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Articles Home - Voodoo, Las 21 Divisiones and Los Misterios
Another central feature of Vudu is the "service." These are usually held outside, under a roof and around a center pole. A houngan or mambo almost always directs these services. Drums are used to provide music and dancing is essential to the service. Services are fully participatory and the houngan and mambo participate. During a ceremony a master of ceremonies is often present, a hounganikon directs the music and motion while the Hounsi (women only) are serving. These ladies are usually dressed in white. Those in attendance are nearly all participants and most can be possessed by Lwa at any time. During these mountings the Lwa will "take over the persons body and the person is gone. The body is then just a vehicle. There are two versions of Vudu one is know as Rada and the other is Petro. Rada is considered a peaceful version of Vudu while Petro is considered black magic. And though it exists Petro is rarely used.

Differences between Voudou and Las 21 Divisiones
Dominican Vudu is less strict than Haitian Vodou and in Dominican Vudu calling upon the spirits, or Los Misterios, can also occur through reading tarot cards, hand palms, or even shells. Unlike Haitian Vodou, Las Divisiones has no fixed doctrine, or defined temples and ceremonies. The lack of structure of Dominican Vudu is reflected in the music used in Vudu ceremonies. While in Haitian Vodou the spirit that comes down is one that is specifically called through the music, in Dominican Vudu one spirit can comedown even when another one is being called. The flexibility of Dominican Vudu can be noted in that new music is constantly being created. During a Mani, a type of Vudu ceremony, you can here bachata or merengue being played with no reference to the palos. Interestingly, Palo music is the music of choice during ceremonies and in Haitian voudou it is believed that the spirits respond through this music. It is precisely this adaptability that characterizes Dominican Vudu.

The Loas
The different groups of Loas in Dominican Vudu can be divided into three rites, better known as the 21 Divisions. There are in total twenty-one groups of Loas, divided into three "major" divisions: the White, Black and Indian divisions. These are some of the Lwas and their Catholic counterparts: Anaisa Pyé is Saint Anne, Baron Del Cementerio is Saint Elijah, Belié Belcan is Saint Michael, Bakúlu Baká is Saint Philip, Candelina is Our Lady of Candelaria, Candelo Cedife is Saint Charles, Cachita is Our Lady of Charity, Clementina is the Virgen Milagrosa, Centinela is Saint Sebastián, Damballah is Saint Patrick, Ezili Ailá (Alaíla) is Our Lady of High Grace Ezili, Danthó is Saint Barbara Africana, Ezili Kénwa is Saint Martha, Filomena Lubana is Saint Martha, Ghuede Gran Bwa is Saint Jude, Saint Cristopher, Gran Solié is Saint Nicholas, Gran Toro (Toroliza) Christ of Good hope, Gunguna is Saint Ellen, Jan Bakéo is Saint Peter, Jan Ferro is Saint Marcos Evangelist, Kriminelo (Jan Kriminel) is Saint Sebastián, Papa Legba is Saint Anthony, Marassa is Saints Cosmo and Damian, Metresili is Our Lady of Sorrows, Niño de Atocha is Child of Atocha, Ofelia Balendjo is Our Lady of Mercy, Ogun Balendjo is Saint James, Ogun Fegai is Saint Jorge, Ogun Batala is Saint Martin of Tours, La Señorita is Saint Claire.

The altars
The vudu altars can be extremely elaborate or quite simple depending on the person. The altars usually will have pictures of the Lwas in their Catholic renditions as well as beads, drapos or handkerchiefs with the colors pertaining to the Loas, lit candles, beads, scented candles, herbs that are burned and flowers. The altar could also have dolls that represent the Lwa and different types of food or beverages, like rum, juices or cakes that are offered to the Loas. Catholic imagery is common as well as crucifixes, pictures of Jesus and bibles.

The ceremonies
There are a variety of vudu ceremonies. There is no central figure in vudu and each priest is the ruler of his own house so he execute services as he feels. There is the Baptism which begins when the Papa Boko or Mama Mambo builds a table called a mani decorated with the main Lwas colors. The services are placed in honor of the 21 divisions, drummers will play palo during the whole three days and three nights of the ceremonies. Once baptized there is a celebration honoring the initiate with families and friends. Refresco de Cabeza and Aplazamiento are other types of ceremonies The Refresco de Cabeza (washing of the head) is a spiritual cleansing used for removing all negative influences elevating the heads spiritually. The Aplazamiento ceremony ceremony is focused on giving the Lwa a stronger foundation. Ceremonies take two or three days to prepare as foods are cooked and altars are set up. During the services Catholic prayers are recited and songs are played. During the services Palo music or other musics are played and all the Lwas are saluted. Practitioners may dance and it is during this time that a mounting may occur.

The Veve
The Veve are religious symbols for the Lwas and each lwa has a particular symbol. The symbols are drawn on the floor during a service in order to invoke that particular lwa. Some say that the Veve are remnants of Taino culture on Hispaniola.

Las Divisiones is not a pagan satanic religion where zombies walk around and a person’s soul can be taken at a moment’s notice. Unbeknownst to many vudu practitioners don’t drink alcohol or consume drugs because it can impede their connection to the spirits and the most practitioners are devout Catholics at their core. Although the country is overwhelmingly Catholic, a majority of Dominicans do embrace some of the features of Vudu while still identifying themselves as exclusively Catholics. Vudu practitioners will admit to their vudu practices, but admit that vudu doesn’t contradict their Catholic beliefs it instead works hand in hand with it. Dominicans often reject the label Vudu considering it "a Haitian thing," and so a similar religion under a different name, Las 21 Divisiones and Los Misterios, was born. In recent decades vudu has become slightly more acceptable, but it will take more time before the image of the zombies and "voodoo" priest is replaced.
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