Welcome to the Order of the Sacred Star! This Pagan/Wiccan group, based in Winnipeg, Canada, is committed to teaching the Craft to all those who wish to learn. Our goal is to provide a complete and fulfulling learning experience. Our public classes are offered through the Winnipeg Pagan Teaching Circle.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Exploring Voodoo: Ritual in Vodou Practice

Every Vodou ritual is conducted for a specific purpose. Unlike many other religions, rituals may take place at any time, whenever need arises. There is not usually a specific phase of the moon, time of the day, or time of year, that is better for a Vodou ritual.

Why Would a Vodou Ritual Be Held?

According to Vodou tradition, the following situations are all viewed as good reasons to hold a ritual.

To request a special favor of the Lwa (the spirits of Vodou);
  • To solve a critical problem;
  • To counteract black magick or remove a evil spirit;
  • To guard against harm or danger;
  • To heal the sick;
  • To escape a run of bad luck;
  • To celebrate success or a change in fortune;
  • To give thanks to the Lwa;
  • To appease an offended Lwa;
  • To satisfy the demands of a Lwa;
  • To celebrate one or more ancestors;
  • To acknowledge a special anniversary, such as Initiation;
  • To mark a holiday, a saint’s feast, or a day sacred to a particular Lwa; and
  • At the request of an individual or family.
Most rituals last only a few hours, although some have been known to go on for days. Most Vodou ceremonies follow the same basic pattern: the oungan (priest) invokes one or more Lwa, offers food and sacrifices, and the spirit is then asked to materialize on the physical plane.

Initiation in Vodou

Someone who has been called by the Lwa would have many reasons for wanting to be initiated. The first and foremost reason is that initiation is the only path into priesthood. Advantages of initiation are:
  • The initiate can contact the Lwa more directly and lead a more rewarding spiritual life;
  • Initiation deepens the bond with the Lwa;
  • Initiation is believed to increase the devotee’s good luck and good health;
  • Initiation gives the devotee better protection against magickal attacks; and
  • Initiates hold a higher place in the socyete (a community of Vodou practitioners) and can participate more directly in rituals.
The first step in Initiation is the lave te’t (washing the head). This functions like a baptism, cleansing and purifying initiates. It also readies them for proceeding down the path to konesans (the complete body of knowledge of the Lwa, rituals, and herbal cures held by an oungan).

Rewarding effects of the lave te’t are:
  • It removes negative energies, such as evil spirits or black magic;
  • It can appease an offended law;
  • It strengthens the bond with the me’t te’t (patron Lwa);
  • It gives the devotee a deeper connection to the spiritual world; and
  • It refreshes the soul and so can help heal sickness.
The second step of Initiation serves as a rite of passage, transforming the Initiate into a member of the ounfo’s (Vodou temple) spiritual family. This ritual is call kanzo.

Important Dates for Vodou Ceremonies

There are many dates that are considered important in the Vodou calendar. These dates typically warrant a ceremony in Vodou practice. Some of these dates are:
  • January 6, Les Rois — honors the ancestral African kings;
  • February 25, Manje Te't Dlo — ritual feeding of the springs, or sources of rivers;
  • March/April, Souvenance Festival — a week-long festival celebrating the great Rada Lwa in Souvenance; only oungans and mambos can attend;
  • March 20, Legba Zaou — honors Papa Legba with the sacrifice of a black goat;
  • April 29, Case Kanari — sends the souls of those who died in the past year to the realm of the dead;
  • April 30, Manje-mo — ritual feeding of the family ancestors;
  • May 12, Manje-lwa — ritual feeding of the Lwa sacred to the family;
  • July 16, Pilgrimage to Saut-d-Eau — pilgrimage to the sacred waterfall;
  • July 25, Papa Ogou — pilgrimage to Plaine du Nord in honor of Ogou Feray;
  • July 26, Day for Ezili — rituals and pilgrimages honoring Ezili;
  • August 15, Soukri Kongo Festival — week-long ceremony at Nan Soukri to collectively honor the Kongo Lwa;
  • November 1, New Year's Day — ritual bonfires are lit for Papa Legba;
  • November 2, Fe't Ge'de — festival to honor dead family members, Baron Samedi, and Maman Brijit;
  • November 25, Manje-yanm — harvest festival held in rural Haiti;
  • December 12, Bato d' Agwe — afferings to Agwe and the other ocean Lwa are floated out to see on an ornamental raft;
  • December 25, Fe't des Membres — devotees return home to receive purifying baths; and
  • December 28, Manje Marasa — ceremony to honor the divine twins.
There are, of course, many other dates to hold rituals in Vodou. These are only the most important, the dates that should not be overlooked.

Ritual in Vodou is a complex practice. Practitioners of Vodou use rituals to celebrate, receive favor, to solve problems, and to heal, among other things. The intricacies of Vodou ritual take many years of study and discipline to master.

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