Old man who guards the crossroads. Must be saluted each time a service or any other activity with the loa will begin. Legba controls the crossing over from one world to the other.
He is also the guardian of the poto mitan--the center post.
He is a small crooked lovable old man. Small pipe with little tobacco, a little food in his macoute sack. Sores on his body.
When he mounts someone the person's limbs are twisted and horrible to see.
Legba is the symbol of the sun, of daylight, of things positive.
Legba controls the cardinal points of the crossroad.
Legba is twined with his Petro opposite. Kalfu too controls the crossroads. Actually, were it not for him the world would be more rational, a better place. But, not unlike Pandora in Greek religion and myth, Kalfu controls the evil forces of the spirit world. He allows the crossing of bad luck, deliberate destruction, misfortune, injustice. Kalfu controls the in-between points of the crossroads, the off-center points.
Legba controls the positive spirits of the day. Kalfu controls the malevolent spirits of the night.
Yet Kalfu can control these evil spirits too. He is strong and tall, muscular. People do not speak in his presence.
Ghede is the eternal figure in black, controlling the eternal crossroads at which everyone must someday cross over. His symbol is the cross upon a tomb.
Ghede is sort of to the underworld or afterlife what Legba is to life-- he who controls access. Ghede controls access to everything in the afterlife.
Ghede is also god of eroticism. Eroticism is beyond good and evil since it is inevitable. Ghede is neither delighted by eroticism, and certainly not shamed by it. If anything Ghede is amused by the universal presence of eroticism and humans' constant need to pretend that it is other than what it is.
When Ghede mounts someone he often singles out people who pretend to be aloof from eroticism. He ridicules them, embarrasses them, exposes them (in more ways than one.) He is especially hard on whites since they often have the puritanical sexual attitudes of western culture.
Ghede is also often called BARON SAMEDI. In this aspect he is DEATH.
He is the keeper of the cemetery and the primary contact with the dead. Anyone who would seek contact with the dead must first contact and solicit Ghede/Baron Samedi in the same way that Legba is contacted to cross over to the spirit world.
Ghede has a ravenous appetite for food and drink and doesn't mind manifesting them when he mounts someone.
Ghede is a clown, an interrupter, a coarse fellow. But he is history too. As keeper of the cemetery he has intimate contact with the dead. He knows what their plans were, what's going on in families, what the connections of things are. And he is quite generous with his information. Even when he is clowning or performing his erotic antics, if you can pull him aside and ask him a serious question you will get a serious and reliable answer.
Another of Ghede's great powers is as the protector of children. Ghede generally does not like to see children die. They need a full life. Thus he is the loa to go to when seeking help for a sick child.
Ghede has the power over zombies and decides whether or not people can be changed into animals. Any such black magic voodoo must seek the help of Baron Samedi/Ghede with these tasks.
Lastly, since Ghede is the lord of death, he is also the last resort for healing since he must decide whether to accept the sick person into the dead or allow them to recover.
This is the loa of agriculture, but is generally seen as the brother of Ghede. For this reason Ghede will often come to the ceremonies for Zaka and come when Zaka has mounted someone.
Zaka is a gentle simple peasant, but greatly respected by the peasants since he is a very hard worker. He is usually barefoot, and carries a macoute sack and wears a straw hat.
There are interesting similarities between the sophisticated Ghede and the more bumbling Azacca, as though a younger less sophisticated brother were imitating a more secure older brother. Like Ghede, Zaka loves his food. But, unlike Ghede he is rude and voracious in his eating habits, often running away to hide with him food and eat it quickly.
Zaka controls the fields, and like the farmers themselves, he is very watchful of detail. He notes who is treating whom in what manner. Who is flirting with whom, who says what to whom etc. When he mounts someone he often spills out all the local gossip to the embarrassment and amusement of all.
Dumballah is the father figure. He is benevolent, innocent, a loving father. He doesn't communicate well, as though his wisdom we too aloof for us.
Dumballah is the snake. He plunges into a basin of water which is built for him, or climbs up into a tree. Again, as the snake he is rather communicative, but a loving quiet presence.
Dumballah does not communicate exact messages, but seems to radiate a comforting presence which sort of send a general spirit of optimism into all people present.
