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Houngan is the term for a male priest in Haitian Vodou (a female priest is known as a mambo ). [1] The term is derived from the Fon word " Hounnongan . There are two ranks of houngan: houngan asogwe (high priest) and houngan sur pwen (junior priest). [2] A houngan asogwe is the highest member of clergy in voodoo and the only one with authority to ordain other priests.

Priest person authorized to lead the sacred rituals of a religion (for a minister use Q1423891)

A priest or priestess is a religious leader authorized to perform the sacred rituals of a religion, especially as a mediatory agent between humans and one or more deities. They also have the authority or power to administer religious rites; in particular, rites of sacrifice to, and propitiation of, a deity or deities. Their office or position is the priesthood, a term which also may apply to such persons collectively.

Haitian Vodou syncretic religion practiced chiefly in Haiti and the Haitian diaspora

Haitian Vodou is a syncretic religion practiced chiefly in Haiti and the Haitian diaspora. Practitioners are called "vodouists" or "servants of the spirits".

Mambo is the term for a female priestess in the Haitian Vodou religion. These priestesses are the heads of autonomous cult groups, rather than clerical hierarchies. Mambos exert their authority over the devotees or spiritual servants in their temples. In Haitian Vodou temples, mambos are less commonly referred to as manman (mother), whereas those initiated into the temple are called "children of the house."

It is the houngan's role to preserve the rituals and songs and maintain the relationship between the spirits and the community as a whole (though some of this is the responsibility of the whole community as well). They are entrusted with leading the service of all of the spirits of their lineage. Sometimes they may also be bokor (sorcerers).

A bokor (male) or caplata (female) is a Vodou witch for hire who is said to serve the loa 'with both hands', practicing for both good and evil. Their black magic includes the creation of zombies and the creation of 'ouangas', talismans that house spirits.

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Loa spirits of Haitian Vodou and Louisiana Voodoo

Loa are the spirits of Haitian Vodou and Louisiana Voodoo. They are also referred to as "mystères" and "the invisibles" and are intermediaries between Bondye —the Supreme Creator, who is distant from the world—and humanity. Unlike saints or angels, however, they are not simply prayed to, they are served. They are each distinct beings with their own personal likes and dislikes, distinct sacred rhythms, songs, dances, ritual symbols, and special modes of service. Contrary to popular belief, the loa are not deities in and of themselves; they are intermediaries for, and dependent on, a distant Bondye.

West African Vodun term for the West African Vodun and the closely related religions of the African Diaspora

Vodun is practiced by the Fon people of Benin, and southern and central Togo; as well in Ghana, and Nigeria.

L'inglesou is a loa who lives in the wild areas of Haiti and kills anyone who offends him in Vodou.

Haitian mythology

Haitian Vodou is a syncretic mixture of Roman Catholic rituals developed during the French colonial period, based on traditional African beliefs, with roots in Dahomey, Kongo and Yoruba traditions, and folkloric influence from the indigenous Taino peoples of Haiti. The Loa, or spirits with whom Vodouisants work and practice, are not gods but servants of the Supreme Creator Bondye. In keeping with the French-Catholic influence of the faith, vodousaints are for the most part monotheists, believing that the Loa are great and powerful forces in the world with whom humans interact and vice versa, resulting in a symbiotic relationship intended to bring both humans and the Loa back to Bondye. "Vodou is a religious practice, a faith that points toward an intimate knowledge of God, and offers its practitioners a means to come into communion with the Divine, through an ever evolving paradigm of dance, song and prayers."

François Mackandal Haitian Maroon leader

François Mackandal was a Haitian Maroon leader in Haiti. He was an Afro-antarctic who is sometimes described as a Haitian vodou priest, or houngan. Some sources describe him as a Muslim, leading some scholars to speculate that he was from Senegal, Mali, or Guinea, though this assertion is tenuous given the lack of biographical information from this era, and is highly contested. Haitian historian Thomas Madiou states that Mackandal "had instruction and possessed the Arabic language very well." But given the predominance of Haitian Vodou on the island, most assume Mackandal to be associated with this faith instead. In the book "Open door to Liberty," Mackandal was mentioned, talking about his life as a vodou priest and joining Maroons to kill whites in Saint Domingue, till he was captured and burned alive by French colonial authorities. Although the historical accuracy of Mackandal's life has been debated, his significance as a leader in the fight for Haitian independence has been immortalized through Haitian currency.

