FREE Haitian Vodou LESSON
Haitian Vodou TERMINOLOGY

 
Fete-  Literally a party, but refers to the most common form of public Vodou Ceremony. 
bitasyon – habitat; common ancestral plot of land owned by an extended family and inherited in successive generations

Ago – langaj; commonly heard as in Vodou Ceremonies and Songs

Akason siwo –  corn starch based drink  favored by most of the Lwa

Aksyon De Gras –  Special Ceremony in thanksgiving to a Lwa (or group of Lwa) for a favor provided, a favor desired, or as payment to a promise

Alamyet – Vodou Ceremony held without drums

Anba dlo- lit. “beneath the water” – the place where the lwa and ancestors reside; see Ginea

Gran Moun – the elders; those holding vast konesans
Ason –  rattle used to conduct services in Rada Vodou rites; symbol of Vodou PriestHood;  gourd rattle surrounded by a loose web of beads and snake
vertebrae, and having a small bell attached

Ayibobo –  “amen” ;  langaj; commonly heard as in Vodou Ceremonies and Songs

Ayiti Toma (Haiti) – Tayino Indian word meaning “mountainous”; one of several Tayino names for the island now called Haiti;

Badji – sanctuary, altar room within the hounfò

Badjikan – “keepers of the badji”; senior priests or officials of an hounfò charged with maintaining the altars housed therein.
Baka – small malevolent demon
Banda – rite, rhythm and dance associated with the Gede lwa

Bizango – secret society and the rites of this society

Bokò – expert in magic who works with both hands – for good or for evil

Bon anj – the divine spirit of man understood as having two primary components: ti bon anj and gwo bon anj

Bondje – Kreyòl word for God Almighty, from the French Bon Dieux; also called Gran Met-la (The Grand Master)

Boukman – historical houngan who convoked secret Vodou ceremonies and meetings leading to the Haitian Revolution

Bosal – wild or untamed; may reference a lwa or a neophyte who has not been initiated

Boula – smallest of three Rada drums

Cho –  lit. “hot”; a quality of spirit

Chwal – “horse”; euphemism for a servitor who serves as the medium for a lwa in possession

Dahomey (Daome) – West African Empire (present day Benin) from which large numbers of slaves were shipped to Haiti; the religious traditions of the same people that formed the foundation of Vodou
theology

Demanbwe – sacral patch of land

Deshoukaj – uprooting; name given attempts throughout history to destroy the Vodou religion; Vodou has survived 14 attempts at deshoukaj by various sources

Desounen – process of removing lwa from the head of an initiate following death

Dogwe – ritual obeisance paid to a senior priest and to the Lwa
Djab – powerful but wild spirit

Djevo – chamber within the hounfò in which neophytes are initiated

Dosou/dosa – (male/female) first child following twins

Dous – “sweet”; a quality of spirit

Eskò – grouping of lwa who walk with, or follow another lwa

Fran Ginea – a servitor who follows pure Ginea rites, who does not serve with both hands; only serving for positive ends

Ginen/Ginea – unspoiled Africa; the other world in Vodou wherein the lwa and the dead are said to reside; sometimes referred to as Vodou’s heaven

Giyon – bad luck or negativity

Govi – clay jar  housing the spiritual essence of either a lwa or an ancestor

Hounfò / Hounfort- a Vodou temple and its precincts

Houngan – male Vodou priest

Hounjenikon –  leader of the Chorus in a Vodou service

Hounsi Bosal- A non initatied individual who is a candidate and preparing for eventual initaition into a Sosyete

Hounsi –  title for an initiated servitor of the Lwa

Hounsi kanzo – 1st level initiate into Vodou (of the Asson Lineage) who has undergone the rite of kanzo

Hountogi – Vodou drummers

Kalfou – crossroads; also a Lwa

Kanzo- Initiation into the Haitian Vodou Religion of the Asson Lineage

Kleren – raw rum,  drink favored by many lwa

Ren dwapo – hounsi who carry the society’s flags in parade during a Vodou service

Konesans –  the knowledge of an Houngan or Manbo; includes liturgical knowledge as well as knowledge bestowed by the Lwa

Konfyans kay –  Principle advisor to the Met Kay (Houngan or Mambo who owns/runs the Sosyete/House)

Kreyòl – the language of Haiti and also the primary language used/spoken in Haitian Vodou
Tcha- Tcha or Kwa-kwa – a maraca or tcha-tcha rattle; used by non initiates as well as those initiated into the Tcha Tcha lineage of Vodou;  Used to lead Ceremonies

