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7958: Re: 7952: Re: 7889: Re: religious expertise (fwd)

From: Racine125@aol.com

In a message dated 5/19/2001 5:07:23 AM Eastern Daylight Time, LAKAT writes:

<< If they are born into a family that has served the lwa, 
 they grow up knowing how to serve.  No need of going outside the family to 
 learn.  Money mucks up spiritual matters.  There is no person, who is better 
 able to summon the lwa than the supplicant.  No title impresses the lwa.  ;) 
 Service impresses the lwa.  Humans need money, the lwa do not.   >>


A person who has grown up in a Vodouisant family may have a basic idea of how 
to make a service for a particular lwa.  They are not in any sense competent 
to perform a kanzo ceremony, a lave tet, or other ceremonies which require 
competent, initiated clergy.  A "supplicant" might call a lwa all day with no 
success, but a Houngan or Mambo asgowe is expected to be able to sit down and 
induce possession by the desired lwa in short order.

And this devaluation of money is a part of the Judeo-Christian "money is the 
root of all evil" world view, but it is not consistent with the viewpoint of 
the Vodou religion.  Aside from the fact that almost all religions pay their 
clergy a salary, but Vodou clergy do not receive a salary but must earn their 
keep by performing ceremonies, intiations and magic, it is commonly 
considered in the Vodou tradition that money is something which the Children 
of Guinea need to eat well, dress well, have decent homes to live in, educate 
our children, and pay for medical care when it is required.  Do you want to 
suggest that Houngans and Mambos should be impoverished ascetics?  That is 
not what our tradition teaches.

I have mentioned on other threads the numerous songs in Vodou liturgy 
referring to the desirability of material wealth.  Services for which 
Houngans and Mambos are paid include spells called wanga, ceremonies to heal 
people who have been made ill through magical means, divination (usually with 
cards), ceremonies for particular lwa made at the request of another person, 
and initiation ceremonies.  Houngans and Mambos spend money to furnish and 
maintain our peristyles, pay drummers, buy sacrificial animals, and care for 
the material needs of society members, especially during time of illness or 
extreme material want.

Houngans and Mambos do not charge people admission for the privilege of 
attending ceremonies, the vast majority of which are open to the public. In 
cases where the ceremony is private and magical as opposed to religious, the 
person requesting the magic pays for the wanga, but not for the right to 
attend the ceremony.

Prices are variable, and in some cases dependant on what the Houngan or Mambo 
feels that the client can afford to pay. This sad truth is due to the 
economic conditions in Haiti, where 99% of the population lives in conditions 
of poverty and lack of social services inconceivable to the majority of 
Americans, and the other 1% lives in baronial splendor, with large houses and 
many servants.  In my house, the Roots Without End Society,  the prices are 
the same for everyone, however, unless I specifically invite an individual to 
kanzo or unless I consider a person so desirable that I am willing to work 
around their inability to pay kanzo fees.

The least expensive of the skills a competent Hougan or Mambo has to offer is 
usually divination. The going rate in poor neighborhoods in Haiti is often 
the proverbial dix-sept gourdes, 17 gourdes, a gourde once having been fixed 
at the rate of five to one U.S. dollar, but now worth about a third of that, 
making 17 gourdes just a bit more than a U.S. dollar at the present. In the 
United States, to the best of my experience, an average fee in Vodou and 
Santeria consultation rooms is about $20 to $50. Some charge significantly 
less, a few significantly more.  I charge $51 US in the United States and $51 
Haitian in Haiti (that is to say, 255 gourdes, let's not get into THAT again! 

Wanga can have all sorts of prices, depending on how complicated they are, 
what kind of herbs and candles and kerchiefs and ritual implements the 
Houngan or Mambo must buy, whether or not assistants must be present, and so 
on. In the United States, fees from $20 to several hundred dollars are within 
the spectrum of possibliity, however let me note that the trend is toward the 
lower end of the spectrum. In Haiti the prices may range from the few gourdes 
a poor marketwoman can scrape together to rein in her unfaithful husband, to 
the huge payments made by black-marketeers who lay down bricks of U.S. 

