Voodoo Rituals

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Practicers of Voodoo are highly devout. Their rituals form an incredibly important aspect of their religion. Rituals occur fairly regularly, with different spirits being honored at different times.

Purpose of Rituals

In return for worship and sacrifices, the loas will be generous with the worshippers, resulting in plentiful rain, good crops, or something else of the like. This relationship is often described as a contract between humanity and the loas. Neglecting this contract may result in sickness, poor harvest or even death.

Ogoun and Dambala

Rituals honoring these two very important loas occur only about twice a year, although frequent gifts are sacrifices are given to these two main spirits.

Met Tet and Lesser Loas

Met Tet, or "master of the head," is a loa that could be compared to one's patron saint in Catholicism. The Met Tet is believed to help in one's personal affairs. A ritual honoring the Met Tet may result in an improved love life or better health.

Souls and Their Role in Voodoo Rituals.

As previously mentioned, the soul is an integral facet of Voodoo. In Voodoo beliefs, the soul is made of two parts, the gros bon ange and the ti bon ange. The gros bon ange, or the "big guardian angel," is the life force shared by all humans. It enters the body at birth and leaves at death when it floats back to the Gran Met, or pool of life force. The ti bon ange, or "little guardian angel" is the part of the soul that contains the individual qualities of a person.

The ti bon ange is a large part of Voodoo beliefs and rituals. It leaves the body during sleep so that the person experiences dreams, and also leaves the body during rituals for spirit possessions.

During a ritual spirit possession, a loa takes possession of a hounsis, which can be thought of as an assistant priest. In this time the hounsis' ti bon ange floats free, and if unprotected could be harmed or stolen.

Voodoo Priests and Their Role in Rituals

Voodoo priests and priestesses, or houngan and mambo, are Voodoo "clergy." They undergo extensive training to become priests. Often times, the tradition of being a houngan or mambo is passed down through a family. When they begin to train as a hounsis, they work closely with a houngan or mambo. Houngans, mambos and hounsis all have important roles in the Voodoo rituals. As mentioned above, hounsis are usually those who participate in the spirit possession. They are also in charge of the animal sacrifice by washing and feeding the animal.

At the beginning of a ceremony, the houngan or mambo traces a veve or special design on the ground in order to summon a spirit. Prayers and the animal eashing and feeding then occur. The wild beat of drums then begins and the houngan, mambo, and hounsis dance energetically. The dancers then seem to be in trances and once they fall to the ground, they are considered to be possessed by the spirit. The possessed person is then treated as though they are the spirit, or loa.

At the climax of the ceremony, the animal sacrifice's throat is slit and the blood is drained into a special bowl. The possessed spirit/person then drinks the blood. After the ceremony, the worshippers may cook and eat the sacrificed animal, as this is thought to bring good luck.