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Sacred Days Of The Lwa's
Vodou is a Way of Life
Vodou is a tradition of action. That is why most people will say “M sevi Ginen” (I serve Ginen) rather than say “I’m a Vodouisant”. Now all religions are, ideally, a way of life. But Vodou is most adamantly so. Service is an action, and that is how we describe our tradition, in terms that refer to those actions. Vodou is something you live, rather than simply do. It is not a tradition you can learn passively. You need to dig right in and get your hands dirty, so to speak. During ceremonies, everything is based on actions: salutes, dancing, drumming, singing, and tracing veves – to name a few. We do not have congregation members sitting as someone preaches.
Everyday of the week is sacred to a particular Lwa or group of Lwa. Sunday is God’s day. Vodouisants vary on what happens on Sunday. Some will not do any spiritual work, will not salute the lwa, will not do anything that has to do with Ginen. Others do not discriminate against the day. They say, “Yes, Sunday is sacred to God, I will remember Him and respect Him, but everyday I need to eat!” In other words, they still do Vodouisant activities on this day. Most Vodouisants attend Church and Mass and may say prayers or give some other sort of attention directed towards the Creator.
There are a variety of ways to serve the Lwa on their sacred day: wearing their colors on their day, observing abstinence on that day, singing, and serving them with ceremony. People who are married to a Lwa are obligated to observe the sacred day of that Lwa. They may have to wear certain clothes, prepare their bed in a certain way, and do other things that signify the human spouse’s sacred commitment. Vodouisants will also frequently observe the days of their most important Lwa by tending to the Badji, giving libations or other sacred activities.
Here is a general list of the Sacred Days of the Lwa. Depending on the lineage or Vodou House, as always, there may be changes in the way they do things or serve. For the most part, many of these days are consistent in most houses.
Monday is the second day of the week. This is also the day that many consider to be the beginning of the week. This day is sacred to the Ancestors, Gede and Legba. As the opening day, the same lwa that one must take care of before going on to other lwa, are taken care of on this day. Think about it: After God (Sunday), one should have his/her ancestors taken care of. After they are taken care of, things will flow easier, including work with the Lwa. This is where Gede and the ancestors come in. Yet before one can call other Lwa, one must salute Legba. Legba is the gate keeper, and he is the one who can open our doors or shut them as he may please.
Most Vodouisants do some sort of “daily devotional”, especially Vodouisants whose main source of income is serving Ginen. In the process, one “wakes them up”, if you will, in order to get them working. They will also open the doors, of the Vodouisant’s home, to receive clientele. There are a variety of ways that an individual may choose to “wake” them up.
Mondays, I make sure to remove all glasses of water from all the altars. This water I toss outside the front door. I then wash the glasses, and the coffee cup of Gede. I also throw Gede’s coffee out the front door. I make Gede some new coffee, and fill all the glasses with cool fresh water. I then light a candle, and pray. After this, I talk to my spirits. I give them their coffee and water. I may alternately perform a libation of rum to them as well. For me, Monday is a day to attend to and cleanse and keep the Badji.
Vodouisants also do other things to live the tradition. One thing is that once you come into this tradition, your whole view of the world will change. You will learn to act in accordance with yourself, in time. When you change the way that you view the world, your world will change. You will also find that your new spiritual attunement and connection will lead you into all new sorts of opportunities and change.
Tuesday is the day that is sacred to the Petro spirits, notably Ezili Danto. On this day, Vodouisants that have Petro Lwa in their escort may make observances, libations or in another way serve their Lwa. This is also considered a good day to work Petro based magick.
Wednesday is the day for the Nago Nation, again notably it is Ogou’s day. Almost all the Ogous are observed or serviced on this day.
Thursday is for all of the Lwa Rada. Danbala, Agwe, Freda, LaSirene all have this day as their sacred day. Also known to as the Lwa Blan or white Lwa.
Friday belongs to Djouba nation as well as Gede. The Djouba Nation is composed of Kouzen Zaka, his wife, Kouzin and all the other Lwa of Taino origin.
Saturday is a day for all the Lwa!
I suggest you work on your own personal devotion to the Lwa on a daily schedule. It can be a short little moment of five minutes or so. Alternately, you can decide that your devotion will take longer. It is a great way to get the Lwa working in your daily life. You will see how your life improves.
Haitian Vodou Terminology
Fete: Literally a party, but refers to the most common form of public Vodou Ceremony.
