17 May Who Are The Ghede? And What Are Their Roles In Haitian Voodoo
In Haiti, the Guédé (also spelled Gede or Ghede, pronounced in Haitian Creole) are the family of Loa that embody the powers of death and fertility. Guédé spirits include Ghede Doubye, Guede Linto, Guede Loraj, Guédé Nibo and Guédé Ti Malis. All are known for the drum rhythm and dance called the “banda”. In possession, they will drink or rub themselves with a mixture of kleren (raw rum) and twenty-one habanero or goat peppers. Fête Ghede is celebrated on 2 November, All Souls’ Day (“Festival of the Dead”). All boons granted by the Ghede must be repaid by this date or they will take their vengeance on you.
Papa Ghede is the corpse of the first man who ever died. He is recognized as a short, dark man with a high hat on his head, who likes to smoke cheap cigars and eat apples. Papa Ghede is a psychopomp who waits at the crossroads to take souls into the afterlife. He is considered the good counterpart to Baron Samedi. If a child is dying, Papa Ghede is prayed to. It is believed that he will not take a life before its time, and that he will protect the little ones. Papa Guede has a very crass sense of humor, a divine ability to read others’ minds, and the ability to know everything that happens in the worlds of the living and the dead.
Brave Ghede is the guardian and watchman of the graveyard. He keeps the dead souls in and the living souls out. He is sometimes considered an aspect of Nibo.
Ghede Bábáco is Papa Ghede’s less known brother and is also a psychopomp. His role is somewhat similar to that of Papa Guede, but he doesn’t have the special abilities of his brother.
Ghede Nibo is a psychopomp, an intermediary between the living and the dead. He was the first person to die by violence, so he is the patron of those who died by unnatural causes (disaster, accident, misadventure, or violence). He is the guardian of the graves of those who died prematurely, particularly those whose final resting place is unknown. His chevals (“horses”, possessed devotees) can give voice to the dead spirits whose bodies have not been found or that have not been reclaimed from “below the waters”.
Baron Kriminel (“Baron of Criminals”) is the enforcer of the Guede. He was the first person to kill another (probably Nibo). As the first murderer, he is master of those who murder or use violence to harm others. Families of murder victims and the abused pray to him to get revenge on those who wronged them. His “horses” have an insatiable appetite and will attack people until they are offered food. If it doesn’t please them or takes too long, they will bite and chew on anyone nearby (or even themselves) until they are sated. His saint counterpart is St. Martin de Porres, perhaps because his feast day is November 3, the day after Fete Guede. He is sacrificed black roosters that have been bound, doused with strong spirit, and then set alight.
Manman Brigitte (“Mother Bridget”) is the wife of Baron Samedi. St. Brigit is the protector of crosses and gravestones.
The Guede loa have their own versions of the Twins, which appear as gravediggers. Twins are seen as having divine insight and vision. They also are part in the material world and the spiritual world (in their case, the living and the dead). They usually wear contrasting colors.
Ghede Mazaka assists Guede Nibo. He is an androgynous or transgender male gravedigger and spirit of the dead, recognized by his black shirt, white jacket, and white headscarf.
Ghede Oussou wears a black or mauve jacket marked on the back with a white cross and a black or mauve headscarf. His name means “tipsy” due to his love of white rum. Ghede Oussou is sometimes also linked with the female Ghede L’Oraille.
The Guédé is closely associated with the loa Baron, whose aspects are Baron Samedi (Baron Saturday) – ruler of the graveyard, Baron La Croix (Baron The Cross) – guardian of the gravestone, and Baron Cimetière (Baron Cemetery) – guardian of the grave. Depending on the tradition followed, Baron is:
- one of the Guédé
- their spiritual protector, who has raised them from the dead with the help of Baron Samedi’s wife, Maman Brigitte.
- An aspect of the Guédé gods.
In any of these configurations, Baron, Maman Brigitte, and the Guédé rule death, the cemetery and the grave. So, now that you’ve grasped the basic concept of the very well-known ghede, it would be great if you could leave a comment below. I would love to hear your opinions.