Masterly Vodou Medicine

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Masterly Vodou Medicine
& the Spiritual Structure of Man

Masterly Vodou Medicine

This is the uppermost level of the Haitian People’s Holistic Medical System. Intrinsically niched in the Vodoun culture, world view and religion which are products of this people’s history, its operations include both the Phytotherapeutic social and medical systems. However, in linking the individual to his/her global social and cosmological environment, this form of medicine goes beyond.

Addressing health through a complex assemblage of individual spiritual entities which by convenience can be lumped and named "Soul" ("Nanm") and their dynamics, this medicine is concerned with the effect of that Soul upon the Body and upon the Mind. Only here can one understand the linking of the somatic and the psyche, the intrinsic globalizing level necessary to the process of healing, understood then to be relieving human suffering as it is perceived and by no means the mere handling of mechanical pathological disease processes.

Spiritual Structure of Man

The human "soul" in Haitian Vodoun is hence a complex concept. A synthetic term does not even exist to designate this whole, since its manipulation is highly specialized. The word "Nanm" which refers to a specific part of this conglomerate nevertheless is sometimes used by extension, roughly translating to the English word "soul". This "Nanm", then, is understood to be the seat of several spiritual entities :

  • " Ti Bon Anj ",

  • " Gwo Bon Anj "

  • " Nanm ",

  • " Lwa Mèt Tèt "

  • " Wonsiyon ",

All a set of "Lwa Rasin" (maternal and paternal) also called "Lwa eritaj", and one of them, the "Zetwal", is not even localized in one’s physical body, but rather in a star. Furthermore, clan ancestors belong to these forces of influence; they are honored and recognized for their continued impact on human activity.

Consequently, it is even impossible to refer to the individual as one who has mere corporal unity. The body is viewed as only part of the person. This is why the person is perceived and defined as a psycho-social entity who is in a continuous state of energetic equilibration.

All these entities act as Forces or Energies functioning at the level of the individuals to whom they confer a very particular sense of appreciation for the fundamental aspects of Life or of the existence. However, they are only a fraction of the individual’s motivating and inhibiting forces. Others also exist and they can be defined as forces external to human beings: they are the 401 Lwa. Even though those Lwa are perceived as personalized forms of the Sacred, they often act in groups known as escorts. Together they help to orient human beings in their society and societies in their environment, to establish guidelines and direction for that which concerns logic, ethics, morals, and aesthetics and to set up codes of conduct, understood to be the Mores or Tradition. Their primary function is consequently to serve as references for life in society, nature and the universe.

The vision Vodounists have of all those many Forces or Immaterial Energies put together, may not be very distinguishable from what other people in other societies refer to as the great Spirit of God. I hesitate, though to use such a word because it is a matter of concept of enormous complexity and I am not sure that I understand fully all the many facets such a concept covers and represents for them.


Illness, then, results from a breach within this complexity, which engenders a condition of disequilibrium, disharmony, chaos, disorder... It may translate itself in the form of simple injury, accidents, dysfunctions of structure of the individual or of his substructure or organs, dysfunctions of the mind or simply in the form of a total collapse which means a complete disability to function efficiently within oneself, in one’s society or in the World.


 * Lwa - pulsating and vital forces that sustain the universe.

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© Max G. Beauvoir - 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003

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