Dreaming in Haitian Vodou: Vouchsafe, Guide, and Source of Liturgical Novelty


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Abstract

Dreams are vital sources of liturgical novelty in Haitian Vodou –and this novelty is, itself, an underdescribed and understudied quality that the religion possesses. Classic scholarly descriptions have tended to portray Vodou as a living artifact, tradition-bound and slave to formality. On the contrary, Vodou is constantly responding to unique lived scenarios with novelty –a generative capacity reminiscent of Hannah Arendt's natality. Dreaming plays a key role as provocateur and shaper of this natality. Additionally, it serves as a vouchsafe for belief; as a transformative force; as a form of divination; and as a source for theological and liturgical information. This article focuses, in particular, on why dreaming in Vodou has received so little scholarly attention. Additionally, it examines how Vodou priests and priestesses utilize dreaming in their work with clients, as well as the role that dreaming plays in the enactment of spiritual marriages, and in recent responses to the 2010 earthquake.

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