Basics of Vodou

Although the word Voodoo tends to conjure images of zombies, pins stuck in dolls, animal sacrifices, priests drinking blood, etc., it s not exactly a realistic portrait of what Voodoo truly is. In fat because of the images associated with this word, most practitioners prefer the term Vodou. Vodou came form the tribal practices and beliefs of the slaves who were brought to Haiti from West Africa. In the 17th century, slaves bound for the West Indies were taken from over 100 different African ethnic groups. The beliefs and customs of all these groups combined to form Vodou. The two groups who had the greatest influence were the Fon and the Yoruba. The most important religious practice was ancestor worship. By remembering their ancestors and passing down their knowledge from generation to generation ensuring that their religious traditions would live on. The Fon believed in hundreds of immortal spirits called vodu. Because the people had personal relationships with the spirits, they needed to communicate with the vodu. Ritual enabled them to talk to the spirits. The most important elements of the tribal rituals were - dancing, drumming and chanting to communicate with the spirits - animal sacrifices made as offerings to the spirits - a priest or priestess who interpreted messages from the spirits - possession of the bodies of participants in ritual by the spirits. The main purpose of the ritual was to communicate with the vodu and receive their guidance in making important decisions. They did this by communicating indirectly with the spirits via the priest/priestess to help their followers determine who their personal vodu were and to interpret the messages for them. Priests and priestesses were chosen for their ability to connect with the spirits. They were s aid to have inherited this talent from their mothers or fathers. They were born into priesthood . Priests became the religious and community leaders of the slaves. Any rebellious priest was usually sold to prevent them from sowing the seeds of dissent in that empire. These religious practices continue to thrive today for modern day Benin. Vodoun is the official religion. It is also the dominant religion in Togo and southwest Ghana. Despite the numerous spirits the Vodoun communicate with, they believe in only one God. The spirits are the immortal souls of their ancestors. That is why the spirits are honored/served rather than worshipped like Gods. Christianity was forced on the slaves to rid them of their superstitions . Because of this, the Catholi c Church saw the conversion of the slaves as justification for their slavery. The belief was that by enslaving these people, they were saving their souls. However the Church s efforts backfired on them. The slaves found the Christian religion to be the perfect cover to hide their true religious practices. Because of the days of the Catholic screen, many Vodoun still have images of Catholic Saints on their altars. However it s not the saints they are worshipping. The pictures are just that --- pictures representing preexisting African spirits. Each major spirit of Vodou was matched with a Catholic saint based on similarity. An example would be Saint Patrick (an image of him driving the snakes out of Ireland) used to identify with Danbala, a snake spirit.

crosses and other symbols appear on Vodoun altars (although with different meanings). Candles. Student Correct The Fon believed in _____ of Answer Answer immortal spirits. hundreds X X thousands millions didn¶t say Score After Question 1: 100% Student Correct Answer Answer priest It was the duty of ________ to help the followers determine who their personal vodu were. They even took communion wafer and holy water to guard against danger and witchcraft. Guinea Togo Ghana Benin X X Score After Question 3: 100% Student Correct Answer Answer The two most influential groups were: Togo and Benin Congo and Gabon Fon and Yoruba None of the above X X Score After Question 4: 100% Student Correct Answer Answer Elements of tribal ritual were: animal sacrifices made as offerings to the spirits a priest/priestess who interpreted messages from the spirits .Vodou took on other things from Catholicism as well. priestess X X a&b none of the above Score After Question 2: 100% Student Correct Answer Answer Vodou is the official religion in _________. Catholic prayers and hymns were incorporated into rituals.

ritual their priest / priestess their slave owners .X X possession of participants by spirits all of the above Score After Question 5: 100% Student Correct Answer Answer X X What was the most important religious practice of vodou? worshipping god ancestor worship raising zombies drinking blood Score After Question 6: 100% Student Correct Answer Answer X X Priests and priestesses were _____________. elected chosen for their abilities forced into leadership none of the above Score After Question 7: 100% Student Correct Answer Answer X X Why did the Vodoun practice ancestor worship? to ensure their beliefs to die out to ensure their beliefs would live on the lwa told them to because god told them to Score After Question 8: 100% Student Correct Answer Answer X X What is the main purpose of ritual? sacrifice in the name of the lwa communicating with spirits group orgies meeting new mates Score After Question 9: 100% Student Correct Answer Answer X X Vodoun received guidance in making important decisions through ___________.

