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Vodun F.A.Q. Various Practices

What do I do if I can’t afford offerings to the Orishas?

Vodun is not and never has been a rich person’s faith.  It is about the effort, sincerity, and alignment with the Forces of Nature, not how expensive a gift is.  Remember the story of Yemaya’s three crowns.

For your normal observances, if you do what you can afford, the Spirits will accept this.  Just don’t be cheap with them if you really can afford to do more.

What priests charge for their services is due to the expense, time, and risks involved with doing things at an optimal level with maximum efficiency.  If you can’t afford this, then there are often other ways to get the job done.  They will just be less efficient and require more effort, time, and risk on your part than they would if you put the issue into the hands of a priest.

Some things simply cannot be done by someone who has not spent a sufficient amount of time studying and preparing themselves for the kind of work that needs to be done.  Things that would require the use of psychoactive plants to get into a particular trance state, for instance, should only be done by experts.  Same with other things that can lead to injury of the body or psyche.  A layperson attempting some things can die or permanently injure themselves.

Other things though, can be done relatively safely with the proper preparation and instruction.  The question of course is whether or not you are ready to do what it takes.

There was a young man who was wrongly convicted of a crime, whose sister studied law in order to save her brother.  If you have the level of dedication to go through all it takes to prepare yourself to do a working, then you can do it.

Please refer to this article for ways a non priest can make their workings more effective.

What is a House (Ile)?

In the context of Vodun diaspora systems, a house is basically a community or subgroup of the community.  It may be a local community or an international collection of people united with a particular leader or style.  Some have strict hierarchies and delegations of duties, while others are more like a coven without a serious hierarchy.  Others still are the altar mates of a priest/ess who seldom or never meet each other, but by supporting a particular priest/ess or temple, support each other.

The main difference between a Vodun house and some other communities is that because of the nature of the faiths, there is a high degree of both honesty and forgiveness.  When someone makes a mistake, there is serious effort to solve the problem despite whoever’s pride, whether that person is a leader in the community or not.  The newest member or even non committed participant with no particular duty is of the same importance to the Orishas as the highest ranking one.  If they have been wronged, then it is important to make things right, and once they are right, they are right.  Period.

So members of a house may know one anothers’ greatest strengths and weaknesses, and yet still love and support them.  One of the reasons for this is that we understand that a person is not only accountable to other humans, but to the Spirits.  We have faith in the Spirits because they are not distant from us, and we have evidence of their power in our lives every day.  So when someone is doing something wrong, once they are aware that they have offended an Orisha or other Spirit, that is enough for them to want to correct their mistakes on their own.  The humans, if they are involved at all in that, are merely messengers.

The humans do not need or feel the need to punish people in their house for wrongdoing below the level of actual crimes, and sometimes not even then.  The Spirits take care of that, and they do really take care of that.

So house members have a high degree of loyalty to one another without the threat of explusion in most cases.  There are more ego driven houses, and some of them are very large, but generally, this is how a house works.  We work with Nature instead of against her, and this includes human nature.

What is a mirror box?

Mirror BoxIn modern Vodun and diaspora systems, a mirror box has a variety of uses.  Basically, it is a box that has mirrors on the inside.  The purposes of these depend on why they are there.

Mirrors, aside of being sacred to Oshun, and to some degree Boyuto, capture and reflect a person’s image.  This captures and reflects Ashe in some cases, or aspects of a person’s Ori in others.  It can also shield or amplify, as the mirror itself has its own Ashe and natural characteristics.  Much like crystals, they can be given a purpose depending on their natural options.

Inside a box, it can shield the outside world from the box’s contents by reflecting the energy of the object inside back to itself.  It can capture a person’s image while making a request or prayer in order to “program” objects such as crystals or nkisi.  It can aid in imprinting a talisman housed in a box onto its possessor.  It can also help to amplify the power of an object.

Mirrors in a mirror box are numbered and arranged according to their purpose for being there.  Their shape is also relevant.  Square or diamond shaped mirrors are generally used for protection, containment, and sometimes “hexing” when a curse is for justice or preventing someone from doing harmful things.  Round mirrors are generally used for love and emotional issues, and also for radiating energy.  Triangular mirrors or mirrors arranged in a triangular pattern are often used for fertility, charisma, and worldly power.  Different people may have different ways of doing things, but these are generally the standard.

What is a ndoki?

Ndoki is the Lingala word for magic, but in other languages it also means Spirit or mystical being.  Lately, in places that have adopted a eurocentric style of Christianity, it is being used for demons.

In the eurocentric Christianity, any Spirit or mystical/extradimensional/alterdimensional being that is not God, an Angel, or human is considered a demon, and this is quite unfortunate.  For this reason, many children who are mentally challenged, ill, or simply independent thinkers have been accused of demonic possession and put through physically and emotionally damaging exorcisms.  I myself endured such a session of madness when I was 11 years old.

Most eurocentric Christians have the notion that they somehow operate outside the rules of Nature spiritually if not physically.  Indeed the Spirits can protect us and intervene on our behalf if we don’t get in their way or if we honor them, but this is within Nature, not outside of it.  The Spirits are part of Nature.

However, Nature does not play favorites and the innocent do suffer because of the actions of the guilty.  If a parent or leader of a community or nation commits a grave injustice or has offended Nature and God in some way, it is their children or followers who may pay the price.  Children are generally more sensitive to the Spirits because they are fresher from the Ancestors and do not have the same prejudices and hardness that adults generally do.

