Initiation into Haitian Vodou

Initiation into a house is a commitment not undertaken lightly.  Initiation brings many blessings; bringing an individual closer to the lwa, giving them a greater understanding of Vodou, and drawing them into a spiritual family every bit as real as a flesh and blood one.  Initiation also involves sacrifice, a giving of a part of one’s self and life to Vodou, to the lwa, to the hounfo, and to the betterment of the self as a whole.

Sometimes a person seeks initiation, at other times the lwa will claim a person, and will specifically tell them that they need to go through the Lave Tet ceremony, or that they are called to the priesthood.  Sometimes the need for initiation will be divined through a reading. Whatever the reason, there are steps that must be followed.

It is extremely important for an initiate candidate to become a part of the right house.  The spirits who walk with an individual must be compatible with the spirits of the house they wish to join.  The spirits of the house must approve of the prospective new member.  Unless a spirit of a house specifically claims a person for that house, a reading must be performed (or a lwa called) to confirm whether or not someone is a good fit for the house.

Hounfo Racine Deesse Dereyale performs regular initiations, but we do insist upon following the procedure outlined above.  Not every person who wants to initiate into Hounfo Racine Deesse Dereyale can do so.  Sometimes a different house is a better fit for that person, sometimes a different house is just as good, but is closer geographically and would be of more benefit to that person.  Sometimes a person just isn’t called to initiate into Vodou at all, and sometimes Vodou isn’t even the right spiritual path for them.  We will happily initiate those who are compatible with our house, our spirits, and our family; but we will redirect those who, for whatever reason, are not meant to initiate with Hounfo Racine Deesse Dereyale.


Lave Tet

The Lave Tet ceremony is the most basic initiation into Haitian Vodou.  It makes a person a member of a house, brings them closer to the lwa, and cleans and cools the head. Lave tet, through the three day Sevis Tet ceremony, elevates an individual to the rank of hounsi senp within the house.  The spiritual escort is revealed, and the initiate taught how to care for the spirits who walk with them.  They are also baptised with their nom vayan, their spiritual name in Vodou.

In Vodou we care for the head with great devotion, as we believe that the soul resides in the head.  Our goal in Vodou is always to maintain a cool head.  A cool head is balanced, calm and able to remain in the presence of God and the lwa.  A person that is hot-headed will find it very difficult to commune with God or the spirits, or to hold on to good luck, as their hot temperament will make it difficult for them to live in a state of blessing.

The lave tet ceremony cleanses and cools the head.  If one is “hot headed” then the ceremony will assist in cooling the head, bringing more balance to the recipient of the ceremony, and allowing them to embrace the blessings that come to our lives every day, and maintain those blessings which will of course result in maintaining more luck.  The lave tet will also clear away any negative spiritual influence and bring a closer relationship between the recipient and their lwa.

The lave tet ceremonies begin with us determining the Lwa Met Tet.  The Lwa Met Tet is the spirit who is the Master of the Head, the spirit who walks most closely with an individual.  This lwa is the spirit that has walked with a person throughout their life, and will always remain.  Once the identity of the Lwa Met Tet is known, a place can be made in the home for the spirit and a closer relationship entered into.

After determining the Lwa Met Tet, we make a ceremony to the Spirits to begin the lave tet.  The participants are then taken into the djevo (room where initiations occur) where they will receive the baths.  As the ceremony takes place within the djevo, the details cannot be divulged.  The initiate will later be sworn to secrecy.

When the initiate leaves the djevo, they are brought out in procession and then baptised.  Once the baptism is complete, there is a celebration for the new child of the house.

Hounfo Racine Deesse Dereyale hold lave tet ceremonies annually, often a week before or after one our Fet Danballa celebrations in March.  If we have enough demand, we can and do hold them more frequently.  The lave tet ceremony is not something that one should expect to go through alone.  Although it is possible that we will only initiate one person, it is preferable to have a number of initiates go through the ceremony together, becoming brothers and sisters of the djevo as well as brothers and sisters in the hounfo.  For more information about this powerful and life changing ceremony, please contact



The Vodou initiation and ordination process is called kanzo.  Regardless of what rank a person initiates to, they must undergo the kanzo ceremony if they are called to serve at any rank higher than hounsi senp.  This is not a decision to be taken lightly, it is a lifetime commitment to God, the Spirits and to the sosyete (family) that the initiate undergoes kanzo with.

