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Home Archives Bide One’s Time: Vodou

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Lee Prosser - Bide One's Time is Lee's bi-weekly column on the supernatural. Vodou is a growing religious belief system. It has taken root in the United States, and it is increasing in popularity. What is it about Vodou that makes this possible?

There are different approaches to Vodou, and it is logical to look at it as it is honored in Haiti. There are well-defined rules for building respectful and honored relationships with the Lwa. The Lwa are the spirits which are honored in Haitian Vodou.

Once upon a time, scholars and anthropologists simply dismissed Vodou as either some nasty type of devil worship or as a Christian aberration based on its saint images and direct Catholic influences. Time and research has proven this as incorrect.

That the calling upon spirits can be dangerous applies to Vodou, unless a sense of sincerity and respect is involved by the followers of this religion. Calling upon entities for the wrong reasons usually result in dire straits for the caller!

Vodou today still maintains its intricate mysteries. Those interested in this approach can locate various available books which discuss the Lwa, sacred space, tools required, and practices.

The Lwa contain the following spirits or entities to call upon for assistance: Legba, Marassa, Loko, Ayizan, Damballah, Agwe, La Sirene, Ezili Freda, Filomez, Zaka, Ogou, Kalfou, Ezili Danto, Bossou, Simbi, Gran Bwa, Ibo, Djabs, Ghede, Bawon, Brigitte, and Ancestors. Each has a different approach and each has a different way of granting the wishes of the follower of Vodou. Although many individuals follow the Vodou path alone, just as many have a teacher instructing them in a positive manner. It then becomes a personal choice, whether to follow a solitary path, a teacher instruction path, or a group path.

Among the many ceremonies are the Lave Tet, Kanzo, and Wanga. Those interested in attending the ceremonies should do so with an honest heart and not as a thrill seeker. Those who follow the Vodou path also pay close attention to their dreams. Those seeking guidance prepare what is called an iluminasyon (illumination). This is an excellent way for solitary followers to get in direct touch with the spirits they seek help from. The intricate, detailed approach can be found in any ritual text dealing with Vodou spirit contact.

Having attended Vodou ceremonies, I was impressed by the sincerity and concentration of the followers. These ceremonies are intricate, and they are detailed for the follower so that the desired result can be accomplished. Vodou is serious business, and it would be a grave mistake for any person to approach it in a joking or disrespectful manner.

The appeal of Vodou in the United States grows because it offers structure, guidance, a direct approach to spirit contact, and a respectful dialog between the believer and the spirit. I would recommend those interested in Vodou to do much reading about Vodou and answer their own questions as whether to become involved or not involved. Vodou is not a child’s game but direct, intense contact with the realm of spirits. Vodou is definitely and rightfully so, a warning from the spirits to be careful for what you wish for. Vodou is also historically, emotionally, and spiritually a fascinating religion. Fear of the unknown has kept Vodou a neglected religion until now.

Those interested in Vodou may be interested in reading the various authors in the field who have contributed to its understanding, such as Karen McCarthy Brown, Donald J. Cosentino, Wade Davis, Kenaz Filan, Phyllis Galembo, Sallie Ann Glassman, Milo Rigaud, among many others. Online computer resources include such sites as,,,, among many others. If you are interested in folk and related sounds heard at Vodou ceremonies, check out the following compilations: Peasant Music from Haiti, Angels in the Mirror: Vodou Music of Haiti, and Rhythms of Rapture: Sacred Musics of Haitian Vodou.

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