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Chapter 9. Hebblethwaite and Kulstad's interview with oungan
Benjamin Hebblethwaite and Joanne Bartley
This Chapter gives the transcribed and translated interviews with a Vodou priest, Nelson Marcenat.
The recording was made in 2008 in Belle-Riviere, Haiti, at the home of the oungan Ginen 'hereditary
priest' Nelson Marcenat. The interviews cover a wide range of matters relating to Vodou. At 65
years of age at the time of the interview, Nelson had been working as a Vodou priest for 43 years.
His main occupations are midwifery, plant and tree-based medicine and psychotherapeutic
treatments. He is a farmer and sharecropper, too. As a midwife who has delivered hundreds of
babies, oungan Marcenat invites the parents of the children he delivers to visit him a few weeks after
the birth to receive a Vodou blessing which he calls the andwaye. The andwaye is apnye batem 'a Vodou
baptism prayer' during which parents publicly name their child.
The interview explores the pivotal role his parents and grandparents had in his calling.
Topics of discussion include the kanzo initiation ritual, the forms of psychotherapeutic treatments
and services he provides, acceptable and unacceptable possessions by the lwa and his annual Vodou
ceremony on December 24th. Nelson discusses the legacy of the anti-superstition campaign of the
1940s and the links Vodou has with politics in Haiti. He points out, with some reservations, that
homosexuals have an important role in Vodou; he also suggests that a lwa, Jeneral Piman 'the Hot
Pepper General,' turns people gay. He reveals some of the differences and disagreements which
divide the oungan Ginen (Rada rite) and boko (Kongo-Petwo rite). He talks at length about the proper
ways to serve the lwa and he provides insight into the structure and dynamics of the Vodou
ceremonies he presides over. As a piket liv or p savann 'un-ordained Catholic priest,' Nelson also
addresses how Vodou priests like himself combine Catholic traditions with Vodou ones. Chapter 10
provides some mystical Catholic texts which many oungan, including oungan Marcenat, employ.
Oungan Marcenat read several passages to me out of his copy and he informed me that many Vodou
priests are using it.
Oungan Marcenat also asked me to include here the 'Sator square' which is a Latin
palindrome that allows one to read the same words top-to-bottom, bottom-to-top, left-to-right and
right-to-left. The earliest known source of the Sator square is from Pompeii, 79 AD, the year when
Mount Vesuvius erupted and smothered-and preserved-Pompeii in ashes. It has also been found
in England, Syria, France and Portugal. The words, rotas opera tenet arepo sator, might mean, 'The
farmer Arepo has works wheels [a plough]' which is supposed to mean, 'the farmer uses his plough
as his form of work.' The Sator square is also associated with magic (see Griffiths 1971 and
R O T A S
O P E R A
T E N E T
A R E P O
S A T O R
9. Entevyou Nelson Masena ak
Hebblethwaite epi Kulstad
B. Depi ki Ie ou nan domen Vodou a?
N: O! Mwen nan domen sila, ane sa fe m
karanntwazan (43). Se manman mwen, se te
yon manbo Ginen ke 1 te ye. Grann mwen te
yon manbo, li kite 1 pou manman m. Epi
manman m mouri. Anvan 1 mouri, m kanzo
mwen menm. Li kite 1 pou mwen. Grann papa
m se t on gangan Ginen 1 te ye toujou, li mouri
kite pou papa m, papa m te rejete, konsa 1 pa
vile fe 1; epui se li. M gen je b6 manman, je sou
B. Le nou di 'je b6 manman, je b6 papa,' sa sa
N. Nasyon an, nasyon ki kouv ou. Nasyon
Ginen ki kouv ou.
9. Oungan Nelson Marcenat's interview
with Hebblethwaite and Kulstad
B. For how long have you been involved in the
field of Vodou?
N: Oh! I have been in this domain, this year
makes forty-three years. It was my mother, she
was a manbo Ginen. My grandmother was a
manbo, she left it for my mother. And my
mother died. Before she died, I was kanzo
myself. She left it for me. The granny of my
father was also a Ginen Vodou priest, she died
and left it for my father, my father rejected it,
like that, he didn't want to do it; and that was it.
I have eyes on my mother's side, eyes on my
B. When you say 'eyes on my mother's side,
eyes on my father's side,' what does that mean?
N. The nation, the nation that hatches you. The
Ginen nation that hatches you.
B. What is the kanzo?
N. Kanzo a, setadikeu, lI on moun bezwen
kanzo, w ap jene, san manje, san bwe. Yo gen
dwa femen ou nan on kay la, yo fe ou fe set
jou, san manje, san bwe. Epi anmenmtan, yo
pa leve ou pou set jou sa a. Epi yo gen set
pelerinaj, yo pral fe ou fe; ranpli set bagay sa
yo, sa di ou kanzo. Epi mistik la pral konpare
sou ou, li pral danse sou ou, en, yo gen dwa
limen nenp6t flanbo dife, ou pran men ou pou
ou nan dife sa, ou brase nenp6t ch6dye mayi
moule k ap kwit, ou brase men ou lan ch6dye
cho, ou p ap boule, en. Sa di ou kanzo. Ou
pran on ti dife, ou koule 1 sou moun nan, li p
B. Gen moun nan zon nan ki pase seremoni
N. The kanzo, that is to say, when a person
needs to be kanzo, you are fasting, without
food, without drink. They have the right to
close you in a house there, they make you
endure seven days, without food, without drink.
And at the same time, they don't wake you for
those seven days. And they have seven
pilgrimages, they will make you do; fulfill those
seven things, that makes you kanzo. And the
mystical will take a hold of you, he will dance
on you, uh, they have the right to light any fire
torch, or take your hand so that you're in this
fire, or stir any pot of ground cornmeal that is
cooking, or stir your hand in a hot pot, you
won't get burned, you know. That means you
are a kanzo. You take a little fire, you pour it on
the person, he or she won't get burned.
B. Are there people in the area that have passed
the kanzo ceremony?
B. Kisa ki kanzo a?
N. Kanzo, wi. Bon, gade m gen yon dam la a, li
fi Eliyad, li te fe 24 desanm ki te la, gen on
moun la ki w6y la ... dam nan gen yon Iwa k
antre sou li ki rele Ti Jan. L antre nan dife sa, 1
ponpe tout moun we 1, li pran on tizon dife, li
an kontak ak tout po 1, li rale dife a li al chita
de pye li lonje nan dife a, li pa gen ti mak! Li pa
boule ditou. Moun sa se madanm mwen.
B. Madan ou ki kanzo konsa?
N. Wi, li pa boule, alo setadikeu, mistik la li
gen yon pouvwa, apre Bondye, li gen yon
pouvwa li menm. Setadikeu gen moun, kek
moun, ki di pa genyen. Eh? Se paske ou poko
touve, ou nan on bagay, ou poko konnen
bagay, eh? Se kan w ap pran nan on pyej, ou
konn ou pa gen, se le w a konn genyen, he?
Depi ou pa cheche moun kont, eh, se di, la ou
pa konn ti ga, men depi ou cheche on moun
N. Kanzo, yes. Well then, look I have a woman
here, she is the daughter of Eliyad, she
participated in my ceremony this past
December 24th, there was a person here who,
oh my goodness... the woman had a lwa that
possessed her called Ti Jan. She entered in the
fire, she jumped, everyone saw her, she took an
ember of fire, it was in contact with all of her
skin, she pulled the fire, she sat, her feet
stretched out into the fire, she didn't have a
little mark! She was not burned at all. That
woman is my wife.
B. Your wife is kanzo like that?
N. Yes, she was not burned, that is to say, the
mystical has a power; after God, it has its own
power. That is to say that there are people,
some people, who say it doesn't have any. Huh?
It's because you haven't found it yet, or, in a
sense, you don't know things yet, get it? It's like
you're taken into a trap; you think you don't
have it, that's when you'll start to have it, right?
As long as you don't stir up trouble with
kont w ap konnen genyen. Nou menm nou pa
maji nwa isi, se maji blan ke nou f&, konprann
mwen, maji nwa sa pemet li fe ou fe mal, anpil
mal. Maji blan li menm li pa nan mal, li pa
fonde nan mal, konprann, pase 1 ap sove vi e
lebyen. Konprann? Se pou sela ki f& mwen
menm chak kote m rive, mwen f& zanmi ak
tout oungan, men depi m we se nan kot mal la
ou kanpe, m f& bak sou ou, ou we, men depi m
we ou s on moun dosilite ki sevi ak tout moun
epi ou renmen fe charite, en, epui se sa ou ye,
pase ou gen lafwa. Moun nan malad la li vin b6
kote ou, setadikeu, moun Iwa achte a li made
li 20, 30, 50 mil dola, moun li menm ki rasin
nan direkteman, se yon rasin charite li ye, li di
ban m mil dola, eh.
people, um, which means, here you don't know
a little fellow, but once you bother a person,
you'll start having trouble. You see, we aren't
into black magic here, it's white magic that we
do; understand me, this black magic allows you
to do bad, a lot of bad. White magic itself, it's
not bad, it's not created from bad, understand,
because it saves lives and goods. Understand? It
is for this that wherever I go, I make friends
with all oungan, but as soon as I see that you
stand on the side of evil, I back away from you,
you see, but when I see that you're a docile
person who serves all people and that you like
to do charity, you see, and, that is who you are,
because you have faith. The person, the sick
one, goes to you; that is to say, the person who
buys and sells lwa, he asks for 20, 30, 50
thousand Haitian dollars, the person who is
specifically into the roots, is a root of charity,
he says, hey, give me one thousand Haitian
dollars, you know.
B. Pou yon tretman?
B. For a treatment?
N. Pou yon tretman, yon soulajman, pou
gerizon, epui li di ou mwenpagenyen Inon. Se
500 dola m genyen; li di 1, ban mwen 1 non, li
pran 1, wi. Li vie moun sa fe de jou toujou,
men 16ot la pal a moun de 30 mil dola li made
a, moun nan devyen mouri. Men wi, paske li pa
pran swen 1, pase 1 pa gen lajan. Le yon gwo
rich pou antre se moun sa li pran ka 1 an
konsiderasyon, en, men malere a p ap ka ale.
Men mwen s on nonm ki fe tout pwofesyon,
en, mwen dokte, mwen oungan, mwen met sa,
mwen matw6n, m tout pyes net net net, m pa
gen anyen m pa fe.
B. Kisa ou fe k6m matwon?
N. Se tankou moun nan ansent la, epui moun
nan souf li ap etenn, an plenn... li met annik
voye rele mwen epui m annik fe 1 mete chita
epui m rale limye mwen epi m fe sa m fe, m
debouch timoun nan k6msadwafet. Fe 1 f& 1. F&
N. For a treatment, comfort, for healing, and
he tells you, no, I don't have it. I only have 500
Haitian dollars; he tells him, give it to me then,
he takes it, yes. He wants this person to live
two more days, but the other speaks to the
person of the 30 thousand dollars he asks for,
the person will die. Indeed, because he doesn't
take care of him, because he doesn't have
money. When a big wealthy person is coming
in, it's that person's problems that he takes into
consideration, but the poor can't go. As for me,
I am a man who does every profession, you
know, I am a doctor, I am an oungan, I can do
that, I am a male midwife, I do all types
completely, there's nothing I don't do.
B.What do you do as a male midwife?
