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7952: Haitian Vodou - Initiates, Initiators and Sexual Impropriety , (fwd)
The Vodou tradition can be accused of a lot of things, I suppose, but prudery
is not one of them! Haitian culture in general places considerable emphasis
on fertility, and male polygamy is tolerated. Haitian men are often not
above enforcing this tolerance by violence against women.
Even homosexual men and lesbian wome are expected to have children. Women
who are deprived of their male partners for significant periods of time, for
example if the man emigrates to the USA and does not return for many years,
are excused by the culture for bearing children in the absence of their
partner, although there may be some fireworks when and if the absent man
Despite all this, in the context of Vodou ceremony there is no appropriate
place for sexual relations between initiate and initiator, or even between
participants in ceremonies while those ceremonies are in progress. Some
vicious, exploitative Houngans or Mambos, including one or two who are
publicly quite well known, may do this, but when they do they are acting
completely outside the principles of the Vodou tradition.
It is never necessary, required, or recommended for initiates to have sexual
relations with their initiating Mambo or Houngan. The Houngan or Mambo does
not "represent the lwa", and there is no basis whatsoever for attempting to
coerce initiates into intimacy.
During a kanzo ceremony, initiates and clergy are expected to abstain from
relations for the duration of the kanzo cycle. Houngans, Mambos, and hounsis
who will tend the burning zens during the brule zen ceremony are most
particularly prohibited from having sexual relations the night before the
Some houses require initiates to begin abstinence from sexual relations seven
days prior to the beginning of the kanzo, some do not. All houses require
initiates to observe a period of abstinence following the end of the kanzo,
in most cases forty-one days. If an initiate has sexual relations during
that time, the kanzo is invalidated and all the efforts of the initiate and
the initiator went for nothing! The person must repeat their ceremonies if
they want to be considered hounsi, Houngan, or Mambo.
If the individual having illicit sexual relations is observed by witnesses
(usually one male and one female witness is recommended) they can be made to
surrender their kolye (the ceremonial necklace worn from the kouche kanzo
until forty-one days following the leve kanzo). I have seen Houngans slap
initiates who ruined their kanzos, and drive them roughly from the peristyle.
In the djevo, where the initiates are secluded from the kouche kanzo to the
leve kanzo, men and women are often segregated on opposite sides of the
djevo. If a couple, heterosexual or homosexual, kanzo together they are the
object of great vigilance by the maman hunyo, the woman who has immediate
responsibility for the initiates' bodily functions. If a couple should
attempt sexual relations or even caressing and cuddling while they are in the
djevo, the maman hunyo will beat them severely, sometimes using the "zo
Ayizan", a ceremonial whip made during the "chire Ayizan" specifically for
the purpose of enforcing ritual discipline in the djevo.
Any Houngan or Mambo attempting sexual relations with his initiates in the
djevo is a pig, pure and simple. Any Houngan or Mambo who attempts to
pressure clients or initiates into sexual intimacy on the pretext that he or
she "represents the lwa" is a disgusting sexual predator who is unworthy of
the trust placed in him or her by the ancestors and by Guinea, not to mention
by the client or initiate!
It is common for Houngans or Mambos to initiate their spouses, and in the
case of polygamous Houngans he may have several sexual partners among his
initiates. But for the duration of the kanzo and the period of required
abstinence, sexual relations are out of bounds. Some Houngans reject totally
the notion of sexual relations with their initiates even after the period of
abstinence, saying that it encourages disrespect.
I know one Houngan who has two sexual partners among the Mambos who serve in
his house. He plays favorites, and honors the Mambo with whom he is
currently on better terms with more prominent roles during ceremonies, while
punishing the Mambo with whom he quarreled by relegating her to a place among
This Houngan was once very angry with one of these Mambos, who was my "marinn
kanzo", the woman who stood up for me at the time of my baptism during my
second kanzo. The Mambo, who has a chronic respiratory illness, was unable
to carry the society's flag when the peristyle Rara band went out in the
streets, and this displeased the unsympathetic Houngan. He obtained his
revenge by faking a possession by Grand Bwa, inviting the sick Mambo into the
djevo for an herbal bath, stripping her of her clothes down to her panties -
and then beating her ferociously with a wooden "massage roller" sort of
This sort of intrusion of private quarrels into Vodou service, especially to
the point of faking possessions to achieve personal ends, is reprehensible in
my view. A Houngan or Mambo may initiate their spouse, we can have intimate
relationships with other Houngans or Mambos or Vodouisants in general, but
not in the djevo and not within the context of Vodou ceremony.
In the context of Vodou, an initiatory Houngan or Mambo is a mother or a
father to their initiates, not a sex partner! Our initiates call us "Mama"
or "Papa", not "sexy baby"! :-) During a Vodou dance, men and women dance
individually, not in partners. A person who becomes obviously sexually
aroused while dancing, and who tries to advance an agenda other than the
service of the lwa, is immediately discouraged and may even be jeered by the
The Gede lwa are famous for lascivious behavior, but they are insensate
cadavers who can feel nothing, nothing at all. They may wind and grind on a
participant in a ceremony, and say all sorts of hysterically funny things,
but they do not attempt actual relations with anyone and they do not use
profanity to abuse and humiliate anyone.
There was a remarkable occurence in Jacmel two years ago, in which a young
woman was possessed by Gede. A young man took advantage of this possession
to have unwanted sexual relations with the young woman, who of course knew
nothing about it until afterward, since she was possessed at the time. The
Gede lwa said something to the young man like, "Ah! You are going to hold me
down and do that, huh? You will see what you will see."
The young man found that after he raped the young woman, his erection did not
subside, in fact his penis swelled to twice it's normal size and remained
that way for two weeks! The young man was literally in agony, the family was
frantic, and the only remedy was to make a very large cash gift to the young
woman in order to persuade her to call her Gede lwa to her head, so that the
young man could abjectly beg pardon. Finally the Gede relented on the
grounds that the story of the young man's impropriety had spread far and
wide, and no one would dare take advantage of his servant again, or the
servant of any other Gede.
For more information on the Vodou approach to sexuality, see "Sex in Vodou"
on The VODOU Page under the Special Topics section.
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