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Eyeing Tourism, Haiti Battles Its Violent Reputation - HISTORY

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Author Topic: Eyeing Tourism, Haiti Battles Its Violent Reputation - HISTORY  (Read 3107 times)
Bianca
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« Reply #30 on: June 20, 2008, 11:11:45 am »










Beliefs



Haitian Vodouisants believe, in accordance with widespread African tradition, that there is one God
who is the creator of all, referred to as "Bondyè" (from the French "Bon Dieu" or "Good God"). Bondyè
is distinguished from the God of "the whites" in a dramatic speech by the houngan Boukman at Bwa Kayiman, but is often considered the same God of other religions, such as Christianity and Islam. Bondyè is distant from His/Her/Its creation though, and so it is the spirits or the "mysteries", "saints", or "angels" that the Vodouisant turns to for help, as well as to the ancestors. Some Vodouisants do
not believe in Bondyè, instead referring to Damballa as the Creator. Others will believe in both: with Damballa having a lesser role in creation. A Vodouisant will usually have an idea God, regardless of
the relationship with Damballa (from identity with God, to Damballa being a lesser spirit).

There are said to be twenty-one nations or "Nation" of spirits, also sometimes called "lwa-yo". Some
of the more important nations of lwa are the Rada (corresponding to the Gbe-speaking ethnic groups
in the modern-day Republic of Benin, Nigeria, and Togo); the Nago (synonymous with the Yoruba-speaking ethnicities in Nigeria, the Republic of Benin, and Togo); and the numerous West-Central African ethnicities united under the ethnonym Kongo. The spirits also come in "families" that all share
a surname, like Ogou, or Ezili, or Azaka or Ghede. For instance, "Ezili" is a family, Ezili Dantor and Ezili Freda are two individual spirits in that family.

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. In Dominican Vodou, there is also an Agua Dulce or "Sweet Waters" family, which encompasses all Amerindian spirits. There are literally hundreds of lwa. Well known individual lwa include Danbala Wedo, Papa Legba Atibon, and Agwe Tawoyo.

In Haitian Vodou, spirits are divided according to their nature of their nations. There are the nation
of the Congo, Rada, Petwo, Nago, Dahomey, Ghede, and etc. The two popular categories the Haitian believers utilizes are the nation of the Petwo, the more aggressive and the Rada, the calmer spirits.
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Bianca
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« Reply #31 on: June 20, 2008, 11:13:54 am »










Rada spirits are familial and congenial, while Petwo spirits are more combative and restless. Both can be dangerous if angry or upset, and despite claims to the contrary, neither is "good" or "evil" in relation to the other. Everyone is said to have spirits, and each person is considered to have a special relationship with one particular spirit who is said to "own their head", however each person may have many lwa, and the one that owns their head, or the "met tet", may or may not be the most active spirit in a person's life in Haitian belief.

In serving the spirits, the Vodouisant seeks to achieve harmony with their own individual nature and the world around them, manifested as personal power and resourcefulness in dealing with life. Part of this harmony is membership in and maintaining relationships within the context of family and community. A Vodou house or society is organized on the metaphor of an extended family, and initiates are the "children" of their initiators, with the sense of hierarchy and mutual obligation that implies.

Most Vodouisants are not initiated, referred to as being "bossale"; it is not a requirement to be an initiate in order 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. Priests are referred to as "Houngans" and priestesses as "Mambos". Below the houngans and mambos are the hounsis, who are initiates who act as assistants during ceremonies and who are dedicated to their own personal mysteries.

One does not serve just any lwa but only the ones they "have" according to one's destiny or nature. Which spirits a person "has" may be revealed at a ceremony, in a reading, or in dreams. However all Vodouisants also serve the spirits of their own blood ancestors, and this important aspect of Vodou practice is often glossed over or minimized in importance by commentators who do not understand
the significance of it. The ancestor cult is in fact the basis of Vodou religion, and many lwa like
Agasou (formerly a king of Dahomey) for example are in fact ancestors who are said to have been raised up to divinity.
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« Reply #32 on: June 20, 2008, 11:17:35 am »



A large sequined Vodou "drapo" or flag

by the artist George Valris
« Last Edit: June 20, 2008, 11:25:12 am by Bianca » Report Spam   Logged

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Bianca
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« Reply #33 on: June 20, 2008, 11:20:17 am »










Liturgy and practice
 


After a day or two of preparation setting up altars, ritually preparing and cooking fowl and other foods, etc., a Haitian Vodou service begins with a series of Catholic prayers and songs in French, then a litany in Kreyòl and African "langaj" that goes through all the European and African saints and lwa honored by the house, and then a series of verses for all the main spirits of the house. This is called the "Priyè Gine" or the African Prayer. After more introductory songs, beginning with saluting the spirit of the drums named Hounto, 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 Petwo part of the service begins, which ends with the songs for the Gede family. As the songs are sung spirits will come to visit those present by taking possession of individuals and speaking and acting through them.

There are some cases where some practitioners who seek attention would pretend to get possessed. There are times when the houngan would drink until he is very drunk at the end of the ceremony. Some practitioners of these vodou ceremony fall into being fooled by the vodou priest. When a ceremony is made, only the family of those possessed is benefited. This is the greatest time these mambo or houngan can take your luck if they ask for champagne from you. Beware when that occurs.

