Loko and Ayizan

Frater Vameri

Image by "My pictures are CCO. When doing composing" at pixabay.

Loko and Ayizan represent a complementarity and, therefore, they are often understood as a couple - they are, respectively, the first houngan and the first mambo. Thus, they are ritualistic chiefs and healers. We often see literature and practitioners giving little importance to both. This is a mistake, as they play a central role. In this essay, I would like to briefly discuss these Lwas.

It is considered that Loko (also called "he of the trees") is the one who commands the poteau-mitan and also that he was the first to use the strength of the herbs for the cure of illnesses. Ayizan, in turn, is known as a great force against magical attacks. This clearly points to a fundamental link between the office of the priesthood, ritualism and cosmology with nature. In other words, it is not possible to think about Vodou and its ceremonies without a strong connection to the natural world. I will discuss more of this a little bit later.

In his role as a healer and connoisseur of plants, Loko is confused with Gran Bwa and also with Osain from Candomblé. Avoiding establishing a direct connection and claiming that Loko would be Osain's counterpart, it is evident that the two have similarities. In principle, this association between a spirit and nature may seem uninteresting to a Westerner used to life in cities. However, we need to understand that the people of Africa and the Afro-Caribbean people (in general) have a different relationship with nature. Just as for them the separation between the sacred and the profane is seen differently, the natural world and the ordinary world mix. Therefore, spirits like Loko and Osain are not mere exotic figures, but true beacons of life and the mysteries of these societies. For this reason, their figures are reflected in priests and healers - people who guard the threshold between the visible and the invisible.

Among the symbols of Loko are of course the forests, the chameleon and the butterfly. In fact, it is understood that Loko can take the form of the latter two. Emile Marcelin says that Loko is closely linked to the Legba spirits, being their "chief". This speaks about the association that we are gonna briefly discuss between Ayizan with Legba too. Thus, Marcelin also associates Loko with paths and crossroads.

Ayizan, in addition to being in charge of the mambo´s role, is also a Lwa who operates in the market (the importance of the market for some African societies would give a separate text) and is also related to the forest and plants. So, her protections and cures, of course, will have some use of natural knowledge. We see here the clear theme of the close connection between the priesthood and Gran Bwa, the Lwa of the forest. The forest, of course, is a place of mysteries by its very nature and this points to the undoubted magical nature of the priesthood in Vodou. In this context, we must remember that Gran Bwa is one of the masters of Vodou magic . Consequently, Loko and Ayizan share that magical power.

We also find Ayizan as Papa Legba's wife. Usually, this association arises from her mastery role over the market, public places, doors and barriers. Ayizan also features prominently in funerary ceremonies. That is, it is clear that we are discussing an Lwa whose actions and presence reverberate throughout Vodou . Her vevé looks like an overlapping A and V. Some say it is her initials Ayizan Véleque. However, the vevé is more likely to represent the palm leaves, her symbol.

Thus, with all that has been discussed it is clear how both Loko and Ayizan are present in every layer of Vodou. Bearing this in mind we have that Loko and Ayizan are the Lwas who will also take care of “ritual observance” and the passage of knowledge through worship. It would not be an exaggeration to say that they are the “watchers” of Vodou. Therefore, it is certain that no vodousaint wants to displease them.

I hope that this little text was enough to mark the importance of these Lwas. It is curious to note that many Vodou spirits appear to have similar or redundant roles - but a closer look will reveal that there is a very precise and timely individuality in each one of them.

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