Cover image for Vodou shaman : the Haitian way of healing and power
Vodou shaman : the Haitian way of healing and power
Heaven, Ross.
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Publication Information:
Rochester, Vt. : Destiny Books, [2003]

Physical Description:
xi, 284 pages ; 23 cm
Introduction : feel the fear and read it anyway -- Between two worlds : dreaming the road of gine -- The quest for power : becoming a bon houngan -- Acts of faith and power : spiritual strength versus material gain -- Becoming God's fools : journeying for ashe -- The power to heal : creating new realities of health and well-being -- The tree of weeping souls : soul loss and retrieval ; advanced techniques of power return -- Dreaming the new world : changing your faith, healing your world.
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BL2490 .H43 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Goes beyond the stereotypes to restore Vodou to its proper place as a powerful shamanic tradition

* Provides practical exercises and techniques from the Vodou tradition that can be used as safe and effective means of spiritual healing and personal transformation

* Shows how to remove evil spirits and negative energies sent by others

* Written by a fully initiated Houngan (Vodou shaman)

Providing practical exercises drawn from all aspects and stages of the Vodou tradition, Vodou Shaman shows readers how to contact the spirit world and communicate with the loa (the angel-like inhabitants of the Other World), the ghede (the spirits of the ancestors), and djabs (nature spirits for healing purposes). The author examines soul journeying and warrior-path work in the Vodou tradition and looks at the psychological principles that make them effective. The book also includes exercises to protect the spiritual self by empowering the soul, with techniques of soul retrieval, removing evil spirits and negative energies, overcoming curses, and using the powers of herbs and magical baths.

Author Notes

Ross Heaven is a shamanic teacher and Vodou Houngan who spent years as an initiate in this tradition, including spending the requisite time in solitary vigil and performing the other necessary rituals to complete his apprenticeship. He is also the author of The Journey to You and Spirit in the City. He lives in England.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

When Heaven began studying native spiritual traditions in the 1980s, he quickly figured out that Vodou was the "black sheep" in the family permanently tainted with a bad reputation. Being a self-proclaimed punk, the "renegade reputation" of Vodou instantly appealed to him. In his early days of Vodou research, Heaven "felt sure that I would encounter zombies and animal (and perhaps even human) sacrifice and have to deal with black magic rituals and pacts with the devil," he writes. "Let me reassure or maybe disappoint you that none of that appears in this book, for the very good reason that most of those subjects are the stuff of mythology rather than fact." What Heaven discovered instead was an Afro-Caribbean, healing-based tradition that's been unfairly marred by misunderstandings and Hollywood stereotypes. Heaven was so impressed with Vodou that he was initiated as a "white priest" and became a renowned shamanic teacher. This book is his attempt to demystify a mystical religion while also teaching Westerners how to integrate its healing rituals into modern life. Each chapter opens with a vivid description of a transcendental Vodou ritual that Heaven has witnessed such as a crippled man suddenly becoming cured. He uses these scenes to offer a well-paced and concise lesson on Vodou ideology and possibilities. Every chapter also includes "Vodou Lessons" for instance, how to move into a trance or create an altar. This stands out as one of the most articulate and well-intentioned Vodou guidebooks available. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

A British-born shamanic teacher, Heaven (The Journey to You) presents a historical treatise and instructional guide to the healing art of Haitian Vodou (its correct name). After becoming interested in the healing techniques of Haitian and other shamanic traditions, Heaven became the first white Vodou priest (houngan) in Europe. Here he outlines the tradition's core beliefs and highlights the striking similarities between Vodou and other traditional healing arts. The historical background adds to the overall quality of the work. Chapters end with a Vodou lesson, each progressively more difficult, showing readers how to incorporate the beliefs and techniques of Vodou into their own spiritual lives. Explanations are designed to reassure any skeptics and encourage more in-depth instruction and exploration. Unfamiliar words are defined in a glossary at the end of the text, and notes to each chapter allow for more research. This well-written and enlightening book is recommended for larger public libraries, especially those that do not already own Sharon Caulder's Mark of Voodoo, which covers similar ground.-Jennifer Kuncken, Williamsburg Regional Lib., VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



