LIST OF LWA
Please find below a list and some descriptions of many of the more common
lwa (Les Lois in “spellmaker-speak!”)
There are thought to be literally thousands of lwa, but as in the structure
of any society, some are more prominent than others.
You will also notice that some of the lwa are linked through marriage or
partnership to more than one other lwa. It is thought that this is NOT
because the lwa are promiscuous, but rather that they had lived many
lifetimes before becoming lwa and were involved in many relationships.
I hope you all find this helpful. Nods to Bob Corbett for his extensive
work in compiling lists and descriptions of the lwa.
Adjasou: Characterized by protruding eyes and a supposedly bad humor
(though I have found him to be more like a grumpy old man and can be
charmed by good manners and good offerings). He is said to live under the
mombin tree (found in Haiti) near a spring and is very fond of vermouth, rum,
Agassu: Dahomean in origin and belonging to the Fon and Yoruba tribes.
When a person is possessed by Agassu, his hands become crooked and
stiffened, therefore resembling claws. In Dahomey, he is the result of a union
between a panther and a woman. He is associated with water deities and
sometimes takes the form of a crab. He is one of the mythical
creatures who once gave assistance to the Ancestor.
Agau: Agau is considered to be a a very violent lwa. Earth tremors and
the frightening sounds associated with storms are attributed to Agau.
It is said that when the earth tremors, Agau is angry. Those who are
strong enough to keep him in their bodies are puffing with all their
strength and sputtering like seals. One has to be very strong to harbor
When Sogbo and Bade (the loa of lighting and wind) act together and
call upon Agau, a thunder storm is produced. Agau is the inseparable
companion of Sogbo. Bade and Agau share the same functions, loa of the
Agwe (Agouer): He is invoked under the names “Shell of the Sea,” “Eel,”
and “Tadpole of the Pond.” Sovereign of the sea. One of the many lovers
of Erzulie. Under his jurisdiction come not only all the flora and fauna
of the sea, but all ships which sail on the sea. His symbols are tiny boats,
brightly painted oars and shells, and sometimes small metal fishes. He likes
military uniforms and gunfire. He is the protector of seafaring men. The service
for Agwe is quite different from others since it is on the sea itself. A conch
shell is used to call him during a voodoo ritual.
He must be greeted with wet sponges and towels when leaving the water
because of the heat.
A barque is prepared with all sort of Agwe’s favorite foods, including
champagne. This barque is then floated over where it is believed the sacred
underwater world exists. If the barque sinks, then Agwe has accepted the
sacrifice and will protect the water interests of those who have prepared the
sacrifice. Were the barque to float back into shore, then the service has been
refused and a different manner of placating Agwe would have to be devised.
The animals that are sacrificed to him are two white sheep.
Depicted as a mulatto with fair skin and green eyes. Services take place
near seas, rivers, or lakes. Must be careful that those possessed do not
jump into the water.
Any reference to signaling can only come as a pleasure to this god.
Agwe’s counterpart is La Siren.
In connection with Christianity, Agwe has borrowed traits from St. Ulrich,
who is often pictured with a fish in his hand.
Ayezan (Aizan, Ayizan): This is the Legba’s wife. She protects the markets,
public places, doors, and barriers, and has a deep knowledge of the intricacies
of the spirit world. Selects and instructs certain novice houngans. When
feeding her or her husband, a black or white goat or russet colored ox is offered
up. Her favorite tree is the palm tree. Ayezan is symbolized by mounds of earth
sprinkled with oil and surrounded by fringes of palm. Ayezan is Dahomean in
origin and represented by an old woman in personification. She is one of the
oldest gods and is therefore entitled to first offerings at services. She often
mounts people only after her husband appears at the scene. Her mounts are
never severe; therefore, she can sometimes take quite a while to spot.
She is the mate of Loko (Loco). As a Mambo, Ayezan is reputed to have many
children (devotees); she cares for her children greatly; she has a good, loving
heart. She punishes those who have made mistakes not because she is a
sadistic woman but to correct their behavior in the future. She will punish those
adults taking advantage of the young, the rich of the poor, the strong of the weak
and the husband of the wife. She is believed to have the ability to purify her
surroundings and to exorcise malevolent spirits from her devotees.
Ayida (Ayida Ouedo): The female counterpart of Damballah, his mate,
is Ayida. She is the mother figure. She is the rainbow. Together they
are the unitary forces of human sexuality. Her symbol is also a serpent.
She is quite submissive and very delicate. Her co-wife is Erzullie.
It is said that whoever “can grasp the diadem of Ayida will be assured
wealth” (Metraux, p. 105). Also known as Ayida Wedo: her job is that of
holding up the earth.
