Greetings in the name of God, the ancestors and the lwa! I invite you to perform a service for the lwa Baron, and for his wife Maman Brigitte and their children, the Gede lwa!
The lwa Baron, in all his aspects, is a mighty and powerful lwa! He is served in Vodou, in New Orleans Voodoo, in the Makaya tradition, and in the secret societies of the Sanpwel. Yet Baron is one of the most accessible and beneficent of all the lwa, for the simple reason that he is the ruler of all ancestors, and everyone has ancestors.
The first man buried in any cemetery is Baron. The first woman buried in any cemetery is Maman Brigitte. Together they reclaim the souls of the departed, and transform them into Gede lwa.
Baron has many aspects - Baron La Croix (Baron the Cross) is the mystical Baron responsible for the reclamation of souls. Baron Samedi is involved in the magical ceremonies of the Sanpwel, including those in which the punishment of zombification is inflicted on criminals. Baron Cimitiere is the Big Black Man in the cemetery, he is the one who guards the bones of the dead at night. Baron Kriminel works for pay, and must be paid by the end of the year, November 2, the Feast of the Dead.
In all his aspects, Baron is a judge. He determines the guilt or innocence of those brought before him. If someone is the victim of malevolent magic, if Baron is invoked to help them and he sees that the person is innocent, the person can not be killed. But if he is invoked to punish an evildoer, he himself will send spirits of the dead into the body of the offender, and the evildoer will die a slow death.
Maman Brigitte, wife of Baron, is the Vodou manifestation of the Celtic goddess Brigid. During the Stuart Wars, many Scottish and Irish men and women loyal to the Stuart crown were deported to the West Indies, and that is how Brigid arrived in Haiti. Maman Brigitte will heal the sick if she is invoked for that reason. She is also a magician, and a particular friend of women and children.
The spiritual children of Baron and Maman Brigitte are the Gede lwa. Every human being on earth can become a Gede lwa, although not all do! The Gedes are powerful, and will prophesy the future, heal the sick, give advice, or perform magic of all descriptions. First among the Gedes is Brav Gede, and he is a frequent visitor to the peristyles of Haiti.
Baron is identified with the image of St. Martin de Porres, who stands with a broom in his hand, with rows of people on their deathbeds on either side of him. Gede is represented by St. Gerard, who wears severe black clothes and meditates on a skull. Maman Brigitte does not have any particular image strictly associated with her in Vodou, but some people use the image of Our Lady of the Candelaria, the same image often used to represent Oya in the Lucumi tradition.
The vever, or traditional insignia, of these lwa is a cross on a tomb. The details of the vever may vary depending on the particular lwa or aspect being invoked.
The colors associated with this group of lwa include black, purple and white. Their number is nine, and their particular days of service include Monday and Saturday. Every year in Haiti on November 2, no matter on which day of the week the date falls, is "Fet Gede", and on this day thousands of people become possessed by Gede lwa, and by Baron and Brigitte. These lwa use a great deal of indecent language, but they are never nasty to people, they don't curse at people, but instead they tell hysterically funny dirty jokes.
They dance the banda, which is a wildly suggestive dance miming sexual intercourse. And in the midst of all this winding and grinding, these lwa keep perfectly straight faces - they are cadavers, they feel nothing.
Their food must be given to them in quantity - heaps of staple foods such as bread, rice and black beans, coconut meat, grilled corn and peanuts. They eat sweet potatos, and they adore smoked mackerel. They accept offerings of black coffee, and they require separate vessels of black coffee with sugar and without. Above all, everything they eat must be heavily seasoned with hot pepper.
Their special drink is single-distilled rum called kleren in which hot peppers have been steeped along with other ingredients, until it is so hot that no human being in their right senses could hold it in their mouth for an instant. Haitians refer jokingly to this drink as "gaz lakrimojen Ayisyen", Haitian tear gas! A CD with photos and instructions for making piman is available on the same page as the Baron Instructional Package.
Baron's attributes include a deck of cards, a top hat, a pair of sunglasses from which one lens is removed, and of course his baton, which he uses as a phallus during his dancing, and which is believed to carry tremendous magical power.
In this service we will invoke Baron, Brigitte and the Gede lwa to ask for their blessings, and the blessings of all the human beings who have ever lived on earth and who are now departed. They are interested in us, because where we are, they once were - and where they are, we one day will be! Because they are in the spiritual realm, they have access to information that we can not obtain in our mundane state of consciousness. For this reason, the ancestral lwa are said to "see with four eyes".