Lakou – courtyard; common unit of family in the Haitian countryside

Lanmò – the dead; may include ancestors as well as other categories of dead

Laplas daginea – sword bearer and often master of ceremony in a Vodou service

Lave tet – lit “head washing” ; refers to an Initiation into Vodou

Lwa – the spirits of Vodou;
Lwa Rasin “root lwa” – lwa from whom a community, family, or individual believe itself to descend

Maji – magic; sorcery

Makaya rite – rhythm, and nation of lwa ; serves mostly both Petwo and Bizango rites

Maldjok – the “evil eye”

Manbo (Mambo) – female Vodou priest

Manje – (vb) to eat; (n) food or feast

Mamalwa – “mother of the lwa”; no longer used term for a manbo

Met kay – lwa who is the patron or master of a Vodou temple

Met tet – “master of the head”; the lwa who rules the initiates head

Minokan (minocan) – references all of the lwa of Ginea; a veve drawn to represent the same

Mistè- lit ” mystery” – general name for the lwa and any other spiritual forces, such as pwen, a person may possess

Nago – a rite, rhythm, dance, and a nation of lwa all of Yoruba

Nansyon – spirit nations; groupings of lwa

Nomvayan-  ritual name for an initiate given at their baptism

Ogan – small iron bell with an external clapper used to keep time in a Vodou ceremony

Ogatwa – private devotional altar

Paket – spiritually active bundle created on the point of specific lwa,

Pale Ginea-  the secret language of the lwa; also simply called langaj

Papalwa-  ”father of the lwa” – archaic term for an houngan

Peristil – the covered dance area of an hounfò

Petit fey –  members of a Vodou temple ; initiates of a particular Houngan or Mambo

Petwo – a nation of lwa and their  rites

Pot tet – head pot; ceramic jar housing the soul of an initiate following initiation

Poto mitan – sacred center post of an hounfò by which the lwa are said to arrive from Ginea

Prèt, priest; prèt savan – “bush” priest, master of Catholic liturgy

Priyè Ginea, “African prayer”; complex litany that opens a Vodou service

Pwen – “point”;  concentrations of spiritual force or magic created for diverse purposes

Pwen achte – A purchased/bought spirit ; usually used for malevolent purposes

Pyè tone – stones that house a lwa or pwen;

Rada – nation and rite of lwa associated with West African traditions; described as “cool”

Regleman – rule, order, law; lineage tradition that defines ritual action

Repozwa –   vessel In which a lwa may assume residence either temporarily or permanently

Retire mò n’anba dlo –  ceremony where the soul of the dead is returned to the community of the living

Sanpwel – members of the Bizango secret society

Sevis Lwa-  To Serve the Lwa.  This is the more popular term, by insiders, to refer to believing/practicing Vodou.  It also refers to it being an active religion, one serves the Lwa.  
Sevitye – servitor; a devotee, initiated or not, of the Vodou

Sosyete – refers to the secret societies such as Bizango

Sosyete – the society of servitors in Vodou; the religious community

Syncretism – the  adoption over time of the dominant culture’s norms or religious beliefs

Tanbou Petro/Fey –  drums used in Petwo Ceremonies.  Come in a pair.

Tanbou kon – type of peg tuned drums used in the Rada rites

Taino – tribe and nation of Native Americans who populated the island of Hispanola as well as other Carribean Islands before the Spanish Invasion

Chaka –  a sacred meal given to the Djouba Nation

Trempe – raw corn whiskey or rum steeped with aromatic and/or medicinal herbs

Veve – graphic prayer rendered in flour or other substances on an earthen floor and representing a given lwa, a group of lwa, or other intersection of power; aka seremoni;
Vodou – the predominant religion and cultural tradition of Haiti derived primarily from amalgamated African and Native American traditions

Vodouwizan – devotee of the Vodou regardless of grade

Voodoo – Americanized spelling of “Vodou”;

Wanga- spell or  charm

Yanvalou – rhythm and dance associated with many Rada lwa, especially Danbala Wedo

Zanj – angels;  a synonym for lwa

Zanset-yo – ancestors
Zonbi – may be a soul separated from the body or a body separated from a soul; both are made to work

Mo- The Spirit of a Dead Person

Chwal-  who becomes possessed by Spirits

Nasyon-  This is how the Spirits are classified and grouped together.
 
Badji- Altar Room

Ogatwa- Altar.  Table or Space dedicated to the Spirits

Kanzo- Initiation Into Haitian Vodou