Vodou For Witches
Piercing The Veil
Yup, it wasn't enough to give you Baron Samedi and Ogu. I figured a crash course might help you understand key Vodoun concepts. Remember, if we can set up an Egyptian altar to Bast, and learn a whole new magical system with every book, we can do this the right way. I'll be giving you real Vodoun, as close as we non-initiates get at any rate, but with explanations that will help witches, OK?
First, my credentials such as they are. I studied online for several years with many mambos and hougans. As much as the average Haitian practitioner might laugh, I was drug into Vodoun by the lwa, kicking and screaming. It has taken me years to realize, like it or not, they want me and I don't have a choice in the matter. Trust me, I tried everything, yet they are still with me. My ways might not be pure Haitian, but I do my best to honor my lwa. My mait tete or met tete reading was given to me by the wonderful Mambo Sky Bradshaw. Who I was advised to contact by none other than the Bawon himself.
Note to 'pure' Vodoun practitioners. We can either fight until the end of time, or learn to get along. Which is it going to be? We all worship the same creator God/dess, you know. And you know very well the lwa would be very angry if non-initiates just skipped over greetings because they don't know the proper way it is done in your house. No disrespect is meant by sharing the wonderful lwa with "outsiders".
For the record I practice both Wicca and Vodoun as a sort of blended hybrid religion. True, I did not do this at one time, but the lwa will take you into the fold.
As always, all writing and all photos are my own original work. Enjoy!
Voodoo, Wiccan and Witchcraft Love Spells - Is There A Difference?
I don't cast for love myself, but this explains how a spell in Wicca would differ from one in general witchcraft, and Vodoun. Wiccans will cast for general love according to our belief in free will. Other witches might choose a target, and may or may not work with a God or Goddess. In Vodoun some practitioners work with the lwa for love, some work outside in a separate magical system. Example: in the US many practitioners have a separate magical system called Hoodoo. Enjoy and Blessed Be!
"...It is impossible
to describe Vodoun in everyday language. One can only experience it." --Douchan Gersi
"You do not pick the lwa. The lwa pick you."-- Mambo Sallie Ann Glassman
Do I have to give up Wicca?
Depends on who you ask. An orthodox hougan from Haiti would say 'yes' if you want to work with the spirits. But as witches aren't good at orthodox anything in general, I'd say do what works for you.
If you want to work with your spirits in a Wiccan sense, and they are happy, go for it! If you want to do non-initiate rituals for them, great. But don't let hateful people ever pull you away from your beloved lwa because you can't stand organized religion.
Witches are witches through and through. We do what works, we avoid what doesn't. I blend the two, keeping my Wiccan principles and honoring the spirits as is proper in Vodoun. Is it pure Vodoun? Nope. Do I really care? Nope.
I find my spirits don't mind my witchyness. In fact, they find it interesting to watch spellcraft. Now of course they feel they are better at it, but they still enjoy watching and helping. I've never met the lwa yet who wouldn't just plunge into your magical storage cabinet either, and happily run off with all the New Agey stuff 'pure' practitioners look down on.
Orthodox views will never accept outsiders working with the Gods/spirits of their religion. They simply can't accept change because they aren't built that way. Just remember these people need orthodoxy to be happy and make sense of the world and respect them.
Don't listen if they spew hate, but respect them. Just respect and listen to your lwa first, OK?
A Few Warnings
You need to know a few things before you explore online or in the real world.
Beware of scammers. Anyone can claim to be a Hougan or Mambo. Most of us are not from Haiti and have no way to check a priest or priestess out. If you can't meet their initiating mother or father, old house members, or current ones, run far away.
Yes Vodoun is filled with a lot of fighting, at least online when it comes to initiates. Any hougan or mambo may try to take you from another's house, although an honest one wouldn't do so. And since money is involved in most ceremonies, just be careful. A true relationship with the lwa cannot be bought. Only experience can give you that.
There are no mega-death-curses, although the lwa can be seen to 'eat' a practitioner as punishment. Nor can you win the lottery, or give five billion trillion dollars by serving Damballah. Freda will not trip over herself so you can get endless sex partners, nor will Kalfou help you become a master of evil. People can't read your lwa online or figure out who your head is by guessing.
A lot of people have agendas and will also 'rescue' you from other Mambos. That is typical in Haiti too or so they will tell you. But good folks mind their own knitting and a mature hougan or mambo doesn't need to go into another person's house on rescue missions. You'll figure out you need to leave if you do.
