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Making a Traditional Vodou Altar Altars and shrines are an integral part of the Vodou tradition.  They can be private or public altars.  Public altars will be used in ceremony and ritual.  Private altars are sacred spaces through which an individual practicing Vodou can pray, or find a gateway to the invisible worlds that exist within.  The difference between a Vodou altar and a Vodou shrine can be defined as this: a shrine is a permanent tribute to a Loa, while an altar is temporary and created for a specific spell or magical result.  In Haiti, Vodou altars can take the form of the kay myste, which is from a French term meaning "house of mysteries."  The kay myste are separate buildings, like small, special houses, which are created as a place to house the spirits sacred to the altar's builder.  Like most typical Haitian art, the kay myste are created with an eye to aesthetics and are generally quite beautiful.  Vodou altars, both public and private, are decorated with many kinds of objects.  Most often these are images of the loa and Orisha and offerings to them.  The overall effect of the various elements on the altars create what has been called "dense opulence."  Fabrics such as lace or velvet, flowers, food, bottles or pots decorated with sequins and paint, streamers, flags and ribbons are only some of the items which may be used to create an altar.  This rich mixture of objects and Vodou symbolism, so representative of the Vodou religion itself, becomes a place where the deities interact with Vodouisants, a point of contact between the spirit and human worlds. (...)

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