African DiasporaRituals And Sacrifices
African-derived religious ceremonies are a service to the spirits. In the Bembé drum dance of the Santería community, the ceremony is used to communicate with ancestors and summon spirits. Mederick Louis Moreau de St. Mery described Vodun religion as a dance of the Africans in Haiti that summoned the energies of Bondye and his spirits lwas and les morts. The Big Drum Dance of Carriacou celebrates ancestors through the nacion dance and songs. African-derived religious ceremonies also celebrate life, family, people, work, and provide occasion for practitioners to share food, time, and the presence of the spirit. Initiation ceremonies offer opportunities for the faithful to enter different stages of faith and leadership. Some ceremonies include classic ritual stages of separation, seclusion, and reintegration, signaling the birth or rebirth of the initiate into a new role.
Vodun ceremonies take place in the homes of the devotees or in the oum'phor (temple), an enclosed place. A significant ritual property is the poteau mitan, a supporting post that is a symbolic link and path to Ginen (Africa). Other ritual properties include images of lwas, flags, a machete of Ogou that is used for sacrifices, and a drum. Vodun employs four types of initiation rituals: head washing, which feeds the spirit and refreshes the individual; kanzo, a ritual of fire that strengthens the individual; kouche sou pwen, which strengthens the initiate's relationship with the spirit; and giving the ason, or sacred rattle, which qualifies the initiate to heal. Candomblé initiations are presided over by iyalorixa or babalorixa who help in preparing the shrine and the otas (sacred stones) that contain the powers of the orixa. The abia (initiate) is first isolated; then, during the second stage, learns about his or her spirit and the atabaques (drum) rhythms of the spirit. At the final stage, the abia is named and rejoins the community.
Devotees serve the spirits and the ancestors with ebo (offering or sacrifice). The orishas demand services such as feasts, initiations, and purifying baths. Ebo refers to offerings of animals, fruits, and vegetables given to the orishas. Ebo offerings are specific foods preferred by the orishas. Ogun, the divinity of iron, likes red and white roosters; Yemaya, the ocean divinity, likes duck, turtle, and goat. The orishas eat the ashe of the offerings; the rest is then shared among the members of the community. Animals are offered to the orishas because animal blood holds ase.
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