Beware of sex fiends. Yes there are sexual lwa. And some may propse a marriage lwa, and develop a sexual relationship with you in dreams or the astral plane. But not a single one will have sex with you using a horse in Haitian Vodoun.
Yes, there are sexual paths such as the Gnostic Vodoun I list a book for. But most are practiced in private with an lwa lover or spouse. Groups are only high mages who have a lot of experience. Anyone who says you must sleep with them is hated by all other respectful hougans and mambos. Knowing you are a witch or pagan, especially if you do sex magic will make you a target. Remember sex is a sacred act no matter what the religion.
Not everyone likes witches. Some hougans or mambos will blast you for daring to approach them or the lwa. They feel that only by abandoning magic, paganism, or your patron God/dess can you even dare to think about practicing Vodou. While the lwa certainly don't care what you practice, there's a historical reason for the hard feelings.
Color is an Issue For Some People Some folks feel that only Africans or Haitians can serve the lwa. White, Japanese, Native American, or any other folk will be killed by the lwa, they say. Remember Haiti was a slave colony for over three hundred years. You wanting to practice Vodoun is just one more thing blancs (white folks, outsiders) are trying to steal from Haitians in some eyes. Now your lwa do not care, but some folks do. Give them space and leave them be, OK?
There is no lwa divorce. When you agree to marry a lwa, it is final. You belong to him, her, or them forever. Think long and hard before accepting any marriage proposal you may get. A lwa in love is not the most reasonable or sane of beings. If you must refuse, do so with a counter offer.
In my experience the lwa are quite demanding of these things, even from a non-initiate, if you catch his or her eye. Saying you can't afford a ceremony won't save you either. They will either help you save up, or demand a lay marriage of sorts if that isn't possible. I believe the poorest of Haitians have a simple ceremony where a red ribbon is tied on the spouses like a bracelet. Note that lay marriages will not be accepted as real by most Vodouisants and may offend them. But if it is a lwa you could not marry in a house, such as Bawon in most cases, it may be your only option.
For all his bawdy behavior the Bawon will offer to marry you rather than just sleep with you. He is seen in many books written by Maya Deren and others to do just that.
No one can speak for the lwa. A practitioner can advise you, or tell you things are not done that way in his house. But nobody speaks for the lwa. True, a mambo or hougan may pass on information for them, but the lwa speak quite well for themselves. So don't let people just run up to you and tell you Baron hates something. He can and does speak very loudly on his own behalf.
Avoid "defenders of the faith" Some hougans or mambos will talk about nothing else but how every other hougan or mambo is wrong. They have pages filled with attacks on other folks, then sweetly deny they meant anything bad about it. If all a perspective hougan or mambo does is badmouth others, while trying to force you into buying an initiation, run. And if they have an unusually large number of folks who hate them, there might be a very good reason. Obviously this also goes for any teacher who claims to love all people then implies non-Haitians will never truly be part of the fold. The lwa want spiritual fruits, not religious nuts, after all.
Watch out for power-trippers and dark magicians. If all a person blabs on about is power over other folks, and getting revenge, move on. Yes, there is no problem in Vodoun with getting revenge for a true injustice, but there is a huge problem with blasting every person who dares to cross you. If all you ever want from the lwa is dark work, you will end up sorry indeed.
Is Vodoun a style of magic? Erm, yes and no. Yes, if you see magic as a prayer to the God/dess. Or Wicca as a religion. No, if you work on your own power. In other words, Vodoun is more like working with a specific Goddess in a ritual and awaiting results. There is magic called wanga, but again, you need the help of the lwa. And no it won't work if you don't believe in the lwa.
Is Vodoun evil? Goddess no! There was no concept of evil in the original religions in Africa. Much like modern Wicca, the lwa, or spirits, are seen as capable of good or negative actions. But none truly hunt for or harm folks. I am not saying an angered lwa isn't capable of harming you, but they are not evil. Trying to use the lwa for spooky dark magic will result in them attacking you and not the target.
I'm already a priest/ess, will I have to start over? Again, yes and no. You have experience controlling energy and certainly have discipline. But the lwa are very different from anyone you've worked with before. The energy takes a lot of getting used to. Plus, if not properly greeted or feasted, some will refuse to work with you. To the lwa and all practitioners you will be like a baby taking her first steps. Remember Vodoun is a tradition that values order, rank, and experience.