they didn¶t make important decisions Score After Question 10: 96% Student Correct Answer Answer X X The belief of the church was that by enslaving the Vodoun they were _______.no one. saving their souls ridding them of their evilness stamping out satan purifying them Score After Question 11: 96% Student Correct Answer Answer Togo Vodou is the dominant religion in ___________. drank blood of the followers ate part of the animal sacrifice interpreted messages from the vodu took communion X X Score After Question 13: 96% Student Correct Answer Answer 2 10 X X 50 100 + How many different ethnic groups combined to form Vodou? Score After Question 14: 96% Student Correct Answer Answer Priests became the religious and ________ leaders of the slaves. Southwest Ghana X X a&b none of the above Score After Question 12: 96% Student Correct Answer Answer Besides determining the personal vodu of the followers. priests/priestesses also _________. tribal city community X .

evil practices satanic beliefs a&b ³superstitions´ X X Score After Question 17: 92% Student Correct Answer Answer Priests and priestesses ___________ their abilities. learned practiced sold their souls for inherited X X Score After Question 18: 92% Student Correct Answer Answer X X The most important element of ritual was : dancing.X Student Correct Answer Answer spiritual Score After Question 15: 92% What items did Vodou take on from Christianity? candles crosses prayers and hymns all of the above X X Score After Question 16: 92% Student Correct Answer Answer Christianity was forced on them to rid them of their _________. drumming and chanting to communicate with spirits dancing naked and drunk around a bonfire speaking in tongues using a Ouija board Score After Question 19: 92% Student Correct Answer Answer 14th 16th X X 17th 18th In what century were slaves taken to the West Indies? Score After Question 20: 92% .

X X monotheistic duo theistic polytheistic none of the above Score After Question 24: 92% Student Correct Answer Answer People communicated ______ with the spirits through the priest/priestess.Student Correct What happened to rebellious Answer Answer priests? sold X X killed nothing glorified Score After Question 21: 92% Student Correct Answer Answer Spirits are believed to be ___________. . extensions of god ghosts immortal souls of the ancestors demons X X Score After Question 22: 92% Student Correct St. directly indirectly telepathically n/a X X Score After Question 25: 92% . Danbala X X Rada Nanchon Lwa Score After Question 23: 92% Student Correct Vodou is a _____________ Answer Answer religion. Patrick was used to identify with Answer Answer ________.

skull. childbirth. fire and metalworking Fishing and sailing The ocean Realm Wisdom and Ancestral Knowledge Symbol Serpent Rainbow Cross Heart Machete Boat Seashell The family of Ogou spirits is larger than the family of any other major lwa and each aspect of Ogou takes on a slightly different role. Rada Name Danbala Aida-Wedo Papa Legba Ezili Freda Ogou Agive¶ Lasiren None None Kalfou Ezili Danto¶ None Agwe¶ Laflambeau Labalenn Petro Name Fertility Gateway between spiritual world and material world Love and beauty War.The lwa are immortal spirits with supernatural powers. Ge¶de¶ is an enormous group of spirits made up of the spirits of formerly living people who after death became lwa. etc. art. There are at least 17 different nanchons but only a few are known by name. Below is a list of the major Ge¶de¶ and their symbols. health. mon ey. shovel Cross. *Rada ± originated in Dahomey *Petro ± originated in Haiti *Ibo ± from on of the major Yoruban tribes *Nago ± another of the major Yoruban tribes *Ginen ± originated in Guinea *Bambara ± originated in Sudan *Wangol ± originated in Angola *Siniga ± originated in Senegal Of these. angels and demons of Catholicism. They are very similar to the saints. death spirits. The lwa oversee all human activities such as: marriage. coffin. war. work. Aspect Ogou Baba Ogou Badagris Ogou Batala Ogou Fer Ogou Feray Ogou La Flambeau Ogou Shango Ogou Tonnerre Lwa of the phallus Patron of surgeons and doctors Lwa of fire and war Patron of blacksmiths and metalworkers Represents the fiery rage of battle Lwa of lightning Lwa of thunder Principal Role Represents a military general Another important group of lwa is Ge¶de¶. The Great Lwa is given realms that they rule and symbols to represent them. the Rada and Petro nanchons dominate the others and have taken in the lwa of the other nations. Name Ge¶de¶ Baron Samedi Symbols Black cross. phallus . They fall somewhere between God and the human race. Lwa are divided into several groups called nanchons.

