under ertain other
iru*stanes. It is o*para)le to the New A!e pheno*enon o# 0hannelin!0.
Lwa *ani#estin! throu!h possession sin!( dane( tell 5o1es( heal the si1( and !i%e
Part 9 - What !roups o# lwa are reo!ni.ed?
Note - this lesson ontains ere*onial in#or*ation on the Vodou pre%iousl&
unpu)lished( na*el& the ere*onial order o# the lwa. This in#or*ation is not
seret( and I do not %iolate *& %ows o# sere& )& re%ealin! it. An&one with the
patiene to sit throu!h a su##iient nu*)er o# ere*onies an learn this
In an orthodo- Vodou ere*on&( #ollowin! the priere Guinea and the salutations
to the asse*)l& and the spiritual ener!& o# the dru*s and dru**ers( the lwa are
honored in order( *uh as the $our '%an!elists are !i%en in the order 03atthew(
3ar1( Lu1e( and >ohn0. In turn( son!s are o##ered #or eah lwa( and in partiular
ases( #ood o##erin!s or ani*al sari#ies. An initiate *ust *e*ori.e this se=uene
as a part o# his or her trainin!( and a "oun!an or 3a*)o o# ourse *ust )e a)le to
o)ser%e this order when ondutin! a ere*on&. A *ini*u* o# three son!s are
sun! #or eah lwa( and eah son! is repeated a *ini*u* o# three ti*es.
In the orthodo- Vodou rite( there are three *ain !roups o# lwa( the +ada !roup( the
;hedes( and the Petro !roup.
The +ada lwa are pri*aril& )ut not e-lusi%el& Daho*ean in ori!in. Their !eneral
ere*onial olor is white( with the =uali#iation that indi%idual lwa within this
!roup *a& ha%e their own olors. The& are onsidered )ene#ient( and in so*e
ases so anient as to )e detahed and slow to at. The rh&th*s o# the +ada lwa
are )eaten on tanbou kon( dru*s with wooden pe!s holdin! the strethed hide o%er
the dru* head. The s1in o# the lar!est dru*( the maman( is ow hide( the other o#
!oats1in. The dru*s are )eaten with sti1s. This part o# the ere*on& is
disiplined( onentrated( statel&( and ere)ral.
The +ada lwa( in ere*onial order( are as #ollows<
Le!)a( 3arassa( Loo( Ai.an( Da*)allah and Aida Wedo( So)o( /adess&(
A!assou( Sili)o( A!we and La Sirene( 'r.ulie( /ossu( A!arou( A.a1a( the O!oun
!roup 7O!oun St. >a=ues( Ossan!e( O!oun /ada!ri( O!oun $eraille( O!oun $er(
O!oun Shan!o( O!oun /alind5o( O!oun /ali.a!e( O!oun6e*sen8.
$ollowin! the +ada lwa( the ;ede 7pronouned !a&-da&8 #a*il& inludin! /aron
and 3a*an /ri!itte are honored. There is no partiular order to the appearane o#
these lwa within their own !roup. Their ere*onial olors are %iolet and )la1.
The ;ede !roup is )awd& and lewd( and the& pro%ide o*i relie# #ollowin! the
intense and disiplined e-ertion o# the +ada setion. The /arons and /ri!ittes are
*ost *&stial( and an )e ounted upon to prophes& in the *idst o# the *ost
lasi%ious dane steps. The ;edes are alwa&s willin! to tell 5o1es and !i%e ad%ie.