N. It's like when a person is pregnant here, and
the person is short of breath, fully pregnant...
she can just send for me and I just have her sit
and I grab my light and I do what I do, I birth
the child appropriately. What needs to get done
gets done. I do it correctly.
B. Eske ou ka pale yon ti kras sou manman ou,
papa ou, e grann e granpe ou, sou ki kote yo te
jwenn konesans yo?
N. Nan ansyen Ginen, Ginen ki te kite pou yo.
Ginen toujou kite kite pou yo. Ginen kite pou
yo epi yo jwenn yo kite pou manman m,
manman m kite pou mwen. Grann papa m se
yon fanm li te fe, ki te Filomen Lwisen, alo
Lwisen li menm, li menm se granpapa mwen,
li fe Filomen Lwisen; Filomen Lwisen kite pou
Asonen Masena, Asonen Masena se papa m.
Papa m pa vie, li rejete, li kite pou mwen, tout
sa k sou li vin jwenn mwen, bagay la se mwen
B. Li sote yon jenerasyon?
N. Wi. Yon jenerasyon. E manman m menm
menm, li menm li te on manbo li ye, men papa
m, msye pa t dak6 a manman m. Yo toutan yo
B. Can you speak a little bit about your mother,
your father, and your grandmother and
grandfather, where did they get their
N. In ancient Ginen, Ginen gave it to them.
Ginen always gave them what they needed.
Ginen gave it to them, and they found it and
gave it to my mother, my mother left it for me.
My grandfather, he fathered a woman who was
Filomen Lwisen, thus Lwisen himself, he was
my grandfather, he made Filomen Lwisen;
Filomen Lwisen left it for Asonen Masena,
Asonen Masena was my father. My father didn't
want it, he rejected it; he left it for me, all that
was for him came to me, the tradition came to
B. It skipped a generation?
N. Yes. One generation. And my mother,
herself, she was a manbo, but my father, he
didn't agree with my mother. They were always
nan batay, nan goumen, poutet mistik ki danse
sou manman m, a, epi li menm, sa k pase la,
manman m pral mouri, li w& se mwen menm ki
an sante, li kanzo.
B. Sa vie di se li menm ki te ba ou lwa li yo?
N. Wi, li ban mwen yo.
B. Kisa ki diferans ant manbo ak oungan ann
Ayiti? Eiske yo gen menm nivo oubyen eske
moun yo we yo yon jan diferan?
N. Bon, menm nivo yo ye, men li make nivo
sa ki lak6z depi ou gen lwa achte, ou takine, ou
taking. W ap mache sonde moun ki gen lwa
rasin nan. Epi toujou ou fe f6t men ou pral
tonbe, se ou menm ki viktim, moun ki gen lwa
achte a. Li pa viktim, rasin nan gen f6s. Li gen
f6s. Sa k gen Iwa achte a, li menm li
g on lwa ki touye 1, oubyen Iwa a pati kite 1, la li
achte ank6, Iwa a ap touye 1, epi 1 achte ank6,
lwa a pati kite 1, li touye 1, se konsa, ou we?
fighting, in dispute, because of the mysticism
that danced in my mother, and she herself,
what happened then, my mother was going to
die, she saw that I was healthy, she was kanzo.
B. That is to say that she gave you her Iwa?
N. Yes, she gave them to me.
B. What is the difference between a manbo and
an oungan in Haiti? Are they at the same level
or do people see them in a different way?
N. Well, they are on the same level, but he lacks
the level whenever you have a purchased lwa;
you kid around, you are a kidder. You are
walking and challenging people who have
hereditary lwa. And you always make mistakes,
but you will fall, it is you who is the victim, the
person who has the purchased lwa. He who has
the strength of the roots is not a victim. It has
strength. He who has the purchased lwa, he has
a lwa that kills him, or the lwa leaves him, then
he buys again; the lwa will kill him, and he buys
it again, the Iwa leaves him, it kills him, it's like
that, you see?
B. And the lwa kills what?
N. Li touye chwal la, moun k achte li a.
B. Lwa achte konn fe mechanste sa yo?
N. Wi, mechanste a, epi e li menm li al pake
oungan rasin nan, oungan rasin nan pa fe
anyen pou li...
B. Poukisa yon moun ta achte yon lwa ki pral
touye tet li?
N. Bon, enben, lI w rive kote a, yo p ap ba w
sa bon non. Depi ou rive la se chen k konn
manje kabrit la... Chen kapab m6de on tret; li p
ap janm m6d on bon bagay li. Chen k pou gad
ou nan lakou a li p ap ba ou, non; se chen k
pou devaste ou, eh, se li k pou 1 ba w. Je nou se
nan rasin nan nou menm, setadikeu rasin nan li
N. It kills the horse, the person that purchases
B. Do purchased lwa do those mean things?
N. Yes, mean things, then he goes to get
charms from the roots oungan, the oungan of
the roots doesn't do anything for him...
B. Why would someone buy a lwa that is going
to kill him or her?
N. Well, you see, when you arrive at the place,
they won't tell it to you straight. Once you
arrive there, it's the dog that usually eats the
goat... The dog can bite a traitor; it will never
bite a good thing. The dog that is on watch in
the yard will not bite the owner; no, it is the
dog that will destroy you, um, it is he that will
B. E lwa a touye kisa?
menm. Sa ki lak6z ki f& ou toujou respekte
rasin nan, nanpwen sak vid pa konn kanpe, li
gen 1~ li pou fonksyone avek li, pou f& ti
okipasyon bagay sa yo pou 1... sa k ap manje
pou 1 manje, eh? E setadikeu si ou ta sispek
gen youn ladan yo ki ta on lwa mechan k ap
manje on moun, ou f& on fason avek li, eh, ou
depataje 1 an pami sa ki bon yo pou chache on
pozisyon pou ou we 1, ou bezwen on kote.
Pase depi se on bet ki tw6 mechan, sa yo f&?
Yo fe on gwo pak, yo fe on chenn, yo
anchennen 1! He? Ou we, paske, ou konnen, yo
pote yo sere li, konprann, pou 1 pa...
B. Kou on tig?
give it to you. Our eyes are in the root within
ourselves, that is to say the root itself. What
makes us always respect the root, there is no
empty bag which can stand up, there is a time
to function with it, to do these small
occupational things so that the one who needs
to eat will eat, you see? And that is to say that if
you would suspect that there is one of them
who is a mean lwa, who will eat a person, you
make a way with him, you know, you split him
among those who are good in order to look for
a position to watch him, you need a place.
Because once there is an animal that is too
mean, what do they do? They make a great pen,
they make a chain, they tie him up! Huh? You
see, because, you know, they carry him off and
tie him up, understand, so that he won't...
B. Like a tiger
N. Wi, anchennen, pase lwa rasin nan s on
bon, gen lwa rasin ou pa bezwen... li p ap
kenbe ou. Li kenbe ou, pase lI ou konn sa 1
gen bezwen, yo gen ti af& korekteman, 1 ap
N. Yes, chained, because the lwa of the roots is
good, there are lwa of the roots that you don't
need to... he or she won't hold you. He or she
holds you, because when you know what he or
travay, f6k li manje. Depi on nonm ap travay,
depi ou pa manje, se pou manje. Bon manje...
Mwen menm 24 desanm, se chak ane; ane sa fe
35 an; de chak ane m ap fete, le 24 desanm.
B. Ki b6 ou fete konsa?
N. Isi a. Nan lakou a isi a.
B. Gen anpil moun ki vini patisipe?
N. Ou met pedi on moun e cheche pou cheche
1. Le konsa ou rive isi a yofoul! Se yon fet, yo fe
tout pep la vin manje, vin bwe, eh, bwe sou,
manje, otan batay, pa goumen, pase ou ap pran
B. Si ou goumen, w ap pran anpil baton?
she has need of, they have little matters of
correctness, he or she will work, he or she has
to eat. Once a man is working, once you don't
eat, it's time to eat. Good food... Me, myself,
December 24th, it's every year; this year makes
35 years; each year I'm celebrating, the 24th of
B. Where do you celebrate like this?
N. Here. In the courtyard here.
B. Are there a lot of people who come to
N. You may lose a person and have to search to
find him or her. By the time you arrive here,
they're overflonng! It's a party, they send for all
the masses to come eat, to come drink, and,
drink until drunk, eat, except for fighting, don't
fight, because you'll take a big beating.
B. If you fight, you'll take a big beating?
N. Anpil baton. M konn voye baton m red
B. Ki moun ki f& manje? Eske se madanm ou?
N. Non, se mwen menm menm ki f& tout
preparasyon pou tout moun. Touye bef, touye
kochon, touye kabrit, bagay sa yo, kwit manje
pou moun manje, moun yo tout ak on kwi nan
men. Kwi ou, gwo kwi, plen, manje vale ou vie,
jete res la.
B. Eske manje nan yon kwi enp6tan?
N. Se rasin nan; se ak kwi 1 s&vi ak rasin nan.
Rasin nan, rasin nan, tout moun gen yon kwi
nan men yo.
B. Kwi avek rasin nan gen yon koneksyon?
N. Se menm bagay, se yon koneksyon yo ye.
Rasin nan se kwi, he, yo sevi. Fet la sa se bagay
ki f6midab anpil paske lezane si m pa ka f& fet
N. A lot of beating. As for me, I throw a hard
B. Who fixes the food? Is it your wife?
N. No, it's only me who makes all the
preparations for everyone. Killing cows, killing
pigs, killing goats, those things, I cook food for
people to eat, the people all have a calabash
bowl in their hands. Your bowl, large bowl, full,
eat as much food as you want, throw the rest
B. Is the food in a calabash bowl important?
N. It's the roots; it's with their bowl that they
serve the roots. The roots, the roots, everyone
has a bowl in their hand.
B. The bowl and the root have a connection?
N. They are the same thing, they are a
connection. The roots are the bowl they use,
you see. The celebration is a very incredible
sa a mwen menm, pou sa m pral moun malad.
F6k mwen fe 1 kanmenm k6m dabitid pase
tout pep la konnen ke 24 desanm yo lakay
B. Tout moun nan zon nan?
N. Non, pa nan zon nan, toupatou, moun s6ti
lwen vini wi,ju. '.'Epi akodeyon ap jwe, eh,
akodeyon, se pou sela mwen menm m sevi ak
akodeyon, m ap f& yon konmann de yon
B. E pou z6n sa, konben gangan pratike nan
z6n Bel Rivye a?
N. Bel Rivye, bon, z6n Bel Rivye a gen anpil
gangan, men gen maf&tou tou ki we gangan ap
f&, li di 1 a f& tou.
B. Moun ki imite gangan?
N. Wi, yo pa f6, gen anpil yo menm; anpil
thing because the years that I can't do this
celebration myself, for this, I'll be a sick person.
I have to do it no matter what as a custom
because all of the people know that on
December 24th they are at my house.
B. Everyone in the neighborhood?
N. No, not in the neighborhood, all over,
people travel from far to come, yes, crowds!
And accordions are playing, you know, an
accordion, it's for that reason that I use the
B. And in this neighborhood, how many gangan
practice in the Bel Rivye area?
N. Bel Rivye, well, the Bel Rivye area has a lot
of gangan, but there are impersonators who see
what the gangan does, they say they'll do it too.
B. People who imitate the gangan?
N. Yes, they aren't strong, there are a lot of
maladi konn mouri lakay yo tou.
