Considerations for initiation into Vodou
There seem to be big misconceptions in the Vodou world outside of Haiti as to how the tradition typically runs in Haiti. The Vodou tradition teaches a number of things that may not be understood if you do not understand Haiti and how things are done there.
Let’s get some popular misconceptions out of the way.
There are the more popular misconceptions which people know about such as nude dancing, blood drinking, human sacrifices, etc. I am talking about things that are deeper than that. Things that an aspiring Vodouisant has to know.
Initiation into the Vodou Religion should not be undertaken in this house if your motivation is to simply find a magickal system. That is not the only thing the Vodou Religion is about. Some think or are unable to see Vodou as something more than a magickal practice.
Believe it or not, there is a difference between magick and Religion. Religion will put us in the hands of God and the Lwa. We serve God and the Mysteries and know they will help us in life. Do not get me wrong, in Vodou there are both Religion and Magick. Yet becoming initiated requires embracing the Religious side of it, not only a “what can I get out of it” attitude.
If this truly is to be your Religion, you will love the Lwa whether you get exactly what you asked for or not. Unfortunately, what people want is not always good for them. Fortunately, if you love the Lwa and serve the Lwa simply because you love them, they will guide you along your path, and lead you in the right direction.
Not only that, they will bless you immeasurably more. I am not saying that one should forget the maji (magickal work) altogether. There are times when you will have to perform magick to get what you want. But if you have the Lwa with you and you love them, you will know what they are telling you to do your work for and what not to.
There is a saying in Haiti:
“Moun yo remen wanga, yo pa remen Lwa yo”
this means that people love what they can get out of the Religion, they don’t love the Lwa out of pure love for them. The Religious side of this tradition allows us to put our lives in God and Ginen’s hands. Following their will, knowing in full faith that they will guide us correctly, and knowing when we face trials and tribulations (which we all do) that they will assist us in getting through them. This means that when things start going wrong, you don’t just give up and throw away the altar. When you don’t get what you want, you don’t just cuss out your Lwa and throw them in a box.
Trials and tribulations happen to everyone.
“Tout moun fet pou soufri, tout moun fet pou mouri”
a Haitian proverb meaning that life is not without suffering, whether you are a non-initiated Vodouisant or a Houngan or Mambo or the Pope. It happens to everyone. But what is important is what we do when it happens. Do we keep our faith and tread on, trusting that God and Ginen will see us through this OR do we give up on everything we claim to believe in? Anyone walking this path knows that it is not the easiest path to tread. But when the going gets tough, the tough get going, as the saying goes.
Another thing to consider, is that not everyone is meant to become an initiate. Nor is everyone able to, or find it desirable, or is willing to take on the responsibility of initiation. Nor do I believe that initiation is good for everyone, or can resolve everything for an individual. I do believe that Vodou can help everyone, but not that initiation is for everyone.
Initiation brings on its own set of rewards and responsibilities. Anyone telling you otherwise is lying. The higher ranking an initiate you are, the more responsibilities you will take on. Not everyone is meant to be a priest, because if that were the case, there would be no need for priests.
Many times people seek initiation into the highest level of Vodou without considering all it will entail. There is much that is expected of a Hounsi Kanzo, so you can imagine what an Asogwe’s responsibilities would entail. Don’t get me wrong, there are many rewards for being an initiate but those rewards don’t come strictly for free either.
There are some who will hand out initiations to the highest bidder, or anyone with the necessary funds in their hands. Funnily enough, I often find that the individuals that are indeed called to be initiates of high rank often do not have the funds available to do so, as much as they may desire it.
These are just a few things to consider when thinking about initiation into the Vodou tradition.