Title: Vodou Class Notes
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Title: Vodou Class Notes
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Language: Haitian Creole (Kréole; Kreyòl ayisyen)
Creator: Hebblethwaite, Benjamin
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Ezili Danto 'Musique du monde'

Ezili Danto prete poule pou nou an la
pou m fe maji a mache / m pral fe maji a mache
Se ou k mache, se ou ki we (ato o) (bis)

Adje m pral fe maji a mache
Ezili Danto prete poule pou nou an la
pou m fe maji a mache / m pral fe maji a mache
Se ou k mache, se ou ki we (ato o) (bis)

A w a prete m poule pou nou an la
pou m fe maji a mache
m pral fe maji a mache


Legba nan peyi Vodou
Anye Papa Legba plante y poto

O'Zany yo
O'Zany o LeeI e,
O'zany o Leel e,
Yo pran ason Lwa m nan m sevi gerizon e
Ou pa we lese koule!







Zili Boukman Eksperyans,
Libete (Pran pou pran 1) 1995
Manman, manman, m ap salye ou,
Ou menm ki plen lanmou
Granmet la ave ou
Li beni w tou
E li beni pitit ou, Yawe,
O manman mwen Oh my mother
Ou se manman Bondye You are the mother of God
O lapriye pou tout jodi a
M konnen 1e w pale
Tout sa w di se verite
Refren
Le Zili pale, 1 pale When Zili speaks, she speaks
Tout sa 1 di se vre All that she says is true
Le Zili chante, 1 chante sing
Tout moun ret tande hear
Le Zili danse 1 danse Le Zili priye 1 priye
Tout moun ret gade Tout syel la tande
Se kon sa le li pale
Tout sa 1 di rive

Se ou n ap rele, manman,
Pa kite n kriye ank6
Si ou we jan n santi nou byen
Le nou tande ou pale
Refren x 2









Konbit Zaka


Travay m ap travay o
Kouzen Zaka, m ap travay ave w, tande
Travay m ap travay o
Zaka Meda, m ap travay ave w, tande
Kouto digo m nan men m Mon outil
Djakout mwen sou do m Mon sac
M ap sekle sarcler
Kouto digo m nan men m
Vye alfb m sou do m sac
M ap sekle
Jou m gen youn fanm, 1 ale kite m
Demen m a jwenn yon 16t o trouver
Travay m ap travay, m ap travay ave w
Zaka mete m travay
M pa t panse si m te ka fe travay sa yo
Zaka mete m travay la nan bitasyon mwen habitation
Kouzen, m ap travay ave w, tande
Kouzen, Kouzen, n ap travay ave w, tande





Konbit Zaka Traduire le texte creole en franpais:
Rendez le devoir mercredi le 16 septembre

Travay m ap travay o
Kouzen Zaka, m ap travay ave w, tande
Travay m ap travay o
Zake Mede, m ap travay ave w, tande
Kouto digo m nan men m Mon outil
Djakout mwen sou do m Mon sac
M ap sekle sarcler
Kouto digo m nan men m
Vye alfb m sou do m sac
M ap sekle
Jou m gen youn fanm, 1 ale kite m
Demen m a jwenn yon 16t o trouver
Travay m ap travay, m ap travay ave w
Zaka mete m travay
M pa t panse si m te ka fe travay sa yo
Zaka mete m travay la nan bitasyon mwen habitation
Kouzen, m ap travay ave w, tande
Kouzen, Kouzen, n ap travay ave w, tande







Questions about Vodou for sharing and learning
Part 1
1. Where does Vodou come from?
2. How did Vodou get to Haiti?
3. What is a weakness of a lot of the work that has
been carried out on Vodou?
4. Why is it important to understand the Vodouists
perspective?
5. Why is Haiti's religious culture called syncretistic and
stratified? Is U.S. religious culture the same?
6. What are some examples of syncretism in Haiti?
7. What is the difference between public and private
Vodou?