What are the core beliefs? All paths believe in one central God/dess. This being created the lwa who help with humans. Newer paths see the Goddess as sweet and caring, but she was cold and unknowable in the old days. All practitioners must strive for goodness and shun violence.. A man must support and respect his wife, all humans must be stewards of nature. Like Wicca, there is no ruling body or head of all practitioners. So folks are free to practice as they wish outside of a house. Providing they follow the rules of their own lwa, of course.
Can I use my magical gear? At first, go ahead. The lwa will let you know if they want exact things. Some objects are only used by hougans or mambos (priests or priestesses) who have had years of training, so there isn't really much you can buy. Except candles and altar cloths if you don't have the right colors. Most herbs tend to overlap with goodies in your magical closet.
How is is spelled? The most accepted spellings are Voudo and Voudon. The improper voodoo is often thought to be disrespectful and an insult to practitioners of the religion. It is often used be researchers and considered the blanc or white slave-owner version of the word Voudon. Hollywood just took that version and ran with it.
FYI: Like many African-based languages Haitian kreyol is purely oral. So there are no real spellings for any word. Still try to find out and respect what spellings of a term are used.
Can I learn from books? Of course! You can practice a solitary path like I do. And the lwa don't mind you learning from books. In fact, this article is assuming you will be a solitary practitioner.
Do I need a house? A house led by a mambo or hougan would teach you the songs, rituals and traditions of Vodoun. You'd have to follow rules, but are free to just attend and not initiate. Just like you don't always have to join a coven to attend a circle.
If two mambos disagree on something who is right? They both are, so far as the house they run goes. All mambos and hougans are free to run a house and teach any way they wish. But you are free to follow your heart so remember that.
Can a witch practice Vodoun? Of course! The lwa don't care if you are Christian, Wiccan, or an initiated practitioner of Voudo. You don't have to be of African descent either. Barring anyone of any color from practicing a religion is racist. That said, don't expect every Haitian practitioner you happen to meet to greet you with open arms. Slavery and the ensuing abuse of Haiti by white folks for centuries has done nothing to make most outsiders seem trustworthy. Ditto for the relief money we all shelled out for Haitian relief going to more white countries.
How many types of Vodoun are there? Well if you ask some folks, only one, Haitian Vodou. But there are also paths like Dominican Vodou, New Orleans Vodou, Gnostic Vodou, and American Vodou.These are all separate, valid religions. Anyone at any time can open a house and claim a new path is formed. Haitian is the strictest path, with New Orleans being more relaxed, and from what I've seen of it American Vodou being very relaxed.
Some Things To Never Do
Don't go out and buy hougan or mambo gear. This won't impress the lwa. You will have no idea about proper greetings and it takes years of practice to deal with them at such a high level safely. Some loa are very serious about rank and will show their anger. Plus you trying to assume this right is like touching the third rail.
Don't just lump them all on one altar. They hate that. As separate members of your family, each wants his or her own space. You don't have to go crazy, but give them space. You wouldn't expect human family members to all sit on one chair, don't expect it of your lwa. And keep the ancestors and Baron on a separate altar. The Barons love to party so they annoy the others.
Some will share an altar, but may want two cloths, something down the middle or some such. Spouses tend to share a lot better. So do siblings. Most of the time. Don't dare give one offering on a shared altar though.
Don't lump them with your gods and goddesses. They will get insulted. They want a nice space all for them. After all, they made the long trip from the spirit world just to see you. It can just be a shelf or drawer, but they won't share in general. Now later on, they might want a companion near them. But they will ask for that.
I don't want you thinking the lwa are anything less than wonderful and loving. But they will call you on the carpet if they feel abused, neglected, or disrespected. Oh, and don't expect magic to work on them. Not happening. You can't banish or bind them. They may let you think you have, but trust me, it won't work. And Western magic tends to fail with their energy anyhow.
Bigots should avoid Vodou. If you hate Africans for some strange reason, avoid Vodou. African spirits are not going to be amused by your less than enlightened views.
Don't even think of the Vodou if you are simply seeking power or wealth. The lwa are not money machines nor will you ever control them. Treat them like slaves and you will find out why so many witches quickly exited Vodou with horror stories to share online. They will chew you up and spit you out if approached with the wrong intentions.
Don't be proud or headstrong This comes as a shock to witches. We were always taught not to bow before our gods or be humble little sheep. Well, that is not working with the lwa. You don't have a free will as far as they are concerned. You will do as you are told, or else. Again this is not evil. They are trying to slap some disipline in you before the world hurts you.
Don't be bad. While there is no idea of a rede in Vodou, there are standards. Any spirit who ever asks you to hurt yourself or others, desecrate an altar or do something you have learned is wrong for that lwa, is evil. Call on Ogu or Dambala. Both hate evil and will rescue you.
