Bawon Samedi and Other Genii locorum of Vodou

Frater Vameri

Photo by Richard Mcall at Pixabay.

It was by reading Claude Lecoutex ( Demons and Spirits of the Land) that I was sure of something somewhat obvious, but one that eluded me frequently: Bawon Samedi is a classic example of the protective spirit of a place. At this point many may be wrinkling their noses, but let me try to explain my idea better and defend why it doesn't diminish or change the complexity of this Lwa .

Claude Lecoutex is a famous medievalist and his studies are very comfortable intertwining with the occult, as well as those of Daniel Ogden , for example. By this, I do not mean that they are writing for occultists and religious, but that they should read those.

Lecoutex argues with great propriety and elegance that several mythological creatures are “manifestations” of local spirits - genii locorum . These spirits, strongly linked to a place such as a house, tree or waterfall, for example, would function as protectors. Since they would be the original inhabitants and masters of certain locations, humans, with their invasive and dominating nature, would have to learn to deal with these spirits. Many understood that it was not possible to destroy them, so it remained to appease them or make peace with them. In fact, when pleased, the genii locorum could prove to be powerful allies and promote good hunting, good rain or even protection.

In Vodou we have classic examples of genii locorum in the Lwas and Djabs that inhabit caves, waterfalls, trees and also a land in particular. It is very common that in what Jean Kerboull calls " Family Vodou", people appease or please the spirits of the land in which they live. In a certain movement of invisible ecology, the maintenance of these spirits is fundamental for the whole earth to prosper. Dislike them and illnesses and misfortunes will befall people.

Agreements with Djabs (agitated and dangerous spirits) who live in remote places like caves are also well known in Vodou . This seems to recall the old pacts with mysterious beings from the forest that are heard so much in European folklore. The forest or the wilderness, as always, is a radiator of power and magic, because it is there that man does not live and does not go without due care. Lecoutex recalls that before cemeteries, some peoples buried their dead in the forest, which certainly contributed to the enrichment of spiritual fauna and created new niches. Many of nature's spirits have an intimate connection with the powerful dead - as Lecoutex and Nigel Jackson point out.

Now let me go to the part that triggered the idea of ​​this little article. It is evident that the cemetery is a man-made space. However, in the cemetery the man is not in control. With each new necropolis that rises, a natural space is taken and one has to think about what happens to the genii locorum there. If they stay , it is possible for them to transform, but without being able to do much more than speculate about it, I prefer to remain silent. In any case, when the cemetery is effectively established, that is, when the first person is buried, he will become a kind of protector and director of that cemetery - a genius loci , par excellence.

This is very curious, as it establishes that there is , in fact, a total change of domain - but contrary to what we usually see and that Lecoutex shows, not from a spirit to men, but to another specific spirit. One could argue that the genius loci of the place will be amalgamated in the figure of this manifestation of the place. I cannot argue either for or against at the moment. In fact, this discussion is less concerned with genesis and more with roles.

Of course, by stating that Bawon Samedi and others play a role similar to that of a genius loci , I am not implying that these are exactly defined and limited by this. It happens that when these Lwas are normally discussed , one becomes very attached to the phenomenon of death itself, which seems very fair in view of its impact on us. However, it is forgotten that the cemetery is a place of complex interactions. For example, in an article on the website “Circe's Mirror”, I argued (based on work by Katherine Smith) that the cemetery is a large temple in Vodou ( of the dead / ). Now, in this particular temple, none other than Bawon and Brigitte would be a species of the ultimate Houngan and Mambo. So, I call attention to the fact that some functions within Vodou can vary according to certain relative parameters, which again leads me to conclude: there is a Vodou for each Lwa .

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