39. Maman Brigitte (Haitian Vodou)

In today's episode, we talk about the Haitian loa known as Maman Brigitte. We discuss conceptions of the afterlife, the ways figures change and adapt after being syncretized into a new religion, and the ways in which we view death. Trigger warning for discussions of slavery.

Apple Podcasts podcast player badge
Spotify podcast player badge
Google Podcasts podcast player badge
Overcast podcast player badge
Castro podcast player badge
PocketCasts podcast player badge
RSS Feed podcast player badge

Organizations mentioned for Haitian earthquake relief:





Warriors, Witches, Women by Kate Hodges

Les Grands Dieux du Vodou Haïtien by Émile Marcelin and A. Métraux

Maman Brigitte, Loa of the Dead in Voodoo Religion by Patti Wigington

EXIT LAUGHING: Death and Laughter in Los Angeles and Port-Au-Prince by Donald J. Cosentino


Transcript: Episode 39 — Maman Brigitte (Haitian Vodou)

[intro music]


Lizzie: Hello, and welcome to Mytholadies, the podcast where we talk about women from mythology and folklore all over the world. We're your hosts.

Zoe: I'm Zoe.


Lizzie: And I'm Lizzie. And how are you today, Zoe?


Zoe: I am good. I'm nervous but excited because this is my first on-campus recording. And it's a little freaky, but I am using one of the recording rooms in the library that I work at. So it should be good.


Lizzie: Amazing.


Zoe: It's actually probably better than like if I was recording at home because it's super quiet in here.


Lizzie: Oh, true.


Zoe: So that's really nice. And yeah, so I'm really excited about that. And a little nervous. Hopefully it turns out well, but yeah.


Lizzie: I think it'll be fine.


Zoe: But I'm excited that we figured this out. So. Excited to be back. Lizzie, how are you?


Lizzie: Well, since last time we talked I am in a totally new location. I moved apartments. It's fun. I'm living with my friend and it's been taxing but I finally like moved all my stuff in and all that. Built a lot of IKEA furniture. And I am excited to be here.


Zoe: Yeah.


Lizzie: And my graduation is tomorrow, even though I finished my degree a few months ago.


Zoe: Right, yes, very exciting.


Lizzie: So that's fun. Yeah. So who are we talking about today?


Zoe: Okay, so today we are talking about Maman Brigitte, who is another Haitian loa.


Lizzie: Ooh! Yes. Okay.


Zoe: So, do you know anything about Maman Brigitte?


Lizzie: Have I looked her up at some point in my life? Yes. Do I remember anything about her? No.


Zoe: Okay, good. I was worried you might spoil—


Lizzie: I think she might have been based off of like a Irish goddess.


Zoe: Potentially she might have been.


Lizzie: Perhaps, perhaps Brigid the Irish goddess?


Zoe: Potentially she might have been.


Lizzie: Okay.


Zoe: Yeah, so just to recap about loa, which we talked about in depth in our episode where we talked about Erzulie Freda and Erzulie Dantor, which is episode nine, I believe. So basically, about loa and Haitian Vodou. It is a religion that developed primarily to the attempts of colonizers at forced conversion of West Africans who were brought to Haiti through the Atlantic slave trade. And naturally, rather than completely give up their faith traditions in favor of Catholicism, Catholic faith and figures were instead, they instead syncretized them into their traditional West African religions. So loa are the results of this syncretization, representing a fusion of West African gods and spirits, such as the orishas and also Christian saints. And they are not gods themselves, but serve as the intermediaries between humans and the supreme creator god that does not interfere in human affairs, and therefore they are the subjects of most prayers and ceremonies. Yeah, so today, we're going to be focusing on a specific family of loa that we haven't talked about before, called the gede loa. And these are a group of loa who represent the powers of death and fertility. They are associated with the drum rhythm and dance known as the banda, and in possession ceremonies, they will drink or rub themselves with a mixture of raw rum and spicy peppers. They're known to be promiscuous, loud, vulgar, and they love to party.


