Saturday, July 2, 2011

Samedi: Great Spirits

In Voudon, the Lord of the Forest is a lwa from the Petwo nachon.  He is generally retiring, a shy gentleman who is eager to help but must be sought out.  His name is Gran Bwa.

Given that he comes from the island nation of Haiti – as do all Petwo lwa – Gran Bwa is a bit of a paradox.  There is probably no place on Earth more deforested than Haiti; what was once a lush rainforest has become a near desert.  Trees have been cut down for fuel, for building materials and, sadly, to try to turn the people away from their spirituality.  Both the Catholic Church and Protestant fundamentalists have ravaged the island’s countryside, destroying trees they knew to be sacred to voudonists.  The devastation is striking and immediately evident.  Flying in to Port-au-Prince feels almost like circling a moonscape.

And yet Gran Bwa remains.  He inhabits the demambwe, the wild land where trees still grow.  Here houngans and mambos go to learn the secrets of root work and curing with herbs.  It is here, too, that bokor come to learn to do harm with the same vegetation.  Gran Bwa is not judgmental; he will offer his knowledge for good or ill if the one who seeks it is sincere in their devotion to him.  In this he is representative of not only Petwo lwa but of Voudon in general.  Gray areas are readily accepted in this spirituality where they are shunned in organized religions that see everything in terms of good and evil.

Gran Bwa is represented with the colors red and green, which should always be prominent on any altar dedicated to him.  He is fond of rum and coffee, and pouring a little of either onto a tree’s roots (not too much) is a fine offering to the Lord of the Forest.  He also enjoys rice with honey.  Gran Bwa is often represented by St. Sebastian, because he is tied to a tree.

If you work with herbs or if you have a close relationship with your garden (or would like to), consider cultivating a relationship with Gran Bwa.  It may take you a while, but the sincere effort will be well worth it.

Header:  St. Sebastian from a prayer card in my collection


Timmy! said...

Can't they replant some of the deforested areas of Haiti, Pauline? I'm sure it is physically possible. I'm guessing that it is probably more a matter of economic feasability...

Pauline said...

A lot of the problem is lack of funding - or even concern - on the part of the government. Then too some of the landscape has been without trees for so long that the topsoil is gone, making replanting impossible until the soil is renewed.