Haitian Vodoun Views on Demise and Dying

Haitian Vodoun Views on Demise and Dying

I selected to discover the tradition of Haitians who apply Vodou, a faith also referred to as Voodoo, Vodun, Vodoun, Voudun, and Yoruba Orisha.  I’ve simply returned from a trip within the Caribbean (Punta Cana, Dominican Republic), which shares an island with Haiti. Whereas there, I met a person from Haiti and was reminded of a weird expertise I had in 1998 after I was ridden by an orisha (loa) throughout an inner-city Christian church service. Thus, I believed this could make an attention-grabbing topic for this project. To make issues easier on this essay, I’ll seek advice from this group merely as Vodou or Vodoun.

Introducing Vodou and Haitian Tradition

Vodou is a Caribbean faith blended from African religions and Catholic Christianity. Lengthy stereotyped by the surface world as “black magic,” Vodoun clergymen and priestesses are additionally diviners, healers, and non secular leaders, who derive most of their earnings from therapeutic the sick quite than from attacking focused victims.

Vodou comes from an African phrase for “spirit” and might be immediately traced to the West African Yoruba individuals who lived in 18th and 19th century Dahomey. Nevertheless, its African roots might return 6,000 years. Right now, Vodou is practiced mostly within the nation of Haiti and in america round New Orleans, New York, and in Florida. Right now over 60 million folks apply Vodou all through the Caribbean and West Indies islands, in addition to in North and South America, Africa, and Britain.

Throughout days of slave commerce, this faith fused with Catholic Christianity. Due to this fact, on this present century, kids born into rural Haitian households are usually baptized into the Vodou faith in addition to within the Catholic church.

Those that apply Vodou consider in a pantheon of gods who management and symbolize the legal guidelines and forces of the universe. On this pantheon, there’s a Supreme Deity and the Loa-a massive group of lesser deities equal to the saints of the Catholic Church. These gods defend folks and provides particular favors by way of their representatives on earth that are the hougans (clergymen) and mambos (priestesses).

The Loa (additionally Lwa or L’wha) are spirits considerably like saints or angels in Christianity. They’re intermediaries between the Creator and humanity. Not like saints or angels, they don’t seem to be merely prayed to; they’re served. They’re every distinct beings with their very own private likes and dislikes, distinct sacred rhythms, songs, dances, ritual symbols, and particular modes of service.

Rituals, Behaviors, and Practices Related to Demise and Dying

Haitians who adhere to Vodou don’t take into account loss of life to be the tip of life. They do consider in an afterlife. Followers of Vodoun consider that every particular person has a soul that has each a gros bon ange (massive soul or common life pressure), and a ti bon ange (little soul or the person soul or essence.)

When one dies, the soul essence hovers close to the corpse for seven to 9 days. Throughout this era, the ti bon ange is weak and might be captured and made right into a “non secular zombie” by a sorcerer. Supplied the soul isn’t captured, the priest or priestess performs a ritual referred to as 9 Evening to sever the soul from the physique so the soul might reside at midnight waters for a yr and a day. If this isn’t achieved, the ti bon ange might wander the earth and produce misfortune on others.

After a yr and a day, family members of the deceased carry out the Ceremony of Reclamation to boost the deceased particular person’s soul essence and put it in a clay jar often called a govi. The assumption that every particular person’s life experiences might be handed on to the household or group compels Haitians to implore the spirit of the decease to quickly possess a member of the family, priest (houngan), or priestess (mambo) to impart any last phrases of knowledge.

The clay jar could also be positioned within the houngan’s or mambo’s temple the place the household might come to feed the spirit and deal with it like a divine being.  At different occasions, the houngan burns the jar in a ritual referred to as boule zen. This releases the spirit to the land of the useless, the place it ought to correctly reside. One other method to elevate the ti-bon-ange is to interrupt the jar and drop the items at a crossroad.

