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Food for the Gods

Link of Vodou to Haiti’s Agriculture, a Legacy of the Ancestors

By Dady Chery

Haitian religion and culture are so linked to local agriculture that Vodou ceremonies are routinely called manje lwa: food for the gods. Our lwa (gods, spirits, deities) must be fed. They are not eternal and can only exist so long as they continue to be summoned to participate in human affairs. In other words, their strength comes from ritual remembrance celebrations. During these feasts, the gods and their communities partake of local foods. The gods become empowered in direct proportion to the quantities and varieties of favorite foods that are offered to them, and the care that is put into their preparation and presentation.
The spirits of Vodou are, for the most part, venerable ancestors. They are not worshipped but respected, loved, and sought after, mostly for advice, protection and blessings. To summon them requires certain formalities. One does not greet an important ancestor without at least cooking a chicken and throwing a party, not for him or her alone, but the entire neighborhood. The practices of Haitian Vodou represent religion, unadulterated, unappropriated and at its best: not an infantilizing force that habituates people to their prostration before a greater power, but a cultural force that anchors people in the lands and waters around them and furnishes them with the practices for a joyful, sustainable life.

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