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The Truth about Veves

These winged hearts, by Wiseton Brutus, are adorned with veves.

These winged hearts, by Wiseton Brutus, are adorned with veves.

They say that to be forewarned is to be forearmed. With that in mind, I’m hoping you will find the following information, hip, cool, enlightening, or some combination thereof, but I will forewarn you that it may – despite my intentions – simply freak you out. Are you ready? These cute little winged hearts are detailed with voodoo veve symbols.
Voodoo beliefs encompass rada, or benevolent spirits, and petro spirits, which are anything but. To mix the metaphor, they are the yin and yang of voodoo culture. This is purely an issue of balance, though somewhat unfairly, Petro spirits get a disproportionate amount of the hype. The veve on the heart in front (photo left) symbolizes the spirit of Erzulie Freda, the spirit of love, and a rada spirit, if ever there was one. How perfectly appropriate that her veve should adorn a metal heart with wings. Not so freaky, right?
Veves appear on many of our Haitian pieces, on the flags, on paintings, and on the metal too. What is a veve, actually, and what purpose does it serve? Worthy questions, both. The short answer, according to Milo Rigaud, who is an expert on such things is this: “Veves represent figures of the astral forces. In the course of Vodoo ceremonies, the reproduction of the astral forces represented by the veves obliges the spirits to descend to earth.” This begs the further

Brilliant sequins of red and blue form the veve of Erzulie Freda, the spirit of love.

Brilliant sequins of red and blue form the veve of Erzulie Freda, the spirit of love.

question: What is an astral force? I hope you love the following definition as much as I did when I consulted the Cambridge Dictionary. It said, “Astral forces are those forces pertaining to the stars and are beyond human comprehension.” Ah, mystery.
Every voodoo spirit, benevolent or otherwise, has its own unique veve symbol. In ceremonies, the veve of the spirit whose presence is desired is sprinkled on the floor with cornmeal or colored sand. Personally, I have observed veves arranged in stone on the floors of voodoo temples. In either case, they are a visual supplication, used to summon the presence of a particular spirit. In art, they are representational symbols of honor.
So what’s the verdict? Not freaky at all, but very hip, cool and enlightening? Oh, I hope so!


Contributed by Linda for Its Cactus

Erzulie Dantor – The Fierce Mother


The Black Madonna of Czestochowa

Thinking about Mother’s Day just around the corner, it seems fitting to recall the Haitian spirit of the “Fierce Mother,” Erzulie Dantor.  She is characterized as hard-working, independent, aggressive, wild and strong.  She is recognized as the great protector of children, and will go to any lengths to keep them from harm. Like any mother, she bears the pain of her children’s sorrow but  also radiates the joy of their successes. Erzulie Dantor is often depicted by the image of the Black Madonna of Czestochowa, an icon reportedly painted by St. Luke on a cedar table thought to have belonged to the Holy Family that somehow ended up in a monastary in Poland. Curiously, it was Polish Catholic soldiers fighting on both sides of the Haitian Revolution that brought the image to the nacient island nation, where it was quickly embraced and absorbed into voodoo culture.

Erzulie Dantor’s symbol, the veve, is drawn onto temple floors during religious ceremonies to summon her presence.  Meda Ulyssee has recreated that symbol in recycled metal.  Of course, he had all of the cultural background to communicate its meaning with hammer and chisel, but we  had to learn the story before we could fully appreciate the significance he struck into every detail. What we called simply “Meda’s Heart”  is actually much more.  On a pure and elemental level, it is a beautiful representation of the strength of a mother’s love.

Meda Ulyssee in his studio

Meda Ulyssee in his studio



Contributed by Linda for Beyond Borders/It’s Cactus

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