DO NOT TRY TO INDUCE POSESSION!!! You need a hougan, mambo, or experienced person around to help you out. If you or another did become possesed, you'd have no way to control what happened. The lwa are not about to listen to you. If you truly want to be a horse (ridden by the lwa) you need to join a house. Wearing a holy symbol of your choice like a cross, ankh, or pentacle is a signal for the lwa not to mount you. Possession is an honor, but one reserved for those taught how to deal with it.
The Haitian Vodou Handbook - Riding with the Lwa
I can't give this book enough praise. This is written by a true initiated hougan who uses magical and pagan practices to complete the services for the lwa for non-initiates. He lists many lwa, what they like and dislike, and how each can help you.
He also includes a history of Haiti, which you need to understand to get along with the lwa. Slavery and explotation have affected the Haitian mindset, so has crushing poverty. And he can explain that from experience.
Also included are some wanga, or good magics to do. Complete services can be crafted using this book, and he tells you the pitfalls to avoid. He can sound a bit harsh and impaitient at times, but remember Vodou is his relgion. You would bristle too if people just wanted info on one thing because they aren't going to be pagan, Wiccan or whatever.
A hougan who respects paganism and witches is rare, so respect him in return. He will tell you where to find herbs, how to find a house, and tips on entering your local Haitian community. I can't praise this book enough. It has explained so much of Vodou to me where even hougans and mambos online could not.
Also included are tips of food, candles, how to set up your altar, honoring the ancestors and Ibo and more.
Please note: soome practitioners are offended that he replaces the chante lwa, or singing sacred songs to the lwa with smudging. Well these songs are easy enough to find as videos or downloads and you can print lyrics.
If you can recite the charge of the Goddess you can sing a song to please your lwa.
Who are the main lwa?
I'm not giving you god/dess equivalents as no loa would admit to such a horrid idea. Yes, all gods and goddesses may well be offshoots (we all came from Africa) but these fiercely proud spirits.
Legba: Our loving Papa Legba is the sun itself. He is the master of the door between the worlds. Without Papa Legba, nothing, and I mean nothing happens. If angry he will slam the door shut, and nobody human or loa can do anything about it. And no God will not override him. Legba is the rule enforcer, so if the door is closed, there is always a reason why.
He loves respect, and we greet him before we work with the other loa. He must always be greeted first. If you honestly forget a few times, he will remind you. If you do it on purpose, he may turn his attention to your magical work as well.
In the old days he was also lord of fertility and death but lost that role to Baron Samedi in the new world.
Since you will need one, a good greeting might be:
Papa Legba, please open the gate for me.
Open the gate for me so I may pass, please.
Open the gate and I will thank the lwa when I return.
He likes threes, so we ask three times for him to open the gate. Remember your manners. Calling him a useless old man or stupid may result in him opening the door, all right. To let bad things through.
Every house uses a slightly different greeting and it may not be given to outsiders. In Vodou knowledge is power. And giving that power to outsiders is seen as dangerous. They might use it to try to hurt you. Lwa are not disloyal, but some feel if treated better by another they will turn on you. I don't agree, but be aware the belief is there. Legba's colors are red, white, yellow, or even brown depending on the house. He is lord of the crossroads and owns all roads and paths.
Kalfou: If his sweet brother Legba is cool, he is as hot as lava. Unlike his brother, Kalfou is seem as a strong young black man, with muscles that ripple with strength, and anger. All conversation stops if he arrives in a house. He is known to curse those who speak too much in his presence. Kalfou controls the negative spirits and the night.
He is most often petitioned to stay away and take his bad spirits away. Again, he is not evil. He is aggressive and very dangerous though. He is often the lord of secret societies that act as the police of rural Haiti. As such he is concerned with justice and punishes evil-doers. Kalfou also owns crossroads and works in graveyards with the manevolent dead.
Bawon Samedi: Lord of the dead. Any contact with the ancestors must go through him. If he is in a good mood he can be very indulgent. Remember your manners as his vast family is not one you want angry with you. As lord of fertility he will quite happily slide on over into sexual magic, so be warned. No one loves children more than Baron. He is also the only lwa who walks freely into any house of worship regardless of religion.
Bawon is the one who will decide if you should be granted the second senses to see, hear, feel, and interact with the loa outside of the astral plane. He does not get along with Erzuile Freda, but her sister Dantor likes him just fine. His colors are black, purple and white. If he shows up wearing black and red, he is in his hottest, most dangerous aspect, so tread carefully.
