Vèvè (ritual drawings) are not muslim

Origin of the Bwa Kay Iman lieBois Caïman and plant namesKay + Iman in Northern Haitian Creole
Boukman wasn't JamaicanOrigin of the Boukman nameBoukman wasn't named Zamba
Boukman didn't know how to readCécile Fatiman wasn't muslimTamerlan wasn't muslim
Dédé Magrite wasn't muslimAzaka is not muslimDessalines wasn't muslim
Boukman wasn't the revolutionary army's leaderBoukman wasn't muslimThe drapo (ritual flags) are not islamic

Author : Rodney Salnave
Function : Dougan (Scribe)
Date : January 27, 2018
(Updated : June 11, 2018)

The Haitian people, constantly caught up in everyday life, in frivolities and in tribal-political divisions, find little time to devote to historical research in order to sort out the truth from the false, the scientific from the pseudo-scientific. It is enough for the average Haitian to "party" on certain historical dates, to consider himself a patriot. Since nature, they say, abhors a vacuum, foreigners, surrounded by xenophile Haitian intellectuals, therefore have carte blanche to spread the most farfetched islamic and Amerindian revisionist assumptions. The vèvè, these Haitian ritual-drawings, the fake historians claim them Taino, (1) knowing perfectly well that Taino Indians were exterminated from the island nearly 150 years prior to the ancestors of Haitians arrival in 1679. To compensate, these pseudo-historians push back the arrival of Haitian ancestors to 1503, in order to fabricate a so-called meeting with the Taino. (2) But in any case, none of these revisionists has ever revealed any record describing Tainos making ritual drawings on the ground.

1- The pseudo-scientific infection

As for the islamic revisionists, failing to claim the vèvè in their totality, they have turned to the icons contained in these vèvè. This is the case of LeGrace Benson, who since 1992, date of her first publication on the subject, has been analyzing the ritual flags and vèvè motives in order to detect islamic clues. And so far in early 2018, more than 25 years later, this so-called researcher has not produced any direct evidence of a connection between traditional Haitian icons and islam. She is duly contented in launching islamist statements such as this one :
"Islam as a religion was utterly stamped out of St.-Domingue and Haiti. Its vestiges remain visible but incomprehensible in a few scattered pieces of vèvè, some designs on a few older dwapo." (3)
Benson, the stubborn revisionist, in her multiple pseudo-scientific papers, pointed to many similarities between Haitian icons and islam. Now, similarities do not equate influence ; and even less inheritance. For, there are countless similarities, sometimes striking, between all cultures, religions and spiritualities of the earth. And this results, not necessarily from filiation, but rather from the common link that they share, what psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung calls "collective unconscious". (4) We speak of instincts and collective archetypes that are unconscious, universally spread, and repeated ; without, however, there being contact or a form of copying between distant groups performing similar, or even identical actions.
Moreover, Benson spoke of mandala, a drawing-ritual of hindus and buddhists whose name designates "circle" in Sanskrit language..

(Mandala : Tibetan sand drawings)
Source :

However, the mandala share features of resemblance to the sand drawings of the American Navajo tribes. *

(Navajo sand drawing)

However, the revisionist would not dare argue harshly (as she thinks in liberty to do in regards to Haitian vèvè and flags) that the Navajo were influenced by Tibetan mandalas. Nor will she say that Tibetans have been inspired by Navajo schemes. Moreover, by observing this mandala containing the following drawing :

(Tibetan Mandala)
Source :

That revisionist (or any other) will not attempt to impute the creation of this mandala to its obvious resemblance to the muslim Kaaba :

(Muslim pilgrims around the Kaaba)
Source :

On the contrary, Benson and the other revisionists will readily accept that Tibetan buddhists and muslim pilgrims, being two distinct groups, have separately accessed a common and universal source of inspiration. But never, in their racist conception, will they admit that the black man is worthy of producing worthwhile elements independently. That said, their conception, like that of anyone, of Blacks does not matter to us. We raise it here, only because their pseudo-intellectual stain is infecting more and more the Haitian population and its diaspora. We will counter them here, not with the help of a series of fortuitous similarities, but by demonstrating the traditional "African" heritage that has remained alive in Haiti.

2- Origins of Haitian vèvè and the Dahomean heritage

There is no need to extrapolate, as the revisionists do, to establish the traditionalist origin of Haitian vèvè

(vèvè, ritual-drawings in Haiti)
Source : Milo Rigaud. Ve-Ve : Diagrammes Rituels du Voudou. New York, 1974. p.161. 

Literature testifies that the Haitian vèvè come from traditionalist Dahomey (Benin) where they are still drawn by the same technique, and still carry the same name "vèvè" :

"Autour de la natte, on a tracé un triple cercle (vèvè) de farine blanche, de cendres et de farine mélangée à de l'huile de palme." (5)
Translation :
"Around the mat, we drew a triple circle (vèvè) of white flour, ashes and flour mixed with palm oil."
(Vèvè in Dahomey (Benin))
Source : Christoph Henning, Klaus E. Müller, Ute Ritz-Müller. Afrique-La magie dans l’âme : rites, charmes et sorcellerie. Könemann, 2000. pp.218, 212.

Moreover, the Dahomeans are not the only ones to use ceremonial signs drawn on the ground. They are found, drawn in the sand, in the Tu-Chokwe ethnic culture of northern Angola and Congo :

(Tu-Chokwe drawing (Angola))
Source : Robert Farris Thompson. Flash of the Spirit : African & Afro-American Art & Philosophy. New York, 1983. p.189.

And in these Tu-Chokwe signs, the emphasis was placed on the four cardinal points, which the Dahomeans did not have, and that the Haitian vèvè possess. Similarly, we find ceremonial drawings among the Ndembu ethnic group of northwestern Zambia :

(Ndembu Vèvè (Zambia))
Source : Victor Turner. Revelation and divination in Ndembu ritual. London, 1975, p. 127.

These signs, or Ndembu vèvè, were drawn on the ground with a form of powder, as are the Haitian vèvè. So, from the outset, we see that vèvè belong firmly to the so-called African traditional civilization.

2.1- The vèvè and Agwe's sacred boat

Here is the sacred boat of the Lwa/Jany (Deity) Agwe Tawoyo (or that of Èzili), which is regularly noticed in vèvè, and likewise in the hounfò or peristyles of Haitian traditionalist temples :

(Boat of Agwe Tawoyo hanging in a hounfò in Haiti)
Source :  Milo Rigaud. La Tradition Voudoo et le Voudoo Haïtien. Paris, 1953. pp.192-193. fig.24.

The revisionist LeGrace Benson claims, unsupported by any evidence, that the sacred boat originates from French (Breton) influence :
"Other drapo may also echo Brittany. Small votive ships hang from the ceiling near the sanctuary of many a Breton chapel and from many a Haitian houmfo. In Haiti, such ships are emblems of the sea lwa, Agwe. The emblem appears in veve and on drapo." (6)
It is true that there are boat replicas in several catholic churches. Most of the time, these small boats represent a protection request or a thank you for the protection of the sailors of a parish. This pre-christian practice is called "ex-voto", meaning "according to the wish made" in Latin. And the ex-voto can take many forms : statues, paintings, crosses, candles, crutches, prostheses of sick or cured body parts, boats, pieces of boats, etc.

 ("Ex-voto" ship hanging in a chapel in Söderköping, Sweden)
Source :

So, for the same reason, there are boat replicas in public places in various parts of the world, as well as in Brittany, France. Those who so desired, were free to pin their requests or thanks on the "ex-voto" ship in question :

 ("Ex-voto" ship filled with requests, in Brittany (France))
Source :

Thus, these christian "ex-voto" ships serve either to support requests or as a token of thanks for wishes granted. They are therefore not symbols of Catholic saints. In Haiti, miniature ships suspended from traditional temples are symbols of Lwa (Agwe or Èzili). They are not marks of gratitude for the help provided by these Lwa. And requests aren't pin to those ship replicas.

Moreover, the reduced boats aren't the sole cult instruments suspended in the Haitian peristyles. Drums are as well. And it would be surprising if Breton influence is attached to such practice :

(Drums suspended in the peristyle of a traditional Haitian temple)
 Source :  Milo Rigaud. La Tradition Voudoo et le Voudoo Haïtien. Paris, 1953. p.192a, fig.25.

But also, Agwe's boat does not exist only in symbolic form (vèvè) or in reduced format. It is also built in operational format with the purpose of carrying the sacred offerings to the sea abyss, Mèt Agwe's place of residence.

(Agwe's boat, operational format, before going to sea)
Source :  Milo Rigaud. La Tradition Voudoo et le Voudoo Haïtien. Paris, 1953. p.336a, fig.43.

These sacrificial offerings to the Sacred Sea are made annually. And the offered animals are launched into the sea in the same fashion as the sacred boat that carries lighter offerings :

(Maritime offerings to Mèt Agwe Tawoyo)
Source :  Milo Rigaud. La Tradition Voudoo et le Voudoo Haïtien. Paris, 1953. fig.39-47.

So, without a shadow of a doubt, the boat of Agwe, and all that pertains to it, does not come from the catholic religion ; Breton or other.
As for catholic "vows", they aren't absent from the Haitian religion. They are showcased in Haitian syncretism, not via a replica boat, but in the form of "pran ve" (literally : taking a vow). It is a vow of penance that a Haitian catholic will embark on, following an illness or at another crucial moment (in relation or not to a Lwa or a Family Protective Angel (Jany). For a fixed period, he or she will wear penance clothes made of several pieces of particular colored fabrics or bags. This syncretic practice comes from colonial times, (7) when European catholics, members of penance congregations, wore such clothes, and called their clothes "sack", among others. Because in their penance, undertaking on Ash Wednesday, they slept on sacks, their heads covered with ashes. (8)

2.1.1- Agwe's sacred boat and the "Imamou" engraving

Still without the slightest evidence, and disregarding crosses and other non-islamic symbols often decorating boats, L. Benson, the fiery revisionist, also argued that an islamic link can be established through the word "Imamou" inscribed on these sacred boats :
"What is different from the Breton votives is the word "imamou," clearly a survival from Islamic heritage. For Breton sailors and for those brought to Haiti in the ships they manned, such an emblem would carry a complex emotional cargo." (9)
In an article titled Kay + Iman in Northern Haitian Creole, we mentioned that islamized "Africans" did not called their officiants "Imam". They call them "almami", "alfa", "mori", etc. And of these names, "Imamou" is absent. Some might insist the opposite. Then in such a case, it's up to them to find data in which islamized "Africans" designated their officiants by the word "imamou".