When Dumballah mounts someone the special offering to him is the egg, which he crushes with his teeth.
The female counterpart of Dumballah, his mate, is Ayida. She is the rainbow. Together they are the unitary forces of human sexuality.
Sovereign of the sea. Under his jurisdiction come not only all the flora and fauna of the sea, but all ships which sail on the sea.
His symbols are tiny boats, brightly painted oars and shells. He likes military uniforms and gunfire.
The service for Agwe is quite different from others since it is on the sea itself. A barque is prepared with all sort of Agwe's favorite foods, including champagne. This barque is then floated over where it is believed the sacred underwater world exists. If the barque sinks, then Agwe has accepted the sacrifice and will protect the water interests of those who have prepared the sacrifice. Were the barque to float back into shore, then the service has been refused and a different manner of placating Agwe would have to be devised.
Ogoun is the traditional warrior figure in Dahomehan religion. He is quite similar to the spirit Zeus in Greek religion/mythology. As such Ogoun is mighty, powerful, triumphal. In more recent time Ogoun has taken on a new face which is not quite related to his African roots. This is the crafty and powerful political leader. However, this political warrior is much more of an image of where struggle is in modern Haiti.
Ogoun comes to mount people in various aspects of his character, but the people are quite familiar with each of them. Some of these aspects are:
Ogoun the wounded warrior. Here he even assumes a Christ-figure pose which the people know well from their Christian associations.
As Ogoun Feraille he gives strength to the servitors by slapping them on the thighs or back.
As Ogoun Badagris he may life a person up and carry him or her around to indicate his special attention and patronage.
But in all the aspects of Ogoun there is the dominant theme of power and militancy.
Ogoun is the deity of fire and red is his color. He likes to be saluted with rum, not with the more traditional water. Often this rum is poured on the ground then lit and the fumes pervade the peristyle.
The sword, or much more commonly, the machete is his weapon and he often does strange feats of poking himself with it, or even sticking the handle in the ground, then mounting the blade without piercing his skin.
Ogoun is identified with St. Jacques, the warrior general, and is often in the guise of a revolutionary war general.
Voodoo does not have a woman as goddess of fertility. Fertility is regarded as a unified principle, equally held by male and female forces. Thus Dumballah is united to his Ayida. Agwe has his counterpart in La Sirene, the Marasa, the twins are contradictory and complementary forces of nature and so on.
But Voodoo has a most special place for Erzulie, the loa of beauty, the loa who is so uniquely human since she is the differentiating force between human and all other creation. She is the ability to conceptualize, the ability to dream, the artistic ability to create.
Erzulie is not a loa of elemental forces, but THE loa of ideal dreams, hopes and aspirations. As such she is the most loved loa of all.
Erzulie is fabulously rich, and, when she mounts someone the first act is always to accomplish her elaborate toilette. The very best of things which the houngan or mambo have are reserved for Erzulie. She will bathe, using soap still in a fresh wrapper if possible. She will dress in silks with fresh flowers and other signs of her femininity and specialness.
She is a master of coquetry. She may simply visit with her servants, or she may eat or drink with great delicacy. She loves to dance and is the most graceful of all the loa. She is quite special to men and will dance with them, kiss and caress them, even in an often embarrassing manner.
Yet she is closely associated with the Blessed Virgin Mary and her symbol is the heart, usually one broken with an arrow in much the same way as a dominant Catholic portrait of Mary has it.
Erzulie wears three wedding bands since she has been (or is) wedded to Dumballah, Ogoun and Agwe. She has often flirted with Zaka, but she has completely dismissed his more course brother Ghede as unworthy. However, Erzulie is always in charge and may take any servitor present as her lover for the day if she chooses.
However, the visit of Erzulie is never fully satisfying. In the end she always begins to weep. The world is just too much for her. At first people try to comfort her with more delicate food or drink or other gifts, but her tears continue to flow. It is this tearful and sad side of her that allows the women to accept her in her haughty ways. She is, in the end, one who suffers the burden of the world's sorrows.
Despite her flirtations and loving ways, Erzulie is a virgin. She is the complete converse of the crude sexuality of Papa Ghede. She may not be a virgin in the physical sense, but in the sense that her love transcends the earth, it is a love of higher forces.
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