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7878: Re: 7827: Re: 7709: Racine's version of Vodou-Dorce comments (fwd)

From: Racine125@aol.com

<< my husband... is NOT an Oungan nor is he kanzo.  I thought I made myself 
clear that he represents a large segment of the Haitian population>>

If he is not a Houngan and he is not kanzo, he does not speak for the Haitian 
Vodou religion.  It's like pointing at an individual Italian Roman Catholic 
potato farmer and using his utterances as an authoritative statement on 
Catholic theology, because he comes from a long line of Roman Catholics.

<<It seems you give no respect to these Vodouisants who have no need of your 
services (sad for you.....no money)>>

LOL!  You say stuff like this and then you accuse *me* of disrespect?  
Houngans and Mambos are professionals, we combine the roles of clergy and 
doctor and counselor and cultural worker, and we deserve to make money, why 
not?  The Roman Catholic church in Haiti and elsewhere pays it's clergy a 
salary, most other religions pay their people a salary.  Are we worth less?  
We don't have a diocese to pay our salaries, we make our money on our own, 
but that doesn't mean we don't deserve it.

First of all, running a peristyle and serving a congregation costs more money 
than we take in from performing services, and this is true of all Houngans 
and Mambos.  The standing joke in Haiti is that Houngans and Mambos never 
have any money because as fast as we get it we give it out again, we have it 
hard to hold on to even a little bit of it.

In addition to paying drummers and buying sacrificial animals for ceremonies 
we hold, we are expected to take care of sick congregation members, help them 
out when it is time to pay the kids' school fees, and so forth.  People do 
not as a rule have health insurance in Haiti, and Vodou congregations and 
specifically the heads of these congregations fulfill that role as best we 
are able.

There is in Jacmel a certain amount of friction between the "orthodox" 
community, that is those who are kanzo at whatever grade and the members of 
congregations centered around those individuals; and what we call "kwakwa 
Houngans" or "Houngan djakout".  The orthodox faction sometimes views the 
kwakwa faction as dilettantes unwilling to make the commitment and the 
sacrifice to have their kanzo ceremonies, the kwakwa faction would like to be 
recognized as clergy too.

Interestingly, and I digress, this summer I will be initiating one of the 
more respected kwakwa men in the Jacmel area, along with four members of his 
family.  His motivations include a desire for the protection afforded by the 
kanzo ceremony, the increased respect and legitmacy conferred by the asson, 
and personal respect for me and for my house.

<<...serve the lwa as their parents, grandparents and so on, have done for 
many, many years, privately  and powerfully and in a constant, daily fashion. 
 This is a religion that is with them all the time, not just in a 
Sunday-go-to-meeting kind of way.>>

And you think that people who make the full time commitment to become 
Houngans and Mambos asogwe serve the Vodou in a "Sunday-go-to-meeting kind of 

<<You seem to be saying that he has no credibility unless he has bought his 
way to a title in the so called hierarchy of Vodou. >>

Haitian Vodou does not have a "so-called hierarchy", it has a real structure 
which has been developed over generations.  (For more information on that 
structure, see http://members.aol.com/racine125/vleson1.html , that way I 
won't go into detail here.)  Although we pay initiation fees, that is not the 
end of the story - a man or woman can pay for ceremonies to take the asson, 
but that does not make them influential in the Vodou community if they are 
not actively building a house, holding services, doing work for clients, and 
above all making more initiates.

<<He comes by his knowledge, which I would put up against anyone's, by way of 

You would put your husbands "knowledge" up against anyone's, based on... your 
experience as a consecrated member of the Vodou clergy?  A Mambo asogwe?  A 
hounsi kanzo?  Your years of service in a peristyle?

 << If anyone's claim to the truth about what Vodou is is suspect, I would 
say it would be the person who came to the culture late in life, after having 
known other  ways, and spends money to hold a position in the so called 

Your Christian cultural heritage is showing.  In Vodou money is not the root 
of all evil, money is something we need to live well, and we consider that 
wealth is evidence of the favor of the lwa!  There are just dozens of songs 
in Haiti that refer to this, here is one:

Sobo eh, la m asire,
Sobo eh, la m asire, O!
Mwen gen nan poch, mwen gen nan men, mwen gen nan bank la,
Sobe eh, la m asire.

Sobo, there I am assured.
Sobo, there I am assured, oh!
I have (money) in my hand, I have in my pocket, I have in the bank,
Sobo, there I am assured.

