Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Voodoo Notes (Systemless)

Welcome to Wicked Wednesday, wherein I brew up some magic or trouble for your reading pleasure. First up are notes on voodoo. Below you will find a list of terms and a pantheon of sorts you can incorporate into your games. There are no rules for you to slug through and translate to YFGS (your favorite game system).

I incorporated Voodoo into one of my old Silverbrook games. I had a player with interest in it as a topic and as a religion not directly descended from Zoroastrianism, I also found it a topic of interest. I had very little experience with it prior to the game and have had very little contact with it after the game. So, if you are like me and need a little help with the words associated with Voodoo, this will get you started.

Game masters and players are encouraged to read GURPs Voodoo, Eden Studios' Argh, Thar be Zombies!, an article from the Huffington Post, the Live Science website, or the Alt Religion website on There is a lot of mis-information, confusing information, and good information out there. Even if you choose to disregard the actual religion and use a Hollywood version in your game, I recommend honoring our ancestors and learning about the real thing first.

Asson:  The ritual rattle of a houn’gan or mambo. The rattling noise is usually made by snake vertebrae within a wooden casing.

Bondye:  Distant and unknowable creator god.

Bokor:  A houn’gan who serves with both hands, i.e., is evil. “Serving with two hands” refers to an image of grasping for power with both hands and therefore, letting go of your humanity.

Govi:  A small, earthen jar ot which loas and ancestor spirits can be bound. The ancestor spirits often favour the voudonista who makes good use of govi jars, because it provides them a fetter to this world.

Gris-Gris:  A voodoo focus or fetish; usually a small pouch containing herbs, locks of hair, snake vertebrae, etc. Sometimes referred to as a mojo bag.

Horse:  The term for a voodoo believer who is possessed or “ridden” by a loa. The horse usually exhibits supernatural strength or agility, as well as, the characteristics of whichever loa is currently “in residence.”

Hounfor or Oumphor:  The voodoo “temple.”  Usually, in Haiti, it consists of a hut with an outer courtyard (called a peristyle). Non-belieivers may stand outside the fence surrounding the peristyle to watch a ceremony, but they may not enter the courtyard during a rite, and they are never to enter the actual hut. The Oumphor proper always has a pole or post which reaches up from the middle of the floor to the ceiling of the hut; this post is a symbol of Damballah.

Houn’gan:  The male version of a voodoo priest.

Loas, Les Invisibles, or Les Mysteres:  These are the spirit-gods of voodoo. They are ever-changing according to the nees of their people, and most have “borrowed” the guise of a Catholoic saint – i.e., a statue of the Virgin Mary doubles as a statue of Erzulie, or a painting of St. Peter is seen as a Painting of Papa Legba. The loas mix characteristics of anthropomorphic deities, like the Greek gods, and nature spirits or totems.

Mambo:  The female version of a voodoo priest.

The Voodoo Pantheon
The loas of the voodoo pantheon are traditionally dividied into at least two divisions, commonly called the Rada and Petro rites. However, any loa can be served by a practitioner of any rite since more loas have more than one aspect, as shown below.

The Rada Rite:  Loas of wisdom, protection, or benevolence
The Petro Rite:  Loas of fire, vengeance, and/or violence

Agoueh:  Rada; marine husband of Erzulie; loa of ocean/sea

Aido Wedo:  Rada; queen of heaven, earth, and angels. The Serpent Lady of  a Thousand Rainbows. This creation goddess favors mankind and protects her followers. She is usually considered Damballah’s consort or feminine aspect; her provinces are wisdom, color, and protection; Mind and Life magics are her domain. Aida usually appears as either a kindly mother figure or a rainbow colored snake.

Chango:  Petro; a warlike spirit who commands the weather, the elements and physical power. Guns, explosives and fire fall under his command; like the, his temper is explosive. Those he rides become killing machines or tireless lovers. Although his obvious powers embrace Forces, his lust for Life gives him power over those Arts, too. Blood, red roosters and gundpowder are worthy sacrifices, especially if they’re burned up or blown up.

Damballah Wedo:  Rada; the Cosmic Serpent. The serpent of wisdom and flame, known as the Father of the Falling Waters or Serpent of the Sky.  May be invoked for use of Prime or natural Forces magics. His followers sacrifice rum and red garments to win his fabor. Dambahlah usually appeared as a giant, white python, boa, or cobra.

