e-book Haitian Vodou: An Introduction to Haitis Indigenous Spiritual Tradition

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You must be logged in to post a review. Kind viewer, please understand that our shipping calculator is a machine, and thinks like one. Shipping costs on your order are determined by item count and item type. Shipping costs and methods presented to you at the time of purchase are approximations. The machine has guessed at your shipping cost and method. We at the shop, as human beings, will second-guess the machine! Understand, viewer, that we will determine the least expensive and most logical way to ship your purchase — and charge you accordingly.

For this reason, we do not charge your card until your order is packed. We ship using the United States Postal Service. If, for some reason, USPS cannot deliver a package to you, kind viewer — please contact us to make other arrangements. Insurance claims are handled purely though USPS. Deeply rooted in Haiti's culture and held sacred by millions, Haitian Vodou is a joyous and profound ancestral practice descended from the Vodu priesthood of West Africa. This little-understood belief system is among the truest religions of the Americas - yet its essence has remained a mystery to outsiders.

Written by a practitioner of the highest initiatory rank, "Haitian Vodou" is the only book that offers a respectful, first-hand overview of the centuries-old indigenous tradition. From Haiti's culture and history to the sacred beliefs, ceremonies, rituals, and practices grounded in ancestral communion, readers will get a rare look inside "Haitian Vodou". Today, the spelling Vodou is the most commonly accepted orthography in English.

The spelling voodoo , once very common, is now generally avoided by Haitian practitioners and scholars when referring to the Haitian religion. Vodou is popularly described as not simply a religion, but rather an experience that ties body and soul together. The concept of tying that exists in Haitian religious culture is derived from the Congolese tradition of kanga , the practice of tying one's soul to something tangible.

This "tying of soul" is evident in many Haitian Vodou practices that are still exercised today.

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The most notable loa include Papa Legba guardian of the crossroads , Erzulie Freda the spirit of love , Simbi the spirit of rain and magicians , Kouzin Zaka the spirit of agriculture , and The Marasa , divine twins considered to be the first children of Bondye. These loa can be divided into 21 nations, which include the Petro, Rada, Congo, and Nago.

Each of the loa is associated with a particular Roman Catholic saint. For example, Legba is associated with St. Anthony the Hermit , and Damballa is associated with St. The loa also fall into family groups who share a surname, such as Ogou , Ezili , Azaka or Ghede. For instance, "Ezili" is a family, Ezili Danto and Ezili Freda are two individual spirits in that family.

Each family is associated with a specific aspect, for instance the Ogou family are soldiers, the Ezili govern the feminine spheres of life, the Azaka govern agriculture, the Ghede govern the sphere of death and fertility. Vodou's moral code focuses on the vices of dishonor and greed. There is also a notion of relative propriety—and what is appropriate to someone with Dambala Wedo as their head may be different from someone with Ogou Feray as their head.

Haitian Vodou: An Introduction to Haiti's Indigenous Spiritual Tradition by Mambo Chita Tann

For example, one spirit is very cool and the other is very hot. Coolness overall is valued, and so is the ability and inclination to protect oneself and one's own if necessary. Love and support within the family of the Vodou society seem to be the most important considerations. Generosity in giving to the community and to the poor is also an important value. One's blessings come through the community, and one should be willing to give back.

There are no "solitaries" in Vodou—only people separated geographically from their elders and house. A person without a relationship of some kind with elders does not practice Vodou as it is understood in Haiti and among Haitians; additionally, Haitian Vodou emphasizes the 'wholeness of being' not just with elders and the material world, but also unity with the interconnected forces of nature. There is a diversity of practice in Vodou across the country of Haiti and the Haitian diaspora. Some lineages combine both, as Mambo Katherine Dunham reports from her personal experience in her book Island Possessed.

While the overall tendency in Vodou is conservative in accord with its African roots, there is no singular, definitive form, only what is right in a particular house or lineage. Small details of service and the spirits served vary from house to house, and information in books or on the internet therefore may seem contradictory. There is no central authority or " pope " in Haitian Vodou, since "every mambo and houngan is the head of their own house", as a popular Haitian saying goes. According to Vodou, the soul consists of two aspects, in a type of soul dualism : the gros bon ange big good angel and the ti bon ange little good angel.

