One of the most shy and retiring spirits in the religion of Voudon is not, as one might imagine, a woman or girl. Quite far from it. This lwa – or in fairness group of lwa – is all together masculine. Known as Simbi, or The Simbis, they are often anthropomorphized as water snakes gliding elegantly over the swampy waters that are their domain. Green is their color and they are of neither salt water nor sweet, but the place where the two come together.
The origin of these spirits is just as elusive as they are. Some authorities say that Simbi was born of the interaction between slaves on Sante Domingue and the Native Arawak and Taino. These people worshipped a group of spirits called zemi who consisted of female and male rulers of salt water, fresh water and destructive magick. Other writers point to the Congo spirit Zambi Mpungu, a god of lightening, whose wife – also called Zambi – was a queen of water. This spirit may have in turn become the child-spirits that are called cymbees in American hoodoo and are said to roam in bayous and swamps.
Not surprisingly, the symbols used to represent Simbi are just as numerous. The Christian icons and Catholic Saints standing in for Simbi include St. Anthony, St. Charles Borromeo, and the Three Kings. Moses, who overcame the snakes produced by Pharaoh’s magicians, is also a favorite.
Whatever the origin of the Simbi lwa, they have a lot to do. Just to name a few there is Simbi Andezo who keeps watch over swamps and salty plains upriver from the sea. Simbi Makaya is a powerful magician. Simbi Anpaka is an herbalist who knows the forest and is called on to heal disease. Simbi Dlo is the keeper of freshwater springs, and Simbi Ganga is a warrior and sorcerer who protects those who serve him.
As noted, all the Simbi are retiring and a little challenging to get to know so working with any of them takes commitment. They like to be remembered with offerings and candles but are not as demanding as many of the other lwa. That said, they will not be forthcoming immediately. They want to know that a petitioner is sincere and, if they find otherwise, no amount of entreaty will coax them out. There is a saying that either you “have Simbi” or you do not. But if you do, and if you are consistent and honest with the Simbi lwa they will give you help when you call.
Header: Dwapo lwa for Simbi