B. Le yon maladi mouri lakay gangan eske
kominote a pa vin rekonnet gangan sa pa bon?
N. Bon, se si yo, gangan afekte, si yo afekte
gangan an. Si yo pa afekte gangan, yo pa janm
fe ka 1, eh? Isi a m konn gen, yo made ankre
moun fou, ankre moun fou, ankre ak k6d; yo
mechan, mwen bay tout gaya. Tout bagay. Le
maten m gen on patat, yo nan k6d, larivye m
benyen yo, kouwe paket chwal mwen, epi m
vin ak yo. Li jouke anko, jiskas yo gaya epi m
met k6d sou yo; tou gaya net, net, n&t.
B. Li vin kal?
N. Gade, li te met fou ap manje w6ch, se pou
m fe 1 vin on moun swa. Gen pa m ki wete rad
them; many sick people die in their homes as
B. When a sick person dies in a gangan's house,
does the community come to recognize that the
gangan is not good?
N. Well, it's if they, the affecting gangan, if they
affect being a gangan. If they don't affect being
gangan, they never trouble him, you see? Right
here, I sometimes have, they ask me to tie
down crazy people, tie down with rope; they're
mean, I return them fully recovered.
Everything. In the morning I have a sweet
potato, they are tied up with rope, at the river I
bathe them, like all of my horses, and I come
with them. He gets fastened again, until they're
fully restored and I put the rope around them;
all fully recovered, entirely, entirely, entirely.
B. He becomes calm?
N. Look, he may be crazy and eating rocks, I
have to make him into an easy person. There
sou yo, yo te toutouni, se Ie m pral nan dlo ak
yo, se dam fanm yo ye; m annik pran yon twal
mouye pou m al lave yo, epui le m vini m
remare yo ank6 k6msadw&et jiskas ou gaya. M
genyen pasyans; m toujou g on pasyas avek yo
tou. Mwen ka bat yo men mwen toujou pran
swen yo. Mwen ba yo manje, yo k ap manje,
mwen ba yo ti gou yo pou ka reprann f6s, epi
pou medikaman pou yo.
B. Eske se yon moun ki nan fanmi moun fou a
ki pral vini avek li?
N. Wi. Se yo menm ki mennen 1. Depi moun
nan fou yo toujou mennen 1 nan yon tretman;
yo vin mete li. Kelkanswa lech6z moun fou,
chen an fou ka m6de, m ka trete 1, wi.
B. Pwen dare, esplike sa.
are some of mine who remove their clothes,
they were naked, it is when I am going to the
water with them, they are women and wives; I
just take a wet cloth to wash them, and when I
come I tie them again correctly until you're fully
recovered. I have patience; I always have
patience with them, too. I can beat them but I
always take care of them. I give them food,
those who are eating, I give them their small
tastes so that they can regain strength, and for
B. Is it a person in the crazy person's family
who will come with him?
N. Yes. It's them who bring him. Once the
person is crazy they always bring him to a
treatment; they come and put him in it.
Whatever the type of crazy person, the crazy
dog can bite, I can treat him, yes.
B. Healing charm, explain this.
N. Pwen dare a li menm se 16 w fin trete moun
nan, he, epi ou ba 1 on bagay k6m on pwen
dare, gwo priye sou li, pou pesikisyon toujou
pa tounen anko; pase mwen menm m poko
met k6d sou moun, se priye, m ekri priye, m
boule 1 ba 1 bw&e. M ekri priye met sou li, he,
setadi moun sa gen yon gad sou li, yon gad di
N. Gen lwa poze, gen Iwa batize, men gen Iwa
fou k konn moute sou moun tou wi.
B. Lwa batiZe?
N. Wi, lwa batize, lwa sa batize, Iwa rasin se
lwa batize 1 ye; men depi ou we se yon lwa k ap
rele anmwey nan on peyi, se Iwa fou li ye, he?
Pase la ou gen dwa par&et b6 lakay pa m, m met
ap travay, ou ap rele anmwey, m reste kal. Men
lot la ap vini rele anmwey, anmwey, kraze ko 1,
non, sa se lwa fou.
N. The healing charm is when you finish
treating the person, you see, and you give him
something like a healing charm, a lengthy
prayer over him, so that persecution won't
come back again; because me, I haven't yet put
ropes on people, it's prayer, you know, I write
prayers, I burn them and let him drink it. I
write the prayer, put it on him, huh, that is to
say the person has a guard on him, a body
N. There are calm lwa, there are baptized lwa,
but there are crazy lwa that possess people too,
B. Baptized lwa?
N.Yes, baptized lwa, this lwa is baptized, the
root lwa is the baptized lwa; but as soon as you
see there is a lwa that is calling for help in some
place, he really is a crazy lwa, hey? Because here
you might appear near my house, I can be
working, you're calling for help, I stay calm. But
the other will come crying help, help, breaking
his body, no, that is the crazy Iwa.
B. Enben, si pa egzanp ou gen yon fet Vodou
epi gen yon moun ki vini nan fet la, epi se fet
pa ou a, epi li gen yon Iwa ki fou, ki reyaksyon
ou pral genyen fas a moun sa a?
N. Si se moun nan, si moun nan apw6ch
mwen, an menm tan m tou batize Iwa a, m
toujou batize Iwa, si se yo k ap rale ate, m fe 1
kanpe. M fe 1 kanpe. Lwa a m ka sikse on Iwa
fou net. Lwa a prale, k6m m vin manyen 1, li
prale, li p ap rete, li kite chwal li.... M batize Iwa
epi m fe Iwa vin on Iwa batize, epi lI sa a se
kal, epi 1 ap tonbe 1 ap danse, men lot Iwa fou
kale k6 frap ate, m annik part la epi Iwa sa a
ale. Li kite chwal la. Se yon mal ou vin pou fe.
B. Ou we sa k6m on f6t lwa a, pa moun nan?
Sa rive ou? Ou te bezwen bloke lwa sa a?
B. Well, if for example you have a Vodou feast
and there is a person who comes to the feast,
and it's your feast, and he has a crazy lwa, what
reaction will you have towards this person?
N. If it is the person, if the person approaches
me, at the same time I baptize the lwa, I always
baptize the lwa, if it is the kind that pulls to the
ground, I make it stand. I make it stand. I can
be successful over a completely crazy lwa. The
lwa is coming, once I touch it, it will leave, it
won't stay, it leaves its horse... I baptize lwa
and I make lwa become baptized lwa, and, at
that time, it is calm, and they start dancing, but
other crazy lwa dance wildly and throw
themselves onto the ground, I just appear there
and this lwa leaves. It leaves the horse. It's a
bad thing you came to do.
B. Do you see this as the lwa's fault, not the
person? What happened to you? Did you need
to block that lwa?
N. Wi, bloke, pase ou konn kisa 1 ap vin f&. Ou
konn se yon eskandal 1 ap vin konm&et; ou tou
bloke 1, ou pare li. Fe dez6d, kraze bagay, gen k
enterese pran boutey ak tout kola, manje
boutey, manje boutey ak tout kola.
B. Ou pa penm&et sa pase?
N. Non, sa pa ka f&t.
B. Granparan nou tou, yo te gen menm
prensip sa a?
N. Wi, prensip sa a. Nou te gen sistem toujou
nan granparan pa nou, si granparan pa n t ap f&
yon sevis on kote, se alep6k sa a, I~ ta, te
toujou ap vin arete sevis Iwa, lapolis toujou ap
vini arete sevis lwa; epi granpapa m te konn f&
yo f& twa jou d6mi, d6mi kouche la, he? Fin f&
sevis li, 1~ fini li reveye yo f& yo manje pou yo
pral mouri la epi met tout kwi yo kont t&et yo;
epi tout sevis kraze, touye dife, bale, al lakay
N. Yes, block, because you know what it is
coming to do. You know it's coming to stir up
a ruckus; you just block it, you ward it. It causes
disorder, breaks things, there are some who are
interested in taking bottles filled with soda, and
eating bottles, eating bottles filled with soda.
B. You don't allow this to happen?
N. No, this cannot happen.
B. Your grandparents as well, did they follow
this same principle?
N. Yes, this principle. We always had this
system with our grandparents; if our
grandparents were having a service at some
place, at this time, at a late hour, they always
came to stop the lwa service, the police always
came to stop the lwa service; and my grandpa
was known to make them spend three days
sleeping, sleeping laying here, huh? After
finishing his service, he woke them up and
yo, epi Ie chef yo reveye, yo jwenn manje kote
yo, yo manje, li f& yo chita, ap kalkile, y ale, yo
di yo pa jwenn moun ki t ap f& sevis. Yo di se
tanpet ki f& y ap d6mi, se Ginen an; e Ginen.
B. Setadi lapolis te gentan debake, men ou
jwenn on jan pou f& yo domi?
N. Yo f& sevis korekteman, tout moun al fin
manje al lakay yo, epi la ou pou reveye, e 1 ap
B. Nan istwa peyi d Ayiti, m gentan etidye
koze kanpay anti-sipestisye, koze rejte; sa te
pase isit tou?
made them eat so that they would pass out and
even put the calabash bowls against their heads;
and when all of the services ended, they killed
the fires, swept up, and everybody went home,
and when the authorities woke up, they found
food where they were, they ate, it made them
sit, and wonder, they left, they said they didn't
find the people conducting a service. They said
that it was the wind that made them sleep, it's
the Ginen; it's Ginen.
B. That is to say that the police had already
landed, but you found a way to make them
N. They have their regular service, everyone
finishes their food and goes home, and there,
you have to wake him up, and he will wake up,
B. In Haiti's history, I have already studied the
issue of the anti-superstition campaigns, this
matter of being forced to reject Vodou; did it
happen here as well?
N. 0 wi, yo te mele ak gangan anpil, anpil,
anpil; alep6k se mache arete gangan k ap f&
sevis, pinga sevis f&t, se an kachet, en, yo pa ka
fouye, se bouyi pou yo bouyi tout bagay, yo pa
ka fouye. Y a vin arete ou. Pa gen baay sa yo.
Kounyeya moun sevi yon jan lib. Fe sa ou pito,
B. Le sa a te gen lapolis oubyen moun nan
legliz ki te patisipe?
N. Wi, wi, se sa ki lak6z ki f& nou poko janm
jwenn ka bon paste ki pa gen on chans pou 1
prezidan. Se sa k f& paste yo, yo toujou rejte
yo, yo pa prezidan... yon paste p ap ka
prezidan, depi gen lepap, on paste pa ka
prezidan; yon pe ka prezidan, men yon paste p
B. Ou panse pep ayisyen p ap vote on paste
pou rezon sa?
N. Oh yes, , they really, really, really fought
with gangan; at the time they walked around
arresting gangan who were having services,
services were forbidden, they were done in
secret, huh, they could not hide, they had to get
rid of everything, they could not hide. They
would come and arrest you. There were no
such things. Now people serve freely. Do what
you prefer, huh?
B. At the time were there police or people in
the churches who participated?
N. Yes, yes, this is the reason why we never
found a good pastor who had the chance to be
president. This is why the pastors were always
rejected, they were not president... a pastor
can't be president; as long as there is a pope, a
pastor cannot be president; a priest can be
president, but a pastor will not be president.
B. Do you think Haitian people won't vote for
a pastor for that reason?
