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1 Maryaj: A Spiritual Bond Frank Grey University of Florida A common practice in many cultures is marriage, or some similar form of bond made complete through a ritual ceremony. The Catholic ceremony is known well to most Americans but what about in Haitia n Vodou culture? In Vodou and Haitian culture, not only do people get married to other people, but they may marry a spirit or a lwa To them these marriages are taken as serious ly as getting married to people and they have specific reasons for participating Just as in a real relationship there is a process that one must go through to figure out which lwa to marry and how to go about marrying the lwa Once married to a lwa there are specific rules that one must follow in order to properly serve his or he r new companion. People in Haiti often look at the rite of marriage very diplomatically. Not to say that they do not marry people because they love them, but the economic conditions in Haiti often have a large influence on the decision to marry or to beco me involved with someone. Haiti is a very poor country and sometimes it is important to have a male around who can help financially in a tough situation. Mama Lola talks about telling a man who was not the father of her child that she was pregnant because she wanted to gain some financial security for her unborn child (Brown 1991: 243). In one case Simone Duvalier strategically mystically married her son, Jean Claude, to retain the power she got when her husband, Francois Duvalier passed in 1971 (Burnham 2006: 5). Thes e reasons can also apply to marriage to the lwa not because the lwa provides his or her spouse with physical things such as money but because the lwa provides emotional support These marriages between human and lwa are known in Haiti as m aryaj or a mystical union with the lwa (Hebblethwaite 2011: 265). When thinking about these unions it is important to remember that people don't marry just any lwa People who practice Vodou usually have a mt tt or a master of the head, one lwa that the follower is mounted by most often, dance s and sing s to most often, and that protects the follower (Hebblethwaite 2011: 267). A person can come to realize who their mt tt is in many ways It may be noticed when the person becomes possessed by that lwa bef ore or during initiation or if he or she is possessed by that lwa often. One may also determine his or her mt tt is by means of card reading which is what Mama Lola did for Karen Brown Before having her cards read, Brown had been told by many others that her mt tt was Papa Ogou. T here was even an instance where a woman came across a dance floor just to tell her that she saw Papa Ogou around her head (Brown 1991: 133). Besides card reading one can also have his or her mt tt told to you by one who has the gift of the eyes , or who is a ble to directly see the spirits (Brown 1991: 134) Once someone s mt tt is determined, they may begin the process of marrying the lwa In the case of Karen Brown, she chose to marry two lwa Danbala and Ogou because a s Mama Lola explained, Karen needed a cool lwa to balance out the heat of Ogou (Brown 1991: 306). Many practitioners marry more than one lwa such as Georges Rene, who married lwa ( Dubois 2001: 4). Marrying a lwa can be an extremely costly ceremony for t he individual throwing it and can lead to lengthy term of engagement to the lwa until the individual can afford the ceremony. The person has to buy the proper attire for the situation. If they are marrying more than one lwa they have to buy two sets of att ire one to match each lwa a costly expenditure for a person living in rural Haiti. They must also buy rings for each of the lwa that they are marrying. The next step is to have the actual marriage ceremony It is quite similar to a Catholic marriage ce remony most likely stemming from the French influence on the religion Someone at the ceremony becomes possessed by the lwa that is to be married and is dressed in wedding garb Vows are exchanged in a similar fashion to the Catholic wedding ceremony and the two are

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2 declared married. There may even be official wedding certificates to denote the bond that has been formed (Lewis 2003: 11). Afte r the person is married to the l wa he has to provide special treatment to that l wa If the person isn't married to someone already he or she is not supposed to take a spouse after that, however, he or she is allowed to marry a lwa even if they have already taken a human spouse. A person must make sure to sleep alone on the particular nights dedicated to the lwa they h ave married A common lwa to marry is zili who requires that the person married to her sleep alone and ref rain from having sex on Tuesdays and Thursdays while Papa Ogou's day is on Wednesday (Hebblethwaite 2011: 233, 271) A person who is marrie d to a l w a mu st make sure to celebrate that birthday of that lwa as a special holiday, and in turn he or she will receive spiritual guidance and protection. These spiritual relationships can be extremely important for the emotional health of the individual, giving them help in areas where they are least proficient. In Karen Brown's case she was supported in finding the inner strength to fight for what she wanted (Brown 1991: 135).

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3 Bibliography Burnham, Thorald M. 2006. Everything They Hate: Michele, Mildred, and Elite Haitian Marrying Strategies in a Historical Perspective. Article in Journal of Family History. Vol 31. No. 1. pp 83109. Dubois, Laurent. 2001. Vodou and History. Article in Comparative Studies in Society and History. Vol. 43. No. 1. pp 92100. Hebblethwaite, Ben. 2012. Vodou Songs In Haitian Creole and English. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. Lewis, I.M. 2003. Trance, Possession, Shamanism, and Sex. Article in Anthropology of Consciousness. Vol 14. No 1. pp 2039. Mcarthy Brown, Kar en. 1991. Mama Lola A Vodou Priestess in Brooklyn. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.