You may put before Baron any case of injustice which you have suffered, or you may ask forgiveness for any wrongs you have done. You may ask for the protection of Baron, Brigitte and the Gedes.
A service for Baron in a Vodou peristyle can be a grand affair! But even a non-initiate can make a powerful and effective service for Baron - especially if the non-initiate has the materials, the bath and the songs provided for members of the Vodou Forum discussion group in the Baron Instructional Package. On that web page you can also buy a CD produced by Mambo Racine, titled "PIMAN! Libations for Fet Gede", which presents photos of herbalist Loulou Prince and Mambo Racine as they make the fiery peppered rum for the ancestral lwa, and written descriptions of each step of the process.
If you are not yet a member of the Vodou Forum discussion group, please accept my invitation to join now!
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Begin by covering your altar with a white or purple cloth. Do not make an all-black altar. If you like, you can drape smaller cloths of purple or black across a white latar. Place in the middle of the altar a beautiful goblet of water - the spirits travel through water. You can surround this central goblet with nine smaller glasses of water if you like. Then add any of the following items:
Purple, black or white silk kerchiefs, purple flowers, cross images or the vever of Baron, the Tarot images of Death and Judgement, playing cards, sunglasses, a black walking stick, a top hat. Place on your altar one white candle, and then add as many white or purple candles as you wish. Do not use black candles, unless they are the special black boujis made in Haiti and provided by Mambo Racine.
You can give Baron, Maman Brigitte and Gede their food and drink offerings. In addition, you may offer to your personal ancestors whatever foods you know they liked to eat.
Dress in white clothes with purple and black trim - a purple scarf, a black belt, whatever you can find. Tie your head with white, purple or black.
You can get images of St. Marin de Porres, St. Gerard, and La Candelaria. Most botanicas sell these images. Or you can use a printed vever of Baron, and pin the paper image to the front of your altar.
Begin your service as usual with the Lords' Prayer, the Hail Mary, and the Apostles' Creed, or if these prayers are not appropriate for you because you are Jewish or of some other faith, address in prayer the One Most High God. At this time light your white candle.
Then invoke Legba. Say this:
Papa Legba open the gate for me!
Atibon Legba open the gate for me!
Open the gate for me, Papa, so that I can pass,
When I return, I will thank the lwa.
Now speak to Baron. Pour out a little cool water or white rum three times on the ground. Light your white candle.
Say "Baron La Croix! Master of the Cemetery! Heavenly judge! Maman Brigitte, Queen of the Dead, beautiful woman, healer of the sick!
Brav Gede, first among Ancestors, Papa! Come here I beg you and accept these offerings!"
You can put a small white candle in each food offering, and present it individually. Breathe on the food, touch it to your head, heart and pubic area and put it on the altar. Light the candle in the food offering.
Dance, and if you don't know the banda just dance as suggestively as you can! If you know Vodou songs about Baron, Brigitte and the Gede, or if you have learned them from the tape cassette included in the Baron Instructional Package sing them! This will make your ceremony more effective.
Otherwise sing songs about ancestors, about the cycle of birth and death. You could sing popular songs like Elton John's "Daniel is Travelin' Tonight on a Train", or religious songs like "Once to Every Man and Nation" or "Nearer My God to Thee", or even play "Taps!" You could recite the 23rd Psalm. Naturally it would be better if you knew a few Vodou songs for these lwa but most people in the USA don't know any so don't worry if you don't either.
Once you feel their presence, say, "Baron! Maman Brigitte! Brav Gede! My own ancestors! You see this food? You see this rum? You see ME? Please give me... " (and here you will ask for whatever you want, whether it is love or wealth or luck in a certain situation, protection, healing, a better relationship with family members living or deceased, or a judgement against someone who has done bad magic directed against you.)
Now sit down and spend some time in front of your altar. Do divination if you want to. You can read cards or throw coconut or use cowries or whatever you usually do.
When you are ready, leave the room and let the candles in the food offerings burn to the end. Sleep in purple or white pajamas on white sheets if you can. The next morning throw the food offerings away in the woods under a bush where no one will find them. Keep the peppered rum on your altar, along with the other objects you have provided for Baron, Maman Brigitte, the Gedes and your ancestors.
Watch and see what happens!
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