Vodou as syncretistic & stratified


Bondye & the lwa
Bondye and the oungan are in control of the lwa
God and humans have authority over the lwa
o Expulsion
o The whip
o The chain

Is Bondye French or African?
Relexification (Lefebvre 1997)
Vodouists and Christians both worship Bondye
Vodouists worship Bondye through Vodou and Christianity

The lwa
401 or 251 possession or harmonious alignment
(Beauvoir 2006)
The nanchon of lwa; the twoupo of lwa
The lwa rest in nature
They are reflected or symbolized in natural
phenomena
The potomitan 'Poto Legba, Poto Danbala, etc.'
Serving the lwa







Part 2


8. Explain the status of Bondye 'God' in Vodou. What
role do the lwa have in creation?
9. What is the origin of the term Bondye? Just because
words have an outward French form, does that mean
that they are semantically French, too?
10. What is the West African equivalent of Bondye?
11. Do Vodouists see the Christian and Vodou
Supreme Being as different?
12. Who are the lwa? What can the lwa offer human
beings?
13. The Haitian marxist, Jacques Roumain (1942)
said that the lwa and the miracles of Jesus are
"imaginary." What do you think about that claim?
14. How many lwa are there?
15. Where do lwa live?
16. What is the "familialization of the lwa" (Murray
1984)?
17. Why do people serve the lwa?







Questions on Hebblethwaite's introduction

1. What is animal sacrifice, why is it carried out?
2. What is required of a Vodou initiate? Why do
people do it?
3. Describe sacred space, objects and signs in Vodou.
4. Describe the bagi 'vestry', what is kept there?
5. Describe the Vodou orchestra.
6. How do Vodou songs arise and spread?
7. What are the challenges of analyzing Vodou songs?
(exegesis)
8. How is Vodou stratified?
9. How do Vodou priests also function as unofficial
Catholic priests? Why do they do it?
10. Is it possible to follow 2 religions at the same
time?







Marcelin 26 46


Interpret and explain the following Vodou songs. Pay
special attention to the bold-face text.

1.
Atibon Legba, open the gate for me, ago e!
Papa Legba, open the gate for me
So that I can pass through,
When I return I'll greet the lwa!
Vodou Legba, open the gate for me
So that I can enter in,
When I return I'll thank the lwa! Abobo!

4
Old bones, o! Old bones, o! Papa Legba!
Don't you see we're without bones!
Old bones, o! Old bones, o! Papa Legba!
Don't you see we're without bones!

7
Alegba stops, he's looking at me
We don't see him, he sees us
Look we don't see him
All those who speak well
He's there, he's listening,
All those who speak badly,
He's there, he's listening,
They sign my name Alegba.
They can't sign my tree
I'm asking where they'll see me.








Ayizan 4
[...] Ayizan Gweto let them do what they want
There is nothing here except God, oh!
The Creoles are troubling me
After God, I'm getting ready to watch, oh!
I watch the coast of Ginen
After you our Supreme savior
We must look to the Saints
This Ayizan, is Ginen's lwa
In Ginen, on the coast of Ginen
In Ginen, oh!
Abobo!






4 Loko
I left Loko to watch the house for me!
Loko called Dahomey!
I left Loko to watch the house for me!
Loko called Dahomey!


8
Father Loko, old women
Women ask for cleanliness, women are never old
Kadyamisou says that Loko's women are old
Women are never old
The front of women's dresses demand cleanliness (bis)
Where have Loko's women been known as old?
The front of women's dresses demand cleanliness







Since a woman asks for cleanliness she is never old
I say old, Kadyamisou says Loko's women are old
Women are never old, the queen oh!
O my goodness the queen, we're talking
Women are never old
Old women, women are never old
Once women are clean
Women are never old
Loko Atisou says Loko's wife is old
She isn't old
Old women, women are never old, the queen o
Once a woman is clean
She is never old


5 Ayizan
What shall I say, oh!
What shall I tell Ayizan (bis)
What shall I say?
It is God who gave me the Saint to hold
What shall I tell the Saints, oh! (bis)
What shall I say?
It is God who gave me the lwa to hold
What shall I tell the lwa, what shall I say, oh!
What shall I tell the Virgin Mary, Dossou, Dossa
It is God who gave me the lwa to hold
What shall I tell the coast of Ginen
What shall I tell them? Abobo!

2 Ayida Wedo
Vodou of the rainbow
Oh my Vodou lwa
Oh Vodou of the rainbow







Rainbow of my Vodou lwa.


2 Ezili
Ezili your husband slept away from home!
Oh Mistress Ezili, your husband slept away from home!
Ezili your husband slept outside
Where is what he brought for you?








