Friday, March 2, 2007

Sacred Arts of Haitian Vodou

Sacred Arts of Haitian VodouIntroductionAbout HaitiRoots of VodouRitualSpiritsTools of Worship
AgweAzakaBosouDanbalaEzili DantoEzili FredaGede and the BaronGran BwaLasirenMarasa
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Haitian Vodouists revere a supreme God (Bondye) and a world of powerful spirits, called the Lwa, who link the human with the divine. There are hundreds of lwa in the Vodou religion, and each has its own personality, strengths, weaknesses, and favorite objects. The spirits are often expressed as a triad including:

• ancestors
• souls of twins
• 'mysteries'—divine personifications of nature or human emotions

Vodouists serve the lwa and beseech their assistance for all kinds of problems. The hundreds of lwa are divided into nations and families, much like human beings. The largest nations are:

• Rada—benign spirits derived from ancestral West Africa
• Petwo—fiery spirits from Central African and Creole traditions

Sanctuary door, temple of Sauveur St. Cyr

This section showcases the characteristic iconography of some important lwa from the Rada and Petwo nations. These items are the kinds likely to be placed on altars or sold as popular art. Many are used during ceremonies, when the spirits are attracted by the sound of their favorite rhythms, or the flash of their favorite objects.

You will note that the lwa are often represented by chromolithographs (mass produced images) of Catholic saints, or by ritual items appropriated from the Masons. Two hundred years ago, spiritual recycling helped African people survive slavery. Now it is a way of life. Vodou is a religion of tolerance. It freely borrows from other traditions to keep alive African beliefs.

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