Agwe

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In Haitian Vodou, Agwe is an important spirit who represents one of the most powerful and well-respected forces in nature: the ocean. He is husband to Lasiren, a mermaid who resides with him in his underwater mansion, and cousin to her sister, La Balen, a whale. Although his main consort is Lasiren, it is said that Agwe was seduced by Ezili Freda at one time. Because some believe that Lasiren is really one of the many different aspects of Ezili, in actuality, he would have consorted with his true wife.
Although often overshadowed by his strikingly beautiful wife, Amiral Agwe, as he is called by some of his followers, is recognized as the only true patron of sailors and fishers. Haitians pray to him when embarking on seaward journeys. If his followers are faithful, he will guide them safely to their destination and provide a bountiful catch; however, if they are negligent with libations and offerings, they will tounen men via, come back empty handed and encounter turbulent seas among other misfortunes on their journey.
All water spirits are famous for their jealous nature and unrelenting anger. Although understanding, generous, and, in general, slow to anger, Agwe is also slow to forgive. Many envision him as a distinguished naval sea officer with ink black hair just beginning to gray and a well-trimmed beard; his eyes resemble deep pools of water. During the day, he sails a large stately ship and enjoys the refreshing mist of the ocean on his weathered face; at night, he descends to his watery abode under the sea. One might imagine that Agwe feels as a fish might feel out of water because he rarely ventures far from home, never wanting to leave any of his seven seas behind. A solemn deity, Agwe prefers the isolation of his underwater realm to the ostentatious Vodou ceremonies where the other Lwa or Vodou spirits manifest themselves to the faithful. It is because of this preference that he rarely reveals himself during a sevis Lwa, a Vodou ceremony, or in other encounters with humans.
In Haitian Vodou, each Lwa has certain characteristics, preferences, and attributes. Agwe's colors are white and blue, just like the waves of the ocean. His day is Thursday. His tree is the raisinier (cocolota uvifera), and he likes to drink fine champagne and other expensive liqueurs, like Ezili Freda. Ordinarily, Agwe is offered cakes, white sheep, liqueurs or champagne, and white hens. He is part of the Rada family as a water spirit and also because of his overall kind and gentle nature. Unlike the gods from the Petwo family, Agwe is not easily provoked. His symbols are the fish, boats, and paddles.
Agwe is clearly a god of African origin, more specifically Fon, by his name (from the Fon Agbe, a Vodou divinity of the Hevioso pantheon), his personality, and place in the Vodou pantheon. Some other African gods who share a resemblance with Agwe are Hapi (Egypt/Egyptian), Olokun (Nigeria/Yoruba), Selket (Egypt/Egyptian), and Sobek (Egypt/Egyptian).

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Further Reading

  • Crosley, R. (2000). The Vodou Quantum Leap. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn.
  • Derren, M. (1953). Divine Horsemen: The Vodou Gods of Haiti. New York: Thames and Hudson.
  • Desmangles, L. (1992). Lhe Faces of the Gods. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.
  • Metraux, A. (1958). Le Vodou Haitien. Paris: Gallimard.