Last Saturday we met the corpse cadavre and the nanm, two of the four components that make up the human being in the world view of Voudon. Today, a look at the Angels, the other two pieces of the puzzle.
The ti bon ange, or the little good angel, is probably an off shoot – at least in part – of Voudon’s contact with the Catholic Church. On the one hand, this angel is a guiding force common to all moralities through out the world. The ti bon ange is what we might call the conscience. It makes a person feel good or guilty about their interactions with others and it tells a person what to embrace and what to avoid. On the other, it is the portion of a person that can be attacked by unseen forces. Unknown and mysterious illnesses are often said to be caused by spirits or even a boko (or bokor – a person who practices magick “with the left hand”) working spells against the ti bon ange.
Of the four animating spirits, the ti bon ange is probably the least feared by the living after death. It escapes the body with the last breath and rises past the stars to greet Bon Dieu or Bondye. Here, in the home of God, the ti bon ange will account for its life on Earth and then drift off into the ether, never to touch the mortal realm again. It is this little twist of a reckoning before God that makes the ti bon ange somewhat similar to the Jewish/Christian/Islamic concept of a soul but only, in all fairness, very vaguely.
The gros bon ange, or the big good angel, is the little piece of Bon Dieu inside us all. It imparts personality, emotions, creativity and the ability to think. It is the part of a person that collects a lifetime worth of experience and knowledge and holds on to that individuality for eternity. It is also the portion of a person that is displaced during possession by a lwa and the part of us that wanders in dreams. The gros bon ange is each person’s portion of immortality.
This angel must be expelled from the body at death through appropriate ritual and burial. Otherwise, it can cause trouble for the living. Ideally the gros bon ange will make its way back to Ginen, which is generally thought to be somewhere under the ocean. This is where the lwa live and where the gros bon ange will reside as an ancestral spirit who, if properly called up, will help its living descendants and, in some cases, become a lwa in its own right.
The spirit world of Voudon is more complex and varied than that of most modern religions, even in reference to a single individual. But that, to my mind, is what makes it so fascinating. Surely each of us is more than one simple soul. Benedictions a vous ~
Header: Ti bon ange card from the New Orleans Voodoo Tarot by Sallie Ann Glassman