Baron can have a foul mouth and waves his baton as his zozo (yes, that is what you think it is) but he is loving and can be a proper gentleman if it suits him. He rules all the ghede spirits, and his home is the graveyard. He is judgement and only Baron can say if a person should be punished or set free.
Maman Bridgette: She is the wife of the Baron. Bridgette handles justice, the rowdy ghede, and the protection of women. She favors purple and black like her husband and can manifest in countless different forms. She is often sought out for her practical advice and sound judgement.
Brav Ghede: Adopted son of the Barons. This handsome man is a strong magician. He is often called upon to protect children. He is fine with black and purple.
Ayizan: Wife of Loko, the initiation room is her womb. Seen as an old woman with deep pockets, she is very powerful. Considered the prime or first mambo, she protects new initiates with her fringed palm frond. She loves women and will protect those that own a small shop whether bricks and mortar or online. We give her white, white and gold, or even white and blue depending on the house.
Erzuile Freda: She is love and inspiration. Count on her in all love work, advice on men, and loving comfort. She is very fond of men and often marries mortal spouses. She likes women too as we know why she cries. She used to be seen as a serpent goddess in Africa, but now has the role of love and inspiration of human dreams. Freda's symbols include hearts and doves. You must also serve her sister Dantor if you want happiness. She is one of the richest and classiest of the lwa and expects you to remember it. You will be more like a servant, but a loved one to her. The dove is her symbol. She adores whites and pinks.
Erzuile Dantor: She is a hard working farm woman, and a leader of the revolution in Haiti. She is not fond of laziness, and prefers daggers as gifts. She will not be ignored, so she is always served along with her sister. Girls fight, OK? Don't you dare tease her about being a peasant girl. She will come after you big time. Dantor is proud to work for a living. She is also the patron of children and women. She likes checked cloth, blue ghingam, and black.
Ogu: Lord of the forge, all metals, fire, and war. He leads revolutions, will defend the weak, and even dies in this defense. He is the original workaholic. Some paths work 24/7. He insists upon protocol and tradition. He won't come near an altar unless it is set up the right way. He controls technology like the internet and your computer.Ogu can be rough and loud, but he will help you if he takes a liking to you. Red, red and blue, even blue and gold can be his colors.
Agwe: Lord of the sea. He is very popular with sailors and protects all who travel by sea. He tends to be sad, but can be cheered for brief periods. He loves humans dearly, so he is a popular loa. Also remember in Haiti the sea is an essential source of food. So he is a much needed loa. Remember he is a king and can give of his riches if pleased. His anger is frightening, but rare if respected. He loves the blues and greens of the sea.
La Siriene: The Siren, queen of the ocean along with king Agwe. She is often seen as a mermaid, either creole or black with piercing green eyes. Her symbols are the conch shell and mirror. She favors sea colors, and gifts to please a queen. If you give her a mirror and comb she will be very pleased. She can control the seas, give gift of earthly riches, or grant other blessings. Yes, she is the lwa pictured on the Starbuck's logo.
Dambala: The snake father of us all. No not God, but pretty darn close. He created humans with his mate Aida in some versions of the creation story. He is purity itself, loves, a simple pure offering, and protects all of humanity. His mate Aida is the rainbow. He opens path, smooths the way, and can bring wealth. In fact he is the richest of the lwa, and often married to lucky ladies or men for this reason. Pure white is his color, some houses use green, red and silver for his hotter paths.
Aida: As mentioned above, her mate is Dambala. Some folks see her as an aspect of Erzuile, who was a serpent deity in Africa. In a double rainbow, she has appeared to bless you. Some see her as a female part of Dambala, so she is never given her own altar. She loves hanging out on his just fine. Mine at least loves any rainbow colors, or something bright and cheery.
Zaka: Loa of farming, he covers all hard work off the land. He will help you with fertility, but you will earn those crops through hard work. He distrusts city folks or outsiders, but tends to show up sooner or later if you work with his brother, the Baron. He favors the blue of farming overalls and the brown or tan of burlap.
He helps all who do manual labor, and will give you the strength to endure. He is keenly aware of his poverty, and easily shamed by it. We never offer him food with silverware. Just a plain bowl, and no tasting food you prepare him. He can niether read or write, and although he loves women, he is shy because he is black and poor.
Treat him with the respect and love he deserves ladies, and you will have one of the hardest working lwa at your side. He may not make you rich, but he can always help find work or make the work you do have more fruitful. He also knows his herb magic. Treated lovingly, he will teach you the secrects of any plant on earth.
