The Haitian Vodou Handbook: Protocols for Riding with the Lwa
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
A working guide to the proper methods of interacting with the full Vodou pantheon
• Includes the myths, cultural heritage, and ancestral lineage of the lwa and how to honor and serve them
• Provides an introduction and guide that is especially useful for the solitary practitioner
• Discusses the relationship between Vodou, Haitian culture, and Catholicism
In The Haitian Vodou Handbook, Kenaz Filan, an initiate of the Société la Belle Venus, presents a working guide to the proper methods of interacting with the full Vodou pantheon, explaining how to build respectful relationships with the lwa, the spirits honored in Haitian Vodou, and how to transform the fear that often surrounds the Vodou religion.
Until recently, the Haitian practice of Vodou was often identified with devil worship, dark curses, and superstition. Some saw the saint images and the Catholic influences and wrote Vodou off as a “Christian aberration.” Others were appalled by the animal sacrifices and the fact that the Houngans and Mambos charge money for their services. Those who sought Vodou because they believed it could harness “evil” forces were disappointed when their efforts to gain fame, fortune, or romance failed and so abandoned their “voodoo fetishes.” Those who managed to get the attention of the lwa, often received cosmic retaliation for treating the spirits as attack dogs or genies, which only further cemented Vodou’s stereotype as “dangerous.”
Filan offers extensive background information on the featured lwa, including their mythology and ancestral lineage, as well as specific instructions on how to honor and interact fruitfully with those that make themselves accessible. This advice will be especially useful for the solitary practitioner who doesn’t have the personal guidance of a societé available. Filan emphasizes the importance of having a quickened mind that can read the lwa’s desires intuitively in order to avoid establishing dogma-based relationships. This working guide to successful interaction with the full Vodou pantheon also presents the role of Vodou in Haitian culture and explores the symbiotic relationship Vodou has maintained with Catholicism.
hat—symbols of Bawon Samedi, the lwa of death and the cemetery. From the early days, Duvalier had regularly compared himself to Lenin and de Gaulle; by the end, he was presenting himself as a Christ figure. Schoolchildren began their day with a prayer to “Our Doc, who art in the National Palace for life,” and they were taught that former leaders like Dessalines and Toussaint were “distinct Chiefs of State who are substantiated in and form only one and the same President in the person of François
these spirits without knowing the intricacies of how to introduce them at a fet. Indeed, you are not likely to receive that knowledge unless and until you are initiated or find a teacher. The Rada Lwa Most of the Fon and Ewe peoples from Africa who landed in St. Domingue were shipped out through the slave port at Arara (or Allada in some dialects), located in what is modern-day Benin. In time, the spirits they brought with them became known as the Rada lwa. These are among the most widely
appropriate tickets, visas, and inoculations before you traveled to a far-off land, you should prepare yourself for a journey into Vodou. Knowing what to expect, and what to avoid, can help make your trip much more pleasant. Thus, I have begun with a few cautionary words—travel advisories, if you will. When visiting a new destination, it often helps to know a bit about its history. To that end, I’ve also provided a brief analysis of the interplay between Haitian Vodou and Haitian history. By
saint images at all. Orthodox Christians and Roman Catholics have fought wars over whether the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father or from the Father and the Son; Sunni and Shia Muslims continue to quarrel over who should have been chosen as successor after Muhammed’s death. I see nothing to be gained—and a great deal to be lost—in endless arguments about how many lwa can dance on the head of a pin. This may be disconcerting to those who expect to find the One True Way of Serving the Lwa and
warlike Djab honored with iron nails and rum might be close to Ogou; a sea spirit or water elemental might have a deep connection with Agwe and La Sirene. Much as the lwa and the saints intercede with God on our behalf, “house lwa” can speak with their more well known brethren and transmit messages between you and them. They can provide you with helpful hints on how to serve the lwa and ensure that your petitions and offerings are noticed. You may already be working with spirits that are not