voodoo is a word of dahometer origin meaning spirit or god and It is a system of beliefs and rights of African origin. Worshipers are divided into groups centered around a temple (houmfo). This belongs to a priest (houngan) or priestess who directs the ceromonies and serves as intermediatry between the believers and the supernatural powers.
Voodoo priest using the art divination
The priests or priestses are attented by hounsi (servents of the gods) who assist them in their offices. Hounsi are chosen from amongst the kanzo, those who have been fully initiated.
Who are there gods and dieties ?...
Legbra - The interpreter of gods. Only he can translate peoples prayers and transmit them to the invisible powers.
Maitre Carref Our - He recieves the homeage of sorcerers.
Agwe'-Taroyo - The sea, fauna, flora and ships are under the jurisdiction of Agne.
Zaka - Fields and agriculture are the province of Zaka.
Gy - A warrior god he is represented by a sword stuck in the ground.
Damballah-Wedo - Snake god, he haunts springs, lakes and ponds of which he is the gaurdian.
Baron-Samedi - Sorcery is within the power of Baron and the spirits of the Geude Family which he heads. The efficacy of evil spirits and magic poisons depends on him, for if the baron and the gods around him refuse to cause the victim selected to perish no rites or invocations will have any effect.
Firmas of the spirits
In Haiti, Gods are extremely touchy and any trifle can cause offence. The Gods are particularly sensitive in matters of ritual. It is not unusual for the Loa to visit upon children for the sins of their parents.
Ritual sacrafice for the ceremony
History of Vodun in the west
Slaves were baptized into the Roman Catholic Church upon their arrival in Haiti and other West Indian islands. However, there was little Christian infrastructure present during the early 19th century to maintain the faith. The result was that the slaves largely followed their original native faith. This they practiced in secret, even while attending Mass regularly.
The purpose of rituals is to make contact with a spirit, to gain their favor by offering them animal sacrifices and gifts, to obtain help in the form of more abundant food, higher standard of living, and improved health. Human and Loa depend upon each other; humans provide food and other materials; the Loa provide health, protection from evil spirits and good fortune. Rituals are held to celebrate lucky events, to attempt to escape a run of bad fortune, to celebrate a seasonal day of celebration associated with a Loa, for healing, at birth, marriage and death.
Vodun priests can be male (houngan or hungan), or female (mambo). A Vodun temple is called a hounfour (or humfort). At its center is a poteau-mitan a pole where the God and spirits communicate with the people. An altar will be elaborately decorated with candles, pictures of Christian saints, symbolic items related to the Loa, etc. Rituals consist of some of the following components:
feast before the main ceremony.
creation of a veve a pattern of flour or cornmeal on the floor which is unique to the Loa for whom the ritual is to be conducted.
shaking a rattle and beating drums which have been cleansed and purified.
chanting will continue throughout the ceremony
dancing by the houngan and/or mambo and the hounsis (students studying Vodun). The dancing will typically build in intensity until one of the dancers (usually a hounsis) becomes possessed by a Loa and falls. His or her ti bon ange has left their body and the spirit has taken control. The possessed dancer will behave as the Loa and is treated with respect and ceremony by the others present.
animal sacrifice which may be a goat, sheep, chicken, or dog. They are usually humanely killed by slitting their throat; blood is collected in a vessel. The possessed dancer may drink some of the blood. The hunger of the Loa is then believed to be satisfied. The animal is usually cooked and eaten. Animal sacrifice is a method of consecrating food for consumption by followers of Vodun, their gods and ancestors.
The houngan and mambos confine their activities to "white" magic which is used to bring good fortune and healing. However caplatas (also known as bokors) perform acts of evil sorcery or black magic, sometimes called "left-handed Vodun". Rarely, a houngan will engage in such sorcery; a few alternate between white and dark magic.
One belief unique to Vodun is that a dead person can be revived after having been buried. After resurrection, the zombie has no will of their own, but remains under the control of others. In reality, a zombie is a living person who has never died, but is under the influence of powerful drugs administered by an evil sorcerer. Although most Haitians believe in zombies, few have ever seen one. There are a few recorded instances of persons who have claimed to be zombies.
Sticking pins in "voodoo dolls" was once used as a method of cursing an individual by some followers of Vodun in New Orleans.
Major figures in western Voodoo
believed to have been born in New Orleans at 1794 and died on June 15, 1881 in New Orleans. Marie Laveau was a free woman of color. She was from many different cultures, African, Spanish, French and Indian. She became the most famous Vodun Queen in the world she was so powerful that she made herself the pope of Vodun in the 1830s. She was respected and feared by all including the Catholic Church. Marie was a devout Catholic, going to church every day; she got permission to hold rituals behind the St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans.
She started out as a hairdresser and later became a nurse, after that she became the first commercial Vodun Queen. Marie Laveau had fifteen children by her second husband. One of her children (Marie Philomene Laveau Glapion) followed after her mother and became almost as powerful. Marie Laveaus tomb is in St. Louis cemetery number one, her tomb is usually covered with many different offerings. Some visitors also tap three times on the tomb or mark with chalk three Xs on a brick of her tomb and ask for a favor.
Over the years this religion has become more excepted socialy and it is reported that today Voodoo has over 50 million and has followers throughout the world.
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