N. Wi, Levanjil pa 1 se li k ap vote 1, men
Katolik la plis, Katolik la p ap vote 1. Katolik la
plis pase Pwotestan.
B. Ou panse Ayiti pare pou yon prezidan
N. Vodwizan, se sa, lI yo pral f& prezidan,
Vodwizan, li vin ba 1 plis vale paske li menm
Aristid, Jan-Betran Aristid li menm, li te
Vodwizan ' Anpil, w6y, msye s on mistik
net li te ye. On mistik msye te ye. Se te on
mistik li te ye; se te toutan voye voye leve tout
metsen, tout dokte, tout matwon, depi ou
konn pase on fey, li te konn fe ou fet kote ki
rele sou z6n sa yo rele Madjadeya, pou nou ale,
al fe fet pou nou. Rive la pou ou rakonte tout
sa ou konn f&, mache ak sa ou konn fe a yo. M
f& siwo a bwe, siwo feyay, m f& tout, m f& yo
nan bwa, m konn pete yo, epi m konpoze yo,
m mete yo bouyi epi m tire ji a, epi m fini. M
travay, m pito fe siwo.
N. Yes, his Protestant friends will vote for him,
but there are more Catholics, the Catholics will
not vote for him. There are more Catholics
B. Do you think Haiti is ready for a Vodouist
N. The Vodouists, that's it, when they run for
president, the Vodouists give him more value
because he, Aristide, Jean-Bertrand Aristide
himself, he was very Vodouist! Greatly, whoa,
that man was a mystic all the way. That man
was a mystic. He was a mystic; it was always
send, send for all the herb doctors, all doctors,
all male nurses, as long as you knew how to use
a leaf, he was known to have a party at a place
in this area, they call Madjadeya, so that we
would go, go and have a party for us. You
arrive there and tell everything that you know
about, you go with what you know how to do. I
make syrup drinks, leaf syrup, I make them all,
I make them in the woods, I usually pop the
bark, and I compose them, I boil them and I
draw out the juice, and I finish. I work, I would
rather make syrup.
B. E sa ou fe ak siwo sa?
N. Siwo sa pou maladi. Pou maladi, nenp6t ke
maladi ou soufri, nou genyen medikaman pou
B. A bon?
N. Avek siwo, bon, ave mwen menm, m pa
janm al lopital. Sel doule m se sel doule senti,
epi apre m pa soufri anyen pase se fey nan bwa
selman k trete mwen, fey nan bwa ki trete
mwen, fey nan bwa k pitit mwen, fey nan bwa
k trete madanm mwen, fey nan bwa k trete
tout fanmi, se vre wi pase m konnen kijan m ye
pou m itilize 1, sa k pou m fe ave 1.
B. Se nan granme oubyen nan granpe ou te
B. And what do you do with this syrup?
N. This syrup is for illnesses. For illnesses, no
matter what illness you suffer from, we have
medication for you.
B. Oh really?
N. With the syrup, well, with regard to myself,
I've never been to the hospital. My only pain, is
pain in my waist, and I don't suffer anything
else because its the leaves from the woods
alone which treat me, the leaves from the
woods treat me, the leaves from the woods for
my children, the leaves from the woods that
treat my wife, the leaves from the woods that
treat my entire family, it's true indeed because I
know how to use it, what to do with it.
B. Is it from your grandmother or your
pran tout konesans fey nan bwa.
N. Nan granme mwen, nan granpe m; toude se
metsen yo te ye.
T. Ou gen pitit? Eske ou pral ba pitit ou menm
konesans ou genyen?
N. Wi, m gen pitit. Mwen genyen yonn la.
Mwen konmanse prepare yo, mwen gen yon fi,
sila, fi a telman paresez, se yon fi ki te
kounyeya se pou te konmanse ap vire t&t li;
kou 1 konmanse ap fe bagay... men m ap fe ti
gason pito. M ap f& 1 ak ti gason pito epi pou
m we si sila pran konesans lan pou m ka kite li
oke, yo pou itil.
B. Se yon dispozisyon w ap chache nan pitit la?
N. Wi, m ap cheche youn, vreman. M pral
moutre msye f& sa, moutre 1 f& sa; si sila pa t
grandfather that you received knowledge about
the leaves from the woods?
N. From my grandmother and from my
grandfather; both of them were herb doctors.
T. Do you have children? Will you give your
children the same knowledge that you have?
N. Yes, I have children. I have one here. I have
started to prepare them, I have a girl, here, she
is so lazy, she is a girl who, right now, was
supposed to start getting active; suddenly she
started being promiscuous... but I will prepare
the boy instead. I will prepare the boy instead,
to see if he will take the knowledge so that I
can leave him in good stead, they are supposed
to be useful.
B. Are you looking for a disposition from the
N. Yes, I am truly looking for one. I will show
the boy how to do this, show him how to do
paresez, kounye la se yon metsen pou 1 te ye,
pou 1 te metsen apre tout travay li, eh? Men
pito ou f& paresez...
B. Setadike pitit yo gen dwa chwazi metye a yo
menm? Yo pa oblije suiv metye gangan oubyen
N. Bon, eh, gen pitit mwen yo, espesyalman m
gen ki di yo ka pral f& paste, gen ki di yo ka al
fe oungan, gen ki di ka al fe dokte, eh? Yo tout
chwazi sa yo vle a, men sa ki di li pral f&
oungan an, li menm m ap prepare 1. M ap
prepare 1 pou m ba 1 tout konesans mwen yo,
eh, epi pou 1 ka double.
B. E pou seremoni yo rele kanzo a, eske yo
pral f& sa nan on peristil oubyen ki kalite kote
yo pral f& sa?
that; if that one wasn't a lazy girl, now she
would have been a doctor, she would be a
doctor after all of her work, huh? But you'd
rather be lazy...
B. That is to say that children have the right to
chose their professions themselves? They aren't
obligated to follow the profession of gangan or
N. Well, um, in the case of my children,
specifically, I have some who might say they
will become pastors, there are those who might
say they will become oungan, there are those
who might say they will become doctors, you
see? They all chose what they want, but the one
who says he wants to become an oungan, I will
prepare him. I will prepare him so that I can
give him all of my knowledge, you know, and
so that he can double up.
B. And for the ceremony that they call the
kanzo, will they do this in a peristil or in what
kind of place will they do this?
N. Non, e, kanzo a li menm, ou f& kanzo a
nenp6t kote ou vle, ou g on chanm
B. Selman sa?
N. No, um, the kanzo itself, you conduct the
kanzo wherever you want, you have your own
B. Only that?
N. Wi, ou g on chanm direkteman, ou f& ti
pewon ou, ti bagay, ti bato, gad... w ap f&
kanzo a, epi ou rive la, men se s&et jou, san
manje, san bwe, en? Epi ou abiye tou de blan,
net, ou kouvri anba dra blan, en, epi w ap veye,
setadi w ap kanzo.
B. Ou pa ka menm bwe dlo?
N. Non monche, se kanzo w ap kanzo, kanzo
w ap kanzo.
B. Mezanmi, se yon gwo grad?
N. W ap jwenn tout w ap jwenn nan. Tout sa
N. Yes, you have your own room, you set up
your small altar, small things, small boat,
charms... you will do the kanzo, and you have
arrived here, but it's seven days, without food,
without drink, huh? And you dress in all white,
completely, you're covered under white sheets,
and you are watching, that is to say you are
becoming a kanzo.
B. You can't even drink water?
N. No sir, you are going to be a kanzo, you are
going to be a kanzo.
B. My goodness, it's a high level?
N. You'll find all you're going to find. All that
w ap jwenn, w ap jwenn tout. Kote w ap kanzo
a, w ap ranpli ak tout sa k ap vini ou lan.
B. Pa gen moun ki mouri nan kanzo paske yo
N. Non. W ap jwenn, wi. E lany k ap vin ba w
bwe, e lanj k ap vin ba w bwe. G on lanj wi ki
ba w bwe w, wi. G on lanj, wi.
B. Men pa gangan an?
N. Non, pa manje, pa bwe, ou g on lanj k ap
B. Apre kanzo ki 16ot grad ki pi wo pase sa?
N. Enben, yo pa gen grad ki pi wo pase 1. Pase
ounsi badagi, ounsi badagi, setadi ounsi k ap
sevi, ak oungan, setadi bata oungan, lI ou
you are going to find, you will fill yourself with
it. Where you go to become a kanzo, you will
find everything that is coming to you.
B. Has anyone died in kanzo because they were
N. No. You will receive, yes indeed. It is the
angel who will give you a drink, it's the angel
who will give you a drink. There is an angel,
yes, who gives you your drink, indeed. There's
an angel, yes.
B. But not the gangan?
N. No, no food, no drink, you have an angel
who is guiding you.
B. After the kanzo what other levels are higher
N. Well, there are no other levels higher than
that. Because ounsi badagi, ounsi badagi, that is
to say an ounsi that serves with an oungan, that
ounsi badagi, se ounsi bata oungan ke ou ye,
pase si oungan pa ka al nan tretman, 1 ap voye
B. A oke, ou poko gangan men ou preske la?
N. Ou bata oungan.
B. Sa vie di asistan?
N. Wi, ou ounsi badagi, sa di ou menm se ou k
ap sevi ave oungan sa; oungan gen dwa plim
nan ou, eh, alo ou g on f6s; ou gen dwa pa ka
al nan yon maladi, li voye ou, eh.
B. Pou koze veve, ki kote yon oungan oubyen
yon manbo pral aprann tradisyon veve?
N. E bon, tradisyon veve li menm, se anive nan
on kafou, tankou la nan kafou kay mwen, epui
se on bagay ke m ap fe, ou gen on sevis; f6 m
is to say an apprentice oungan, when you are an
ounsi badagi, you are an ounsi that is nearly an
oungan, because if an oungan cannot perform a
treatment, he will send you.
B. Oh okay, you are not a gangan yet, but you
are almost there?
N. You are nearly an oungan.
B. That means an assistant?
N. Yes, you are an ounsi badagi, it is you who
serves with the oungan; the oungan can have
feathers in you, and, then you have a power;
you might not be able to visit a sick person, he
sends you, understand.
B. Regarding veve, where is an oungan or a
manbo going to learn the veve tradition?
N. Well, the veve tradition itself, it starts at the
crossroads, like here at the crossroads by my
house, and it's something that I do, you have a
konmanse trase veve m nan kafou a. La nan
B. Poukisa se la ou dwe konmanse?
N. Trase veve a se li menm ki kafou; men,
gade baye la; se pou trase veve a nan kafou a
anvan. Se li menm pou ou sevi anvan, se gran
chemen ki mennen kafou, epi kafou mennen
pa gad barye sa, li ak Legba.
B. Se premye veve ou sanse trase?
N. Wi, nan kafou, epi mennen pa Legba, epi se
ak Legba sa pou antre la pou ou vin la a, eh?
B. Konben veve konsa genyen pou Legba?
Yon grenn oubyen eske Legba gen plizye veve
ki asosye ave 1?
N. Non, men koute, g anpil veve piske tout
service. I have to start tracing the signs at the
crossroads. Here at the crossroads.
B. Why is it here that you have to start?
N. Tracing the veve is the crossroads itself;
over there, look at the gate. It is necessary to
trace the veve in the crossroads before. You
should use this first, it is the great path that
leads to the crossroads, and the crossroads are
controled by the guardian of that barrier, he
B. Is it the first veve you are supposed to trace?
N. Yes, at the crossroads, and led by Legba,
and it is with this Legba for entry that you
come here, huh?
