As with any religion, Voodoo is composed of mayn elements. The following are just a few of the main structures involved in almost all of the different branches of voodoo.
The oum'phor is the temple of Voodoo, It closely resembles the design used by Moses to build the Ark of the Covenant and the tabernacle as described in Exodus, It consists of a large area, covered or uncovered, called a peristyle, in the middle of which is a center-post called a poteau-mitan. Adjoining the peristyle on one side is a square house that is the oum'phor proper, or holy of holies. In the Voodoo tradition Moses was initiated into Voodoo and perfected his knowledge as a student of the black Midianite teacher Ra-Gu-El Pethro (Jethro).
In a large oum'phor of several chambers, each may be reserved for the worship of a single Voodoo god, each having its own separate altar dedicated to that god. Or, in a smaller oum'phor, all the gods may be worshipped in a single holy of holies with several altars, each consecrated to a particular god. A colored hanging may be used to separate the holy of holies chamber into two parts: an antichamber and the place of worship itself. On the interior walls of the oum'phor there are elaborate ritual designs called veves.
The altar or altar stone in a Voodoo temple is called the pe. It is a square or rectangular platfonn raised to about the height of a man's chest. Its name comes from the Dahomey word kpe, meaning stone. Upon the poe are a fantastlc assortment of objects related to Voodoo and its rites. These include ritual rattles, bells, thunderstones with supernatural powers, flags, magic arms, chaplets, ritual necklaces, books on occultism, and even drums. In addition there are many covered jars and pots. Some of these jars, called pots-de-tete, contain by magic part of the spirits of the people who worship at the oum'phor, Other jars are govis into which the Voodoo gods descend for consultation when called.
The peristyle is the partly enclosed and llsually roofed courtyard adjacent to the holy of holies of the oum'phor. It is the place were the elaborate mass ceremonies and rituals of Voodoo are performed, and it also is the place where the sick usually are treated.
The floor is of beaten earth and is never paved or tiled. A low wall four to five feet tall borders the peristyle. Curious spectators who are not well known at the oum'phor, or persons not properly dressed for the occasion; may stand behind the wall and still see what goes on in the peristyle without making themselves too conspicuous.
In the exact center of the peristyle is its most important feature-the center-post, or poteau-mitan. All important Voodoo ceremonies revolve around this post, the top of which is considered the center of the sky and the bottom of which is the center of hell.
The post itself is usually square and it is set into a circular pedestal of masonry. Around the side of the pedestal, or socle, there are triangular niches. The pedestal may be constructed of two or three concentric steps, or even of a single step, The pedestal is a form of pe, or altar, on which sacrifices to the gods may be placed.
The entire length of the post from floor to ceiling is decorated with a spiral design representing two serpent-gods: Danbhalah Wedo and Aida Wedo, the latter of which represents all the knowledge of the gods. The colors of this decoration vary from one oum'phor to another depending upon the rites and gods served by its members.
The wooden post itself represents the chief god of Voodoo-Legba Ati-Bon, whose name means wood of justice.
The trees in the yard of the oum'phor are called reposoirs, or arbresreposoirs. They serve as sanctuaries for the gods. The gods abide in them permanently, and the trees themselves are honored as divinities. There is usually a pedestal or basin encircling the foot of the tree. Square or triangular niches are recessed into the pcdestal and in them lighted candles are often placed, surrounded by consecrated food offered in sacrifice.