Baron Samedi, “The Master of the dead” in Voodoo, occupies a popular place as the guardian of cemetries, and the spirit responsible for an individual’s transportation to the underworld.The religion of voodoo is practised by individuals around the globe, with a reach that matches Western religions such as Christianity. Voodoo is a misunderstood religion that is often viewed as purely black magic. However, just like other religions, voodoo has a unique set of beliefs and its own deities. In voodoo, Gods are referred to as loas. One of the more prevalent loas in Haitian voodoo is Baron Samedi. He fills a vital role in Haitian voodoo as the master of the dead, ushering the newly deceased into the afterlife. Who is Baron Samedi? In Haitian voodoo, Baron Samedi is the head of the Guede family of loa.

His name is often translated as Baron Saturday, Baron Samdi, Bawon Samedi, or Bawon Sanmdi. The last name of Satur day comes from the French translation of Samedi. Baron leads the Guede family, a group of loas with strong links to magic, ancestor worship, and death. The loas in the family consist primarily of lesser spirits, dress the same as Baron, have rude (even crude) attitudes, but lack the charm of their master. Baron is portrayed in Haitian voodoo wearing a top hat, black tuxedo, dark glasses, and cotton plugs in his nostrils. His image is often said to resemble that of a corpse that has been dressed and prepared for burial in traditional, Haitian manner. His face is said to resemble a skull, and he uses a nasal voice.

Baron Samedi’s Behaviour

Baron spends the majority of his time in the invisible realm of Haitian voodoo spirits. His behaviour is described as outrageous. He is known to spend his time drinking rum and smoking cigars, swearing profusely, and making filthy jokes to the other loas. The other spirits in the Guede family are said to behave in the same manner, without the suave ability of Baron Samedi.

The Baron needs that suave nature because he is believed to chase mortal women, despite being married to the loa, Maman Brigitte. Baron’s time is spent lingering at the crossroads of life and death in the human world. When someone dies, Baron is said to dig their grave and meet their soul as it rises from the grave. He guides them into the underworld. Only Baron Samedi has the power to accept an individual into the world of the dead.

It is also said that Baron ensures that all those who have died rot in the ground as they should, ensuring that no soul can come back as a brainless zombie. He will demand payment for this act, which varies depending upon his mood at the time. On many occasions, he is content to accept gifts of cigars, rum, black coffee, or grilled peanuts. He may ask other souls to continue wearing black, white, and/or purple.

Giver of Life

Baron Samedi, as the head of the Guede family, the gr oup of loas that contr ol lif e and death. This powerful family of spirits possesses numerous abilities. Baron is also a giver of life who is said to possess the power to cure any mortal of a disease or wound, provided he believes it is worthwhile to save that individual. Baron even has the power to overcome voodoo hexes and curses. An individual who is cursed by a hex or other black magic is not guaranteed death, if he refuses to dig their grave. As the Master of the dead and guardian of cemeteries, no one is dead until Baron digs their graves and ushers them into the underworld. In this manner, he can give life by preventing death.

The Guede Family

Baron Samedi, and the other spirits of the Guede family, serve as constant reminders of death’s role in this world. The spirits of the family all use foul language and behave in a raucous manner. Baron and the other spirits no longer heed the rules and regulations of the living, reminding everyone that death is a constant that will be dealt with by all. As everyone is bound to pass into death, the behaviour of the Guede family reminds the living to enjoy the benefits of the mortal world while they still occupy that realm. Ceremonies in Haitian voodoo that invoke the spirits of the Guede family often become erotic and crude, with participants drinking, dancing, and celebrating with r eckless abandon. The Guede family is the largest family of loa in voodoo, but is far from the most highly regarded spirits in voodoo. Like all loa in voodoo, the spirits of the Guede family occupy a place below the supreme spirit of voodoo.

Loa Structure in Voodoo

Those who practise Haitian voodoo believe in a distant and unknowable creator God, or loa. This loa is known as Bondy e or Bon Dieu. The literal translation of this name means “Good God”. Bon Dieu does not intercede in the affairs of the living, which is why voodooists direct their worship toward the spirits that are subservient to Bon Dieu. Each of these subservient spirits or loas, is responsible for a particular aspect of life. It is this realm that the Guede family and Baron Samedi occupy as the Masters of the dead. Every loa exhibits a personality that is representative of the aspect of life they should depict. As the Master of the dead, Baron Samedi’s reckless behaviour, carousing, drinking and swearing are all symbolic of a family of spirits that have already lived and died. These spirits hav e nothing left to fear.

One Response

  1. Baron Samedi: Haitian Guide to the Afterlife - ULC Blog - Universal Life Church

    […] explained by a 2014 article in Kreol International Magazine, one of Baron Samedi’s main functions is to excavate the graves of the newly departed and meet […]


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