Welcome to the Order of the Sacred Star! This Pagan/Wiccan group, based in Winnipeg, Canada, is committed to teaching the Craft to all those who wish to learn. Our goal is to provide a complete and fulfulling learning experience. Our public classes are offered through the Winnipeg Pagan Teaching Circle.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Exploring Voodoo: The Lwa of Vodou

In Vodou, the Lwa are of great importance. The Lwa are immortal spirits with supernatural powers. They fall somewhere between God and the human race. They are very similar to the saints, angels and demons of Catholicism. It's said that the Lwa oversee all human activities such as marriage, childbirth, health, work, money, war, and art.

The Nanchons and Their Origins

Lwa are divided into several groups called nanchons. There are at least seventeen different nanchons but only a few are known by name:
  • Rada – originated in Dahomey;
  • Petro – originated in Haiti;
  • Ibo – from on of the major Yoruban tribes;
  • Nago – another of the major Yoruban tribes;
  • Ginen – originated in Guinea;
  • Bambara – originated in Sudan;
  • Wangol – originated in Angola; and
  • Siniga – originated in Senegal.
Of these, the Rada and Petro nanchons dominate the others. There are far more Lwa in these two nanchons than in the others.

The Great Lwa and Their Symbols

In Vodou, the most important of the Lwa, the Great Lwa, are each given realms that they rule. They also each have symbols to represent them. Many of them also have two or more names.

Danbala rules the realm of wisdom and ancestral knowledge. His symbol is the serpent.

The ruler of the realm of fertility is Aida-Wedo. The symbol of Aida-Wedo is the rainbow.

Papa Legba, also known as Kalfou, stands at the gateway between the spiritual world and the material world. His symbol is the cross.

The realm of love and beauty is ruled by Eziti Freda. The symbol of this Lwa, also known as Elizi Danto, is the heart.

Ogou rules war, fire, and metalworking. It is not surprising then, that his symbol, the machete, is a weapon. The Ogou, as describes below, has many different aspects.

The Ogou Spirits of Vodou

The family of Ogou spirits is larger than the family of any other major Lwa and each aspect of Ogou takes on a slightly different role. For example:
  • Ogou Baba — Represents a military general;
  • Ogou Badagris — Lwa of the phallus;
  • Ogou Batala — Patron of surgeons and doctors;
  • Ogou Fer — Lwa of fire and water;
  • Ogou Feray — Patron of blacksmiths and metalworkers;
  • Ogou La Flambeau — Represents the fiery rage of battle;
  • Ogou Shango — Lwa of lightning; and
  • Ogou Tonnerre — Lwa of thunder.
The Ge’de of Vodou

Another important group of Lwa is Ge’de, or death spirits. Ge’de is an enormous group of spirits made up of the spirits of formerly living people who, after death, became Lwa. Below is a list of the major Ge’de and their symbols.
  • Ge'de Black — Cross, skull, shovel;
  • Baron Samedi — Cross, coffin, phallus;
  • Baron Cimetie — Bones, cemetery;
  • Baron Crois — Cross; and
  • Maman Brijit — Cemetery, elm, weeping willow.
Of the Ge’de, the majority are male. Listed below are some of the best known Ge’de and the roles they play.
  • Ge'de-Brav — Represents the phallus;
  • Ge'de-Double — Endows people with second sight;
  • Ge'de-Fouye — The gravedigger;
  • Ge'de-Janmensou — He is never drunk;
  • Ge'de-Loraj — Protect those who die violently;
  • Ge'de-Loraye — Small woman who reveals herself during storms;
  • Ge'de-Masaka — Female spirit who carries an umbilical cord and poisoned leaves in a bag;
  • Ge'de-Nibo — Cares for the tombs;
  • Ge'de-Soufrant — Suffering Ge'de;
  • Ge'de-z-Aragne'e — Imitates a spider; and
  • Linto — Child spirit of the Ge'de.
It's believed that Baron Samedi is the lord of all the Ge’de. Maman Brijit, wife of Baron Samedi, is the guardian of cemeteries; he is also said to be an evil spirit of black magick and money.

Other Important Lwa in Voudou

Despite the importance of Baron Samedi and Maman Brijit, the following Lwa are still powerful and just as frequently honored. No study of the Vodou spirits would be complete without these important Lwa.

Azaka is the Lwa of agriculture. His symbol is the makout, which is a small sack made of straw.

The tree is the symbol of Gran Bwa, the Lwa of forests.

The Lwa of medicine and the priesthood is Loko. His symbol is the red rooster.

Ayizan is the Lwa of marketplaces and priestesses. The palm frond is the symbol of this Lwa.

Simbi is the Lwa of freshwater and magicians. The snake, with its connection to the mystical, is the symbol Simbi.

The Lwa of evil works is Marinette. The screech owl, often associated with evil, is the symbol of Marinette.

The symbol of Bosou is the bull. He is the Lwa of male virility and black magick.

There are three important Lwa connected to the weather. These are Agau, Sogbo, and Bade. They rule storms and earthquakes, lightning, and wind, respectively. Their symbols are quite easy to determine — thunder, thunderstone, and the wind.

The Lwa play an important role in the practice of Vodou. All Lwa are important, whether good or evil, for they all, in some way, effect human activities. They patronage is sought in many aspects, from marriage and death to art and war. They are an intricate part of Vodou.

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