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7988: Marrying a Lwa (or Two) in Haitian Vodou (fwd)
Marrying a Lwa (or Two) in Haitian Vodou
In Vodou we do not perform marriage rites between two people (although there
is now a move on to do exactly that on order to provide this service to
Vodouisants, who presently have to content ourselves with a civil ceremony or
else be berated by Catholic priests for a while before we can have a
religious ceremony). Vodou marriages take place between a person and a lwa.
This is a contract, just like a marriage between two people, but in Vodou the
marriage is for life, there is no possibility of divorce - at least I have
never heard of such a thing. The human is required to abstain from sex and
sleep with the lwa one or even two nights a week. They usually have a
special bed made up in the colors of the lwa, and as a rule expect to have
erotic dreams about that lwa on those nights. If they have a human spouse or
domestic partner, that person can not sleep in the same bed with them. In
Haiti, where families are usually very poor, they often have only one bed and
thus the human partner is obliged to go sleep on the floor with the children,
which can lead to some bad feelings.
The lwa in turn is required to give the human partner protection, money, and
good luck; to help the human partner in every way that an ordinary spouse is
expected to do.
Either a person or a lwa may decide to request a marriage, and lwa can be
very insistant that such-and-such a person must become their spouse. Because
of the required sexual abstinence and the required greater level of service,
many human partners are unwilling to be the object of the lwa's attention and
use all sorts of strategies to evade or delay the marriage.
Some men who believe themselves to be destined for marriage to Erzulie Freda
or Erzulie Dantor will make certain to do this before they marry a human
spouse so that the lwa has priority, she was "there first".
If a person already has a human partner, they usually discuss a marriage to a
lwa with their human partner before going ahead. However since women are
extremely disempowered in Haitian culture, it is much harder for a woman to
prevent her man from marrying a lwa than it is for a man to forbid his woman
to do so.
A maryaj lwa (marriage to a lwa) is performed just like a marriage ceremony
between two people, according to Roman Catholic ritual. Sometimes a Houngan
or Mambo officiates, sometimes a "pere savanne", an individual who can read
and who therefore can conduct Roman Catholic ceremonies by reading from the
prayer book although he is not a priest. The lwa is called to appear through
possession, and responds to the questions at the appropriate times just as a
person would. The human partner also receives a "marriage certificate"
written on a sort of official paper sold by Haitian government bureaus and
intended for use in writing contracts and depositions of all sorts. Both the
human partner and the lwa in the head of the possessed person sign the
contract, as do two witnesses.
Following the marraige, the human partner and the lwa have some time alone,
but NO sexual union takes place! This is supposed to happen in dreams, and
no one is permitted to take advantage of the possessed person by using their
body, neither is the possessed person allowed to demand sexual relations from
the human partner. Some Houngans, including one very well known Houngan,
will do this, but that is a scam, it constitutes sexual abuse.
Now, who marries who? Men can marry male lwa and women can marry female lwa,
but in some houses this is rejected. In the house where I took my first
asson, only heterosexual unions were permitted and the lwa had to come into
the head of a person of the appropriate gender. That is to say, a man might
marry Erzulie Freda, and Freda would be required to come into the head of a
woman. This prevented people from being placed in an awkward position if
they would feel uncomfortable pledging their troth to a lwa in the head of a
person of the same sex as themselves.
In other houses these restrictions do not apply, and men may marry male lwa,
women may marry female lwa, and the lwa may appear in the head of a person of
Women most frequently marry Ogoun, because of the power and protection he
offers. Some women also marry Erzulie Freda or Erzulie Dantor, or both!
Women may marry Met Agwe Tawoyo, Baron, Azaka, whomever they wish, or
whichever lwa chooses them.
Men most often marry Erzulie Freda or Erzulie Dantor, and less frequently
marry male lwa.
Some people marry both Freda and Dantor. I know people who have been told
that Freda and Dantor are sisters! Nothing could be further from the truth -
Freda and Dantor are enemies, they steal initiates from each other, they are
wildly jealous of each other, and the individual who marries both is going to
have his or her hands full, since any service to one must be complemented by
equal service to the other.
In any case, a marraige between a human and a lwa is intended to provide
mutual benefits. It is not intended, and should not be used, to torment or
punish a human spouse.
Peace and love,
Bon Mambo Racine Sans Bout Sa Te La Daginen
"Se bon ki ra" - Good is rare
The VODOU Page - http://members.aol.com/racine125/index.html