Bitasyon: habitat; common ancestral plot of land owned by an extended family and inherited in successive generations
Ago: langaj; commonly heard as in Vodou Ceremonies and Songs
Akason siwo: corn starch based drink favored by most of the Lwa
Aksyon De Gras: Special Ceremony in thanksgiving to a Lwa (or group of Lwa) for a favor provided, a favor desired, or as payment to a promise
Alamyet: Vodou Ceremony held without drums
Anba dlo: lit. “beneath the water” – the place where the lwa and ancestors reside; see Ginea
Gran Moun: the elders; those holding vast konesans
Ason: rattle used to conduct services in Rada Vodou rites; symbol of Vodou PriestHood: gourd rattle surrounded by a loose web of beads and snake
vertebrae, and having a small bell attached
Ayibobo: “amen” ; langaj; commonly heard as in Vodou Ceremonies and Songs
Ayiti Toma: (Haiti) – Tayino Indian word meaning “mountainous”; one of several Tayino: names for the island now called Haiti;
Badji: sanctuary, altar room within the hounfò
Badjikan: “keepers of the badji”; senior priests or officials of an hounfò charged with maintaining the altars housed therein.
Baka: small malevolent demon
Banda: rite, rhythm and dance associated with the Gede lwa
Bizango: secret society and the rites of this society
Bokò: expert in magic who works with both hands – for good or for evil
Bon anj: the divine spirit of man understood as having two primary Components: ti bon anj and gwo bon anj
Bondje: Kreyòl word for God Almighty, from the French Bon Dieux; also called Gran Met-la (The Grand Master)
Boukman: historical houngan who convoked secret Vodou ceremonies and meetings leading to the Haitian Revolution
Bosal: wild or untamed; may reference a lwa or a neophyte who has not been initiated
Boula: smallest of three Rada drums
Cho: lit. “hot”; a quality of spirit
Chwal: “horse”; euphemism for a servitor who serves as the medium for a lwa in possession
Dahomey (Daome): West African Empire (present day Benin) from which large numbers of slaves were shipped to Haiti; the religious traditions of the same people that formed the foundation of Vodou
Demanbwe: sacral patch of land
Deshoukaj: uprooting; name given attempts throughout history to destroy the Vodou religion: Vodou has survived 14 attempts at deshoukaj by various sources
Desounen: process of removing lwa from the head of an initiate following death
Dogwe: ritual obeisance paid to a senior priest and to the Lwa
Djab: powerful but wild spirit
Djevo: chamber within the hounfò in which neophytes are initiated
Dosou/dosa: (male/female) first child following twins
Dous: “sweet”; a quality of spirit
Eskò: grouping of lwa who walk with, or follow another lwa
Fran Ginea: a servitor who follows pure Ginea rites, who does not serve with both hands; only serving for positive ends
Ginen/Ginea: unspoiled Africa; the other world in Vodou wherein the lwa and the dead are said to reside; sometimes referred to as Vodou’s heaven
Giyon: bad luck or negativity
Govi: clay jar housing the spiritual essence of either a lwa or an ancestor
Hounfò / Hounfort: a Vodou temple and its precincts
Houngan: male Vodou priest
Hounjenikon: leader of the Chorus in a Vodou service
Hounsi Bosal: A non initatied individual who is a candidate and preparing for eventual initaition into a Sosyete
Hounsi: title for an initiated servitor of the Lwa
Hounsi kanzo – 1st level initiate into Vodou (of the Asson Lineage) who has undergone the rite of kanzo
Hountogi: Vodou drummers
Kalfou: crossroads; also a Lwa
Kanzo: Initiation into the Haitian Vodou Religion of the Asson Lineage
Kleren: raw rum, drink favored by many lwa
Ren dwapo: hounsi who carry the society’s flags in parade during a Vodou service
Konesans: the knowledge of an Houngan or Manbo; includes liturgical knowledge as well as knowledge bestowed by the Lwa
Konfyans kay: Principle advisor to the Met Kay (Houngan or Mambo who owns/runs the Sosyete/House)
Kreyòl:the language of Haiti and also the primary language used/spoken in Haitian Vodou
Tcha- Tcha or Kwa-kwa: a maraca or tcha-tcha rattle; used by non initiates as well as those initiated into the Tcha Tcha lineage of Vodou; Used to lead Ceremonies
Lakou: courtyard; common unit of family in the Haitian countryside
Lanmò: the dead; may include ancestors as well as other categories of dead