Often people improvise on the third line, things like, "I have earrings, I 
have a watch, I have a gold chain", and so forth.

<<  I do not know or care if you and those like you have received a calling 
from the lwa to serve.>>

You don't care?  Kathy, that is the heart of the matter!  We, the clergy of 
Vodou, are called by the lwa to serve in this tradition.

<<With all due respect, you would do better for yourself and everyone you 
wish to reach, to speak of Vodou in terms of your own experience and not as 
an expert in the field. >>

WHAT?  I am indeed an "expert", if clergy can be referred to by that term!  I 
am an expert because I was trained to be so, by other Houngans and Mambos 
asogwe, and I have served this tradition for over a decade now in the 
capacity of Mambo asogwe, not to mention the many years I served the Vodou 
prior to my initiation.  With all due respect, you would do better to 
acknowledge the authority of the clergy of this religion!   Those who should 
speak of Vodou in terms of their own experience and not as experts include 
uninitiated individuals not affiliated with peristyles, actually.

<<One person, or two or even a dozen people, Oungans or otherwise, cannot 
tell anyone what Vodou is and how you do it. >>

But you, speaking second hand for an uninitiated man, can?  Nah.

<< They can say how they were taught and how THEY practice it, but it is  not 
uniform throughout the country, although it is surprising for a religion with 
little or no dogma to be as consistent as it is!  >>

Who told you that Haitian Vodou has no "dogma"?  Webster's defines "dogma" as 
"something held as an established opinion; especially : a definite 
authoritative tenet".  We certainly have that!  What do you think, the Vodou 
is some free-form art form?

Yes, there are things that can vary from house to house.  The Houngan down 
the street from me serves Kita more than I do, I serve La Sirene more than he 
does.  But the passwords and the handshakes, to use a simple example, are the 
same everywhere - how could they not be?  They would be of no use if they 
differed from house to house.

Likewise a kanzo, the ceremony of initiation.  While one Mambo might enter 
her people into the djevo, the room where initiates are secluded, on a Monday 
and another on a Tuesday, there are some things which are always required and 
some things which are always forbidden!  If a Houngan or Mambo was to do 
something forbidden, the kanzo would be invalidated and those initiates would 
not be recognized by the members of the community.

Likewise for the rules of secrecy - it is prohibited to tell anything that 
happens in the djevo, what we eat, what we do, how we sleep, and so on.  
Initiates swear really frightening oaths, on pain of death, not to reveal 
these secrets.  Just about the worst thing that a person can do is blab the 
secrets of the djevo!

I initiated one Haitian man, and before I did, he said to me one day, "Oh, I 
already know what is in there, I know what is going to happen."

"You DO??", I said.  "HOW do you know, WHO told you?"

It developed that he had a friend who was kanzo, who failed to respect his 
vows of secrecy.  Now, in our view the initiate put the non-initiate at risk, 
because the non-initiate does not have the protection of the kanzo, but he 
has the knowledge.  Any old bokor could kill him and make his zombi talk, for 

"Take me to this person!", I cried.

"I can't", said my candidate.  "A truck backed up into him and crushed his 
jaw and neck, and he died.  How long ago?  Not long after he told me these 
things, come to think of it."

I swear I am not making this up!  This religion has power, for real.  The 
initaitory djevo is a place of power, it's a time capsule and a transporter 
room and a magic carpet all rolled into one.  We don't have time to fool 
around or money to waste, we do this stuff because it works.

<<But I feel compelled to respond to Racine's posts when she sets herself up 
as an authority on Vodou.  Many people on this list and on others that I post 
to about Haiti are fully capable of figuring out what is valid and what is 
not about what Racine says is the truth. >>

I repeat that I have not set myself up as an authority, I was made an 
authority by Haitian Vodouisants, who initaited me as a Mambo following the 
instructions of the lwa!  When I went for my initiation, I only asked to be 
hounsi kanzo.  It was the lwa who refused, who insisted that I take the asson 
and become a Mambo instead.  No one was more surprised than I!  And if I had 
known the level of commitment, the amount of time and money and effort that I 
would end up putting into my work as a Mambo, I might have thought twice - 
although once the lwa choose you, there isn't much else to say.  :-)

Peace and love,

Bon Mambo Racine Sans Bout Sa Te La Daginen

"Se bon ki ra" - Good is rare
     Haitian Proverb

The VODOU Page - http://members.aol.com/racine125/index.html