elm. Lwa Special Days Colors . Although. the following lwa are still powerful and just as frequently honored. Here are a few examples. is the guardian of cemeteries as well as being an evil spirit of black magic and money. Listed below are some of the best known Ge¶de¶ and the roles they play. No study of the Vodou Spirits would be complete without these important lwa. cemetery Cross Cemetery. wife of Baron Samedi.Baron Cimetie¶ Baron Crois Maman Brijit Bones. Name Azaka Gran Bwa Loko Ayizan Simbi Marinette Bosou Agau Sogbo Bade¶ Agriculture Forest Medicine and priesthood Marketplaces and priestesses Freshwater and magicians Evil works Male virility and black magic Storms and earthquakes Lightning Wind Realm Symbol Makout * Tree Red rooster Palm frond Green snake Screech owl Bull Thunder Thunderstone Wind * makout is a small sack made of woven straw that peasants wore to carry their tools Every lwa has one or two days set aside to honor them. weeping willow Of the Ge¶de¶ group the majority are male. along with special colors for vodoun to wear. Maman Brijit. usually from gunshots Small woman who reveals herself in storms Female spirit who carries an umbilical cord and poisoned leaves in a bag Takes care of tombs Suffering Ge¶de¶ Imitates a spider Child spirit of Ge¶de¶ Role Baron Samedi is the lord of all the Ge¶de¶. Name Ge¶de¶-Brav Ge¶de-Double Ge¶de¶-Fouye Ge¶de¶ Janmensou Ge¶de¶-Loraj Ge¶de¶-Loraye Ge¶de¶-Masaka Ge¶de¶-Nibo Ge¶de¶-Soufrant Ge¶de¶-z¶-Aragne¶e¶ Linto Represent the phallus Endows people with second sight The gravedigger He is never drunk Protects those who dies violently.

black goats Bread. Friday. rams. russet-colored oxen Black chickens Baby goat stew wrapped in banana leaves. turkeys. goats. rice. rice and beans. sweet cakes Black rooster. grilled peanuts. cornmeal. white goats dyed blue Corn. rice. speckled hens Chickens plucked alive. peanut cakes White doves Roosters. pigs Student Correct Answer Answer Which aspect of Ogou represents a military general? Ogou Batala Ogou Fer Ogou Feray Ogou Baba X X Score After Question 1: 100% . white sheep. cassava Speckled roosters. plantains. salted herring Fried beef. black pigs White doves. smoked meats. bulls Mottled roosters. bread. rice. and Friday White and blue White and blue Blue and red Black and purple White Pink and pale blue Blue-green Red Red and white White and green Besides the special days and colors the lwa have favorite foods and sacrifices. Thursday. guinea fowl. red roosters. black goats. and Saturday Friday and Saturday Tuesday. barley.Agwe¶ Ayida-Wedo Azaka Baron Samedi Danbala Ezili Lasiren Ogou Papa Legba Simbi Thursday Monday and Tuesday Friday and Saturday Saturday Thursday Tuesday and Thursday Thursday Monday. eggs. goats. milk Fried pork. black cows Rice and red beans. pigs Pair of white chickens. yams Black chickens. yams. Lwa Agwe¶ Azaka Baron Samedi Bosou Danbala and Ayida-Wedo Ezili Danto¶ Ezili Freda Ge¶de¶ Gran Bwa Lasiren Loko and Ayizan Maman Brijit Marasa Marinette Ogou Papa Legba Simbi Favorite Foods White hens. grilled chicken. black or white goats.

Student Correct Answer Answer What is the special day(s) of the lwa Simbi? Tuesday Thursday Friday all of the above X X Score After Question 2: 100% Student Correct Answer Answer Which of the lwa likes fried beef and pigs? Agwe¶ Azaka Bosou Ogou X X Score After Question 3: 100% Student Correct Answer Answer What is the special day(s) of AyidaWedo? Monday Thursday Tuesday a and c X X Score After Question 4: 100% Student Correct Answer Answer tree What is the symbol of Azaka? palm frond X X makout bull Score After Question 5: 100% Student Correct Answer Answer 5 X X 6 4 3 How many lwas have Thursday as their special day? Score After Question 6: 100% Student Correct Answer Answer Who is the wife of Baron Samedi? .

