CONSIDERATIONS FOR INITIATION INTO VODOU
CHOOSING AN INITIATOR-
HOW TO CHOOSE SOMEONE GOOD AND REPUTABLE TO INITIATE YOU INTO VODOU?
THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN CHOOSING A HOUSE OR SOSYETE.
LINEAGES AND THEIR INITIATIONS
Depending on the lineage in which the person who Iniaites you practices, that will relate to the initiations that he or she may do or do within that lineage.
Since there are various lineages within Haitian Vodou, I will describe to you two of the most commonly found lineages and the manner in which Initiation is done within that lineage.
But first, let’s go over how to find a good and reputable Initiator. Your future Initiator will be known as your Mama or Papa in Vodou. He or she will be your Spiritual Guide here in your material existance on how to progress spiritually, with your Lwa and in your life. You will be his/her spiritual child. Thus, an initiator often refers to those he initiates as his children. They are also called “ti fey”, meaning little leaves, with the impression that the initiator is a branch of a tree. This is for a specific reason. Initiates and Initiators have responsibilities to each other much like a family. In fact, the Vodou Sosyete is also known as a Vodou fanmi (family)
If you ever decide to become initiated, you will be invariably excited. Along with the excitement, you need to approach things with caution. Unfortunately, there are scammers in the Vodou tradition, as there are in every tradition. There are real Houngans and Mambos who scam people as well as people who were never initiated yet claim to be – and some of those claim to be initiated because they think they were but were sadly scammed themselves by having received fake or erroneous ceremonies and do not even know it. Some will confer upon someone an incorrect or incomplete initiation. That is if they confer the initiation at all! Some of these people have never been initiated. Some are initiates, which is all the more unfortunate. Then if you receive the correct initiation, you will need to take note if they follow regleman (rules of the Tradition).
There will be a variety of things you should look for.
First thing is that a divination is always the first step and necessary no matter by whom or in what lineage you are trying to initiate. Divination will reveal if this is the best path for you. And if so, Divination will reveal what grade is best for you to take. It will also tell you which lineage you should/can initaite within and whether or not the Houngan or Mambo doing the reading can initiate you. Should they desire to do so. If divination reveals that it is best for you to initiate in another house. Do not become initiated somewhere out of convenience! This will be your downfall, I have seen it many times with many people.
It is best if this divination can be done in person. The best way to divine this is having the Houngan or Mambo call a Lwa into their head, who will then reveal the details to you. However, there are cases where this may need to be done at a distance and can be done. This may be due to your work, housing, or financial situation. In any case, a divination or reading is always the first step prior to initiation into Vodou in any lineage. You should know that initiation carries with it a variety of responsibilities and obligations. Your initiator will be obligated to you and vice versa.
If the person does not require a reading or divination, run the other way!
Participate as much as you can in your future initiator’s ceremonies. Go to ceremonies. Get regular readings from your potential initiator. Observe how they treat others when they do ceremonies (if they do and you attend). Talk to the Houngan/Mambo, ask them questions. If they don’t know the answer off-hand, that does not mean they are a bad initiator. Vodou is continual learning and noone stops learning within it. That is why we also call the Lwa the Miste (Misteries). Houngans and Mambos are not God, but they should tell you they don’t know. They will most likely ask one of their Lwa or Elders to get the answer, and give it to you.
If your initiator does the Lave Tet, it should not be a series of seven baths thrown on your head. A lave tet takes three days, in a ceremony where the person is secluded. This is a spiritual cleansing of the head, simply throwing herbal baths on someone’s head seven times simply isn’t going to cut it. Unfortunately, people are being scammed that way. There are even “Houngans” and “Mambos” doing this, that do not even know that it is, indeed, a scam. A Houngan or Mambo may give you seven baths (set ben) but that is not a Lave Tet.
You should have some sort of work done by your chosen Houngan or Mambo. Maybe receive the lave tet, a gad, or a wanga. If these work well for you, you should look further into this Houngan or Mambo. Observe them well.
For your own self and on your end, there are a number of things that you need to consider as well. Depending on your calling or how deep you will go into the Vodou Tradition, there will be a variety of things that you will need to pay special attention to. These things will affect the speed at which you will grow and develop in Vodou.
One thing you should consider is distance. Remember Vodou is a religion in which one learns by doing, observing, or participating. It is an oral tradition, but there are also many things that can only really be learned by being there and watching. It is a community religion where gathering is important. This should not be the only factor in your decision, but this should be one of them to consider. However, if you live far away from a place where there are many Sosyetes and a Haitian Community, you may have to either consider relocating (if you are truly serious) and relocate, or learning at a much slower pace as you are able to attend.
Second thing you should consider is how often do you desire to attend Fetes and Vodou Services and How often does your Initiator to be have them. I state this because I know many Houngans and Mambos in the Us who do not give regular ceremonies but rather go back and do them. This is fine if you are able to regularly go with them, but this may be something that you may want to know about just in case you are trying to be in a more active community.
Third thing to consider is as you attend fetes, get a feel and try to get to know your future Spiritual Brothers and Sisters. You should try to get to know them and get the feel whether or not this is a group of people you will be able to work with in a positive beneficial way. This doesn’t mean that you have to like everyone, but rather that you feel it can be an environment and has the values that you want in order to grow spiritually.
It is important for you to work on building a solid relationship between you and your future initiator. Spend time with them, getting to know them and helping them as much as you can. Remember, in a Vodou house we all receive blessings but we must all contribute in order to continously do so. This is a lifelong commitment, and the only way to break a tie between an initiator and an initiate is to re-initiate. This means you will have to remake all of your ceremonies should things go sour.
Depending on what the original divination revealed, you may have been called to follow one of the various lineages within the Vodou Traditions. The two of the most common of these are the Tcha Tcha Lineage or the Kanzo lineage. Some individuals have both lineages or serve in both. These two lineages have two different ways of practicing, approaching and serving the Lwa. In many areas they have common ground, however in some they are different.
One of these differences is the Initiation that will be conferred. In the Asson/Kanzo lineage, the initiation is referred to as the Kanzo. To read more about the Kanzo/Asson Lineage click here.
In the Tcha Tcha/ Deka lineages, the initiation is known as the Sevis Tet (in some areas Lave Tet). To read more about the Tcha Tcha/Sevis Tet click here.
It is very important that you learn your lineage and the way things are done IN YOUR LINEAGE. I have a saying, and it goes: There are 99 ways that Ginen is served in Haiti. And that is because there are many different lineages and each one has differences in the way that they do things. Thus, although you may do certain things from outside of your lineage and it still may work for you, it may also cause you other imbalance or cross up spiritually. The only person/s who will really be able to teach you how things are done in your lineage is your initiator and elders. Again why investigating and choosing a house carefully is so important.
Best of Luck
So you say you want to get initiated with me? I’m sorry but I initiate very few people upon approval of my spirits, so if you want to be initiated I would prefer you to look somewhere else. I am very very busy taking care of my clients and resolving their problems, so much so that I often have to turn cases away because I do not have the time. Thus I have very limited time to train only the most serious, dedicated, and Spiritually approved people. There are plenty of other Houngans and Mambos who have the time, are willing and desire to initiate others. If you really insist, check out my Requirements for Initiation Page