Lizzie: Very fun.


Zoe: Yeah. And they also often wear flamboyant outfits, often like a sexy formal dress. So, Mama Brigitte in particular is often said to be wearing a low-cut Victorian-style


dress. In one of my sources, they're sort of described to have like a kind of steampunk aesthetic going on. So super fun, very, like, gaudy. And very, like flamboyant. And super cool.


Lizzie: That's interesting. Was this sort of iconography developed during the Victorian time?


Zoe: I guess it must have been, um, it's not really clear to me I couldn't find much information on like how that that specific iconography developed. I mean, like, I don't think that there's like, that much like iconography specifically of the loa, but there's like, you know, people dress up as them in like carnivals and stuff. And yeah, but I don't think that like loas tend to have like a ton of iconography.


Lizzie: That's true.


Zoe: And then generally that like—


Lizzie: Well, I know Erzulie Dantor and Freda had like specific things like oh, Erzulie Dantor had like a scar.

Zoe: Yeah. And so they're often tasked with carrying the dead to the underworld, and they're under the leadership of Baron Samedi, also known as Bawon Samedi sometimes, and he is Maman Brigitte's husband and consort. And so he's like, sort of this severe, serious one. He's often said to be wearing a top hat and a suit. Sometimes glasses, like mirrored sunglasses, sometimes like the glasses will have like a lens popped out, which is interesting and he is like the head of them all. And Maman Brigitte is—


Lizzie: He's like a very important figure.


Zoe: Yeah. And she is his wife or consort. And she has very similar powers to him. So she determines the fate of the dying or ill and can heal sicknesses, especially sexually transmitted infections, and is often called on by the faithful to heal those who are fatally ill. And if she cannot help them, she will offer them safe passage into the underworld.


Lizzie: This sounds a little reminiscent of Brigid, I'll be honest.


Zoe: Interesting.


Lizzie: With the healing the sick and the whole, like kind of, I mean, Brigid supposedly saved people while they were about to die by letting them, like, convert to Christianity.


Zoe: Yeah!


Lizzie: All that stuff.


Zoe: Absolutely.


Lizzie: Well, St. Brigid did that.


Zoe: Yes, and I think you'll be shocked to hear there might be a reason for that similarity.


Lizzie: Woah. [laughs]


Zoe: The first female grave in cemeteries are often marked with a cross or her veve, which is sort of like a symbol that represents her, in order to dedicate them to Maman Brigitte. And that opens up the rest of the cemetery to her guidance and care. And then some cemeteries, if the first grave is a male grave, then the cemetery belongs to Baron Samedi, and so it's sort of like shared between the two of them. She can also be called upon to punish those who have committed bad deeds who are living. She's often seen as a judge with the ability to determine the final verdict on who should be punished.


Lizzie: That's really fun. It reminds me a little bit of our fate goddesses episode.


Zoe: Yeah, absolutely. And she's very fair and doesn't take any foolishness so she won't react well if you call on her to hurt someone who doesn't deserve it. So even if you're like this person wronged me, I want them punished, she is the final one who's like, no, they don't deserve this actually, and—


Lizzie: I'll be the judge of that.


Zoe: Yeah, exactly. That's sort of her job. And so the gede family is said to include spirits of the dead in general. And it is Maman Brigitte's job to transform the souls of the recently deceased into members of the gede family. And once they join they're able to live afterlives of partying, fun, and celebrations, free from the shame and punishments of the living world.


Lizzie: So can anyone become one?


Zoe: I think so. Yeah, once you die if you're like, I think it's, you know, if you're faithful but like that's just you know, more of like what you believe I think. Maman Brigitte will come and get you and then you'll go and party with the gede loa in the afterlife, and that sounds like a pretty good deal, to be honest.


Lizzie: Yeah. But then everyone- just anyone can become a loa then? I thought it was more like, I don't know, selective.


Zoe: I think it's sort of- it's not, I don't know if they're necessarily the loa, but they're part of like the gede family. I don't know exactly how it works.


