Vodou is a Way of Life
Vodou is a tradition of action. That is why most people will say “M sevi Ginen” (I serve Ginen) rather than say “I’m a Vodouisant”. Now all religions are, ideally, a way of life. But Vodou is most adamantly so. Service is an action, and that is how we describe our tradition, in terms that refer to action.
Vodou is something you live, rather than simply do. It is not a tradition you can learn passively. You need to dig right in and get your hands dirty, so to speak. During ceremonies, everything is based on actions: salutes, dancing, drumming, singing, and tracing veves – to name a few. We do not have congregation members sitting as someone preaches.
Everyday of the week is sacred to a particular Lwa or group of Lwa. Sunday is God’s day. Vodouisants vary on what happens on Sunday. Some will not do any spiritual work, will not salute the lwa, will not do anything that has to do with Ginen. Others do not discriminate against the day. They say, “Yes, Sunday is sacred to God, I will remember Him and respect Him, but everyday I need to eat!” In other words, they still do Vodouisant activities on this day.
There are a variety of ways to serve the Lwa on their sacred day: wearing their colors on their day, observing abstinence on that day, singing, and serving them with ceremony. People who are married to a Lwa are obligated to observe the sacred day of that Lwa. They may have to wear certain clothes, prepare their bed in a certain way, and do other things that signify the human spouse’s sacred commitment.
Monday is the second day of the week. This is also the day that many consider to be the beginning of the week. This day is sacred to the Ancestors, Gede and Legba. As the opening day, the same lwa that one must take care of before going on to other lwa, are taken care of on this day. Think about it: After God (Sunday), one should have his/her ancestors taken care of. After they are taken care of, things will flow easier, including work with the Lwa. This is where Gede and the ancestors come in. Yet before one can call other Lwa, one must salute Legba. Legba is the gate keeper, and he is the one who can open our doors or shut them as he may please.
Most Vodouisants do some sort of “daily devotional”, especially Vodouisants whose main source of income is serving Ginen. In the process, one “wakes them up”, if you will, in order to get them working. They will also open the doors, of the Vodouisant’s home, to receive clientele. There are a variety of ways that an individual may choose to “wake” them up.
On Mondays, I make sure to remove all glasses of water from all the altars. This water I toss outside the front door. I then wash the glasses, and the coffee cup of Gede. I also throw Gede’s coffee out the front door. I make Gede some new warm coffee, and fill all the glasses with cool fresh water. I then light a candle, and pray. After this, I talk to my spirits. I give them their coffee and water. I may alternately perform a libation of rum to them as well. I also make sure to refresh Eleggua, which is an Oricha I received in a separate tradition.
Vodouisants also do other things to live the tradition. One thing is that once you come into this tradition, your whole view of the world will change. You will learn to act in accordance with yourself, in time.
When you change the way that you view the world, your world will change.
When meeting opposition, Vodouisants take care of the matter. We do not brush off our problems. We face them. We correct them. We make the world work for us. I remember almost losing a game of Parchisi, in Haiti. I don’t enjoy losing too much (Who does?) Well, I sprung out a Vodou song that spoke of rising above bad situations, and I won!
That is just a very small single example of what Vodou does to empower us. Tuesday is the day that is sacred to the Petro spirits, notably Ezili Danto. Wednesday is the day for the Nago Nation, again notably it is Ogou’s day. Thursday is for the Lwa Rada. Friday belongs to Gede again, notably Baron and Brijit. Lastly, Saturday is a day for all the Lwa!
I suggest you work on your own personal devotion to the Lwa on a daily schedule. It can be a short little moment of five minutes or so. Alternately, you can decide that your devotion will take longer. It is a great way to get the Lwa working in your daily life. You will see how your life improves.