(Vèvè for Agwe Tawoyo)
Source : Milo Rigaud. Ve-Ve : Diagrammes Rituels du Voudou. New York, 1974. p.379.

But, it also comes down to wondering if the revisionists know that "Imamou" is a Lwa/Jany in the Agwe "Family", as are Imamou De, Imamou Lèlè, Imamou Wèlo, Imamou Alade Gwètò, Nèg Imamou Lade, Nègès Imamou Lade, etc.? If we follow their logic, are all these "vodou" Lwa muslim "Imams"?
Here is, in a Cap Haitien traditional temple, the boat of Agwe Tawoyo bearing the inscription "Imamou Lade" :

 (Agwe's boat inscribed "Imamou Lade" at Temple Bambara (Sosyete Pierre Dambara))
Source : "Entretien sur le Vodou haïtien" ; URL : ; Capture d'image (00:04:53)

Moreover, the Lwa Agwe Tawoyo originates clearly in Dahomey where his name can be dissected into Àgbè (Vodun of the sacred sea) (River) Awoyo (Huge). Thus, Àgbè Tö Awoyo means Àgbè, the immense Sea (or River). For the Dahomeans think that the Sea was once a fresh water river, before a squirrel named Àgbè urinated in it, rendering it bluish and salty. (10) And as islam arrived in Dahomey after the independence of Haiti (early 1800), then there is nothing islamic about Agwe Tawoyo.

And on this Agwe boat floating on the tropical sea, among the offerings, one finds alcohol (element proscribed by islam) :

(Food and alcohol (champagne) offerings on Agwe's boat)
Source :  Milo Rigaud. La Tradition Voudoo et le Voudoo Haïtien. Paris, 1953. p.336a, fig.43.

So, the islamic hypothesis of Agwe Tawoyo's boat does not stand the test of logic.

2.1.2- Origin of Agwe's boat

This sacred boat of Agwe where does it really come from? The answer lies in the former Kingdom of Dahomey, in present-day Benin, a place that Haitian traditionalists have kept fresh in their memories through their ritual :

(Map of Lower Dahomey, names in yellow are saved in the Haitian ritual)
Source : Victor-Louis Maire. Dahomey : Abomey, décembre 1893 – Hyères, décembre 1903. Besançon, 1905. p.8.

This sacred boat of Agwe Tawoyo is the emblem of Agadja (1708-1732), this great King of Abomey first conquered Allada in 1720, then Savi, the capital of Wydah (Ouidah), on February 7, 1727 :

(Vèvè of Agwe Tawoyo in Haiti)
Source : Milo Rigaud. Ve-Ve : Diagrammes Rituels du Voudou. New York, 1974. p.379.

(Emblem of King Agadja (in Benin))
Source : Musée Africaine de Lyon

The boat marks the conquest of Savi in 1727 ; and by this act, the expansion of the Abomey Kingdom to the sea, where Agadja first came in contact with French sailors.
And similarly to the hounfò (traditional Haitian temples) in which can be found a reduced model of the sacred boat, in Benin, in the city of Abomey, this sacred boat still decorates Takimbala, Agadja's Royal Palace, nearly 300 years post the conquest of Savi ** :

(King Agadja's Palace)

(The sacred boat decorating Takimbala, Agadja's Royal Palace)
 Source :

2.1.3- The Dahomean King Agadja and the Haitian ritual

Dahomean king Agadja Dosu (Dossou) is honored in the Haitian ritual through the Lwa Kadja Dosou or Kadja Bosou, or simply via his name "Agadja" which appears from time to time in sacred songs. Here are some of the vèvè dedicated to him :

(Vèvè of Bosou in Haiti)
Source : Milo Rigaud. Ve-Ve : Diagrammes Rituels du Voudou. New York, 1974. pp.496, 501.

King Dosu Agadja's warlike character was thus highlighted in Haiti by the bovine (Ox) nature of Lwa Kadja Bosou. Because, in the Dahomean source, the "ox head" icon refers to Abodogi Ozeréto, the Vodun of war who was a bull's headed lion :

(Ox-headed Vodun of war in Dahomey)
Source : Victor-Louis Maire. Dahomey : Abomey, décembre 1893 – Hyères, décembre 1903. Besançon, 1905. p.17.

Thus, the connection between Bosou's vèvè in Haiti and the bovine representation of the Vodun Abodogi Ozeréto is obvious. Moreover, sometime after Haiti's independence, Dahomean king Ghézo (1818-1858) made use of the same ox symbol :

(Allegoric Ox representing Ghézo, King of Dahomey)
Source : Auguste Le Hérissé. L'ancien royaume du Dahomey, moeurs, religion, histoire. Paris, 1911. p.117.

In addition, Agadja's wife, Queen Nae Hwandile, the mother of King Tegbessou (1728-1775), was a traditional priestess of Aja origin who introduced the Vodun cult to Abomey. From Adjahommê, her place of birth, Hwandile brought the cult of Mawou, the Creator Goddess who married the sun God Lisa and gave birth to Agbè, the Vodun of the sea. (11) Like her husband Agadja, Queen Nae Hwandile is venerated in Haiti as Wandile ; mainly in the sacred Djò prayer : "Wandile, Santa Maria...".
In short, many of the symbols in the Haitian ritual come directly from the Dehomed Dahomean royalty, and hold absolutely no muslim element.

2.1.4- Mèt Agwe and his companion Lasirèn

One cannot talk about Agwe Tawoyo without mentioning his companion Lasiren (The Mermaid), the Lwa/Jany of the Sea with whom he shares the vast Oceans. Lasirèn, the Mistress of the Oceans, is here represented in this vèvè of great simplicity :

(Vèvè of Lasirèn)
Source : Milo Rigaud. Ve-Ve : Diagrammes Rituels du Voudou. New York, 1974. p.388.

Here is the representation of Lasirèn on the wall of a mystical consultation place in Port-au-Prince :

(Representation of Lwa La Sirène in Haiti)
Source :  Leslie Anne Brice. Nou la, We here : Remembrance and Power in the arts of Haitian Vodou. University of Maryland, 2007. p.228.

Despite her French (or Creole) name, La Sirène or Lasirèn draws her essence in "Africa". Several contemporaries refer to her as "Mami Wata", which is only a distortion of the English "Mammy Water", the "Mother of the Waters". But her real Dahomean name is Sao :

"Sao serait la sirène." (12)
Traslantion :
"Sao would be la sirène (the mermaid)."

She has, according to the Dahomeans, Hou (or Agbè) for father and Naètè for mother. And she is the sister of Avrèlèkètè (Velekete or Vèlèkètè in Haiti). Here is Sao, the mermaid's representation on a beach house mural in Wydah, Benin :

(Representation of Mami Wata, Goddess of Waters in Benin)
Source : Omar Márquez. "(Ruta del Esclavo) Ouidah Benin AFRICA" ;  URL :

Once again, the similar representation of Lasirèn, the mermaid, on both sides of the Atlantic (Haiti and Benin) testifies to the relationship between these two sister-cultures.

2.2- The heart of Èzili and the Dahomey/Benin - Saint Domingue-Haiti filiation

Syncretism with the catholic religion is strongly manifest in the traditional Haitian religion, as is the case in Brazil and Cuba where the captives (slaves) have used it in deception in order to safeguard their divine way of life. But in the colonies where this syncretism did not take place, the captives have, for all practical purposes, lost their ancestral religion.
This syncretism-deceit works in a very simple way : to better camouflage their religious practice against the colonists' hostility, the captives observed the iconography of the catholic saints. And as soon as they detected in a catholic saint's icon attributes corresponding to an ancestral Deity, they adopted that particular saint as a front.
Thus the Lwa/Jany Èzili Freda Dawomen came to be represented by the icon of the saint Mater Dolorosa (also known as Mother of Sorrows) :

(Mater Dolorosa Von Jerusalem)
Source :

And the attribute, in Mater Dolorosa, which caught the traditionalists' attention was obviously the pierced heart : 
(Vèvè of Èzili Freda)
Source : Milo Rigaud. Ve-Ve : Diagrammes Rituels du Voudou. New York, 1974. p.231.

Here, the catholic iconography borrowing is clear and unequivocally displayed : in the lower right corner of the vèvè, the little chair (or brush) is a direct reproduction of the little chair displayed (top left) in the catholic icon ; And the pineapple-shaped heart (bottom left in the vèvè) is a cover of an identical heart (placed at the same location in the painting) that also has the pearl outline and the inscription "SI". But Blacks borrowing from the christian religion is problematic to the revisionists. Because, he places those Blacks as actors of their destiny. What the revisionists want, on the contrary, is for Blacks to be passive in all relations with others. They must stupidly receive the influence of a dominant third party, and be under the weight of the "civilized".
It is in this perspective that the revisionist LeGrace Benson rejected that Blacks voluntary borrowed catholic icons. She then turned her attention to the heart in the center of this ceremonial flag dedicated to Lwa/Jany Èzili :

 (Ceremonial flag displaying the heart of Èzili)
Source : LeGrace Benson. "Some Breton and Muslim Antecedent of Voudou Drapo". In : Textile Society of America Symposium Proceedings Paper 867. 1996.

And she (Legrace Benson) proposed, at first, that this figurative heart (the sacred heart) derives, not from the captives' deception, but rather from the direct influence of Breton catholic missionaries on "their Haitian herds", following the Concordat of 1860 :
"The Voudou drapo that does carry a simple emblem in the center is usually that of the lwa Ezuli represented by a heart. The Breton priests and religious taught veneration of the Sacred Heart to their Haitian flocks. (...) Michel Nobletz in the sixteenth century promulgated the images throughout Brittany, and even now they appear in every mission where there are Breton priests and religious. The Breton missionary who eventually became the Archbishop of Haiti at the time of the Concordat was among those who tried to have Nobletz canonized for his work with the image of the Sacred Heart." (13)
Thus, according to Benson, the heart of Èzili derives from the "heart map" which consists of a series of heart illustrations, commissioned as a conversion tool in the 1600s by Breton priest Michel Nobletz. Through the depicted representation of the deadly sins, Michel Nobletz aimed to frighten superstitious non-believers of his time, by stirring up the fear of hell in them :

 (La carte des coeurs)
Source :

However, 1) these frightful Breton hearts are not pierced, unlike the heart depicted in that Haitian ceremonial flag. 2) They (the Breton hearts) display the heart's main artery which is absent in the Haitian syncretic heart. 3) In these Breton hearts, individuals with reprehensible behavior were compared to animals : The angry is symbolized by a dog, the lazy by a mule, the greedy by a pig, etc.:

Source : ;

So, drawn for the conversion missions, Michel Nobletz's moralistic hearts do not correspond to the pierced heart of Mètrès Èzili who borrows from the pierced heart of Mater Dolorosa, the symbolic illustration of her maternal sorrow in the face of the death of her son Jesus. Consequently, Benson's hypothesis of a Breton influence on the vèvè is false.