Lizzie: Okay. But that's nice.


Zoe: Yeah. Maman Brigitte does not often possess followers, unlike most loa, she's not someone you would often call upon to possess you. But if she does, the person seeking to experience possession will dress themselves up like a corpse. So they'll lie down on a bed, stuff cotton in their ears and nose and wrap their jaws with a black handkerchief, which is like traditional custom. And when she possesses someone, she generally will not speak, but she will sometimes place hot peppers on her genitals.


Lizzie: Huh. Why is that? Zoe: Just for fun, I think. Lizzie: Okay.

Zoe: Yeah. She likes—


Lizzie: Fun little ritual.


Zoe: Yeah, just so that she can, you know, like—


Lizzie: Why not?


Zoe: But also, according to some sources I read, this can be used as a test to make sure that the person who claims to be possessed by Maman Brigitte is not faking it. Which is a little—


Lizzie: Because why would you do that otherwise?


Zoe: Yeah, you know, or like, if I think she can do it without like, you know, screaming in pain. Whereas, like, if you weren't actually being possessed—

Lizzie: Oh, okay. That makes sense.


Zoe: —like, you would experience a lot of pain from that. So.


Lizzie: It would be obvious.


Zoe: Yeah. So, yeah. So now we get to the part that I've been hinting at, which is her origins. So as, again, as I've been hinting at, Maman Brigitte is thought to be the only loa with origins from primarily outside of the African diaspora. And so the institution of


slavery existed alongside the practice of indentured servitude, which is the practice of making people who have a debt of some kind of work for you until they paid off that debt. During that period of colonial and imperial expansion of the 1500s to the 1700s. The main practice of indentured servitude involved paying for someone's passage to the Western Hemisphere, and then having that person work off the price of their passage.

So that was potentially for people who wanted to start a new life, a way for them to get to the Western Hemisphere and the colonies on the Western Hemisphere, even if they couldn't afford it.


Lizzie: Yeah.


Zoe: However, it was also an incredibly corrupt process, because often those who held the debt, made it so that it was impossible for workers to actually pay off their debts and then forced them basically into a life of servitude.


Lizzie: So it's basically just like, coercing people into slavery.


Zoe: Yeah, I mean, it's a little, it's different from slavery because it doesn't have the racialized component of it, but it's definitely a form of involuntary working where you're basically forced to work when you don't, when you don't want to, and basically keeping people to work for you through like, malicious means. And so many of these indentured servants around the 1700s and the 1800s, were Irish or Scottish women. And they were often sent to work off punishments for engaging in acts of sex work, which could actually like, not even be like you were actually actively engaging in sex work, but also you could have just been wearing something that was like considered too revealing or like, not living with a man or something like that.


Lizzie: Wow. Okay.


Zoe: And, and were poor. So then they were brought to the Western Hemisphere. And of course, as—


Lizzie: And this was many places, not just Haiti?


Zoe: Yeah. Oh, yeah, this was many places. This is also like, you know, the 13 colonies. But it was also the case in Haiti, too. They brought their own mythology and folklore with them, as is natural for when people move. And the story says that these women brought tiny dolls called Bridie dolls, which represent St. Brigid, the patron female saint of Ireland, and a protector goddess, who we talked about—


Lizzie: Yes. In an earlier episode.


Zoe: And so these dolls are believed by some to be the forerunners of the classic voodoo doll widely known in pop culture today. This is a little debated, but that is definitely a prevailing theory.


Lizzie: It sounds like a reach. But I don't know.


Zoe: The indentured women from Ireland began to live among and interact with the enslaved African populations of Haiti. And then as they, these two populations interacted with each other, the St. Brigid was syncretized into the Haitian Pantheon through the spirit of Maman Brigitte. And so many aspects of St. Brigid have been changed in the syncretization, for example, her symbol was once a white swan, but now it is a black cockerel which I think is honestly at least partially, like, it's more like location-appropriate like there aren't, I don't think swans are native to Haiti, like, but black cockerels are, so, like, that makes sense, you know?


