Are you interested in becoming an initiate in Vodou? Good for you! The decision to become an initiate shows good self esteem. For a complete list of all the resources available on The VODOU Page regarding initiation, click here. For information on the December 2009 Kanzo group now forming, click here. And to register online for the upcoming December 2009 Kanzo, click here.
Initiation in Vodou is empowering, cleansing, strengthening, and healing. In our house, we offer initiation in the true, orthodox Vodou. We are not Makaya, we are not Bokors, although we respect members of that branch of the tradition.
Our house, located near the cultural center of Jacmel on the south coast of Haiti is run by me, Mambo Racine Sans Bout, and assisted by Haitian Houngans and Mambos. It is a clean, well maintained peristyle with a large outdoor "tonnelle" or ceremonial area, a short distance from one of the most beautiful beaches on Haiti's south coast. Our initiates are housed at the Rendez Vous Guest House, a charming and restful place in the same compound as our peristyle, run by a Frenchwoman retired from diplomatic service. Unlike some other rural spots, the Rendez Vous boasts round-the-clock electricity, running water, and fabulous food!
I work in Haiti because initiation ceremonies can not be performed correctly in the United States, due to the fresh herbs and other elements required, and due to other ceremonial regulations which are secrets of the initiatory djevo and therefore can not be revealed here. I invite qualified Haitian Houngans and Mambos to assist because an initiation is never done by one person alone.
When you kanzo at our house, you become a child of our house, a member of the family. I become your "mother" in Vodou, and I owe you full protection, as a parent owes a child. Houngan Wolmer assists me in the capacity of papa kanzo, and he becomes your "father". We are responsible for your growth and development. Likewise, you owe your spiritual parents respect, obedience, and care in return.
In our house as in multitudes of other Vodou congregations, there are three degrees of initiation and ordination. All are equally open to men and women. The first degree of initiation, kanzo, defines the initiate as a member of our spiritual lineage, a person of our house. The kanzo ceremony itself confers good health, good fortune, and protection from spiritual attacks. A person who has had the kanzo ceremony is called hounsi kanzo.
The next two grades are those of junior and senior priest and priestess. In all cases, a male priest is a Houngan, a priestess is a Mambo.
The second degree of initiation, sur point, includes all the ceremonies of the kanzo, plus additional work placing the initiate on the "point" or patronage of a particular lwa. Individuals who are sur point may use the asson, the sacred rattle emblematic of priesthood, but they can not confer the asson on another initiate. Men with this grade are called Houngan sur point, while women are referred to as Mambo sur point.
By becoming Houngan or Mambo sur point, you assume the responsibilities of a junior priest or priestess. You develop your spiritual and magical skills, including herbal magic, lucid dreaming, spell-casting, and the invocation of lwa.
Many Americans interested in spirituality and magic already have some experience of spells, Tarot reading, and so on, so the grade of sur point is often appropriate for them.
The third and highest degree of initiation, asogwe, confers possession of the asson, and all of the mysteries and secret knowledge of the priesthood. When we bestow upon you the rank of Houngan or Mambo asogwe, you will have become a well-trained, well-instructed exponent of a spiritual tradition older than written history. You will have the asson, and you will have all of the necessary training to be recognized as Houngan or Mambo asogwe anywhere in Haiti, and in any Vodou congregation anywhere in the world.
Because Houngans and Mambos have no central "diocese" paying salaries, we are paid for services. Money in Vodou is spent by Houngans and Mambos to organize ceremonies, pay drummers, and so on; and also to send sick congregation members to the doctor. Money is earned by Houngans and Mambos for performing ceremonies on request, for doing magic spells called wanga, and for initiating and ordaining new hounsis kanzo, new Houngans and Mambos sur point, and new Houngans and Mambos asogwe. For example, in Port-au-Prince in 1995, the average, generally accepted fee for asogwe services was 15,000 Haitian gourdes, roughly $1,000 U.S. The fee is now considerably higher, but it is worth remembering that groups of people are initiated together to reduce the cost per person. It is rare, though not unheard of, for one single individual to be initiated alone, and of course the cost is bound to be somewhat higher in that case.
At our house, our fees are the same for everyone, and they are as follows, in U.S. dollars:
Hounsi kanzo - $1,800
Sur point - $2,800
Asogwe - $3,800
These costs DO include your food and hotel stay for two weeks, your transportation to and from the airport and to other group activities, and ceremonial objects purchased prior to your arrival.