B. Roughly how many veve are there for
Legba? Only one or does Legba have many
veve that are associated with him?
N. No, but listen, there are a lot of veve since
lwa yo se set yo ye. Tout Iwa yo se set yo ye.
Legba se set Legba k genyen yo. Tout, yo
mache pa set. Ogou, set, Ezili, set, Legba, s&t,
Danbala, set, Bawon, set, Azaka Mede, s&et, eh?
Kouzen Zaka Mede, s&et, tout se set net. An set
yo mache. Le ou entepele yon sel Ogou, si se
pou sela ou oblije ou f& set mech koton. Ou
gen Iwa w ap f& sevis, premye devwa ou ke pou
f& se on ch6dye manje lezanj pou fe, se li ki
manje, se li ki rele Marasa a, on ch6dye manje
lezanj. Ou al depoze manje Marasa sa yo, pase
Marasa sa dwe manje anvan tout granmoun.
Timoun li ye, 16 timoun ap kriye nan pye ou, sa
pou f&, ou rekokiye, men depi vant timoun
plen, epi timoun vie ret on kote 1 ap f& jw&t,
epi w ap plen ou, timoun p ap vin gade ki jan
granmoun nan ye, pase m te ba ou manje.
B. Le ou di sevi lezany sa vie di ofri yon ti
manje ba yo?
almost all of the Iwa come in seven. All of the
lwa come in seven. Legba, there are seven
Legba. All of them walk in seven. Ogou, seven,
Ezili, seven, Legba, seven, Danbala, seven,
Bawon, seven, Azaka Mede, seven, you see?
Cousin Zaka Mede, seven, they are entirely
seven. They walk in seven. When you call a
single Ogou, if it's for this, you are obligated to
make seven cotton wicks. You have lwa that
you are serving, your first task is to make a pot
of food for the angels, it's that food which is
called the Marasa, that pot of food for the
angels. You go and set down that food for the
Marasa, because the Marasa need to eat before
all of the adults. They are children, and when a
child is crying at your feet, what to do, you get
moving to help them, but once the child's
stomach is full, and the child wants to play, and
you are filling yourself, children won't come to
see how the adult is, because I gave you food.
B. When you say serve angels that means offer
some food to them?
N. Wi, Marasa yo, bon, I~ fini ou g on kesyon
de bagay ki rele tab, tab anivese 1. Tab anivese 1
la se bagay ou pral ofri on tab ak tout bwason
ladann, gwo gato, gwo biskit, gwo bagay, gwo
chanpay, epi ou pral chante on bagay ki rele
aksyon de gras, w ap prale Lanj kondikth; ou
pral pal anpil laten sou tab sa, epui lI fini pou
rele Iwa ke ou bezwen pou tab la, epi pou tout
Iwa kouvri tab la, ou chita, ou bagay, lI w ap
bezwen, gen Iwa b6 tab la. Li telman gwo neg,
f6 ou gen gwo savon w, f6 ou gen on kiv&et, f6
ou gen pafen, f6 ou gen sevyet beny. Lwa sa,
anvan 1 manje, se pou ou kite 1, ou kite 1 lave
figi 1, lave tout k6 li, savonnen 1, epi cheche 1,
flite 1 ak pafen. W ap toujou nan avantaj, depi y
ap manje, tout Iwa kanpe kote ou.
H.C. Kiyes ki chef la nan mitan yo?
N. Yes, the Marasa, well, and then you have a
question about things that are called tables, his
birthday tables. His birthday table is a thing you
will offer, a table with drinks all over it, a large
cake, large biscuits, great things, large amounts
of champagne, and you will sing something
called a thanksgiving song; you will employ the
text, L'ange conducteur, you will speak a lot of
Latin at this table, and at the end, to call the lwa
you need the table, and for all the lwa to cover
the table, you sit, you do your thing, when you
need them there are lwa near the table. The lwa
is such an important man, you have to have
your large soap, you have to have a tub, you
have to have perfume, you have to have a
bathing towel. This lwa, before he eats, you
must let him, you let him wash his face, wash
his entire body, soap and dry himself, spray
himself with perfume. You will always have the
advantage, as long as they are eating, all of the
lwa stand beside you.
H.C. Who is the leader among them?
N. The white lwa?
B. Who is the white lwa?
N. Se non li, granmoun yo f& lwa a, wi, lwa
blan li menm se yon Iwa ki pa manje menm
kote ak tout lwa; sevis met fet, laksyon de gras
se pou 1 manje e apre sa se on mouton, ave
poul blan e pijon pou pral manje apre sevis
fini, eh? Ou prepare sevis li apre. Pase 1 pa
manje anpami moun, li menm pase tout lwa
m&t ap manje, li menm, blan rete ap gade.
B. Le n ap fe yon sevis eske n ap fe li pou yon
grenn lwa oubyen eske n ap f& li pou plizye
oubyen eske sa depann de jou a?
N. Non, se on sevis anivese, se pou tout net ou
f& 1; ou pa f& eksepsyon. Ou met yo pre, pase w
ape manje yo, en, Iwa pa manje yo; eh, w ap
pral manje. Si Iwa a monte sou mwen, li p ap
goute manje pou ou, li p ap goute manje, non,
N. That is his name, the adults made the Iwa,
yes, the white Iwa himself is a lwa who doesn't
eat in the same place as the other lwa; a service
may be in session, the thanksgiving is for him
to eat; and after this there is a sheep, along with
white chicken and pigeon to eat after the
service ends, get it? You prepare his service
after. He doesn't eat among people, as for him,
because all the lwa may be eating, he, the white
B. When you are having a service are you doing
it for a single lwa or are you doing it for many
or does it depend on the day?
N. No, it is an anniversary service, you do it for
all of them; you don't make exceptions. You
put them close, because you're eating the food
offerings, you know, lwa don't eat them; rather,
you're going to eat. If the lwa mounts me, he or
B. Kiyes ki Iwa blan?
N. Lwa blan an?
li pa goute pou ou; se manje pep la.
B. Pou fet sa a ou prepare pou tout moun?
N. Tout moun!
B. Avek lwa yo?
N. Wi, tout moun, chak vennkat (24) desanm.
B. Gen moun ki vin bat tanbou ak chante?
N. Wi bat tanbou, chante. Y ape voye chante;
n ape chante, y ape voye chante, n ape chante,
sa k bezwen chante li gendwa chante-moun
sa a-li chante dis chante, lo6t la bezwen
chante, li chante senk, lo6t la vle chante, li
chante senk, lo6t la vle chante li chante senk,
eh? L ap mache, 1 ap moute anpil.
she won't taste the food for you, he or she
won't taste the food, no, he or she doesn't taste
for you; it's the people's food.
B. Do you prepare this party for everyone?
B. With the Iwa?
N. Yes, everyone, every twenty-fourth (24) of
B. Are there people who come to beat drums
N. Yes beat drums, sing. They are singing
songs; we are singing, they are singing songs,
we are singing, he or she who needs to sing, he
or she may sing - this person - she sings ten
songs, the other needs to sing, he sings five, the
other one wants to sing, she sings five, the
other one wants to sing, she sings five, huh? It
works out well, it soars high.
B. Kijan moun nan konnen li gen dwa
konmanse chante pa 1 yo?
H.C. Lwa a ba 1 yo; Iwa a ap di 1 ki chante pou
N. Wi, enhen, Iwa a di 1 ki chante; avek tou, si 1
bon e li konn chante, li di m ap voye tel
chante; li toujou chante yo, Iwa a kontan ak
chante a, li menm li konn di; n ap voye chante.
N. Tout moun ap chante.
B. E pou nit la? Gen anpil rit ki deye chante
N. Baget, baget, si se akodeyon, se akodeyon, e
rit Vodou an gendwa nan yon kote, akodeyon
nan yon kote, konprann?
B. Le ou pale de rit la, tankou yanvalou oubyen
B. How does a person know that he has the
right to start his own songs?
H.C. The lwa gives it to them; the Iwa will tell
him which song to sing.
N. Yes, yeah, the lwa tells him which song; and
also, if he is good and he knows the song, he
says I will sing this song; he always sings them,
the lwa is happy with the song; he himself, he
usually says it; we're singing the songs.
N. Everyone is singing.
B. And for the drum rhythms? Are there many
rhythms that go with the songs?
N. Drum sticks, drum sticks, if it is an
accordion, it's the accordion, and the Vodou
rhythm can be in a place, the accordion in a
B. When you speak of rhythm, like yanvalou or
kata, oubyen kongo, ibo, nago?
N. Yo voye tout net, net, n&t.
B. Le yon moun tande yon chante eske li
konnen trapde oke chante sa bezwen kata,
oubyen chante sa bezwen kongo?
N. Wi, depi ou tande, depi kongo ap bagay li
yo gentan derape chante kongo a anvan, eh, yo
gendwa chante kongo a epi le fini baget
dekannte, eh, bag&t li pa menm jan ak tout
B. Pou nou menm, chante yo se belte, se
selebrasyon, sa bay bon anbyans, men yo gen
yon mesaj ladan yo. Pale mwen de mesaj yo;
eske se yo menm ki gen enf6masyon sou Iwa
N. Wi, wi, paske ou kapab Ogou, yo voye
chante Ogou pou ou, yo ka voye yon lot
chanson pou ou tou, ki pa chante Ogou, yo
kapab voye yon chanson Eizili pou ou. Men le
N. They play them all, entirely, completely.
B. When a person hears a song do they know
immediately that the song needs kata, or if the
song needs kongo rhythms?
N. Yes, once you hear, once the kongo is doing
its thing, they've already started the kongo song
in advance, and, they can sing the kongo and
next the drum sticks start rolling, you know, the
drum sticks aren't like anything else [...].
B. For us, the songs are beauty, they are
celebration, it makes good ambiance, but they
have a message. Talk to me about their
message; is it those songs that have information
about the lwa in them?
N. Yes, yes, because you can be an Ogou, they
sing Ogou songs for you, they can sing you
another song too, that is not an Ogou song,
they can sing you an Ezili song. But when the
kata, or kongo, ibo, nago?
chanted yo we yo pa chante chanson Ezili, bon,
yo resevwa, yo danse ladan selon rit la ye. Ou
danse ladann, alo6 pou Iwa yo, ou voye chante
Danbala, enben, gen on lot, on chante ka vini,
li pa pou Danbala, Danbala gen danse ladan. Li
se yon bal ke li ye, alo6 yo patisipe nan tout, alo6
tout Iwa yo, men se pa chanson yo yo selman
bezwen chante pou 1 danse, ou voye nenp6t
chante, li danse, konprann mwen? Men 1 f& ou
konnen se Ogou ki te part; Ezili f6 ou konnen
se Ezili ki te part, Ibo fe ou konnen se Ibo ki
te par&et, Azaka Mede f6 ou konnen se Azaka
Mede ki part, Bawon par&et, li di ou se Bawon
ki part, men se pa selman chante Bawon pou
ou we selman, gen lo6t chante, ou ka chante
pou Bawon ka danse ladann.