A#ter the +ada and ;hede !roups re*ains the portion o# the ere*on& dediated to
the Petro lwa. These lwa are predo*inatel& o# :on!o and Western "e*isphere
ori!in. Their ere*onial olor is red. The& are onsidered #iere( proteti%e(
*a!ial( and a!!ressi%e toward ad%ersaries. The rh&th*s o# the Petro lwa are
)eaten on tanbou fey( dru*s with ord and a hoop holdin! the strethed hide o%er
the dru* head. The dru* heads are *ade e-lusi%el& o# !oats1in( and are )eaten
with the pal*s o# the hands. This part o# the ere*on& is hot( #ast-paed( and
The Petro lwa( in ere*onial order( are as #ollows<
Le!)a Petro( 3arassa Petro( Wawan!ol( I)o( Sene!al( :on!o( :aplaou( :an!a(
Ta1&a( Jo1li*o( Si*)i Dlo( ;ran Si*)a( ,arre#our( ,i*itiere( ;ran /wa( :on!o
Sa%anne( 'r.ulie Dantor 7also 1nown as 'r.ulie J&e-Wou58( 3arinette( Don Petro(
Ti->ean Petro( ;ros Point( Si*)i Ande.o( Si*)i 3a1a&a.
When the #inal three repetitions o# the #inal son! #or Si*)i 3a1a&a are #inished(
the ere*on& is o%er. So*eti*es partiipants who are partiularl& enthusiasti will
otntinue to sin! popular son!s whih( while the& relate to the lwa( are not
neessaril& part o# the ere*onial order. Suh son!s are %er& *uh a part o#
"aitian popular *usi( and artists suh as Wawa( A.or( and !roups suh as
/ou1*an '1sper&ans and +A3 ha%e international #ollowin!s. One the
partiipants are satis#ied( the dru*s are laid #lat on the !round( and the partiipants
!o to rest on )anana ste* *ats until *ornin! li!ht.
Part ? - Lwa who are not lwa( who are alled 2da5)2 instead
The "aitian ,reole word dab is deri%ed #ro* the $renh word diable( *eanin!
de%il( )ut the ter* in the onte-t o# "aitian Vodou arries a di##erent onnotation.
,ertain lwa are indi%idualisti and uni=ue( ser%ed )& onl& one indi%idual(
so*eti*es a "oun!an or 3a*)o( and onsidered to )e al*ost that indi%idual2s
personal propert&. These lwa do not #it easil& into the orthodo- Vodou litur!&(
neither in the +ada nor in the Petro !roupin!. Suh lwa( and e%en lwa *ore
o**onl& ser%ed( suh as 3a1a&a lwa( are o**onl& re#erred to as dab( )ut here
the translation would perhaps )e *ore auratel& !i%en as 0wild spirit0.
The #untion o# these d5a) is *a!ial as opposed to reli!ious. A d5a) is *ost
#re=uentl& in%o1ed )& a "oun!an( 3a*)o( or /o1or( on )ehal# o# a lient( to ta1e
a!!ressi%e ation a!ainst a lient2s ene*& or )usiness o*petitor. A d5a) re=uires
pa&*ent #ro* the lient #or it2s ser%ies( usuall& in the #or* o# ani*al sari#ie on
a re!ularl& sheduled )asis.
The on!re!ation o# a "oun!an or 3a*)o who ser%es a d5a) is usuall& proteted
#ro* possi)le ats o# rando* a!!ression )& the d5a)4 !enerall& )& a garde( a
*a!ial shield e##eted )& ru))in! speiall& prepared dried her)s into shallow uts
ere*oniall& *ade in the indi%idual2s s1in. The !arde is o#ten renewed annuall& at
the ti*e o# the winter solstie( when eah soiet& holds a *a5or !atherin! and
prepares her)al )aths and other *i-tures.
The li!ht sars o# the !arde #or* a pattern peuliar to the soiet&( and an ser%e as
an identi#&in! *ar1 #or *e*)ers. $or e-a*ple( I ha%e on *& upper le#t shoulder a
!arde on#erred on *e )& "oun!an Sau%ert >oseph( who assisted at *& initiation.
At the annual !atherin! o# his soiet&( I reei%ed the !arde o# the d5a) :ita 3a.a(
an a##a)le )ut #ierel& proteti%e d5a)( and the #or* o# the sar( a dou)le ross
si*ilar in #or* to a ti-ti-toe )oard( is distinti%e to :ita 3a.a and the soiet& o#
"oun!an Sau%ert >oseph.