2.2.1- Origin of the "heart" of Èzili

Then, seeking an external support for her islamic revision, L. Benson, signaled that there is some connection between the Virgin Mary (corresponding to the cult of the Sacred Heart) and Myriam in the islamic koran :
"We have on drapo what the Greeks and Romans understood as eros and thanatos, love and war, Venus and Mars, Sin Jak-Ogun and Sin Mari-Ezuli. (Perhaps it is not beside the point to remark that Miryam, the Virgin Mother of Jesus is honored in the Qur'an, Surah 19.)
(...) In Haiti, Ezuli's heart is sometimes quadrilled, sometimes pierced with swords, sometimes surrounded with reduplicated squares like those of Islamic hatumere (amulets) and Qur'an boards." (14)
Traditionalist "Africa" is full of symbols that are older than islam. And a significant number of these symbols are found in Haiti. And contrary to LeGrace Benson's unfounded islamic assumptions, the causality between traditionalist "Africa" and Haiti is clear. Let's take, for example, the heart icon depicted in these vèvè of Lwa Èzili Freda Dawomen :

(Various Vèvè of Èzili, Èzili Gwètò and Èzili Mapyang)
Source : Milo Rigaud. Ve-Ve : Diagrammes Rituels du Voudou. New York, 1974. pp.235, 237, 233.

As her name suggests, Lwa Èzili Freda Dawomen comes from the former Beninese Kingdom of Dahomey (Dawomen in Creole). She is the Creole version of Azili, the Dahomean Vodun. (In fact, Haiti still has Lwa that carry the name Azili, such as : Agwe Tawoyo Azili Menfò or Azili Kanlikan.) And in Freda, she represents the Fouéda (or Couéda) ethnic group of Dahomey.
And naturally, we find the heart of Èzili Freda Dawomen as the emblem of Behanzin, the King of Allada, in Benin/Dahomey :

(The King of Allada or Dahomey and the heart of Èzili, his royal insignia)
Source : "Le roi d'Allada (1900)" ; Fonssagrives, Jean Baptiste Joseph Marie Pascal. Notices sur le Dahomey ; publiée à l'occasion de l'Exposition universelle. - New York Public Library. ; URL :

2.3- The icons of the Sacred Serpent and the Dahomean heritage

In January (and March) 1967, Haitian revisionist Alexis Gerson wrote, without ever proving it, that the Serpent Lwa Danmbala is of Mandingo and muslim origin. Thus, causing him to write that Lwa's name Damb-Allah, as did many before him :
"A god name as Damb-Allah (a snake god) is a Mandingo creation." (15)
Certainly, following islamization, the Arabic word "Allah" meaning "God" made its way as "Ala" into the Mandingo language. But what about "Damb" or "Danm"? Would it mean "Serpent" in Mandingo, as Alexis Gerson claimed? Of course not. In the Mandingo language, the name "serpent" is said : "saa", "cápáti", "kaŋkuŋ" or "jambakatansáa". (16) Thus, Alexis Gerson was wrong, the combination of "Damb" + "Allah" does not mean anything in Mandingo. The combination closest to the "Primordial Serpent" in the Mandingo language (Bambara, to be more precise) would be Masa Dembali, that is to say the "uncreated and infinite Master", which is one of the qualifiers of Maa Ngala, the Master of All, the Creator God, in the traditional religion of the Bambara, Malinké or Mandingo groups. (17)

2.3.1- But what about Pierre Dambara?

In their eagerness, the revisionists neglected the fact that in Haiti the Lwa Danmbala is also called Danmbara (Dambara), and especially in Northern Haiti, place of the Bois Caiman ceremony and the burst of the General insurrection of 1791 :

"Dans le Nord, par exemple, à Nan Campêche, [proche du Morne Rouge] on dit Papa Dambara." (18)
Translation :
"In the North, for example, at Nan Campeche, [near Morne Rouge] they say Papa Dambara."
Here is a note regarding a sacred song offered to the Lwa St. "Pierre Dambara" on February 28, 1937, in the commune of Plaisance (Northern Haiti) :

(Note referring to the Lwa St. "Pierre Dambara" in 1937)
Source : Alan Lomax, "St. Pierre Dambara, moune derriere chita 'tend moin." ; URL :

Similarly, following his early 1970s investigations in Haiti, author Jean Kerboull has repeatedly mentioned the Lwa/Jany "Dambara", "Papa Dambara", "Pierre Dambara", "Dambara Ouedo" or "Pierre Dambara Ouedo". (19) However, since it can happen, in Haitian Creole, that an "r" can be deformed into "l", or conversely. Therefore, the presence of "Dambara" does not guarantee that the word "Danmbala" isn't authentic. So let's dig deeper.

2.3.2- Dan/Odan

To this issue, the revisionists usual response  will be : Damballah means "the Serpent God" since "Dan", in the Fongbe language (of the Dahomean Fon ethnic group), means "Sacred Snake," which is also called "Dangbe". Although true, these two assertions are largely inadequate. For neither "Dan" (also known as Odan in Haiti) nor "Dangbe" produce the sound "Danmb" in Creole. So, for this islamic hypothesis to be credible, it is necessary that the sound "Danmb" equals "Serpent" so that its combination with the sound "Allah", means "the Serpent God". Obviously this is not the case.
Here is, on the wall of a temple in Benin (former Da-homey), the figuration of the sacred snake Da, Dan or Dan-gbe :

(Depiction of the Vodun Da in Benin (Dahomey))
Source : Christoph Henning, Klaus E. Müller, Ute Ritz-Müller. Afrique-La magie dans l’âme : rites, charmes et sorcellerie. Könemann, 2000. p.272.

Here is the identical diagram in a Haitian vèvè for Danmbala Wedo :
 (Vèvè for Danmbala Wedo in Haïti)
Source : Milo Rigaud. Ve-Ve : Diagrammes Rituels du Voudou. New York, 1974. p.584.

And neither do the revisionists address "Wedo", the second portion of the name "Danmbala Wedo". What does "Wedo" means in Arabic, Mandingo, or any language of islamized peoples? We already know the answer : absolutely nothing. So let's move on.

2.3.3- Ayida Wedo

In Benin, the sacred Dan Snake (or his double Aido Hwedo, the Rainbow Serpent) is often depicted alone, self-sufficient, and biting his tail :

"Aido Hwedo, with cult-objects used in the worship of Da, as represented in appliqué cloth." (20)

(The sacred Dahomean Python, in the temple of Zumadunu (Zamadòn in the Haitian ritual))
Source : Melville Jean Herskovits. Dahomey An Ancient West African Kingdom. New York, 1938. p.224-225. fig.35.

But, there's a discrepancy. Because, in Haiti, Danmbala is mostly illustrated in the company of his wife (or his double), the Sacred Rainbow Snake Ayida Wedo :

 (Vèvè of Danmbala Wedo and Ayida Wedo in Haiti)
Source : Milo Rigaud. Ve-Ve : Diagrammes Rituels du Voudou. New York, 1974. p.172.

However, Dahomean King Béhanzin's Coat of Arms, although recent, are close to Haitian aestheticism :
(Coat of Arms of Béhanzin, King of Dahomey)
Source : Victor-Louis Maire, Dahomey : Abomey, décembre 1893 – Hyères, décembre 1903, A. Cariage, Besançon, 1905.

And while it is undeniable that the name Ayida Wedo, the Haitian Rainbow Snake, derives directly from Aido Hwedo, the Dahomean Rainbow Snake, what about the name Danmbala Wedo? Where are the direct evidence linking the Haitian Lwa Danmbala Wedo to Dahomey? This is what we will see.

2.3.4- The origin of the name Danmbala Wedo

One would expect that proving the origin of the name "Danmbala" requires the most advanced mystical knowledge. But not at all. To find the origin of Danmbala Wedo, no lesson in "mysticism" or in "cabalism" is required. And above all, no need to peddle by deforming Danmbala into "Dambalah", "Damballah", "Dambhalah", "Danbalah", or what have you. A simple glance through anthropologist Melville J. Herskovits' essay on Dahomey is sufficient to stumble upon the answer multiple times :

"Two of the dancers, who wore chief's caps and were garbed in white, represented Dambada Hwedo, the ancient ancentors...." (21)

"It may be assumed that the spirit, in this instance, is Dambada Hwedo, a powerful deity of the ancestral cult believed to reside in great trees." (22)

"These six, after a few moments of their dance, retired to the background to give place to one who represented Dambada Hwedo, so that he might dance for the oldest, the most powerful, but unknown ancestors who merged in this deity." (23)

"The ancestral cult, as described thus far, consists of the worship of the deified ancestors, the txodu, who, seperated into sibs, are headed by their various tohwiyo. Even more powerful than these tohwiyo, because older, but less feared because more generalized, are the oldest ancestors, the spirits of those whose names are no longer known by their descendants, subsumed in the character of Dambada Hwedo." (24)
So we are dealing with "Dambada Hwedo", the most respected of all Dahomean Vodun, along with the Dan Serpent or Aido Hwedo. He represents the merger of all the ancient Deities (Vodun) and also the merger of all Ancestors that have died so long ago to the point that their descendants have forgotten their names.
Through the generations, in Saint Domingue/Haiti, from the various ethnic groups' fusion, a simple deformation of "Dambada Hwedo" gave rise to "Danmbala Wedo", Pierre Dambara, etc. However, the essence of this Dahomean divine Entity remained unaltered in Haiti : white clothes of the servants, unparalleled respect, primordial serpent who attended the creation of the world, etc.
To be more precise, the name of Haitian Lwa/Jany "Danmbala" should be broken down into :
Dan + M'Bala
Odan + M'Bala
Since it results from the merger of "Dan", the primordial Rainbow-Snake of Dahomey with "M'Bala", the primordial Rainbow-Snake of the Baluba people of the Congo. We must point out that the full name of the Baluba Deity in question is Mwanza M'Bala or Mwanzambala. He is a male, and N'Kangi is his female double.

