I love sigils so, when I dived into the magical world of voodoo and I found out it is a belief strongly based on voodoo symbols and sigils I was so intrigued! That’s the reason why today I want to share with you some of the best symbols to connect with the Loas, the vuduist deities.
- The tradition behind symbols and sigils
- What are vevè?
- 10 Voodoo Symbols – Vevés Explained
- Final Thoughts
The tradition behind symbols and sigils
In the Haitian voodoo tradition, each lwà is represented by one or more esoteric sigils traced on the ground with different powders. These sigils are called vevè.
Each vevè graphically reproduces in a stylized way the attributes of an lwà and its ritual signs. The use of graphic patterns and ritual sigils comes from the African Congolese tradition and we find it in other African American religions such as the Palo Mayombe in Cuba and the Brazilian Umbanda / Quimbanda.
However, the use of ritual designs can be found in many other cultures: in Hinduism, we find the kolams, used to honor the gods and to bring prosperity and well-being.
The Hopi and dinè Indians (Navajos) made glyphs on the ground with colored sand to call divinities.
In the 21 Divisions, the use of vevès, sometimes called sigils, is less frequent than in Haitian voodoo, however in recent decades, due to the constant migratory flows, it is becoming increasingly consolidated also in Santo Domingo.
What are vevè?
The vevè are a spiritual and astral script, they are not stylized symbols designed to refer to a complex iconography, but rather an alphabet that composes mystical phrases apt to summarize a metaphysical concept.
In fact, in addition to the symbols of the various lwàs, other elements appear which are inserted to give a meaning or dynamic action to a spiritual current.
These drawings, elaborate, are traced manually to the ground before a ritual with cornflour, white flour, coffee powder, brick powder, herbs … depending on the mystery and the Division to be evoked. The powder is scattered by sliding it between the index, middle, and thumb of the right hand, in order to obtain regular traces.
Once the vevè has been traced it is sprayed with the appropriate libation and a candle is placed in the center of the same, then the papabokor activates it by ringing a bell or the tchà tchà (maraca) reciting invocations and prayers to the mystery or to the mysteries that are intended to be called.
Multiple vevès are often traced, that is, several connected veves, to spiritually call more entities. As mentioned, these sigils must be traced with the appropriate powder.
For mysteries belonging to the Division Rada white wheat flour (or rice in the case of mysteries belonging to the Division Soler) is normally used, for those of the Division India white corn flour is used, for those of the Division Negra coffee mixed with ash, while for the mysteros petrò brick powder mixed with chilli.
The papabokor then went out of their way to teach their godchildren a real form about the composition of the various powders to trace vevé.
These recipes are normally the preserve of initiates and cannot be disclosed. In daily practice, however, the above scheme serves as an example. If in Haitian voodoo the vevè are traced in the center of the hounfort (temple), in the 21 Divisions these designs are normally done directly in front of the altar.
10 Voodoo Symbols – Vevés Explained
Vevé of Guede
The cross is not a Christian cross at all. It marks the crossroads. On the vertical, two interlocking V’s.
They represent the union of the two sexes that constitutes the primitive androgyne. The three steps or degrees on which the cross is planted are those of initiation.
- The first is that of ordinary life, that is why it is decorated with working instruments (axes, picks) and with phalluses.
- The second reproduces the movement traced in the air by the açon (a sacred rattle made by the priest with a pumpkin and a grid of colored balls and snake vertebrae).
- The third degree, the highest, symbolizes the secret that only the best hold among all those who have accessed the priesthood.
It gives the person who possesses it the gift of “double vision”.
It’s a powerful sigil all about its connection with death and the afterlife.
Vevè of Azaka
Zaka, Oko: it is the Loa of agriculture, but is generally seen as the brother of Ghede. For this reason, Ghede will often enter ceremonies for Zaka and will come when Zaka has owned some servants.
Zaka is a simple and kind farmer but highly respected by the farmers because he is a hard worker. We turn to him as a “cousin”. It is found wherever there is countryside. He is usually barefoot, carries a sack with him, wears a straw hat, and has a pipe in his mouth.
By nature, he is suspicious, for-profit, lover of subtleties, and he is afraid and resentful towards citizens.
His vocal style consists of almost incomprehensible sounds like those of a goat.
He is known for his gossip and “chasing girls”. He is young and likes to play when he is not working.
There are interesting similarities between the sophisticated Ghede and the coarser Azacca, as a younger and less sophisticated brother imitates the older and safer one.
His favorite dishes are the country ones, boiled corn, bread soaked in oil and slices of small intestines with fried fatty membranes, raw sugar. His favorite drink is white rum and his tree is the avocado.
Zaka controls the fields, and like the farmers themselves, he is very observant of detail.
His veve is all about field life.
Vevé of Hogou Ferraille
Hogou Ferraille, (god of war) who is a kind of Haitian Mars.
If we use the terms of the western symbology it could be interpreted as follows: The triangle of the base symbolizes the union of the three great rites that have contributed to the formation of voodoo: the Rada rite, the Petro rite, and the Congo Ibo rite.
On the mystical plane this triangle symbolizes the union of Erzulie (spirit of love) with Damballah (spirit symbolized by the snake), under the auspices of Legba (spirit who is invoked first in ceremonies, he is the one who ‘opens the doors’ of the invisible.
