This is a Haitian vodoo flag individually sewn by hand in thousand of glimmering sequins and beads on satin. It is a 27"x26" banner that depicts a heart, which represents the heart of Erzulie 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.
Erzulie: (Ezili) Voodoo does not have a woman as goddess of fertility. Fertility is regarded as a unified principle, equally held by male and female forces. Thus Dumballah is united to his Ayida. Agwe has his counterpart in La Sirene, the Marasa; the twins are contradictory and complementary forces of nature and so on. Erzulie is the female energy of Legba.
She has tremendous power and is feared as much as she is loved. Also, she has several different roles: goddess of the word, love, help, goodwill, health, beauty and fortune, as well as goddess of jealousy, vengeance, and discord. She is usually known as a serpent that coiled upon itself lives on water and bananas.
There is a casual connection between the lightness of her color and that of wealth, because only the light skinned elite possess wealth in Haiti.
But Voodoo has a most special place for Erzulie, the loa of beauty, the loa who is so uniquely human since she is the differentiating force between human and all other creation. She is the ability to conceptualize, the ability to dream, the artistic ability to create. She is the loa of ideality.
She is the female prototype of voodoo who represents the moon.
She is the most beautiful and sensuous lady in the voodoo pantheon. She is respected and wealthy; wears her hair long; is very jealous and requires her lovers to dedicate a room for her ritual lovemaking.
Erzulie is not a loa of elemental forces, but THE loa of ideal dreams, hopes and aspirations. As such she is the most loved loa of all. She is pale in appearance; almost white, even though she is Dahomean in origin. She is known as the earth mother, the goddess of love. She is depicted as a trembling woman who inhabits the water. She has no specific function, but is approachable in a confidential manner. In every sanctuary there is a room, or corner of a room, dedicated to her.
Erzulie is fabulously rich, and, when she mounts someone the first act is always to accomplish her elaborate toilette. The very best of things which the houngan or mambo have are reserved for Erzulie. She will bathe, using soap still in a fresh wrapper if possible. She will dress in silks with fresh flowers and other signs of her femininity and specialness.
Her sacred days are Tuesday and Thursday. She wears red and blue dresses and jewels. As soon as someone is possessed by her, they are washed and dressed in finery. She is a high class mulatto who walks with a saucy sway to her hips. She is a "woman of the world" and is fond of sugary drinks. She is compared to Aphrodite. She is pleasure-loving, extravagant and likes to give and get presents. She fond of men but mistrusts women as rivals. She is a woman of etiquette, and when she pretends to speak French, she purposely talks in a high pitched voice.
She is a master of coquetry. She may simply visit with her servants, or she may eat or drink with great delicacy. She loves to dance and is the most graceful of all the loa. She is quite special to men and will dance with them, kiss and caress them, even in an often embarrassing manner.
Yet she is closely associated with the Blessed Virgin Mary and her symbol is the heart, usually one broken with an arrow in much the same way as a dominant Catholic portrait of Mary has it.
Erzulie wears three wedding bands since she has been (or is) wedded to Dumballah, Ogoun and Agwe. She has often flirted with Zaka, but she has completely dismissed his more coarse brother Ghede as unworthy (since he is black and she is mulatto). However, Erzulie is always in charge and may take any servitor present as her lover for the day if she chooses.
However, the visit of Erzulie is never fully satisfying. In the end she always begins to weep. The world is just too much for her. At first people try to comfort her with more delicate food or drink or other gifts, but her tears continue to flow. It is this tearful and sad side of her that allows the women to accept her in her haughty ways. She is, in the end, one who suffers the burden of the world's sorrows.
Despite her flirtations and loving ways, Erzulie is a virgin. She is the complete converse of the crude sexuality of Papa Ghede. She may not be a virgin in the physical sense, but in the sense that her love transcends the earth, it is a love of higher forces. She belongs to the family of sea spirits, but has become completely divorced from her origins as to be now almost exclusively a personification of feminine grace and beauty. (
(from Descriptions of Various Loa of Voodoo,Compilation from class assignments, Spring, 1990. Done for Bob Corbett by Jan Chatland)