The Simbi: Simbi! These are among my favorite lwa. Gentle, shy and loving they appear as water snakes. They have to be coaxed to enter a house of Vodou as the music and movement frighten them. But once Simbi arrives he is a forceful and proud spirit. All Simbis have powerful magic, and can control computers on the internet. They are very up to date lwa.
Grand Bwa: He is the spirit of the woods. And ladies, big wood also refers to fertility. Haitians don't miss this, and are often amused at Grand Bwa's boasting.. Men can seek his help with impotence as he considers it a shame and a horror. He is lord of the forest, and can give healing advice if it suits him.
How do you work with the lwa?
Most lwa traditionally have a non-initiates service. If you are like me and never initiated into a house, that is the way to go. Every major lwa has free services online. It is a lot like learning a new magical system. The altars are all different, the prayers, songs, and other things change. Offerings too.
But remember Vodoun is a religion, so if you are not happy reciting prayers and invocations the lwa may be a bad fit for you. Sooner or latter they will make demands for those prayers and offerings. This is just the way things are done. Now while it is OK to say the prayers in English, and you may say the songs if you don't know the way to sing them, they still need to be done. There are CDs of the proper songs. But I feel if you don't understand what is going on, the service will not go well.
More modern folks are using non-traditional music. For non-initiates that is fine. In fact traditional music may excite them into expecting all tradition, you savvy? The lwa are not shy. They will let you know what is and isn't fine by them.
For first timers, I honestly recommend you meet a potential lwa in meditation first. You can find out if you like one another without inviting them home. You may dislike their energy, or find the lwa is not fond of you.
For your altar, let's use Ogu as an example. The basic altar depends on which aspect of Ogu or and other lwa you are serving. It is usually safe to give Ogu red and blue in any form. So that would be the altar cloth. You could use a cauldron, in which you can put three nails, a knife, or a red powder to represent the womb. Just remember if you give an lwa something it belongs to them. No taking it back. Don't forget the veve, or special symbol that lwa favors. All the major lwa's veves can be found and printed from an online source. You can also use the saint associated with them, or a symbolic item.
Vodoun uses a sword or machete instead as his symbol. You would place that and an offering here, like food, or drink as mentioned above. Mine is fond of coke, but the usual offering is rum. Food could be any cooked meat, or rice prepared with his herbs like basil. You can start with just a few candies. He is partial to fruit flavors. Give these things in a red plate or cup if possible.
You will also need candles. One in his color of red. A white one for Goddess and a white one for Papa Legba. And for the basic bare bones altar, that is it. You can add as you go along. One altar has a metal bucket filled with railroad ties, broken glass, volcanic rocks and coal. All things Ogu likes.
In a service you would open with grounding and creating a sacred space. Non-initiates can use a circle and call quarters. Then a candle is lit for God, Legba and the lwa you wish to reach. You would open with a prayer to Goddess, then Papa Legba is greeted, then the other lwa will be greeted, then feasted. Now not a huge feast, but at least something. And if you want them to work with you, you give them more. Then you most bargain for a final price on the work.
An example would be this. You start a ceremony for Baron. You feel him arrive and feed him. You ask him to help you with something. He names a price. You bargin him down to something you can both agree on. He may well ask for a complete cow at first. You better work him down to a steak. Anything you promise must be given. Any lwa can reverse the work they do, and do damage on top of that.
Remember, if you are loving and honest, you need never fear the loa. Treated with respect and paid in due time, they are fine. They do love humans and want to help. They just demand respect and honesty from you.
It is fine to admit you are so poor you can't even give a dog bone. That is fine if it is the truth. But greedy will get you nowhere.
For any lwa or orisha do your research and trust your gut. You don't have to abandon your Wicca or pagan beliefs, but the lwa do demand things done a certain way. To close a ceremony you would thank the lwa for attending, thank Legba for opening the door, and invite all to depart if they wish. Ask Legba politely and he will close the door when he is ready. Then you would open your circle and so forth.
Ceremonies, views on Vodoun
Some ceremonies for you to view. Being alone things are much simpler, but you'll note things work pretty much the way the do in Wicca, though the Vodoun lwa are vastly different from our Gods and Goddesses.
By that I mean they favor total possession where the horse, or possessed, remembers nothing, and each has proscribed chants and dances. They tend to like more attention and consider you family.
Same or Different?
Ways Haitian Vodoun And Wicca are the Same
Both believe in one God/dess.
