Also known as: Gran Bwa
Gran Bois is the Father of the Forest, a divine healer who presides over botanical secrets and the sacred power of the forest. He is a primordial and exceptionally powerful lwa. He may be of Congolese origin, although some believe him to have originally been a Taino spirit incorporated into the Vodou pantheon. (See also: Anacaona.)
Gran Bois is considered the head of Vodou’s Kongo and Petro pantheons and is the patron of initiation. He forms a trinity of master magicians with Baron Cimitière and Maitre Carre-four. Gran Bois is the Tree of Life connecting the celestial realms with those of the living and the dead. He rules the forest but also Ginen, the mystical undersea island, home of ancestors and lwa, the Vodou realm of the dead. Essentially Gran Bois knows all secrets of life and death.
Gran Bois is syncretized to Saint Sebastian, traditionally depicted bound to a tree.
Manifestation: Gran Bois is usually envisioned as a kind of tree-man with roots for feet. He is traditionally considered mute, as he is so primordial that he is pre-speech. (See also: Damballah; Faunus.)
Animals: He protects all forest animals, but his own special sacred creatures include monkeys and red snakes (tree dwellers).
Colors: Brown, green, red
Tree: Mapou (Bombax ceiba or Ceiba pentandra)
Altar: If possible, hang offerings from a tree branch or lay them at the foot of the tree.
Sacred sites: The forest in general; in Brooklyn, New York, home to a substantial Haitian community, Prospect Park has emerged as the sacred domain of Gran Bois.
The Mapou, a type of silk-cotton tree associated with Vodou rites, was held sacred by the Taino, the indigenous inhabitants of Haiti, long before the arrival of Europeans or Africans. The Haitian Mapou tree was almost eradicated during an “anti-superstition” campaign sponsored by local Roman Catholic Church authorities in the 1940s. Attempts were made to eradicate Vodou by eliminating whatever was sacred, including trees.
Offerings: Cornmeal; honey drizzled over cornmeal; cassava bread; flowers; leaves; roots; fallen branches; tobacco; preservation of forests; the reforestation of Haiti
See also: Baron Cimitière; Carrefour, Maitre; Diablesse, La; Lwa; Xtabay
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.
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