Damballah la Flameau:  Petro; the Tortch; same as the above, but more vengeful and fiery

Erzulie:  Both; loa of beauty, revenge, sex, mercy, wisdom, riches, etc. Erzulie is a sort of cross between a sex goddess and the Virgin Mary; can appear as an incredibly beautiful mulatto or a ravaging hag. Sacrifices of cake, sweets, and liquor are good ways to get her attention. Life and Mind Arts are her specialty.

Erzulie Ge Rouge:  Petro, Erzulie of the Red Eye; this is a vengeful Erzulie, twisted by rage or hate and wreathed in fire.

Erzulie Freda:  Rada; the benevolent Erzulie who bestows luck and wealth – either spiritual or physical – on her worshippers. Often portrayed in arts as the Virgin Mary, called the “Black Madonna.”

The Guedes:  Gods of death, the three most common form of the Guede Triad:  samedi, Cimetie, and La Croix. Though all are tricksters at heart, they do have slightly different personalities, and their tricks range from amusing jokes to miracles to deadly pranks.

Baron Cimetie:  The Cemetary; he reigns specifically over the graveyard itself. Anyone who trespasses in a cemetery, especially at night, should pay their respects to this loa an ask his permission first. Like Ghede, he is usually thought of as a cheerful loa who welcomes everyone to his “house,” eventually.

Baron Samedi:  Petro; Saturday; the most harmful of the Guedes, and the most feared. Samedi dresses all in black, and usually appears either as a skull-headed man or a black man with a white skull drawn in chalk on his face; he dressed in a completely black, ragged, Victorian gentlemen’s outfit with a tattered stovepipe hat and carries a cane or walking stick. Life and Entropy are his obvious specialties. He insists on sacrifices of fish and black chickens; those he rides laugh disturbingly, and often conceal their eyes.

Baron La Croix:  Rada; the Cross; the Guede with the power to revive the dead, either physically or spiritually (eg:  awaken a Wraith). He is usually identified as a black Jesus Christ, and is considered the son of Erzulie. His tricks take the form of minor miracles.

Dinclinsin:  A Caucasian/European male loa who is much feared because of his severity; he does not drink his liquid offerings, but pours them into his pockets without getting his clothing wet.

Ghede:  Rada; also watches over death and the dead. Like Samedi, he favors black, although he doesn’t wear it himself. Unlike his “cousin,” Ghede is often a happy, lustful spirit. Those under his possession can eat and drink past human limits. Those who invoke Entropy and Mind magics call upon Ghede. H eloves gifts of good booze and good food, especially live chickens and roosters.

Guede L’Orage:  Petro; the Storm; this Guede brings sudden or violent death and gives his blessings to revenge killings. Mysterious “accidents” tend to occur whenever this loa is involved.

Legba:  Rada; King of Kings and Opener of Gates; the main loa of crossroads, journeys and wisdom. Legba sometimes appears as a poor beggar, other times as a wise old man. The Walking God, spirit of stories, crossroads and journeys, Legba guards the ways of the Earth and the spirit realms. Any magic involving Correspondence, Time or Umbral passage must invoke this loa first. Those under his control grow strong, but violent and their limbs twist in odd directions. He dearly loves good rum and fine cigars.

Legba Ati Bon:  Rada; Legba Tree of the Good; this version of Legba portrays himself as inhabiting the traditional spirit tree beside the oumphor. A sanctified bag is placed in the branches of the tree for Legba’s use, much like a loa would reside in a govi jar.

Loco:  Rada; the Mystery of healing, herbs, and visions, Loco form the roots of Will, and imparts magical wisdom to his followers. Those who use Matter or Life magics invoke his name. As the Guardian of the oumphor, he provides a firm grounding for the voudonista, and they return the favor with offerings of green herbs and pure water.

Mademoiselle Charlotte:  Rada or Petro; white/Caucasian/European female loa who is served much like Erzulie; her horse speaks flawless French.

Ogou:  Petro; the Great Warrior or General. Fire, wrath and liberation embody the spirit of Ogoun the Chainbreaker, God of the Blade. Those who call on him must be strong; weaklings are useless to this Mystery. The most violent Forces and Matter spells demand his attention, and hi shorses often fly through the air or burst into flame. Red and black are Ougun’s colors, and he loves offerings of freshly killed chickens or iron dust.

Simbi:  Petro; Mystery of magical powders and potions, Simbi embraces the elements of air and water. Knowledge and freedom are his domains, and he favors those who prefer silent contemplation to passionate conflict. Simbi’s favor opens the Arts of Forces and the Mind. Herbs, fruit, and spring water please this loa, who often wears green and yellow when he appears.

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