SDM header

An American Vodou House

Sosyete du Marche, Inc. Ceremonies and Services

Dessounen: Separation of Spirit and Body

lib_a_02In any religion, whether it is Vodou, Catholicism, or Judaism, death is  not an easy passage. No one willingly goes over to the Waters of Return, and those left behind often feel that there is little they can do, now  that their dearly departed have gone before them. But the religion of  Vodou provides for those left behind by offering a ceremony that is  designed to help with the Dead crossing over into the Waters of Return,  and which ensures that the Dead may be remembered well by those still  living.

The Desounnen, literally "going down", refers to the rites of separation performed when someone has died. In Vodou theology, the  Ti-Bon Ange (Little Good Angel) is the will of the person, which returns to stand before God and recount the life just lived. The Gros Bon Ange  (Big Good Angel) is the animating force of the body. When the body dies, it must be properly separated from the body and given a chance to rest  in the Immortal Waters of Return. There, it unites with the community of Ancestral Dead, and rests from it's earthly travails. One year and a  day later, rites of reclamation (called Retire Mo Nan Dlo) call the Gros Bon Ange back up out of the waters and place it within a specially  prepared container called a Govi. From this new "body" the Gros Bon  Ange literally can participate with the community by giving advice,  guidance and perspective from it's resting place within the ritually  prepared govi. If protocol is properly followed the Gros Bon Ange can  eventually become a Family Lwa, or can it be reincarnated in the form of Lwa, for succeeding generations to draw upon it's wisdom.

Desounnen is the rite and ritual reserved for the first  part of the Vodou Death Rites (the second ceremony called Retire Mo Nan  Dlo, reclaims the soul from the waters). Separating the Gros Bon Ange  from the kor cadeave (the body) is a long and arduous working.  It requires a long evening of prayer, songs and ritual gesture. During  this working, the Met Tet, which has accompanied the dead through the deceased’s life, may choose to possess a family member or another person. Family  members who have already passed into the Waters of Return may choose to  come and speak through the medium of possession. All this is expected,  desired and good, for it indicates that the dead have lived a righteous  life, and that the Ancestors are in support of both their crossing and the work of the Desounnen.

Dessounen can be performed bedside, in hospice or in private. The location does not matter, only the intent of the work. Mambo was honored to perform this rite for her godmother last year. It was a cathartic action for all present.


Copyright 1995 - 2016.  Sosyete du Marche, Inc. is a Federally recognized 501c3 church, operating in Southeastern Pennsylvania. Your donations are tax deductible, and go towards supporting Sosyete du Marche, its mission to provide a safe haven for all worshippers, and to help those who need it most. To date, we have led medical missions to the Caribbean, supported Native Americans after Katrina and currently support our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.