Erzulie

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The Black Madonna of Częstochowa, the inspiration typically used in the depiction of Erzulie Dantor

In Vodou, Erzulie (sometimes spelled Erzili or Ezili) is a family of lwa, or spirits.

Maîtresse Mambo Erzulie Fréda Dahomey[edit]

Erzulie Fréda Dahomey, the Rada aspect of Erzulie, is the Haitian African spirit of love, beauty, jewelry, dancing, luxury, and flowers. She wears three wedding rings, one for each husband - Damballa, Agwe and Ogoun. Her symbol is a heart, her colours are pink, blue, white and gold, and her favourite sacrifices include jewellery, perfume, sweet cakes and liqueurs. Coquettish and very fond of beauty and finery, Erzulie Freda is femininity and compassion embodied, yet she also has a darker side; she is seen as jealous and spoiled and within some Vodoun circles is considered to be lazy. When she mounts a serviteur she flirts with all the men, and treats all the women as rivals.

In Christian iconography she is often identified with the Mater Dolorosa. She is conceived of as never able to attain her heart's most fervent desire. For this reason she always leaves a service in tears. Her syncretic iconographical depiction is usually based on that of the Virgin and Child, because she is the mother of Ti. Common syncretizations include Iyalorde Oxum as she relate to that Yoruba Vodu goddess of Erotic Love, Gold and Femininity.

Erzulie Dantor[edit]

In her Petro nation aspect as Erzulie Dantor she is often depicted as a scarred and buxom black woman, holding a child protectively in her arms. She is a particularly fierce protector of women and children. She is often identified with lesbian women.

A common syncretic depiction of Erzulie Dantor is St. Jeanne D'Arc, who is displayed carrying or supporting a sword. Another is as the Black Madonna of Częstochowa, as she is represented as being dark-skinned. Her colours are red, gold and navy blue. Her symbols are a pierced heart and knives or swords. Her favourite sacrifices include black pigs, griot (seasoned fried pork), and rum.

The scars on her cheek are said to be the result of a fight between her and Erzulie Freda over possession of Ti-Jean Petro, as the two are fierce rivals. The cuts shown on her face in the syncretic reproductions are matches to the surface damage on the Black Madonna's face in the original icon.

Erzulie Family[edit]

Rada[edit]

  • Erzulie Freda (Lady Erzulie) - The vain and flirty goddess of love. Her "horses" tend to cry tears of longing and regret. She is syncretized with Our Lady of Sorrows (the Virgin Mary as suffering mother).
  • Erzulie Balianne (Erzulie the Gagged) - "Silences" (heals or calms) hearts. Keeps secrets or ensures that secrets will not be revealed. Helps people to forget past loves and overcome passionate emotions. Her "horses" tend to speak as if they have a gag in their mouth. She is syncretized with The Immaculate Heart.
  • Erzulie Mansur (Erzulie the Blessed) - Represents maternal love and protects children from harm.
  • Granne Erzulie (Grandma Erzulie) - Represents the wisdom granted by experience and maturity and grandmotherly kindness and love. She is syncretized with St. Anne, the mother of the Virgin Mary.

Petro[edit]

  • Erzulie D'en Tort or Erzulie Dantor (Erzulie of the Wrongs) Protects women and children and deals revenge against those who wrong them.
  • Erzulie Mapiangue (Erzulie the Suckler) Deals with the pain of childbirth and the protection of unborn and newborn babies. Her "horses" tend to get in a fetal position or birthing position and cry tears of pain. Common syncretization is as the Virgin and Infant of Prague, which wear matching red velvet robes and gold crowns.
  • Erzulie Yeux Rouge or Erzulie Ge-Rouge (Red-Eyed Erzulie) Takes revenge on unfaithful lovers. Her "horses" cry tears of bitter sadness.
  • Erzulie Toho Aids the jealous or slighted in love. Her "horses" cry tears of anger.

Others[edit]

  • Erzulie La Flambeau (Erzulie of the Torch)
  • Erzulie Wangol (Erzulie of the Sacred Banner)

Similar Spirits in the Pantheon[edit]

  • La Sirène or Mami Wata is associated with Erzulie and sometimes is displayed in Erzulie's roles as mother, lover, and protector. Her husband is Agwe, the King of the Sea and patron of sailors and fishermen.
  • Marinette Bras-Chêche or Marinette Bwa Chech ("Marinette of the Dry Arms"), a Kongo Loa, is similar to Erzulie Dantor. She represents revolt and misfortune and is prayed to either placate her wrath or direct her fury at another. She is in the form of a skeleton or rotting corpse and is syncretically represented by the Anima Sola ("Forsaken Soul").
  • Mai-Louise is an Ibo goddess.
  • Ti-Quitta / Ti Kitha, a Loa of sexuality and fertility, is one of the Quitta Loas. One of her aspects is Ti Quitta Demembre (Dismembered Quitta).
  • Ochun or Oshun, a Yoruban river goddess, is similar to Erzulie Freda.
  • Maman Brigitte ("Mother Brigitte"), is a Guede goddess who is the wife of Baron Samedi and protector of gravestones or funerary markers. She is syncretically represented by St. Brigit.
  • Tsillah Wedo is associated with Erzulie. She is depicted as a beautiful virgin of great wealth.
  • Pomba Gira

Other Aspects[edit]

Erzulie in popular culture[edit]

A 1988 solo album by free-jazz pianist Cecil Taylor is called Erzulie Maketh Scent.

Erzulie (Freda) is also a character in the broadway musical Once On This Island as the beautiful goddess of love.

In The Spectacular Spider-Man animated series, "Ezili" is the surname of the villain Calypso, a voodoo practitioner who had no last name in the original comics.

A powerful swamp witch/voodoo woman in Terry Pratchett's Discworld novel Witches Abroad is named Erzulie Gogol. She is the lover of Genua's former ruler, Baron Saturday (Baron Samedi).

In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer comic Past Lives, part 4, Erzulie is invoked to clear a room of all magic.

In the Steely Dan song "Two Against Nature" (the third track from the album of the same name), the narrator describes Madame Erzulie as a succubus who "bangs you silly but leaves a nasty bite."

Erzulie, Papa Legba and Baron Samedi all appear in the WildCats original comic series, assisting Voodoo

Discussion of a portrait of Maitresse Erzulie in Zadie Smith's novel 'On Beauty' (2005)

Notes[edit]