"Mais, de cette Eau répandue sur la Terre, s'élevèrent les Souffles des deux Serpents mâle et femelle, Mwanza m'Bala et N'Kangi.
Leurs Souffles, montant en l'air, s'y conjugèrent, formant l'Arc-en-Ciel, dont le nom des « Mwanza n'Kongolo »." (25)
Translation :
"But from this Water that poured out on the Earth, rose the Breaths of the two male and female Serpents, Mwanza m'Bala and N'Kangi.
Their Breaths, rising in the air, joined in it, forming the Rainbow, whose name is "Mwanza n'Kongolo"."
Thus, to best reflect the characteristics of the Baluba couple of Mwanza M'Bala and N'Kangi, whose Divine Breaths form the Rainbow, Dahomean Dan and Aido Wedo were slightly modified in Saint Domingue, as they formed the sacred couple of Danmbala and Ayida Wedo,. So that's the origin of the "Ala" sound, in DanMBala.***

3- The traditional tiles and the supposed koranic boards of students

According to LeGrace Benson, the diamond-shaped icons found in ceremonial vèvè and flags are islamic. She referred to the emblematic squares and quadrilles depicted in the vèvè of the Lwa Azaka (native of Savalou in traditional Benin) and Ogoun Badagri (native of the city of Badagri in traditionalist Nigeria) :
(Vèvè for Azaka Mede containing the farmed land tiles)

(Vèvè for Ogoun Badagri containing quadrilles)
Source : Milo Rigaud. Ve-Ve : Diagrammes Rituels du Voudou. New York, 1974. pp.323, 254.

According to her (Benson), these quadrilles, which she admits are found everywhere around the world, and even in former French colonists' military banners, can only come from islam :
"It is true that repeated squares and lozenges are a motif found all over the world, and certainly on French military banners; but there remains the density and elaboration of the motif. The resemblance of some of the earlier drapos to number squares on Qur'an boards is striking. When we recall that such mystical square diagrams were on battle amulets, furthermore that the imams used the washings from the boards as healing potions for animals and humans, appearance of the squares on the drapo, at the site of a religion focused on winning freedom and curing sickness should almost be expected.
The mystical quadrille appears on flags and veve (symbols drawn on the ground at the beginning of a Voudou service) for Ogun Badagris and Papa Zaka." (26)
In Benson's view, the Haitian tiles are inspired by these numbered squares that are displayed on students' koranic boards :

Source : ; Retrieved November 30, 2017.

Source : ; Retrieved November 30, 2017.

It goes without saying that LeGrace Benson, in over a quarter of a century of research, has not found a copy of this koranic board in Haiti, nor archived data referring to it. In fact, the revisionist did not need to over extend herself unnecessarily. Because the meaning of the "tiles" contained in Ogoun Badagri's vèvè and mainly in those of Lwa Azaka, was not so complicated. It resides in the peasant nature of these 2 Lwa :
"Cette source des carreaux se reproduit encore dans le vèvè du mystère voudoo qui est le ministre de l'agriculture et de l'intérieur dans la hiérarchie gouvernementale du voudoo : Azaca Médeh (…) Ainsi, le carreau de terre, venant de cette source divine, a remplacé toutes les autres mesures, en Haïti : acre, hectare, mètre, pied, pouce. Les paysans - qui relèvent du mystère-paysan Azaca - mesurent leurs terres par carreaux." (27)
Translation :
"The source of these carreaux [tiles] is still reproduced in the vèvè of the voudoo mystery [deity] who is the minister of agriculture and of the interior in the voudoo governmental hierarchy : Azaca Medeh (...) Thus, the carreau [tile] of land, coming from this divine source, has replaced all the other measures, in Haiti : acre, hectare, meter, foot, inch. The peasants - who come under Azaca, the mystery-peasant - measure their lands by carreaux [tiles]."
In other words, in Haiti, they measure land by "carreaux" (tiles), where 1 carreau equals 1.29 hectare, (28) a custom deriving from colonial France. So the tiles are highlighted in the vèvè and flags of the Lwa that are linked to agriculture. It is in this context that in addition to the "tiles" of land, a farmer's characteristic elements (namely his tools, clothes, gait, language, tobacco, alcohol, food, customs) adorn the vèvè and flags of Azaka called Kouzen (Cousin), in keeping with peasant habits, and his wife is named Kouzin (female Cousine) :
(Agricultural tools, alcohol, tobacco and peasant items in the vèvè of Azaka aka Kouzen Zaka)
Source : Milo Rigaud. Ve-Ve : Diagrammes Rituels du Voudou. New York, 1974. pp.322, 326.

And when a sèvitè (great officiant) is inhabited by Azaka's Sacred Energy, he puts on the agrarian Jany/Lwa costume and apparatus, and transforms himself into a peasant smoking the pipe, consuming the Lwa's rustic dishes, including his favorite alcoholic drink (which is forbidden by islam) :

(Practitioner mounted or possessed by the Azaka Mystery ;  holding his alcoholic bottle)
Source : Milo Rigaud. La Tradition Voudoo et le Voudoo Haïtien. Paris, 1953. fig.29. p.208-209.

As we've detailed in an article : Azaka is not muslim, the Lwa/Jany Azaka comes from Savalou, a traditional region inhabited by the Mahi ethnic group of present-day Benin.

(Savalou, Benin)
Source :

As for the Lwa/Jany Ogoun Badagri, he belongs to the Yoruba/Nago of Nigeria and Benin. And he comes more precisely from the traditional city of Badagry in present-day Nigeria (near the Beninese border).

(Badagry. Nigeria)
Source :

4- The tiles and Kagba masks of the Senufo

Beyond farming, the tile symbol contained other meanings for the many ethnicities that populated Haiti. The captives (slaves) extirpated from the Congo, in Central "Africa", a traditionalist territory, held the keys to some of those meanings. These 2 ads of 1774, coming from the Fort Dauphin prison (present-day Fort Liberté), describe 2 newly arrived Congolese captives (slaves), that carry tribal scarifications "in the shape of tiles" and even "cross-shaped" :

 "Le 15 [juillet] (…) un autre Nègre de même nation, sans étampe, ayant des marques de son pays sur l’estomac en forme de croix, et sur le ventre en forme de carreaux." (29)
Translation :
"On the 15th [July] (...) another Negro of the same nation, without stamp, has marks of his country on the stomach in the shape of a cross, and on the belly in the shape of tiles." 

"Le 24 [juin], un Nègre nouveau, même nation [Congo], sans étampe, ayant des marques de son pays en forme de carreaux." (30)
Translation :
"On June 24, a new Negro, same nation [Congo], without stamp, has marks of his country in the form of tiles." 
So these captives proudly wearing "tile-shaped" and "cross-shaped" scarifications were not muslims. And the transcription of those tiles, their tribal mark, in the vèvè for Azaka, Ogoun Badagri, and other Lwa/Jany, is totally conceivable. But a revisionist like LeGrace Benson does not care about this information. She was too busy connecting the quadrilles contained in the Haitian vèvè to the Kagba masks of the "islamized" Senufo of Ivory Coast :
"The mystical quadrille appears on flags and veve (...) and in the Islamicised Senufo district of Cote d'Ivoire, where it is known as Kagba." (31)
But is what she claimed true? Let's take a look. This is what L. Benson calls "Kagba" without describing it. There are masks :

(Kagba masks of the Senufo)
Source :

These Kagba masks have absolutely nothing Senegalese about them, contrary to the revisionist claims. They belong to the Senufo ethnic group of Ivory Coast. Here, in this type of headdress, is the only Senufo element depicting quadrilles that we came across :

(Senufo headdress with quadrilles)
Source : Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY ; URL :

Obviously, the quadrilles in question are not lined up in the same manner as those found in the magic tiles. So on this point, LeGrace Benson is mistaking. Moreover, Kagba masks belong to the Poro, the Senufo traditionalist initiatory societies.

4.1- Who are the Senufo? And do they have a connection with Haiti?

The Senufo reside in the area between Ivory Coast, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Ghana. But most of their population is mainly in northern Ivory Coast and southern Mali :

 (Senufo Territory)
Source :

In Saint Domingue (Haiti), the listed Senufo identified themselves as Taguana or Guiminy :

"À Saint-Louis, le 13 de ce mois, est enré à la geole, un nègre, nation Taguana, étampé sur le sein gauche SVRAV, et le reste illisible, taille de 5 pieds 2 pouces, borgne de l'oeil droit, se disant appartenir à M. Surau, habitant à Cavaillon." (32)
Translation :
"In Saint-Louis, on the 13th of this month, has entered in the jail, a negro, Taguana nation, stamped on the left breast SVRAV, and the rest illegible, size of 5 feet 2 inches, one-eyed of the right eye, claiming to belong to M. Surau, living in Cavaillon."
"Un Nègre, nommé Hector, nation Guiminy, étampé sur le côté droit CD, taille de 5 pieds. Ceux qui le reconnaîtront, sont priés de le faire arrêter & d'en donner avis à Mde la veuve Premiacque, Habitante à Bricourt, Quartier de Saint-Louis. Ledit Negre est rouge, & a les pieds brûlés." (33)
Translation :
"A Negro, named Hector, Guiminy nation, stamped on the right side CD, height of 5 feet. Those who will recognize him, are asked to stop him & give notice to Mde the widow Premiacque, resident in Bricourt, Saint-Louis district. The said Negro is red [light skinned], and his feet burned."
This relates to the "Sénoufo du Sud" ("Southern Senufo"), that is to say the Senufo occupying the current Northern-Central Ivory Coast. Subdivided into 2 groups, Tagwana (Tagouana) in the West and Djimini in the East, this Senufo territory would become the "Tagouanas Circle", during the French colonial administration :

(Tagouanas Circles, 1921)
Source : A. Chartier. "Le Cercle des Tagouanas" In : ‪Renseignements coloniaux, No.11. In : L'Afrique française‬: ‪bulletin mensuel du Comité l'Afrique française et du Comité du Maroc‬, Volume 31. Paris, 1921. p.251.

