Happy Halloween! The closing of October with All Hallows’ Eve also signals the start of fét gede/fête Guede celebrations in November for many practitioners of Vodou. And some non-practitioners who simply enjoy the theatricality of the tradition that combines Haitian culture and spirituality.
To better understand the roots of Haitian gede, check out these titles about Vodou. At a minimum, they’ll put you in the spirit to enjoy Halloween’s ghouls-and-goblins fare even more this weekend. At most, they’ll transform your views about Vodou and enlighten you about gede, an aspect of the religion so similar to Day of the Dead celebrations common in Latin America.
The following descriptions are from the book publishers.
Nan Domi: An Initiate’s Journey into Haitian Vodou by Mimerose Beaubrun (2013)
Mimerose Beaubrun, educated as an anthropologist, set out to write another such work, but in the process she met the woman who would become her ultimate teacher and guide to the religion’s internal mysteries: Tante Tansia, whose knowledge, wisdom and spiritual power govern the text of Nan Dòmi.
Divine horsemen: The living Gods of Haiti by Maya Deren (1983)
Maya Deren’s Divine Horsemen is recognized throughout the world as a primary source book on the culture and spirituality of Haitian Vodou.
Tell my horse: Voodoo and life in Haiti and Jamaica by Zora Neale Hurston (2008 edition)
Based on acclaimed author Zora Neale Hurston’s personal experiences in Haiti and Jamaica—where she participated as an initiate rather than just an observer during her visits in the 1930s—Tell My Horse is a fascinating firsthand account of the mysteries of Vodou.
Guede et Mô by Ya Sezi bo Ougan (2020)
Papa Guede, the Bawons and the Guede Lwa represent the power and mystery of death, funerary rites and the afterlife in Haitian Vodou. They are the lost ancestors, this book presents, the ancient unknown force that pushes us from behind.
A Transatlantic History of Haitian Vodou: Rasin Figuier, Rasin Bwa Kayiman, and the Rada and Gede Rites by Benjamin Hebblethwaite (2021)
Connecting four centuries of political, social, and religious history with fieldwork and language documentation, A Transatlantic History of Haitian Vodou analyzes the religion’s African origins, transmission to Saint-Domingue and promulgation through song in contemporary Haiti.
Vodou in Haitian Life and Culture: Invisible Powers by Claudine Michel
This book focuses specifically on the role Vodou plays in Haiti, where it has its strongest following, examining its influence on spiritual beliefs, cultural practices, national identity, popular culture, writing and art.
Vodou Cosmology and the Haitian Revolution in the Enlightenment Ideals of Kant and Hegel by Vivaldi Jean-Marie
Vivaldi Jean-Marie shows that Vodou cosmology emerged as a spiritual, social and cultural technology for the enslaved to overcome the dissonance and brutality of slavery in Saint-Domingue (modern-day Haïti).
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