The Barons

The Barons

Also known as: Bawon (Kreyol)

Origin: Haiti

Classification: Lwa

Modern Haitian Vodou has two types of spirits of the dead: Gédés and Barons. Boundaries between them are sometimes nebulous, but in general the Barons are the spirits in charge, elite spirits of death. The Barons exert dominion over the dead.

There are many Barons. Baron Samedi is their leader. Others who have achieved individual acclaim include Baron LaCroix, Baron Cimitière, and Maitre Carrefour (a.k.a. Baron Car refour).

The Barons are instantly recognizable. They wear a combination of undertaker’s and high-ranking Freemasons’ garb. They tend to travel in packs. They’re not solemn and funereal but boisterous, raucous, and lewd: disruptive spirits who interrupt other lwa’s rituals and possessions. They are obscene, offensive, and vulgar but also elegant, not to mention powerful. Many are occult masters. They know the secrets of the grave and the secrets of the living.

The Barons protect and heal children. They embody primal life, but they’re simultaneously dead. Rules, law, order, authority: none of it applies to them. They are subversive spirits who flout convention. The Barons will help you subvert convention, too. They are the embodiment of gallows humor; they teach devotees to laugh in the face of death, despair, and grief, to find the bitter but funny aspects of tragedy.

They embody both truisms: death is guaranteed and life springs eternal. They may be petitioned for anything involving death, dying, and the cemetery but also for fertility, safe childbirth, and sex. They are sometimes deliberatelyoffensive but always ruthlessly honest. If you can get past the jokes and innuendo to ask them a question, they will give you the brutal truth.

The Barons en masse are syncretized to Saint Gerard, who is pictured with a skull.

The largest cross in a traditional Haitian graveyard is called the Barons’ cross and is usually located at the cemetery crossroads. It is traditional to first salute, feed, and propitiate the Barons at this cross before performing any rituals in the graveyard. The Barons own the cemetery; ask their permission before conducting ceremonies and especially before removing dirt, stones, or anything conceivably belonging to them.

Manifestations: Black suits, black hats; they wear dark glasses: as they live in the grave, when they come to the land of the living, the light hurts their eyes even at night.

Colors: Black, violet (Masonic colors)

Day: 2 November, the Day of the Dead: visit them at the cemetery.

Offerings: Rum, rum cake, rum candy, more rum, cigars, coins; Day of the Dead toys; sugar skulls

This is a sampling of some of the more renowned Barons, but there are many others:

Baron Cimitière

Also known as: Bawon Simityé; Baron Cemetery

Classification: Lwa; Baron

Baron Cimitière is a grand magician, master magus, and healer extraordinaire. He holds court in the cemetery at midnight. He is part of a triad of magicians with his compadres, Gran Bois and Maitre Carrefour. Traditional lore suggests that in order to receive Baron Cimitière’s blessings of healing, magic, and knowledge, one must first propitiate Maitre Carrefour. (It is not as simple as it sounds: Maitre Carre-four, a.k.a. Master Crossroads, is a dangerous and wily spirit.)

See also: Carrefour, Maitre; Gran Bois

Baron Del Cementario

Although technically Baron Del Cementario’s name is the Spanish version of the French Baron Cimitière, they are not the same spirit. In the Vodou traditions of the Dominican Republic, the first man buried in a cemetery becomes that cemetery’s Baron Del Cementario. To identify or contact him, locate his grave.

In Dominican tradition, Baron Del Cementario is the Baron with the closest relations with the living, perhaps because he, unlike most Barons, has had a relatively recent human incarnation. Baron Del Cementario is contacted or invoked in the cemetery at midnight. Enter by one gate; make your offerings and petition, then leave by another gate, not the one by which you entered. Throw nine coins over your left shoulder (have them ready in your pocket) and then go home via a circuitous route without looking back.

It is especially crucial to be exceptionally clear when speaking with Baron Del Cementario and to be incredibly specific and articulate in terms of negotiations and offerings. (Dominican Vodo is very influenced by Roman Catholicism; in that context, Baron Del Cementario may be perceived as craving souls.)

• Baron Del Cementario is syncretized to Saint Elias and shares his feast day of 20 July.

Manifestations: Baron Del Cementario resembles the traditional Baron (black wardrobe; sunglasses) but also appears in dreams as a large black bull.

Consort: La Barona

Day: Monday

Number: 9

Offerings: Black coffee; anything you’d give the other Barons

See also: Barons; Baron Cimitière; Baron Samedi; Barona, La

Baron Kriminel

Also known as: Baron Criminel; Captain Zombi

Classification: Baron; Bizango; Centinela; Lwa

Justice awaits beyond the grave. Sometimes justice emerges from the grave. Baron Kriminel is a fierce spirit of justice. He is custodian of the graveyard, captain of the zombi squad. He leads an army of zombis.

Baron Kriminel is a headhunter. He wears a belt of severed heads and carries a sack filled with souls he has collected. Does he make you nervous? Then remember, he’s a force of justice: if you have no guilt, you need have no fear. Behave yourself; behave ethically and kindly and you will never meet him—unless you go looking for him, but that’s another story: he is also patron of criminals who invoke him for safety and success. Baron Kriminel is the Master Criminal but also the vigilante who enforces justice.

He’s accused of being a cannibal, which is not untrue but ignores the complexities of this mysterious, powerful spirit. Behave like a pig and be consumed like a pig. Baron Kriminel inflicts justice by transforming someone into a pig, which he then eats with no knife but only a fork and spoon, i.e., slowly and excruciatingly painfully. The fork and spoon are also symbolic of his aloof, unsympathetic nature: he eats like a colonial master from slavery days.

Dominican Vodou classifies Baron Kriminel as a centinela (sentinel or guardian). Place his image by your doors looking outward to protect against enemies and invasion.

Kriminel is classified among the Barons and the Petro or Bizango lwa. His close companions include Ezili Dantor, Marinette, Ti Jean Petro, and Simbi Andezo. He is a coldhearted, merciless spirit; if you find yourself in trouble with him, appeal to Ezili Dantor, who is most likely to save you, although Simbi Andezo may be helpful, too.

• Baron Kriminel is syncretized to Saint Pancras or Saint Sebastian.

Attributes: Cross; fork (sometimes fork and spoon; the better to eat you with, my dear)

Colors: Black, red

Animal: Pig

See also: Barons, the; Bizango; Circe; Ezili Dantor; Marinette; Petro; Petro, Ti-Jean; Simbi

Baron LaCroix

Also known as: Azagon LaCroix; Bawon Lakwa; Baron the Cross

Baron LaCroix, Baron Samedi’s brother, is the cemetery groundskeeper: he maintains the graves. He is generally not invoked but avoided as he allegedly kills on contact and may zombify his victims. Should you find yourself in trouble with him, contact his brother quickly for assistance.

Attributes: Skull and crossbones, candle

See also: Barons; Baron Samedi

Barona, La

There are lady barons, too. In Dominican Vodou, La Barona is Queen of the Cemetery. To some extent her role corresponds to that of Madame Brigitte or Oya. She may be invoked in the cemetery at midnight, with or without her husband.

Consort: Baron Del Cementario

Attribute: La Barona carries a bag filled with magical herbs and poisonous plants.

Daughter: Gedelia

Color: Purple

Gem: Jet

Offerings: Red wine, black coffee, traditional mourners’ jewelry

See also: Baron Del Cementario; Brigitte, Madame; Gedé; Oya

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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