VODOU RITUALS AND CEREMONIES–
The Haitian Vodou Religions are full of different types of rituals and ceremonies that are conducted. Some ceremonies or rituals are offered and open to the public Vodou Community. While others are conducted, by Houngans and Mambos, for private clientel. Here you will find information on some of the more common ceremonies performed/administered by a Houngan or Mambo. You can click on the links to read more about a particular type of ritual or service.
It is important to note that Houngans or Mambos do not receive a regular salary by an agency, church or organization. Each Houngan or Mambo earns his or her own money as they work for others, helping others, working for clients, etc. These public ceremonies are usually free of charge and it is the Houngan or Mambo giving the ceremony who pays for it, or bears all the expense. Though some of it may be divided out amongst Members of the Sosyete.
However, it is considered apporpriate and correct to bring a donation of some type. Especially when visiting a temple where you may have never attended, or at which you are not a member. Many will bring gifts for the Lwa or donations of various items such as money, rum, kleren, florida water, cigars, flowers, etc. In some Sosyetes, it is common for a hat to be passed around for donations.
FETE FOR A LWA:
This is a public ceremony, where Vodouisants come together to call upon and serve the Lwa. During these ceremonies, drumming, singing and dancing is the norm. This is the most commonly done public ritual. This is also sometimes referred to as a Ceremony, Spiritual Party, or Vodou Party. A Fete may be dedicated to one Lwa in particular, several Lwa or a group of Lwa or all of the Lwa of Ginen.
Most of these ceremonies commence with the Priye Ginen. LINK. After the Priye is conducted, the drums start to beat, the congregation starts to sing and dance for the Lwa. The Lwa are invoked to come to the ceremony via possession. Many times, multiple Lwa will arrive in possession to the ceremony to help the people. During these ceremonies, the Lwa prophesize, heal people, cleanse people, bless them and assist them in resolving their issues.
Throughout the ceremony, which will last many hours, each of the Lwa will be sung for ceremonially until they have all been sung for. Many of them will be ritualistically saluted in certain ways and poured libations. The congregation as well as all the guests will be given food to eat that has been blessed by the Lwa.
A Houngan, Mambo, or other Vodouisant will usually conduct or hold these ceremonies several times a year. Usually directed to those Lwa which he or she works with the most. These ceremonies are usually conducted on the feast days of the different Saints associated with the Lwa. For example, many Houngans have a Danbala Fete on or around St. Patrick’s day, which is the Saint most commonly served with Danbala. (Although there are other Saints known to walk with Danbala)
This ceremony commemerates the harvest of the yams. In this ceremony, the first and best of the yams harvested are given to the Lwa Ginen before any of it is consumed. There is no fixed date and depends on when the yams are harvested, these yams in particular are of a certain kind.
This ceremony is a two day service to the Lwa Ginen. In the first night, the yams are kouched or “put to bed” The ceremony goes on in the normal fashion of a fete, although I have seen shortened versions of it as well. When the yams are kouched, it is done in a certain fashion and in this manner they collect fos (Kreyol for Spiritual force) from the Lwa.
The next morning, the yams receive the ceremony of Leve Yam or the Rising of the Yams. Thus spiritually blessed and full of power they are ceremonially shown respect through various gestures, libations and songs. This is specifically noted for certain Lwa of the sosyte.
That night a Fete will be held in a regular fashion. After the ceremony of Leve Yam, the yams have been cooked and prepared to feed the Sosyete. During a certain time, the yams along with fish and other food will be passed out among the people present.
Various other secret and Initiate only ceremonies go on within Sosyetes, which I am not at liberty to discuss here. Suffice to say, that within these ceremonies, which are not open to the public but only to members of the Sosyete, the members of the fanmi (Vodou Family) serve and petition the Lwa in various ways which benefit them.
PRIVATE RITUALS AND CEREMONIES—-
Unlike the clergy of other Religions, Houngans and Mambos do not receive a salary or steady wage. Therefore, most Houngans and Mambos charge for their services, time, and materials. While public ceremonies are done free of charge, rituals directed at helping resolve a particular person’s problems are done on a for hire basis. Clients commission Vodou priests and priestesses for all sorts of reasons and to resolve all sorts of problems and issues. There are also other ceremonies which a person must pay a Houngan or Mambo to do on their behalf.
Divination/Readings—- These are privately commissioned by clients from the Houngan or Mambo. This is one of the most commonly requested services. Depending on the way it is done, the competence of the Houngan/Mambo, fees will vary from Priest to Priest. One can get a reading with the cards, a candle and water reading,get the Houngan/Mambo to call a lwa or various other techniques. While the first two can be done long distance, calling a lwa is best done if the person is present.
Baths – Spiritual baths are usually specially composed for a client so that he/she may be able to achieve a particular goal. Spiritual baths may also be administered to remove negativity, bring up luck, and to open doors of opportunity. Baths are also administered to heal illnesses. This is one of the most common treatments that a Houngan or Mambo may administer to a client to resolve an issue or problem.
Wanga – This is the second most commonly requested service. A wanga is a spell, a “trabajo” or work, if you will. Wangas are done for all sorts of requests: love, money, work, revenge, etc. Wangas can be really simple or extremely complex; of course, the more complex the wanga the more it costs. These magical spells are commissioned by clients for all sorts of reasons and to resolve all sorts of problems.
Gads – A gad is a protection. There are various types of Gads. The most common, a Gad Ko, is a cut on the skin that has certain herbal powders rubbed into it. It protects people from negative wanga, unnecessary accidents, and so on. It is placed on the point of a lwa. In this manner, the Lwa is attached to the person to guard and protect him or her. Very much like a personal body guard. There are also other types of Gads which are administered in a variety of other ways.
Anvwa Mo – Used to send one or several Mo (spirit of the dead) against an enemy, or drive one or many of them away from a victim of this type of attack – read more by clicking the link
Pwen Cho – In this, a Houngan or Mambo captures a Spirit in order for it to work for a person. The Spirit, usually a djab, or aggressive Spirit, is contracted out by the Houngan or Mambo to serve a person in a particular fashion. A Pwen may also be received to enhance a person’s magickal capabilities and strengthens his/her magick. This Pwen is activated and used in certain ways to enhance magick and magickal abilities. Not all Houngans and Mambo do or provide this service, as these Pwen can be particularly dangerous and harmful.
Pwen Achte— In this, the Houngan or Mambo buys a Spirit and then confers it to the person. These Spirits are considered dangerous and can be difficult to work with. Unlike the Lwa one is born with, these Spirits do not owe their loyalty to the person. Rather, they work on a contract basis.
Mariaj Lwa— In this ceremony, a person is married to the Lwa. By marrying the Lwa, the person is bound to the Spirit and obligated to the particular Lwa. And vice versa. This is not an initiation ceremony, but rather a personal obligation that is made for various reasons, click the link to read more about this ceremony.
Lave Tet – Literally translated it means to wash the head. It is a cleansing of the head, a huge cleansing! It removes negative magick, helps possession occur, increases psychic abilities, adds power to the person’s magick, strengthens them, draws money, and much more.
Kanzo – This is the initiation ceremony done within Haitian Vodou Tradition of the Asson lineage. It is deeply spiritual and empowering. The secrets of this lineage are taught to the initiates and they are empowered.