Rada x Petwo (English)

Frater Vameri


Image by thommas68.


Adam Mcgee takes on the discussion raised by Karen Richman to try to better understand the most famous division in Vodou: Rada and Petwo. Traditionally, this division is explained in terms of Africa and the new world. However, a closer look will reveal that such a dichotomy is fragile.


Many authors have tried to escape the “Africa versus new world” pattern by establishing Rada spirits as “calm” spirits and Petwo spirits as “agitated”. Although I consider this view to be better, it also fails to explain all the complexity that exists in these spirits. The idea of ​​calm spirits can give the impression that they are absolutely, for example, passive, which is a serious mistake. Certain spirits like Ogou are sometimes served as Rada and as Petwo, but that does not change their main characteristics - and one of them is their fiery energy.


Mcgee will try to push the discussion to the moral side. The Rada would then be spirits with a stronger sense of morality and the Petwo would be amoral. He tries to use the dichotomy “right hand x left hand”, including the case of Regla de Ocha and Regla de Congo, in which this is well marked. While it is not absurd to want to understand the Rada service as something independent of the Petwo service, I also understand that the moral divide is not enough. Certain Petwo spirits have a very strong morale, even if it is slightly "dangerous" for what Westerners consider acceptable.


Trying to fit Hubert and Mauss' theory here - about magic vs. religion - would also be wrong, I understand. This, because, although the Petwo spirits are, yes, agitated and dangerous, their cult is not marginal (generalizing) in Vodou . In fact, some of the most popular Lwas are classified as Petwo - for example, Erzulie Dantor .


Adam Mcgee will argue that Rada spirits are linked to a fanciful African ideal - to a mythical built Africa, often called Guinea. However, he is attentive when realizing that Guinea is also sometimes understood as an African place outside Africa. This divisional duplicity would then be a division between the ideal and the material.


However, as Mcgee deftly points out, the division between Rada and Petwo varies. In a given location a spirit can be worshiped as Petwo , just so that in the neighboring city, its worship is Rada. What the author does is to say that he rejects this division as a division of Pantheons. It is here that the discussion becomes really interesting for those who practice Haitian Vodou, as he says that this division is of style and aesthetics. What I interpret from this is that in the idea of Mcgee Rada and Petwo would be ways to serve the spirits. This gains strength when we think that certain spirits like Damballah present a counterpart Petwo - Damballah La Flambeau .


No one has the definitive answer to that question yet. In the meantime, we can keep chewing on these ideas.

McGee , Adam. " Constructing Africa : Authenticity and Gine in Haitian Vodou ." Journal of Haitian Studi es 14, no. 2 (2008): 30-51. Accessed April 26, 2021. http://www.jstor.org/stable/41715187.

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