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7952: Haitian Vodou - Initiates, Initiators and Sexual Impropriety , (fwd)

From: Racine125@aol.com

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 
brule zen.

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 
the hounsis.

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
     Haitian Proverb

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