Both believe in spirits connected to nature, Vodoun calls them lwa, sometimes spelled loa.
Both hold ceremonies, that honor God/dess and the spirits they work with.
Most practitioners believe in truth, honor, and integrity.
Both have magical practices involving herbs, chants, spells, etc.
Both have practitioners that practice together or work alone.
Like some covens Vodoun has ranks in the religion, starting from a novice equivalent and working up to priest/ess.
Lastly, both are valid, peaceful religions.
How do they differ?
Vodoun can be seen by some as from Africa, and only for Africans.
There's no rule of three, and some spirits do specialize in revenge, or what you might call rough justice. That doesn't mean however, that late-night horror movies are fair portrayals of average practitioners.
Though not well-liked, some people, called bokors can cast curses on an enemy. They also deal with the dark spirits and malevolent dead. Though some outsiders point out these very bokors often form societys which protect people from thieves and dangerous militias.
There tends to be a lot of misinformation on the web that can make Vodoun seem evil. Real practtioners have no need to steal souls, cast death curses, or force themselves on unwilling lovers through wanga.
There is no concept of free will. So whatever happens is seen as fated to be. You go live in abject poverty and see how sunny a disposition and outlook on life you get. God has the final say, in other words, and trying to buck the system will end in failure.
Please keep in mind that just as every witch is not Wiccan, and therefore some will happily curse you, people who work in Vodoun in a negative sense are rare. Also the defensive acts in Vodoun are often the only justice a poor Haitian can ever hope for. A rape victim for example, can call on Dantor for aid. But it is up to Dantor how to handle the justice.
They also see nothing wrong with a love spell cast on a specific target, because the spirits of God would block that spell if it was a bad thing. Though some Haitian practitioners will tell you the spirits don't share Western morality and see no harm in catching a lover this way. The truth is all a love spell will do is get you attention. If the person isn't interested, meh.
In general practitioners of both religions seek to live peacefully, both can seek earthly wealth, enjoy pleasure, and still be straight with God.
How can I spot a good house or Mambo (Hougan)?
OK, let's say you decide you at least want to attend a few services and see if you belong in a house or not. That's normal, and a good house or Mambo should expect that. Think of it like going to a new circle. If they demanded you join without even attending even once, you would be leery.
A good Mambo should be truthful about what you will and won't get out of Vodou. Far too many online hint that initiation brings limitless power, wealth, and happiness. They are really hoping you don't remember the overwhelming poverty faced by many faithful practitioners in Haiti.
She should be open to reasonable questions, and the house should be friendly and welcoming. Yes they can be leery, we are too of strangers who show up claiming the Goddess led them, but who aren't Wiccan per se.
It is OK for her to ask you to bring an offering to the lwa special to that house. You are visiting them too, and it is only right to show respect. A small offering mind you, not a seven hundred dollar grocery list, or platinum jewelry.
A good Hougan may let you just watch, or insist you at least greet the lwa as an honored guest. If the lwa shows up and mounts you may be introduced and allowed to ask a question. It depends on the lwa, the members of the house and the Hougan.
A good ceremony like a good drumming circle can last for hours. In some houses members are free to get up for necessary reasons and come back, some may even let members leave early if need be (a house can get so hot a member may fall ill), but they should salute the lwa if possible before leaving. The lwa are well aware if you are present!
It is entirely up to the Hougan or Mambo how much participation you should or should not do. I doubt, even if you have had a met tete reading, if possession will happen in a first ceremony, but that is honestly up to your lwa. Most Mambos and Hougans will stop a possession for your safety if you haven't been trained in that house.
A lwa can hurt a horse without meaning to, which is why we never induce possession outside a house. Now in full traditional Vodoun the possessions you will see are total. The personally of the horse is pushed aside and the lwa mounts.
Obviously the problem is, if you've never seen a good house, or genuine possession, you won't know if you are in a bad one. Search around for houses filled with happy members, a Hougan or Mambo who can let you meet their initiation parents if possible, and so on.
As stated above, a good leader will test you out by letting you attend, asking why you want to practice Vodou and so forth. He should be serious and question if you aren't just after power or saw one too many zombie films. He should let you know that this will still be hardship and trails in your life regardless of you joining his house or not.
Anyone who demands instant initiation may simply be filling her coffers. I know, if her eyes roll back in her head and she intones in a spooky voice that she is so and so lwa and you better join, or else, it can be intimidating. But if she does that or tells you your lwa will eat you if you refuse to join, make tracks. Trust your spirits to guide you and listen to them. Ask Papa Loko, the lwa who rules over such things as initiation to guide you to a good house. It is fine to ask for a sign you can't mistake.
