Vintage Iconography

The Vèvès Of Haitian Voodoo


Agweta Oyo
Agweta Oyo
Danballa and Ayida Wedo
Danballa and Ayida Wedo
Ezili Freda
Ezili Freda
Ezili Freda
Ezili Freda
Gran Bwa
Gran Bwa
Legba
Legba
Legba Zenklian
Legba Zenklian
Lenglesu Basen San
Lenglesu Basen San
Loco
Loco
Milokan
Milokan
Milokan
Milokan

Ogu
Ogu Fe Feray
Ogu Fe Feray
Simbi
Simbi
Sobo and Bade
Sobo and Bade
   
Zaka Mede
Zaka Mede
   

"Haitians regard their Voodoo loa (divinities) as Brits do their Royals. They bask in the glow of their fabulous lives, their quirky interventions in our daily affairs, their epaulettes and torn bodices, the caprice of their scandals, the splendor of their ordered ranks.Voodoo Royals include Generalissimo Ogou; his melancholic mulatto mistress Ezili; her sometimes lover, Admiral Agwe;   his mistress, the money grubbing mermaid La Sirene; and their very dark uncle,   Baron Samedi, Lord of Death-and Sexuality. Just as public affection for the various Windsors waxes and wanes, so too does the hard won and often fleeting popularity for the various loa. However, despite their fickle attraction to divine glamour, Haitians reserve a constant affection for the déclassé spirit family of Baron Samedi, his ghoulish wife Grand Brigitte and their loutish children, known collectively as the Gedes. Everyone appreciates their family style: raffish cut-aways, sequined sombreros, white powdered faces, and trademark sunglasses with a single lens, for, as Haitians will explain, 'the penis has only one eye.' To gauge the popularity of these divine derelicts, one should see them in action on the Catholic 'Days of the Dead' (November 1 and 2) which Haitians merrily hijack to celebrate the Baron's birthday party. The liveliest action is at the cemeteries, where huge crowds, many possessed by the Gedes, mill around his black cross offering rum, tallow candles, and a verse or two from some lewd song. Meanwhile on the dance floors of 50,000 Voodoo temples across Haiti, some Gedes ritually die and get resurrected, while others strike absurd and obscene poses. They are voguing the quotidian miseries of the Black Republic, thus reminding them and us that, after all, the world is a jest. "

Donald Cosentino, 'Voodoo Chic,' Haitie Cherie, 2004

Vèvè refers to the fragile line drawing executed in cornmeal, soot, coffee grounds, or brick dust on the floor of the hounfor, or Voodoo temple to represent or summon the various loas, or spirits. Rada is a major family of loa and it includes older, beneficent spirits. Some Rada loa are: Legba, Loco, Ayizan, Damballa, Ayida-Weddo, Erzulie, and Agwé. Rada loas are guardians of morals and principles, related to Africa, whereas Petro loas are connected to the New World, and are considered more aggressive. Some loas (such as Erzulie ) have both Rada and Petro manifestations. These traditional Vèvès, together with Drapeaux (banners, or flags) in representing the loa, synthesize the symbolism embodied in African tradition, Roman Catholicism, Masonic symbology, and Arawak Indian influences. Most of their creators are anonymous, or use only their initials, since these artworks are sacred religious works, and are not made for individual attribution or acclaim. The illustrations above were created by Elizabeth Beauvoir for Haitie Cherie, 2004.

Notes compiled by Gethin James.

Click here to hear Gethin James read the poem The Gods of Africa