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Voodoo Folklore: Baron Samedi

Baron Samedi is the leader of the Barons and possibly the Gedés. He presides over a sprawling, confusing, complex clan of spirits. Baron Samedi literally means Baron Saturday, which may sound innocuous compared to Baron Cemetery but a connection through Christianity is Saturday was between the crucifixion on Friday and resurrection on the Sunday. Thus, the Saturday, belongs to Baron Samedi, Lord of the Dead. Or another possible explanation for the name is that Samedi is related to ‘Simbi’ or zombie in Haitian and there is only a coincidental resemblance to the French word for Saturday.

Baron Samedi spends is mostly in the invisible realm of the Haitian voodoo spirits. He is known to be outrageous – drinking rum and smoking cigars, swearing profusely, and making filthy jokes. The other spirits in the Guede family behave similarly but lacking the suaveness of Baron Samedi.

Despite being married to the loa, Maman Brigitte, the Baron chases after mortal women and lingers at the crossroads of life and death in the human world.

When someone dies, the Baron is said to dig their grave and meet their soul as it rises from that grave. He guides them into the underworld and only Baron Samedi has the power to accept an individual into the world of the dead. He also makes certain those who have died rot in the ground as they should, and no soul can return as a brainless zombie. For this act, he will demand payment which varies upon his mood at the time. On many occasions, he accepts gifts of cigars, rum, black coffee, or grilled peanuts but he may ask others to continue wearing black, white or purple.

Baron Samedi, is the head of the Guede family, the group of loas that control life and death. This powerful family of spirits possesses numerous abilities. The Baron is also a giver of life and can cure any mortal of a disease or wound provided he believes it is a worthwhile act to save the individual. The Baron even has the power to overcome voodoo hexes and curses. An individual who is cursed by a hex or other black magic is not guaranteed death if the Baron refuses to dig their grave. As the Master of the Dead and Guardian of Cemeteries, no one can enter the underworld without his permission. In this way, he can prevent death.

He a powerful healer and is especially sympathetic to terminally ill children. He can be just and kind. The Baron prefers children live full lives before joining him in the cemetery and underworld.

Baron Samedi is the crossroads where sex and death meet. The Spirit of an undying life-force and he may be petitioned for fertility. He is the guardian of ancestral knowledge and the link to ancestral spirits.

Baron Samedi is syncretized to Jesus because they both share the symbol of the cross. Baron Samedi’s associations with the cross may pre-date Christianity. In Congolese cosmology, the cross is the symbol of the life cycle: birth-death-rebirth.

Also known as: Bawon Samdi (Creole); Baron Sandi (Spanish); Baron Saturday

Classification: Lwa

Favored people: Children; women seeking to conceive; funeral workers; grave diggers; any whose work brings them into contact with death

Manifestation: an older, dark-skinned man in formal attire, dressed completely in black. He wears a black top hat, black suit, and may be smoking one of his beloved cigars. He wears impenetrable black sunglasses (one lens may be missing because he simultaneously sees the realms of the living and the dead.

Iconography: A chair chained to a cross.

Attributes: Coffin; phallus; skull and cross-bones; shovel; grave; black sunglasses; cross.

Offerings: Black coffee, plain bread, dry toast, roasted peanuts. He drinks rum in which twenty-one very hot peppers have been steeped. Cigars, cigarettes, dark sunglasses, Day of the Dead toys (the sexier and more macabre the better); A skull and crossbones pirate flag; beautiful wrought-iron crosses are crafted in his honor.

Colours: Black but also red or purple

Day: Saturday

Feasts: 2 November, Day of the Dead.

Time: Twilight tends to be a good time to invoke him or make requests.

Consort: Madame Brigitte. They may both be petitioned together for fertility, protection, or to save sick children.