THE QUEST FOR POWER: Becoming Bon Houngan Djab O! Djab-la nan baye-a Djab O! Gen de pawol m ta pale ave yo... Spirit, oh! The spirits are at the gate Spirit, oh! There is something I would say to them... VODOU SONG CALLING THE SPIRITS There is a different quality to night in Haiti. Without streetlights to dazzle the darkness, no blare of radios and TVs, or streets full of houses, there is a silence and deep, womb-like darkness that is like stepping into another world. A short walk takes you into the primal landscape that our ancestors knew. They must have looked up at these stars, too, vast and bright and infinite, in their time as human beings, and marveled at the mystery there. . . . The Houngan waits for respectful silence, then arranges a chair over the vever for Ayizan. A group of white-dressed priests and priestesses line up before it as a huge freshly-cut Royal Palm frond is carried in, the carrier circling, ever-more crazily, around the peristyle in increasingly erratic steps, dancing and whirling to the screams of the crowd which grow in intensity, until eventually the palm-carrier is wild-eyed and distant. "She has loa!" the Mambos whisper. The palm-carrier is grabbed by three strong men who can handle her new-found Power, and transplanted to the djevo, the sacred heart of this new church, where the blessings of the goddess Ayizan will later be coaxed from her. At the moment, it is all they can do to close the door against her will to dance. The Houngan hands the palm to his attendants and they begin to shred it with machetes, cutting it ever-more finely until it becomes wisps of palm leaf laid across the chair, and wrapped in a white sheet. The frond itself becomes the loa Ayizan, who is therefore still present among us. There is a piercing scream from a young girl of seventeen or eighteen, who has thrown herself to the ground in a violent fit, her eyes rolling back in their sockets, her arms and legs jerking erratically. The electricity coursing through her limbs seems to run together within her somewhere near her chest and, with that, she is shocked so violently that her body shakes with one massive all-over convulsion and she explodes free of the ground. She begins to dance, some wild Congo dance with the elegance of ballet. She is a brilliant light spinning like a Katherine Wheel through the darkness of the peristyle. When people are possessed of spirit, there is an energy about them which is palpable and can be transferred through touch--we have a distant memory of this in the Christian healing practice of 'laying on of hands.' So it is with this young girl; everyone she touches is also touched by spirit and soon the room is alive with the dead souls of Africa dancing their ecstasy through the bodies of their followers. Suddenly, the spirit of the mighty loa, Gran Bwa, takes hold of the Houngan who owns this peristyle. Gran Bwa is the great healer of the Vodou pantheon, associated with the Power of Nature and the forests. His movements tonight are so charged with energy that he seems to be flying as he spins around the room, leaping some four or five feet into the air, before coming to a stand still in front of the drums, which quickly pass into silence. He stands like a wild animal, in a half-crouch, as if ready to pounce, with arms on hips in a posture that signifies control and authority. He is swaying like the serpent of a snake charmer. If I have ever doubted the existence of the spirits as separate entities with their own identity, the look on this possessed Houngan's face has cured me of that forever. This is a strong and furious loa, who must be placated quickly. The people are silent, awe-struck. Even the invited Mambos and Houngans seem concerned at this appearance. "Merde" -- "Shit" --someone behind me mutters, not very comfortingly. No one wants to approach this Gran Bwa, but they know that they must or who knows what might happen. So slowly, cautiously, laplas, the Houngan who is second in command, moves towards the possessed body of his religious leader. He lifts him up, helps him stand upright, then ties a blue scarf around his arm to signify his possession. He hands Gran Bwa a machete, a symbol of his office, feeds him rum and lights a cigar for him. I am struck by the trust of these people in their spirits; even though this Gran Bwa looks wild, he must be given the machete and fed with rum; that is the way of this spirit and his will must be done. . . . There is a legend that Gran Bwa was once struck by lightening as a punishment for some crime, and his face was so distorted and disfigured that his mouth is now pushed to one side. When he drinks through his ear, Gran Bwa is actually drinking through his disfigured mouth and, during possession, the Houngan's body changes physically so that his ear is transformed into a new mouth that can swallow the liquid offered to it. Now that Gran Bwa has been pacified and honoured by the people, he is ready to bestow favours. He pushes the machete deep into his arm to demonstrate that he has Power, that he cannot be hurt by weapons, that he is ready to heal the people. There is no blood. --Haitian Journals, January 2000 THE ABYSMAL WATERS--THE LOWER WORLD The lower world, at the bottom of the circle, represents the abysmal waters that circulate beneath the Earth. It is to this place that the dead go at the moment when they leave the mortal world to become ancestral spirits. According to Vodou tradition, most spirits who enter the lower world do not become loa. Most will become ancestral spirits . . . Excerpted from Vodou Shaman: The Haitian Way of Healing and Power by Ross Heaven All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.