Date of Discovery
Vèvè came into being around the same time as voodoo was established in Haiti sometime during the 18th century, however, the predecessors to these symbols existed long before voodoo evolved in the Americas.
Vèvè is also known as veve, and vevè.
Vèvès are traditionally complex line-art style symbols (when pictured), but when used in a ritual they are drawn in sands or other powders.
The tradition of creating vèvè has quite a long tradition that originates from the ancient kingdom of Dahomey–a region that is now southern Benin. Using palm oil, the practitioner would draw specific geometric figures, including frequent use of rectangles and squares, upon the ground. The ritual drawing of vèvè can also be attested as a typical practice in Central Africa and within the Taino and Arawak peoples of Haiti, all of which converged within the African slave population that was forcibly brought to Haiti.
Mythology and Lore
In Haitian Vodou, the vèvè are symbols that represent the loa, or lwa. They are ritually drawn upon the floor with some type of powder, typically cornmeal, wheat flour, bark, red brick powder, or gunpowder. In Haitian Vodou specifically, cornmeal and wood-ash mixtures are generally preferred. The substance used to draw the vèvè depends upon the loa being called or honored, as well as the ritual which is being performed. Alternatively, vèvès can also be drawn, printed, or painted and used in artwork, jewelry, banners, or other wall-hangings.
Whether simple or elaborate, these ritualistic symbols are still drawn upon the floor of the temple or ritual grounds. Instead of palm oil, they are drawn with cornmeal or ashes with a great deal of precision by an Oungan or Manbo.
These symbols are an integral part of Voodoo rituals, within the concept of their use they are used to bring the loa to the earthly plane to assist the practitioner in their ritual goal. Each of these loa has its own symbol to represent them in order to establish a personal connection to the spirit in question.
Modern Pop-Culture References
Books & Literature
- The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988)
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