And contrary to Benson's assertion, the Ivory Coast Senufo (Tagwana and Djimini) are mostly "animists" or traditionalists to this day. (34) They were more so in a not so distant past, according to this observer in 1921 :
"Le cercle des Tagouanas [Territoire administratif de la Côte d'Ivoire] comprend deux sortes de populations différentes par la race et les aptitudes :
1° Les Djiminis et les Tagouanas, branches cousines de la race Sénoufo dont le centre est à Korhogo; ce sont des indigènes frustes, laborieux, très attachés au sol.   
2° Les Mandés-Dyoulas, appelés communément « Dyoulas », appartiennent à la grande race soudanaise des Mandingues ou Mandés;
Les Dyoulas sont musulmans, tandis que les Djiminis et les Tagouanas ont leur religion basée sur le culte et la puissance des morts et sont profondément animistes." (35)
Translation :
"The Tagouanas circle [Administrative Territory of Ivory Coast] includes two different kinds of populations by race and ability :
1. The Djiminis and the Tagouanas, cousin branches of the Senufo race whose center is at Korhogo; they are rough natives, laborious, very attached to the soil.
2. The Mande-Dyoulas, commonly called "Dyoulas," belong to the great Sudanese race of Mandingoes or Mande;
The Dyoulas are muslim, while the Djiminis and Tagouanas have their religion based on the worship and the power of the dead and are deeply animist."
And the author added :
"Les croyances des indigènes non-musulmans du cercle des Tagouanas sont les suivantes : 1° Ils croient à l'existence d'un Dieu créateur qu'ils appellent « Niéguéré » ou Niéguéré-Boro (dialecte djimini). (...) Ils ne croient pas à son intervention directe dans les choses de ce monde ; ils ne croient pas non plus comme les musulmans au paradis, à l'enfer et au purgatoire. Aux islamisés qui tentent de les convertir, les Djiminis et les Tagouanas répondent qu'ils ne veulent pas aller au ciel, parce qu'ils y seraient seuls sans leur parents, qu'ils s'y ennuieraient et y seraient malheureux. 2° La croyance à une autre vie et à l'ingérence des mânes des ancêtres revivant ensemble dans un même endroit, pensant et gouvernant tous les vivants, constitue la base de la religion des non-musulmans. Ce sont donc des animistes..." (36)

Translation :
"The beliefs of the non-muslim natives of the Tagouanas circle are the following: 1° They believe in the existence of a creator God whom they call" Niéguéré "or Niéguéré-Boro (djimini dialect). (...) They do not believe in his direct intervention in the things of this world, nor do they believe like muslims in paradise, in hell and in purgatory, to the islamized who try to convert them, the Djiminis and Tagouanas answer that they do not want to go to heaven, because they would be alone without their parents, they would be bored and unhappy. 2° The belief in the after life and the interference of the spirits of the ancestors together in one place, thinking and governing all the living, is the basis of the religion of non-muslims, so they are animists..."
A more recent author continues in this path :
"Cette religion [Sénoufo] s'inspire d'une cosmogonie organisée autour de deux divinités: Koulo Tyolo, assumant un rôle de transcendance, et Ka Tyelo, reconnue comme la Mère du village chargée de la consolidation de l'essence de l'être et de la substance de la chose ainsi que de celle de leurs rapports." (37)
Translation :
"This [Senufo] religion is inspired by a cosmogony organized around two divinities: Koulo Tyolo, assuming a transcendence role, and Ka Tyelo, recognized as the village Mother responsible for the consolidation of the being's essence and the substance of the thing as well as that of their relationship."
Islam still made an incursion. But a very late one. And it represents 25% of the "Southern Senufo", the majority population. (38) And, according to the same source, more islamization risen, more diminishes the grip of the Poro initiatory societies, which nevertheless regulated Senufo society. And ironically, LeGrace Benson attributed the Senufo Kagba masks to islam, when in fact islam contributes to the disappearance of the traditional initiatory societies that produced those masks.

4.2 - The Land Chiefs and the Senufo heritage

Senufo traditionalists are centered around "the land identified with a nurturing mother who occupies a prominent place in metaphysical speculations and agrarian liturgy." (Transl.) (39) They use the first land inhabitants called "Land Chiefs" as intermediaries in their communication with mother earth :

 "3° Ces ancêtres sont les premiers occupants du sol, qui sont appelés Dougo-uKolotigni ou chefs de la terre.
Le premier occupant du sol était dans chaque grande tribu à la fois un personnage politique et un personnage religieux ; lui seul avait le droit de faire les sacrifices rituels et tous les indigènes venus ensuite s'installer dans le pays devaient s'adresser à lui avant d'occuper et de mettre en valeur une parcelle du terrain. Le pays habité s'étendant, le chef de terre délégua à d'autres le pouvoir de faire des petits sacrifices et les chefs de terre augmentèrent sans toutefois devenir très nombreux. Ce sont les personnages importants et vénérés; un véritable culte est rendu à la terre par leur intermédiaire; cette croyance est très compréhensible chez des populations uniquement agricoles et très attachés au sol.
Cette religion est générale en pays Djimini et Tagouana dans les deux subdivisions de Dabakala et de Darakolondougou." (40)
Translation :
"3° These ancestors are the first occupants of the soil, who are called Dougo-uKolotigni or land chiefs.
The first occupier of the soil was in each great tribe at once a political figure and a religious figure; he alone had the right to make the ritual sacrifices and all the natives who came to settle in the country had to address him before occupying and developing a plot of land. The inhabited country spreading, the land chief delegated to others the power to make small sacrifices, and the land chiefs increased without, however, becoming very numerous. These are the important and venerated personages; a true worship is rendered to the land through them; this belief is very understandable in populations solely agrarian very attached to the soil.
This religion is general in Djimini and Tagouana countries in the two subdivisions of Dabakala and Darakolondougou."
This tradition remains in Haiti where these "Land Chiefs" are named Mèt Bitasyon, that is to say, the Masters of the Estate. And their descendants are respected, even venerated, in the Senufo manner. To the point that there are sometimes abuses, as this author points out :

 "Mais, au-delà de l'avantage mentionné, j'ai eu aussi le malheur d'avoir vécu intimement au quotidien le gouvernement de ces êtres-dieux, ces grands et petits notables, paysans aux mains blanches « qui ne travaillent pas de leurs mains »,  conscients et confiants en leur toute puissance sociale, mystique et économique en tant que serviteur et fils de Mèt bitasyon « maître de l'habitation », héritiers et gérants temporaires de la terre des loas. Ils exercent leur pouvoir absolu et arbitraire de vie et de mort sur leurs nombreuses femmes, leurs troupeaux d'enfants, leurs travailleurs, leurs hounsi « serviteurs » et les gens ordinaires de la localité. Ils règnent chacun dans leur lakou considérés comme leur petite république, autrefois et peut-être aujourd'hui encore, souveraine et indépendante." (41)
Translation :
"But, beyond the mentioned advantage, I also had the misfortune of having lived intimately and daily in the government of these god-beings, these big and small notables, white-handed peasants "who do not work with their hands", conscious and confident of their social, mystical and economic power as the serviteur [traditional spiritual chief] and son of Mèt bitasyon "master of the estate", heirs and temporary managers of the land of the loas. They exercise their absolute and arbitrary power of life and death over their many wives, their flocks of children, their workers, their hounsi "serviteurs" and the ordinary people of the locality. They each reign in their lakou as their little republic, formerly and perhaps today still, sovereign and independent."
The Mèt Bitasyon are mostly deified deceased still stuck to their land. Practitioners greet them daily with prayers and sacred songs such as these :

M anonse, Mèt Bitasyon, konnen mwen la e,
Anonse, papa Legba, konnen mwen la e,
Lavi a voye jete o, mwen la, o Legba, a Legba,
Alegba e, konnen mwen la e.

Translation :
I'm saluting Mèt Bitasyon [The Master of the Estate], see how I'm present,
I'm saluting, Papa Legba, see how I'm present,
Life maltreats me, I am present, oh Legba, ah Legba
Alegba eh, be assured of my presence.

In addition to the predominant role of the Land Chiefs and the emphasis on Mother Earth, Haiti has also preserved a senufo story about the creation of the world. It is, very quickly, the Senufo tale of Safazani, the hunter, at a time when all the serpents were hunted to the last. Safazani had gone to the home of the last snake to kill him. The snake started to sing, asking him not to kill him. He did the opposite. The snake, though dead, sang, exhorting, without success, Safazani the hunter not to cut him. And so on. Then, after the tasting, Safazani's belly swelled excessively, forcing him to drink as he went. And he urinated and defecated excessively, thus forming mountains and rivers. And "that is how the Senufo land was born." (Transl.) (42)
A version of this traditional story persists in Haitian tales. However, the snake is replaced by a rooster that sang in the belly of the greedy that killed, cut, cooked, then ate him. In short, although the masks tradition did not survive in Haiti (nor in the West Indies), the tradition of initiatic societies such as the Poro of the Senufo was well kept. The spiritual, regulatory and moral values that Poro safeguarded were also maintained and adapted to the Dominguan/Haitian colonial and postcolonial contexts. And islam has no part in it.

4.3 - The Senufo, the Kaplawou Nanchon and the vèvè

The Senufo of modern day Ivory Coast also contributed to Haitian vèvè. Many Taguanas from Katiola, and Djimini from Dabakala, were embarked forcefully via the slave port of Cap Lahou (present-day Grand Lahou).

(The two main Ivorian Senufo cities and the slave port of Grand-Lahou)
Sources : ; ;

From this port (Cap Lahou) they were shipped to the Americas. And upon arrival in Saint Domingue, they were grouped with all the captives (slaves) from that region under the generic name of Caplaou (Capelaou, Caplahaoux, Capelao, or Caplaon). This name is retained in the Haitian ritual as the sacred Kaplawou Nation or Nanchon.
Here is a vèvè of Lwa Kaplawou. No islamic element spotted :

(Kaplawou's vèvè)
Source : Milo Rigaud. Ve-Ve : Diagrammes Rituels du Voudou. New York, 1974. p.537.

The guinea fowl, Lwa Kaplawou's icon and favorite offering, still remains in Senufo country, in Ivory Coast, the sacrificial animal of choice for divinations and for Poro initiatic societies.**** Linked to luxury by the average sacrifice offering person, this animal plays a crucial role in mysticism and in the Senufo culture at large :

(Statue of Senufo woman with guinea fowl shaped hairstyle in Ivory Coast)
Source : Africa Direct, 2015. ; URL :

(Senufo woman with guinea fowl shaped hairstyle)
Source :  Hans Himmelheber. Negerkunst und Negerkünstler. Braunschweig, 1960. p.64 ; URL :

At the educational level, the guinea fowl lays its eggs here and there, and broods them very rarely. The Senufo therefore place these guinea fowl eggs underneath brooding hens. And so, the guinea fowl chicks, once hatched, follow the mother hens among her regular chicks. For the Senufo, this singular situation illustrates kids education which is not the mother's responsibility, but that of the whole village.

(Representation of a Senufo mother)
Source : Africa Direct, 2015.

