The rite of erecting the Heviesso, for example, takes place at midnight on the day of rest and starts with the arrangement of a jar of symbols of the voodoo: objects of gold, symbolising the preciousness of the voodoo, three heads of three different poisonous snakes which, when ordered by the voodoo, will attack those who transgress its laws, a fragment of the jaw of a man struck by lightning and some sand taken from the market and some gathered at the crossroads at the entrance to the village.
This sand will enable the voodoo to strike the designated person when he passes through that place itself. Libations of water and flour are poured over the jar after which a male goat is killed and all these objects are soaked in its blood.
The jar is then closed and a cone-shaped mound of earth is raised over it on which are placed some shells and objects of iron (bells, knives etc.) that form part of the cult of the voodoo.
Objects found in water or in the ground are, instead, kept in the house itself of the minister of the cult: at this point, there begins an especially sacred time called voodoo va afe, ‘the voodoo is at home’.
Other rites then follow, especially one called agbowugbe, or ‘the day the male goat is killed’; its purpose is to impart vitality to the voodoo and to fill it with energy. It culminates in a banquet of communion using the food of the voodoo, dzenkume (porridge and palm oil), in which all the servants of the voodoo take part.
On the ninth day there takes place the final rite, known as the ahwadhagbe, ‘the rite of fire’, which aims to transmit to the experts the power of the voodoo and to assure them its constant protection. Great flames of fire leap up to the sky while the faithful put their left feet forward towards the fire and call out to the voodoo with loud acclamations. In order for these rites to take place, it is required that at least three persons be initiated; if not, it is necessary to wait. On the day of the ahwadhagbe, initiation starts: it lasts for three years which, calculating according to the fertile months (rainy seasons), amount to about two years. From this moment, the voodoo may work freely and will start to ‘take’ people and compel them to have themselves initiated. Of course, the fame and greatness of a voodoo depends on the great number of followers knocking on the door of its compound. The number of followers very often depends on the healings that take place in the sacred compound. It is evident that the more medicinal herbs known by the owner of the voodoo (called huno), the more people will come to consecrate themselves to the voodoo.
Each voodoo sees to a particular sector of the cosmos and ensures its equilibrium and order. The voodoo of lightning, for example, is known for protecting those who have recourse to it from soothsayers (agents of black magic) but also from thieves and those who prevent the rain from falling. People go to their huno to find out who the thief is who stole the money hidden, supposedly securely, in a corner of the dwelling, or to ask what they should do to make it rain on the dry fields. As to healing, there is no field strictly reserved for the voodoo because they all may cure any disease whatever. At the personal and social level as well as the level of understanding reality, the voodoo is seen as something indispensable: it is seen as that which intervenes with concern, provided it is called upon correctly: in ways that are not improvised but prepared. From this derives the importance of initiation that constitutes one of the most original and spectacular aspects of all the voodoo religion. (B.G.)