Regleman( from the French for regiment) is the language, gestures, rituals and protocol of Vodou. Since everything is Vodou, it would be hard to say what is not. Regleman governs all aspects of a vodousant's life. When you wake, you thank the rising sun for another day of life and give water to the living, and to the dead, for they accompany you everywhere you go. All your gestures, your words, everything is under the guidance of regleman.
When you initiate into a Vodou house, it is the job of your Mama and Papa kanzo to begin teaching you regleman. It is not something you can learn in one day or one week. It is a lifetime of work, and therefore must be learned by example and doing as well as by word of mouth. Many folks think it can be gleaned from a book, or a few essays. This is not so. Regleman is a lifetime of effort and achievement, but the rewards are substantial to those with the stamina to endure.
In Vodou service regleman governs the "ordering" of the Lwa. In the way of old time Dahomian royalty, a Vodou service is like a court, where all the various dignitaries assembled may be recognized and acknowledged. Through prayers such as the Priyere Ginen and the Priyere Djo, all the saints, Lwa and family members are correctly called, acknowledged, saluted, fetted and enjoined to participate in the event. Such a huge undertaking wouldn't be possible without proper Regleman.
Regleman also governs the mean by which the ceremony progresses. The foods that are offered, the proper way to address the Lwa. It's not unlike attending a big family reunion. You wouldn't give bourbon to an elderly aunt if her preferred drink was sherry, right? It the same with the Lwa. Each one has a preference in food, drink, colors, clothing and the way to be addressed. I had two elderly aunts. One liked being called by her family nick name, Aunt Babs. The other insisted upon being called by her proper name, Aunt Louisa. I would no more call her "Lou" than I would address the Lwa as something other than their preference. It's just plain rude. If I called Aunt Louisa "Lou", she would have ignored me. It's the same for the Lwa. Call them something else -- and they simply won't appear. Address them properly, and you'll always be good company.
Regleman also guides the vodousant's daily life and personal as well as spiritual practices. The setting up of altars, the prayers and offerings for your Met Tet. Your meditations, your "internal" work as well as your external, all is under the guidance of regleman. It's a big job, and that's why is a serious commitment to practice Vodou.
You can begin proper Regleman by setting up an ancestral altar. Family comes first in Vodou. The most important Lwa you will ever work with is your family, your Ancestral Lwa. They have a vested interest in you, to see that you do well, that you are happy in this life. So many people tell me that they had a problem with this family member or that family member. I say get over it. Your family is interested in you, good, bad or otherwise. Make the most of your good connections and let the bad ones go. No one is saying to worship the wife beater or the thief! In fact, we do not worship family lwa! We merely ask for their guidance and their help. After all, they are between us and the Divine, so they are a little closer to the source. By getting them involved in your affairs, you have a closer connections to the that source and to getting a better life here. Set your altar, pour water once a week, say their names out loud and talk about your week, your day, whatever. Regleman begins at home and there's no better way than with a family or ancestral altar.
And remember, proper regleman - correct names, accurate offerings, genuine devotion - is always rewarded and rightly so. Vodou is also about balance. The universe abhors a vacuum. Serve with an open heart and you will reap the benefits.