This is a Haitian vodoo flag individually sewn by hand in thousand of glimmering sequins and beads on satin. It is a 37.50"x28" flag that depicts "Damballa", the voodoo serpent god, the Sky Father, the primordial creator of all life. Its shimmering and glistening beauty is not quite captured by the picture.
A "drapo" Vodou is a handmade flag, typically embroidered and decorated with beads and sequins. Although flags may have been made in West Africa before the arrival of Europeans, the flags widely used there by 1600 were derived from European flags. They were used as symbols of ethnic, military or religious allegiance. The drapo Vodou also drew on Yoruba beadwork, Catholic vestments and Masonic aprons. In the 19th century and early 20th century most drapo Vodou were made from one or two colored fabric pieces decorated with embroidery, metal bangles and glass beads, with an image of the lwa made of shiny fabrics appliquéd to the cloth using techniques still followed in West Africa. Flags and banners used in the 21st century in rural areas often still have stylistically simple designs, in part due to the high cost of decorative material. With the older flags the background field that frames the image was usually decorated with widely spaced sequins or beads. Modern flag makers often completely cover the fabric of the field with sparkling sequins of one color, or with intricate geometrical patterns. Borders, which were either simple or did not exist on early drapo Vodou, have evolved into highly elaborate patterns. Nowadays, ateliers are dedicated to this art craft have opened creating a vibrant market for the flags. Thousands of glimmering sequins are individually sewn by hand making this a tedious and fine task.
- Dumballah (Dumballah Wedo, Damballah): Known as the serpent god, he is one of the most popular. Dumballah is the father figure. He is benevolent, innocent, a loving father. He doesn't communicate well, as though his wisdom were too aloof for us.
Dumballah is the snake. He plunges into a basin of water which is built for him, or climbs up into a tree. Being both snake and aquatic deity, he haunts rivers, springs, and marshes. Again, as the snake he is rather uncommunicative, but a loving quiet presence. Dumballah does not communicate exact messages, but seems to radiate a comforting presence which sort of sends a general spirit of optimism into all people present. Because of this, he is often sought after during ceremonies. When Dumballah mounts someone the special offering to him is the egg, which he crushes with his teeth.
Dumballah is the serpent god, also lightning. He and his wife, Aida-Wedo, are often shown as two snakes who look as if they were diving into the sink and by a rainbow. He is the bringer of rain; this is a necessity for good crops. People possessed by him dart their tongues in and out, slither along the ground, and climb trees, or roof beams, falling like a boa. He is known to whistle because he has no speech. His special day is Thursday, and his favorite tree is the bougainvillea. White is his color. He is in charge of white metal (silver) and must be fed white food and drink. He grants riches and allows treasures to be discovered. Dumballah sustains the world and prevents it from disintegrating. Dumballah and his wife Ayida, represent human sexuality.
He is sometimes referred to as Da. Dumballah is often spoken of as a serpent. In the voodoo culture, the serpent is a symbol of fertility. He is one of the oldest of the ancestors and is so sacred that he doesn't speak, but expresses himself through hissing sounds, just like that of a serpent. In the voodoo religion Dumballah is closely associated with the Catholic's St. Patrick.
He is Dahomean in origin. His favorite foods are eggs, cornmeal, melons, rice, bananas, and grapes. The usual offering to him is a hen and a cock. It is believed that if respects are paid to him by a married couple, he will keep them happy. (Descriptions of various Loa of Voodoo, Compilation from class assignments, Spring, 1990. Done for Bob Corbett by Jan Chatland)
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