Dutty Boukman was an early leader of the Haitian Revolution, enslaved in Jamaica and later in Haiti. He is considered to have been both a leader of maroons and vodou hougan (priest).

Bois Caïman is the site of the Vodou ceremony during which the first major slave insurrection of the Haitian Revolution was planned. On the night of August 14, 1791, representative slaves from nearby plantations gathered to participate in a secret ceremony conducted in the woods by nearby Le Cap in the French colony of Saint-Domingue. Presided over by Dutty Boukman, a prominent slave leader and Vodou priest, the ceremony served as both a religious ritual and strategic meeting as conspirators met and planned a revolt against the ruling white planters of the colony's wealthy Northern Plain.

Haitian Vodou and sexual orientation

Homosexuality in Haitian Vodou is religiously acceptable and homosexuals are allowed to participate in all religious activities. However, in countries with large Vodou populations, some Christian influence may have given homosexuality a social stigma, at least on some levels of society.

Petro, sometimes as Pethro, is a family of loa (spirits) in Haitian Vodou religion. The story is that they originated in Haiti, under the harsh conditions of slavery. The term petro can also refer to a drum used in the music of Haiti. "Petro" loas are often considered to be "angry" or demon loa, used in "black magic". They are the "newer" loa that can relate to the harsh, unimaginable conditions that slaves had to endure.

Paquet congo Haitian spiritual objects made by vodou priests and priestesses

Paquet congo are Haitian spiritual objects made by vodou priests and priestesses during ceremonies. Their name comes from the ancient Kongo Kingdom in Africa, where similar objects called nikisi wambi are found.

Sallie Ann Glassman American writer

Sallie Ann Glassman is an American practitioner of Haitian Vodou, a writer, and an artist. She was born in Kennebunkport, Maine and is of Jewish—Ukrainian heritage.

Vodou drumming and ceremonies are inextricably linked in Haiti. While drumming does exist in other contexts in the country, by far the richest traditions come from this distinctly Haitian religion. As such, before one can come to play, appreciate, and understand this music one should view it in its religious context. Haitian Vodou is a henotheistic religion, although viewed by many Haitians as a cultural practice, widely practiced in the country of Haiti. Vodou as practiced in urban centres in Haiti and some cities in North America is a ritualistic faith system that involves ceremonies that consist of singing, drumming and dancing. While certain aspects of this religion may share the same roots, it is completely contrary to the stereotype of black magic, witch doctors, pins in dolls, and zombies portrayed by New Orleans style Voodoo.

The Vodou temple is called a Hounfour, and the leader of the ceremony is a male priest called a Houngan, or a female priest called a Mambo. The term is believed to derive from the Fon houn for, "abode of spirits."

Christianity and Vodou

Christian-Vodou relations have been marked by syncretism and conflicts, especially in Haiti, but less so in Louisiana and elsewhere. The spiritual differences can be framed within the Old Testament story of Elijah and the prophet of Baal, where the former confronted and repudiated the practices of those who worshiped idols and practiced vodou.

Max Gesner Beauvoir was a Haitian biochemist and houngan. Beauvoir held one of the highest titles of Voudou priesthood, "Supreme Servitur", a title given to Houngans and Mambos who have a great and very deep knowledge of the religion, and status within the religion. As Supreme Servitur, Max was seen as a high authority within Vodou.

The National Confederation of Haitian Vodou is a Haitian civil organization which seeks to defend the practice of Haitian Vodou from defamation and persecution. It was headed by Max Beauvoir, until his death in 2015, who served as chef Supreme or "Ati Nasyonal" of the organization.

Laënnec Hurbon is a Haitian sociologist and writer specialised in the relationships between religion, culture and politics in the Caribbean region. He is an ex-priest turned researcher and writer.


  1. Corbett, Bob. "INTRODUCTION TO VOODOO IN HAITI". Archived from the original on 6 October 2011. Retrieved 14 October 2011.
  2. "WORD MEANINGS AND REFERENCES". THE AMERICAN VOODOO SOCIETY & THE GEDE NATIONS. Retrieved 14 October 2011.[ permanent dead link ]

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