Saturday, May 21, 2011

Samedi: In the Trees

The spirits of Voudon are particularly fond of nature, which to me is a bit of a paradox.  There are not many wild places left in Haiti, if the truth be told, and in some areas it is particularly daunting to find a tree much less a forest.  So it would seem even more paradoxical that many of the lwa have their own favorite trees.

Most Voudon temple complexes have trees, or at least a tree, in their courtyards.  These are dedicated to the lwa and are called repozwas: resting places.  Here the lwa can sit and relax particularly after a possession when they are often asked for help and favors by the voudonists in attendance at a fete.  The courtyards will always have a tree near the door to the temple consecrated to Papa Legba, the lord of the gate between our world and the spirit world.  Other trees will likewise be consecrated but to other lwa and offerings will be left on or near them, including ribbons and beads hung in the branches.

Outside of the ounfo proper, certain trees are recognized as being sacred to certain lwa.  Here is a list of some Rada, Petwo and Ghede spirits and the trees they love:

Agwe, the lwa of the oceans, fancies the raisinier tree
Ayida-Wedo, the rainbow wife of the serpent Danbala, is fond of all trees but is particularly partial to calabash and palmetto trees
Ayizan, the first mambo, likes palm trees
Azaka, the farmer, likes avocado and banana trees
Baron Samedi, lord of the Ghede, has a weakness for citron trees
Danbala, like his consort, appreciates all trees but is most partial to the calabash and bougainvillea
Erzulie Freda Dahomey loves the laurel tree
Gran Bwa, the shy lwa of the forest, is fond of mapou trees

This is by no means an all inclusive list, but it gives you an idea of the varying tastes of the lwa, at least in landscaping.  It also gives us an historical glimpse of how varied Haiti’s forests must have been at a time long before our own.  The World is alive; Ashe!

Header: Carnival by Henri Rousseau


Timmy! said...

Interesting post, Pauline. Makes sense that the trees they favored would be tropical too.

Pauline said...

Yep; that's what grows in Haiti.