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Title: Maryaj: A Spiritual Bond, Frank Grey
Series Title: HAI3930, ANT3930, LAS3930, REL3938
Physical Description: Course Material
Creator: Raitano, Megan
Publisher: Hebblethwaite, Benjamin
Raitano, Megan
Felima, Crystal
Place of Publication: University of Florida, Gainesville, FL
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Acquisition: Collected for University of Florida's Institutional Repository by the UFIR Self-Submittal tool. Submitted by Megan Raitano.
Publication Status: Unpublished
General Note: This is a collection of student essays from the Haitian Vodou class offered at the Universtiy of Florida. These essays are the results of a combination of in class material and independent research on individually chosen topics. The writing styles, citation styles, and views expressed in the essays are established by the students and do not necessarily reflect those of the professor or the Archive.
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Maryaj: A Spiritual Bond
Frank Grey, University of Florida

A common practice in many cultures is marriage, or some similar form of bond made
complete through a ritual ceremony. The Catholic ceremony is known well to most Americans,
but what about in Haitian Vodou culture? In Vodou and Haitian culture, not only do people get
married to other people, but they may marry a spirit or a Iwa. To them, these marriages are taken
as seriously as getting married to people and they have specific reasons for participating. Just as
in a real relationship, there is a process that one must go through to figure out which Iwa to
marry and how to go about marrying the Iwa. Once married to a Iwa, there are specific rules that
one must follow in order to properly serve his or her new companion.
People in Haiti often look at the rite of marriage very diplomatically. Not to say that they
do not marry people because they love them, but the economic conditions in Haiti often have a
large influence on the decision to marry or to become involved with someone. Haiti is a very
poor country and sometimes it is important to have a male around who can help financially in a
tough situation. Mama Lola talks about telling a man who was not the father of her child that she
was pregnant because she wanted to gain some financial security for her unborn child (Brown
1991: 243). In one case Simone Duvalier strategically mystically married her son, Jean-Claude,
to retain the power she got when her husband, Francois Duvalier passed in 1971 (Burnham 2006:
5). These reasons can also apply to marriage to the Iwa, not because the Iwa provides his or her
spouse with physical things, such as money, but because the Iwa provides emotional support.
These marriages between human and Iwa are known in Haiti as maryaj, or a mystical
union with the Iwa (Hebblethwaite 2011: 265). When thinking about these unions it is important
to remember that people don't marry just any Iwa. People who practice Vodou usually have a m&t
t0t or a master of the head, one Iwa that the follower is mounted by most often, dances and sings
to most often, and that protects the follower (Hebblethwaite 2011: 267). A person can come to
realize who their m&t t0t is in many ways. It may be noticed when the person becomes possessed
by that Iwa before or during initiation or if he or she is possessed by that Iwa often. One may also
determine his or her m&t t0t is by means of card reading, which is what Mama Lola did for Karen
Brown. Before having her cards read, Brown had been told by many others that her m&t t0t was
Papa Ogou. There was even an instance where a woman came across a dance floor just to tell her
that she saw Papa Ogou around her head (Brown 1991: 133). Besides card reading one can also
have his or her m&t t0t told to you by one who has "the gift of the eyes," or who is able to directly
see the spirits (Brown 1991: 134).
Once someone's m&t t0t is determined, they may begin the process of marrying the Iwa.
In the case of Karen Brown, she chose to marry two Iwa, Danbala and Ogou because as Mama
Lola explained, Karen "needed a cool Iwa to balance out the heat of Ogou" (Brown 1991: 306).
Many practitioners marry more than one Iwa, such as Georges Rene, who married Iwa (Dubois
2001: 4). Marrying a Iwa can be an extremely costly ceremony for the individual throwing it and
can lead to lengthy term of engagement to the Iwa until the individual can afford the ceremony.
The person has to buy the proper attire for the situation. If they are marrying more than one Iwa
they have to buy two sets of attire, one to match each Iwa, a costly expenditure for a person
living in rural Haiti. They must also buy rings for each of the Iwa that they are marrying.
The next step is to have the actual marriage ceremony. It is quite similar to a Catholic
marriage ceremony, most likely stemming from the French influence on the religion. Someone at
the ceremony becomes possessed by the Iwa that is to be married and is dressed in wedding garb.
Vows are exchanged in a similar fashion to the Catholic wedding ceremony and the two are









declared married. There may even be official wedding certificates to denote the bond that has
been formed (Lewis 2003: 11).
After the person is married to the Iwa, he has to provide special treatment to that Iwa. If
the person isn't married to someone already he or she is not supposed to take a spouse after that,
however, he or she is allowed to marry a Iwa even if they have already taken a human spouse. A
person must make sure to sleep alone on the particular nights dedicated to the Iwa they have
married. A common Iwa to marry is Ezili who requires that the person married to her sleep alone
and refrain from having sex on Tuesdays and Thursdays, while Papa Ogou's day is on
Wednesday (Hebblethwaite 2011: 233, 271). A person who is married to a Iwa must make sure to
celebrate that birthday of that Iwa as a special holiday, and in turn he or she will receive spiritual
guidance and protection. These spiritual relationships can be extremely important for the
emotional health of the individual, giving them help in areas where they are least proficient. In
Karen Brown's case she was supported in finding the inner strength to fight for what she wanted
(Brown 1991: 135).









Bibliography

Burnham, Thorald M. 2006. "Everything They Hate": Michele, Mildred, and Elite Haitian
Marrying Strategies in a Historical Perspective. Article in Journal of Family History. Vol
31. No. 1. pp 83-109.

Dubois, Laurent. 2001. Vodou and History. Article in Comparative Studies in Society and
History. Vol. 43. No. 1. pp 92-100.

Hebblethwaite, Ben. 2012. Vodou Songs In Haitian Creole and English. Philadelphia: Temple
University Press.

Lewis, I.M. 2003. Trance, Possession, Shamanism, and Sex. Article in Anthropology of
Consciousness. Vol 14. No 1. pp 20-39.

Mcarthy Brown, Karen. 1991. Mama Lola A Vodou Priestess in Brooklyn. Berkeley and Los
Angeles: University of California Press.