THE KINGDOM OF THIS WORLD
Houngan of the Rada Rite (page 30)
Houngan is the term for a high priest of Voodoo which means “one who has received the asson.” It is formed from two African words, nganga, “priest,” and hon, “spirit.” An asson is a sacred rattle used by the houngan that is made from a gourd either filled with seeds or snake vertebrae, or is covered by a web strung with beads or vertebrae. The asson is generally used in combination with a bell, and is strictly ceremonial in function.
Though Houngan’s are males, women can also be priestesses. They are called Mambo. Though there are different levels of religious servitude, there is no official hierarchy of the Houngan or of the Mambo, for the religion has no one leader as in Catholicism. There are, however, people below the Houngan and the Mambo. They are called hounsis and help in religious ceremonies.
The main differentiation in the Voodoo religion, takes place in whether they are part of the petro rite or the rada rite. It is important to note that the petro and the rada are not good or evil; those terms are irreverent. The rada are benevolent spirits of happy lwa, and they protect their people. It is thought that ninety five percent of the people practicing voodoo are part of the rada rite.
The Petro, on the other hand, represent the black magic voodoo. They are aggressive, mean, and easily annoyed lwa. They are symbolized by the whip, and they often ask a high price for their services. It is thought that this type of spirit originated in Haiti during the time of slavery.
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