Damballa

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Veve of Damballa

In Vodou, Damballah is one of the most important of all the loa (also spelled lwa). Damballah is the Sky God and considered the primordial creator of all life. The veve of Damballah comprises two serpents prominent among other emblems.

Damballa is related to figures in other mythologies, the Yoruba Oxumaré (also venerated by the Brazilian Candomblé), and the Louisiana Li Grand Zombi.

Family[edit]

He is both a member of the Rada family and a root, or (Old French) racine Loa. In New Orleans and Haiti he is often depicted as a serpent and is closely associated with snakes. He is considered the father of all loa as all Spirits are aspects of him. His wife/companion Ayida Weddo, the rainbow serpent (Damballah is also married to Erzulie Freda), is likewise a Loa of creation.

Symbols and offerings[edit]

Common altar symbols used to represent the Sky God include white cloth, owls, bones, ivory, cotton, and chameleons. As a loa of the Rada nation he is associated with the color white and white is his particular color. His day of the week is Thursday.

Some of his ritual songs indicate that he "carries the ancestors"[1] on his back to Guinea (spiritual home of the Loa, and the afterlife). Damballah's offerings are very simple and he prefers an egg on a mound of flour or salt, but loves everything white. Toni Costonie relates that Priestess Miriam Chamani recommends cold water, milk, coconut, and coconut milk, honey, shea butter, rice, mild cigars, bread, and cookies. Some houses also serve him with anisette and corn syrup while kola nuts are also acceptable.[2] Traditionally, however, it is taboo to give Damballah tobacco or alcohol in any form.

Function and presentation[edit]

Damballah rules the mind, intellect, and cosmic equilibrium. Damballah is the patron protector of the handicapped, deformed, cripples, albinos, and young children. When he presents himself in possession, he does not talk, but makes hissing and whistling noises[1] like a snake in Rada rite. But in Haitian Petro loa he is known as "Dumballah Nan Flambo," and it is believed he can be heard "speaking through a flame".

He is syncretised with the Catholic figures of St. Patrick who drove snakes out of Ireland, Christ the Redeemer, Our Lady of Mercy, and, sometimes, with Moses whose staff turned into a serpent.[3]

Names[edit]

Alternative names include Damballa Weddo (son of Odan Wedo), Danbala, Danbala Wedo, Damballah Weddo, Danbhala Weddo, Obatala.[1] He is usually addressed respectfully as "Papa Damballah".

Cultural references[edit]

The novel "Voodoo Dreams-- a novel of Marie Laveau" by Jewell Parker Rhodes follows the story of the historical figure Marie who is often possessed by Damballah allowing her to do miraculous feats. This book gives more insight into the original beliefs about Damballah and Vodun in the Americas and abroad.

Damballah is worshipped by voodoo practitioners in the Southern Gothic horror stories "Black Canaan" and "Pigeons from Hell" by Robert E. Howard. Damballa is also The Deity referred to in the Horror/dark comedy film series Child's play, During Charles Lee Ray's Hoodoo incantation he calls on Damballa to give him the power of immortality.

The "Heart of Damballa", an amulet, is also referenced in the movies Child's Play and Bride of Chucky.

The musician Exuma recorded a song "Dambala" for the album Exuma I in 1970. This song has also been recorded by Nina Simone.

He is also mentioned in the movie Dr. Terror's House of Horrors.

A song with the same name was performed in the first ever famous Greek rock opera Daimones (demons) by Nikos Karvelas and starring Anna Vissi, which played for two seasons in 1991. In 2013, after 22 years, the play is on stage now and is making records in selling 1,000 tickets a day.

In the James Bond movie "Live and Let Die" a witch doctor character, who handles snakes during the villain's voodoo rituals, is named Damballa.

Erzulie, Papa Legba, Baron Samedi and Damballa, all appear in the WildCats original comic series, assisting Voodoo against Mait' Carrefour.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c [1] About.com article Damballah-Wedo Vodou Lwa and His Veve
  2. ^ Toni Costonie, biography Priestess Miriam and the Voodoo Spiritual Temple
  3. ^ Old Testmanet, Book of Exodus 4:1-17

See also[edit]