Erzulie — Mixed media by José Delpe.
As Valentine’s Day approaches, our minds turn to love. For some of us that means What am I going to get him for Valentine’s Day? For others, it’s I wonder if he’s going to remember to get me something? Me? This year I’ve been thinking about love in Haiti, where I come from, the land of Vodou (aka Voodoo).
Did you just get a chill up your spine at the mention of the word? Like maybe someone sticking pins in dolls? Just to set things straight: none of that happens in Vodou, that’s Holllywood. Vodou is one of the two national religions, alongside Catholicism, in Haiti. It’s a long story having to do with African slaves brought to the Caribbean Island in the 1700s, and sneakily merging their gods with Catholic saints so they could practice their religion in peace. In Vodou, there is a Supreme Being and a host of gods and goddesses, called lwas, with personalities and powers used to bring blessings and aid to worshippers, who do the right thing by them. It’s a little like the Hindu religion with all its gods and goddesses.
Erzulie Freda and Erzulie Dantò are two very popular love goddesses in the Vodou religion. People seeking love shower the beautiful, fair-skinned Erzulie Freda with offerings like perfume, flowers, jewelry, mirrors, pink and white items, and Salem Lights cigarettes. Give her what she likes, and she’ll get you what you want.
She is known to act more like a mistress than a wife, and she is quite the coquette, but she is a powerful and magical deity who gifts people with romance and love. You too, gay men!
Erzulie Dantò, on the other hand, is Freda’s dark-skinned cousin, a warrior love goddess, who lives in the woods and looks out specifically for women and children. She is fierce! Offerings to Dantò include black pigs and hens, rum or beer, jewelry with blue and red stones, dolls, florida water, and unfiltered Camel cigarettes.
She’s also mute, great with a dagger, and will spill your blood, if necessary, because she is, first and foremost, a mother. She’s also reputed to be a lesbian. Serve her well and she’ll serve you, wild women!
At Earth Henna, our Hearts & Valentine Stencil Package comes with an Erzulie Freda symbol that you can draw on yourself with henna, jagua or White Lace. We haven’t gotten around to making an actual Dantò symbol yet, but the one with the dagger is a pretty good start. Paint your favorite goddess on your body, don’t forget to make offerings to her—and wait for your love to come true!