D5a)s an also )e spei#i to a partiular plae. In the li*estone a%es o# /ode
near Trouin in the south o# "aiti( a d5a) na*ed Met /et 4oune( 3aster o# the Se%en
Da&s( is )elie%ed to reside. '%en i# a 3a*)o( "oun!an( or /o1or was to ser%e this
d5a) in a perist&le loated so*ewhere else( the li*estone a%es would re*ain the
ho*e o# the d5a).
,ertain partiularl& a*oral d5a)s an )e in%o1ed to drain the li#e ener!& o# a
person and e##et their de*ise. When a d5a) is held responsi)le #or a person2s
death( the ,reole phrase is not 0the d5a) 1illed the person0( )ut instead( dab la
mane moun nan( 0the d5a) ate the person0. This does not *ean that the #lesh o# the
person is eaten anni)alistiall& )& the "oun!an( 3a*)o( or /o1or who
under!oes possession )& the d5a)( *erel& that the d5a) has su)su*ed the person2s
li#e #ore.
An orthodo- "oun!an or 3a*)o is under oath ne%er to do har*( there#ore
in%oations o# d5a)s are *ore #re=uentl& atte*pted )& /o1ors. "owe%er an
orthodo- Vodou ler!&person *a& in%o1e a d5a) and e%en diret it to 1ill a person(
i# the person is a *urderer( a repeat thie#( a repeat rapist( and so #orth.
The 3a*)o 3arinette in%o1ed a #e*ale Petro lwa #re=uentl& re#erred to as a d5a)(
'r.ulie Dantor( and per#or*ed the sari#ie o# a wild ho!( at the ere*on& o# /wa
,ai*an in 1F@B whih )e!an the "aitian re%olution. Durin! the "aitian
re%olution( d5a)s were %er& i*portant( and were )elie%ed to on#er i**unit& to the
)ullets #ired )& the white $renh ensla%ers. '%en the death o# the *a5orit& o#
;eneral Le,ler2s e-peditionar& #ore due to &ellow #e%er was re!arded as the
result o# the wor1 o# d5a)s. ;i%en that the ulti*ate destination o# Le,ler was the
North A*erian ontinent( to re-esta)lish ontrol o# the Louisiana Territor&(
United States iti.ens an a1nowled!e the re)el sla%es o# "aiti( and their d5a)s(
#or the #at that we are not $ranophones toda&.
Vodou Lesson B
Part 1 - ,onstrutin! an altar
People o# *an& di##erent #aiths onstrut altars. '%en people who do not )elon! to
an& partiular #aith *a& set aside a orner o# a roo* where the& sit and thin1(
*editate and pra&( do &o!a or pla& an A#rian dru*. 3an& ti*es the& reate
i*pro*ptu altars whih inlude *an& o# the sa*e o)5ets - #lowers( stones and
r&stals( sared s&*)ols( photo!raphs or i*a!es o# the indi%idual2s anestors( or o#
*e*)ers o# the e-tended hu*an #a*il& in *an& ountries( *usial instru*ents(
andles( inense( )oo1s on spiritual su)5ets.
,onsiousl& or unonsiousl&( when we )uild altars we are en!a!ed in an e##ort to
open that *ost eni!*ati o# all doors - the door )etween the hu*an and spiritual
world. An altar is a representation o# that %er& door in *aterial ter*s - the altar is
the door. When &ou sit in #ront o# &our altar( &ou are in%itin! the spiritual #ores on
the other side o# this door to notie &ou( o*e and %isit with &ou( and at upon
Sine *ost people li%in! in the United States an not )e!in their pratie in this
reli!ion )& attendin! Vodou ere*onies( one o# the #irst thin!s we an do is to
)uild an altar. The altars o# Vodou are as %aried as the indi%iduals who pratie the
reli!ion. In a sense( a perist&le itsel# is an altar( lar!e enou!h #or the worshippers to
dane around the enterpost( pla& dru*s( per#or* sari#ie( under!o possession -
in short( to at out e%er& aspet o# the os*i dra*a. Within the perist&le there are
so*eti*es areas dediated to a partiular lwa - the ross o# /aron( or a s*all pal*-
lea# )ooth #or 'r.ulie. Attahed to the perist&le are s*aller roo*s alled devo or
bagi( in whih the ere*onial o)5ets o# a Vodou soiet& are 1ept. "owe%er( these
o)5ets( whih inlude sared rattles( se=uinned )ottles #or drin1 o##erin!s( pottetes
!i%en durin! initiation( and la& pots alled !o%i( are o# no partiular use to those
who ha%e not under!one initiation.