When a Ndoki speaks to or through a child, it is usually to warn people of some danger or to reveal some dark secret or because the parents have in a way sacrificed the child for something.  At some times though, it is the antics of a particular “evil” or punisher Spirit.  In many cases inthe Christian community it is that the parents have sacrificed the child to Balzvuv (Beelzebub).

Balzvuv is the Hebrew name for a demon whose specialty is creating chaos and conflict.  He could be viewed in some senses as an Angel (or fallen Angel if you subscribe to the biblical version of how demons came to be demons) who carries out an Eshu like punishment for human hubris.  His tactic is to pretend to be God and convince people to do bad things.  If the parents fall for the deception or follow someone who is serving Balzvuv, then their children are often plagued by his legions.

On the other hand, the children who are more spiritually strong and gifted will battle against these forces and attempt to warn or save the parents and community.  Their suffering and struggles are often misinterpreted, and the parents or community leaders who are afraid of being outed as servants of Balzvuv or at least hypocrites if they are still unaware of who exactly they are serving, will attempt to remove the child’s guardians or break down their resistance.

I would venture that the vast majority of supposed exorcisms on children of eurocentric Christians are simply attempts to bring the children under the influence of Balzvuv.  The childrens’ purity of spirituality is threatening to them, so they try to force the child to accept the christ that is not Christ and the god who is not God.  In many cases though, it is just a show to make Balzvuv playing the fake god look more powerful.  He and his legions create problems and solve them to fight boredom and complaicancy and convince the deceived that they must be right.

Getting back to Vodun and diaspora systems, ndoki can also be a term for Spirits or alter/extradimensional persons with specific duties or places.  They may be guardians or friends.  A ndoki may live in or be attached to a particular tree or stone or person.

In some traditions, they may be dispatched to punish or curse someone.  In such cases, the target has done something wrong, and the ceremony is to essentially give spiritual permission for the ndoki to attack them.  Steps must be followed to give them clearance.

I cannot reveal how to do this, as this is something that only adepts and the initiated should do or know how to do.  Just understand two things: if a child is attacked, it is because of the sins of the parents or leaders, and if an adult is attacked, it is because they did something to deserve it.

If you are being attacked by a ndoki, then the way out is to make amends for whatever it is that you did wrong.  If it is impossible because the person you wronged is dead or out of your reach for some reason, then you have to consult someone who will petition the Spirits on your behalf.  You cannot do this yourself.  Someone has to hear you confess your crimes and work with you to free you.

Perspectives on Ndoki

Ndoki Malo
An article in which the author explains nuclear disasters as the result of the stupidity of humans in bringing radioactive minerals above ground, thus releasing the deadly Ndoki embodied in them.

A West African/ Christian Fundamentalist syncretist religion in the UK
An article about how the belief that Ndoki are demons or causing demonic possessions leads people to torture and kill children in the name of the god that is not God.

Why are many Hoodoo practitioners now calling Orishas?

In the past decade or so, many people who practice Hoodoo are turning to the Orishas.  Before, the connection to the actual African, European, and Native American deities was usually either unspoken or overridden.

The reasons why they are now spoken and embraced is because more people now understand that there is no real conflict between the Spirits and Christianity.   Those who believe in the Omnipotent Unfathomable Creator worship the same God who Jesus did.  Also, more people are embracing their freedom of religion where they have it, and getting back to their roots.

Many though, are still comfortable with the Christian style of Hoodoo.  They don’t feel any particular call to a more African flavor of spirituality, and this is fine for them.  It is no less relevant or powerful, nor does it mean that someone has problems with other paths.  They simply prefer to do things the way they have done them all their lives, and not to change things up or abandon what have become solid and legitimate traditions.

So if you are one of the more biblically centered types, don’t feel pressure to do things another way if what you’re doing is working for you.  This is not a popularity contest.

Why do Vodun practitioners wear headwraps?

Vodun practitioners wear headwraps for various reasons.  In everyday life, it is a matter of preference.  Some do and some don’t.  In ceremonial situations, a headwrap is part of the costume of some Orishas or part of formal African clothing.

Generally, male Orishas manifesting through human bodies or in human form wear a sort of bandana reminiscent of a “do-rag”, and female Orishas, a more formal “up-do” type of wrap.  Eshu often likes a red wrap under a straw hat, and dancers for Ogun may wear a lavender or wisteria purple bandana tied in the back.  Oshun dancers and adherents often like to wear somewhat stiff, elaborate wraps reminiscent of a giant flower, while Oya dancers may wear one with beads or a veil draped over the eyes or entire face.  Some Oya folks even like to wear a turban like wrap if they are warrior types.  Some with a special affinity for Oba or Yemaya like to wear a wrap that is similar to a khimar or shayla, but this is rare since such styles have become too deeply associated with the Muslim hijab.  So instead, some who want to make sure nobody mistakes them for Muslim, wear it draped behind the neck instead of in front.

In everyday life, some practitioners of Vodun and related faiths like to wear a white headwrap, especially if they have matted or twisted locks similar to dreadlocks.  For some, only people initiated into their group are permitted to see their hair.

Basically, customs vary. 

1997 Sis. Nicole Lasher and respective guest authors.

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