Lizzie: Yeah, that definitely makes sense.


Zoe: And St. Brigid is said to be more chaste or sexually moderate and morally upright and Maman Brigitte is known for her sexual promiscuity and sensual dancing. She's also said to swear a lot. She likes to party and drink and she has affairs so like, it's different. Not bad, but like different.


Lizzie: I mean, of course, yeah. Because Brigid was like a nun.


Zoe: Yeah.


Lizzie: She turned into a nun and she was like a saint. So that's very, you know.


Zoe: Although she might have been gay, but like, anyways.


Lizzie: I mean, true. [laughs]


Zoe: However, there are definitely similarities between the two figures. So, for example, the crosses of St. Brigid are reflected in the crosses used to dedicate cemeteries to Maman Brigitte, and then fire is important and symbolic to both of them. Also, Maman Brigitte is also celebrated around February 2nd—


Lizzie: Ah!


Zoe: —which is St Brigid's festival known as Imbolc. And so Maman Brigitte is also the only loa that is ever depicted as white, she's often shown with long red hair and green eyes. And so both women are associated with healing, as you talked about, St. Brigid is a patron saint of medicine. And as I mentioned before, Maman Brigitte has the ability to


heal diseases. And they're both considered protectresses. So in the case of Maman Brigitte, she is said to protect women, particularly in cases of domestic violence, unfaithful lovers, or also in childbirth.


Lizzie: Well that's similar to Erzulie Dantor.


Zoe: It is, yeah, I mean I think—


Lizzie: That's quite nice. I mean there's like multiple loa who are looking out for disenfranchised women.


Zoe: Yeah, I think that, like, you know, it's very important, I think, to have those protectresses out there. So I think that's why there's so common. So, what are your thoughts on Maman Brigitte so far?


Lizzie: Well I think it's very cool that Maman Brigitte as well as many other loa and basically the whole of Haitian Vodou, I think, is like the product of syncretism and like cultural exchange I guess. Like. Yeah, I don't know, I think it's quite beautiful. I talked about this in the Erzulie episode, but there's a lot of really really nice things about Haitian Vodou, like it's just like very open, it's like good with homosexuality, it's like you know, which is really nice. I don't want to say anything bad about Christianity [laughs].


Zoe: You can say something bad about Christianity.


Lizzie: [laughing] Okay.


Zoe: Like, if you're gonna say that Christianity is not accepting of homosexuality, like, that is a fact.


Lizzie: I mean, yeah. Because I mean, like, you mentioned like Vodou came about from like, attempts of like forcing Christianity which can be very strict and then Vodou came out of it, you know, mixing with Yoruba peoples and Ewe peoples, I don't remember exactly who. People from West Africa—


Zoe: A lot of religions and cultures, yeah.


Lizzie: Yes. And they just like created something new out of it, it's very fruitful. It's very beautiful. And I have no idea about Maman Brigitte. I think it would make sense that she had like, to put it mildly, gay rumors, because so did the Erzulie, and so did Brigid. You know, I mean, I don't know, but you know, like—


Zoe: I feel like I read that she takes both male and female lovers, but like, I could have—


Lizzie: But it's just not a big deal.


Zoe: —or like, they may have just said, like, oh, you know, like, she likes to have affairs, you know, which is like, super valid of her. So.


Lizzie: Yeah, she should do what she wants. And she's the wife of Baron Samedi.


Zoe: Yeah, and he also has affairs.


Lizzie: Do you know why he's called that, by the way? Is like, his day Saturday or something?


Zoe: Yeah, I think like, there's probably like some... I don't know, because I didn't like that much into him. Because, obviously, I was focusing on Maman Brigitte, but like, I mean, there's probably like, Saturday is like, the end of the week or something. I don't know. Or like funerals are held held on Saturdays or something. I don't know. But I think it's a cool name.


Lizzie: But, yeah, I was thinking about Brigid recently. I don't remember why. It's probably because I'm living with an Irish person.