Symbolized by a cane and sometimes by a phallus. Thus, the doors will only be opened to those who possess, at the same time, knowledge and love. The triangle is divided by three other triangles marked by three “stress points”.
The vertical line is the poteau mitan, the tree of good and evil that goes from earth to heaven. (a pole planted in the center of the temple that is generally embedded in a work disc, and then symbolizes, as in India, the phallus, linga, and the work base represent the womb, yoni).
On this line, three loops are seen which are the horns of the ram, a symbol of fixed thought. Above, a horizontal bar cuts the vertical line. It symbolizes the balance that the initiate must reach, aided by the prayer that rises to heaven and descends (the two curved lines).
At the top is the voodoo star that represents Ife, the holy city. The set evokes an anchor whose end would be the horizontal bar. It is the anchor of the ship that makes the initiatory journey, the return to an ideal Africa that saw the birth of humanity.
Some see it as the ideogram of man (the horizontal bar being the arms and the star the face), since the initiation has no other objective, in short, than to make the complete man, owner of his destiny, born.
Vevé of Aizan
Aizan, the spirit that presides over the initiation, being itself mambo.
The two intertwined Vs of the primitive androgyne whose branches end with the horns of the ram are recognized. In the central diamond appears the leaf of the palm tree with its nerves.
This sheet is for the voodoo followers, the sign of the union of men with nature.
This vevé aims to answer the following questions: how are men linked to the vegetable order? How are the initiates linked to the initiatory trunk? What is the margin of our free will, a margin that should not be exceeded in any way if you want to keep the balance of the universe?
Vevé of Erzulie Fredda Dahomey
In the center is a squared heart, each square, and each inner point represent a force ready to explode. Above, the voodoo star, then two rising moons, finally Legba’s staff, the quintessential sun spirit.
Thus, love is given by the union of the masculine and feminine principles, the fusion of water and fire.
The large loops on the sides symbolize the need for balance, therefore no principle should prevail. At the base of the vevé, the horns of the ram are seen inverted, a sign of possession.
Vevé of Agwe
Ogg-way, Agive, Agouet Aroyo, Agoulé: He is invoked with the names “Seashell” and “Tadpole of the Pond”. Sovereign of the Sea. One of the many lovers of Erzulie. Under his jurisdiction, there are not only all the flora and fauna of the sea, but all the boats that sail on the sea.
Its symbols are brightly painted small boats, oars or shells, and sometimes small metal fish. He prefers military uniforms and cannonade.
The service for Agwe is quite different from the others since he is himself in the sea. A shell is used to call him during the ritual.
He must be welcomed with wet sponges and towels when he comes out of the water due to the heat. A boat is prepared with all kinds of food favored by Agwe, including champagne.
This boat is then floated where the sacred underwater world is believed to exist.
- If the boat sinks, then Agwe has accepted the sacrifice and will protect the waters of interest to those who prepared the sacrifice.
- If the boat floats and returns to the shore, then the service has been refused and a different way of appeasing Agwe will have to be prepared.
The animals that are sacrificed to him are two white sheep.
He is described as a mulatto with fair skin and green eyes. Services take place near the sea, rivers or lakes. Care must be taken that those who are owned by him do not jump into the water.
Agwe’s counterpart is La Sirine, the mermaid of the seas.
Veve of Ayezan, Aizan, Ayizan
She is Legba’s wife. She protects markets, public places, doors, and barriers, and has a profound knowledge of the complexities of the spiritual world. She selects and instructs some novice houngans.
For her and her husband’s nourishment, a black or white goat or rust-colored ox is offered.
Its favorite tree is the palm tree. Ayezan is symbolized by a mound of earth sprinkled with oil and surrounded by palm fringes.
Ayezan is originally from Dahomey and is represented by the personification of an elderly woman. She is one of the oldest goddesses and therefore the first offers of services are reserved for her.
Often, she owns servants only after her husband appears. His possessions are never severe, therefore, she can sometimes remain quiet in her place.
Veve of Erzulie
Ezili: Vudoun does not have a woman as a goddess of fertility, but she is considered a unified principle, equally supported by male and female forces.
So Dumballah is united with his Ayida, Agwe has its counterpart in La Sirene and Marasa, the twins are the complementary and contradictory forces of nature.
Erzulie is the feminine energy of Legba that’s the reason why the symbols, the veve is represented by hearts and swords.
Veve of Damballah, Dumballah Wedo
Damballah, Oshumare: known as the snake god, he is one of the most popular Loa. Dumballah supports the world and prevents its disintegration. Dumballah and his wife Ayida represent human sexuality. He is sometimes referred to as Da. His origin is Dahomey.
Dumballah is the father figure. He is benevolent, innocent, a loving father. He does not communicate well, as if his wisdom was too distant for us.
Veve of Ayida, Aida Wedo
The female counterpart (together with Erzulie) of Dumballah, her husband. She is the mother figure and the rainbow. She and Dumballah represent the unitary forces of human sexuality.
Its symbol is a snake-like for Dumballah. It is quite submissive and delicate.
It is said that anyone “who can grasp Ayida’s diadem will have assured wealth.” Its job is to support the earth.
Once again, as for sigils, symbols are powerful tools to connect us with the higher energy, with deities and with voodoo magic.
Even if you are not into voodoo or any kind of religion, a sigil can be a customized unique way to express your vision and your dream life and help you manifest your reality.