Modes of treatment
of treatment then
emphasize specific aspects of the universal forces: water, air, fire, earth....
according to the individual’s illness of course, but also, for instance,
amongst others, his or her lwa Mèt Tèt.
The first element of the treatment therefore
consists of a "shandèl" or "leson"
(consultation) in which the healer determines if indeed there is illness, what
its nature and causes are, the spirits involved and generally, the options open
to the individual. Often, this is carried out in a state of possession and it is
the spirit possessing the healer who speaks in his/her place.
As opposed to clinical medicine in which the
patient is expected to reveal his medical history to the physician, here it is
the healer possessed who mainly talks and the role of the patient is to approve
or frown. If unpleased or generally disapproving of the diagnostic, the
patient pays a standard modest amount for the consultation and is totally
authorized to address another healer. So, "shopping around" is
considered a legitimate course of action.
Once satisfied of the diagnostic, then the
treatment begins in earnest and the patient, accompanied in this of family
members, at once confides in the healer. All aspects of the illness are covered.
The healer’s principal task at this point is to uncover the predominant aspect
(s) of the individual’s imbalance in order to determine his/her therapy.
may then decide to "pass the patient in the earth" which implicates a
close communication with soil (treatments dominated by such lwa as Legba,
Ayizan, Zaka, Lenglesou, Baron, Gede...); these treatments use clay, ashes,
earth and sometimes even temporarily bury the individual with means for
breathing. Or, one may decide to proceed with an air technique (Sobo, Badè,
Kebyesou, Shango lwa): these may imply simple energy transfers such as
"fanning" (vantayaj) and "spraying" (foula) ,
which are its most common forms. In the first, a fowl (or occasionally a broom,
accompanied of rock salt, for the lwa Avadra) is passed upon the
individual’s body; in the second, he/she is sprayed with water or alcohol
solutions understood to convey the spirits’ energy and, beyond,
re-equilibration with those elements. Additionally, sacrifices are commonly
carried out, the animals’ blood being considered an excellent energetic
Fire dominants are treated by the
"passing of flames" (pase flanm): here the individual is
literally "bathed" with a fire, leaf and alcohol mixture; particular
care is given to the application of this lit mixture to his/her articulations
(feet, knees, elbows, shoulders, hands, neck) as well to the forehead.
Water dominants, finally, represent one of the
most commonly encountered forms of treatments. Baths, of a great
diversity of types, are applied. Odors are of utmost significance and they are
produced by the vigorous macerating action of leaf-tearing. Each of these are
carefully selected according to the illness concerned. Immediate results emerge
from the energy charge which flows from these herbs and the energy used to
illnesses are considered to result from the individual’s own inappropriate
social behavior. For instance, often cases pertain to inheritance disputes in
which the individual is perceived to have wrongly appropriated family common
land. Or, a lack of respect, of courage and/or of generosity which may in
themselves constitute the so-called weakness of character is known to reflect on
the individual’s own health. In these situations, it is said that the person
is persecuted by the spirit of a dead person (mò), sent upon him by his
neighbors or family. Here, it is necessary to have the patient redeem him or
herself. Pilgrimages, charity visits to hospitals and food contributions to
prisoners and to the paupers, coffee for the ancestors, masses for the deceased,
and other such actions constitute elements susceptible to bring about a remedy.
Furthermore, the invading "mò" (dead spirit) is often chased
by resolute means, such as a good flogging with pigeon pea stems (Cystisus
cajan, L.) which is considered to be one of the most radical and efficient
means of expulsion.
Most serious treatments end with the
application of a "gad" (guard) which is considered a protection
destined to preserve the individual from further harm. The known African
tradition of scarring is in order here, generally a small mark being applied to
the upper arm.
Singing and dancing, the common forms of
Vodoun expression, are themselves considered prophylaxis, promoting a healthy
distribution of the Dan throughout the body. Annually, herbs bathes are
held at the end of the year, which corresponds to the first rise of sap after
herbal hibernation, at the rising moon. These baths are known for their
invigorating capacities, charging all participants for a new year full of
Non-Vodounists also partake (and thus often
benefit) of energy transfers. Though Vodoun is not apostolic and never seeks
conversions, repeated treatments can call for initiation which, in and of itself
is considered a final treatment. Here the individual recognizes his/her
ancestral traditions, his lineage lwa, his customary services, and vows
them a cult. This entirety is of the utmost re-equilibrating function which is
why most healers consider it to be the Masterly Vodoun
Medicine: the supreme form of treatment.