As a group, skim through the songs dedicated to the lwa
you are assigned

(1) Legba crossroads, link between living &
supernatural; priority lwa; first among peers;
(2) Ayizan consort of legba; old; ancient; female;
palm tree; protector; market
(3) Father Loko; vegetation, healing, herbalists; close
to Legba & Ayizan; pipe & sympathetic
(4) Danbala Wedo serpant; fertility; snake-like
possessions; white; no swine
(5) Ayida Wedo wife of Danbala; serpant; rainbow;
sky; river Wo is curvy
(6) Mistress Ezili love, grace, beauty, seductive,
luckless, multiple lovers; lost her son : (;
perfume; white birds; jewelry; "pale" as "pretty"







(7) Ogou powerful, war, iron, fire, machete, saber;
red;
(8) Azaka
(9) Simbi
(10) Gede

Develop a short list of the lwa's characteristics. What
objects does the lwa have? Who is the lwa? How do the
songs address the lwa?



Review of important Vodou terminology found in songs
wanga
lwa anba dlo
Emperor Dessalines
Abobo
flags
leaf- three leaves 'twa fey'
langaj 'language'
Koki 'shell' and Agwe


Songs

Simbi
12
Leaves in the woods we are secure!
Leaves in wood we are secure!
The enemy caught me!
Leaves in the woods save us!








Agawou
5
They are really trying to figure me out!
I say to them, come and ask me here!
Agawou, animal without blood,
Oh we won't speak about everything!
Look, they are asking me!

Bade
10
Oh Bade! Oh Bade!
He is a valiant boy
But it is unfortunate!
He is a valiant boy
But he is without bones!


Gede Nibo
4
Behind the cross is Gede!
Gede Nibo lives behind the cross!
Great thanks, God is here!
Gede lives behind the cross!
Gede!

Gede Nibo
4
Behind the cross is Gede!
Gede Nibo lives behind the cross!
Great thanks, God is here!
Gede lives behind the cross!
Gede!

















Important youtube clips about Vodou:
Haiti Nago pou Ogou [youtube]

Haitian Voodoo [national geographic]

Birth of Voodoo [Benin]

Haiti society split over voodoo 15
November 2007








Quiz 1 Write your name on your quiz paper
1. What do the terms below refer to? Write some details about 2 of
the following terms [4 pts]: (1) Legba (2) Danbala Wedo (3) Mistress
Ezili (4) Ogou (you may list traits)
2. In a song to Simbi we read "Leaves in the woods save us!" What
might this refer to? [2 pts]
3. Why is Agawou an "animal without blood" and Bade "without
bones"? What are the Vodouists talking about? [3 pts]
4. Define 3 out of 5 of the following Vodou terms [6 pts]:
Oungan Ounf6 Manbo Ounsi Ason
5. Give an example of an African phenomenon found in Haitian
Vodou. [2 pts]
6. Give an example of a European phenomenon found in Haitian
Vodou. [2 pts]
7. These lwa are associated with the cross, death and sexuality in
Vodou. Give the name of one of them. [2 pts]
8. Extra-credit [1 pt]: What does the term ounto refer to in Vodou?


Questions from Metraux:
1. What is a ounsi?
2. Creole language resembles which languages?
3. Give an example of a human who became a lwa.
4. How did Catholicism become so linked with Vodou?
5. Can you reconstruct Saint-Mery's description of
Vodou?
6. How are snakes incorporated differently in Vodou in
Benin?
7. What is Petwo? Where does it come from?
8. What was the population of Saint-Domingue on the
eve of the Haitian war of independence?
9. What happened at Bwa Kayiman under Boukman?








Notes on Karen McCarthy Brown (2006)


Define, explain and answer
1. Nanm 'soul' (p. 8)
2. Gwo bonnanj 'big guardian angel' (p. 8)
3. Ti bonnanj 'little guardian angel' (p. 9)
4. Zetwal 'star' (p. 9)
5. MWt tet 'master of one's head' (p. 10)
6. Are Vodou lwa distinct from Vodouists? Do they ever
Leave the minds/souls of Vodouists? (p. 11)


African influences in the Caribbean (p. 1)
Fon
Yoruba
Akan

Vodou has a psychotherapeutic and healing orientation (p. 3)

Vodou does not dismiss modem medicine whereas modern medicine
dismisses Vodou (p. 3).

