Friday, November 1, 2013

The celebration of Guédés versus the Halloween Holiday.

Available in : Original French Version
By:Herve Gilbert
The celebration of Guédés  (also spelled Gede or Ghede ), commemorated on November 1st and 2nd, in Haiti and in the diaspora ,is symbolic of the voodoo religion in Haiti. In the mythology of voodoo, the Guédés represent the spirits of death and resurrection. On this occasion, the vodouists  hold ceremonies to celebrate their gods represented by different "Barons" as Baron Saturday, Baron Cemetery, Baron Lacroix, Baron Criminal and "Grann Brigite" Bride of Baron (first woman buried in the cemetery). 
Vodouists believe in a distant and unknowable creator god, Bondye. As Bondye does not intercede in human affairs, direct their worship toward spirits subservient to Bondye, called * lwa. Every lwa is responsible for a particular aspect of life, with the dynamic and changing personalities of each lwa reflecting the many possibilities inherent to the aspects of life over which they preside. In order to navigate daily life, vodouists cultivate personal relationships with the loa through the presentation of offerings, the creation of personal altars and devotional objects, and participation in elaborate ceremonies of music, dance, and spirit possession.

There is a diversity of practice in Voodoo across the country of Haiti and the Haitian diaspora. For instance, in the north of Haiti, the lave tèt ("head washing") or kanzwe may be the only initiation, as it is in the Dominican Republic and Cuba, whereas in Port-au-Prince and the south they practice the kanzo rites with three grades of initiation – kanzo senp, si pwen, and asogwe – and the latter is the most familiar mode of practice outside Haiti.

The overall tendency in Voodoo is conservative in accord with its African roots, there is no singular, definitive form, only what is right in a particular house or lineage. Small details of service and the spirits served vary from house to house, and information in books or on the internet therefore may seem contradictory. 

A goat is sacrificed for the ceremony
There is no central authority or "pope" in Haitian Voodoo, since "every mambo and houngan is the head of their own house", as a popular saying in Haiti goes. Another consideration in terms of Haitian diversity are the many sects besides the Sèvi Ginen in Haiti such as the Makaya, Rara, and other secret societies, each of which has its own distinct pantheon of spirits.

Voodoo originated in the French slave colony of Saint-Domingue in the 18th century, when African religious practice was actively suppressed, and enslaved Africans were forced to convert to Christianity. Religious practices of contemporary Vodou are descended from, and closely related to, West African Vodun as practiced by the Fon and Ewe. Voodoo also incorporates elements and symbolism from other African peoples including the Yorùbá and Bakongo; as well as Taíno religious beliefs, and European spirituality including Roman Catholic Christianity, European mysticism, Freemasonry, and other influences.
So, what is Voodoo? let's take a look ...

This traditional celebration leads to  moments of tremendous excitement. In the street, the vodouists engage in a dance with erotic gestures bordering with indecency, drink vinegar, eat chili pepper and  launch without reluctance  coarses and obscene words Many reactions that characterize the behavior of Guede. In the pantheon of voodoo, this is one of the gods inherited from the pre-Columbian preriod, according to Haitian ethnologists.

Max Beauvoir, the headquater of the
Voodoo in Haiti.                           
The colors in voodoo embellish the scene set for the conduct of events Guédés. The traditional colors are black and purple. The costume Guede Nibo is composed of three colors: black, purple and white. The Gede Nibo is recognized as the protector of the living dead

A Haitian Voodoo temple is called an Hounfour. After a day or two of preparation setting up altars at an Hounfour, ritually preparing and cooking fowl and other foods, etc., a Haitian Vodou service begins with a series of prayers and songs in French, then a litany in Kreyòl and African "langaj" that goes through all the European and African saints and loa honored by the house, and then a series of verses for all the main spirits of the house. This is called the "Priyè Gine" or the African Prayer. After more introductory songs, beginning with saluting Hounto, the spirit of the drums, the songs for all the individual spirits are sung, starting with the Legba family through all the Rada spirits, then there is a break and the Petwo part of the service begins, which ends with the songs for the Gede family.

A priestess of voodoo drawing a vèvè of "Gran Brigit"
The Vévé or Vèvè  is a symbolic graphic that priests or priestesses of voodoo draw around the (poteau-mitan) post-midlife  with all kinds of powder, flour, ashes, chalk powder or herbs.Once drawn on the ground, they become a complex and harmonious patterns graphics, mysterious geometric figures which only insiders know the meaning. The Vévé is an ephemeral art and fades away during the offerings and the ritual dances
The Vèvè represent a LOA, and meets every stylized symbols that can represent it. For example:
Damballah Wèdo: it is symbolized by two snakes in a triangle around a cross.
Ogou Legba: it is symbolized by a sword in the middle of a triangle with its base.
Papa Legba: it is symbolized by a cross decorated with a cane.
Baron Samdi: it is symbolized by a cross on an altar or a tomb, surrounded by two coffins
So, the type of the "Vèvè" displayed on the ground shows the relationship of the Voodoo. Yet, this sacred script has no illustrative purpose, it is ephemeral nature and must erase throughout offerings and ritual dances
A woman into a trance during the ceremony
As the songs are sung, participants believe that spirits come to visit the ceremony, by taking possession of individuals and speaking and acting through them. When a ceremony is made, only the family of those possessed is benefited. At this time it is believed that devious mambo or houngan can take away the luck of the worshippers through particular actions. For instance, if a priest asks for a drink of champagne, a wise participant refuses. Sometimes these ceremonies may include dispute among the singers as to how a hymn is to be sung. In Haiti, these Vodou ceremonies, depending on the Priest or Priestess, may be more organized. But in the United States, many vodouists and clergy take it as a sort of non-serious party or "folly".
The drum is one of the catalysts that boost the participants
In a serious rite, each spirit is saluted and greeted by the initiates present and gives readings, advice, and cures to those who ask for help. Many hours later, as morning dawns, the last song is sung, the guests leave, and the exhausted hounsis, houngans, and mambos can go to sleep.

Participants in the event of Guédés are from more the poor disadvantaged classes than the middle classes. Some practitioners who live abroad do not intend to negotiate this appointment.

However, it seems difficult to confirm the open participation of the Haitian bourgeoisie in such events. A segment of this class simply commemorate All Saints in strict compliance with the standards Catholics.

Lwa:gods in voodoo pantheon
To be continued ...
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