initiation4

Come and see what ordination into Vodou is all about!

Initiation into the Vodou tradition is a long process. It takes nearly two weeks to complete. Traditionally, initiation into the Vodou Tradition is done in Haiti. There have been arguments in the Diaspora about whether or not the Kanzo can be done here in the US; I am not going to get into that.I am going to discuss the Kanzo ceremony in which people are initiated from hounsi kanzo all the way to Houngan or Mambo Asogwe. A shorter version of the kanzo is done when only making hounsis kanzo. I am not going to discuss that here. You can check that out here: Simple Kanzo Ceremony

The first ceremonies in the kanzo are known as the bat ge. Bat ge actually means “to beat a war.” This is exactly what is done too, a war is beaten to bring possession by the Mysteries to the candidates. Houses differ in the number of nights that the bat ge is done. The pwen, or focus, of the ritual is focused on a special Petro altar known as the bila.

In the center of the Bila, you will find a bottle with a coin at the top. On top of this coin, you will see a cork standing with the use of a needle that has two forks coming from its sides. This whole contraption spins. It is known as the nkisi. (Nkisi is a Congo language word for spirit)

During one of the nights of the Bat Ge, a ceremony known as the pile fey (crushing of the leaves) is done. The herbs crushed during this part of the ceremony are used throughout the kanzo. The herbs are specifically charged and empowered through this special ceremony.

Another night, during the bat ge, initiates will tie packets. These will be the pwen conferred upon the initiates to be made. Most houses have Houngans and Mambos attend to this, not the initiation candidates. Hounsi kanzos do not receive packets, Sou Pwen initiates receive three and the Asogwe initiate will receive seven.

The next step to take place are series of special baths. These baths are symbolic of the death of the candidates. Some houses do these baths for three days, some for one day, some for two. The number of baths that are done also varies from house to house. The candidates are led in a procession to the Houngan or Mambo, who – with other initiates – will bathe the candidate. The baths are done with old clothes on.

The candidates are put to rest for a while, because later that same night, will come the Kouche Kanzo. This is the seclusion of the initiates. There is a dance held, and Mambo Ayizan (the Lwa known as the patron of the initiatory djevo) will be saluted in a special ceremony known as the kouri Ayizan, or running Ayizan, and the chire Ayizan.

Several things go on during this time. Initiates feed Ayizan her sacred food which is a secret known to them only. A special throne is set up for Ayizan too. Ayizan will invariably show up in possession and bless the djevo for the initiates.

A large ceremonial whip is created from strips of palm frond. This is a symbol of ceremonial discipline and ritual correctness. This may be used to correct initiates, if that needs to be done.

Then the person will stay in the seclusion of the initiatory djevo. I cannot, as an initiate, talk about what goes on in there. That is a secret. People who give away the secrets of the djevo are known to go crazy and/or die.

During this time, Asogwe candidates go to the Suleliye, which confers upon them the asson. The initiate to be stays in the djevo for a period of seven days. They will come out renewed, strengthened and empowered. They will be reborn as new persons: Houngans, Mambos, or Hounsis.

On Saturday night, before they leave the djevo, the candidates undergo the brule kanzo. In this ceremony, the candidates grab up boiling cornmeal and also undergo tests of fire. This will prove that the initiates are strong!

When the initiates leave the djevo, known as leve kanzo (get up kanzo), they are usually led on a procession. They will be wearing all white and have straw hats on their head. Later on that evening, they will be baptized during the baptem and then a huge party will be held in their honor.

After all this, the initiates are finally Kanzo. They have new identities as Houngans, Mambos, or Hounsis. They need to complete 41 days of restrictions to be truly finished with the kanzo ceremony. Usually, about a year later, the initiates will “dessan kolye” which means to take down the kolyes, which will truly finalize the entire cycle of initiation. The kolye is the sacred necklace of initiation.

Whew – that was a lot!

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