Zoe: Yeah. That's probably why.


Lizzie: I'm just like everything Irish, I'm like, hey, Cathy.


Zoe: Hey, Cathy.


Lizzie: Exactly.


Zoe: Um. yeah. I just feel like Maman Brigitte, and I didn't put this in my notes, so I'm kind of speaking from the heart here, but like, I just feel like she's a really powerful like, symbol, almost of solidarity, if that makes sense? Like, we have two incredibly oppressed and downtrodden, like, classes here, the- those who are enslaved and those who are being forced to work as indentured servants, like sort of coming together. And like they're combining their and like the natural like combination of their cultures and religions, like, mixing and creating a really cool and awesome figure. And that just feels like really powerful to me, like, you know, that these people, like—


Lizzie: Definitely. I mean they're being oppressed by the same forces in the same general location.


Zoe: Yeah, like they have a common enemy. Yeah, like, to me, I feel like she's kind of a symbol of solidarity in a way.


Lizzie: And you know, what else is kind of beautiful? The figure of St. Brigid came about from like the pagan, Irish pre-Christian religion.


Zoe: Yeah.


Lizzie: Which was then, like morphed into, like, accepted into Christianity. And then, when she, St. Brigid, came to the Americas, then she got accepted into Haitian Vodou. And it just, I don't know, it's like, kind of full circle in a way.


Zoe: Yeah, absolutely.


Lizzie: You know what I mean? Like—


Zoe: No, yeah, I absolutely agree. I think it's so cool how like her as a figure and a concept has traveled so far and like just been accepted into so many different places.


Lizzie: Yeah. And, also, like pre-Irish folk religion, she was also, I think, if I remember correctly, like, there was like a pre-Britannic figure that she was based off of in the first place, which is interesting, because it kind of shows like her appeal as she's gone through, like—


Zoe: Yeah.


Lizzie: Four or so different religions, and she's just like, been carried through.


Zoe: Yeah.


Lizzie: And that's just, she's just like an everlasting, like, timeless goddess slash spirit.


Zoe: That's really yeah, that's, it's just really interesting. Like.


Lizzie: I mean, it makes sense that somebody who's like a healer would be important.


Zoe: Absolutely.


Lizzie: And especially to people who like are oppressed. Like Of course, healing is going to be something that's really really important.


Zoe: So, Maman Brigitte, as I talked about, is not a pure innocent virginal figure for women to look up to, as in she's not like an icon of like innocence or virginity for people—


Lizzie: Of chastity, yeah.


Zoe: —not that people can't look up to her but like that's, if you want to look up to someone like that—


Lizzie: That's not her main thing.


Zoe: —then you wouldn't be like up to Maman Brigitte, you'd be looking up to someone else. She dances seductively, has affair, swears, drinks, parties, isn't afraid to have a good time, all the stuff I've been saying, super fun, super awesome. She's also associated with Mary Magdalene, who is the woman who first discovered that Jesus had risen from the dead in the Bible and is believed by many scholars to have been a sex worker. And I believe that this depiction, and these associations, are not accidents. Considering the origins and experiences of the women who brought the stories of St.

Brigid to Haiti. Many of these women were punished for performing sex work, and even those who did not perform sexual acts would likely experience, unfortunately, incredibly degrading and dehumanizing working conditions as indentured servants.


Lizzie: I mean, this whole period of colonialism is such a horrible time like for everyone. Well, not, I guess, everyone. But.


Zoe: It's great for some people. Unfortunately.


Lizzie: For the colonizers, they were having great time.


Zoe: Yeah, at the expense of so many other people.


Lizzie: Yeah.


Zoe: And unfortunately, also in a similar note, enslaved woman also had very similar circumstances, being simultaneously hyper-sexualized and denied humanity by those who held them captive. And so for women with those experiences, I feel like a woman who is held up as like, you know, the Holy Virgin is not really a relatable icon and neither a very helpful icon.


Lizzie: It's not needed.


