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Observations placeholder

Ross Heaven - Vodou Bat guerre



Type of Spiritual Experience


The people themselves do not know what they have been possessed by

A description of the experience

Enduring Beyond Oppression - The Truth About Vodou - Ross Heaven

Initiation (or becoming "made") as a Houngan (Priest) or Mambo (Priestess) is a formal procedure that involves arduous ritual performances by the candidates at the ceremony of bat guerre ("the battle for the spirits"). Here - through physical exertion and mental concentration, against the hypnotic backbeat of drums, chanting, and the clashing of ceremonial machetes - the candidate is expected to become possessed by a particular loa who is then interpreted to have expressed a declared interest in and offered patronage to, that person.

The final night of the bat guerre is followed by seclusion for five nights and four days in the dark isolation of the djevo, the inner sanctum of the Vodou temple, where secret teachings are imparted. The djevo experience culminates with another public ceremony, the brule zin ("flaming pots"), where the candidate is expected to demonstrate his partnership with the loa by plunging his hand into pots of boiling oil. If the initiate can do so without harm, he is seen to be protected by the Gods. If he cannot, he may be considered to have less currency or power as a Priest.

If the initiate succeeds, he will enter the Priesthood at one of three levels: hounsi kanzo, a rank equivalent to a pastor; sur point, equivalent to a Catholic Minister; or asogwe, equal to that of a Bishop. The challenges for each rank are practical, physical and visible to the community and offer categorical proof that the candidate is accepted by the spirits, the most important judges of all.

In his new capacity, the Houngan, like any religious leader, is the authority on the nature and desires of the spirits, as well as therapist, doctor, magistrate, counsellor, and confessor to the members of his community and the people he serves.

The source of the experience

African tribal

Concepts, symbols and science items


Science Items

Activities and commonsteps