The Marassa Twins: When one and one make three

My standard apology for featuring anything in voudou: I have a hard time finding reliable resources. Someone write a book for us, okay? (I’ll picking up http://amzn.to/WojigG when it’s out in January.)

Also, like many other spirits I feature here, loa/lwa are not demons. They’re sort of like gods, sort of like saints, and sort of like neither in a way I don’t really understand. Any way you slice it, best not to piss them off.

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The Marassa Twins are powerful lwa in the voudou tradition, and if you are a twin, or have had twins in your family, you’re required to serve them.

This might not be an easy task. The twins are children and act as volatile as children. They cry, they whine, they refuse to act. And they insist on being treated exactly the same. EXACTLY. So don’t put an extra Skittle on the left plate, or offer one of them a blonde doll and the other one a brunette.

Unlike some kids, the Marassa Twins love to eat. But like most kids, god help you if you offer them a vegetable. They also love toys, so that’s a good offering.

The concept of ‘twins’ seems to be a lot more fluid in Haitian society, where the Marassa Twins come from. Not only are you required to serve the twins if you are a twin, but if you have an extra finger, it’s assumed you were a twin and you ate your twin in the womb. And if you are born with webbed fingers or toes, you must serve the Marassa.

Plus, in most of the world, twins are defined as two kids born together. Triplets are a different thing. Not for the Marassa. They are portrayed both as twins and triplets, and both male and female. It’s very fluid.

The twins represent love, truth, and justice, or faith, hope, and charity. Despite being children, they’re responsible for astrological learning.

Marinette-bra-chéch: If you hadn’t already got the message that dealing with the devil is bad

My standard apology for featuring anything in voudou: I have a hard time finding reliable resources. Someone write a book for us, okay? (I’ll picking up http://amzn.to/WojigG when it’s out in January.)

Also, like many other spirits I feature here, loa/lwa are not demons. They’re sort of like gods, sort of like saints, and sort of like neither in a way I don’t really understand. Any way you slice it, best not to piss them off.

One of the youngest voudou loa/lwa is one of the scariest.

In 1791, Haitian slaves were rebelling against their French rule. Legend has it that on August 14 of that year, a voudou priest named Dutty Boukman led a voudou ritual of the darkest kind. The priest, or bokor, and a female priestess, a mambo/mamba, called on Satan through the sacrifice of a black pig. All the attendees drank the pig’s blood and swore their allegiance to the devil for 200 years if he would help them overthrow their masters, kill them, and destroy all their stuff. The pact is known as the Boukman Contract.

The revolution was a success and independence was declared in 1804. In fact, it’s the only slave revolution in history that resulted in the establishment of an actual government, under Jean-Jacques Dessalines. The revolution also slipped up Napoleon’s foothold in the New World, which could have seriously affected the outcome of the Napoleonic Wars in Europe and the War of 1812 in North America.

But there are other legends.

One of them says that the mambo who actually slit the pig’s throat suffered an evil fate. After her death, she became a lwa herself. Her name was, you guessed it, Marinette. She’s sometimes known as Marinette-bra-chéch or Marinette pied chéche, which is a patois of the French “Marinette bras/pied séc”, or Marinette of the dry arms/feet. This suggests she has a skeletal form (or so I read).

Marinette is very powerful and very feared. However, the flip side of her personality is that she frees people from their bondage. So, she does have her devotees.

Marinette’s aspect is that of a screech or barn owl. She’s also associated with werewolves—some say she’s the queen of the Haitian werewolves, and that they all follow her. I read one resource that said she hunts humans while in her werewolf form, but then I read some stuff on that resource that says it’s full of crap.

Sigh. What’s a researcher to do?

The sacrifices she likes most are black pigs and black roosters plucked while still alive. That possibly-unreliable resource says she wants her sacrifices buried in the ground so that other lwa can’t find them and steal them from her.

Why anyone, even another lwa, would think it’s a good idea to steal anything from this lady is unexplained.

That Voodoo That You Do 3: Jumbie/Duppy

No, not the drink, I’m talking about another kind of spirit.

A jumbie is a general term for a spirit, but also the specific term for a restless spirit of the dead. Caucasian cultures usually portray ghosts as white, but the Caribbean jumbie manifests as a black shadowy figure. (The term duppy refers to the same thing.)

The aspects and ways of dealing with the jumbie vary in different Caribbean cultures. In some parts of Montserrat, there’s a jumbie dance (Not this one, but cool anyway. (Notice the people on the stilts in the background of that dance? Check this out.)), which goes on until someone is possessed by a jumbie.

To deal with a jumbie, leave a pair of shoes outside your house. It will spend the night trying to put them on (but they don’t have feet, so it won’t succeed — but still, one appreciates the fashion sense).

Jumbies/duppies can be vampiric, as well. Bob Marley’s song Duppy Conqueror is actually talking about his human leeches, though.

Sources

The Encyclopedia of Vampires, Werewolves, and Other Monsters
The Encyclopedia of Vampires, Werewolves, and Other Monsters

by Rosemary Ellen Guiley

That Voodoo That You Do 2: Erzulie Who?

