The veil is almost non-existent this time of the year and the Otherworld is making itself known. So it is only natural that we are coming up to the main celebration in honour of the ancestors by whatever name you know this feast. Samhain, Halloween, All Souls Day, All Saints Day, Allhelgonadagen, Dia de Los Muertes and Fête Gede are some of the names from around the world. Today, our focus is on the Queen of the Fête Gede, Maman Brigitte, and I have created a Tarot Spread in honour of her and the forgotten dead in her care.
The Maman Brigitte Tarot Spread incorporates the symbolism surrounding Maman Brigitte. It can help you navigate your difficult choices, augment your connection with the ancestors and gain guidance from Maman Brigitte about how to enjoy life more.
The Connection Between St Brigid and Maman Brigitte
The syncretisation of Saint Brigid into Haitian Vodou as Maman Brigitte is an example of the blending of different religious traditions that occurred during the colonisation of Haiti. Saint Brigid, an Irish saint connected with healing, protection, and fire, was adapted and incorporated into the Vodou pantheon.
In Haitian Vodou, Maman Brigitte is a powerful and influential Lwa associated with death, cemeteries, and the afterlife. She is the only white Lwa. The fact that hot pepper-infused rum is her favourite drink might give you an idea about her personality.
The syncretisation of Saint Brigid into Maman Brigitte was as a way for the Haitian people to incorporate their ancestral beliefs and practices with the Catholicism imposed upon them by European colonisers. The blending of these traditions allowed for the continuation of ancestral veneration while aligning it with the dominant Catholic framework. Today, Maman Brigitte is a vital and influential figure in Haitian Vodou where she has also become syncretised with the Christian saint Mary Magdalene and the African orisha Oya.
The Irish Influence in the Caribbean
The veneration of St. Brigid in the Caribbean can be traced back to the Irish influence on the region, particularly during the colonial era. As Irish immigrants settled in various parts of the Caribbean, they brought with them their traditions, including their devotion to St. Brigid.
Irish immigrants in the Caribbean, such as indentured labourers and plantation workers, faced similar struggles and hardships as the local population. In their efforts to maintain their cultural identity and practice their faith, they adapted and incorporated their religious traditions into the local beliefs and practices.
The blending of Irish Catholicism with the existing spiritual practices in the Caribbean resulted in the development of a unique syncretic tradition. St. Brigid, known for her healing abilities, protection, and association with fire, resonated with the local belief systems that revered powerful spirits connected to death and the afterlife. This allowed for the integration of St. Brigid into the Vodou pantheon as Maman Brigitte.
Like Brigid, Maman Brigitte is associated with healing, especially of chronic and terminal illnesses. Additionally, devotees invoke Maman Brigitte to bring justice in impossible cases where the legal system is corrupt.
Maman Brigitte, the Gede Lwa and the Forgotten Dead
The Gede Lwa are a group of spirits in Haitian Vodou that are closely associated with the forgotten dead. They are the souls of ancestors and disincarnate spirits who have not received proper ceremonies or remembrance. But rather than being left to rot in a Christian/Catholic hell, these spirits are adopted by the Gede family of Lwas. The Gede Lwa are known for their mischievous, irreverent, and humorous nature. They are often depicted as wearing funereal attire, including black and purple clothing, and skull accessories.
Maman Brigitte is fiercely protective of the souls that she looks after. It has been said that she cares for them better than they were ever cared for among the living. She also punishes those who fail to honour their dead.
In Haitian Vodou, the Gede Lwa play an important role in bridging the gap between the living and the dead. They serve as intermediaries between the human world and the spirit world.
The Gede Lwa are honoured during the annual Haitian Vodou festival called “Fèt Gede” or “Festival of the Dead” (1-2 November). During this time, offerings such as rum, cigars, candles, and favourite foods of the Gede Lwa are made to honour and appease them. Participants in the festival dress up in elaborate costumes and engage in lively dancing and singing, often displaying the Lwa’s characteristic sense of humour, lust, irreverence and blue language. You can read about the festival and all how it is celebrated HERE.
The Most Liminal Goddess of All the Things
Whether you choose to see the Catholic Saint Brigid separate from the Celtic Goddess Brigid and the Haitian Maman Brigitte as separate from both, or whether you wish to venerate them as different aspects of the same Mother Goddess energy, you would approach veneration of each of them in different ways. The traditional offerings for each are not the same. They also each have unique colour correspondences and symbolism.