Zoe: Yeah. Like, you can't relate to her because that is never going to be you and then that there's like that's just not helpful because all you can do—


Lizzie: You don't have the rights to, like, aspire to virginity and purity.


Zoe: So, I believe that for women who are constantly being degraded and dehumanized and objectified, and for women who are being degraded specifically for expressing their sexuality or being hurt, specifically through sexual means, a figure like Maman Brigitte,


who is proud and open about her sexuality and has full possession of it, and who swears, drinks, dances, and is willing to punish those who do cruel deeds, is a much more helpful and necessary figure to look up to and pray to than a more passive female figure. Because like, if you do all those things, then having a figure that like you look up to, who also does those things is really awesome, as opposed to like, the Virgin Mary, who, like, is known to be perfect, just kind of as a fact of her existence. Like that's not really a helpful person to look up to.


Lizzie: Yeah.


Zoe: Because, again, you're never going to be able to be her. So, like, all you can do if you think about her and look up to her is feel like you're being disappointing and, like, letting something down. And so having Maman Brigitte, I think, would have been super powerful and like really helpful as an icon instead.


Lizzie: She would be a more venerable and like respectable figure to people living such dark lives where they don't really have any rights.

Zoe: Yeah, absolutely. Maman Brigitte is also a spirit associated with death and cemeteries. But she is also a spirit associated with rebirth. She has the ability to heal those dying from diseases and if she cannot heal them, she helps them be reborn into the afterlife. Her symbol, the black cockerel, announces the morning and the renewal of the world each day. And this rebirth association is reflected in St. Brigid's mythology as well, since she's associated with the spring and renewal of life after the death of winter.


Lizzie: Yes.


Zoe: And it's so interesting to me that we have a death spirit so intensely associated with rebirth and new life as well. I feel like I've talked about this many times before, but our culture, which is really heavily influenced by European Christian ideology, so often views death as like the rock-solid end of life, the end of things, something to fear and avoid at all costs.


Lizzie: Definitely.


Zoe: But with figures like Maman Brigitte to symbolize both death and birth, we're given a new perspective on death. We can view life and death as a cycle rather than just a line with a finite beginning and end.


Lizzie: Like, its renewal rather than the end of everything.


Zoe: Yeah, it's sort of like just another stage.


Lizzie: And it's just like beautiful to not view death as so depressing, but just as part of, you know, the grander life cycle and just, you're all just part of nature. I don't know.


Zoe: Yeah. And so here is our fun celebrity cameo for this episode. [Lizzie laughs] Yes, to quote the notes of Maya Deren, famed surrealist filmmaker—


Lizzie: Oh!


Zoe: Yes! And dancer who also became a voodoo initiate, and here she's also talking about the spirit called Gede, who is, embodies the abilities of the Gede loa, “And if the souls of the dead enter the depths of the passage by which Gede is guardian, the lwa and life forces emerge from that same depth by the same road. Hence he is Lord of Life as well as of Death. His dance is the dance of copulation; in the chamber dedicated to his worship, the sculptured phallus may lie side by side with the three grave-diggers’ tools...He is the final appeal against death. He is the cosmic corpse which informs man of life. The cross is his symbol, for he is the axis both of the physical cycle of generation and the metaphysical cycle of resurrection. He is the beginning and the end.”


Lizzie: I love her. I feel like the majority of our listeners are not going to be like, are gonna be like who is that?


Zoe: Yeah.


Lizzie: But we are a fan of her. She's a celebrity to us.


Zoe: I am a fan of her—


Lizzie: She has some banger quotes.


Zoe: —you are a fan of her. I do want to note that this is a white person coming into a culture from that inherently outsider perspective. But her analysis—

Lizzie: Hundred percent.


Zoe: —is corroborated by other practitioners who are, who are growing up in, from the cultures that this religion is from. And so similarly, Baron Samedi, the husband of Maman Brigitte is also tasked with making sure that the dead stay dead once they have passed on. So, this prevents the creation of creatures such as zombis, which is a zombie without the ‘e’.


