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Temples and Rituals

At the very core of vodou is the belief in lwa, spirits who exert an influence upon all spheres of everyday life and upon the fate of people. Through the lwa, humans can gain contact with God. The lwa pantheon includes African gods and Catholic saints; they exist side by side with spirits whose history reaches back to the original Native American inhabitants of Haiti, the Taino.

The lwa are usually worshipped in a vodou temple, the ounfò, which is headed by a priest (houngan) or priestess (mambo). Houngan and mambo preside over the rituals and initiate the vodou practitioners.

The rituals are held in a large room, the péristyle. The spirits "enter" the temple by descending on a pole, the poteau mitan, which is located in the centre of the péristyle. The spirits take possession of some participants, whom they have chosen beforehand. The person possessed "serves the lwa", who has thus entered his or her body. In vodou there is no separation between body and soul. Rhythm, music, song, and dance are important elements of the rituals.

Located in the adjacent building is the altar room with the attributes of the lwa. The altars are laden with a multitude of sacred objects, such as containers of the most varied types as well as offerings of food and drink. Making offerings is an important component of serving the lwa.

(Text at the exhibition in Berlin)


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