Family & sexuality

Plasaj = commonlaw wife(s)

Urban Vodou temples = Haiti's social welfare system

Gender and Vodou
More women in authority positions in urban contexts
More men in rural contexts
More women are devoted servants of the lwa (M6traux)

Rituals and Possession
Letting go of the gwo bonnanj
Expelling spirits from inexperienced Vodou servants with the ason (p. 12)


The rites of passage Catholic hegemony? (Not really)








Vodou ritual & possession:
Chofe 'heating things up'
Polyrhythms, dance, sweat, heights of grace and spirit (p. 13)
The lwa appear = possession performance
The lwa communicates to the community
The lwa criticizes the community or the horse her or himself (p. 13-14)


MNtraux pp. 76-99
1. Is it easy to become a oungan or manbo? What are the obstacles?
2. What is ape savann 'savannah priest'?
3. What kind of objects might an ounfo 'temple' have for the lwa
Danbala or Gede, for example?
4. Explain Vodou's angelic mythology for the lwa.
5. What are some basic differences that M6traux notices in the
comportment of lwa? [major versus minor spirits]
6. How do humans become lwa? Can you supply an example?
7. What is the difference between Petwo and Radai?
8. Are the lwa in one family the same or different, e.g. Ogou Badagri
versus Ogou Feray?
9. When manbo/oungan go 'live under water' what do they bring back as
evidence of their travels?

The Vodou pantheon the performance of mythology
1. An important natural phenomenon symbolized in lwa. Thunder
2. Lwa of the crossroads Legba
3. Temple of Vodou Ounf6
4. Agwe Tawoyo is a associated with the Sea
5. Agwe's services are ... by the sea/bak agwe
6. Other sea lwa include ... (2 figures) Lasiren (mermaid)Labalenn (whale)
7. Hissing, poking out the tongue Danbala
8. This lwa is said to interpret the otherwise
incomprehensible sounds of Danbala Ogou
9. throws stones and native american axe-heads to earth Sobo (Sogbo)
10. Who screams "My testicles are cold" and what does Ogou/Alcohol
this lwa mean?
11. The Haitian Ogou is linked to this profession Soldier
12. She is the commonlaw wife of Danbala (plase) Ezili









Can you identify the Iwa?
1. basin Danbala
2. crazy about sunglasses Gede
3. the lwa of boaters Agwe
4. rainbow Danbala Wedo / Ayida Wedo
5. s/he climbs a tree Danbala
6. spends like mad Ezili
7. drinks, but never drunk Ogou
8. steals food from audience Gede
9. smokes a cigar Ogou
10. sacrificed dog Moudong
11 .Dahomian Ogou Gou (forge, metallurgy)
12. speaks with nasal tone Gede
13.throws money at women Ogou








Quiz 2 M6traux, Brown, Michel, J.L. [2 points each]
1. This lwa speaks in a nasal tone, he is prone to steal food from the
audience, and he loves sunglasses.
(a) Ogou (b) Moudong (c) Danbala (d) Gede
2. Mary lost her son, Jesus, and this lwa, often associated with Mary, lost
her son, too.
(a) Ayida Wedo (b) Ezili (c) Ayizan Velekete
3. This lwa is a soldier, a metallurgist, he drinks without becoming
intoxicated, he smokes a cigar. Those possessed by him wear fiery red.
(a) Danbala (b) Gede (c) Ogou (d)
4. Gede is known for strengthening the force of a talisman or charm. In
Vodou this talisman or charm is a:
(a) wanganbges (b) wanga (c) as6t6
5. Ogou screams that "his testicles are cold" when...
(a) ...he is cold (b) ...he is hungry (c) ...he wants a drink
6. Generally speaking, the one possessed in Vodou is the...
(a) turtle (b) the snake (c) the hummingbird (d) the horse
7. Vodou is...
(a) a homogeneous religion (b) a syncretistic religion (c) basically Catholicism