What are some reasons to join a house?
You want or feel compelled to have an initiation.
Your spirits have demanded you do so.
Structure, rules and regulation help you grow.
You wish to experience the honor of possession in a safe environment.
You hold the orthodox view that you haven't met a lwa until introduced in a house.
You feel the songs, dances and other experiences are what you were meant to have in your life.
A Mambo or Hougan you truly trust advises you to do so.
I'm upset, I just got told I don't have spirits!
Then you met a member of an orthodox house. Most likely a Mambo or Hougan, seeking new members for their own house, and they are not about to listen to you talk about lwa working with a Wiccan. They also truly believe that you can't meet lwa outside of a house, EVER.
If you tell them your spirits, or you are simply not interested in joining a house, they will not listen. Now of course we shouldn't expect them to. We've all met sneering more-magical-than-thou witches who spit on lone witches. These folks feel you aren't a real witch until you have entered a coven and so forth and so on.
Now while the orthodoxy does do good things, such as maintaining traditions through the generations and so on, it isn't for everyone. Here is where orthodox Vodou will be right about solitary practitioners:
Your lwa can't teach you what they don't know. For some reason not a single lwa can teach you their own songs, veves, or rituals. They don't know their own dances either. You didn't get stupid or defective lwa, this isn't what they are meant to teach you.
Mind you if you do get taught these things your lwa will get very persnickety about how they are offered. As a non-initiate though, these things aren't needed, except perhaps a veve and song, and the internet, for better or worse, is littered with them.
You won't have the same connection. Well, duh! Just like a man on an island wouldn't be a real Christian (according to orthodoxy) by just reading the Bible and walking with God. Or you won't be a 'real' priestess of Bastet unless you join so and so order.
While it is true only a house can provide an initiated connection, and only initiation can provide deeper contact, it also amps up your responsibility to your lwa. You can't just change your mind and say it isn't for you once the initiation is over.
The lwa won't go away!
I hear you, sweet sister! The thing is, if your lwa know you can see and hear them, and you are even halfway decent to them, they will refuse to budge. It is said our lwa pick us, not the other way around and it is true.
Now seeing and hearing them does not mean you are destined to be a great mambo or hougan, nor does it always mean you should join a house. But back to topic. Something has happened (often a bad encounter with orthodoxy) and you want them gone.
Well, I can't help you there. Banishing and binding, calling on Goddess, even dismantling altars, simply isn't going to work if you are truly theirs. Christians will try prayers, and if you ask, I suppose a good mambo or hougan could help, though they will want to know WHY you want them gone.
I'd say whatever is upsetting you, you have to remember will all answer to our own lwa, and the all want something different. So long as you aren't being asked for something wrong, you should be OK.
Now maybe this problem crops up repeatedly, and that is honestly a good thing. If you love your lwa, and they love you, you should be able to work together on your problem. If you are crying your eyes out every time you are told, for example your lwa aren't real, listen to your lwa!
What are some reasons you SHOULDN'T join a house?
You can't stand being told what to do, and don't like rules.
You prefer being alone, not with a religious group.
You have no practical way of attending enough to benefit from membership.
The lwa have not called you to a house.
You KNOW you won't listen to the rules and will do things your own way.
You want freedom to do as you know works best with your personal lwa.
Five minutes of religious anything is too intense for you, five hours? Or more?
I know for example, EXACTLY why I'm not called to a house. I'm headstrong and bullish, I don't like restrictions, and I don't take orders too well. I'd be terrible in any formal religion. I would never magically become docile and listen politely in a house. I tend to speak to mambos and hougans as equals. Not out of disrespect, but I'm a witch and Goddess knows rank doesn't impress me. I'm also set in the ways I serve my lwa, need I go on?
Now of course if my lwa suddenly called me to a house, I'd go, because there would really be no sense in avoiding something they want.
Keep On Learning! - Links
Some links so you can continue learning. Take your time, there are almost endless amounts of info out there. I believe in a Vodoun that only embraces peace and love. If you want ngative, you are on your own.
- Mythologie vaudoue: Erzulie
Worth using Babelfish on. A huge amount of info on all major loa. You'll be starting out on the Erzuile page.
- Welcome to LePeristyle Haitian Sanctuary
LePeristyle Haitian Sanctuary Wonderful shrine pictures, lists of events, and messages from the loa themselves. They sell bath kits and can be contacted for more information.