Agwé

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In Vodou, and especially in Haiti, Agwé (also spelt Goue, Agoueh, or Agive), is a loa who rules over the sea, fish, and aquatic plants, as well as the patron loa of fishermen and sailors. He is considered to be married to Erzulie Freda and La Sirene. He goes by several titles, including koki la me ("Shell of the Sea"), koki dore ("Golden Shell"), "The Angel in the Mirror", "The Eel", and "The Tadpole in the Pond". A recent appearance of Agwé on stage was Once On This Island where he was one of the four gods: Asaka Mother of Earth, Agwé God of Water, Erzulie Goddess of Love and Papa Gé (Papa Ghede) Demon of Death

Agwe Family[edit]

Rada[edit]

Met Agwe is the Loa of direction. His territory is the winds and the currents, waves and depths of the oceans. He helps sailors find their bearings when lost at sea. He provides inspiration and guidance whenever an individual needs them in times of turmoil, loss, or indecision. He lives in a glorious palace under the seas. Patron of sailors, sea travelers and pirates. ("Master Agwe")

Agwe Arroyo or Agwe Tawoyo / Agwe 'Woyo ("Agwe of the Streams") is captain of Immamou, the ship that carries the dead to Guinee, the afterlife. He cries salt-water tears for the departed. He assisted the souls of those that suffered crimes against humanity during the trans-atlantic slave trade.

Papa Agwe is envisioned as a handsome African man with green eyes, sometimes lighter skin, often wearing a naval officer's or sailor's uniform. He is considered to be a gentleman who commands respect and embodies several ideals of masculinity including bravery, reserve and provision.

Petro[edit]

Agwe Flambeau ("Agwe of the Torch") is from a realm of boiling water, like a hot springs or an underwater volcanic eruption. He is appealed to give rivals bad luck in fishing or sailing. He is also invoked to avoid or remove bad luck at sea, to avoid sinking or drowning, or to stop or prevent rough seas and bad storms.

Agwe Ge-Rouge ("Agwe of the Red Eyes")

Worship[edit]

His colours are blue, white, and occasionally sea-green or brown. His veve (ritual symbol) is a boat with sails. His symbols are painted shells, painted oars, and sealife like the Seahorse and Starfish. He is syncretised with the Catholic Saint Ulrich of Augsburg and occasionally the archangel Raphael, both of whom are depicted holding fish. His holy day is Thursday.

He is saluted or signaled with blowing on a conch-shell and/or volleys of gunfire. When he possesses a devotee he often pushes himself around the temple on a chair (his boat) with a cane (his oar), shouting naval commands and saluting members of the congregation. His chevals ("horses", or possessed devotees) need to be kept moist with wet sponges or damp towels and have to be kept from running into the sea, where Agwe belongs.

Offerings[edit]

Small offerings to Agwe are poured or dropped overboard in deep ocean water. Large offerings to Agwe are left on constructed rafts (barques d'Agwe) which are floated or towed out to sea. If the raft sinks, it is accepted; if it returns to shore it is rejected. After the offering is left, the supplicants cannot look back at that place or it will anger Agwe. Chevals must be prevented from falling or leaping into the sea and drowning, as it would offend Agwe. Nothing toxic (lead pipes, cement bags, garbage) must be used to weigh down the raft; if it will hurt or pollute the sea, it will anger Agwe.

His offerings include:

  • Beverages: champagne, naval rum, or anisette. Coffee with sugar and cream.
  • Items: mirrors, a telescope, toy ships or scale ship models, oars or paddles, sea shells, turquoise beads or jewelry, fish-shaped sculptures or jewelry, fish hooks and nets, nautical uniforms or medals.
  • Food: Savoury exotic foods, melon, boiled cornmeal, rice cooked in coconut milk, rice cooked with lima beans, boiled or fried ripe bananas, white cake, cane syrup, almond oil, olive oil.
  • Sacrificial Animals: White roosters, male ducks, and white rams or goats whose wool has been dyed with indigo. They are afterwards prepared, cooked, and then placed in serving dishes or on plates as a sacrifice (as King of the Seas, he doesn't get hot food at home).

He is rarely offered seafood. If it is offered (perhaps to celebrate a bountiful year, good fortune, or a joyous occasion) it must be prepared and then cooked in a pan or oven. Then (to be fit for the table of the King of the Sea) it must be served on a white china dish with blue patterns.

See also[edit]

Agwe's ship is crewed by other Loa as well:

Agassou, Papa Agwe's First Lieutenant, shown in the form of a crab.
Silibo, the patron of the Sacred Baths.
Oya-Iansan, the loa of strong winds and stormy weather. She is also a Petro warrior loa as Ogou Yamsan - one of the Ogoun Family - a riotous sailor or marine who revels in stormy sailing and war at sea.
Ogou Balendjo, Ogou in his aspect of the healer.
Ogou Badagris, Ogou in his aspect as ?

At Agwe's ceremonies, they arrive first to make sure the place is fit for "The Admiral".

Pop Culture[edit]

Agwe is also a character in the musical Once on This Island as the god of water.

References[edit]