Voudoun Glossary

Ahougan - (Father of the House) a male High Priest of the Vodou

Ainsi soit-il - "So be it"

Asson - A sacred ceremonial rattle owned by the Houngans and Mambos. It is made from a gourd decorated with beads and snake bones. The Asson represents the Chief Loa, Damballah, and the sound mimics the serpent language of Damballa. It is used in ritual to call the Loas.

Azzizas - Forest Spirits

Bochio - Dahomen, carved wooden images

Buji - To memorize; to preserve, maintain

Caplatas - A Vodoun High Priest/ess who practices black magick

Collier - a ritual necklace given to a person in token of initiation.

Danh-hwe - Literally, a "serpent house;" a shelter for the sacred pythons and a center for their cult in Dahomey.

gris-gris - A voodoo charm, spell or hex used to cause certain events to occur, also used for protection from evil or to ensure good luck.

Hoodoo - a type of American folk magick, which is drawn from Voodoo practices, Appalachian folk magic, and similiar traditions.

Horse -A Loa, possessing a person, is said sometimes to "ride" the person's head. The person is thus regarded as the "horse"

Hounfor - the inner sanctuary or altar-room of a site where the religion of Voudoun is practiced

Hounsi - An accepted devotee at a hounfor. Those not fully trained, and thus charged with the more mundane duties, are termed "hounsis bossale" (bossale; wild, uncultivated). The fully trained endergo the severe "canzo" initiation, and thus become "hounsis canzo." The training involves every aspect of the service of the Loa.

Fetish (fetiche) - spirit

Hounon (Houngan) - Fon word meaning "Mother of the Ship." A title ascribed to a male High Priest of the Vodou.

Juju - a charm believed to embody magical powers

Lambi - A conch-shell. Used as a musical horn, a large conch-shell gives a distinctive sound in ceremonies dedicated to Agwe.

La Place - Commandant-general de la Place. This title of the Master of Ceremonies who is also the sabre-bearer in Voudoun ceremonies.

Legba - A great solar and phallic deity (Legba or Alegba) of Dahomey. He is the powerful Guardian of the Centerpost, and the "Opener of the Gates" to whom first salutation is due in any ceremony of communication with the Loa.

Loa - A Voudoun diety

Lwas - evolved spirits of the dead.

Mamaissii - (Queen of the Waters and Divination) the oldest priesthood of mostly women in West Africa. Its origins date back to the "Cult of  "Isis" in ancient Kemet (Egypt). It is inherited matrilineally from the mother, but sometimes can be from a father of the maternal bloodline. A Mamaissii has dominion over all the divinities that inhabit all bodies of waters, which is also the means by which they heal others.

Mambo - An initiated High Priestess of Vodoun

Mange Loa - A feeding of the Loa.

Mange sec - (A dry feeding) An offering of various foods without animal sacrifice to the Loa, during a minor ceremony.

Monter la Tete - "To mount the head." An expression in Voudoun for the act of possession by a Loa.

Ogan-Sig-Wedo - The Loa of the ogan.

Orientation - One of the typical procedures during a ceremony, when preparing an article for ritual use, or a victim for sacrifice. The article, whatever it may be, is lifted and swung to each of the cardinal points in turn.

Peristyle - an open sided temple with several entrances, used for most public ceremonies.

Petro - The second generation of Loa that formed primarily in Haiti.

Possession - The characteristic form of manifestation of the Loa in Voudoun.

Poteau-Legba (Poteau-mitan) - The center-post of the peristyle. A sacred symbol of Legba.

Rada - The Loa which originate from Dahomey (the home of Voudou) Rada stands for light and the normal affairs of humanity. They are considered much gentler than the harsh Petro Loa.

Societe - The association of devotees who support a hounfor.

Ve - the actual word used to describe the original so-called "Voodoo doll".

Vodoun sin sen: Vodou worshiper (now called Sentura in Ewe)

Von: The Earth from which we come

Vou: meaning "small" or referring to a young child

Voudide: an enfant

Vodoun-non: Head Priest

Vudu - (to draw water) Ewe spelling which denotes the entire process of the cycle of birth, life ,death and rebirth, and all that this encompasses in the life of an initiate.

Yanvalou - A favorite Voudoun dance; the name means "supplication." The dance is characterized by the hands being placed on knees or thighs, and has several main variations: Yanvalou debut (upright), Yanvalou dos bas (crouching), Yanvalou z'epaules (a shoulder dance) and so forth.

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