On the mystical level, the Senufo, members of the Poro societies, dwell on the fact that growing guinea fowls always end up leaving the chickens, to join their species. This symbolizes the young Senufo who, after initiation, will step away from the lot of mere mortals to chart his own path. This Senoufo guinea fowl-shaped hairstyle, reserved exclusively to initiates (women and men), testifies to this change in spiritual course. (43)

(Statues of a Senufo woman and a man with the guinea fowl-shaped hairstyle)
Source :

Finally, the guinea fowl, in Senufo land, symbolizes feminine beauty. (44) But also being cunning :
"En pays sénoufo, la pintade est très rusée." (45)
Translation :
"In Senufo country, the guinea fowl is very cunning."
The cunning feature is also linked to the guinea fowl in Haiti where :
"La pintade, difficilement apprivoisable, exprime ainsi dans la conscience historique une relation totémique la liant aux esclaves rebelles dont le comportement similaire a défrayé les chroniques coloniales (...) La pintade fait donc partie du mythe fondateur de la nation haïtienne. Hautement symbolique, elle possède des qualités singulières : ruse, habileté, dissimulation, rapidité, instabilité... Elle a un côté désagréable, dit-on, par ses cris incommodants et demeure une libertaire très encline au vagabondage. « Faire la pintade », c'est savoir se dissimuler, se faire oublier, comme l'exprime un dicton haïtien relatif à son éthologie. Le passage d'une lettre du capitaine-général Leclerc (beau-frère de Napoléon Bonaparte, chargé de l'expédition de Saint-Domingue), consacrée au rebelle Dessalines, en dit long sur la perception de l'animal en 1802 : «Colonel, depuis que je suis ici, je vis dans une espèce d'inquiétude, la même que celle qui hante Dessalines; ne dit-on pas de lui qu'il est aussi inquiet qu'une pintade poursuivie par un regard ? Entre lui et moi, les rapports évoluent, plus le temps passe, plus je ressemble moi-même à une pintade en proie à un renard nommé Dessalines »." (46)
Translation :
"The guinea fowl, difficult to tame, thus expresses in the historical consciousness a totemic relationship binding it to rebel slaves whose similar behavior has defrayed the colonial chronicles (...) The guinea fowl is therefore part of the founding myth of the Haitian nation. Highly symbolic, it possesses singular qualities : cunning, skill, concealment, speed, instability... It has an unpleasant side, it is said, by its annoying cries and it remains a libertarian very inclined to vagabondage. "To do the guinea fowl" is to know how to hide oneself, to be forgotten, as a Haitian saying about his ethology expresses. This extract from a letter from Captain-General Leclerc (Napoleon Bonaparte's brother-in-law, charged with the Saint Domingue expedition), about the rebel Dessalines, says a lot about the perception of the animal in 1802 : "Colonel, since I am here, I live in a kind of anxiety, like that which haunts Dessalines; Is it not said of him that he is as worried as a guinea fowl pursued by a look? Between him and me, relationships evolve, the more time passes, the more I look like a guinea fowl prey to a fox named Dessalines"."
Thus, independent of character and very cunning, guinea fowl symbolizes marronnage, freedom and the Haitian Revolution, which was traditionalist. Claiming to be the prolongation of this Haitian revolution, the Duvalier regime made the guinea fowl its national emblem, but, although the fall of the Duvaliers has bought shame to the guinea fowl icon among the Haitians, this noble traditionalist symbol will surely rebound, because, according to a Haitian tale, many people tried to eliminate the guinea fowl without success, and God himself did not succeed in killing it.*****

5- The traditional icons and the Senegalese heritage

The traditionalist Senegalese contribution to the Haitian ritual must be among the most underestimated. The lot of Senegalese forcefully transported to Saint Domingue, included Wolof (called Yolof, Jolofe or Yolef in Saint Domingue). (47) And there were Fulani (Poulard, Poular, Poula or Foulany in Saint Domingue), a nomadic people spread across Western "Africa" and whose Senegalese origin was confirmed. (48) There were also Serer (written "Serrere" in Saint Domingue) (49) And there were also Diola (called Diola, Guiola, Jalla or Ajamat in Saint Domingue). (50) As for the other Senegalese ethnic groups, in particular the Toucouleurs, they figured in the generic name "Senegalais"; an appellation that brought a wide, complex and diversified cultural and spiritual heritage to Saint Domingue.
The dishonest revisionists now claim that Senegal was an "islamic territory" at the time of the Saint Domingue colony :
"The mystical quadrille appears on flags and veve (...) It appears as well on the veve for the lwa (spirit) Boussou Sinbi, a lwa of the "Fanmi Senigal," again from Islamic territory, and on the costume for this lwa..." (51)
If today, in the 21st christian century, Senegal is a muslim country, it was far from the case in the past. Because at the time of the Saint Domingue colony, and even following the independence of Haiti in 1804, the strong majority of Senegalese ethnic groups was traditionalist, especially the Diola, the last people of Western "Africa" to convert to islam. This ethnic group located in Casamance, southern Senegal, has maintained its ancestral practice until the second world war (20th christian century) :
"While Muslims and Christians have been in contact with the Diola at least since the fifteenth century, there were few conversions before the late nineteenth century. On the north shore of the Casamance River, where contact with Islam was both earliest and most violent, many Diola have embraced Islam and, to a lesser extent, Christianity. The growth of these new religions, however, had to await the firm establishment of colonial rule and the growth of commerce in peanuts before gaining dominance over the traditional religion. On the south shore, the vast majority of the population resisted the advance of Islam and Christianity until after World War II. While Christianity has made substantial inroads, Diola religion remains dominant." (52)
Moreover, in Senegal, as elsewhere in Western "Africa", the traditional religion resisted islam up until its colonial period towards the end of the 19th christian century, (53) which is decades after the independence of Haiti. Here is a vèvè of Èzili Sinigal called "white woman". Does it include quadrilles from Koranic boards, or any other islamic symbol?

 (Vèvè of Èzili Sinigal, called "fanm blanch", "White Woman")
Source : Milo Rigaud. Ve-Ve : Diagrammes Rituels du Voudou. New York, 1974. p.218.

So nothing islamic to report in this vèvè of Èzili Sinigal. And that's quite normal, because during the precolonial period, only a thin layer of leaders had chosen islam, in "West Africa". (54) Thus, Haiti, being independent in 1804, and the importation of captives (slaves) being stopped there as of 1791, the Senegalese ethnic Nation or Nanchon Senegal was to be constituted mainly of Senegalese traditionalists.

5.1- The Senegalese and Arabic words

Scorning the cumbersome facts, pseudo-historians claim there is an islamic linguistic contribution from the members of Nanchon Senegal (called Sinigal, Senigal, Seneka, Senega, Senego, Sinigal, etc. in Haiti) :
"A mambo reports that the lwa Senego says "As salaam aleikum" and that the phrase "a salaam alay" occurs in songs for Kongo lwa. Joan Dayan reports that an houngan in the Bel Air district of Port-au-Prince greeted her with "Salam Alechem." When asked about the saluation he replied that it was lagaj: that is, the liturgical language that includes a host of words from West Africa (Dayan 1995 xv).
The first captives brought into St.-Domingue were from Islamicised polities in what is now Senegal. Many later arrivals were also from the several parts of Sub-Saharan African that had been Islamicised from the ninth century. Islam required literacy coupled with the concomitant virtues of memorizing and being able to write out the Qu'ran, venerated both as scripture and as holy object. Moreover, there was widespread use of combined algebraic, geometric and calligraphic elements in divinations and in the making of hatumere - the healing and protection amulets." (55)
The Senegalese were indeed among the first peoples dropped on the island of Hispaniola that now encompasses Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Still, it was during the Spaniard era that should not be confused with the late French colonization of the western portion of the island that was then abandoned for more than a century by the Spaniards. And when the French began importing captives (slaves) in Saint Domingue in 1679, among the first captives, there were "catches" from multiple countries, including Senegal. So, the Senegalese were not predominant in French Saint Domingue, as was the case in their initial importation into the Spanish part in the 16th christian century.
But, in the event that there were some Senegalese-islamic linguistic contribution, what was its weight and scope? Thin and superficial :
  • The speculation of an Arabic courtesy greeting : "Asala Malekum", if truthful, probably resulting from the contact of some Senegalese with the Moors, from whom a simple river separates.
  •  The addition of "Marchallah", a single magic word among the hundreds found in the inventory of magic, cabalistic, biblical and exotic words of Haitian traditionalists.
So, 2 small marginal arabic language entries, at most. That is much too weak of a contribution  to influence the course of a practice as rich as the Haitian ritual. Moreover, within the Haitian ritual, the Sinigal Nation or Nanchon, however predominantly traditionalist, only represents one of 21 Nanchon, or one of 101 Nanchon, or more.
The following vèvè, a small sample of the Haitian ritual, depicts the Nanchon Sinigal as one of 4 Nanchon combo that includes Petro blan (or Fran Petro), Kaplawou and Anmin.

(Vèvè for several sacred nations including Sinigal)
Source : Milo Rigaud. Ve-Ve : Diagrammes Rituels du Voudou. New York, 1974. p.534.

Moreover, this vèvè neglects the many other Nanchon such as Nago, Kongo, Dawomen, Ibo, Wangòl, etc. whose traditional contribution would have diluted a Senegalese muslim minority content.

5.1.1- Islam and writing in Senegal : the truth

We need to do a quick break down of islam and the spread of writing in black "Africa"; in Senegal more particularly. By propaganda, the revisionists love to associate islam with writing. They never miss an opportunity to show how much islamization spread writing among the Blacks. But, have we ever seen a revisionist detail the actual extent of the dispersion of the Arabic script? In their praise of "civilization-spreading" islam, they will never say that girls were excluded from education. Which automatically places more than half of a black islamized population in the illiterate column. And when we take the non-islamized (by default illiterate) into account, then we understand that at no time did islam spread writing to the majority of a black population.
Let's read what an author from the region said about the sources (plural) of writing in Senegal :
"Mais le Sénégal apparaît aussi comme une terre de synthèse où s’élabora pendant plusieurs siècles et s’élabore encore de nos jours une véritable symbiose culturelle, la culture de l’occident et celle de l’Orient arabe se mêlant à la sienne propre.
En effet, les influences arabo-islamiques, notamment celles des Almoravides à partir du XIIe siècle, après la destruction de l’empire du Ghana et les invasions qui s’ensuivirent en Afrique au sud du Sahara, puis, à partir des XVIIIe et XIXe siècles, celles de la conquête coloniale apportèrent l’écriture à une civilisation dominée par l’oralité, mais qui ne s’en exprimait pas moins à travers ses masques, ses oeuvres d’art, ses totems, ses objets du culte, ses monuments funéraires, ses pangols et ses bois sacrés." (56)
Translation :
"But Senegal also appears as a land of synthesis where has been developed for several centuries and is still developing today a true cultural symbiosis, the culture of the West and that of the Arab East mingling with his own.
Indeed, arab-islamic influences, especially those of the Almoravids from the twelfth century, after the destruction of the Ghana empire and the ensuing invasions in Sub-Saharan Africa, then, from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, those of the colonial conquest brought writing to a civilization dominated by orality, but which was not expressed any less through its masks, its works of art, its totems, its objects of worship, its funeral monuments, its pangols and sacred woods."
Thus, although islam brought writing to Senegal as early as in the 12th christian century, its dispersion was limited. It took seven centuries, the christian conquest of the 18th, but especially that of the 19th century, in order for writing to take hold in Senegal and elsewhere in West "Africa". And it was more or less after Haiti was independent.

