This is a Haitian vodoo flag individually sewn by hand in thousand of glimmering sequins and beads on satin. It is a 29"x33" banner that represents "Baron Samedi" in vodoo loa. 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.
- Ghede: (Papa Ghede) Ghede is the eternal figure in black, controlling the eternal crossroads at which everyone must someday cross over. His symbol is the cross upon a tomb. Known as the spirit of death, other spirits fear him and try to avoid him.
He operates under the direction of Baron Samedi.
Baron Samedi represents the death side of Ghede (Guede). He talks through his nose, is cynical, jovial, and tells broad jokes. His language is full of the unexpected. His tools are the pick, the hoe, and the spade. He is the power behind the magic that kills. He controls the souls of those who have met death as a result of magic.
When he appears (mounting someone at an invoking ceremony), he wears a pair of dark glasses, from which he knocks out the right lens: for with his right eye he watches those present, lest anyone steal his food.
Of especial interest is the testimony of Ghede; for when this god mounts his carriers, they are bereft of any sense of self, behave and speak compulsively, and recover knowing nothing of what they did or said.
Loa of death, sexuality, and keeper of the cemeteries. He is enamored of women, makes constant use of obscene words and songs, and performs obscene dances. When someone is mounted by Guede they put on a black undertaker's coat, a black top hat and stuff cotton in their ears and noses, this to symbolize a dead person. After they are dressed up they must then perform the banda dance, an erotic dance in which one imitates the movements of copulation.
The Guedes live in cemeteries and visit Catholic churches at night. On November 2 the faithful visit cemeteries and light candles in honor of Baron Samedi.
Papa Guede is a much loved loa because his appearance always brings laughter and joy, singing and dancing; he is usually the last to appear at a ceremony.
He is the loa of death and resurrection; is known as a total clown; loves cigarettes; is often seen smoking two at a time.
He is neither good nor evil, but he is amused by humans and that's why he jokes around so much.
Ghede is sort of to the underworld or afterlife what Legba is to life--he who controls access. Ghede controls access to everything in the afterlife.
We are reminded by him that our understanding of death and life is limited and that both are beyond our comprehension.
Ghede is also god of eroticism. Eroticism is beyond good and evil since it is inevitable. Ghede is neither delighted by eroticism, and certainly not shamed by it. If anything, Ghede is amused by the universal presence of eroticism and humans' constant need to pretend that it is other than what it is.
It is believed that his obscenity in sexual matters is an affirmation of life in the midst of death.
Saturday is his day and his color is black. His favorite foods are salt herring, hot peppers, roasted corn, and roasted bananas, and he is known for stealing food and hiding it, and then demanding more. Black goats and chickens are the animal sacrifices made to him during the rituals.
When Ghede mounts someone he often singles out people who pretend to be aloof from eroticism. He ridicules them, embarrasses them, exposes them (in more ways than one). He is especially hard on whites since they often have the puritanical sexual attitudes of western culture.
Ghede is also often called BARON SAMEDI. In this aspect he is DEATH. He is the keeper of the cemetery and the primary contact with the dead. Anyone who would seek contact with the dead must first contact and solicit Ghede/Baron Samedi in the same way that Legba is contacted to cross over to the spirit world.
Ghede has a ravenous appetite for food and drink and doesn't mind manifesting them when he mounts someone.
He has a dread of fire and shares the characteristic of a nasal voice with zombis.
Ghede is a clown, an interrupter, a coarse fellow. He wears formal black attire and a high silk hat with dark glasses and a cane. He smokes cigarettes and drinks rum. Likes to mount young girls. When he is pleased, he's quite a clown, but hard to handle when angered.
But he is history too. As keeper of the cemetery he has intimate contact with the dead. He knows what their plans were, what's going on in families, what the connections of things are. And he is quite generous with his information. Even when he is clowning or performing his erotic antics, if you can pull him aside and ask him a serious question you will get a serious and reliable answer.
Another of Ghede's great powers is as the protector of children. Ghede generally does not like to see children die. They need a full life. Thus he is the loa to go to when seeking help for a sick child.
Ghede has the power over zombies and decides whether or not people can be changed into animals. Any such black magic voodoo must seek the help of Baron Samedi/Ghede with these tasks.
Lastly, since Ghede is the lord of death, he is also the last resort for healing since he must decide whether to accept the sick person into the dead or allow them to recover. (Descriptions of Various Loa of Voodoo. Compilation from class assignments, Spring, 1990.Done for Bob Corbett by Jan Chatland)
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