Voodoo has a reputation for being a slightly sinister form of religion, but there's much more to it than just sticking pins in dolls. Meet two of it's most important characters - the red-hot Maman Brigitte and her outrageous spouse Baron Samedi!
In Caribbean spirituality, the most famous couple of the spirits of Vodou – aka Voudoun or Voodoo – are Maman Brigitte and her hubby Baron Samedi. Guardians of the dead and leading lights of the afterlife, this pair certainly know how to put the fun in funeral!
Brigitte’s a feisty, foxy lady, usually pictured as pale-skinned with flaming red hair, sometimes wearing a heavy veil, sometimes wearing a top hat decorated with black feathers. She’s often dressed in a Victorian-style outfit in green and purple that’d be just the business for Whitby Goth Weekend.
Samedi’s a sharp, sexy dude – a snappy dresser with a reputation for the laydees. Tall and muscular, with one side of his face painted white in a skull pattern, the Baron sports a high, sometimes white, silk top hat, formal black tailcoat, dark glasses, and smokes a cigar. He wears a heavy white cross on a chain around his neck and, in his left hand, he carries a white cane, topped with a skull.
You may recall just such a character from the James Bond film Live and Let Die…
See the fabulous Geoffrey Holder as Baron Samedi
More about Maman…
Maman Brigitte (aka Grann Brigitte, Manman, Manman Brigit, Manman Brijit) is Queen of the Cemetery and partner of Baron Samedi. She’s tough yet tender, jolly and fun, and plain speaking. Brigitte is also a mean dancer, and apparently no-one performs the voodoo dance banda better – or sexier! – than she does.
Want to dance like Maman Brigitte? Teacher, priestess and dancer Blanche Brown teaches a banda dance class!
A guardian of the dead, she appears in cemeteries to bless the graves and to lead the deceased to the hereafter. Brigitte is strong and protective and deals harshly with those who fail to respect the dead. She’s invoked for luck in gambling and money matter, as well as to punish an enemy. In matters of love, she’s particularly demanding that women have a partner who treats his other half with respect. Women often call on her to prevent their husbands from cheating!
She’s very partial to rum spiced with hot peppers, and the colours associated with her are black, purple and white. Her number is nine, and her special days are Monday and Saturday. The first woman to be buried in any new cemetery in Haiti will be dedicated to Maman Brigitte.
Also a healer, Maman Brigitte’s thought to be linked to the Celtic goddess Brigid, and the saint Brigid – brought with them to Haiti by indentured women servants from Ireland and Scotland in the 1700s and 1800s. (See Voodoo Dolls, below).
Bring on the Baron!
Top voodoo deity and spiritual father of the dead, the Baron goes by many names – Baron Cimetiere, Baron La Croix, Baron Kriminel – and he’s the keeper of the cemetery, the guardian or protector of the grave and Loa of death and sexuality.
Cynical, jolly, and usually cracking jokes, the Baron’s language is extremely lewd, as is his singing and dancing. Samedi has a big appetite – for all things! – and likes nothing better than a plate of salt herring, hot peppers, roasted corn, and roasted bananas. He’s partial to a large glass or twelve of rum and a good cigar.
When the Baron’s in a good mood, he’s quite a clown – but he’s hard to handle when angry. As keeper of the cemetery, he has close contact with the dead. He knows what their plans were, what’s going on in families…and he’s quite generous with his information. It’s said that, if you ask him a serious question, apparently you’ll get a serious and reliable answer.
Another of Samedi’s great powers is as the protector of children. Since the Baron is the keeper of death, he is also the last resort for healing, since he must decide whether to accept the sick person into the afterlife or allow them to recover. And, apparently, if the Baron refuses to dig the grave, the person won’t die.
Saturday is his day and his colours are black, purple and white. His Feast Day is 2 November. He is often linked with Saint Martin de Porres, the illegitimate son of a Spanish gentlemen and a freed slave from Panama, of African or possibly Native American descent.
We’ve all seen those little voodoo dolls in movie – often stuck with pins – which make a person do as their creator wishes. In the movie Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Blackbeard makes a doll combining one of Captain Jack Sparrow’s dreadlocks to force Jack to do his bidding.
See a deleted voodoo doll scene from Pirates at Youtube. Go to
But the introduction of poppets, or voodoo dolls, is linked to St Bride or Brighid. From the 1700s, many Irish and Scottish women were shipped to New Orleans for minor crimes and put to work alongside the native women there. They shared their beliefs and traditions with their fellow women workers, including that of St Brighid – and the poppets they brought with them were the ‘Bridie dolls’ of Scottish and Irish origin.
Bridie dolls were little figures made from scraps of fabric, usually dressed in white, with ribbons, lace and even jewellery. The Bridie doll would be kept throughout the year near the hearth, hung on a wall, or near the door, as a talisman of protection, then burnt and replaced with a new poppet for the next year.
In voodoo, there are many types of poppets or voodoo dolls and they’re used for all kinds of purposes, including bringing love, healing, empowerment, guidance, fertility or cursing. Find poppets of the Baron and Brigitte at Honoring Mother Earth at Etsy.