A )etter *odel is #ound in the kay myste 7#ro* the $renh caille des mysteres(
house o# *&steries8. These are s*all houses( o#ten no *ore than ten )& #ourteen
#eet( in whih are onstruted indi%idualisti altars to whihe%er lwa the owner o#
the kay myste ser%es. These altars inorporate *an& o**on *aterials( easil&
a%aila)le e%er&where in the world. The& are re*ar1a)le #or their indi%idualit& and
$re=uentl& altars in "aiti are onstruted on a dirt #loor( whih *a& not )e
pratial in the United States. "owe%er( &ou *a& ha%e easier aess to ertain
ite*s suh as r&stals( era*i %essels in partiular olors( and so on.
6our kay myste *a& onsist o# a s*all area in &our )edroo* or li%in! roo*(
althou!h the #eelin! in "aiti is that it is not well to sleep in the sa*e roo* with
o)5ets onserated to the lwa( espeiall& with a *e*)er o# the opposite se-4
e-ept durin! initiation( when se- is prohi)ited an&wa&. 6ou *a& sreen o## this
area( or set aside an entire roo* to the ser%ie o# the lwa. The diretions whih
#ollow will !i%e &ou su!!estions #or onstrutin! one t&pe o# %er& )asi altar
whih an then )e added to and ela)orated on in the ser%ie o# an& partiular lwa
&ou wish.
Su!!estions #or )uildin! a )asi altar<
In "aiti( when a Vodouisant person wishes to *a1e an altar in the ho*e #or a
partiular aspet o# ;od( a saint( or a lwa( the& %er& o#ten )u& partiular reli!ious
o)5ets identi#ied with whate%er priniple the& wish to ser%e( and then ha%e a
"oun!an or 3a*)o set up and onserate the altar. So*e altars are )& de#inition
*ade on a dirt #loor( others are *ade on plat#or*s onstruted o# )oards or *ore
#re=uentl& onrete.
"ere is one possi)le wa& to set up a )asi altar indoors( without a dirt #loor. ;et a
white loth( and wash it in water with so*e o# &our #irst urine o# the *ornin!. $or
urine( &ou an su)stitute %ine!ar. Let the loth dr& outdoors in the sun i# possi)le.
,o%er &our altar ta)le with it( and then sprin1le it li!htl& with &our #a%orite
per#u*e or $lorida Water.
Ne-t( !et #our s*all stones #ro* near &our house( lean the* )& sourin! with salt
and rinsin! well( then plae one at eah orner o# &our altar. ,lean a wine!lass( ut
!lass )owl( or other %essel and #ill it with water. Do not use *etal or earthenware -
!lass or r&stal onl&. Plae it at the enter o# &our altar( and add three splashes o#
anisette or white ru* as &ou )less the water.
It is o**on in Vodou pratie to )aptise ritual o)5ets( that is( to !i%e the*
na*es. 6ou an ta1e a sprin! o# )asil and splash a )aptis* onto &our water !lass(
whih is now a power#ul passa!ewa& #or spiritual ener!&. 6ou *i!ht na*e it
al*ost an&thin! appropriate( #ani#ul( and positi%e - 0Water o# Li#e0( 0;ur!le
3a*a /rin!s Spirit0( or whate%erG
Into a !lass andleholder( plae so*e earth #ro* near &our house and a #ew !rains
o# salt. Ta1e a white andle( and with a pure %e!eta)le oil ru) the andle #ro* the
*iddle up to the top and then #ro* the *iddle down to the )ase. As &ou oil the
andle( diret &our ener!& into &our hands and pra& #or spiritual awareness. Put the
andle #ir*l& into the andleholder and plae it in #ront o# the !lass o# water. Don2t
li!ht the andle 5ust &et.
