Thursday, July 5, 2012

A Lesson in Voodoo - Baron Samedi

Baron Samedi, aka Baron Saturday, is my personal favorite of the Loas of Voodoo. A Loa, which is a voodoo spirit or Mystères, serve many different roles within Voodoo and Hoodoo. The good Baron is the Loa of the Dead. His aspect, the skull face or skull makeup, is where voodoo became associated with this image. Much of what the modern world associates with hoodoo and the darker aspects of voodoo, comes from the Baron.

Most depictions of Baron Samedi have him wearing a tux and top hat, with either a skull painted face or being a skeleton himself. Though one of the darker Loa, he is also kind of a good time party guy. He loves sex and debauchery and won't turn down a smoke or drink. He cusses like a sailor and makes dirty jokes to the other spirits. Kind of a fun loving spirit of death.

He is worshipped also because he is also known as a giver of life. He can cure any illness and bring those back from the verge of death. Accessing his talents can be tricky, in that the Baron is a moody old cuss. Sometimes he requires nothing more than a gift of booze or cigars, other times he wants an elaborate voodoo ceremony. The Baron, who is one of the Patron Loas of New Orleans, is said to stand at the cross roads of death. Though a whacky fellow, he is known to be wise and honest. And those he helps, he truly helps.

I find the whole idea of a pervy, drunken spirit pretty amusing. It makes sense that Samedi, with such cool image and style, has become the standout Loa in popular culture. Usually a wicked character, he has appeared in many movies and books in various forms. From a James Bonde villain in "Live and Let Die" to the antagonist of Disney's "The Princess and the Frog", the Baron gets around. Though my person favorite is the barely coherent version that appears in the 1974 blaxploitation film, "Sugar Hill".

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