The Mystic Voodoo
Where Art, Psychology, and Mythology Collide
Baron Samedi is one of the Guédés, or spirits of Death, related to Baron Cimitère and Baron La Croix. Like Papa Legba, he is a guardian of the crossroads, the place where spirits cross over into our world. If the intercessions desired are with the loa, then Legba is saluted and asked to allow the loa to participate. If the intercessions are with the dead, then Guédé is the intercessor. The first burial in a cemetery is dedicated to Baron Samedi.
Maya Deren retells the story of many Guédés dressed in top hat and smoked glasses descending on the presidential palace.
It seems that some years ago, under the regime of President Borno, there suddenly appeared in the streets of Port-au-Prince a crowd of Ghedes (all of them houngans possessed by Ghede) wearing the "formal" costume of the lord: the tall top-hats, long black tail-coats, smoked glasses, cigarettes or cigars, and canes. An enormous crowd naturally collected about them, and joined them in their march to the National Palace. They all took the guards by surprise, and, singing, swerved through the gates and up the drive and to the door itself, where they demanded money of the President. President Borno, who is reputed to have been sympathetic to Voudoun ritual (secretly so) and yet feared bourgeois opinion was in great dilemma. He finally gave in, ostensibly merely to quiet the mob, and the Ghedes with their supporters left the grounds. But Ghede had made his point. Death, who has consumed so many heroes, bows before no man and will remind even the most illustrious that one day he too will be consumed. So Ghede had gotten his money and went off to gorge himself, singing...
from Divine Horsemen by Maya Deren [p107]
Zora Neale Hurston recounts that when you make a request of Baron Samedi, you use a cow's foot extended in place of your hand. When the Baron is ready to leave, he takes with him whatever he's holding. By substituting the cow foreleg, you don't loose your arm!
Here's a simple ritual for Baron Samedi:
You should dress in purple, white and black for this ritual.
Start with a primarily purple or white with purple. A smaller cloth of black can be placed atop the purple or white cloth. A goblet of water should be in the center of your altar. His number is nine so you could incorporate that into the ritual somehow. His special days of service and Monday and Saturday. Offer him black coffee, a cup with sugar, and a cup without sugar. You can also place crosses, a deck of cards, the death card from the tarot, and pictures of your ancestors on the altar. The altar should have a picture of the saint associated with him (St, Gerard, St. Marin de Porres, or La Candelaria) or his veve pinned on the front of the altar. Place one white candle on the altar, followed by as many purple and white as you wish. This will make him happy.
You start by lighting the white candle, then petitioning Legba to open the gate:
Papa Legba open the gate for me!
Atibon Legba open the gate for me!
Open the gate for me Papa, so that I can pass,
When I return, I will thank the loa!
Now you can talk to Baron Samedi. This is where you can get creative. Dance, sing spiritual songs or anything that makes you feel happy. After you tell him what you need, let the candles burn down. Sleep in white or purple pajamas. Throw away any food offerings the next morning in the woods under a bush.You can tell Papa Legba he can close the gate now and that you thank him and all of the other loas for listening to you and helping you. Keep the other items on the altar.
Check out Baron Samedi on t-shirts, coffee mugs, and more at the Ju Ju Shoppe!