Azacca or Zaka: This is the loa of agriculture, but is generally seen
as the brother of Ghede. For this reason Ghede will often come to the
ceremonies for Zaka and come when Zaka has mounted someone. Zaka is a
gentle simple peasant, but greatly respected by the peasants since he
is a very hard worker. He is addressed as “cousin”. He is found wherever
there is country. He is usually barefoot, carries a macoute sack, wears
a straw hat, and has a pipe in his mouth. By nature he is suspicious,
out for profit, fond of quibbling, and has a fear and hatred of town folk.
His vocal stylization consists of the almost unintelligible sounds of a
goat. He is known for his gossip he spreads and for his “girl chasing.”
He is young and like to play when not working.
There are interesting similarities between the sophisticated Ghede
and the more bumbling Azacca, as though a younger less sophisticated
brother were imitating a more secure older brother. Like Ghede,
Zaka loves his food. But, unlike Ghede, he is rude and voracious in
his eating habits, often running away to hide with him food and eat
it quickly. His favorite dishes to eat are the ones peasants feed
on—boiled maize, bread soaked in oil and slices of small intestine
with fatty membrane fried, unrefined 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 watchful of detail.
He notes who is treating whom in what manner, who is flirting with
whom, who says what to whom etc. When he mounts someone he often
spills out all the local gossip to the embarrassment and amusement
of all. He does not forgive easily.
It is rumored that Zaka often appears in concrete forms. In this
concrete form, he assumes a limp and dresses in a ragged peasant
outfit. Then he begs for rum or cassava melons. Those that refuse
to give him anything are punished.
Zaka is a polygamist and considers all his children as investments.
He stands for the incest taboo, though, and will not break it no
matter how rich he could become.
Bade: The loa of wind. He is the inseparable companion of Sogbo,
god of lightning. He also shares his functions with Agau, another
Bakulu (Bakulu-baka): He drags chains behind him and is such a
terrible spirit that no one dares to invoke him it is said.
However, I personally have found that to be necessarily so!
His habitat is in the woods where offerings are taken to him.
He himself possesses no one. Since no one wants to call on him,
people simply take any offerings that go to him and leave them
in the woods.
Baron Samedi: The father of all Ghede lwa. The lwa of death, but also
of resurrection. Keeper of the cemetery and welcome wagon for the recently
deceased. He talks through his nose, is cynical, jovial, and tells broad jokes.
His language is full of the unexpected. His tools are the pick, the hoe, and the
spade. He is the power behind the magic that kills. He controls the souls of
those who have met death as a result of magic.
He wears a pair of dark glasses, from which he knocks out the right lens.
Some people say this is because with his right eye he watches those present,
lest anyone steal his food. In the New Orleans Voodoo tradition, this is said to
be so that he can keep an eye on the world of the living and the world of the
dead at the same time.
He is neither good nor evil, but he is amused by humans and that’s why he
jokes around so much.
Saturday is his day and his color is black. His favorite foods are salt
herring, hot peppers, roasted corn, and roasted bananas, and he is known
for stealing food and hiding it, and then demanding more. Black goats and
chickens are the animal sacrifices made to him during the rituals. As keeper of
the cemetery he has intimate contact with the dead. He knows what their plans
were, what’s going on in families, what the connections of things are. And he is
quite generous with his information.
Another of the Baron’s great powers is as the protector of children. Ghede
generally does not like to see children die. They need a full life. Thus he is the
loa to go to when seeking help for a sick child.
Since the Baron is the keeper of death, he is also the last resort for
healing since he must decide whether to accept the sick person into the
dead or allow them to recover. It is said that if the Baron refuses to dig the
grave, the person won’t die.
Bosou Koblamin: Violent petro loa. Bosou is a violent loa capable
of defeating his enemies. He is very popular during times of war.
He protects his followers when they travel at night. Bosou’s appearance
is that of a man with three horns; each horn has a meaning—strength,
wildness, and violence. Sometimes Bosou comes to the help of his
followers but he is not a very reliable loa. When a service is held,
Bosou appears by breaking chains that he is restrained. Immediately
upon appearing he is given a pig, his favorite food. The ceremony
in honor of Bosou always pleases a congregation because it allows
them to eat. Usually a good number of people attend such a service.
Brise: Brise is a loa of the hills. He is boss of the woods. Brise
is very fierce in appearance. He is very black and has very large
proportions. Brise is actually a gentle soul and likes children.
Brise lives in the chardette tree and sometimes assumes the form of an
owl. Brise is a protectorate. He is strong and demanding and accepts
speckled hens as sacrifices.
Congo: A handsome but apathetic loa. Content with any clothing and eats
mixed foods with much pimiento, and is fond of mixed drinks.
Congo Savanne: A fierce petro loa. He is malevolent, fierce, and strong.
Savanne eats people. He grinds them up as we would grind up corn.