Not everyone who is called to kanzo is called to the priesthood, some will serve their house as hounsi kanzo, and others will go through the ceremony to receive healing.  Others will be called by the lwa to the priesthood of Haitian Vodou.  The rank one receives at kanzo is determined by the lwa, who know those meant for their service.

Kanzo is a series of interlinked ceremonies which take place in Haiti over a period of three weeks.  The ceremonies empower the initiates so that whichever rank they kanzo to, they will be strong, competent, and spiritually receptive members of their spiritual family.

Bat Ge

The first ceremony of the Kanzo is the Bat Ge, which means ‘Beating the War’.  It is a powerful Petro dance that can last from one to three nights, depending upon the number of initiates going through the kanzo ceremonies.

Throughout the Bat Ge, one hundred and one songs are sung for the lwa of the Petro nation.  Fwet kash (rope whips) are sounded against the ground, machetes are crashed against each other in a dance, and the lwa are saluted and called.  The heat and power of the ceremony serve to make the initiates strong and powerful.  Throughout this ceremony four mambo sit within the Bila, a special altar constructed for the Bat Ge, and make sacred and sustain the heat of the items to be used during the initiation.


Throughout the Bat Ge the ceremony of Pile Fey, the crushing of leaves, is performed.  The Bat Ge and the presence of the lwa infuse the leaves with strength and power, which will be needed for the ceremonies to follow.

Mare Paket

The second ceremony of the the kanzo is Mare Paket, where the paket kongo to be received by the new houngan and mambo are born.  The members of the sosyete come together to sing and dance for the Petro Spirits, during which the houngan and mambo assogwe assemble and create the paket kongo.  Only the assogwemen, houngan and mambo of the assogwe rank, can do this.  Only they have the spiritual heat and power to ensure the strength of the paket.


Once the paket are complete, they are prepared to enter the djevo.  The paket are heated to make them stronger and more powerful, during a ceremony where the paket are carried by houngan and mambo in procession.   Before the Mare Paket is complete, each of those houngan and mambo will be possessed, adding the strength of the lwa directly to the paket.

Rentre kanzo

The Rentre Kanzo ceremonies prepare the initiates for their entry into the djevo.  The ceremonies begin during the day with sacred baths, which begin the process of separating the initiates from the mundane world.  After the baths have been administered the initiates are secluded.

On the evening of the Rentre Kanzo a dance is held for all the members of the sosyete.  Ceremonies are performed throughout this dance that prepare the djevo for the week ahead.  There are also ceremonies to  prepare the initiates themselves, giving them the strength that they will need for the journey ahead.

The dance intensifies in nature as the candidates are prepared to enter the djevo.  Once all the lwa have been sung for, the initiates are farewelled by the sosyete.  The people they were are gone: they will return, stronger, more balanced, more connected to the lwa; prepared for their new lives and new places in the sosyete.  They are taken to the djevo, and are not seen again until Lever Kanzo.


Lever Kanzo

The Lever Kanzo is the day the initiates are brought forth from the seclusion of the djevo.  They emerge to a ceremony filled with joy, to songs praising the Glory of God and in celebration.  The initiates enter the world anew, dressed in white, to be presented to the community as newly made members of the sosyete.

Those who have been initiated to the priesthood will use their asson to show that they are correctly made, being tested to prove that they are strong and competent.  Those who are now houngan and mambo still have much to learn about Vodou and its traditions, but Lever Kanzo is a time for celebration before the work of the priesthood begins.



On Baptem (baptism) night, the new initiates are welcomed as full members of the society and the Vodou community.  They are baptised with their nom vayan (spiritual names) in front of the community, with the support of their godparents: their marin(godmother) and parin (godfather)

For baptem the initiates are dressed in the colours of the lwa that rule their heads, in brand new clothes.  They receive new names, new identities, new responsibilities, and a new home in the Vodou community.



Hounfo Racine Deesse Dereyale mount the kanzo ceremony when they have enough candidates ready to travel to Haiti and undergo initiation.  Going through kanzo with Hounfo Racine Deesse Dereyale is a major commitment, and requires spending time with and getting to know the family.  To begin building a connection with the hounfo, please contact