By Elizabeth Thomas Crocker
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Additional resources for A Trinity of Beliefs and a Unity of the Sacred: Modern Vodou Pratices in New Orleans (thesis)
In Haitian Vodou, there are 51 Oungans, which are male priests, and they hold the same status as the priestesses, the Manbos. In New Orleans, the Faithful only recognize women as appropriate spiritual powers. These women leaders are called ‘mothers’ and have the power to heal. Brenda Marie Osbey said that when she was researching the subject herself she asked a number of the mothers why men cannot hold power. ” In addition, unlike in Haitian Vodou, the mothers are only called upon when a person needs assistance or healing.
In front of the altar was a short chair with a scarlet cushion. A black cloth designed with a cross, fleur-de-lis and a snake wound around a lightning bolt had been draped across the chair’s high back. A well-worn bible was on the chair’s cushion. As mentioned earlier, one of the most important aspects of the practice of Haitian Vodou is the Mysteries or lwas (spirits) who must be honored and fed. The lwas and the practitioners share a symbiotic relationship; meaning that the lwas must be fed and maintained by the living and in return the lwas give blessings and assistance to the faithful (Sallie Ann Glassman 2000:17).
Her powers allow her to heal others but never herself. “And so, there is an element of sacrifice that that implies that one has to be willing to suffer in a certain way for the faith” (Osbey 03/05/08). This corresponds with what 52 Jerry Gandolfo told me in an interview on February 24, 2007. He said that, for a woman of The Religion to have powers, she must meet the following three criteria: she must have a female in her lineage that also had powers, she cannot ask for payment, and she must suffer in some way to balance out the great power she has been given.