Around the altar &ou will plae other o)5ets aordin! to the di%ine priniples &ou
wish to ser%e. An anestor shrine will ha%e i*a!es o# deeased anestors( O!oun2s
altar will ha%e a *ahete and a red 1erhie#( 'r.ulie $reda2s shrine will ha%e
#lowers and 5ewelr&( and so on.
Part 9 - 3a1in! An Anestral $east
Now that &ou ha%e onstruted a )asi altar( &ou are read& #or the #irst step in
Vodou pratie - re%erene #or &our anestors. "owe%er &ou ha%e )uilt &our altar(
re*e*)er alwa&s that it is a door )etween the world o# hu*an )ein!s and the
world o# the anestors and the lwa. Let it !et dust&( let the water )eo*e *ur1&
and stale( use it as a on%enient restin! plae #or house1e&s and penils. i!nore it(
and &ou will #ind &oursel# tired( drained( unlu1&( and uninspired. Treat it with
respet( 1eep it i**aulatel& lean( %isit it o#ten( and &ou will )e rewarded with
ener!&( spiritual !rowth( personal %itories( and re*ar1a)le oinidenes.
6our anestors lo%e &ou. The& will o*e and %isit &ou( aept &our o##erin!s( and
point &ou on the wa&. The& will instrut &ou( protet &ou( #i!ht #or &ou( and heal
&ou. The& will )rin! &ou *essa!es throu!h &our intuition and &our drea*s.
O)tain a piture o# a deeased relati%e o# &ours whose lo%e #or &ou is )e&ond
=uestion. I# &ou ha%e no deeased relati%es who* &ou an re*e*)er well( either
)& )lood or )& adoption( &ou an hoose an i*a!e o# a person who represents to
&ou anestral wisdo* and lo%e( and !i%e that person a na*e. 6ou *a& also o)tain
i*a!es o# anestors o# all )ranhes o# the hu*an rae.
Plae these i*a!es )ehind the %essel o# water on &ou altar( either propped up on
piture stands or attahed to the wall )ehind &our altar. This wall an also )e
draped in white loth and i*a!es pinned or ta1ed to it. Arran!e the i*a!es until
their !roupin! see*s ri!ht to &ou. 6ou *a& hoose to wor1 with one i*a!e or
Sit in #ront o# &our altar. 6ou *a& rin! a s*all )ell or sha1e a ere*onial rattle to
si!nal the start o# &our *editation. Li!ht the white andle on &our altar( and i#
possi)le li!ht so*e oonut or %anilla inense. Tie &our head with a white loth i#
&ou wish. ;a.e into the water in the entral halie. +ela- and do an& *editation
e-erises &ou are #a*iliar with. Deep )reathin!( ountin! )a1wards #ro* ten to
.ero( or openin! the ha1ras all wor1 #ine. Thin1 a)out &our hosen anestor. I#
possi)le( reollet senes #ro* the past in whih &ou appear with that anestor.
$eel the lo%e )etween &ou whih onnets &ou. i*a!ine that lo%e )ea*in! #ro*
&our heart as a ra& o# li!ht( passin! throu!h the water and to the anestor2s i*a!e.
,all the na*e o# &our anestor out loud( repeatedl&. Tell the anestor that &ou lo%e
hi*Cher( and that &ou want to wor1 to!ether with hi*Cher. It is a )asi tenet o#
Vodou that the li%in! and the dead wor1 to!ether to help eah other.
When &ou #eel the anestors2 presene( tip a little water three ti*es on the #loor to
welo*e the*. Do this *editation o#ten( until it is a o*#orta)le routine. Within a
wee1 or two( &ou should *a1e an anestral #east to o##er to &our anestors.