This matters because you are tapping into different streams of energy whether you see the source of that energy as the same source or not. You can think of it as if you are choosing to go on a pilgrimage to one of three different sacred wells, for instance. Depending on the landscape and climate surrounding each of the wells, you would dress accordingly. Or you could look at it as creating sacred space with the help of three different types of fire. You need different tools for lighting a candle compared to if you were lighting an oil lamp or creating a huge bonfire.
Please do your own research about appropriate offerings etc. The book Orishas, Goddesses and Voodoo Queens by Lilith Dorsey is a good place to start if you are looking into venerating Maman Brigitte.
I recommend this video if you would like to learn more about the Celtic origins of the Goddess Brigid and also how she relates to St Brigid and Maman Brigitte.
Symbols Associated with Maman Brigitte
Maman Brigitte has several symbols within Haitian Vodou. One of the most notable symbols connected to her is the black rooster. The black rooster represents power, protection, and ritual sacrifice. The rooster is a liminal animal that announces the break of dawn. It is often associated with spirits and deities connected to the afterlife. It serves as a messenger between the human world and the spirit world.
The black colour of the rooster represents the connection to the realm of death and the spirits of the deceased. It symbolises Maman Brigitte’s role as a guardian and guide for the forgotten dead. The rooster’s crowing has the ability to dispel negative energy and protect against malevolent spirits.
Additionally, Maman Brigitte is often depicted wearing black and purple clothing. These colours symbolise mourning and the connection to the spiritual realm. They represent the transformative power of death and the veneration of ancestors.
Other symbols associated with Maman Brigitte include:
- The Cross: The cross serves as a reminder of Maman Brigitte’s role as a guardian and guide for the forgotten dead, and symbolises protection and the intersection between the human world and the spirit world.
- Crossroads: Crossroads are places of transformation and decision-making, where one can connect with the spirit world and seek guidance.
- Cemeteries: As a Lwa of death and the afterlife, Maman Brigitte is strongly connected to cemeteries. Cemeteries are sacred spaces where the spirits of the dead reside. They serve as a setting for rituals and offerings made to honour and communicate with the ancestors.
- Top Hat: Maman Brigitte is sometimes depicted wearing a top hat, which represents her association with Baron Samedi, her husband, who is also a Gede Lwa. The top hat is a symbol of elegance, authority, and connection to the spirit world.
- Veve: The veve for of Maman Brigitte depicts a heart rising from a tombstone. This is only a symbol that only initiates use.
Please note that these symbols may vary in interpretation and usage within different traditions and individual practices.
Honouring Maman Brigitte and the Forgotten Dead
Maman Brigitte has a special connection to the first woman buried in each graveyard. So one way to pay homage to her is to locate the oldest female grave where you live. You can then lovingly tend to and leave an offering at that grave. Please do some research about appropriate offerings if this is something you would like to do.
Also, bear in mind that you need the permission of Maman Brigitte to enter any graveyard or cemetery. Quietly ask for permission upon entering. Do not collect any dirt or rocks for workings upon a first visit. It is better to pay respect and build a relationship first.
Maman Brigitte Forgotten Dead Tarot Spread
This six-card tarot spread is designed to provide guidance and insights from Maman Brigitte. It is laid out in a cross shape to honour the forgotten dead under her protection. Please pause, light a candle and say a prayer for their souls before you do the reading.
1. The Cross
This card represents the belief system/faith that underpins your connection with the ancestors. Examine the card in terms of how helpful it appears in terms of honouring your ancestors and maintaining a loving connection with them.
2. The Crossroads
This card symbolises what is changing for you now. Imagine yourself standing at a crossroads as you look at this card. Draw to mind a choice you need to make. Which direction are the spirits guiding you to take?
3. The Black Rooster
This card represents what you must sacrifice/leave behind if you wish to heal and let go of negativity, regret or loss/grief. It is the very thing that will enable you to face the next daybreak with a clean slate.
4. The Top Hat
This card represents your authority. Are you sovereign in your decision-making? Or do you tie your self-worth to the opinions and judgments of others?
5. The Cemetary
This card symbolises how you can improve your connection with the forgotten dead in your bloodline. It could show actions you need to take to honour them or offerings they would like. It can also be a message from them about something in your earthly existence that they wish for you to heal/change. But it could be both. So, for instance, the message of a need to repair the relationship with a close family member could be the only offering they want/need.
6. Spice Up Your Life
This card represents a blessing Maman Brigitte is bestowing upon you. She wants you to enjoy life while it lasts. So this card brings you a message about how you can bring more happiness into your day-to-day existence. It’s time to learn how to suck the juice out of life!
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