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Modes 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 "chandèl" 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 modical 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.

He/she 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, Linglesou, 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. Additionnally, sacrifices are commonly carried out, the animals’ blood being considered an excellent energetic medium.

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 macerate them.

Many 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 (), 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 poors, coffee for the ancestors, masses for the deceased, and other such actions constitute elements susceptible to bring about a remedy. Furthermore, the invading "" (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.

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Singing and dancing, the common forms of vodun 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 promises.

Non-vodunists also partake (and thus often benefit) of energy transfers. Though Vodun 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 Vodun Medicine: the supreme form of treatment.


©Max Beauvoir 1998
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