Lizzie: Oh!


Zoe: And so, in folklore, that's undead spirits reanimated to be used primarily as slaves by sorcerers.


Lizzie: Interesting.


Zoe: And that's one of the main sources of where, like, the pop culture zombie idea comes from.


Lizzie: Oh, so zombie came from the other zombi?


Zoe: Yeah, it came from like Voodoo and Vodou. Like.


Lizzie: You might not know this, but, like, what's the etymology?


Zoe: I don't know. Sorry, I thought, I thought you might already know, so I'm so sorry.


Lizzie: No, I didn't know that, actually. I know the etymology of the word robot.


Zoe: Yes.


Lizzie: Comes from Czech.


Zoe: Yes. So, because, like, they're tasked with, like, making sure that zombiscan't occur and like the reanimation of corpses can't happen, this shows that going against the natural cycle of life and death is wrong, too. So death is really not something to fear, but something to accept and understand as the natural end to one's life and doing something that cheats the death of yourself or someone else goes against nature and needs to be prevented.


Lizzie: Totally. Yeah, I love that motif. Of like, you can't bring somebody back from the dead. Like we talked about last week in—


Zoe: Oh yeah!


Lizzie: Izanagi and Izanami, and how Izanami died, but then she wasn't herself ever. And Izanagi went to hell to try to bring her back. And then it just didn't go well, because she was like, rotted and she's like—


Zoe: She was dead.


Lizzie: —tried to chase him away. Yeah, like when you're dead, you're dead. Like, you can't come- you can't revert back to your living self. Like your previous living self. You have to like continue on the journey.


Zoe: Yeah, like there's so many, there's so many mythological stories from like, cultures all across the world of people going into the underworld, but there's very few stories of people being able to successfully take someone out of it who's already died.


Lizzie: Exactly. Because you can't go against the natural cycle.


Zoe: And similarly, Maman Brigitte and all the other gedes take away from the taboo surrounding death and mortality. Instead of the view that death is something to fear and not discuss, lest you bring it into your life, the gedes are celebrated in festivals that often mock the solemnity of funerary customs. So like they'll be dressed—


Lizzie: Fancy word.


Zoe: Yeah, they'll be dressed up in sort of, like mockeries of like, you know, grave diggers or like pallbearers or morticians' outfits and they'll be like carrying coffins that contain like, sort of like, lewd sexual things instead, and like, be making like, you know, crass jokes and stuff, it like sort of mocking, like the solemnity of death. And—


Lizzie: Because death is kind of terrifying.


Zoe: Yeah.


Lizzie: So it's nice to make it some, I don't know, less scary and dark and depressing.


Zoe: Yeah, they're sort of making light of it.


Lizzie: I'm sure that for anyone it's sad to lose a loved one.


Zoe: Yes.


Lizzie: But it must be quite comforting to be like, well, they're just moving along their, you know, cycle of renewal and life and death.


Zoe: Absolutely.


Lizzie: Just like, it's a much nicer way of thinking about it. It gives you more hope.


Zoe: I feel like ultimately, like, you know, we're all going to die. But if you spend your entire life being afraid of dying, that's not a good way to live your life. So if you can find a way to sort of like, shake off that fear, that's going to help you live a more fulfilling life.


Lizzie: And it's also just better personally, to not have such a horrifying relationship with death, like your own death or other people's death. It's a part of life. It's a very sad part of life. But like, what can you do about it? Nothing.


Zoe: Exactly.


Lizzie: Happy Halloween!


Zoe: Yeah! Oh, yeah, I forgot this is supposed to be a Halloween thematic episode. And—


Lizzie: Oh, you know what else? I think it, I think by the time this episode airs. I think it'll be a year since our first episode.


Zoe: Oh my gosh, it definitely will be.


Lizzie: I forget what day this was supposed to air, but yeah.


Zoe: It definitely will have been a year so happy one year of Mytholadies to everyone.


Lizzie: Yay!


