[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]
7878: Re: 7827: Re: 7709: Racine's version of Vodou-Dorce comments (fwd)
<< 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
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
The VODOU Page - http://members.aol.com/racine125/index.html