Sakpata: Vodun of Earth

When Mawu was dividing the world between her children, Sakpata was given dominion over the earth, at the displeasure of his sister Sogbo. Sakpata came down from heaven with plants, crops, tools, and skills that humans could use for development. Because he had taken so much with him, he did not have space for other necessary elements like water and fire, which were stolen later.

Humans were excited when Sakpata descended from the heavens with these tools of wealth. There was a lot of promise in them, and they hoped they would see their lives improve. Legba, Sakpata’s youngest sibling, told Sogbo, who was given control of the skies, to withhold rain in the sky. Knowing that their mother noticed, Legba went to Mawu and told her water would not be enough for everyone on earth, including the plants. Alarmed, Mawu ordered Legba to tell Sogbo to withhold the rains, which he had already done.

Sakpata soon realized that his crops needed rain, but none came. A drought ensued that caused everything to become dry and brittle. Humans began getting angry with Sakpata. They harassed him and cursed him for lying to them about the prosperity and convenience he had promised. Legba came down and found his brother in a messy state. That was when he told Sakpata he would talk to Mawu on his behalf. He told Sakpata to watch for a messenger, wututu bird, who would say to him what to do when the time came. When the bird returned, it told Sakpata to instruct the others to light a great fire, so the smoke could rise to heaven, signaling their distress.

Because it was so dry, everything caught fire very quickly, and the fire leaped into the sky. When Legba saw, he went to Mawu and told her that the earth was burning and the fire was so high and powerful it might spread to the heavens. Alarmed, Mawu told Legaba to order Sogbo to release the rain. The rain put out the flames and returned fertility to the land. It was decided that although Sogbo controlled the sky, people can call for rain when needed.

What does this story reveal? In this context, it describes the role and power of the spirit of the earth, Sakpata. Sakpata is not the Vodun of Agriculture or fertility, but he is the god of progress and elevating society. When the spirit comes to rule over men, he brings them the tools of trade, crops they can domesticate, and abilities such as woodworking and carpentry skills. These are ways in which this spirit facilitates that mission of progress and growth by equipping humans with the capabilities to prosper, the right tools, and the right environment to do so.

Source: Vodun. Monique Joiner Siedlak

Xevioso: Vodun of Thunder

Xevioso is the god or lord of thunder. A god of thunder is one of the most common in cultures around the world. In Yoruba’s version, he is considered the strongest. He represents wrath, aggression, and punishment. In other words, Xevioso is understood as primarily a spirit of explosive, uncontrollable emotion like anger, violence, and tremendous power. This is a double-edged sword as he can protect those who honor him, but if they offend him in any way, he will likely turn on them.

This is the spirit you turn to when you are looking for justice. Still, anger is usually a sign that something isn’t as it should be, or there has been a violation of some agreement or law.

In most cases, spirits host and govern over the earth, and there is a set of agreements we have towards one another: a type of an unspoken agreement. We go into the world having agreed on a particular set of rules like not stealing from or hurting each other, and so forth. And when someone steals from us, we feel violated, and we have a right to be angry about it, even more so if we know they are getting away with it. Your anger is a sign that someone is not playing by the rules, an injustice has been done. Given this, it is not illogical to suggest that exercising your anger would restore justice and, therefore, balance the world. In other words, Xevioso is the protector and dispenser of justice. Through his acts, he enforces and keeps relations between the gods in check and us. It is not senseless, aimless, unexplainable anger, or fury. Although we may not understand it sometimes, it adds up on a cosmic scale.

Source: Vodun. Monique Joiner Siedlak

Prayer to Marie Laveau

PRAYER TO MARIE LAVEAU

Holy Mother of New Orleans Voudou, hear my prayer.
I humbly request your assistance.
Through you I feel the gentle power of Divine Justice.
Give me strength to stand against my enemies and protect me from those who wish me harm,

Sweet Heart of Marie, Show me your wisdom
That I shall speak the truth and elevate the Ancestors
Madame Marie, Bless me with the protection of Johnny Conker
That he shall always have my back.

Holy Mother of New Orleans Voudou, Bless me with the powers of the Sacred Serpent Li Grand Zombi
That I may walk in balance, equally male and female.
Holy Mother of New Orleans Voudou, Bless me with the spirit of St. Maroon

That I shall never take for granted the freedoms that I have.
And with the light that emanates from your Spirit, Madame Laveaux, all darkness is Obsolete.

