Images from the funeral of Max Beauvoir.
I am often asked what the funeral rituals are like in Haitian Vodou . My answer is always the same - it depends - because, as I get tired of insisting here, there is not only one way to make Vodou . However, there is a core that is reasonably conserved and that we can discuss briefly.
First, it should be noted that it is understood that the soul remais close to the body as soon as death occurs. This time in which the soul is together with the body, which varies from seven to nine days, is a very sensitive time, during which certain rituals are performed in order to guarantee a smooth passage and also aiming to rid the living of any problems with the deceased.
During this period it is necessary to cut this connection of the soul to the body, so that it fulfills its journey to the abyssal waters, where it will stay for a period of one year and one day (at least) before new funerary rituals are performed (if the family can afford).
In the period of 7-9 days, prayers are offered by the whole community. On the seventh or ninth day afterr all is done, the soul will be free to follow its journey. During this time, the family and the community prepare food, offer drinks and sing and dance. Of course, there are intertwined Catholic customs in the midst of this, but let us leave those more complex aspects for another opportunity.
This idea of 7-9 nights seems to be something inherited from West Africa, since we find similar practices in this region and also in other regions of the Caribbean - as in Jamaica, according to Simpson's work in 1957. It is important to remember that the soul, for the Vodou is an entity with multiple parts and not all behave the same in death, but we do generalize here for the sake of simplicity. Another very curious idea is the connection of the soul to the body and we find the other extreme of this in children who are attacked by Lougawous, since they are more fragile precisely because the soul is not yet completely connected to the body.
So, I invite you to think with me about how this connection of the soul to the body is perhaps the fundamental element of the funerary rite. This advocates in favor of rites of the present body, because image - if there is no body - how would that soul then be close to receive the proper rites? One of the great dangers of this fragile moment is that the soul is captured by sorcerers and we can think that souls without a “focal point” may be even more susceptible to this. Not to mention the difficulty of directing the soul and the chances of it wandering are even greater.
We can also think that these rites will undergo inevitable changes. For example, the Haitian diaspora is real and very strong. How are the dead far from their land? In all countries, there is no strong Haitian community to provide this type of support. Protestantism also grows dramatically in Haiti, if in the past Vodou and Catholicism shared the same space, now there is one more element - and this will inevitably alter this dynamic. How? We'll have to wait and see.
Well, that was a quick discussion - an unpretentious introduction. I hope it was enough to satisfy some of your curiosity.