The last word objective of loss of life rituals within the Vodoun tradition is to ship the gros-bon-ange to Ginen, the cosmic group of ancestral spirits, the place it is going to be worshipped by members of the family as a loa itself. As soon as the ultimate ritual is finished, the spirit is free to abide among the many rocks and bushes till rebirth. Sixteen incarnations later, spirits merge into the cosmic power.

Listed below are another frequent behaviors related to loss of life within the Haitian tradition:

·        When loss of life is impending, all the household will collect, pray, cry, and use spiritual medallions or different non secular artifacts. Family members and associates expend appreciable effort to be current when loss of life is close to.

·        Haitians want to die at dwelling, however the hospital can also be a suitable selection.

·        The second of loss of life is marked by ritual wailing amongst members of the family, associates, and neighbors.

·        When an individual dies, the oldest member of the family makes all of the preparations and notifies the household. The physique is stored till all the household can collect.

·        The final tub is normally given by a member of the family.

·        Funerals are vital social occasions and contain a number of days of social interplay, together with feasting and the consumption of rum.

·        Relations come from far-off to sleep on the home, and associates and neighbors congregate within the yard.

·        Burial monuments and different mortuary rituals are sometimes expensive and elaborate. Individuals are more and more reluctant to be buried underground. They like to be interred above floor in an elaborate multi-chambered tomb which will price greater than the home during which the person lived whereas alive.

·        Because the physique is regarded as essential for resurrection, organ donation and cremation are usually not allowed. Post-mortem is allowed provided that the loss of life occurred on account of fallacious doing or to verify that the physique is definitely useless and never a zombie.

Like many Western Christian religions that use a figurative sacrifice to represent the consumption of flesh and blood, some Vodoun ceremonies embrace a literal sacrifice during which chickens, goats, doves, pigeons, and turtles are sacrificed to rejoice births, marriages, and deaths.

Vodou Beliefs about Afterlife

Practitioners of Vodou assume that the souls of all of the deceased go to an abode beneath the waters. Ideas of reward and punishment within the afterlife are alien to Vodou.

In Vodou, the soul continues to reside on earth and could also be utilized in magic or it might be incarnated in a member of the useless particular person’s household.

Communion with a god or goddess happens within the context of possession. The gods typically work by way of a govi, and typically take over a residing particular person. This exercise is known as “mounting a horse” throughout which the particular person loses consciousness and the physique turns into quickly possessed by a loa. A particular priest (houngan) or priestess (mambo) assists each in summoning the divinities and in serving to them to depart on the termination of the possession.

The gros-bon-ange returns to the excessive photo voltaic areas from which its cosmic power was first drawn; there, it joins the opposite loa and turns into a loa itself.


Every group of worshipers is impartial and there’s no central group, spiritual chief, or set of dogmatic beliefs. Rituals and ceremonies fluctuate relying upon household traditions, regional variations, and publicity to the practices of different cultures similar to Catholicism, which is the official faith of Haiti.

Some Haitians consider that the useless reside in shut proximity to the loa, in a spot referred to as “Beneath the Water.” Others maintain that the useless haven’t any particular place after loss of life.

Burial ceremonies fluctuate in line with native custom and the standing of the particular person. Some households don’t categorical grief aloud till many of the deceased’s possessions have been faraway from the house. Individuals who’re educated within the funeral customs wash, costume, and place the physique in a coffin. Mourners put on white clothes which represents loss of life. A priest could also be summoned to conduct the burial service. The burial normally takes place inside 24 hours.


Westerners, or so-called logical folks, would possibly discover Vodoun a wierd and unique combination of spells, possessions, and rituals. Like some other faith, its objective is to consolation folks by giving them a standard bond. Vodoun meshes surprisingly properly with Catholicism, the official faith of Haiti. With a supreme being, saint-like spirits, perception within the afterlife and invisible spirits, together with the safety of patron saints, Voodoo is not that totally different from conventional religions. 

Source by Yvonne Perry

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