Voodoo Altars and Vodou Shrines. How to create your very own Vodou Altars, Sacred Spaces, or Voodoo Shrines by Erzulie’s Voodoo in New Orleans. Learn how to create your own Voodoo Altars and Vodou Shrines with this informative overview by renowned Haitian Vodou priest and expert, Hougan Aboudja.
Creating Vodou altars, Voodoo shrines and Sacred space is not just for initiated clergy into the Vodou religion, this detailed primer shows how anyone with a connection to the Voodoo spirits can create their very own Vodou Altars and Shrines, for both private ritual and public ceremonial purposes.
For those with more in-depth questions on creating their Sacred Space, Voodoo Altars or Vodou Shrines, our initiated Vodou practitioners are always available to provide expert guidance in a spiritual consultation. To learn more about the Vodou Religion, Vodou Beliefs, or Sacred Voodoo Words we invite you to browse our vast collection of educational Voodoo articles prepared by caring, initiated Vodou practitioners at Erzulie’s Voodoo in New Orleans.
Vodou Altars, Voodoo Shrines and Sacred Spaces:
Voodoo Altars can be created for private or public use. The most important element to creating a sacred space for any spirit is your sincerity and respect. “Vodou is the most tolerant religion because it doesn’t exclude anything,” said Edouard Duval-Carrie, a famous Haitian painter. “Vodou brings together the views of African slaves.” Our goal at Erzulie’s Voodoo was to create a material representation of Vodou beliefs and a comprehensive display of Haitian Vodou Altars, Sacred Spaces, and art styles from paintings to beaded flags (drapos).
Creating Your Own Voodoo Altar, Sacred Space & Vodou Shrine:
For those not initiated into the Vodou, and who have no access to elders, you can create an altar to Spirit on a shelf or tabletop, in a cupboard or other niche. Here are some helpful tips as to setting up your sacred space in the Voodoo religion:
- Place beautiful objects, Vodou dolls, talisman, statues, flowers, stones, or roots on the altar; choose those things, which hold a special meaning, or inspiration for you.
- Place perfumes, anointing oils, altar candles or incense there.
- Make sure that you also place water on this altar for clarity and coolness in your life. Change it frequently.
- Create the altar in honor of people, whether living or dead, who have inspired you in your life; certainly, their pictures may be placed there also.
- The altar may be simple or complex and should be as beautiful as you like. Offer prayers to the Almighty.
- Meditate before this altar daily concentrating on those things, those positive changes, you wish for in your life that might benefit you, your family, or your community.
Typically, individual devotees, even priests, maintain a small altar for the Lwa (or for a specific Lwa) in their homes as a focal point for prayer and meditation; here they make private devotionals, frequent services to their personal mysteries. Properly, these home altars are called ogantwa. On or in these ogantwa sit many of the same items found in the badji of the hounfò, including lithographs (or other representations of the Lwa), thunderstones, satin scarves of various colors, dolls, ceramic govi (lidded jars housing the Lwa), paket, and so on. There will likely also be a perpetual lamp of some kind.
The Basics of a Vodou Altar, Voodoo Shrine & Sacred Spaces in the Voodoo:
A basic ogantwa can be made on a table or shelf, inside a cabinet, or even within a set of divided niche, each one for a specific Lwa. Cover the ogantwa with a white cloth ―cotton, satin, or other spotless fabric. Behind it, place at least the image of St. Claire (the lwa Klèmezin Klermey), a spirit who brings clarity and illumination.
Other images include the Holy Virgin, Sacred Heart, Lazarus, (Papa Legba), St. Patrick (Danbala), Mater Dolorosa (Ezili Freda), St. Isidore (Azaka), St James or St. George (Papa Ogou), and so on. Also, on the ogantwa there should be a standing crucifix or santisima, and this sits before the image of St. Claire (Conversely, a crucifix can hang on the wall over this image).
To one side is placed a white candle, and on the other, a red or multicolored candle. Holy water taken from a Catholic Church, the perfumes Pompeii and Florida Water or Rev d’Or, frankincense, as well as fresh flowers completes the setup of a simple ogantwa.
There should always be a glass or bowl of fresh water on the ogantwa, and most devotees will place a kwakwa rattle or a bell here (or an ason, if they are priests) to use for calling their spirits. Other items that may be necessary include, a small brazier for burning incense or other items, a glass bowl for making lamps, a supply of white taper candles, cotton wicks, and olive oil.
The ogantwa must be baptized to its purpose before it is ready for use. Burn frankincense, recite three (3) Our Father’s, seven (7) Hail Mary’s, and if desired, other appropriate prayers. Next, sprinkle holy water from a Catholic church, baptizing the ogantwa in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The ogantwa is now ready to serve as a focal point for prayer and meditation.
Note: For those who are newly initiated, consult your elders. They should instruct you on the proper building of an ogantwa to your spirits in accord with your understanding and level of initiation. If necessary, they may even oversee the proper installation of an altar to the Lwa in your home. Follow their advice please. That is why they are there, and you did choose them after all… or did you?
We sincerely hope this overview on Vodou Altars, Voodoo Shrines and Sacred Spaces in the Voodoo assists anyone looking to create their personal Voodoo Altar or Shrine for both, the novice to the initiated Vodou practitioner. We invite you to learn more this mystical and fascinating Voodoo religion, Roots of Vodou, Voodoo practitioner spiritual sessions and Haitian Vodou rituals by browsing our vast collection of Voodoo articles written by expert and initiated practitioners from all over the world!
We offer extensive and comprehensive material about the Voodoo religion on our authentic Voodoo App available on iTunes and Google Play, packed with secrets of the Voodoo tradition. Alafia from all of us at Erzulie’s Voodoo in the French Quarter of New Orleans.