Masterly Vodou Medicine
& the Spiritual Structure of Man
Masterly Vodou Medicine
is the uppermost level of the Haitian People’s Holistic Medical System. Intrinsically
niched in the Vodoun culture,
world view and religion which are products of this people’s history, its
operations include both the Phytotherapeutic social and medical systems. However,
in linking the individual to his/her global social and cosmological environment,
this form of medicine goes beyond.
Addressing health through a complex
assemblage of individual spiritual entities which by convenience can be lumped
and named "Soul" ("Nanm") and their dynamics, this
medicine is concerned with the effect of that Soul upon the Body and upon the
Mind. Only here can one understand the linking of the somatic and the psyche,
the intrinsic globalizing level necessary to the process of healing,
understood then to be relieving human suffering as it is perceived and by no
means the mere handling of mechanical pathological disease processes.
Spiritual Structure of Man
The human "soul" in Haitian Vodoun
is hence a complex concept. A synthetic term does not even exist to designate
this whole, since its manipulation is highly specialized. The word "Nanm"
which refers to a specific part of this conglomerate nevertheless is sometimes
used by extension, roughly translating to the English word "soul".
This "Nanm", then, is understood to be the seat of several
spiritual entities :
" Ti Bon Anj ",
" Gwo Bon Anj "
" Nanm ",
" Lwa Mèt Tèt "
" Wonsiyon ",
All a set of "Lwa Rasin" (maternal
and paternal) also called "Lwa eritaj", and one of them, the "Zetwal",
is not even localized in one’s physical body, but rather in a star.
Furthermore, clan ancestors belong to these forces of influence; they are
honored and recognized for their continued impact on human activity.
Consequently, it is even impossible to refer
to the individual as one who has mere corporal unity. The body is viewed as only
part of the person. This is why the person is perceived and defined as a
psycho-social entity who is in a continuous state of energetic equilibration.
these entities act as Forces or Energies functioning at the level of the
individuals to whom they confer a very particular sense of appreciation for the
fundamental aspects of Life or of the existence. However, they are only a
fraction of the individual’s motivating and inhibiting forces. Others also
exist and they can be defined as forces external to human beings: they are the
Even though those Lwa are perceived as personalized forms of the Sacred, they
often act in groups known as escorts. Together they help to orient human beings
in their society and societies in their environment, to establish guidelines and
direction for that which concerns logic, ethics, morals, and aesthetics and to
set up codes of conduct, understood to be the Mores or Tradition. Their primary
function is consequently to serve as references for life in society, nature and
The vision Vodounists have of all those many
Forces or Immaterial Energies put together, may not be very distinguishable from
what other people in other societies refer to as the great Spirit of God. I
hesitate, though to use such a word because it is a matter of concept of
enormous complexity and I am not sure that I understand fully all the many
facets such a concept covers and represents for them.
Illness, then, results from a breach within
this complexity, which engenders a condition of disequilibrium, disharmony,
chaos, disorder... It may translate itself in the form of simple injury,
accidents, dysfunctions of structure of the individual or of his substructure or
organs, dysfunctions of the mind or simply in the form of a total collapse which
means a complete disability to function efficiently within oneself, in one’s
society or in the World.
Lwa - pulsating and vital forces that sustain the universe.