the "Veve" of Maman Brigitte. A Veve or Vévé is a religious symbol. It acts as a "beacon"
for the loa and will serve as a loa's representation during rituals.
Maman Brigitte She Comes from Angletere
of a Brighid Devotee on the Earthquake in Haiti
By Caroline Wise
of the Thames Lyceum
shocking situation in Port-au-Prince has vividly impinged itself on our privileged lives via the TV screen. Brought
to its knees by the phenomenal power of the earth, the recent quake has tragically put Haiti in the spotlight. It has given
many of us pause for thought about just why this country is so poor. And that, at least, is a good thing.
There is no space to give anything more than a general view
of this historically, culturally and politically significant country, or its religion, so I apologise for this, but more can
easily be found elsewhere.
Haiti should have had
all the help it needed to develop from day one, when the slaves heroically overthrew their French overlords after years of
rebellion. Independence came in January 1804. They named the country Haiti as the earlier Native ‘Indian’ people
The idea of a free independent black state of
ex-slaves caused much spluttering of indignation in the ‘white world’. In consternation, and probably not a little
humiliation, plus no doubt a dollop of spite, an impossibly huge ‘repayment plan’ was placed upon Haiti by the
French for loss of their colony. Some 20million Euros in today’s money, Haiti’s progress has also been hampered
by constant interference and undermining from American governments and intelligence agencies. This can be read about elsewhere.
|Baron Samedi by Pamela Colman Smith
The religion of Haiti is Voudoun, brought to Haiti
with the African slaves. It is said the beliefs of the people are 98% Catholic and 110% Voudoun. Its origins lie in the Yoruba
peoples from Nigeria, the Arada tribe from Benin, plus tribes from the Congo and other areas. It was passed on down the slave
generations by word of mouth, although it was made illegal by the slave owners’ governors who feared anything that fired
the spirits of their captives.
There is no doubt
that the cohesion among the people, separated at different locations on the island with no basic human rights, and the subsequent
revolts and final rebellion in Haiti, were helped by Voudoun. The slaves suffered unimaginable tortures and executions for
any sign of revolt. The secret language of the drums as a way of communication gave practical help. The sheer faith
that their gods could help them through extreme adversity gave them heart.
is widely believed that the slaves hid their gods and goddesses among the Roman Catholic saints of their overlords’
faith, but I wonder if the two religions also became entwined as future generations who never saw Africa were exposed to Catholicism.
Voudoun evolved as new influences appeared.
Maman Brigitte, le soti nan Anglete
As the festival of Brigantia approaches,
let’s look at a strangely familiar character that appears in Haitian and Caribbean spirituality.
of the deities who appears in the vibrant synchronization of Voudoun is Maman Brigitte. Her Christian blending is with St.
Bride, in whom the legend of the British Goddess Brighid is subsumed. She appears in Voudoun songs, and she can ride people
in rites. She is a guardian of the dead, and she manifests in the cemetery to bless the graves. She leads the dead to the
afterlife. Her bird representatives in the British Isles are the goose and the swan. In Haiti it is the black rooster. She
has her own Veve, a symbol that acts as a gateway for the loa being invoked. The Veve is drawn in the ground in flour or salt.
This practice is not known in West and Central Africa so may have origins in the sand paintings of Native Americans. This
in turn may have been influenced by the Taino tribe who populated Haiti before Columbus came and spoiled the party.
Maman Brigitte is a strong presence. She drinks rum spiced with
hot peppers, which sounds rather good, and she can be jolly and fun, but is plain speaking and does not suffer fools. She
has a robust sexuality and dances wildly. The spiced rum would aid all these qualities!
This Haitian voudoun goddess protects the graves in cemeteries that are marked
with the cross. Her masculine counterpart is one of the Ghedes in his guise of the mysterious Baron Samedi; the black clad
and hatted master of the cemeteries and chief of all the ancestors. The first woman to be buried in a cemetery in Haiti will
be dedicated to Maman Brigid. Maman Brigitte is a healer, like Brighid of the British Isles.
But how did she come to be in Haiti and the wider Diaspora of the African slaves? I first heard
of Maman Brigitte when I visited Fellowship of Isis members in New Orleans. I was told that the introduction of poppets, now
commonly called voodoo dolls, came from St Bride/ Brighid. Many Irish women were shipped to New Orleans for crimes such as
prostitution (in Ireland in those days it could have been for holding hands with a boy, or becoming pregnant due to rape).
These poor women were put to work along side the black women, forced into the horrific task of draining the swamps. They told
their black counterparts about St Brighid, and the poppets they brought with them were the ‘Bridie dolls’ of Scottish
and Irish origin.
Interestingly, when plague spread
through Louisiana due to the mosquitoes in the swamps, the Irish women became nurses by necessity, and this lead to a subsequent
raise in status. I always see the matron-goddess of nurses as Brighid.
is a similar story about the introduction of Brighid to Haiti. It is little known that many thousands of Irish people were
shipped to Haiti as slaves. It is cunningly referred to as ‘indentured labour’. It was slavery pure, simple and
wicked. They had little or no price, unlike the African victims, and were therefore treated even worse, if that is possible.
Their beloved goddess/Saint Bride went with them.
the wheel of the year turns to the festival of Brigantia, let is light a candle for Brighid, goddess of light, nursing, and
healing. Let’s remember her people in Haiti, bereaved, bewildered, homeless, starving and grieving. May Maman Brigitte
lead their dead to the ancestors. Let us remember the sheer humbling faith and resilience, too, of those who had little, and
now have nothing, but who we have witnessed on our TV screens singing in praise as they are rescued form the rubble. Brighid,
may they be given healing and all the help they need – no strings attached – for a new beginning.
Hail Maman Brigitte
About the Author: Caroline Wise has
been a member of the Fellowship of Isis for 21 years. She is Priestess, Hierophant, ArchDruidess, Grand Dame Commander,
Solar Alchemist and member of the ArchPriesthood Union, ArchDruid Union and Grand Commander Union within the FOI, and a Priestess
in the Temple of Isis, Geyserville, California. She helped to found several lyceums, groves and priories within the Fellowship.
Caroline organized the first FOI Convention which took place in London in September of 1990. She has been active in the
esoteric community for many years. Her research on the Goddess Elen is due to come out in book form later this year. Caroline
is a regularly featured contributor in the Mirror of Isis. She is a member of the Star of Elen Advisory Board, the Circle
of Isis Advisory Board and a founding member of the Muses Symposium.