Zoe: But, yeah. Also, the gede loas are like celebrated around like, All Saints Day, November 1st. There's like a big festival for them. So that was one of the reasons why I wanted to do this around this time.


Lizzie: Ah! Yes.


Zoe: And so this view of death where like, it's sort of more humorous and like, sort of laughing in the face of death would likely be comforting.

Lizzie: Which is, I mean, it's great because their colonizers were like Christians.


Zoe: Yeah! Oh, that's so true.


Lizzie: And they obviously have such a depressing view of death. So it's kind of like mocking them in a way.


Zoe: Yeah, absolutely. And yeah, so this view of death would likely be comforting for places and peoples where life has often been chaotic, and difficult and sad. And unfortunately, Haiti is a country that has been fighting against the rest of the world for its right to exist ever since its creation. And so, in the words of Donald J. Cosentino in his essay, "Exit Laughing: Death and Laughter in Los Angeles and Port-au-Prince": “Finding life and sexual sport in death, the Gedes have come to personify the resilience of the Haitian people; their mocking response to the misery delivered by society [and] history.”


Lizzie: That's beautiful.


Zoe: Yeah.


Lizzie: And in that view, I mean, you not necessarily look forward to death, but you can view death in a more like, okay, I get to start over after this.


Zoe: Yeah.


Lizzie: And that can be hopeful.


Zoe: Yeah. And also, like, if you think of death as like this big, everlasting party. It's like, well, I'm suffering up here, but like, once I die, like I'll be able to have a good time—

Lizzie: Then it'll be great.


Zoe: —you know, you know, like, it'll be okay. Like, everything's gonna be okay, ultimately. And so, with that in mind, I do want to talk about current events in Haiti, primarily the 7.2 magnitude earthquake that struck a few weeks ago, about 10 years after the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that devastated the country and for which it still hasn't really recovered. So, some ways to help. The best way to help is to directly donate to GoFundMes and other fundraisers of people who are in Haiti in the country, just, you know, everyday people. Because NGOs and charities have a history of raising money that never actually reaches Haiti, which is why the country was never really able to recover from the first earthquake. And so the best way to actually help people is to cut out the middleman. Some organizations to donate to are Random Acts and Project Medishare, and also Ayiti Community Trust; and organizations to avoid are the Red Cross and Hope for Haiti for the reasons I previously stated. And we will put links in the episode description in the show notes of places to donate. And I really wanted to talk about this because like, I'm talking about a spirit from Haiti. And right now, there's, you know, this is a thing that's happening in Haiti. And I feel like it would be, you know, remiss to talk about this and not talk about Haiti in its present day. So.


Lizzie: To fully respect the people that we're talking about.


Zoe: So yeah, that is Maman Brigitte. And that is one of my ladies for Halloween that I have planned. And I think she's really interesting. I think she's super fun. I think she's super cool.


Lizzie: She's great. I'm glad we did this chronologically after the Brigid episode. It's kind of like sequential.


Zoe: Yeah. Yeah. And you were the—


Lizzie: All fits together.


Zoe: Yeah. And you did Brigid so, like, you could add on and be like, I remember this. And I'd be like, no, but, thanks for reminding me because I forgot.


Lizzie: Exactly.Yeah. And I'm excited for my next lady, and it's also going to be Halloween themed. So look forward to that. Well, not quite Halloween themed but on theme for Halloween.


Zoe: Cool. Love it.


Lizzie: So thank you to Zoe for today's episode. And thank you everyone for listening. Please feel free to subscribe, listen to our other episodes, leave a review and we will see you in two weeks.


Zoe: Yeah, thank you so much. Bye. [outro music]

Lizzie: Mytholadies podcast is produced, researched, and presented by Elizabeth LaCroix and Zoe Koeninger. You can find us on Instagram and Twitter @Mytholadies and visit us on our website at mytholadies.com our cover art is by Helena Cailleaux. Our music was written and performed by Icarus Tyree. Thanks for listening. See you in two weeks.