The gros bon ange is the part of the soul that is essentially responsible for the basic biological functions, such as the flow of blood through the body and breathing. On the other hand, the ti bon ange is the source of personality, character and willpower. A Haitian Vodou temple is called a Peristil. After more introductory songs, beginning with saluting Hounto, the spirit of the drums, the songs for all the individual spirits are sung, starting with the Legba family through all the Rada spirits, then there is a break and the Petro part of the service begins, which ends with the songs for the Gede family.

As the songs are sung, participants believe that spirits come to visit the ceremony, by taking possession of individuals and speaking and acting through them. When a ceremony is made, only the family of those possessed is benefited. At this time it is believed that devious mambo or houngan can take away the luck of the worshippers through particular actions. For instance, if a priest asks for a drink of champagne, a wise participant refuses.

Sometimes these ceremonies may include dispute among the singers as to how a hymn is to be sung. In Haiti, these Vodou ceremonies, depending on the Priest or Priestess, may be more organized. But in the United States, many vodouists and clergy take it as a sort of non-serious party or "folly". In a serious rite, each spirit is saluted and greeted by the initiates present and gives readings, advice, and cures to those who ask for help.

Many hours later, as morning dawns, the last song is sung, the guests leave, and the exhausted hounsis, houngans, and mambos can go to sleep.

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Vodou practitioners believe that if one follows all taboos imposed by their particular loa and is punctilious about all offerings and ceremonies, the loa will aid them. Vodou practitioners also believe that if someone ignores their loa it can result in sickness, the failure of crops, the death of relatives, and other misfortunes. A variety of animals are sacrificed, such as pigs, goats, chickens, and bulls. The most basic set up is just a white candle and a clear glass of water and perhaps flowers. On a particular spirit's day, one lights a candle and says an Our Father and Hail Mary , salutes Papa Legba and asks him to open the gate, and then one salutes and speaks to the particular spirit as an elder family member.

Ancestors are approached directly, without the mediating of Papa Legba, since they are said to be "in the blood". In a Vodou home, often, the only recognizable religious items are images of saints and candles with a rosary. In other homes, where people may more openly show their devotion to the spirits, noticeable items may include an altar with Catholic saints and iconographies, rosaries, bottles, jars, rattles, perfumes, oils, and dolls.

Some Vodou devotees have less paraphernalia in their homes because until recently Vodou practitioners had no option but to hide their beliefs. Haiti is a rural society and the cult of ancestors guard the traditional values of the peasant class. The ancestors are linked to family life and the land.

Haitian peasants serve the spirits daily and sometime gather with their extended family on special occasions for ceremonies, which may celebrate the birthday of a spirit or a particular event. In very remote areas, people may walk for days to partake in ceremonies that take place as often as several times a month. Vodou is closely tied to the division and administration of land as well as to the residential economy.

The cemeteries and many crossroads are meaningful places for worship: the cemetery acts as a repository of spirits and the crossroads acts as points of access to the world of the invisible. Houngans priest or Mambos priestess are usually people who were chosen by the dead ancestors and received the divination from the deities while he or she was possessed. His or her tendency is to do good by helping and protecting others from spells, however they sometimes use their supernatural power to hurt or kill people. They also conduct ceremonies that usually take place "amba peristil" under a Vodou temple.

Haitian Vodou : An Introduction to Haiti's Indigenous Spiritual Tradition

However, non-Houngan or non-Mambo as Vodouisants are not initiated , and are referred to as being "bossale"; it is not a requirement to be an initiate to serve one's spirits. There are clergy in Haitian vodou whose responsibility it is to preserve the rituals and songs and maintain the relationship between the spirits and the community as a whole though some of this is the responsibility of the whole community as well. They are entrusted with leading the service of all of the spirits of their lineage.

Sometimes they are "called" to serve in a process called being reclaimed , which they may resist at first. The asson calabash rattle is the symbol for one who has acquired the status of houngan or mambo priest or priestess in Haitian Vodou. A houngan or mambo traditionally holds the asson in their hand, along with a clochette bell. The asson contains stones and snake vertebrae that give it its sound. The asson is covered with a web of porcelain beads. A bokor is a sorcerer or magician who casts spells on request. They are not necessarily priests, and may be practitioners of "darker" things, and are often not accepted by the mambo or the houngan.

