The subject of how to present oneself to the clergy in African/Diaspora Spiritual
traditions can become rather confusing, for each system’s protocol is somewhat different,
and is a new phenomenon in America.
In the Diaspora, its intrinsic value has been lost from centuries of disconnection,
Thus some seekers arrive with a romantic/ nostalgic, and overly sentimental approach,
or assume a skeptical notion of what might be acceptable presentation. What may
appear as an act of reverence and respect in one system may prove an insult in another.
What may appear as exuding arrogance and contempt in one system may prove a sacred
gesture in another.
Traditionally and presently in Togo, Benin, Ghana etc., clients who arrive seeking
consultation, will gladly wait well into the night without ever knowing if the opportunity
will arise to be seen.
In West Africa, appointments are never formerly scheduled, for the concept of time
as it is understood in the West is not the same as in the world of Spirit. The agenda
for the day or moment can change at any time. It is not unusual for a priestess/priests
to leave their compound to take lunch, or to run other important errands, while loads
of clients are waiting in the wings. The client well knows it is prohibited to become
angry or to act impatient less the Ancestors or Spirits (who are always present)
might become angry with him/her. Or even malevolent spirits who are always seeking
to bring chaos and misfortune, might be provoked to sabotage the entire process.
This same concept holds true when living in a multicultural society where
many ethnicities & cultures blend and unintentional misunderstandings may arise if
one is not apprised of the cultural/spiritual context in which words, gestures and
symbols are manifested and utilized. This lack of knowledge can be hurtful, insulting
and even spiritually dangerous. Especially as it applies to the Mami Wata Vodoun
tradition, in which maintaining respect for the Spirits, Ancestors and its elders
are the most important. However, whatever ones experience level, it is important
to understand and respect the protocol of that particular system. Below is a general
guideline to help aid in this process. Please read it carefully to ease the process
for you. If you have any questions you may contact us at the links at the end of
the below instructions.
Petatrotro (ancestral ceremonies). MWHS, Martinez, GA. USA . Respect and humility
before the deities, ancestors and elders is the hallmark of the Yeveh Vodoun religion.
In the Mami Wata Vodoun tradition, the role of the Mami Wata priestess is one of
both spiritual and maternal authority and power. As the mouthpiece of the Spirits,
they are loved, appreciated, feared and well respected; with the full backing of
the Vodou, Ancestors and elders in their daily pursuits. During ancient times, many
were revered as the "Queen Mothers" of the village.
Protocols in the Mami Wata Vodoun were precise and strictly enforced. For example,
for those Mamissiis who were of the royal family, if one were to look them directly
into the eye, or if they were touched by a man who was not the king or her husband,
it could mean certain death for the person. The Mamissii Hounons who served in the
Kings court, were followed by "bell girls" who would run ahead of them, ringing the
sacred bell to alert any potential males that they were coming. This way it would
prevent them from being accidentally touched. They were considered sacred.
Togolese client in traditional prostration during consultation. It is a sign of respect
for the deities and the priests/esses whom they speak through.
Also, during traditional times, when a client arrived for a divination, they would
present themselves during the entire consultation resting on their knees with their
heads bowed. Traditional protocol has taught them to never make eye contact with
the priest/ess, for to do so would be to challenge the very face of the Ancestors,
Mami Watas and Vodoun deities. It was considered a grave offense. Incidentally, this
cultural practice of the African Diaspora “looking down” when speaking with an elder
or person of authority, was wrongly misunderstood in the West during slavery as a
sign of their inherent inferiority.
The above cultural history is presented only to offer you a historical glimpse into
the spiritual and cultural framework of African spiritual protocol in the Mami Wata
Vodoun tradition as it is practiced in West Africa. When defined by Western standards,
it would appear to some as "arrogant, out-dated, ego-centered and even oppressive".
However, within its spiritual/cultural framework it is not.
Though the above protocol and cultural behaviors are not required of you in the West,
it is important in understanding what and how to present yourself as a serious client,
and how not to interpret any actions or behavior that you do not understand within
a Western social context.
The following protocols are based upon common situations presented to us from previous
►Please be on time. Because we try to adapt to a western-style schedule of appointments,
if you are late, you will miss your appointment and may have to reschedule.
►You must be 18 or older to seek consultation. If you are under 18 yrs., you must
be accompanied by a parent or guardian.
►Upon entering the shrine, you must take your shoes off at the door. You must also
either bring or you will be given a traditional African wrap to change into.
►Please do not bring babies or small children. We are not equipped to care for them,
and it might not benefit you if it causes distraction. You may be asked to reschedule.
►Unless arrangements were made in advance, please do not bring girlfriends or acquaintances
into the shrine with you for "support." Family members are allowed, if you or the
priestess/priests request them.
►Mami Wata priestesses do not traditionally touch money directly given from the client,
please have your payment in hand to present where you are instructed.
►The Mami Wata Vodoun tradition is a complete system in itself. It does not traditionally
mix with other religious systems. Please do not expect us to carry-out any ceremony
or rituals prescribed by your Babalawo, Iya etc., of another system if the results
of your consultation does not warrant it.
►The Mami Wata Vodoun tradition have a strong tradition of Amengansies, Bokonons,
Mamaisii Hounons etc., They cut 2 &4 legs and will divine (Afa/Ifa) and perform the
appropriate and necessary ritual ceremonies. If initiation into the mysteries of
Ifa/Afa is necessary, we can initiate you to Afa. We can also feed your Afa if you
already have it, or correct your Afa if it was not done properly.
►Please do not expect us to share ritual information with your House simply because
your "godparent" needs to complete some ritual for you. When you come to the Vodoun
and Mami Wata, you are in a different House and must respect the professional competency
of its priesthoods.
►[A very Western phenomena] If it should happen in your case, please do not "breakdown"
into uncontrollable emotional sobbing as a result of your burdens. This is considered
disrespectful to the Spirits and reflects your lack of faith in their ability to
assist you. In spite of our expected troubles, one is expected to maintain some composure.
It is appropriate to ask to be excused and leave the shrine area until you have gathered
►Authentic divinations does not tell you what you want to hear. If you do not like
what is revealed, you are free to end the session at any time and respectfully leave.
►You are permitted to bring pen and paper to take notes if you choose.
The above are some of the major pointers that will aid you in making the best of
your visit. If you have any questions or concerns you may contact us for further