8. Vodou is a prescriptive religion (Michel 2006: 28):
(a) True (b) False
9. Michel (2006:30) cites Robert Farris Thompson who wrote that Vodou is
(a) "Africa reborn"(b) "Africa reblended" (c) "Europe defeated"
10. Brown's terms "cryptic tricksterism" refer to (see Michel 2006:33):
(a) Vodou lwa (b) Vodou priests (c) Vodou songs
11. "Capable of sustained existence apart from the body it inhabits" during
possession (see Brown 2006:8):
(a) Ti bonnanj (little guardian angel) (b) Gwo bonnanj (big guardian angel)
(c) Nanm (soul) (d) Zetwa (star)
12. In J.L.'s text # 28 he says that "As soon as dusk falls, Simbi, people
change their skin". Who is he referring to?
(a) Protestants (b) Vodouists (c) Catholics
13. According to J.L. text # 54 and other authors the "lwa Ginen" are:
(a) inherited in the family (b) purchased from an priest/priestess
14. In text # 95, J.L. says that he wants
(a) God (b) Ginen (c) both
15. (extra-credit) He is the lwa of the farmer and the countryside.
(a) Azaka Mede (b) Ogou Badagri (c) Legba









Reading in J.L.'s text:


See songs in part 1: 87, 88, 95; part 2: XIII-XVI, 41, 44, 63,
67





Questions for communication:
(Desmangles 2006)
1. What Christian symbols does Vodou reinterpret?
2. How do Vodouists interpret the cross? Are they
African or European modes of thought?
3. Again, what region of Africa dominated the
development of Haitian religious culture?
4. In what direction do Vodouists dance around the
potomitan 'centerpost'?
5. Who is Saint Peter linked with and why?
6. What is a pe savann 'savannah priest'?
7. What is hagiology?
8. What does the Cross have to do with the atmosphere
and the telluric regions?
9. Who is Mawu Lisa in Dahomian theological thought?
10. Explain the notion of mirrors in Vodou (Loko-
miwa 'Loko-mirror', the mirroring between
Vodou authorities, etc.
11. What is the axis mundi?
12. How is the Vodouist her or himself the Cross?








Questions from Metraux on POSSESSION:
1. Describe the expected behavior of the horse. Before,
during and after the event.
2. How long can possession last?
3. What is the comportment of Vodouists toward the
possessed?
4. What is the role of the Vodou priest and the ounsi with
regard to possession?
5. How does one learn about the character and behavior
of a lwa?
6. What is the place of habit and tradition in possession?
7. What effect does a lwa have on the possessed
individual?
8. What is the link between individual and lwa?
9. Why is it impossible to link possession to a
"hysterical" psychological disorder?
10. Are Vodouists really possessed? Does it matter?
Does wine turn into blood in Catholicism
(transubstantiation) Does it matter?








Questions for discussion on Nelson Marcenat's interview

1. How long has Nelson been a Vodou priest?
2. Who was and wasn 't a Vodou specialist in Nelson's family?
3. Describe kanzo initiation? What are its various aspects and
what is it for? Could you handle them?
4. What are some of the incredible feats attributed to those
possessed by the lwa?
5. What kind of Vodou does Nelson reject? What kind does he
embrace?
6. What are the marks of an illegitimatee priest?
7. What are the various healing and health services offered by
Nelson?
8. How did Nelson receive his mother's blessing to pursue
Vodou specialization?


9. What kind of Vodou does Nelson warn against? What kind
does he recommend?
10. Describe some features of Nelson's annual Vodou
celebration (Dec. 24th).
11. What is the mark of someone who impersonates a
Vodou priest?
12. How does Nelson treat the severely mentally ill, i.e.
those "who eat rocks"?
13. What is the role of prayer in Nelson's approach to
healing?
14. What is a baptized lwa?
15. What kind of possession will Nelson not tolerate?
16. What powers does Nelson attribute to his grandparents
and what does the story suggest about the status of Vodou at
the time (1940s).







Metraux pp. 141-156


Questions for sharing and learning:

1. The lwa present themselves in interesting ways. Describe
some of them. (Ezili, Azaka, etc.)
2. What are the meaning and role of dreams for Vodouists?
Who appears in the dreams? What do they mean? What are
your own beliefs about dreams?
3. Who are the Twins or Marasa? What is their character? Are
they present or past? What are some of the stories associated
with the Twins?
4. Who are the babies born before or after twins?
5. Describe the manje Marasa 'the food of the Marasa'.
6. What are some examples of 'animist beliefs' in Haiti and
Vodou?
7. How does Metraux present the gwo bonnanj? How are they
related to immaterial zonbi?



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