B. Si w ap chante mizik ki dedye a Danbala,
gen on bon chans Danbala pral monte chwal
N. Wi, li p ap pe monte y.
singers see that they aren't singing Eizili's songs,
well, they grasp it, they dance according to the
rhythm. You dance in it, then for the Iwa, you
sing songs of Danbala, well then, there are
others, a song can come, it's not for Danbala,
Danbala has dances. It is a dance, thus they
participate in all of them, thus all of the lwa, it's
not only their songs they need to make him
dance, sing any song, he dances, understand
me? But he lets you know it's Ogou who has
appeared; Ezili, lets you know it's Ezili who has
appeared, Ibo lets you know it's Ibo who has
appeared, Azaka Mede lets you to know it's
Azaka Mede who has appeared, Bawon
appears, he tells you it's Bawon who appears,
but it's not only Bawon's songs that you
encounter alone, there are other songs, you can
sing for Bawon to dance to.
B. If you are singing music that is dedicated to
Danbala, is there a good chance that Danbala
will mount his horse?
N. Yes, he will not be afraid to mount it.
B. Oubyen w ap chante pou Bawon, se Bawon
ki pral part.
N. Bawon pral part.
B. Or you are singing for Bawon, it is Bawon
who will appear.
N. Bawon will appear.
B. Men li posib si w ap chante pou Danbala
men Legba part oubyen Ezil part pandan
yon chante pou Ogoun?
N. Bon, koute mwen, Ie mizik, lI kout baget
mare, manman pase b6 pitit, pitit pase b6 papa
1; le kout baget mare, pase tout lwa yo vini nan
Ie a, pase baget mare, e lwa k ap tonbe, se lI sa
a ou pral di m ki lwa ou yo. E lI sa yo pral di m
ki lwa nou ye; setadi, m konnen Ezili te part,
Ogou te par&et, Danbala te part, Ibo te part,
Bawon te part, Alegba te part, Gran Bwa te
par&et, sa vle di tout lwa di m ki lwa yo ye. se
lwa k ap mete devan anvan m chante chante li.
Epui pou Bawon kapab, si se Ogou obyen
Bawon, se on wonm m t ap bay Bawon, m pral
bay Bawon wonm ni, eh, epi yo f& yon chan
pou Bawon, li f& bagay li, epi fini ou fini 1, tout
B. But is it possible, if you are singing for
Danbala that Legba appears or Eizili appears
during a song for Ogoun?
N. Well, listen to me, when the music, when
the beat of the drum sticks mingle, mothers go
to their children, children go to their fathers;
when the beat of the drum mingles, it's for all
of the lwa to come at times like that. It's at this
time they will tell me which lwa they are; that is
to say, I know Ezili appeared, Ogou appeared,
Danbala appeared, Ibo appeared, Bawon
appeared, Alegba appeared, Gran Bwa
appeared, that is to say that all of the lwa tell
me which lwa they are. It's the lwa who will be
in front of me before I sing their song. And for
Bawon to be able to, if it is Ogou or the
Bawon, it is a rum I would give the Bawon, I
16t lwa yo, yo vini yo fe yo fe yon chan pou yo;
sa k part la, si se yon gout gwog yo, si se yon
kola w ap ba yo, ba yo, yo fe yon chan pou
tout, konnya tout Iwa tonbe nan won. A16 Iwa
yo mele kounyeya. Enben ou fini respekte tout,
ou fe yon chan pou yo, ou respekte tout, 16 ou
fini respekte tout epi Ie sa tout Iwa f6me nan
won, pou kounyeya la Iwa ap danse ak tout, ou
B. Yon lot bagay ki fe m kirye anpil se
konp6tman Iwa yo oubyen chwal yo. Eske
chak Iwa gen yon konp6tman diferan 1e li antre
nan chwal li? Dapre jan on moun ap danse
oubyen jan on moun ap aji, eske moun ki
Vodwizan ka konnen san yo pa janm bay non
lwa a; eske yo ka di, oke, sa se Ezili, lI yo gade
mouvman li, jes li?
N. Non, se li k pou di ki lwa li ye. Pase f6 m
will give Bawon his rum, you see, and they sing
a song for Bawon, he does what he has to do,
and as soon as you finish, all of the other lwa,
they come and they make them make songs for
them. Those that appear there, if it's a taste of
their grog, if it's a cola you're giving them, give
it to them, they make a song for all, now all the
lwa start dancing. Then the lwa mix. When you
finish respecting all, you make a song for them,
you respect them all, when you are finished
respecting all of them, at that time all of the lwa
form a circle, for now the lwa are dancing with
all the others, you see?
B. Another thing that makes me very curious is
the lwa's behavior or that of their horses. Does
each lwa have a different behavior when he or
she enters his or her horse? Based on how a
person dances or acts, can a Vodouist tell
without giving the name of the lwa? Can they
say, okay, this is Ezili, when they watch his or
her movements, his or her gestures?
N. No, he or she has to say which lwa he or she
poze w yon kesyon, ou tonbe lakay mwen, f6
ou di m ki moun ou ye. F6 ou di m se tel lwa
m ye. Epi m ba w on chanson pou tout tanbou
yo reponn mwen epi pou yo frape pou li. Yo
konn ki rit pou frape.
B. Konsa chak Iwa pral anonse ki lwa li ye?
N. Wi. Ki lwa li ye, yo fe ochan pou li epi 1
pran ochan li e selon ochan ni sa n ap ba li a
nou ba li, li resevwa mizik serye. Fini m fini, m
pral poze yon lot Iwa kesyon. Pase se pa yon
sel lwa ki sou kont mwen, epi lwa a part la, li
di se tel Iwa 1 ye epi mwen fe yo fe yon ochan
pou li; kenbe la, lI fini, lI m fin resevwa tout
lwa yo tout moun tonbe nan won, epi sevis la
B. Gen moun ki pa janm bwe pa egzanp gwog
is. Now I have to ask you a question, you come
to my house, you have to tell me who you are.
You have to tell me I am such and such lwa.
And I give you a song so that all of the drums
answer me and beat a rhythm for her or him.
They know which rhythm to strike.
B. So every lwa's horse will announce which
lwa it is?
N. Yes. Which lwa it is, they make a song for
him or her and he or she takes his or her song
and, according to the song, we give him or her
what we give him or her, he or she receives
serious music. As soon as I am done, I will ask
another lwa questions. Because I am not only
responsible for one lwa, and the lwa appears
here and says he or she is such lwa and I make
them make a song for him or her; hold on for a
bit, then, when I finish receiving all of the lwa,
everyone starts dancing, and the service is going
B. Are there people who never drink grog or
oubyen kleren ki toujou monte tou.
N. Bon, gen tafya, sa ap ban m traka; m ba 1 on
gw6g plis epi li sou, m a mennen 1 kouche.
B. Konsa ou menm ou pa telman apresye si
yon moun tw6 sou epi li gen yon Iwa?
N. Non! Non, non, non, m ap mete yo kouche,
kite moun ki djanm; depi k6 ou pa djanm, al
repoze ou, I~ w refer w a vini, en? Le ou refer w
a vini. Kounye a ou sou, m p ap kite ou al nan
sa, non; m kwe, ou sou! Se tafya ou bwe.
B. Men yon ti gout p ap anpeche yon moun
N. Non, non, non. Wi, wi, wi.
B. Gen yon fim sou omoseksyel ki pratike
white rum, for example, who are still mounted
N. Well, there is alcohol, that gives me trouble;
I give him some more grog and he is drunk, I
will lead him aside to sleep.
B. So you yourself, you don't really appreciate it
if a person is too drunk and he has a lwa?
N. No! No, no, no, I will put them to rest, let
people who are strong dance; once your body is
not strong, go and rest, when you are better,
you'll come back, right? When you are better
you'll come back. Right now you are drunk, I
will not let you go into this, no; I believe, you
are drunk! You drank alcohol.
B. But a small taste won't hinder a person from
having a lwa?
N. No, no, no. Yes, yes, yes.
B. There is a film on homosexuals who practice
Vodou; gen kek moun ki di Vodou pi toleran
pase lot relijyon, sa ou we nan koze sa?
N. Se moun sa yo ki gen Iwa ki rele Jeneral
Piman sou yo. Lwa sou yo a rele Jeneral
Piman, setadi lwa sa, se yon Iwa dezaltarab ke
lwa sa ye. Pase se yon Iwa ki ka rive la li f& san
made; Iwa sa gen dwa sou chwal li, li f& sa san
made sou gason parey li; li se on gason, li gen
lwa a sou li, li f& san made sou gason parey li
B. San made?
N. Wi 1 met men sou li.
B. Se yon lwa ki f& 1 fe sa?
N. Yon lwa. Lwa sa a rele Jeneral Piman.
Enben li k sou menm f6m madivinez yo tou.
Enben, se yo menm tou ki gen yon f6s gangan
sou yo; si yo part la menm on bouldog
Vodou; there are several people who say that
Vodou is more tolerant than other religions,
what do you see in this issue?
N. It's these people who have the lwa General
Piman on them. The lwa on them is called
General Piman, that is to say this lwa is a
changing lwa. Because it's a lwa that can arrive
here, he acts without permission; this lwa has
control of his horse, he does this without
asking his male counterparts; it is a boy, he is
possessed by a lwa, he does it without the
permission of the guy he has mounted.
B. Without asking?
N. Yes he puts his hands on him.
B. Is it a lwa that makes him do that?
N. A lwa. That lwa is called General Piman.
Well, it's in the same form for lesbians too.
Well, it's they too who have the power of the
Vodou priesthood on them; if they appear here,
gendwa pa vile s6ti, pase se masisi sa yo. Pase Ie
ou rive nan Fetan, Vilbone, bagay sa deye a,
Fetan, Ti Sentan, ey, se masisi selman ou we ak
manbo ak divinez, se yo menm. Pase ou we, yo
danse pase tout moun, en, yo chante pase tout
moun, yo bay pi gwo jes pase tout moun, yo
menm, Ie y ap fe jes pa yo, se laray pou ou we
bagay sa, en, epi tet yo mare, yo fe perik, yo fe
ke 1, ou we cheve yo bat li pou yo mete 1 kako,
ou pa konn si se gason tounen fanm, fanm
tounen gason. Si yon fanm yo mete kalson,
tout gason yo tou yo mete kako. Men sa di ke
se masisi yo tout met kako, tout, tout fanm ki
madivinez la yo met pantalon, sa di li pa mete
kako li menm, se pantalon li ye; se fanm li ye, li
tounen gason; se gason li ye, se madivinez li ye.
even a bulldog wouldn't want to come out,
because of those gays. Because when you arrive
at places like Fetan, Vilbone, those places back
there, Fetan, Ti Sentan, hey, it's only gays that
you see and Vodou priestesses and lesbians, it is
them. Because you see, they dance better than
everyone else, you know, they sing better than
everyone else, they give bigger gestures than
everyone else, they themselves, when they are
making their own gestures, it is out of this
world for you to see that stuff, you know, and
their heads are covered with headscarves, they
put on wigs, they make a pony tail, you see their
hair, they straighten it so that they can wear it
attractively, you don't know if it's a male who
turned into a female, or a female who turned
into a male. If a woman puts on male
underwear, all males will also put on dresses.
But this means that the gays all put on dresses,
all the women who are lesbians wear pants, this
means they don't wear dresses themselves, it's
pants. She is a woman, she turns into a boy. He
is a male, he turns into a lesbian.