You have discretion in choosing your grade, just like every initiation candidate in Haiti. Many people achieve their grades sequentially - for example, you might first become sur point, and then after a year or two of study, attain the rank of asogwe. Others, however, become asogwe the first time out. It all depends on what is right for you. What you can not choose is your lwa met tet, the lwa who, after God, is the "master of your head". That lwa has been with you since birth, and is determined either through divination or by possession.
If you would like to register now and hold your place for the December 2009 Kanzo, you can use the button below. Once you have completed registration, you will arrive at another page requesting your postal address, so that you can begin to receive instructional materials.
Or you can email me, Mambo Racine, for instructions on paying by mail or Western Union.
If you decide to be initiated, you must also provide yourself with white clothes for your ceremonies, and a few other items such as sequins and colored feathers to make ceremonial objects. The minimum time you must be prepared to spend in Haiti is two weeks, but you will have to follow certain dietary and other regulations at home, for a total of forty-one days. All of the details will be explained to you before you come to Haiti. For a list of the specific clothes and other items required, see What Will I Need For My Kanzo?.
Other services are also provided by Houngans and Mambos. These do not require the time committment of initiation, or they can be preliminary to initiation as you learn more about the religion. These services include the lave tet ceremony, a ritual head-washing with herbal substances which clarifies and illuminates consciousness, facilitates contact with the lwa, and removes negative influences. People who have the lave tet ceremony very often feel that they have been "set free", liberated from old and unproductive ways of thinking and doing. Those who practice meditation notice improvement as well. The next lave tet ceremony offered by the Roots Without End Society will be held in August 2009 in western Massachusetts.
Another ceremony frequently requested is the garde, a ceremony which places the person under the protection of a particular lwa. While this ceremony does not protect a person from obviously dangerous acts like walking in front of a moving truck, it does confer immunity to spiritual, psychological and emotional attacks. People who obtain the garde often feel strengthened and empowered.
Most people obtain the lave tet and garde at the same time, unless they are going to proceed directly to initiation. In that case, the lave tet becomes part of the initiation cycle.
Some individuals come to us with specific problems - they need a job, they would like to attract a spouse or a lover, they are under attack by a specific person and want to turn the tables, they would like to attain some other specific objective. In such cases, we perform specific rituals called wanga or pwen, directed at a particular goal. People who commission a wanga are often surprised to find their objectives realized in unexpected ways, and their enemies dispersed harmlessly and even happily!
These services are available as follows:
Lave tet - $450
Garde - $200
Lave tet and garde together - $500
Wanga - $100-$200, depending on complexity.
When you go to the house of a Houngan or Mambo and pay for services, some Houngans and Mambos also expect you to provide the "raw materials", the items required to make the lave tet, the garde ceremony, or a wanga. At our house, we do not do this. The cost of materials is included in the price of these ceremonies. Also, these ceremonies are not usually performed in groups, and so are available at any time.
Lastly, we offer the maryaj lwa service. Some people marry lwa! The benefits of this service are the protection, nurturance, and special help of the chosen lwa. The service is carried out according to Roman Catholic ritual by specialists called pere savanne, who recite the wedding ceremony. The lwa is called into the head of a suitable person, of the same sex as the lwa. The human spouse provides a wedding ring, and their own wedding clothes in the ceremonial colors of the chosen lwa. Following the ceremony, a reception is held which includes a Vodou dance in honor of the chosen lwa. The human spouse must observe sexual abstinence on the one night of the week sacred to that lwa.
Maryaj lwa - $750
We do not bluff our candidates and clients. We know that some Houngans and Mambos, including some internationally known personalities, take advantage of the inexperience of foreigners and overcharge them on the one hand while performing bogus, inaccurate ceremonies on the other hand. We do NOT do this in our house. We believe that the lwa choose people, and therefore if we were to deceive someone the lwa sends to us, the lwa would punish us!
What we do for each initiate and each person coming for services, we do correctly, in the authentic way prescribed by the Vodou tradition. What we do for you, we have already done for many others in just the same way - we are not going to promise you one thing and give you another. Many people, even some Houngans and Mambos, underestimate the Vodou, but at our house we know that the Vodou is big enough for everyone who wants to come inside.
For more information, please email Mambo
Racine Sans Bout, and include the words "Vodou Initiation" in the header. And for
information on the Roots Without End Society calendar of activities for the coming year, click here. Thank you!
Return to The VODOU Page.