Score After Question 10: 100% Student Correct Answer Answer Who is the Lord of all Ge¶de¶? Baron Cemetie¶ Baron Crois Baron Samedi none of the above X X Score After Question 11: 100% Student Correct Answer Answer 1 X 3 How many of the lwa like rice and beans? .Linto Ayida-Wedo X X Ezili Freda Maman Brijit Score After Question 7: 100% Student Correct Answer Answer Ibo Nago X X Which nanchon is from on of the major Yoruban tribes? Bambara a and b Score After Question 8: 100% Student Correct Answer Answer The role of Ge¶de¶-Brav is: the grave digger he¶s never drunk X X represents the phallus suffering Ge¶de¶ Score After Question 9: 100% Student Correct Answer Answer 16 X X 17 20 100 There are at least __________ different nanchons.

X 2 4 Score After Question 12: 96% Student Correct Answer Answer Ge¶de¶ are: love spirits birthing spirits weather spirits death spirits X X Score After Question 13: 96% Student Correct Which Ge¶de¶ takes care of tombs? Answer Answer Nibo X X Brav Loraj Souffrant Score After Question 14: 96% Student Correct Answer Answer red green X X What is the color worn to honor Papa Legba? white a and c Score After Question 15: 96% Student Correct Answer Answer rice What is the favorite food of Ezili Freda? white doves X X sweet cakes all of the above Score After Question 16: 96% Student Correct Answer Answer X X What is the special day(s) of Lasiren? Tuesday Thursday Monday Sunday .

what day is not one of the chosen special days? Monday Thursday Friday Sunday X X Score After Question 21: 96% Student Correct Which Ogou is the lwa of thunder? Answer Answer Tonerre X X Shango Badagris Feray Score After Question 22: 96% .Score After Question 17: 96% Student Correct Answer Answer bread Which is the favorite food of Gran Bwa? cornmeal X X peanut cakes all of the above Score After Question 18: 96% Student Correct What is the symbol of Marinette? Answer Answer X X screech owl red rooster green snake wind Score After Question 19: 96% Student Correct Answer Answer X X Lasiren is the lwa of what realm? love and beauty the ocean childhood materials Score After Question 20: 96% Student Correct Answer Answer Of all the days in the week.

it¶s Danbala . y y y y y y y y y y y y y y To request a special favor of the lwa To solve a critical problem in the socyete To counteract black magic or remove a evil spirit To guard against harm or danger To heal sick members of the socyete To escape a run of bad luck To celebrate success or a change ion fortune To give thanks to the lwa To appease an offended lwa To satisfy the demands of a lwa To celebrate one or more ancestors To acknowledge a special anniversary.Student Correct Answer Answer 5 X X 6 4 9 How many lwa like the color white? Score After Question 23: 96% Student Correct Which lwa rules over the realm of Answer Answer wisdom and ancestral knowledge? Danbala X X Papa Legba Ogou Lasiren Score After Question 24: 96% Student Correct Answer Answer X X Ezili Freda is also known as: Kalfou Ezili Danto¶ Agwe¶ none of the above Score After Question 25: 96% Every vodou ritual is held for a specific purpose. such as initiation To mark a holiday. Ritual may take place at any time. or a day sacred to a particular lwa At the request of an individual or family. a saint¶s feast. it¶s Danbala The spirit works in the water. Most vodou ceremonies follow the same basic pattern: the oungan (priest) invokes one or more lwa. offers them food and sacrifices. The following are all good reasons to hold a ritual. The following are songs for different lwa. and asks for them to materialize on the physical plane. whenever need calls for it. who then foots the bill for the ceremony Most rituals last only a few hours although some have been known to go on for days. Song for Danbala The spirit works in the water.

