The Priye Ginen

The Priye Ginen is the Prayer of Africa. It is sung “to open ceremony” at the beginning of dances,  Lave Tets, Kanzos, and all other important ceremonies. It creates a sacred area, it is a powerful prayer.
The prayer is done in a call and response arrangement.  The Houngan/Mambo leading the ceremony will sing a verse, then the congregation will sing the verse back.  In many houses, during the prayer, the Sosyete sits behind the Houngan or Mambo who is leading it.  At certain times, they may rise or make certain spiritual secret ritual gestures. 

The Priye Ginen is commonly preceded  by what is sometimes referred to as the Priye Djo or outside prayers. Thus it begins with the Our Father, The Hail Mary, the Creed, and various songs commonly found in the Catholic church and to various saints. There are long litanies to God, the Saints, the Dead, and all the Lwa.  The Priye Djo may also be led by a Pret Savan, which is a person who knows the Catholic Liturgy in detail or sometimes  a former Catholic Priest! 

The Catholic prayers are said in French, here are the French language versions of the Our Father, Hail Mary and the Creed of Apostles for you to learn:


Notre Père, qui es aux cieux,
que ton nom soit sanctifié,
que ton règne vienne,
que ta volonté soit faite sur la terre comme au ciel.

Donne-nous aujourd’hui notre pain de ce jour.
Pardonne-nous nos offences
comme nous pardonnons aussi à ceux qui nous ont offensés.
Et ne nous soumets pas à la tentation,
mais délivre-nous du mal, car c’est à toi qu’appartiennent le règne,
la puissance et la gloire, aux siècles des siècles. Amen

Je vous salue, Marie, pleine de grâce.
Le Seigneur est avec vous.
Vous êtes bénie entre toutes les femmes,
et Jésus, le fruit de vos entrailles, est béni.
Sainte Marie, Mère de Dieu,
Priez pour nous, pauvres pécheurs,
maintenant et à l’heure de notre mort.


Je crois en Dieu, le Père tout-puissant, créateur du ciel et de la terre,
et en Jésus -Christ, son Fils unique, notre Seigneur,
qui a été conçu du Saint-Esprit, est né de la Vierge Marie a souffert sous Ponce-Pilate,
a été crucifié , est mort, et a été enseveli,
est descendu aux enfers,
le troisième jour est ressuscité des morts ,
est monté aux cieux , est assis à la droite de Dieu le Père tout-puissant,
d’où il viendra juger les vivants et les morts.
Je crois en l’Esprit Saint, la sainte Église catholique,
la communion des saints, la rémission des péchés,
la résurrection de la chair, la vie éternelle. Ainsi soit-il.

After the Catholic portion, or Priye Djo, the Sosyete moves into the actual Priye Ginen.  At this time, the Lwa are sung for and called, with special ritual observations to the Lwa of the House, the Lwa who the ceremony is dedicated for, and others.  This is really a special time as the Lwa are being called to attend the ceremony from Ginen.  Many times, during this time, one can see the different Spirits as they may enter.  Some enter at this time and now that the spiritual gates have been opened, others will come later.   Here is a very moving verse from the Priye Ginen:

Towards the end of the Priye, the Sosyete gets up and starts to gather around, ready to start the ceremony, start dancing, singing and calling the many different Lwa who will be visiting or attending the ceremony that night, and saluting all the Lwa-yo as they await to hear the Lwas prophesize, heal their illness, resolve their issue or dispense advice. The ceremony will go on for many hours as all the Miste are sung for and the participants celebrate.

 Most Vodou Houses or Sosyetes will have a standard version of the Priye which they will sing at most ceremonies.  As each Houngan, Mambo or Sosyete is different and their Lwa different, one will find special emphasizes on certain Lwa depending on those factors.  Thus the Priye Ginen varies somewhat from House to House.  Also, the Priye can and oftend does vary from ceremony to ceremony, as some require the singing of certain songs whereas others do not. The basics of the Prayer, the order of most songs, and many other things always stay the same however.  Thus, in general, a Vodouisant who knows the prayer will generally be able to follow along even if they are visiting a ceremony elsewhere.

During the prayers, the drums may be occasionally beaten at the beginning of certain songs. The prayer is led by the Asson, Tcha Tcha or both.  This is a very ceremonial process, which during the Houngan or Mambo will often make certain libations, salutes and gestures. 

Shorter versions are sometimes said during other times. Sometimes during what we call “work” or travay, such as in wangas (magical spells), angajman (contracts), etc . This is magickal work and the Priye may or may not be sung, but usually if it is sung, it is a shortened version of the Priye Ginen. 

Anyone can learn the prayer. Usually one learns the Priye by sitting through many many ceremonies.  Over time, the whole prayer is learned.  Due to the differences in the prayer, it is always best to learn the Priye Djo and Priye Ginen following your lineage’s way or your Initiator (Mama or Papa), etc. 

May Papa Bondye and Los Misterios continue to bless you,


Houngan Hector

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