Holy Mother of New Orleans Voudou, pray for me.
Holy Mother of New Orleans Voudou, hear my plea.
Holy Mother of New Orleans Voudou, Madame Marie, pray for me. Ashe!

Source: The Magic of Marie Laveau

The Myth of Marie Laveau, Part I

“Marie Laveau was a negress of café au lait tint, handsome in face, commanding in figure, and of remarkable intellect and force of character. She masqueraded as a hairdresser, thus learning the secrets of many a proud old New Orleans family. In helping sweethearts to secret meetings and forwarding clandestine correspondences, she had no equal and cared not whether the men and women she aided were old in coquetry and vice or young and innocent.”

~ Richmond Daily Palladium, 1900

The Hoodoo Altar

Before you begin any hoodoo work, you will need a place to do your rituals. This means you will need a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed, and a surface such as a table, box, chest, or even a large flat stone. Some people set aside a portion of the floor to use as an altar, or they use a dresser top, with ritual supplies stored underneath. You will need basic items and some extra items to personalize your altar.

Cover your altar with a white cloth, and place two white candles at the back on either end. Figures or pictures of saints or other religious images should be placed at the back, between the two white candles. Place your incense burner in front of the image and in the middle of the altar, and to the right of that keep some holy water or a bowl of water that you have blessed. These are the basics of the hoodoo altar.

You can add fresh-cut flowers, special stones, a dish of salt, and a small dish of graveyard dirt, if you wish. The important thing is to not place anything on your altar that doesn’t belong there. Altars can range from the very basic to the extremely elaborate.

Your altar and everything on it should be blessed or consecrated. Your candles should be blessed and dressed. All of the bowls and other containers should be washed with salt water, conjure water, Florida water, or Holy water.

As you become familiar with working with the various spirits, you will learn how to set up altars for each spirit or family of spirits. For individual magickal works, however, the altar will be as individual as the work is itself.

Source: The Voodoo Hoodoo Spellbook

Poppet (Voodoo Doll)

As portrayed in modern media, the idea of a Voodoo doll is simply a doll or a figurine representing a person in one’s life. It is then created by using personal objects with attachments to said person (for example, hair) and then using the doll to enact all kinds of spiritual acts. The most popular acts that people associate with Voodoo dolls are that of vengeance and mayhem.

In western media, it’s often shown that people with hate towards another person create the doll to hurt and curse people instead of what the dolls are initially intended for. Once a staple of West African traditionalism and Haitian beliefs, it is now reduced to nothing more than a tourist novelty. Voodoo Dolls have a terrible reputation. It is always depicted in popular media as a small, stitched-up doll that you imbue with your enemy’s essence. It then uses a needle prick, causing pain and inconvenience. And while it’s not unheard of that the dolls are used for curses, it’s doubtful that they are commonly used for this purpose.

The process of making the dolls has nothing to do with stitches and stuffing. Instead, the dolls are customarily made from sticks, straws, or any personal and organic material of the people that you’d like represented in the image of the figurine. As with West African spirituality, they are physical representations of the spiritual realm around people. Taking place on altars and surrounded by objects of interest. These physical conduits to family, friends, and loved ones are there to bring connection with that of the Lwa and to leave prayers and petitions of goodwill unto those that people are close to.

Source: Marie Laveau: Life of a Voodoo Queen. Monique Joiner Siedlak

Gris-Gris

A gris-gris, sometimes known as a grigri, is an object that most Voodoo practitioners craft for their patrons. This talisman or amulet has its origins out of Africa and is designed and crafted for various uses. It is commonly created to ward off evil or as just essential protection against anything classified as a spiritual attack on a person. However, this isn’t its only use since, in the more western area of Africa, they can be used for birth control. The practice of wearing a gris-gris was surprisingly used by believers and non-believers alike. Its appearance, while varied, was usually a small cloth bag inscribed with African verses that contained small ritualistic objects. Allegedly, it was also used in the Islamic faith as protection against evil spirits called Djinn.

In Haiti, they are seen as objects of good fortune used to improve the external lives of the wearers and imbued with some sort of incantation. New Orleans has its version of a gris-gris. While they may be inaccurately represented as a form of black magic, they are, in fact, a much more positive item in the arsenal of Voodoo objects. Unlike the belief that it was designed to bring ill-will on patrons’ enemies, records indicate people tampering with other’s amulets as a form of vengeance. It is believed that, in actuality, the gris-gris was just sources of healing and protection. Why would its original meaning change so much in the course of Voodoo history? Many believed Marie Laveau used these talismans to curse people, but odds are, she simply used them to improve the way of life of those around her.