It refreshes the soul and so can help heal sickness. They are passed down from generation to generation. Rewarding effects of the lave te t (besides having a clean head) are: 1. Advantages of initiation are: 1. The first step in initiation is th e lave te t (washing the head). 5. This functions like a baptism. 3. rituals. This ritual is c all kanzo. It can appease an offended lwa. such as evil spirits or black magic. cleansing and purifying initiates and readying them for proceeding down the path to konesans (the complete body of knowledge of the lwa. Someone who has been called by the lwa would have many reasons for wanting to be initiated. It removes negative energies. Initiation deepens the bond with the lwa. First and foremost reason being that initiation is the only path into priesthood. Initiation gives the devotee better protection against magical attacks. 4. Initiation may increase the devotee s good luck and good health. 5. Initiates hold a higher place in the socyete and can participate more directly in rituals. 2. and herbal cures held by an oungan). Calendar of Major Vodou Ceremonies January 6 February 25 March/April March 20 April 29 April 30 May 12 July 16 July 25 July 26 Les Rois . The initiate can contact the lwa more directly and lead a more rewarding spiritual life. 4. The second step of initiation serves as a rite of passage. It strengthens the bond with the me t te t (patron lwa). or sources of rivers Souvenance Festival ± a week long festival celebrating the great Rada lwa in Souvenance (only oungans and mambos (priestesses) can attend) Legba Zaou ± honors Papa Legba with the sacrifice of a black goat Case Kanari ± sends the souls of those who died in the past year to the realm of the dead Manje-mo¶ ± ritual feeding of the family ancestors Manje-lwa ± ritual feeding of the lwa sacred to the ounfo¶ Pilgrimage to Saut-d¶-Eau ± pilgrimage to the sacred waterfall Papa Ogou ± pilgrimage to Plaine du Nord in honor of Ogou Feray Day for Ezili ± rituals and pilgrimages honoring Ezili .Papa Danbala is the spring Papa Danbala is the spring Song for Ogou Fire spirit where are you going. It gives the devotee a deepe r connection to the spiritual world. leave your children When I remember Ogou Feray I must be strong to call Ogou He drinks but is never drunk Ogou drinks but is never drunk Song for Ge¶de¶ Papa Ge¶de¶ is a handsome man Papa Ge¶de¶ is a handsome man He is dressed all in black For he is going to the palace The songs performed in ceremonies retell the stories and myths about the lwa. 3. transforming the initiate into a member of the ounfo s (vodou temple) spiritual family. 2.honors the ancestral African kings Manje Te¶t Dlo ± ritual feeding of the springs.

and let the lwa respond to your requests. while you sing. Present each of your food offerings to the 4 compass points. but i f you don¶t know any. When you¶re finished. focus on the candle¶s flame 4. and put them on the altar. Ask Papa Legba to open the gate between this world and the spiritual world by reciting the following: ³Papa Legba. I will thank the lwa´ 5. Ring a bell. or help you make a decision. Baron Samedi and Maman Brijit Manje-yanm ± harvest festival held in rural Haiti Bato d¶ Agwe ± offerings to Agwe¶ and the other ocean lwa are floated out to sea on an ornamental raft Fe¶t des Membres ± devotes return home to receive purifying baths Manje Marasa ± ceremony to honor the divine twins And of course the lesson would not be complete without an example of a single ritual. shake a rattle. light offering candles 8. let the food offerings remain on the altar overnight. In a loud. or ocean related songs for Agwe¶ and Lasiren. ask then for what you want. touch them to your head and heart. gazing into the candle¶s flame and vessel of w ater. sing any related songs you like. clear voice. for me to pass When I return. dance until you work up a sweat 9. blow out the candles and leave the room. Say a prayer of your choice 3. traditional vodou songs are best. open the gate for me Open the gate for me. When you feel that the lwa are near. Spend some quiet time in front of your altar. open the gate for me Atibon Legba. love songs for Ezili.August 15 November 1 November 2 November 25 December 12 December 25 December 28 Soukri Kongo Festival ± weeklong ceremony at Nan Soukri to collectively honor the Kongo lwa New year¶s Day ± ritual bonfires are lit for Papa Legba Fe¶t Ge¶de¶ ± festival to honor dead family members. allowing time for the lwa to absor b energy from them . sing anything. now is the best time to do divination if you¶d like 11. work-related songs for Ogou. reveal a secret or the future. Celebrate the lwa. Light the central candle on your altar. breathe on the offerings. this represents the pathway between our world and the world where lwa live. Pour a libation of rum or water 3 times on the ground 7. call the names of the lwa you want to invoke during the ritual 6. or clap your hands to signal the beginning of the ritual 2. So here goes: 1. or you can simply ask for their blessings and protection 10. you might want to ask them to solve a problem. Papa.

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