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An American Vodou House

Bloroum - Bohoun and Casa Canari of Haitian Vodou

ancestorsA Vodou ceremony also known as Kase Kanari (“breaking the canari”) is held on the 40th day after death.  It is a  ritual that prayerfully releases the souls of lives lost back to the Vodouist place of origin, back to Anba Dlo - back to the sacred primordial waters, back into the cosmic Ancestors' hands and keeping. When an initiate dies, after having a funeral, they often occupy themselves with the survivors. These are the people who were upset by the disappearance of the "brother" or the "sister" whom they loved. They often feel the dead “haunts" the temple. To satisfy the soul of the dead and to secure the sanity of the living, a bloroum' takes place, to send the dead back to their ancestral lands.

For the ceremony of the bloroum, the hounsi wear white clothing with a black fabric rectangle pinned over their heart. The service begin with one "swell zin", i.e. by the test of the fire to which was subjected disappeared to the moment from their initiation. (I believe they are talking here about a clay govi – ‘swell’ being the description marking it as different from the zin pots used during the boule zin - mambo.)  One then brings a basin of water in which a water-bottle is plunged. This one represents the heart of death.  Using large wood spoons, the members of the temple will strike this water-bottle until it soon broken into many pieces. Then, the entire houmfort "will expel" it dead b y throwing the water contained in the basin and the remains of the water-bottle at the closest crossroads.

 The last clothing of death is then spread out in the center of the peristyle. One puts fire at it. A large flame rises in which the hounsi will throw the black fabric rectangles that they carried on the chest. It is the end of mourning. It happens sometimes that at this dead moment it a spectator "goes up". Had, lengthened on the ground and having all appearances of a corpse, will receive the confidences and the good-byes of each initiate speaking to him with the ear. It will be one moment of great emotion during which the community will reach its higher point of cohesion. Then, finding the joy in life, hounsi will dance and sing until the rising of the day with an extraordinary enthusiasm.

CEREMONY TO EXPEDITE THE SOUL OF THOSE MISSING (THOSE LOST).(Report on the Bohoun held in Haiti following the earthquake)

 According to insiders who have mastered Vodou rituals well, the souls of the dead when they are not sent back to their place of origin, wander around. They haunt the courtyards, homes and even enter the privacy of homes. Within these realities, it was necessary to organize rituals whose purpose was to return these lost souls under the water. As a result, the followers of Vodou, held 40 days of prayer that led to this Bohoun otherwise known as ‘Kase Kannari’ for the Earthquake victims of January 12. This Sunday, March 28, was the eve of the 23rd anniversary of the passing of the constitutional law which grants everyone the right to freely profess their faith as they see fit.

Early in the morning, thousands of adherents of Vodou poured into the United Nations Square located a few meters from the shore, opposite the Embassy of Venezuela, with the air of the Bicentennial. Women looking for the most part like spidery silhouettes, and draped in their white crystalline dresses, strolled blithely into the area that was highly secured by several units of the National Police.

The men were wearing their black armbands on their left arms. Hounkou Bolokou Djavohoun Bohoun - this inscription was painted in black on Saturday underneath a vase which was surrounded by two vèvè; Legba and Bawon. On this platform against the background of a Red Cross, were enthroned all the representatives of various delegations of Vodouisant from the diaspora and from the country's 10 geographic departments.

"I think it's important to hold this ceremony to release the souls of our brothers and sisters who disappeared. Thus, they can come back in other forms to help us rebuild our country that was destroyed by the earthquake of January 12, 2010," said Ms. Suze Mathieu, Director of the National Bureau of Ethnology. Sitting comfortably in her seat carved with fine craft art from the root of a mahogany, the patriarch of Vodou, Ayisyen, the Ati Nasyonal Francis Max Gesner Beauvoir had an infinite number of Pitit Fey that were so lovely to see and to admire. Proudly enthroned in the midst of delegations including the Director General of the National Bureau of Henology, Ms. Suze Mathieu, Ati Beauvoir explained to the uninitiated why it is important to send these souls wandering about to rest, by corroborating the theory previously advanced by Manbo Euvonie Augustus who played the role of Mistress of Ceremonies.

"We must recognize that each person has the opportunity to return to the earth at least 16 times. If we remember correctly, each human has arisen from the water. And at their death the various components of the soul will find the spirit of the water which takes the Agwe and command them to return to earth with a new face as male or female. If we do not hold this ceremony, Bohoun, the opportunity would pass forever, and their souls would wander for all eternity until they are able to cause tragic injury to the living. This ceremony, Bohoun, is organized for the sole purpose of enabling these souls to return to Agwe, the water spirit which in turn has the power to care for them properly."

This explanation was provided by the Nasyonal Ati, Francis Max Gesner Beauvoir. Amid prayers, laments and incantations, the Pitit Fey advanced in single file. The women carry on their heads, tied black bandannas, bowls with three overturned kwi placed in clear water. The men, following after the women, had pressed against their chests large Kanaris wrapped in black handkerchiefs. After the parade, they placed both bowls and kanaris on white sheets on which were drawn vèvès for Baron and Ghede, symbols that celebrate death. Throughout the Bohoun ceremony the men were seated on small chairs, hitting their Kanaris with a piece of hard board which was attached to a piece of wood that they used to keep the rhythm. And the women hit their Kwi using chopsticks that they hold in the right hand, attached to a ring.

A very pleasant rhythm formed the background to the many incantations hummed by a smooth overlay of disparate voices. After many ceremonies accompanied by appropriate sign languages, the parade left the site of the ceremony to follow the building that housed the Chamber of Deputies which was still in ruins and before which laid a giant wreath of white flowers. The many Assons offered to accompany the delegation to the last station with the aroma of the perfume, Florida Water wafting over all of it for the powerful Lwa.  Catchy singing supported by the vaccines horns piece played mostly by children and young people under rhythmic congruent arrangements, and the Rara band La Belle Deese from Meyotte, accompanied them to waters.

 Before reaching the empty space that used to house the Post office which was destroyed during the earthquake, several Manbo were unable to resist the Lwa and were carried back in a trance. “Se mwen ki ta di w its power m wè.” At each crossroad, the appropriate rituals pertaining to them were performed by Vodouisant, asking Legba to grant passage to these souls. Across from the walls of the Embassy of Venezuela was the sea.  Amid chants and hymns of invocations, a dozen of mambo all dressed in white, carrying Kanaris wrapped in black cloth, waded into the sea. Three of them pushed a crown symbolizing the souls of our brothers and sisters who disappeared, into the calm waves.


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