Source: Marie Laveau: Life of a Voodoo Queen. Monique Joiner Siedlak

Baron Samedi

Baron Samedi, “The Master of the dead” in Voodoo, occupies a popular place as the guardian of cemetries, and the spirit responsible for an individual’s transportation to the underworld. One of the more prevalent loas in Haitian voodoo is Baron Samedi. He fills a vital role in Haitian voodoo as the master of the dead, ushering the newly deceased into the afterlife. Who is Baron Samedi? In Haitian voodoo, Baron Samedi is the head of the Guede family of loa.

His name is often translated as Baron Saturday, Baron Samdi, Bawon Samedi, or Bawon Sanmdi. The last name of Saturday comes from the French translation of Samedi. Baron leads the Guede family, a group of loas with strong links to magic, ancestor worship, and death. The loas in the family consist primarily of lesser spirits, dress the same as Baron, have rude (even crude) attitudes, but lack the charm of their master. Baron is portrayed in Haitian voodoo wearing a top hat, black tuxedo, dark glasses, and cotton plugs in his nostrils. His image is often said to resemble that of a corpse that has been dressed and prepared for burial in traditional, Haitian manner. His face is said to resemble a skull, and he uses a nasal voice.

Baron spends the majority of his time in the invisible realm of Haitian voodoo spirits. His behaviour is described as outrageous. He is known to spend his time drinking rum and smoking cigars, swearing profusely, and making filthy jokes to the other loas. The other spirits in the Guede family are said to behave in the same manner, without the suave ability of Baron Samedi.

The Baron needs that suave nature because he is believed to chase mortal women, despite being married to the loa, Maman Brigitte. Baron’s time is spent lingering at the crossroads of life and death in the human world. When someone dies, Baron is said to dig their grave and meet their soul as it rises from the grave. He guides them into the underworld. Only Baron Samedi has the power to accept an individual into the world of the dead.

It is also said that Baron ensures that all those who have died rot in the ground as they should, ensuring that no soul can come back as a brainless zombie. He will demand payment for this act, which varies depending upon his mood at the time. On many occasions, he is content to accept gifts of cigars, rum, black coffee, or grilled peanuts.

American Horror Story: Coven (2013-2014)

In a city with a culture rich with ties to the occult, it’s no surprise that there’s a TV series about witches.

From Ryan Murphy’s renowned American Horror Story franchise is its third season subtitled Coven, which follows a secret institution of young witches who are descendants of those persecuted during the Salem witch trials in the late 1600s.

The girls are learning to harness and strengthen their powers at a boarding school run by witch Cordelia Foxx.

However, that also means they’re all contending to become the next Supreme, the most powerful witch, while battling external threats from voodoo practitioners as well as interior threats.

Hoodoo in Savannah

The Geechee culture is a remnant from what was once a society of black slaves. The area they call home stretches from Savannah southward to an area just below the Ogeechee River, from which they draw their name. Often times this culture is mistakenly called ‘Gullah’, but in actuality the Gullah people exist in an area to the north of Savannah, between Daufuskie Island and Charleston, South Carolina. The two peoples are similar, but not interchangeable: both are rooted in slavery, but the Geechee people have a history and tradition all their own.

Freed after the Civil War, these Island people would often group near the coast where both fishing and farming was plentiful. The community developed their own dialect. In addition to what amounted to their own language (also called ‘Geechee’), this culture also had an elaborate belief system through their African descent. These beliefs are centered on a deep spirituality, believing in both ghosts and in a type of magic cast by charms, potions and amulets.

This magical ability to cast spells is called ‘conjuring’, or ‘casting roots’. A magic spell itself is called a ‘conjure’. The spell is often cast by burying a bag or bundle on the property of the unsuspecting victim. There are also ways of conjuring involving secret potions to drink, powders, nail clippings, and that most powerful of talismans—graveyard dirt. Someone skilled in the art of casting spells is called a root doctor, or a witch doctor. They can be employed if you feel that magic is being used against you.

A witch doctor is very different from a witch, which is often called a ‘boo-hag’. Not to be confused with the Hollywood version, witches in this tradition look no different from regular people. Witches are more akin to vampires, because the belief is that they steal the breath and life-force or essence of the victim. To have your essence stolen by a witch is known as ‘being rid’ or ‘ridden’. If someone looks poor or sickly, the assumption is that a boo-hag stole that person’s energy in the middle of the night; they are being “rid by a witch.”