Haitian Vodou Overview
Do you need to know the basics of Haitian Vodou?
I have recently noticed that this website may not be easily understood. Many are coming to this beautiful lifestyle and do not yet know the basics. The very basics – the most fundamental basics. I will be working on that. There is simply so much to learn in Vodou, that hopefully – in time – I may get to cover a little bit of everything for you. This website will give you many facts, which will help you start in Service Ginen. The service of the Lwa.
Vodou is an initiatory tradition.
Terms used when referring to initiated servant of Ginen are Houngan or Mambo Asogwe, Houngan or Mambo Sou Pwen, and Hounsi Kanzo. Houngans may also be referred to as Gangan. Hounsi Kanzo should not be confused with hounsi bossal. Hounsi bossal (wild hounsi) is a non-initiate who may attend services at one particular Vodou house, who may or may not be preparing for initiation there. They are usually still considered a member of said society.
But this does not mean that you cannot serve the Lwa. In, fact non-initiates serve the lwa, and they outnumber initiates overall. Although a mere interest in the lwa is a sign of being “reklame” or reclaimed by the Lwa to their service, this does not absolutely mean that you must get initiated. Initiation will connect you to a house, and will also bestow upon you the secrets, the knowledge, and the power – as well as other material blessings. Initiation does, however, also confer obligations, which you should fully understand before undertaking it.
There are all sorts of non-initiates who succeed in serving the Lwa. You have what some refer to as Houngan and Mambo Djakout, who work magick, have vast amounts of knowledge of Ginen, give readings, and in fact do a lot of things that Houngans and Mambos do, yet they cannot – of course – confer initiation. They may have peristyles (temples) and their members of that house. Members are not referred to as Hounsi. (People who have achieved the first grade of the Kanzo [Initiation])
You also have people who are within a separate – yet related – tradition, known as Makaya. Again, they too have peristyles and members. They are generally focused on magick, and essential to this magick is the service of the Lwa. Their priests are known as Bokors.
There is another bokor too. This bokor is an expert in malevolent magick, and uses his abilities to cripple, harm and kill. He is a for hire specialist.
Haiti also has its Secret Societies. One of these well known Societies is the Sanpwel. They are all over Haiti. The leader of the peristyle there is referred to as President. They also do magick for clients, as well as work as a magickal police force.
Vodouisant is a term used when referring to a person who, uninitiated, participates in services for the Lwa, gets work done by Houngan or Mambo, or in some other way participates in service Ginen. It is a general term.
Another general term is sevite. It refers to any person, initiated or not, that serves the Lwa. Sevite actually means servant. The word Vodou is rarely actually heard being used by Vodouisants, rather people simply say that they serve Ginen. This statement clearly states that our tradition is one of action. We don’t see it so much as a religion, but as an action, a practice, a way of life.
Whether you are initiated, want to be initiated, or are a happy non-initiated sevite, you should try to make it to Haiti. That is where it will be easiest for you to learn. This holds especially true, if you are a non-initiate, therefore, not a member of a house. Learning Vodou is not easy, and even the number one Houngan or Mambo continues to learn more and more. This is because we (people) will never be able to know everything. A lifetime is too short to know all the mysteries that are in Ginen.
If you decide to go to Haiti, I suggest you get a lot of information before going. Life in Haiti is hard, and traveling there is not easy either. You should also have a good translator there or have a strong knowledge of Haitian Kreyol. If you are interested in Vodou as your religion, research, study, research, study. There are many teachers and much to learn.