The Rada lwa are among the two primary Haitian Vodou pantheons. (The other is the Petro lwa.) Most Rada spirits hail directly from Africa, mostly from Dahomey, now called Benin. Different ethnic groups resided in Dahomey. Individual spirits may reflect these differences. The Dahomey connection is emphasized in names of specific lwa, like Ezili Freda Dahomey and Damballah.
The name Rada derives from the sacred Dahomean coastal city called Arada or Allada, which became a major slave port. A high percentage of slaves arriving in what is now Haiti departed from Allada. It was also the point of disembarkation for the Rada lwa who accompanied their enslaved devotees.
Other names for the Rada include:
• Lwa Rasin meaning “root lwa”—they are the original and oldest Haitian lwa.
• Lwa Ginen meaning “African lwa”—Ginen has a double meaning indicating literal Africa but also the realm of spirits and ancestors located beneath the sea.
In general, the Rada are calm, patient, benevolent, accessible spirits. In general, they are the safest lwa for beginners and independent practitioners attracted to Vodou to approach. The Rada may be stern and strict, some more so than others but are also renowned for their compassion. Theoretically, if you can’t deliver a promised offering on schedule because you genuinely don’t have the funds or are otherwise truly unable, you can request mercy and more time or possibly even renegotiate an offering. (This will not work with Petro lwa, who have no patience with excuses.)
Element: Water (Individual members of the pantheon may be affiliated with other elements, too, but the Rada pantheon as a whole is associated with water.)
From the Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses– Written by Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.