Religious life in the lakou

The lakou represents the intersection between land, the extended family, and spirituality. Geographically speaking, the lakou includes the extended family’s farm property, individual dwellings, and communal worship area.  At the heart of the peristil, or shrine, sits the sacred mapou tree, considered the link, the Poteau mitan between the spirit world and the earth. In Vodou, at once a religion and a way of life, is inextricably linked to Haitian identity and the structure of the lakou. For a comprehensive description of the Haitian vodou religion, see the Haitian Consulate’s article on Haitian Vodou. In vodou ceremonies, the chef lakou (see Lakou network and hierarchy) would act as vodou priest or priestess.

"The Mapou Tree." 1 April 2010. Koute. Accessed 30 April 2012.

Both as a symbol of liberty—under the oppression of slavery, it was not possible to maintain family tombs—and as a spiritual link to ancestors, family cemeteries are an integral part of the lakou structure. These cemeteries serve as a constant reminder of the origins of the family and the lakou, reminding members of the importance of preserving the community and the land it was built upon. Ancestor worship is an integral part of the vodou religion. At the beginning of every vodou ritual conducted within a lakou, the descent group recites the entire genealogy of spirits and ancestors of the lakou.


Dubois, Laurent. Haiti: The Aftershocks of History. New York: Metropolitan, 2012.Google Books. Web. 30 Apr. 2012.

Stevens, A. M. (1998). Haitian womens food networks in haiti and oldtown, united states of america. Brown University).ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, , 364 p.

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