Initiations can only be done in Haiti, as the required leaves, ritual 
articles, and setting can only be found there. Initiations of Haitians by 
Haitians often include non-monetary components. For example, I know one young 
man who recieved his initiation as hounsi kanzo in exchange for a promise to 
serve forever as a drummer in that Houngan's society. Some Houngans and 
Mambos initiate their spouses at the rank of sur point so that they can 
assist at most ceremonies and are not ritually excluded from any area of the 
peristyle. Non-Haitian initiates, or Haitian initiates who do not intend to 
remain in that neighborhood or continue to participate in the congregation of 
that peristyle, must bargain in cash.

Initiation as asogwe, the highests rank, is the most expensive. Three 
thousand Haitian dollars was a standard fee for Haitian asogwe initiates in 
the year 1995 in the city of Port-au-Prince, but the costs are now 
considerably higher and some Houngans ask as much as $20,000 Haitian.  This 
is because the person is making an investment in a profession, it's like 
going to college - once th person has their credential they are free to go to 
work and earn money.

Initiations as hounsi kanzo usually cost Haitians less than an equivalent of 
U. S. $200. It is worth bearing in mind, though, that groups of people are 
initiated together - often ten hounsis, four or five sur points, and two or 
three asogwes will crowd into the djevo, and larger numbers are not unheard 
of. A single hounsi could never expect to have all of the required ceremonies 
for the same cost as when a group is initiated together. The peristyle is 
quite frequently the scene of some mighty brisk bargaining between client and 
clergy, especially when it comes to initiation fees.

Houngans and Mambos consider it our first lesson that "Houngan (ou Mambo) pa 
travay pou granmesi", a Houngan or Mambo does not work for "big thankyou", 
literally, for free. We do it all the time, though, for close friends and 
family members. Towards those who come to the peristyle as clients, however, 
a Houngan or Mambo is under no such constraint, and it is perfectly normal to 
require payment.

BUT - first, the service rendered must be correct, appropriate, and 
LEGITIMATE; that is, it must be condcuted in a manner validated by the 
tradition, and recognizably authentic to the members of the tradition. Bogus 
initiations are sinful, and leave the duped person helpless in a bad 
situation, as they will surely proclaim themselves to be something that they 
are not, and then be humiliated at best or tied to the poteau mitan 
(centerpost of the peristyle, or temple) at worst! Bogus spells defraud the 
petitioner and endanger the phony practitioner, as he or she has been paid 
money to carry away the problem - and carry it away they will, resolved or 

Secondly, the price requested for the service must be the same, or nearly the 
same, for everyone. It was pointed out by someone on The VODOU Page 
Guestbook, for example, that if it cost $4,500 U.S. dollars to become a 
hounsi kanzo (as one questionable practitioner has required of her dupes), 
not a hounsi would ever be made in Haiti, because the vast majority of the 
population down there doesn't see that amount of money in a lifetime! This is 
sadly but literally true. To be fair, however, Haitian Houngans and Mambos, 
who have families to feed, are also apt to charge what they think the 
individual can afford.

 And this brings me to my third point - feeding the family. The fees earned 
by a Houngan or Mambo can be used as personal discretionary funds, it is 
true, but a Houngan or Mambo has specific responsibilities to his or her 
"family" - the brothers and sisters who are initiates of the same "parent", 
the Houngan's or Mambo's own initiates and their initiates in turn. A Houngan 
or a Mambo is a father or mother to the Children of Africa, meaning all their 
initiates and by extension the entire human population. The more money the 
Mambo earns, the better the hounsis should eat! The more money the Houngan 
earns, the better should be the furnishings of the peristyle. A Mambo does 
not drive around in a Mercedes-Benz while her hounsis sleep on the floor. The 
only time that deprivation is required of the Children of Africa is when we 
enter into the djevo for our secret time of seclusion and consecration, and 
this time begins on a Tuesday and ends on a Sunday - mercifully short! In 
fact, Houngans and Mambos in Haiti jokingly complain that money merely passes 
through their hands, and they have it hard to hold on to even a little bit of 

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