[Compiled by 7M]
The name Vodoun means “high and sacred of God”. There is no right side and left side in Vodoun. There is only one side which is through God and Loa. The Loa (Lwa) can be viewed as forces of nature, but they have personalities and personal mythologies. They are extensions of the will of Bondye, the Supreme Cosmic God, the ultimate principle of the universe.
The Loa are the Spirit Gods which are served in Vodoun. They act as intermediaries between humans and Bondye (God). The Loa are not worshipped as Gods, we serve them so that in turn they serve us. It is safe to say that the Loa are ancestors. Some are older than others, such as Damballah Wedo, The Great Serpent who is considered to be the primordial creator of all life forms, and who also carries all of the ancestors on his back, therefore making him our First Ancestor. Other examples of Loa who were born as Spirits would include La Sirene and Met Agwe, the king and queen of the ocean, who are the Seas themselves.
Haitian and Dominican) Vodoun abide by a system of three major Loa families: the Rada, Petro (including Nago) and Ghede. (The Congo is also a family system.) All of the names of the Loa, the Forces, may differ from the names used in Mother Africa, they are the same entities. Each Loa has works and duties that they carry out for the people. The answer to every problem that exists in this world is within the works and duties of the Loa under God.
A nanchon (or nation) are a group of Spirits specific to a geographical area and form a hierarchy of Spirits that contributed directly to the Vodou ritual in which the Spirits are named and saluted in a specific order, according to their nanchon.
1. Rada Loa
The “white” group known as the Rada are the first to be greeted. Dahomey, Guinea and Benin are included within the Rada system. They are the oldest Spirits of Vodou, first created by Bondye, and are known to be cooler in nature. Rada Loa are generally benevolent and creative, and are associated with the color white. Their holy day is Thursday.
Well known Rada Spirits are: Papa Legba, Marassa, Papa Loko, Ayizan, Damballah Wedo (=Obatala), Ayida Wedo, Papa Aqua (= Olokun), Sobo, Bade(t), Agasou, Silibo, Met Agwe, La Sirene, Gran Erzulie, Erzulie Freda Dahomey (=Oshun), Dereyal, Lovanna, Manze Marie, Kouzen. This is just a short list of the Rada Spirits.
Rada Loa are often considered to also have Petro aspects, which are harsher and more aggressive than their Rada counterparts. Some sources describe these different personalities as aspects, while others depict them as separate beings.
There are also loa who were, in fact, Catholic Saints, like Filomise (St. Philomena), Klemezine (St. Clair), St. Jude and St. Michael. Catholic Saints which have been elevated to the status of Loa, especially in Dominican Vudu.
2. Petro Loa
Petro (or Petwo) Loa originate slavery system in the Caribbean, specifically Haiti. As such, they do not appear in African Vodoun practices. To divide up the Rada and Petro Loa in terms of good and evil, however, would be highly misrepresenting, and rituals dedicated toward assistance or harm of another can involve Loa of either family. Nevertheless, Petro Loa tend to be more aggressive and are more often associated with darker subjects and practices. Nigeria and Benin are within the Petro system.
The Petro are powerful and known for their aggressive and explosive personalities. They work fast and they don’t play! Most of which are strictly Haitian, Maitress Erzulie Dantor (Queen of the Petro) was the main Spirit responsible for giving Haiti its independence. Their Holy day is Tuesday and their colors tend to be fiery red.
Some of the Petro are: Grand Chemin Petro,Danballah La Flambeau, Kalfou, Gran Bois, Simbi/D’lo/Andezo/Makaya/La Flambeau, Bossou, Erzulie Dantor, Erzulie Mapiangue, Erzulie Balianne, Erzulie Ge Rouge, Erzulie La Flambeau, Marinette, Toro, Legba Nan Petro, Marassa, Marassa Nan Petro, Ti Jean Petro.
Some human spirits have been elevated to the Status of Loa. Usually the first Houngan and Mambo (priest & priestess) get elevated to status of Loko and Ayezan, but most keep their ceremonial names to differentiate from the Loa they will continue to associate with. Like San Jak Majeur & Ogoun Feray/Feraille (aligning with Nago Loa).
3. Nago Loa
Nago Loa are also Petro Loa. Originating in Nigeria (in particular the Yoruba speaking tribes, Nago), these are the warriors Loa and are associated with fire. Their color is typically red and their Holy day is Wednesday.
Common Nago Spirits are: Papa Ogun Felite (Haiti),Ossanyne, Saint Jacques, Ogun Nago, Ogun Batala, Ogun Chango (= Shango), Ogoun Balendjio, Ogoun Johnson, Ogoun Balize, Brise, Achade, Ogoun Ge Rouge, Ogoun Badagri.
4. Ghede Loa
The Ghede (Gede, Guede) are the Loa and Spirits of Death and carnality. They celebrate life in the midst of death. and they are kind of like party crashers at the end of the ceremony! Benin is a major country within the Ghede System. They are fierce protectors of children and can remove bad spirits and clear away evil work. They transport dead souls, behave irreverently, make obscene jokes and perform dances that mimic sexual intercourse. They are also extremely good in healing work and in some cases can stop death. Their Holy day is Friday and their color is black, but also purple, white.
Some of the Gede are: Baron Samedi, Baron Criminal/Kriminel, Baron Cemitiere, Gran Bridgitte, Jean Zombie, Captain Lacroix/Baron Lakwa/Mazaca Lacroix, Guede Nibo, Ti Charle, Brave Gede, Wawe.
There are many spirits in the Ghede system that should not to be confused with Loa.