Where: Haiti, Port-au-Prince People: Haitians (descendants of african slaves) Religion: Vodou (mix of african traditions/religions and catholicism) Ritual: Dessounin
During the Dessounin ritual the spirit Damballah is extracted from a 23 year old dead Mambo (Vodou).
Before becoming a full member of the Vodou community in Haiti, a special inauguration ceremony is held. During this ceremony the chosen person is possessed by one of the Vodou spirits which then become the persons guardian angel.
After death, it is important to perform the Dessounin ritual where the spirit of the dead person is segregated from the body before the funeral. If this is not done, there is a chance that the spirit will become a ghost that hunts the living. This was a big problem after the earthquake in 2010, where many people was buried in mass graves before the necessary rituals was performed.
After the extraction, the spirit is kept in a Calabash with hair and nails from the dead person. It is then used for various Vodou rituals, like praying for a good harvest or a good health.
Haitian Vodou is a syncretic religion with roots in West African traditional religions and influences from European religions, such as Catholicism. It developed in Haiti during the 16th century colonial period and was shaped by the Haitian Revolution. It continues to evolve and is an important part of Haitian culture.
In Haitian Vodou, it is believed that the spirits of the deceased can be reincarnated as plants, animals, or even inanimate objects, and that they can also be reincarnated as human beings. This belief in reincarnation is an important part of Haitian Vodou spiritual practice, and it is a way for practitioners to honor and pay respect to their ancestors.
Thank you to the deceased Mambo, the priest and his helpers. And thank you to my fixer, translator and dear friend, Emmanuel Delone aka Snoop – may he rest in peace.
Note: I was not allowed to photograph the priest or his helper during the ritual. Nor am I allowed to mention the young Mambo’s name.