5.2- The Senegalese Kingdom of Walo and the Wolof heritage

Usualy classified under the generic name "Senegalese", the presence of the Senegalese Wolof ethnic group was from time to time specified in the Saint Domingue communications. This runaway ad mentionned 3 Yolof fugitives :

"Julien, Alexandre & Cristophe, Nation Yolof, âgés d'environ 30 ans, étampés V. GUARIN, au-dessous NIPE, marrons du 18 du mois dernier ; on présume qu'ils pourraient être dans le quartier d'Acquin, ou dans celui du Fonds-des-Nègres, ayant traversé la montagne du Rochellois. En donner avis à la nommée Victoire Guarin, Q. L. Habitante à Nipes, à qui ils appartiennent, ou à M. Mouëssard, Habitant audit quartier; il y aura récompense." (57)
Translation :
"Julien, Alexandre & Cristophe, Yolof Nation, about 30 years of age, stamped V. GUARIN, underneath NIPE, marooned since the 18th of last month, presumably they could be in the Acquin neighborhood, or in that of Fonds-des-Neiges, having crossed the Rochellois mountain. Give notice to the said Victoire Guarin, Q. L. [Free Quarteron woman] Resident of Nipes, to whom they belong, or to Mr. Mouëssard, Living in this district, there will be a reward."
This Wolof presence has, of course, left strong marks in all spheres of Haitian life. On the linguistic level, the Wolof (traditional) language has played a crucial role in the structure of Haitian Creole :
  • To mark the plural, the Haitian will place "yo" after a word. This is a distortion of "you", one of the plural markers in the Wolof language. In which it is added after a word considered close in distance :
"Au pluriel, quelle que soit l'initiale du mot, l'article commence constamment par y, et l'on dit ya, yi, you, suivant que l'objet est éloigné, présent ou proche ; exemples : marreya, les ruisseaux éloignés ; mptithieyou, les oiseaux proches, etc., et toujours cet article est ajouté à la fin du mot." (58)
Translation :
"In the plural, whatever the word's initial, the article constantly begins with y, and we say ya, yi, you, depending on whether the object is distant, present, or near; examples: marreya, distant streams, mptithieyou, nearby birds, etc., and always this article is added at the end of the word."
  • Similarly, singular formation in Haitian Creole comes from Wolof, via the "la" and "a" ("lan", "an", or "nan") articles which are set after the word. (59)
  • Wolof also provided "ak", meaning "with" to Haitian Creole. (60) Some Haitians will say "ak" or "ake" to mean "with" or "and". 
  • Moreover, the Creole adverb "fèk" (or "fenk") derives from the Wolof "fèk" which indicates what has just happened. (61)
We could cite other Creole words of Wolof origin. But let's focus on Haitian religious linguistics. A limited number of Wolof words belong to the traditional Haitian lexicon. But these kept words are not trivial. They symbolize Wolof origin and identity, namely "Walo" and "Brak".

5.2.1 - Walo or Waalo

The Senegalese Kingdom of Walo, Waalo or Ouallo (1287-1855) was composed mainly of Wolofs and Fulanis. Although islamized on the surface since the 16th century, islam has spread in waves among the Wolofs. It penetrated the Wolof mass only during the 18th christian century, when, by this means, they sought protection from the slave trade. (62) Thus, since slavery did not reach the 19th century  in Saint Domingue, due to the Haitian Revolution, the majority of the Wolofs deported to this island were not yet muslims. These Wolofs still venerated their ancestral Deities, which they called Raab.

(The Kingdom of Waalo and the Serer and Wolof peoples)
Source : G. G. Beslier. Le Sénégal. L'Antiquité. Les Arabes et les Empires noirs. La Colonisation européenne du XIVe au XVIIe siècle. L'Ere négrière. Paris, 1935. p. 30. ;

At the heart of the Haitian ritual, one finds the word "Walo" or Wèlo. It is added to the name of several Lwa as an identity marker : Wida Walo, Agasou Wèlo, Ti Pyè Walo, etc. Here is the Lwa Ti Pyè Walo's vèvè in which nothing reflects islam :

(Vèvè for Ti Pyè Walo)
Source :  Milo Rigaud. Ve-Ve : Diagrammes Rituels du Voudou. New York, 1974. p.554.

5.2.2. - Brak, Barka, Barak, Brakè

This prison ad published on November 19, 1766 denotes a Senegalese captive (slave) named Barqua :

"Un Nègre Sénégalais, nommé Barqua, étampé P. PATRICOT, se disant appartenir à M. Patricot, habit. au Quartier-Morin" (63)
Translation :
"A Senegalese Negro, named Barqua, stamped P. PATRICOT, claiming to belong to M. Patricot, residing in Quartier-Morin."
Barqua (Barka), the name of this Senegalese captive (not to be confused with Baka, a Haitian word that designates a pygmy people of Central "Africa") is connected to Senegalese royalty :
"C'est du nom de Barka Mbôoj que procède le mot Barak désignant le souverain du Waalo. (...) Au Waalo notamment, après que le Seb ak Bawar a procédé à l'élection du barak (roi)..." (64)
Translation :
"It is from Barka Mbôoj's name that proceeds the word Barak which designates the ruler of Waalo (...) In Waalo particularly, after Seb ak Bawar proceeded to the election of the barak (king)..."
Thus, from the name of King Barka Mnôoj follows Barak or Brak, title of the Sovereign of the Senegalese Kingdoms of Waalo and Beffeche.

(Kingdom of  Walo (Ouaille) or Brak)
Source : Guillaume Deslisle : Sénégambia, 1707 ;

The King of Waalo was thus deified, a traditional practice, since the Haitian tradition will maintain the veneration of his title via Lwa Barak or Barako :

Èzili Je Wouj o, se yon Lwa Barak o
Mapou tonbe, kabrit manje fèy nan petwo
Adye, Ezili Je wouj o, si m pran w, m a devore w.

Translation :
Èzili Je Wouj oh, that's a Lwa Barak oh
The mapou tree has fallen, the goat eats the leaves in the petwo [rite]
Adye, Èzili Je Wouj oh, if I catch you, I will devour you.

As the sacred songs demonstrate, Barak is regularly linked with Èzili Je Wouj (Red-Eyed Ézili), a Lwa of Senegalese descent that symbolizes jealousy-filled love that redden eyes :

Barak, Barak o
M pa renmen yon fanm ki jalou twòp o
Men si m jwenn yon fanm ki jalou twòp pou Ézili Je Wouj
Barak, kondi m ale, anba bila.
Translation :
Barak, Barak oh
I don't like women that too jealous
But if I take a woman who is too jealous to Èzili Je Wouj's liking
Barak, send me to Bila.

This is one of the Vèvè for Èzili Je Wouj, Barak's partner. Still nothing islamic is detected :
 (Vèvè of Èzili Je Wouj linked to Barak)
Source : Milo Rigaud. Ve-Ve : Diagrammes Rituels du Voudou. New York, 1974. p..234.

To our knowledge, the Senegalese royal title is retained by the Haitian tradition only through 2 derivatives: Barak and Brakè. The Lwa Èzili Dantò (or Èzili Boran), belonging to the same family as Èzili Je Wouj, is the mother of Lwa/Jany Ti Jan Dantò, also called Jan Brakè. This is why we also associate "Yaye" with Èzili Dantò, a Senegalese word (Wolof) meaning "Mother"".
Here is a sacred song by Èzili Dantò that illustrates both her maternal status and her Senegalese filiation :

Yaye o, Yaye
Èzili kanpe nan baryè a, li pa sa antre.
Translation :
Yaye oh, Yaye
Èzili stands at the doorway, she can't enter.

Now, let's take a look at one of Èzili Dantò's Vèvè. Not the shadow of a muslim element on the horizon :

(Vèvè for Èzili Dantò linked with Yaye)
Source : Milo Rigaud. Ve-Ve : Diagrammes Rituels du Voudou. New York, 1974. p..226.

It should be noted that the Lwa/Jany Èzili Dantò and her offspring Tijan Dantò (or Tijan Brakè) precede the establishment of the Senegalese Kingdom of Walo (1287-1855). But we do not have the space to develop this point in this article.

5.3- Walo and the Senegalese Fulani heritage

The Fulani nomadic ethnic group (the Fulani Nation or Nanchon Foula in Haiti) lived in all the countries of West "Africa", including Senegal. As previously reported, a portion of the Senegalese Fulani was dropped in Saint Domingue, and are therefore included in both the Senegal and Fulani Nations (Nanchon Sinigal, Nanchon Foula).
Senegalese of Fulani ethnicity called Foula in Haiti, also contributed to the Haitian ritual. And this pre-islamic Nanchon Foula had Geno for Creator-God, and his Deities were called Ghimbala (Guimbala). And when a Ghimbala momentarily took possession of someone's body, the traditional Fulani (as much as those of the Haoussa ethnic group) said that the Ghimbala was "riding" his "horse", meaning the possessed person. This custom is retain in the Haitian ritual where we designate practitioners in trances as "chwal" (horse).
And just like the Dahomeans, the sacred Serpent was at the center of Fulani traditional worship. They venerated their sacred Serpent under the name of Tyanaba or Caanaba. Moreover, in West "Africa", the sacred Serpent symbolizes all the traditional pre-islamic cults. Whether it is the ancestral worship of the Dogons, Fulani or Hausa, since "an enormous serpent, mythical animal representing power in the Sahelian animist kingdoms." (Transl.) (65)
And Caanaba, this Fulani sacred Serpent is essential in fact. The following prehistoric frescoes illustrate the Tyanaba Serpent in relation to herds of the Fulani pastoral ethnic group :

(Frescoes of the Fulani's sacred Serpent (Tyanaba or Caanaba))
Source : Lhote H. "Les peintures pariétales d'époque bovidienne du Tassili. Éléments sur la magie et la religion." In: Journal de la Société des Africanistes, 1966, tome 36, fascicule 1. pp.7-28; doi : 10.3406/jafr.1966.1402

And the journey of the Fulani comes from the traces left by the primordial Serpent. According to the spiritual narrative of this nomadic people crossing "West Africa" with their precious flocks, during the creation of the world, the sacred Serpent Tyanaba (Caanaba) began his journey in Senegal, before resting at Lake Débo in Mali :

(Lake Débo, Mali)
Source :

Not surprisingly, on Lake Débo, the Haitian traditionalist is in familiar surroundings. Because, there we find, not only fishermen huts belonging to the Bozo ethnic group, called Bòzò in Haitian Creole, to signify "elegant"; but also, we can see a canoe (probably of a boatman of the Bozo ethnic group) decorated with an icon listed in the Haitian vèvè :

(Pirogue with traditional symbol on Lake Débo in Mali)
Source :!1s0xe3ec2c4150336cd%3A0xbe010d30bd5c61f5&hl=fr-CA&imagekey=!1e10!2sAF1QipPzgWv_2JXJ7wAAPWzyBpc3zRl_I7XBHTUHL3gU

Here are some vèvè making use of the same symbolism :

(Vèvè of Legba Atibon in Haiti)
Source : Milo Rigaud. Ve-Ve : Diagrammes Rituels du Voudou. New York, 1974. p.207.

