Petro loa

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Petro (Haitian Creole: Petwo), sometimes as Pethro, is a family of loa (spirits) in Haitian Vodou religion. The story is that they originated in Haiti, under the harsh conditions of slavery. The term petro can also refer to a drum used in the music of Haiti. "Petro" loas are often considered to be "angry" or demon loa, used in "black magic". They are the "newer" loa that can relate to the harsh, unimaginable conditions that slaves had to endure.


Their rites feature whip cracking, whistles and ignited gunpowder. In addition, Petro drumbeats are swifter and more syncopated than the Rada rhythms. Danto is considered the "mother" of the Petro nation and is one of the most important Petro loa. Where Her sister Freda (a Rada loa) is known for Her softness and gentleness, Danto is known for Her strength. When faced with harsh reality Freda breaks down in tears; Danto's response is an inarticulate shuddering tantrum.


Haitian spirits, or loa, are divided into several "nations." Two of the major nations are the Rada and Petro. The Rada loa spirits like Damballa, Erzulie Freda and Papa Legba -- are said to come from Africa, from the former Dahomean empire. Many scholars believe that the name "Rada" is a corruption of "Arara," an African port from whence many slave ships were launched. Rada spirits are typically thought to be peaceful or benign.

Some mistakenly refer to the Rada loa as "good" and the Petro as "evil." This is misleading; the Rada loa can be used to make malevolent magic, while the Petro can heal and do beneficial workings. They are more accurately referred to as "cool" and "hot," respectively.


The Petro rites are an integral part of the initiation ceremony (Kanzo), the rite by which serviteurs are initiated as priests and priestesses (houngans and mambos) of Haitian Vodou. The Bat Ge, the ceremony that precedes the Kanzo, is dedicated to the Petwo loa, and the paquet congo created by and for new initiates are made under the watch of the Petwo spirits.


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