The last demon for a month…

Okay, don’t freak out when there’s no demon next week; starting Thursday, we’re having October is Zombie Month instead! Every day in October, I’ll have a zombie-related post. It’s going to be cool (Well, probably more like room temp, or the ambient temperature of whatever location you’re in.).

In November, we’ll return to your regularly scheduled demons

That Voodoo That You Do 2

Okay, are voodoo loas demons? Personally, I have no clue. But they fulfill the roles of spiritual messengers between Bondye (“Good god”) and mere mortals, which means they do the job of the angels in the Christian tradition, and demons were originally angels… So let’s call them spirit people and include them in the blog. (Plus, they tend to be snappy dressers, which most demons aren’t, and we could use some fashion sense around here.)

Erzulie Who?

Erzulie is the chief female loa — or maybe she’s a whole family. With voodoo, it’s often hard to tell these things. Is she a different spirit, or just in one of her moods? Only the mambo knows for sure.

erzuliefredaveveAs Erzulie Freda, she’s part of the beneficial Rada loa, and is sexy and stylish–the perfect woman, in fact. As Erzulie Dantor, she’s part of the less kind Petro loa. Scarred and ugly, she carries a big old knife that she’ll use on you if she feels like it, thank-you-very-much. But the paradox that is Erzulie doesn’t end there… Erzulie Freda hates females and treats them all as rivals, sometimes demanding that married men give up leave their wives to serve her (that’s the good Erzulie, remember?). But Erzulie Dantor (supposedly less kindly) uses her knife to protect women and children above anything else.

ErsulieDantorNo sane voodoo-loving woman would serve Erzulie Freda. If she did, she’d probably be rewarded by the loa ensuring that she never got married. But most female practitioners do worship Erzulie Dantor. Go figure.

Erzulie Freda is a mixed-race beauty who parades around in fine clothes and lots of sparkly jewelry. She wears three rings, one for each husband. She’s married to the voodoo loa Damballa, Agwe and Ogoun… And any other human guy she decides she wants–she just lets him know, through signs and portents, dreams and signals, that he’s supposed to drop what he’s doing (and who he’s doing it with) to devote himself to her.

It’s kind of awkward if he’s already married, but that has never stopped her before.

Sources

Encyclopedia of Witches, Witchcraft, and Wicca
The Encyclopedia of Witches, Witchcraft, and Wicca
(Paperback)
by Rosemary Ellen Guiley

That Voodoo That You Do 1: Pulling my Legba

Okay, are voodoo loas demons? Personally, I have no clue. But they fulfill the roles of spiritual messengers between Bondye (“Good god”) and mere mortals, which means they do the job of the angels in the Christian tradition, and demons were originally angels… So let’s call them spirit people and include them in the blog. (Plus, they tend to be snappy dressers, which most demons aren’t, and we could use some fashion sense around here.)

Pulling my Legba

Papa Legba is absolutely the most important guy in the voodoo universe. He isn’t the most powerful by any stretch, but he definitely comes first because, well, he comes first!

Papa Legba, a natty dresser in his straw hat, using a cane and smoking his pipe–often with a dog at his heels–is the first guy to show up in any successful voodoo ritual. He fills an important place by being the guardian of doors, entries, paths, and crossroads. And that includes the crossroads between the worlds. If you want to talk to anyone on the Other Side, including another loa, you’ve got to go through Papa Legba. Legba is the guy who opens that gate so anyone can come through.

The Veve acts as a beacon for a spirit to come to the place of summoning

The Veve acts as a beacon for a spirit to come to the place of summoning

Legba is one of the Rada loa, which means he’s more on the serene, beneficial side of things. So long as you give him his pipe, he’s pretty much happy. A good thing since you can’t talk to the other spirits without his help.

Now voodoo is one of those religions that’s difficult to get your hands on. It’s kind of slippery, and meant to be that way. You see, voodoo developed in Haiti and other parts of the Caribbean during the times of slavery as a way for the people to worship their own African gods while seeming to follow Catholicism. So loa are usually associated with Catholic saints–“Stick a picture of the Virgin Mary up on that altar. Any outsider who comes will think the altar is for her, but we’ll all know it’s really for Erzulie…”

This is the slippery part: Rosemary Ellen Guiley and others say Legba is associated with St. Peter. There’s a case for that, since he has to lead things. But Zora Neale Hurston says he’s associated with St. John the Baptist. And there’s a case for that, too, since John had to come before things.

Hurston also records this incantation for Legba:

Papa Legba, ouvirier barrier pour moi agoe
Papa Legba, ouvirier barrier pour moi
Attibon Legba, ouvirier barrier pour moi passer
Passer Vrai, loa moi passer m’a remerci loa moin

Here’s my crappy French translation:

Father Legba, open the barrier for me [word I don’t know]
Father Legba, open the barrier for me
Attibon Legba, open the barrier for me to pass through
Truly pass, loa let me pass, I give thanks to you

Or something similar to that.

Now, considering that when a loa ‘passes’ through, he (or she) takes over someone’s body, I’d think twice before trying this one at home, kids.

Sources

Encyclopedia of Witches, Witchcraft, and Wicca
The Encyclopedia of Witches, Witchcraft, and Wicca
(Paperback)
by Rosemary Ellen Guiley