B. Are there gays in the entire country?
N. Nan tout b6 sa, Miragwan nan. Miragwan
chaje, Miragwan chaje! O! Se al yon kote ki rele
Ti Ch6dye sou Bele! Si ou we madivinez avek
masisi byen la; madivinez bati kay, li mete
fanm nan kay la, li marye ak fanm. Masisi a
met gason nan kay la, li marye ak gason an. La
Ti Ch6dye nan Miragwan.
B. Si mwen konprann byen, w ap di yo menm
yo gen ti kominote pa yo?
N. Pase kote ki rele Ti Ch6dye a li menm, depi
ou part la, sa pou ou jwenn la, se masisi pou
jwenn la, madivin pou ou jwenn la, avek
oungan k ret la, si 1 masisi li pral ret la, pase m
byen di ou pi gwo oungan ki te lan Miragwan
se li k pi gwo masisi.
B. Pou kantite Iwa ki nan tradisyon pa ou, eske
gen yon vale oubyen eske se jis yon gwo
kantite ou pa ka konte yo?
N. In this entire area, Miragwan. Miragwan is
full of them, Miragwan is packed! Oh! Go to a
place called Ti Ch6dye sou Bele! If you see
lesbians and gays, they are comfortable there;
lesbians build houses, she puts women in her
house, she marries a woman. Gays put a male
in their house, he marries the man. There in Ti
Ch6dye in Miragwan.
B. If I understand well, you are saying that they
have their own community?
N. Because the place called Ti Ch6dye, once
you get there, what you will find there, you will
find gays, you will find lesbians, and the oungan
who lives there, if he is a gay, he will stay there,
because I tell you accurately that the greatest
oungan in Miragwan, he is the biggest gay.
B. Regarding the number of lwa in your
tradition, is there a number or is it such a great
quantity that you can't count them?
B. Gen masisi nan tout peyi a?
N. 251 nasyon rasin Ginen ki la nan kan mwen
an. B6 manman, b6 papa.
B. Ki jan ou konnen se nimewo sa yo? Ou te
ekri non yo epi konte yo?
N. Sa rele twoup. E, Ie ou tolere Iwa sa pemet
lwa fe ou fe tenten, en, epi 1 pa konn manje
pitit moun, 1 ap manje pitit ou, pase si ou tolere
1 tw6p, Iwa, ou gen on mezi pou ou pran ave 1.
Ou boukannen on patat, se pou boukannen de,
ou manje youn, repoze youn la, le 1 fwet pita
ou manje 1. Li kite ou manje 1, en. Ou bouyi de
grenn bannann, ou bezwen bouyi senk grenn,
ou toujou rezeve yon grenn; li te nan wout la, 1
ap pase 1 ap pran on bout, sa di la li ap manje
tout tan, sa vie di li pa janm grangou, en, k6m
ou pa fe 1 visye, li p ap fe visye. Ou toujou kite
pou li, en? Men depi ou pa ba li, on Ie li pran
tonbe nan ola.
N. 251 nations of the roots of Ginen who are
here on my side. On my mother's side, on my
B. How do you know these numbers? Did you
write their names down and count them?
N. They are called a troupe. And, when you
tolerate lwa this allows the lwa to make you act
stupidly, you see, and even if he or she isn't
known to eat people's children, he or she will
eat your children, because if you tolerate him or
her excessively, the Iwa, you have a measure to
take with him or her. You baked a sweet
potato, you must bake two, you eat one, lay one
there, when it's cold later you eat it. He or she
lets you eat it, you know. You boil a few
plantains, you need to boil only five; you always
reserve only one, he or she was in the path, he
or she will pass, it will take a bit, that means he
or she will eat at all times, that is to say, he or
she is never hungry, you see, as you aren't mean
to him or her, he or she won't be mean. You
always leave something for her or him, you see?
But once you don't give to him or her, at some
point he or she will be fed up.
T.K. Si mwen vle konmanse an Vodou, kisa m
N. Bon, pou koumanse, apenn de koumanse,
eske ou ta retouve yon je mistik? Si ou bezwen
konmanse, apre ou fin konmanse, ou pral
twouve ou resevwa yon je mistik. Se ta grese, o
premye moman, ou fe yon pwomes. Apre ou
fin f& pwomes ou pral fe yon bagay ki rele
resevwa, sa se lI w ou f& yon bagay, epi ou
depoze nan yon pozisyon epi ou ankadre yo,
en, epi ou f& yon bwat ki rele ogatwa; w ap
mete ogatwa ou on kote. W al f& ch6dye pa ou,
kit Majou, kit Ma Sen Jak, gen Ma Ezili ou, ou
mete ladann ni epi ou achte yon kivet blan,
asyet blan ou, gwo savon ou, pou met la, pou
ou mete 1 la epi toujou gen dlo la. Aprezan
kounyeya ou prale f& yon ti lanp letenel, ou
pral mete kote ou ape resevwa a epi moun ki
konn priye, bagay sa yo, 1 ap priye ou, liv yo epi
T.K. If I want to begin practicing Vodou, what
do I need to do?
N. Well, to start, just after starting, would you
find mystical abilities? If you need to start, after
you finish starting, you will find that you
receive mystical abilities. It would be greased, at
the first moment, if you would make a promise.
After you finish making a promise you will do
something called receiving, that is when you
make something, and you lay it in a position
and you frame it, you see, and you make a box
called the ogatwa; you will put your ogatwa in a
place. You will make your pot, whether it is
Majou, whether it is Ma Sen Jak, there is your
Ma Ezili, you put them inside of it and you buy
a white tub, your white plates, your big bar of
soap, to put there, for you to put there and
always have water there. After this now, you
will light a small eternal lamp, put it where you
priye lanj. Kou ou al d6mi epi mistik ou
bezwen pral vin pal ave ou. Landmendijou Ie
ou leve epi tab sa a, ou te f& resevwa, se ou
menm ki pral konn sa w ap f& si w ap sevi,
konprann mwen, w ap bwe, w ap simen, w ap
pran yon ti simay, w ap remet men ou nan on
asyet pou f& on ti simay epi lI fini ou ap
resevwa bagay sa yo. Sa di ou gentan we tout
bagay. Yo gen Iwa k ap vin di ou mesi, wi m
we w f& tout bagay, mwen renmen ou, m
kontan e m di ou mesi epi m we tel bagay ou
bezwen epi mwen menm m nan plas la, nenpot
le ou bezwen m w a rele m. Ou annik al nan
ogatwa a, ou fe sa w ap f& a vreman, men
toujou depoze yon boutey wonm nan ogatwa
ou, on boutey chanpay, bagay sa yo, nenp6t le
mistik la bezwen reklame bagay yo.
B. E tout moun ki nan mistik yo gen ogatwa?
are receiving and the person who knows how
to pray, and those things, he will pray on you,
the books and angel prayers. Once you go to
sleep, the mystical forces you need will come to
talk to you. On the next day, when you get up,
this table that you made and received, you will
know what you are doing if you are serving,
understand me, you will drink, you will scatter,
you will take a small sowing, you will put your
hands onto a plate to make a small sowing and
when you are done you will receive these
things. This means that you have already seen
everything; there are some lwa that will come
and thank you, yes I see you've done all the
things, I like you, I am happy and I tell you
thank you and I see such things that you need
and I myself am in the place, any time you need
me, you'll call me. You just go in the ogatwa,
you do what you are doing, but always place a
bottle of rum in your ogatwa, a bottle of
champagne, those things, any time the mystical
force needs to demand those things.
B. And all of the mystic people, do they have
H.C. Ou menm, ou gen ogatwa?
N. Non, mwen menm mwen gen pewon. M
dan lefon mistik; se moun ki poko nan nivo sa
ki gen ogatwa, se rale yo poko rale. Bon, mwen
menm, m gentan prepare onz divine. M gentan
prepare onz oungan, m prepare onz oungan. M
prepare yo, m fe yo.
B. Kounyeya yo nan peyi a, y ap pratike?
N. Y ap travay, mwen k prepare yo, mwen k fe
yo. Yo vini m fonksyonnen ave yo, li gen
konsiy mwen, epi yo prepare ak mwen. M ba
yo yon pyes al sou tel maladi, pran sa, fe sa,
pran sa, fe sa, epi lI ou vini maladi a pa pi mal.
Maladi a vin kote m, m made si ou an sante,
maladi a di li pa pi mal. Epi m made yo, bay
maladi a yon beny la pou mwen; li bay maladi a
H.C. You yourself, do you have an ogatwa?
N. No, I myself I have an altar. I am in the
mystical depths; it is the people who are not at
this level yet who have an ogatwa, they don't
even crawl yet. Well, me myself, I have already
prepared eleven oungan. I prepared eleven
oungan. I prepared them, I made them.
B. Right now, are they in the country, are they
N. They are working, I prepared them, I made
them. They came and I worked with them, they
have my counsel, and they prepared with me. I
gave them a job to go to this sick person, take
this, do that, take this, do that, and when you
come the illness isn't that bad. The ill come to
me, I ask if you're in good health, the sick says
he isn't that bad. And I ask them to give the
yon beny. M gen moun ki relbete, aprezan ke
yo we liv la, si se yon bet ki m6de 1, ki koupe f&
o! Le m pran liv mwen, m f& sa pou m fe sou
maladi a. Setadi ke mwen pran liv mwen, m f&
priye sou li; le fini m fini, si se priye m ap ekri,
m boule bwa 1 bw&, m met men sou li epi fin
m fini, m di bon kounyeya ou menm se ou k
ap priye tretman ou. Alo6 pou ankouraje li, li f&
priye tretman li. Yo ba li ti k6b li, li degaje li; sa
di 1 konmanse pran lajan oungan gou. Le 1 ap
kontinye 1 plis, pou 1 f& pi gwo tretman toujou,
se konsa m prepare yo. Men mwen menm,
mwen dispoze mwen, depi moun nan se pa on
moun ki oungan, se on manbo ki prepare ou.
B. Konben tan sa pran pou yon moun pran
fomasyon oungan? Eske sa depann de moun
N. Non, sa depann konesans ou menm nan.
sick a bath here for me; he gives the sick a bath.
I have people who are out of their mind, at the
moment they see the book, if it is an animal
that bit them, oh that cuts iron! When I take my
book, I do what I have to do on the sick. That
is to say that I take my book, I pray on the sick;
when I am done, if I am writing prayers, I burn
wood, he drinks, I put my hand on him and
once I am done, I say, well, now you will pray
for your own treatment. Then, to encourage
him, he makes a prayer for the patient's
treatment. They give him some money, he
makes his way. That means he's getting an
appetite for the oungan's pay. When he
continues it further, to make an even bigger
treatment, this is how I prepare them. But me
myself, I am available, if the person is not an
oungan, it's a manbo who prepares you.
B. How much time does it take for a person to
become an oungan? Does this depend on the
N. No, this depends on what you know.
B. Alo w ap tann pou nenp6t moun ki pran
antrenman nan men ou pou 1 gen bon
konesans nan menm nivo ave ou?
N. Wi, paske etan Iwa m ap toujou ba ou on ti
fos epi ou al eseye fe yon kou. Kou a mache.
Kou 1 fe on 16ot kou, li mache, jiska m pral
kanpo a epi m pral diplome ou tou. M pral
konmanse diplome ou pou ou konprann ke ou
gen f6s ou, pou ou degaje ou puiske mwen di
ou. Mwen toujou di ou, I~ ou rive on kote, ou
we oungan sou maladi, yo rele yo sou li, li p ap
arete, pa sou maladi a. Si yo gen m6 vandredi a
yo pral mete 1 lakay ba w. W a trete 1 lakay ou.