Bokor can also be a Haitian term for a Vodou priest or other practitioner who works with both the light and dark arts of magic. Practitioners of Vodou revere death, and believe it is a great transition from one life to another, or to the afterlife. Some Vodou families believe that a person's spirit leaves the body, but is trapped in water, over mountains, in grottoes—or anywhere else a voice may call out and echo—for one year and one day. After then, a ceremonial celebration commemorates the deceased for being released into the world to live again. In the words of Edwidge Danticat, author of "A Year and a Day"—an article about death in Haitian society published in the New Yorker—and a Vodou practitioner, "The year-and-a-day commemoration is seen, in families that believe in it and practice it, as a tremendous obligation, an honorable duty, in part because it assures a transcendental continuity of the kind that has kept us Haitians, no matter where we live, linked to our ancestors for generations.

Though other Haitian and West African families believe there is an afterlife in paradise in the realm of God.


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The cultural area of the Fon , Ewe , and Yoruba peoples share a common metaphysical conception of a dual cosmological divine principle consisting of Nana Buluku , the God -Creator, and the voduns s or God-Actor s , daughters and sons of the Creator's twin children Mawu goddess of the moon and Lisa god of the sun. The God-Creator is the cosmogonical principle and does not trifle with the mundane; the voduns s are the God-Actor s who actually govern earthly issues.

The pantheon of vodoun is quite large and complex. West African Vodun has its primary emphasis on ancestors, with each family of spirits having its own specialized priest and priestess, which are often hereditary. In many African clans, deities might include Mami Wata , who are gods and goddesses of the waters; Legba , who in some clans is virile and young in contrast to the old man form he takes in Haiti and in many parts of Togo; Gu or Ogoun , ruling iron and smithcraft; Sakpata , who rules diseases; and many other spirits distinct in their own way to West Africa.

A significant portion of Haitian Vodou often overlooked by scholars until recently is the input from the Kongo. The entire northern area of Haiti is heavily influenced by Kongo practices. In the south, Kongo influence is called Petwo Petro. Many loa a Kikongo term are of Kongo origin such as Basimba belonging to the Basimba people and the Lemba. In addition, the Vodun religion distinct from Haitian Vodou already existed in the United States previously to Haitian immigration, having been brought by enslaved West Africans, specifically from the Ewe, Fon, Mina, Kabaye, and Nago groups.

Some of the more enduring forms survive in the Gullah Islands.

European colonialism , followed by totalitarian regimes in West Africa, suppressed Vodun as well as other forms of the religion. However, because the Vodun deities are born to each African clan-group, and its clergy is central to maintaining the moral, social, and political order and ancestral foundation of its villagers, it proved to be impossible to eradicate the religion.

The majority of the Africans who were brought as slaves to Haiti were from Western and Central Africa. The survival of the belief systems in the New World is remarkable, although the traditions have changed with time and have even taken on some Catholic forms of worship. First, the Code Noir explicitly forbade the open practice of all African religions.

Mambo Chita Tann

Enslaved Africans spent their Sunday and holiday nights expressing themselves. While bodily autonomy was strictly controlled during the day at night, the enslaved Africans wielded a degree of agency. They began to continue their religious practices but also used the time to cultivate community and reconnect the fragmented pieces of their various heritages.

These late night reprieves were a form of resistance against white domination and also created community cohesion between people from vastly different ethnic groups. Vodou was a powerful political and cultural force in Haiti. Vodou thus gave slaves a way both a symbolic and physical space of subversion against their French masters. The revolution would free the Haitian people from French colonial rule in and establish the first black people's republic in the history of the world and the second independent nation in the Americas.

Haitian nationalists have frequently drawn inspiration by imagining their ancestors' gathering of unity and courage. This extremist view is not considered credible by mainstream Protestants, however conservatives such as Pat Robertson repeat the idea. Domingue as the First Black Empire; two years later, after his assassination, it became the Republic of Haiti.

This was the second nation to gain independence from European rule after the United States , and the only state to have arisen from the liberation of slaves.

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No nation recognized the new state, which was instead met with isolation and boycotts. This exclusion from the global market led to major economic difficulties for the new state. Many of the leaders of the revolt disassociated themselves from Vodou. They strived to be accepted as Frenchmen and good Catholics rather than as free Haitians. Yet most practitioners of Vodou saw, and still see, no contradiction between Vodou and Catholicism, and also take part in Catholic masses.

The new Haitian state did not recognize Vodou as an official religion. In , the government made practising Vodou punishable. Secret Voodoo societies therefore continued to be important.