Saturday, August 27, 2011

Samedi: Voudon Calendar

Like most religions, Voudon has its own special festivals designed to bring worshipers into touch with the divine spirits.  Depending on where a voudonist is from, the main festivals, or fetes as they are called, will number between twelve and twenty per year.  I spent time in the Les Cayes region and keep the fetes that were taught to me there.  Though local festivals can raise the number to as many as thirty, this general list of fetes is an all around if not all inclusive example of the celebrations in Voudon.

Many of the fetes are synergized with Catholic Holy Days.  This, it goes with out saying, gave the original slave population of old Sante Domingue the opportunity to celebrate the lwa without drawing attention to their practices.  To masters and overseers, the slaves were celebrating Our Lady of Mount Carmel on July 16th, for instance, when in fact they were raising a fete for Erzulie Freda.

For the purposes of this list, I will give the date, Voudon fete, Catholic Holy Day and significance as I understand it.

January 6,  Voudon Fete Les Rois, Catholic Epiphany: This celebration honors the ancestral kings of Africa and is similar to celebrations of the 9 African Powers in Santeria
February 25, Manje Tet Dlo, no corresponding Holy Day: Offerings are made to feed rivers and springs so that they will continue to provide sweet water
Movable fete usually in March or April, Fete Souvenance, Good Friday: A weeklong festival held in Souvenance which only houngans and mambos may participate in
March 20, Legba Zaou, no Holy Day: Homage is paid to Papa Legba through the sacrifice of a black goat
April 30, Manje mo, no Holy Day: Offerings of food are made to family ancestors
May 12, Manje lwa, no Holy Day: Offerings of food are made to the lwa sacred to the local ounfo
July 16, Fete Saut d’Eau, Our Lady of Mount Carmel: People make a pilgrimage to bathe in the waterfall at Saut d’Eau recognizing Erzulie Freda
July 25, Fete Ougo, St. James: People make a pilgrimage to Plaine du Nord in recognition of Ougo Ferraille
August 15, Fete Soukri Kongo, Feast of the Assumption:  Weeklong honoring of the Kongo lwa at Nan Soukri
November 2, Fete de mo, All Souls’ Day: Weeklong remembrance of dead family members and Ghede lwa like Maman Brigitte and Baron Samedi including ritual meals which are prepared without salt
November 25, Manje yanm, no Holy Day: Celebration of the harvest
December 25, Fete des Membres, Christmas: Every attempt is made to return to one’s home where ritual baths and feasting are part of the celebrations
December 28, Manje Marasa, Feast of the Holy Innocents: The divine twin lwa known as the Marasa are celebrated

My personal favorite is Fete de mo, because I especially appreciate that this is a celebration that was recognized by my Celtic ancestors as well.  Finding connections to all the things that we are and can be may be the best thing that any religion, “organized” or not, can do for us.  At least that’s what I hope for.  Bon Samedi mes amis ~

Header: Soukri Kongo celebration in modern Haiti via


Timmy! said...

So it will just be a weeklong celebration the wwek of Halloween, I guess...

Pauline said...

Isn't it always?