Interview with a Houngan

Interview with a Houngan

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Door to Houngan’s Ogatwa (altar room)
A few days before Holy Week commenced, Sosyete Gade Nou Leve had an interesting visitor. A young college student came to interview Houngan Hector about his spirits and his work. Here is a transcript of the entire interview.

A. G. – So this is the area in which you see clients?

Houngan Hector (H.H.) – Yes, this is my ogatwa, altar room. This is where my spirits live, this is where I do everything in this room.

A. G. – Why did you have to knock on the door?

H.H. – Would you want someone to come into your bedroom without knocking? This is where the Lwa live, it is their bedroom. Knocking is just a simple sign of respect.

A.G. – I see you have things on the floor. There is a shoe box right there, bottles of liquor, a plate with plaintains, metal plates, bottles filled with liquid. Can you explain what some of these things are to me?

H.H. – The box is for supplies. You know, the things I need to do magic for my clients. (H.H. opens the box, which is full of little bags containing herbs, powders, oils, Florida water and other items) You see this stuff, each thing has it’s uses, each thing has it’s purposes. You see this, it is Gate Sa powder, it is used to spoil something. This is Baumme Commandeur, this is used to control, to command. Each thing has its uses.

The plates are for me to feed the spirits. Certain spirits have their special plates and there are plates here to serve different spirits. Metal plates, metal bowls, wooden bowls, kwis, things for everyone. The plate with plaintains was an offering I made last week. All the bottles have different things, some are just liquor, some have medicines, some are magical. I have a crutch here for Papa Legba. There is a wanga (pointing to an object wrapped in pink satin and various ribbons) for love. These are the special bowls of Marassa Petwo (Triplet children of Vodou).

A. G. – When you first open the door, there is a flag but it isn’t Haitian. Where is it from?

H.H. – This flag? (points to flag) This flag is from Cambodia. One of my spiritual kids is Cambodian and she brought me this beautiful satin flag for my spirits. You see this hat, a woman brought this to me as a gift for Papa Ogou. It’s nice, isn’t it?

A.G. – Oh, yes!

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Cambodian Flag and Papa Ogou’s Hat in the Ogatwa