Mambo Racine Sans Bout leads a Vodou ceremony in the Roots Without End Society peristyle in Jacmel, Haiti.  Photo by Les Stone, Greetings in the name of God, the ancestors and the lwa! I invite you to learn Vodou service.

In any Vodou service, we have ways to create sacred space, ways to open a ceremony, ways to offer food and drink to the lwa. We don't just jump up on the altar and start calling Legba! Vodou ceremony reflects the theological sophistication of the Vodou religion.

All ceremonies begin with prayer. The Lord's Prayer, the Hail Mary and the Apostle's Creed are recited at the opening of a ceremony. Then we have a very, very special prayer, the Priere Guinea (Prayer of Africa), which is sung rather than spoken, and consists of dozens of different verses, each sung to a different tune. The Priere Guinea takes over forty-five minutes to recite, and the more accurately a Houngan or Mambo can recite the Priere, the better a reputation they gain.

It can take years to learn the entire Priere! The average non-initiate, and even many Vodou initiates, will not learn to sing the entire Priere. But anyone can learn a few verses. It's not a secret. The Priere is sung openly in all the peristyles in Haiti and anyone who attends enough Vodou services will eventually learn it.

Roots Without End Society members are initiates of Mambo Racine and have been taught how to sing as much of the Priere as possible. You can learn to sing a part of the Priere using the cassette tape recording provided in the Vodou Ceremonial Service Instructional Package, which contains verses from the Priere Guinea with written transcriptions and translations.

After the Priere has been recited, there is more work to do before you begin calling lwa! First, we create sacred space by calling people to the "border" - we sing songs for "Bode" (pronounced bo-DAY). After that come songs for La Fami ("the Family", meaning the congregation and the people who have come to watch and join in the ceremony. Then come songs for Hountor, the lwa of the drums. Next Grand Chemin ("Big Road") is saluted, and finally songs are sung for Carrefour ("Crossroads"). At least three songs are sung for each, to at least two different rhythms. But non-initiates can learn one song for each, and those songs are also included in the cassette available in the Vodou Ceremonial Service Instructional Package, along with Creole lyrics and English translations.

The vever of the lwa Ayizan
After these songs have been sung, then it is possible to invoke Legba, and all the other lwa! During the invocation to Legba, it is customary to present libations of water and rum to the lwa, and this is done in a particular way, also described in the Vodou Ceremonial Service Instructional Package.

Knowing the Vodou way of ceremonial address makes all ceremonies much more powerful, much more effective! And the person doing the ceremony is better centered, better grounded, better able to focus and direct their own energy and that of the lwa.

The principles of Vodou service are discussed on the The Vodou Forum.

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When you do a Vodou ceremony, it is always a wise idea to take a cleansing bath first. I recommend a white bath, also included in the Vodou Ceremonial Service Instructional Package. Try it and see how much more exciting and effective your ceremonies become!

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