Saturday, April 9, 2011

Samedi: Lady Screech Owl

One of the rarely spoken of lwa, Marinette is most probably a mystery even to those who know a thing or two about Voudon.  In her native Haiti she is not mentioned without the whisperer of her name crossing themselves, at least if they know what’s good for them.  Even devout Haitian Protestants, who claim no affinity for Voudon, will not speak of her.

Marinette is a lwa of the Petwo nachon, born and bred in Haiti with no ties to Africa or Europe.  She is a sorceress, sworn to “work with the left hand” until time ends or she herself is destroyed.  She is called up by the bokor (pronounce baw-kaw) who are priests and priestesses but who work only “black magick”.  They are the person a voudonist would consult to have an enemy killed, raise the dead for the purposes of necromancy, or bind someone in blind love.  Almost without fail, these kinds of workings involve summoning the gleefully malevolent Marinette.

Sometimes known as Marinette-Bwa-Chech, “of the dry arms”, she is imagined as a skeleton who is accompanied by her symbol, the screech owl.  She is thought to reside in wild places like swamps and forests where she will appear only at night.  Her devotees do not keep altars to her but go to such places to bury her offerings.  She in turn will come and dig them up, consuming them under cover of darkness so that she is not forced to share her bounty with any other lwa.  She is worshipped in these wild places where gasoline, salt and dust are thrown onto a bonfire in exchange for the skeletal lady’s help with malicious magicks.

Marinette is the particular protector of lougarou, a secret society of people who believe themselves to be shape shifting werewolves or, in the case of some women, vampires who suck the blood of children.   Special precautions are taken against people of this socyete including charms tucked into children’s bedding and the sprinkling of hoholi, sesame seeds, in coffins to prevent the dead body being dug up and misused for evil.

Like most lwa, Marinette is partnered with one who is thought to be similar to her, if a bit less cruel.  This is the much mythologized leader of the Haitian Revolution called Don Pedro.  He is known as the hougan who called up the original Petwo lwa to help the slaves fight for their freedom.  After his death, he himself became the lwa Ti Jean Petwo (Little John Petwo) and married Marinette.  He is the lwa of violent struggle against subjugation and is pictured as a dark skinned dwarf missing a foot.  Like his wife, Ti Jean will assist the bokor who serve him.

Though Ti Jean has been known to possess voudonists in ceremonies, Marinette rarely manifests in this way.  She is considered a lwa who is far too dangerous for the average worshipper.  The Lady of the Screech Owl is best known and then bypassed all together.  Voila un avertissement ~

Header: Riding the Dead by Jean Michel Basquiat


Timmy! said...

Marinette sounds like a good subject for a Danzig song, Pauline.

Pauline said...

Doesn't she?

Anonymous said...

I have had some dealings with this one. She is terrifying. She will 'eat' you or your loved ones if you displease her. Run afoul of her and you can find someone(s) close to you becoming suddenly and terribly ill, as I did, and it can be a real scramble to save them.

Pauline said...

Thank you for your input, Anony. For me, this lady is best left to the secret societies that know how to interact with her.

admin said...

Hmm. Where did you get this?
First of all bokor is not pronounced Bawkaw but Bôkôr (o's and rolling R)...
Second, sure Marinette Bwa Chech is also used by Bokor, like many of the other lwa's.
But it's not as black and white as you write.

I severely doubt that you could ever get Marinette to 'bind someone in blind love' as she is a lwa who frees people from bondage. She was an important manbo at the Boukman ceremony that jumpstarted the revolution. She started the reverence for Dantor.

Marinette is mentioned in the hounfor I frequent with no crossing of fingers or hushed tones. Actually all this about her being a scary figure and woohoo is not part of her story here at all. Mind, she is not Marinette Bwa Chech, she is Marinette, not seen as an owl. She is a shy lwa (ie. hard to get to see). There are other derivations of her, and personalities in the Marinette. These can be harder.

She can maybe be an aggressive lwa, like many other bossou, Dantor etc. But like the rest, you don't have to utilise these aspects.

"Even devout Haitian Protestants, who claim no affinity for Voudon, will not speak of her."
... SURE! But protestants in Haiti don't say they DON'T believe in vodou, they just believe that vodou is devil worship, ie. the WRONG worship. (but they sure believe in the so-called devils!). Protestants in Haiti will not speak of ANY lwa if they can get around it. They'd rather make the sign of the cross and go the other way... Nothing special regarding Marinette there..

..... So many weird truths on the internet. Most originating in the US from some weird fantasies and such. Just google Bawon Samedi and look at the pictures! I think many people would benefit from just going to Haiti and seeing for themselves.