Originally Published October 16, 2012
Wednesday is the day we serve Nachion Nago in Hounfo Racine Deesse Dereyale, the day of the Ogou lwa! So today I’m going to talk about a piece of equipment/accoutrement of the lwa we use a lot in Vodou… The machete.
The machete is a peasant’s weapon. Anyone can pick up a machete and fight with it, and fight with them they did. Machetes were the weapons of the Haitian revolution. The slaves and rebels of Haiti picked up their machetes and fought against their oppressors, and they won. So the machete has an important place in Vodou because it had a very important part to play in Haitian history.
The spirits who fight, the warrior spirits, are those of the Nago nation. Aside from St Jacques Majeur/Sen Jak Majer, the general of the army of the lwa, who carries a sword; these lwa all fight with a machete. When they come down in possession, we salute a machete to them. They will salute everyone present using a machete, they will use it to gesture, they will use it to do any work they feel the need to do. They may poke you with a machete to make a point (not too hard, though!), they may place the machete against your body and blow rum over it to give you strength. They use the machete to give blessings to those present who may need them.
They may also use the machete to prove they are in fact an Ogou come down in possession: they will place the tip of the machete against their body and bend it so the blade curves. (Try doing this against the ground. It requires a lot of pressure… No human could bend a machete against them like that!)
Ogou Feray once came down and made the statement that as long as a soldier has his machete and his rum, he is happy and has all he needs.
There are other lwa who use a machete who are not a part of the Ogou group of spirits. One of the most important and well known is Kouzen, the peasant farmer. Let’s not forget that the reason the Haitians fought with machetes is because they had access to them… And they had access to them because they are an agricultural tool. Kouzen uses his machete to help with cultivation.
So that’s lwa and their machetes. But what do Vodouisant do with machetes? Well, first and foremost, we have them on our altars. They are an important accoutrement of our lwa, so we have them there at the home we have made for our spirits. That also means that if one comes down, we can easily give them their machete as it is right there.
We also use machete to call the lwa. Two Vodouisant will take a machete each, and band the flat sides of the blades together to make a clang! clang! noise which attracts the attention of the Ogou. Similarly, a Vodouisant may beat the flat of the blade against the ground for the same purpose.
Machete are used in magical work, or travay, as well. If we are doing travay on the point of an Ogou spirit, we might place the machete flat across two bricks, and set a candle or a lamp on top of the blade. If we are doing work that requires a fire be made in alcohol on the ground, we might use the machete to fan the flames.
In the end, every Vodouisant should have at least one machete in their home. Everyone has at least one Ogou, after all.