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  • Writer's pictureVoodoo Vixen

Baron Samedi: Voodoo God of Death and Judgement

Updated: Sep 28, 2022

While Voodoo contains many gods (better known as Lwa or Loa) associated with life and death, Baron Samedi (Baron Saturday) is their leader and the most important god of the dead. He is one of the lesser divine spirits in Voodoo that sits below the one all-powerful god Bondye. But this Voodoo god is beyond the comprehension of men and practitioners do not engage with him directly.

While many gods protect the remains of the dead and guide the souls of the dead to the other side, only Baron Samedi can judge souls and let them pass over. He is also considered a god of resurrection, as he can heal any mortal wound, bringing a person back from the brink of death. An extremely powerful deity, he is commonly called on for powerful magical rituals.

Baron Samedi in skeletal form
Baron Samedi in skeletal form

Master of Life and Death

Baron Samedi is also known as the Master of the Dead, Baron Cimetiere, Baron La Croix, and Baron Criminal. He leads the family of Loa, known as the Guene, associated with the dead in Voodoo. Principal among his clan is his consort, Maman Brigitte.

While the other Guene Loa join Baron Samedi in protecting cemeteries and ensuring that graves are not desecrated, only Baron Samedi can welcome a soul into the afterlife. Another Voodoo Loa may guide them to the entrance, but only the Baron can judge their souls and grant them admittance.

Baron Samedi is said to dig the graves of the dead and meet their souls as they emerge from their graves. This probably refers to the corresponding graves of the dead in the afterlife. In the mortal realm, he ensures that corpses rot the way that they should and that the dead do not come back as zombies to terrorize the living.

A cross is often placed in the center of Haitian cemeteries to mark the place where the worlds of the living and the dead meet, and where Baron Samedi often passes between the two realms. The first male grave in a cemetery is often considered an incarnation of Baron Samedi, and the first female grave is that of his wife Maman Brigitte.

Voodoo rituals to invoke the Loa often involve reenacting many of the rituals that form part of funerals.

As master of the dead, Baron Samedi is the best Lwa to call on if you want to work with the spirits of the long-dead, rather than make contact with the recently deceased who might still have an eye on the mortal world.

Voodoo Lwa of Healing

As the master of death, Baron Samedi also had power over resurrection. While it is not his custom to return souls from the afterlife to the mortal world, he can cure any disease or wound, in a sense bringing a person back from the brink of death.

However, he will only do this for a person that he considered worthy, or for a very high price.

Magic Worker

In pop culture, Baron Samedi is often associated with the working of black magic. While this is a stereotype, the Loa is associated with magical working, but usually spells of protection. He can protect against hexes and curses since if he refuses to take a person, they are safe.

Like all the Loa, he also has the power to affect change in the mortal world, so magic practitioners can call upon him and ask for favors. But like all the Loa, Baron Samedi can place a high price, and there are often hidden conditions.

The Vagabond

Baron Samedi, and the other Guene Loa that imitate him, are described as being extremely crude. They drink and smoke to excess, swear and make lewd jokes, and the Baron pursues women in the mortal world to fornicate with despite being married.

This is a reflection of the fact that the dead are no longer subject to the rules of the living, and therefore they are free to behave in this way.

Once the Baron has been called, it can be difficult to get him to leave as he always likes to stay for one more drink.

Baron Samedi appreciates gifts of liquor, cigars, black coffee, and roasted peanuts. He is said to make his own rum with 21 different peppers so that only he is capable of drinking it. Women who want to invoke the Baron are often known to offer him sexual favors since he has a vivacious sexual appetite.

Drawing of devotees of Baron Samedi
Drawing of devotees of Baron Samedi

Appearance and Symbolism

Baron Samedi is either depicted as a skeleton or a black man with his face painted to appear like a skeleton. He wears formal tails and a top hat, imitating the formal dress placed on the bodies of the dead.

He also wears dark glasses. This is to protect his eyes from the light of the mortal world when he leaves the world of the dead. He is sometimes shown with one lens in and one lens out so that he can keep an eye on both worlds.

He usually wears black, purple, and white, and often demands that his followers use the same colors. He is associated with skeletons, coffins, black crosses, and farm implements. Baron Samedi's veve symbol features a cross. Baron Samedi's veves is one of the most recognized in popular culture.

Like many Voodoo Loa, Baron Samedi is syncretized with Christian saints, specifically Saint Martin de Porres.

Black crosses are the most common elements included in Voodoo altars to call on and honor Baron Samedi. But before the Baron is invoked, practitioners will call on Papa Legba, another Loa. He is responsible for mediating communication between the living and the Loa.

Veve of Baron Samedo Voodoo
Veve of Baron Samedo Voodoo

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