The Marassa, Vodou’s sacred twins, are spirits of paradox:
- They are two distinct bodies who share one soul (or they are one soul with two bodies).
- They are opposites who are simultaneously the same.
- They are yin and yang, and yet they are one.
- They are mirror reflections, but they represent both sides of the mirror.
- They are the Creator’s very first children as well as the very first dead.
The Marassa rule thresholds; they span divides; they encompass, embody, and resolve contradictions. Their name derives from a Kikongo word, Mabasa, meaning “those who come divided” or “the one who comes as two.”
They are mystic, sacred, powerful, mysterious spirits. They are children, but they are ancient. The Marassa are profoundly potent healers and guardians of children. Do you want children? The Marassa provide and protect fertility, too. If asked, they will guard babies in the womb and oversee the childbirth process.
Of course, what is reproduction but the union of polarities? It takes two to make three. Another of the Marassa’s paradoxes is that “the one who comes as two” may really come as three. In esoteric Vodou cosmology, twins are perceived as incomplete. They await the third who completes them, the delayed triplet. The twins are forerunners of this third. The single child born after twins is considered even more magically powerful.
The Marassa are traditionally fed and represented by special three-chambered ritual bowls, one chamber per child. The bowls are also emblematic of procreation and generation: yin and yang, male and female, opposing energies will create a third.
The Marassa typically manifest as rambunctious, capricious, playful but demanding children. Traditionally the first lwa honored at Vodou ceremonies (after invocation of Papa Legba, gatekeeper of the spirits), the Marassa race in like children who can’t wait to get to where they’re going. They crave sugar, toys, and treats. It is crucial to recall that although the Marassa resemble children, they are not children but potent spirits who like to manifest in the guise of children. Devotees are sometimes tempted to parent or discipline them. Don’t. The Marassa don’t need vitamins, vegetables, or anything “good” for children. Attempts to parent them may indicate to the Marassa that you have forgotten their true sacred nature.
Powerful and responsible spiritual bodyguards, they may be invoked to guard children. The Marassa love children and may spontaneously assume guardianship. They are also superb, enthusiastic guardians for toy stores, candy stores, commercial spaces specializing in children’s birthday parties, any kind of place that fills children with joy. Set up an offering table for the Marassa and request that they protect the establishment and keep business booming.
The Marassa’s personal feast day, 28 December, coinciding with the Roman Catholic Feast of the Massacre of the Holy Infants, is devoted to:
- Protection of living children.
- Celebration and commemoration of children who have died.
- Solace and comforting the families of dead children.
Traditional rituals include a big party honoring the Marassa. Invite lots of children and encourage them to be proxies for the Marassa, stand-ins who help consume offerings of cakes, cookies, and soda.
The Marassa are sometimes considered the children of Saint Nicholas and the lwa Clairmesine. A standard chromolithograph of Saint Nicholas depicts him standing beside two children inside a tub. Sometimes there is a third who kisses his foot. These children are interpreted as the Marassa and the third child.
The Marassa have the attention span of spoiled kids. Do not make them wait for promised offerings. They are not vicious or violent spirits but will throw some major hissy fits and tantrums. It is also crucial to treat them equally or they may get jealous and fight; never offer just one slice of cake, for instance. Either give sufficient quantity for sharing (a big bowl of individually wrapped candies, fudge cut into numerous squares) or clearly delineate a share for each. Marassa usually manifest as either two or three. Ask them to identify how many of them there are so that you can make appropriate offerings.
The Marassa may be Fon creator spirits Mawu-Lisa in disguise.
The Marassa are syncretized to Saints Cosmas and Damian.
Three Marassa are often envisioned as female.
They are syncretized to the Charites Three Graces; Saints Faith, Hope and Charity; and Saintes Maries de la Mer.
Also known as:
Children in general, twins and other multiple births as well as the single child born after multiple births regardless of age, parents whose children are dead
The Marassa may be male, female, or a combination. Ask them to let you know so you can give appropriate gifts. The Marassa often manifest directly to children. The phenomenon known as imaginary friends may actually be visitations from the Marassa.
Images of any of the saints or sacred beings with whom they’re syncretized may be used to represent the Marassa.
Palm branches and leaves
The Season of the Twins is the month between 6 December (Feast of Saint Nicholas) and 6 January (The Feast of the Epiphany).
Hungry children are cranky and troublesome, so keep full bowls of candy or popcorn on their altar at all times so they can snack when they wish.
The Marassa have the appetites of growing children. Give them treats that make kids happy: candy, cookies, honey, popcorn, toys, and fun, fizzy drinks. Wrap food up in banana leaves. Throw parties for them, inviting other children to come feast with them. Consciously bringing joy to children is in itself an offering to the Marassa.
Do not give the Marassa vegetables or leafy greens. It insults them. On a superficial level, these rambunctious kids don’t want to eat their vegetables, but the deeper subliminal implication is that they require botanicals because you think their own innate miraculous powers of healing are insufficient. If any herbs are needed, they’ll tell you. (The Marassa sometimes specify herbal prescriptions and remedies during ritual possession. They may also do so during dreams.) Regardless of what you feed your own children do not feed the Marassa anything like sugarless, wheat-free cake. They have no allergies. They will never have health problems. Just give them whatever makes a child’s eyes light up with glee.
- Maries de la Mer
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.