Sometimes these ceremony have some dispute going among the singers because of the way its sung. In Haiti, these vodou ceremonies, depending on the Priest or Priestess, may be more organized. But in the United States, vodou practitioner and the priests/priestess takes it as a folly party. Each spirit is saluted and greeted by the initiates present and will give readings, advice and cures to those who approach them for help. Many hours later in morning, the last song is sung, guests leave, and all the exhausted hounsis and houngans and manbos can go to sleep.

On the individual's household level, a Vodouisant or "sèvitè"/"serviteur" may have one or more tables set out for their ancestors and the spirit or spirits that they serve with pictures or statues of the spirits, perfumes, foods, and other things favored by their spirits. 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 like an elder family member.

Ancestors are approached directly, without the mediating of Papa Legba, since they are said to be
"in the blood".
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« Reply #34 on: June 20, 2008, 11:30:02 am »









Values and ethics



The cultural values that Vodou embraces center around ideas of dishonor and greed - to the family
and society, and to oneself. 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. 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 seems to be the most important consideration. Generosity in giving to the community and to the poor is also an important value. One's blessings come through the community and there is the idea that one should be willing to give back to it in turn.

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 will not be practicing Vodou as it is understood
in Haiti and among Haitians.

In the view of some the Haitian Vodou religion is an ecstatic rather than a fertility based tradition and because of this, the religion has technically no prohibitions against gay men and lesbian women.

Although homophobia is a world-wide phenomenon and may be prevalent in Vodou-practicing countries, a homosexual can practise Vodou with no doctrinal issues. In Haiti, for example, Vodou is normally the only spiritual outlet a homosexual will have.





Orthodoxy and diversity



There is a diversity of practice in Vodou across the country of Haiti and the Haitian diaspora.

For instance in the north of Haiti the lave tèt ("head washing") or kanzwe may be the only initiation,
as it is in the Dominican Republic and Cuba, whereas in Port-au-Prince and the south they practice
the kanzo rites with three grades of initiation – kanzo senp, si pwen, and asogwe – and the latter is the most familiar mode of practice outside of Haiti.

Some lineages combine both, as Mambo Katherine Dunham reports from her personal experience in her book the 'Possessed Island'.

While the overall tendency in Vodou is very 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 will 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 manbo and houngan is the
head of their own house", as a popular saying in Haiti goes.

Another consideration in terms of Haitian diversity are the many sects besides the Sèvi Gine in Haiti such as the Makaya, Rara, and other secret societies, each of which has its own distinct pantheon of spirits.
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Bianca
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« Reply #35 on: June 20, 2008, 11:35:52 am »










Myths and misconceptions



Vodou has come to be associated in the popular mind with the lore aboutSatanism, zombies and
"voodoo dolls."

While there is evidence of zombie creation, it is a minor phenomenon within rural Haitian culture and
not a part of the Vodou religion as such. Such things fall under the auspices of the bokor or sorcerer rather than the priest of the Loa.

The practice of sticking pins in dolls has history in European folk magic, but its exact origins are unclear. How it became known as a method of cursing an individual by some followers of what has come to be called New Orleans Voodoo, which is a local variant of hoodoo, is a mystery. Some speculate that it was used as a means of self defense to intimidate superstitious slave owners.
This practice is not unique to New Orleans voodoo, however, and has as much basis in European-
based magical devices such as the poppet and the nkisi or bocio of West and Central Africa.

These are in fact power objects, what in Haiti would be referred to as pwen, rather than magical surrogates for an intended target of sorcery whether for boon or for bane. Such voodoo dolls are
not a feature of Haitian religion, although dolls intended for tourists may be found in the Iron Market
in Port au Prince. The practice became closely associated with the Vodou religions in the public mind through the vehicle of horror movies and popular novels.

There is a practice in Haiti of nailing crude poppets with a discarded shoe on trees near the cemetery to act as messengers to the otherworld, which is very different in function from how poppets are portrayed as being used by voodoo worshippers in popular media and imagination, ie. for purposes of sympathetic magic towards another person. Another use of dolls in authentic Vodou practice is the incorporation of plastic doll babies in altars and objects used to represent or honor the spirits, or in pwen, which recalls the aforementioned use of bocio and nkisi figures in Africa.

Although Voodoo is often associated with Satanism, Satan is primarily an Abrahamic figure and has not been incorporated in Voodoo tradition. When Mississippi Delta folksongs mix references to Voodoo and to Satan, what is being expressed is social pain such as from racism. Those who practice voodoo are not attempting to worship or invoke the blessings of a devil.

Further adding to the dark reputation of Voodoo was the 1973 film adaptation of the thriller Live and Let Die, part of Ian Fleming's widely successful James Bond series, which had been continually in print in both the English original and translations to numerous languages.

Fleming's depiction of the schemings of a fiendish Soviet agent using Voodoo to intimidate and control a vast network of submissive Black followers got an incomparably greater audience than any careful scholarly work on the subject of Voodoo.

(See Mr. Big, Baron Samedi.)



FROM:

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