His color is white. He is a loa not to be messed with.
Dinclusin & Chalotte: These two loa are among the French “mysteries.”
People mounted by these gods talk perfect French and seem to be
unable to speak Creole normally or properly. Chalotte often demands
upon the most defined forms of ritualistic protocol. Dinclusin can
be recognized by his habit of pocketing everything given to him.
Damballah (Damballah Wedo, Damballa): Known as the serpent god,
he is one of the most popular. Dumballah is the father figure. He
is benevolent, innocent, a loving father. He doesn’t communicate well,
as though his wisdom were too aloof for us. Damballah is the snake.
He plunges into a basin of water which is built for him, or climbs up
into a tree. Being both snake and aquatic deity, he haunts rivers,
springs, and marshes. Again, as the snake he is rather uncommunicative,
but a loving quiet presence. Dumballah does not communicate exact
messages, but seems to radiate a comforting presence which sort of
sends a general spirit of optimism into all people present.
Because of this, he is often sought after during ceremonies.
When Dumballah mounts someone the special offering to him is the egg,
which he crushes with his teeth.
Damballah is the serpent god, also lightning. He and his wife, Aida-Wedo,
are often shown as two snakes who look as if they were diving into the
sink and by a rainbow. He is the bringer of rain; this is a necessity
for good crops. People possessed by him dart their tongues in and out,
slither along the ground, and climb trees, or roof beams, falling like
a boa. He is known to whistle because he has no speech. His special day
is Thursday, and his favorite tree is the bougainvillea. White is his color.
He is in charge of white metal (silver) and must be fed white food and drink.
He grants riches and allows treasures to be discovered. Dumballah sustains
the world and prevents it from disintegrating. Dumballah and his wife Ayida, represent human sexuality.
He is sometimes referred to as Da. Damballah is often spoken of as a serpent.
In the voodoo culture, the serpent is a symbol of fertility. He is one of the oldest of
the ancestors and is so sacred that he doesn’t speak, but expresses himself through
hissing sounds, just like that of a serpent. In the voodoo religion Dumballah is closely
associated with the Catholic’s St. Patrick.
He is Dahomean in origin. His favorite foods are eggs, cornmeal, melons,
rice, bananas, and grapes. The usual offering to him is a hen and a cock.
It is believed that if respects are paid to him by a married couple, he
will keep them happy.
Erzulie (Ezili): Voodoo does not have a woman as goddess of fertility. Fertility
is regarded as a unified principle, equally held by male and female forces.
Thus Damballah is united to his Ayida. Agwe has his counterpart in La Sirene,
the Marasa; the twins are contradictory and complementary forces of nature
and so on. Erzulie is considered by some as the female energy of Legba.
She has tremendous power and is feared as much as she is loved. Also, she
has several different roles: goddess of the word, love, help, goodwill, health,
beauty and fortune, as well as goddess of jealousy, vengeance, and discord.
There is a casual connection between the lightness of her color and that of
wealth, because only the light skinned elite possess wealth in Haiti.
But Voodoo has a most special place for Erzulie, the loa of beauty,
the loa who is so uniquely human since she is the differentiating force
between human and all other creation. She is the ability to conceptualize,
the ability to dream, the artistic ability to create. She is the loa of ideality.
She is the female prototype of voodoo who represents the moon.
She is the most beautiful and sensuous lady in the voodoo pantheon.
She is respected and wealthy; wears her hair long; is very jealous
and requires her lovers to dedicate a room for her ritual lovemaking.
Erzulie is not a loa of elemental forces, but THE loa of ideal dreams, hopes and
aspirations. She is pale in appearance; almost white, even though she is
Dahomean in origin. She is known as the earth mother, the goddess of love.
She is depicted as a trembling woman who inhabits the water. She has no
specific function, but is approachable in a confidential manner. In every
sanctuary there is a room, or corner of a room, dedicated to her.
Erzulie is fabulously rich, and, when she mounts someone the first act is
always to accomplish her elaborate toilette. The very best of things which
the houngan or mambo have are reserved for Erzulie. She will bathe, using
soap still in a fresh wrapper if possible. She will dress in silks with
fresh flowers and other signs of her femininity and specialness.
Her sacred days are Tuesday and Thursday. She wears red and blue dresses
and jewels. As soon as someone is possessed by her, they are washed and
dressed in finery. She is a high class mulatto who walks with a saucy
sway to her hips. She is a “woman of the world” and is fond of sugary
drinks. She is compared to Aphrodite. She is pleasure-loving, extravagant
and likes to give and get presents. She fond of men but mistrusts women
as rivals. She is a woman of etiquette, and when she pretends to speak
French, she purposely talks in a high pitched voice.