Pinga ou janm we on oungan se yon maladi li
pral adres ou. De k6k pa konn mare nan yon
B. Eske gangan konn pataje konesans yo ak lot
B. Then you are waiting for any person who
takes training from you to have good
knowledge at your same level?
N. Yes, because of the lwa I am always giving
you a little power and you go to have a try. It
works. When he tries another time, it works,
until I'm relaxed and I'm going to graduate you,
too. I will start your graduation so that you can
understand that you have a power on you, so
that you can try your best once I tell you. I
always tell you, when you arrive at a place, if
you see an oungan working with a sick person,
they call him to the patient; he won't stop, not
on the sick. If they have a death on Friday they
will put him at your home. You will treat him at
your home. You should never think that an
oungan will make you sick. You can't tie two
roosters on one stake.
B. Are gangan known to share their knowledge
with other gangan?
N. Mwen konn pataje konesans mwen ba
moun. Men oungan yo telman konprann af&
lajan yo. Mwen menm m renmen pou yon bout
m manje, m ta renmen yo manje tou; se sa ki
lak6z ki f& le yon moun made m e m toujou
montre ou li. Demen, si Bondye vie, sa va itil
mwen. Se ak konesans sa ou al sove fanm nan.
Men lot la pa konn sa li menm, li bezwen li
menm se li k sel grenn ki pou viv, men bouch
pe pa f& anyen. M pa konsa. Se sa ki lakoz
mwen menm mwen deja pi mal pase yo, de jou
yo gen machine, yo gen gwo milet yo men
mwen m ap mache a pye. Men an reyalite, apye
pa m nan pa di anyen. M ap pati, m ap rive,
men yo menm, nan kouri rive, yo tonbe.
B. Kote ou te jwenn lespri pataj sa a?
N. Enben lespri pataj sa a li menm se depi sou
zanset mwen yo, pase manman m li menm te
konn rive kek kote, moun ap kriye de kriye,
moun grangou li pral mennen manje pou bay
N. I usually share my knowledge with people.
But the oungan know their money business
well. Me myself, I like to eat a bit of food, I
would like them to eat as well; this is what
makes a person ask me and I always show it to
you. Tomorrow, if God wants this, it will be
useful to me. It's with this knowledge that you
will save the family. But others don't know this
at all, he needs himself to be the only one who
will live, but sealed lips don't do anything. I am
not like that. This is the reason, as for myself, I
am already worse off than them; after two days
they have a car, they have their large mules but
me, I am walking on foot. But in reality,
however, my pedestrian lifestyle doesn't mean
anything. I leave, I arrive, but they, in their rush
to arrive, they fall.
B. Where did you find this sharing spirit?
N. Well this sharing spirit was from my
ancestors, because my mother herself, she
arrived at some places, people were weeping
and gnashing their teeth, people were hungry,
timoun nan manje. Li malad, yo pa gen anyen a
goute. Papa m li menm, li te konn gen yon se 1
ki manje lakay li, pou manman 1 gen dis pitit li
pa ka bay yo manje. Papa m te gen dis tou. Li
pataje manje ave 1. Ou we, zanset mwen yo, se
konsa yo te viv.
B. Eske mouvman rasin nan vin pi laj oubyen
pi piti an Ayiti?
N. Laj non, rasin nan vin pi laj. Sa k f& rasin
nan vin pi laj, gen houngan, gen maf&tou, gen
malfekte, tout moun vie oungan kounyeya.
B. M konn tande pale de jan Vodwizan konn
sevi avek imaj Sen yo, Sen Jak, Sen Gregwa,
elatriye, kote sa soti?
N. Sa di ke p6tre imaj sa yo soti pa anj! Pa anj
piske ou we gen imaj ki Sent An, gen k Sent
Ridas, gen yon pak&et, ou pa janm we 1 nan
she was going to bring some food to share with
the children. Someone was sick, they didn't
have anything to eat. My father himself, he had
a sister who ate at his house, his mother had ten
children who she could not feed. My father had
ten, too. He shared food with them. You see,
my ancestors, that is how they lived.
B. Has the roots movement become larger or
smaller in Haiti?
N. Larger indeed, the roots movement has
become larger. What made the roots movement
grow, there are oungan, there are imitation
oungan, there are criminals, everyone wants to
be an oungan now.
B. I have heard about how Vodouists serve
with images of the Saints, Saint James, Saint
Gregory, etc., where does this come from?
N. This means that these portrait images come
from angels! From angels since you see there
are images of Saint Anne, there are those of
legliz, ou we 1 sou bwat ogatwa yon moun, ah!
B. Men imaj sa yo soti nan legliz, petet lontan,
e pet&t legliz katolik an Ayiti pa vle mete imaj
sa yo sou mi legliz pase yo pa vle moun ki nan
legliz panse legliz ap ankouraje sa.
N. Men isi se lanj; isit se lanj ki reklame imaj sa
yo, se Sent An, se Sent Iridas, se N6tre Dam
de Pep&tyel Sekou, N6tre Dam de Loud, se yo
menm ki nan imaj sa yo ki sou otel isit.
B. Le yon moun we yon imaj ak Sen Jak Maje
sou chwal li avek tout nepe li, yo w& Sen Jak
oubyen yo we Ogou oubyen yo we toulede?
N. Bon, tout. Koute, Sen Jak la li menm, se on
Ogou li ye, men li reprezante yon m&et, sa k fe
Saint Ridas, there are many, you never see them
in Church, you see them on the ogatwa box a
person has, ha!
B. But these images come from the Church,
maybe from long ago, and maybe the Catholic
Church in Haiti doesn't want to put these
images on the walls of the Church because they
don't want people who are in the Church to
think the Church is encouraging this.
N. But here they are angels; here it is angels
who claim these images, it is Saint Anne, it is
Saint Iridas, it is Our Lady of Perpetual
Support, Our Lady of Lourdes, it is they who
are in these images on the altar here.
B. When a person sees a picture of Saint James
the Major on his horse with his sword, do they
see Saint James or do they see Ogou, or do they
N. Well, all. Listen, Saint James himself, he is
an Ogou, but he represents a master, what
sa se li k konmande Ogou yo, li gen plis f6s,
Sen Jak la gen plis f6s.
B. Li konmande Ogou yo?
N. Wi, se li ki konmande Ogou yo, sa se chef
latwoup, se chef latwoup li ye li menm. Sa di,
bann al deye do li epi raso 1 nan men li, 1 ap
pote bann li, se li k do a, se li k chef.
B. Le ou di Ogou yo, w ap pale de set yo. E set
Ogou yo, yo chak genyen kalite diferan?
N. Diferan, wi. Gen Ogoun Kafou wi, gen
Ogou Badagi, gen Ogou Feray, gen Ogou
Chango, gen Ogoun Balize, gen Ogou Fe, gen
Sen Jak Maje ki fe set Ogou.
B. Ou konnen tout s&t Iwa yo ki mache ak
makes this is that he commands the Ogou, he
has more power, Saint James has more power.
B. He commands the Ogou?
N. Yes, it is he who commands the Ogou, this
is the head of the troupe; he is the very head of
the band. That means that his group follows
him and his whip is in his hand, he is carrying
his group, it is he who is in charge, he is the
B. When you say the Ogou, you are talking
about the seven? And the seven Ogou, are they
each different kinds?
N. Different, yes. There is indeed Ogoun
Kafou, there is Ogou Badagi, there is Ogou
Feray, there is Ogou Chango, there is Ogoun
Balize, there is Ogou Fe, and there is Saint
James the Major which makes seven Ogou.
B. Do you know all the seven lwa which
correspond with every Saint?
N. I know them, by heart.
B. E ou konnen relasyon yo?
N. M konn relasyon yo, wi, yo marye, yo mele
ak lot, pwason kraze nan bouyon. Lwa sa yo
menm, se Iwa ki toujou la.
B. Lwa kapab marye epi fe yon fanmi tou?
Tankou eske Danbala kapab marye?
N. Wi, puiske, Danbala li menm, madanm li se
Ren Siyet. Ren Siyet se yon Iwa k maje wi. Ren
Siyet se yon Iwa ki majez anpil, anpil, anpil. Ou
we Jezabel, se li. Se li ki rele granmet wa late a.
B. "Granmet" tankou mo yo sevi pou Bondye
nan Legliz la?
N. Non, Bondye li menm o pli o degre, eh.
B. And do you know their relationships?
N. I know their relationships, yes, they are
married, they mix with one another, they are
very good friends. These very Iwa, are Iwa who
are always here.
B. Lwa can marry and have a family too? Like,
can Danbala marry?
N. Yes, since, Danbala is himself, his wife is
Ren Siyet. Ren Siyet is indeed a major lwa. Ren
Siyet is a really, really, really major lwa. You see
Jezabel, it's her. It is she who is called the great
ruler of the earth.
B. "Granmet" like the word they use for God
in the Church?
N. No, God himself is at the highest level, you
N. M konnen yo, pa ke.
B. Pou ou menm, Bondye konmande tout lwa B. For you, does God command all of the Iwa?
N. 0 pli o degre, konprann, nonm sa a, li
menm, wa lat& a, li di ou li rele granmet, eh?
Men li menm, Bondye li menm, li gen on lot
non li menm, eh? Sa se Pe Seles li rele li menm.
Al6, moun sa yo yo lage on non ba yo. Yo rele
tet yo granmet, se granmet yo ye, y ap
konmande te yo, puiske se li menm ki te rejete
yo, pa de Akanj, Akanj Michel ak Akanj de
Limye. Akanj Michel ak Akanj de Limye, se de
Akanj sa yo ki t ap kondi de twoup, e 1 t ap
kondi de twoup anle a, epi chak maten, Akanj
Michel di, twoup pare a, se pou tout Bondye a
vin salwe 1 kote 1 chita. Akanj de Limye di 1
non, se Bondye li pral salwe li menm, epi li di,
bon, nou menm nou p ap rete la, li pran twoup
pa 1 la, li al bati yon ti kay sou tet Bondye.
Bondye voye Akanj de Lumye li di 1 al kraze ti
kay nonm sa a fe anle a menm. Li pran on ti
poto 1 rekraze li epi anmenmtan li ba misye sa
yo yon bourad lage ate. [...]
N. At the highest level, understand, this man,
he himself, the king of the Earth, he tells you
he is called great master, you know? But he
himself, God himself, he has another name, you
know? He is called Celestial Father. Then, these
people they let loose a name on themselves.
They call themselves great master, they are
great masters, they command their lands,
because it was he who rejected them, not the
Archangels, Archangel Michael and the
Archangel of Light. Archangel Michael and the
Archangel of the Light were two Archangels
who were leading two troupes, when he was
leading two troupes up there, and every
morning, Archangel Michael said, troupe be
ready, it is necessary for God to come and greet
him where he sat. The Archangel of the Light
told him no, it was God he would greet himself,
and he said, well, as for us, we will not stay
here, he took his troupe, he went and built a
house above the head of God. God sent for the
Archangel of Light, he told him go and break
the house that this man has made right above.
He took his wood post and he broke it again
and at the same time he gave those misters a
shove to the earth. [...]