This #east should inlude #oods that were #a%ored )& &our anestors in li#e( with
the e-eption that the #ood should not )e salted. 0;eneri0 anestor o##erin!s
inlude !rilled orn( !rilled peanuts( #resh oonut( and white #oods li1e rie
puddin!( *il1( and #lour du*plin!s.
Plae eah t&pe o# #ood in a )owl( and plae a white andle in the *iddle o# the
#ood. Li=uid o##erin!s an )e plaed in !lasses and the andle put in a holder ne-t
to the !lass. Touh eah plate or )owl to &our #orehead( heart( and pu)i area( and
then )reathe on the #ood. Tal1 to &our anestors( re*ind the* that the& were one
part o# the world o# the li%in!( and that &ou will one da& o*e to 5oin the*. As1
the* to dri%e awa& all e%il( suh as po%ert&( illness( une*plo&*ent( #ati!ue(
disord( sadness. As1 the* to )rin! to &ou all that is !ood( inludin! lo%e( *one&(
wor1( health( 5o&( #riendship( lau!hter.
Li!ht the andles( put the #ood on the altar( and lea%e the roo*. When the andles
ha%e #inished )urnin!( and pre#era)l& the #ollowin! *ornin!( ta1e the #ood and
throw it awa& at the #oot o# a lar!e tree. I# that is not possi)le( put it in a !ar)a!e
)a! and dispose o# it separatel& #ro* other !ar)a!e. Wash the plates( )owls( and
!lasses( sru) the* with salt( and put the* awa&. Do not use the* #or ordinar&
Part ? - A 3a*)o2s '-periene.
3& #irst anestral #east too1 plae )e#ore I was ordained as a 3a*)o. I wanted
e%er&thin! to )e as )eauti#ul as possi)le( so I #irst leaned *& roo*( then *& altar
and all the altar o)5ets( r&stals( altar loths( and so on. I sprin1led the altar with
$lorida Water( and set new white andles in the andle holders.
I *ade di##erent t&pes o# #ood. There was hi1en( rie and )eans( oo1ed !reens(
and tropial #ruits #or *& A#rian anestors( sausa!e( saur1raut( )oiled potatos and
sweet pastries #or *& 'uropean anestors( roasted peanuts( )oiled orn( and
oonut *eat as all-round anestor #ood. There was )eer( ru*( *il1( #ruit 5uie - in
short( e%er&thin! I ould possi)l& thin1 o#. '%er& dish o# #ood had it2s own andle.
I presented the #ood and drin1 to the anestors( lit the andles( *editated( and le#t
the roo*.
That ni!ht( I had so*e %er& interestin! drea*s. In the *ornin!( I notied the
ondition o# the andles - e%er& andle was )urned to a)solute nothin!ness - not a
drip o# wa- or a #ra!*ent o# wi1 re*ained in an& o# the #ood dishes. 0;osh(0 I
thou!ht( 0those anestors *ust reall& ha%e )een hun!r&G0 I !athered up the #ood(
and disposed o# it at the #oot o# a lar!e tree near a ri%er. As I wal1ed ho*e( I
wondered( 0Whih one o# *& anestors( or whih lwa( will now o*e to help *e?0
It was a )eauti#ul sprin! da&( and I was wal1in! alone on a rural road. A &ellow
Vol1swa!en /eetle a*e alon! and hon1ed it2s horn. I thou!ht that the person
*ust )e lost and wantin! diretions( )ut as I loo1ed( there was no driver in the
car& Instinti%el& I noted the liense plate - 5678'!3&
Now( &ou *i!ht thin1 that with 19A lwa to #eed and ser%e( *& !roer& )ill would
)e enor*ous. /ut atuall&( aside #ro* *a5or ere*onies( re!ular ser%ie to the
anestors onsists o# a )it o# #ood #ro* 3onda&2s dinner( an oasional li)ation(
and orret o)ser%ane o# the $east o# the Dead 7$et ;hede8 eah No%e*)er 9.