Mani table with offerings for the Lwa
In the Bautizo, the recipient undergoes all the ceremonies necessary for that individual to have the Misterios settled within them in the strongest possible manner. In this, the Misterios have taken root deeply within the individual and are firmly planted. Individuals who have undergone the Bautizo have available the privilege of calling themselves Papa Boko or Mama Mambo, but they do not have the right to do so.
What does that mean? In Dominican Vodou, that is a title that has to be earned. The title does not come to the individual through the initiation itself, but through learning, knowledge, experience, and good work. One must earn this right for one’s self, therefore the ceremony itself does not confer the title. One must have confirmation from the Misterios to use this title, usually they come into the person’s dreams, yet also will confirm with the person’s Madrina or Padrino (Godparents).
The Bautizo also completely develops an individual’s spiritual abilities in a safe, effective, quick, and powerful manner. It ties all the spiritual forces into a person’s head, and keeps them there for the rest of his or her life. It extends the person’s powers to a great degree.
The ceremony is conducted by the main initiator, who will choose a number of assistants, who are also Papa Bokos or Mama Mambos. This can range from 2-7, although 3, 4, 7 are the most common, but not always. The ceremony can last from 3-9 days. Many prefer to take their intended initiates to the Dominican Republic for these ceremonies although it is not necessary. The main reasons for traveling to the Dominican Republic are that assistants are easier to find, and necessary items are very easy to find – in essence, it is ease and comfort that leads some initiators to demand that the ceremony be performed in the Dominican Republic. Everything necessary can, however, be found here in the United States (including both assistants and needed items) so the initiation can, and often is, performed here in the US.
A table that is referred to as a Mani will be built for the ceremony. It will have all the offerings for all the Lwa. The baptism ceremony will take place at many places, because for this initiation one must receive many puntos and will consequently need to travel a lot. Certain puntos are given to all people. These are that of the Indian Division, which is given at a river, that of the Baron, which is done in the cemetery, and the Petro Lwa punto which is done at night, in the woods. Other puntos will vary according to the individual and his or her Lwa.
At one point in the ceremony, those conducting it along with the Padrino/Madrina will invoke possession into the initiate. This is a very important moment, because during this time the individual will have many many secrets revealed to him or her. The Misterios are then baptized into the head of the individual.
During the ceremony, many sacrifices will take place. This is to feed the Lwa, strengthen them, and fortify all the forces that are being tied into the individual’s head. The initiate will then, close to the end of the ceremony, receive the simple refresco de cabeza, and along with it secret infusions will be used as well. Then a small celebration will culminate the ceremony, in which different Lwa will mount to salute and recognize the initiate. Attendees are usually close family and friends.
The initiate will then be under strict rules for the forty one days to follow. He or she will have to observe certain taboos. The new initiate receives during his or her ceremony the jarro, the tcha tcha, his/her fulas, and a secret bottle that holds much power for the initiate. After the 41 days, the initiate will make a small mani for his or her Misterios at home.