She is a master of coquetry. She may simply visit with her servants, or
she may eat or drink with great delicacy. She loves to dance and is the
most graceful of all the loa. She is quite special to men and will dance
with them, kiss and caress them, even in an often embarrassing manner.
Yet she is closely associated with the Blessed Virgin Mary and her symbol is
the heart, usually one broken with an arrow in much the same way as a
dominant Catholic portrait of Mary has it.
Erzulie wears three wedding bands since she has been (or is) wedded to
Damballah, Ogoun and Agwe. She has often flirted with Zaka, but she has
completely dismissed his more coarse brother Ghede as unworthy (since he is
black and she is mulatto). However, Erzulie is always in charge and may take
any servitor present as her lover for the day if she chooses.
However, the visit of Erzulie is never fully satisfying. In the end she always
begins to weep. The world is just too much for her. At first people try to comfort
her with more delicate food or drink or other gifts, but her tears continue to flow.
It is this tearful and sad side of her that allows the women to accept her in her
haughty ways. She is, in the end, one who suffers the burden of the world’s
Despite her flirtations and loving ways, Erzulie is a virgin. She is the complete
converse of the crude sexuality of Papa Ghede. She may not be a virgin in the
physical sense, but in the sense that her love transcends the earth, it is a love
of higher forces. She belongs to the family of sea spirits, but has become
completely divorced from her origins as to be now almost exclusively a
personification of feminine grace and beauty.
Erzulie Jan Petro: Violent spirit loa belonging to the Petro tradition. Jan Petro
is called upon to take responsibility for the temple where spells are on display;
although she is a neutral entity, when not called upon it is the duty of the
devotees to make them behave peacefully or violently, depending on their
motivation for dealing with the spirits. Jan Petro as a protector of temples is
very powerful; when people come to the temple they soon find out. Jan Petro
likes fresh air and water; she is a sea spirit. She likes perfume and lotion—any
temple dedicated to her usually smells like lotion, for it is thrown on those
things she possesses.
Ghede (Papa Ghede): Ghede is the eternal figure in black, controlling the
eternal crossroads at which everyone must someday cross over. His symbol is
the cross upon a tomb. Known as the spirit of death, other spirits fear
him and try to avoid him. He operates under the direction of Baron Samedi.
Gran Bwa: Lives in the deep forest where the vegetation is wild. He is the
protector of wildlife, and doesn’t like to be seen. He eats fruits and vegetables
all day in the woods and when called in a ceremony, he is usually not hungry
but the people always have food for him anyway. He is one of the loa that must
be called upon before one is ordained into voodoo priesthood.
Ibo Lele: He is independent and hateful; proud of himself and ambitious.
He likes to be exclusively served and doesn’t like to associate with the
other loa. He relies heavily on the people for his food, but the people
are never certain what kind of food he is likely to eat.
Jean Petro: Jean Petro is a deformation of Don Pedro, the name of the
Spanish slave. Jean Petro is the spirit-leader of a group of strong and
violent spirits called petro. The difference between the good loa (rada)
and the evil loa (petro) is still far and wide. Voodoo services are
rarely held for petro loa; however, they still do occur but most services
are for family and rada loa. Some say that Jean Petro was brought about by
Don Pedro who was a Negro slave of Spanish origin. He acquired much influence
by being denounced as the instigator of some alarming plots to overthrow the
government. Because of this he symbolizes resistance, force, uprisings, and a sort
of black power ideology.
Kalfu (Carrefour, Kalfou): Legba is twined with his Petro opposite. Kalfu
too controls the crossroads. Actually, were it not for him the world would
be more rational, a better place. But, not unlike Pandora in Greek religion
and myth, Kalfu controls the evil forces of the spirit world. He allows the
crossing of bad luck, deliberate destruction, misfortune, injustice.
Kalfu controls the in-between points of the crossroads, the off-center points.
Legba controls the positive spirits of the day. Kalfu controls the
malevolent spirits of the night.
Yet Kalfu can control these evil spirits too. He is strong and tall,
muscular. People do not speak in his presence. When he mounts a person
everyone at the service stops speaking because he allows evil loa to
come to the ceremony. He claims that most of the important loa know him
and he collaborates with them. Kalfu says that some people claim he is a
demon but he denies this. He is a respected loa and he is not liked much.
He is the grand master of charms and sorceries and is closely associated
with black magic. Ceremonies are often held at the crossroads.
The origin of darkness. The moon is his symbol. He can be placated, but
is a very violent and dangerous loa.
Kalfu is similar to Pandora in that he controls the gate comings and goings
of bad spirits. He controls the off center points of the crossroads.
He has knowledge of the human condition and develops ways to help
individuals cope with their problems. He has experience dealing with
all kinds of people. Kalfu is a magician and likes to use tree leaves
in his magic. He has the ability to change people into animals and then
control their minds.