The voodoo religion started in Ancient Africa. It is connected with many tribes that were around in 600 BC. or earlier. When slavers started to take people from the African continent to become slaves, voodoo followed them. Slaves in Haiti and the Americas continued to practice voodoo. Slave owners tried to convert people to Christianity. In order to keep practicing voodoo, some slaves transferred their gods onto Christian saints. Veves are a beacon for spirits in the voodoo religion. The Veves have different symbols that are representative of voodoo and Christian religions. Voodoo is still found in Africa and Haiti, and South America. It is also practiced in Louisiana in the United States. The Veve symbols are taken from Catholic Saint lithographs. Veve symbols and others and others are still used and recognized around the world.
Veves are symbols used in the Catholic church to represent different saints. Because voodoo was outlawed in Haiti the Haitians would use these symbols to also represent voodoo gods and goddesses. This way they could still practice voodoo but not get caught. The following are some of the Haitian Veves.
Symbol of protection and cleansing.
The Ayizan Veve is a symbol of Ayizan who is the Queen of the marketplace. She is an lwa, or spirit in voodoo. Ayizan is treated with extreme respect and reverence as she is one of the most ancient spirits. She is an overseer of initiation rites for voodoo priestesses. Ayizan is a protector who keeps bad witchcraft, jealousy, and envies away. She assists people who are voiceless, victimized, or oppressed. She cleanses an area for spiritual use. She is symbolized by palm fronds. Women who want her help obtain palm fronds and give her offerings including yams, bananas, white flowers, and sweet liqueurs. She is associated with St. Ann, the virgin Mary’s mother.
Symbol of ancestry, home, and family.
Agassou is the leopard king or spirit. A leopard mated with his mother, the princess, and Agassou was born. He became king and brought voodoo to Haiti from West Africa. He is a symbol of ancestry, home, and family. Today the Leopard Society guards his spears and shields which were given to Agassou by his father, the leopard spirit. Agassou was represented by St. Louis IV.
Symbol of health, balance, and messenger.
Loco is married to Ayizan. He was the first priest as his wife was the first priestess. Loco guards sanctuaries and vegetation. He is brought in to judge people and often becomes the wind so he can listen without being observed. He is a messenger to the other spirits and mankind. Loco has all authority over all the sanctuaries in Haiti. He watches over vegetation and the tools used to cultivate vegetation. He is associated with St. Joseph. They both provide a paternal role for children who may not be their own.
Symbol of death, healing, judgment, and fertility.
Maman Brigitte is the spirit of death and life. When it is time for a person to die she will either guide them to death or return them to life. Often, she is symbolized by a black rooster because they represent the dawn and rebirth. She helps the deceased by caring for them and guarding them. Maman Brigitte likes to drink rum with hot peppers and she has a foul mouth but behaves in a regal manner. Maman Brigitte is the guardian of gravesites and the wife of Baron Samedi. She likes to party and have fun but will be there to help the dead when necessary. Maman Brigitte is associated with fertility, divine judgment, and healing. She is a powerful healer and helps victims of abuse and domestic violence. She is associated with Saint Brigid who actually came from pagan origins. Brigid was the goddess of fertility.
Symbol of protection for women, love.
Erzulie Dantor is the goddess of the spirits. She is their grand matriarch. She represents mothers, lesbians, and single mothers. Erzulie Dantor looks out for them and is sometimes called the Black Madonna. She is invoked when violence may occur. She protects women and helps them stay safe in a bad relationship. The heart in her Veve represents her big heart while the knife represents her eagerness to defend and protect all women. She is represented by many female saints including the Lady of Lourdes, the Virgin Mary.
Symbol of creation, equilibrium, and intellect.
Damballah is one of the most important spirits of voodoo. He appears as a large white serpent. Damballah was thought to be created by the Grand Met, or god of gods. Damballah is the creator of all life. He used his coils to form the stars and planets. The waters of the earth are his shedded serpent skin. He rules cosmic equilibrium, the mind, and intellect. He is associated with Moses and Saint Patrick.
Veves can be found today in jewelry and on shirts and hats. It is common to find them tattooed on a person who practices voodoo.
Besides Veves, there are other symbols included with voodoo.
Symbol of protection, curse.
A chicken foot in voodoo is used to protect a person and their property. Chicken feet from black-feathered chickens are the best protection. Hanging a chicken foot by the front door at night or from a car’s rearview mirror helps keep those items safe. Chicken feet can also be used to curse someone. If a person finds a chicken foot in their car or near their house it means they have been cursed.
Symbol of pain, protection, and communication.
Voodoo dolls in New Orleans are used to bring illness, suffering, and death upon a person. They are made by tying two sticks in a cross shape and forming a human body. The body is sometimes stuffed with Spanish Moss and the head has human-like rudimentary figures. They are sometimes decorated with sparkles and lace but that is not necessary. The dolls are accompanied by pins. These pins are used to stick the doll and create pain and illness in someone else. They are created to bring suffering to a person.
In other parts of the world, voodoo dolls are created for different reasons. If a voodoo doll is stuck onto a tree upside down, it is said to help keep a bad person away. Voodoo dolls are also hung in cemeteries to help keep the line of connection open between the dead and the living.
Symbol of protection, crossroads, and communication.
The skeleton key is a symbol of protection and openings. Papa Legba is a spirit from Ginen, a cosmic world outside the planets. His symbol is a skeleton key. He stands at the crossroads and allows or denies people the ability to speak with the other spirits. He can choose to open the communication or keep it closed down. He is in charge of closing or opening the doors to the spirit world. He is able to speak all the languages on Earth in order to translate them to the spirits. He is the master of communication.
Symbol of rebirth, cleansing, curses, love, and goodness.
Skulls are used in different aspects of voodoo. They are used in ritualistic healing dances as a symbol for rebirth. Illness is seen as a bad curse. The healing dances help the n’um travel from the stomach to the skull where it is demolished in an explosion. The skull represents the rebirth of the person into wellness. Candles in the shape of skulls are used to invoke voodoo gods and goddesses. The rituals and gods or goddesses people want to invoke depend upon the color of the skull. If the candle is red it is used for relationship or love issues, white candles are used for protection and spiritual cleansing while black candles are used for curse rituals. In New Orleans, the skull and bones are spirits of goodness.