Laplas daginea: sword bearer and often master of ceremony in a Vodou service
Lave tet: lit “head washing” ; refers to an Initiation into Vodou
Lwa: the spirits of Vodou;
Lwa Rasin: “root lwa” – lwa from whom a community, family, or individual believe itself to descend
Maji: magic; sorcery
Makaya Rite: rhythm, and nation of lwa ; serves mostly both Petwo and Bizango rites
Maldjok: the “evil eye”
Manbo (Mambo): female Vodou priest
Manje: (vb) to eat; (n) food or feast
Mamalwa – “mother of the lwa”; no longer used term for a manbo
Met kay: lwa who is the patron or master of a Vodou temple
Met tet: “master of the head”; the lwa who rules the initiates head
Minokan (minocan): references all of the lwa of Ginea; a veve drawn to represent the same
Mistè: lit ” mystery” – general name for the lwa and any other spiritual forces, such as pwen, a person may possess
Nago: a rite, rhythm, dance, and a nation of lwa all of Yoruba
Nansyon: spirit nations; groupings of lwa
Nomvayan: ritual name for an initiate given at their baptism
Ogan: small iron bell with an external clapper used to keep time in a Vodou ceremony
Ogatwa: private devotional altar
Paket: spiritually active bundle created on the point of specific lwa,
Pale Ginea: the secret language of the lwa; also simply called langaj
Papalwa: ”father of the lwa” – archaic term for an houngan
Peristil: the covered dance area of an hounfò
Petit fey: members of a Vodou temple ; initiates of a particular Houngan or Mambo
Petwo: a nation of lwa and their rites
Pot tet: head pot; ceramic jar housing the soul of an initiate following initiation
Poto mitan: sacred center post of an hounfò by which the lwa are said to arrive from Ginea
Prèt, priest: prèt savan – “bush” priest, master of Catholic liturgy
Priyè Ginea: “African prayer”; complex litany that opens a Vodou service
Pwen: “point”; concentrations of spiritual force or magic created for diverse purposes
Pwen achte: A purchased/bought spirit ; usually used for malevolent purposes
Pyè tone: stones that house a lwa or pwen;
Rada: nation and rite of lwa associated with West African traditions; described as “cool”
Regleman: rule, order, law; lineage tradition that defines ritual action
Repozwa: vessel In which a lwa may assume residence either temporarily or permanently
Retire mò n’anba dlo: ceremony where the soul of the dead is returned to the community of the living
Sanpwel: members of the Bizango secret society
Sevis Lwa: To Serve the Lwa. This is the more popular term, by insiders, to refer to believing/practicing Vodou. It also refers to it being an active religion, one serves the Lwa.
Sevitye: servitor; a devotee, initiated or not, of the Vodou
Sosyete: refers to the secret societies such as Bizango
Sosyete: the society of servitors in Vodou; the religious community
Syncretism: the adoption over time of the dominant culture’s norms or religious beliefs
Tanbou Petro/Fey: drums used in Petwo Ceremonies. Come in a pair.
Tanbou kon: type of peg tuned drums used in the Rada rites
Taino: tribe and nation of Native Americans who populated the island of Hispanola: as well as other Carribean Islands before the Spanish Invasion
Chaka: a sacred meal given to the Djouba Nation
Trempe: raw corn whiskey or rum steeped with aromatic and/or medicinal herbs
Veve: graphic prayer rendered in flour or other substances on an earthen floor and representing a given lwa, a group of lwa, or other intersection of power; aka seremoni;
Vodou: the predominant religion and cultural tradition of Haiti derived primarily from amalgamated African and Native American traditions
Vodouwizan: devotee of the Vodou regardless of grade
Voodoo: Americanized spelling of “Vodou”;
Wanga: spell or charm
Yanvalou: rhythm and dance associated with many Rada lwa, especially Danbala Wedo
Zanj: angels; a synonym for lwa
Zanset: yo – ancestors
Zonbi: may be a soul separated from the body or a body separated from a soul; both are made to work
Mo: The Spirit of a Dead Person
Chwal- who becomes possessed by Spirits
Nasyon- This is how the Spirits are classified and grouped together.
Badji: Altar Room
Ogatwa: Altar. Table or Space dedicated to the Spirits
Kanzo: Initiation Into Haitian Vodou
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