During the day Port-au-Prince remains a bustling and
chaotic city, after sunset it changes.
By 9.00 P.M. in virtually all districts
of the city, the crowds disappear and the streets become deserted while beating
drum can be heard pounding out the magic and mystery of Haiti. This is the time
to retreat to your hotel room and lock the door.
Carnival is surely the most distinctive event of these islands. Celebratory
dancing to the overwhelming rhythms of samba, reggae, rumba, and calypso
inundates every street corner.
The people are adorned in masks and wildly
imaginative and colorful costumes of this country.
Omnipresent is the mystique of Haitian Voodoo spelled Vudou in the native Creole
French and Vudu in French-French. Vudou is not a folk show or a tourist
attraction. Vudou is the religion of Haiti, practiced by the 90% of the
population. Vudou has ancient origins in African animist belief based on spirit
worship and form the basis of cultural and religious heritage of Haiti. It
arrived in Haiti with slaves brought from the West African shores of Benin and
While the Catholic Church tolerates Vudou rites in Haiti to this day, the
principal belief in Haitian Vudou is that deities called Lwa (also Loa or L'wha),
are subordinates to a god called Bondye. This Supreme Being does not intercede
in human affairs. But it is to the Lwa that Vudou worship is directed. Other
characteristics of Vudou include veneration of the dead, protection against evil
Haitian Vodou shares many similarities with other faiths of the African diaspora
including the Voodoo of New Orleans; Santeria and Arara of Cuba; and Candomble
and Umbanda of Brazil. Haitian creole forms of Vudou exist in the Dominican
Republic, eastern Cuba, some of the outer islands of the Bahamas, the United
States, and everywhere in the Haitian migration.
Liturgy and practice
A Haitian Vudou Temple is called a Hounfour. After a day or two of preparation,
setting up altars, ritually preparing and cooking fowl and other foods, a
Haitian Vudou service begins with a series of prayers and songs in Creole French.
Then a litany in Kreyòl and African "langaj" reciting European and African
saints and lwa honored by the creed is followed by a series of verses for the
main spirits to be revered. As the songs are sung, participants believe that
spirits visit the ceremony, taking possession of individuals and speaking and
acting through them.
During the rites, each spirit is saluted and greeted by the initiates who give
readings, advice, and cures to those who ask for help. At the climax of the
ceremony, with a roll of drums, dances and songs, comes the possession. The
guardian spirit takes hold of the faithful leading them into a trance. Their
personalities are completely abandoned as the guardian spirit possesses them
with his voice, his movements, in order to live through the faithful, and to
communicate with the celebrants. Hours later, as morning dawns, the last songs
are sung, the flock departs, and the exhausted hounsis, houngans, and manbos can
go to sleep.