The Voodoo Pantheon
At the head of the Pantheon is the Deity “Bondeye” who’s name is a corruption of the french “Bon Deu” meaning “The Good God”. Like the Abrahamic God of the Jewish, Christian, and Islamic religions He is considered remote and generally inaccessible so prayers and requests for assistance and development are aimed at other Deities or aspects closer to the Earth Plane. Much as prayers and rituals, such as lighting candles, are directed towards Saints that are involved with specific areas of influence. Indeed, to make Voodoo acceptable to the plantation, owners the Gods and Goddess that are part of it are were associated with Saints of the Christian Catholic hierarchy. This was so that practitioners could appear to be petitioning a particular Saint, when they were actually contacting a member of the Voodoo Pantheon.
Some of the associations are obvious such as St Patrick, who is said to have cast the snakes out of Ireland being associated with Dambulla the Snake Loa. But others are less so, such as the association of the Loa Papa Legba with St Peter. It’s only when you notice that the latter both have keys as part of their representation and that Legba is always invoked first to open the way for other Loa, while St Peter holds the keys to Heaven and Hell that the connection becomes apparent.
Voodoo Loa are divided into several distinct groups. Papa Legba is one of the Rada Loa, which are considered to be the older and more munificent Loa which also includes Dumballah, the Loa of the mind, wisdom and keeper of the cosmic balance. Petro Loa are a younger section of the Pantheon associated with Haiti and the New World. Erzuli the female counterpart of Legba is a prominent member of this group. Voodoo has no distinct deity for fertility because all Loa are considered equally fertile. Even so Erzuli is considered to be the Deity of love, health, and luck, and the Black Madonna is the image frequently used to represent her. These loa are also considered to be aggressive and warlike but, as with working with any Deity, intent and binding the aspects you don’t want are paramount.
Kongo Loa are associated with the Congo area of Africa and feature many of the serpent-associated Loa other than Damballah. These are the messengers and protectors of the Voodoo Pantheon. Like Mercury and other messenger Deities they are also associated with healing and travel, and taking souls to all places. Another group of Loa with a geographical origin are those from Nigeria, Benin, and Togo, an area which used to be called “Yorubaland”, whom are called Nago Loa. Associated with warriors and metalworking these Loa help in protection and artisan-related work. They can be quite feisty, and any worshippers ‘ridden’ (possessed by the Loa) handle fire, sharp items such as machetes, and can eat hot chillies, with little or no harm.
The last group of Loa are the Ghede Loa, which are associated with Death, and the spirits of the departed. The Loa many people will be familiar with in this group is Baron Samedi, if only from the James Bond film “Live and Let Die”. Rather than being sombre the members of the Ghede are loud, rude, and generally a lot of fun. They will also answer questions in a serious and reliable manner provided that they are asked in that manner- although you may have to pull the person they are possessing aside from the main celebration to do so. They are also the protectors of children, to the extent of being the go-to Loa to ask for protection for a child, or that they lead a full life rather succumb to a childhood illness.
This is are only a brief overview of the Voodoo Pantheon, and details will vary from area to area, and even amongst different practitioners. This is because the majority of Voodoo practice is passed on orally, thus it can change due to revelations from the Loa that manifest during the rituals and celebrations. However, this information can be very helpful when designing a ritual or meditation that involves this spiritual path. There are several pathworkings that are based on Tarot cards featuring African Spirituality where knowledge of the Voodoo Pantheon can be useful, especially if you end up in that area of the Astral Plane that these Loa tend to congregate in. As with working with any Pantheon politeness and good manners will keep you out of most problems, and by understanding the basic principles you can work out what type of Loa or Divinity you might be dealing with and act appropriately.
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Voodoo- History of the Arte
Voodoo in Modern Haiti
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