Have you ever noticed, when you search for information about Vodou, especially from the Haitian perspective, that everything available for reading (or watching, with the rise of Vodou video on sites like Youtube) jumps to the how-to-work-with-named-spirits parts of the practice, but that nowhere is there information about the beliefs and the underpinnings of Vodou as a culture/religion/religiomagical practice?
Why is that?
For Vodouisants in Haiti, the answer is oddly simple; people raised in the culture, its religion, and the religions beliefs are steeped in the information from birth. While the information that is held behind the doors of the djevo/initiation chamber is still held only by those who have passed the doors, the underpinnings of the religion are freely known and culturally accepted because of simple immersion.
When it comes to foreigners, though, the story is different… Continue reading The Vodou Deep Dive, pt. 1
A common thread shared by the many different religions in the West African Diaspora is the idea that each person has a special connection to a particular spirit within that tradition, and that when the individual becomes an initiate they will be ritually marked as a child of that entity, receive that entity’s mysteries, or any other possible language that could be used to describe the sealing of the relationship, and Vodou is, of course, one that many think of first.
That said, the most famous instances come from the Yoruba-language-speaking peoples that Vodou knows as the Nago Nation in religions such as Lukumi and Candomble, where the process is known as Making the Saint, or Crowning. In those traditions, the individual’s main protective spirit is public knowledge as, passing that ceremony, the now-ordained individual is known to have received and become a priest/ess of that particular spirit’s mysteries.
Where the different religions of the African Diaspora begin to differ, however, is in the cosmological cores the traditions are wound around; to the adherents of Yoruba-language-speaking-people’s descendent traditions, the cosmology comes from an ethnic group historically found centered around what is now the nation of Nigeria. While Haiti inherited quite a bit from that ethnic group (including some of our most famous spirits!), the cosmology *we* inherited comes mostly from a territory a bit to the north of Nigeria in what is now Benin… centered in the Fon and Gbwe ethno-linguistic groups. (We’ll take a deep dive into cosmology soon, I promise).
While Vodou certainly shares the idea of a central guiding and protective spirit for each individual, there are some major differences in how we handle the idea when compared to the Diasporic religions around us. Continue reading The Met Tet, or the Guardian of the Head