(Vèvè of Kafou in Haiti)
Source : Milo Rigaud. Ve-Ve : Diagrammes Rituels du Voudou. New York, 1974. p.206.

(Vèvè for Kafou Man in Haiti)
Source : Milo Rigaud. Ve-Ve : Diagrammes Rituels du Voudou. New York, 1974. p.198.

We see that by exploring the Guimbala trail, these ancestral Deities of the Fulani (Senegalese or other), we remain in the traditionalist universe, and not in islam. Moreover, "Samba" (Sam-Ba), a popular Fulani first name, derives from the name of the sacred Cyanaba (Cyana-Ba) Snake. (66) And "Sanmba", in the Haitian language, describes a master traditional singer and/or a traditional high official. Finally, "Fulani" which is the name of this widespread nomadic people, comes from the word "Fullade" which, in their Pulaar language, means "to scatter, to disperse by blowing". (67) In traditional Haitian ritual, "Foula" retains the same meaning. It designates both the Foula (Fulani) ethnic group or sacred Nation, and the high officials' practice which is to "foula" liquids throughout the ancestral ceremonies.

5.4- The Serer and the Haitian ritual

The Serers of Senegal were among the captives (slaves) deported to Saint Domingue :

"Deux Négresses, nation Serrere, sans étampe, l'une nommée Lisette, âgée de 20 à 25 ans, ayant deux ou trois dents de manque à la machoire inférieure, jolie de figure, & l'autre nommée Julie, du même âge, ayant les oreilles déchirées en deux endroits, & des marques de son Pays sur la tempe, sont marones depuis le 10 de ce mois. Ceux qui les reconnaîtront, sont priés de les faire arrêter, & d'en donner avis à la nommée Marthe de Brache, Quarteronne libre, demeurant au Port-au-Prince." (68)
Translation :
"Two Negresses, Serrere Nation, unstamped, one named Lisette, between 20 and 25 years of age, with two or three missing teeth in the lower jaw, pretty in figure, and the other named Julie, of the same age, having ears torn in two places, and marks of her Country on the temple, are marooned since the 10th of this month, those who will recognize them, are asked to have them arrested, and to give notice to the said Marthe de Brache, Free Quarteron woman, living in Port-au-Prince."
The Serer ethnic group was particularly traditionalist, to the point that this was written about them as recently as in 1973 :
"Pour les Sérèr fidèles à leur vision traditionnelle du monde, et ce sont les plus nombreux, qu’ils soient animistes, musulmans ou chrétiens, l’univers est perçu comme un tout organique, à la fois visible et invisible. (...) Au monde invisible appartiennent tous les êtres d’ordre spirituel : Rôg Sèn, l’être suprême, maître de l’univers ; les Êtres spirituels intermédiaires entre Dieu et l’homme, et en particulier les Pangol, qui polarisent souvent la pensée religieuse et le culte religieux sérèr." (69)
Translation :
"For the Serer faithful to their traditional world view, and they are the most numerous, be they animist, muslim or christian, the universe is perceived as an organic whole, both visible and invisible. (...) In the invisible world belong all beings of spiritual order : Rôg Sèn, the supreme being, master of the universe ; the spiritual Beings intermediate between God and man, and in particular the Pangol, who often polarize religious thought and the Serer religious cult."
And these traditional Senegalese provided, among others, the Pangol cults (plural of Fangol). These Serer Deities, (named Pangòl in Haiti) are always honored in Haitian ancestral prayers. And the Pangol represent interlaced Serpents. So, just like Mbumba (Boumba in Haiti), the Sacred Rainbow Serpent of the Congolese Yombé group, Caanaba (or Tyanaba) of the Foula, Dan, Dambada and Aïdo Hwédo of the Dahomeans, they have a part in the creation of Haitian vèvè such as this one :
Source : Milo Rigaud. Ve-Ve : Diagrammes Rituels du Voudou. New York, 1974. p.176.

Here is the yoonir, the serer initiation star :

Source :

It is with the help of this same serer star that some Manbo and Houngan, these great traditional Haitian officiants, sign the vèvè which they finished drawing :
"Sign of the houn'gan, ordinarily seen at the base of the post-mitan."
Source : Milo Rigaud. La Tradition Voudoo et le Voudoo Haïtien. Paris, 1953. p.164.

It should known that Serer (illiterate in Western language) also signed their names with this yoonir star :
"Comme l'indique son nom en sereer, l'étoile de l'univers remplit une fonction de viatique. Elle est pour les Sereer un signe d'identificaction culturelle. Aujourd'hui encore, les Sereer qui ne savent pas écrire signent de cette étoile des documents officiels. [GRA 1990.]" (70)
Translation :
"As the sereer name indicates, the star of the universe fulfills a viaticum function, and for the Sereer it is a sign of cultural identification. Even today, the Sereer who do not know how to write sign official documents with this star [GRA 1990.]"
Here is this sacred Serer star in the heart of the Milokan vèvè (the symbol of all the Lwa) :
Source : Milo Rigaud. La Tradition Voudoo et le Voudoo Haïtien. Paris, 1953. p.165.

There we spotted the Serer star depicted in Souvenance, a renown traditional Haitian temple :

(The Serer Star in the Souvenance Temple in Gonaïves)
Source : Norluck Dorange. "Souvenance : entre le souvenir et la mémoire". In : Haïti en marche, du Mercredi 2 avril 2008, Vol. XXII, no 10, p.10.

Here we find the Serer star inside a Northern Haiti traditional temple :

(The Serer Star at Bambara Temple (Sosyete Pierre Dambara) in Cap Haïtien)
Source : "Entretien sur le Vodou haïtien" ; URL : ; Capture d'image: (00:04:53) ; (00:09:53)

As we can see, Nanchon Siniga's contribution to the Haitian religion was of a traditional and non-islamic nature.
And also note that this yoonir star means the "Companion" in Serer language. It is the Sirius star that "accompanies" the traveler or the mystic through its clarity. It has been venerated for thousands of years in "Africa" where the Dogons (from Mali) call it Sigi Tolo.

In addition, the Serer made use of this symbol :

This symbol, drawn on the ground on great occasions, this western author wrongly identifies it with the cross of St. Andrew :
"La croix de Saint-André : Tracée sur la terre, est un symbole de vie humaine, et ce signe est tracé dans les grandes circonstances." (71)
Translation :
"The cross of St. Andrew : Drawn on the soil, is a symbol of human life, and this sign is drawn on great circumstances."
In Haiti, the act of performing this serer symbol is called Kwasiyen (Croisigner) :
"Croisignin : Tracer une ou plusieurs croix sur le sol ou sur un objet rituel." (72)
Translation :
"Croisignin: Draw one or more crosses on the ground or on a ritual object."
IIt takes the form of an "X", like that of the Serer, or that of a "+", which was believed to stem from christian syncretism, but actually derived from yowa, the Congo sign (Lemba societies members) of the Crossroads, the perpetual movement of souls, etc. (73)  :

Translation :
"Thus signed on the ground : +"
Source : Milo Rigaud. La Tradition Voudoo et le Voudoo Haïtien. Paris, 1953. p.165.

(Vèvè kwasiyen or crossed in the Haitian ritual)
Source : Milo Rigaud. La Tradition Voudoo et le Voudoo Haïtien. Paris, 1953. p.178.

This next vèvè contains both the "X" and the "+",  thus 2 types of kwasiyen :

(Vèvè presenting the 2 forms of kwasiyen)
Source : Milo Rigaud. La Tradition Voudoo et le Voudoo Haïtien. Paris, 1953.p.381.


This exercise was intended to demonstrate that the icons contained in the Haitian vèvè drew their source from traditionalist "Africa". And we believe we have amply demonstrated it through tangible and verifiable evidence, not vile speculation or dishonorable schemes. We also insisted, in light of the evidence available, that the Muslim religion did not influence Haitian vèvè. And we also believe having demonstrating it.

* See Joseph Campbell, Bill Moyers. The Power of Myth. New York, 1991. pp.271-272.
** Gaou Deguenon, aka Gaou Ginou, the grandfather of Toussaint Louverture, was one of 2 military commanders during the capture of Savi in 1727. And he received 1 slave as a reward from King Agadja :
"Quant Agadja en apprit la nouvelle [la prise de Savi], à Allada, il organisa aussitôt une grande fête. Deux estrades en branchages furent construites; auprès d'elles s'agenouillèrent Migan, le premier ministre, et Gaou, le chef de guerre. Le roi remit solennellement un esclave à chacun d'eux, tandis que deux autres esclaves étaient envoyés auprès de nos pères, les prévenir dans l'au-delà du succès nouveau." (74)
Translation :
"When Agadja heard the news of Savi, he organized a big feast at Allada, and there were two bridging platforms, kneeling with Migan, the prime minister, and Gaou, the war chief. The king solemnly handed a slave to each of them, while two other slaves were sent to our fathers, to warn them in the beyond of the new success."
So the name "Gaou" was the title of Minister of War. And not that of a king, as the false historians spread it. The King of Dahomey was Agadja, and his successor was his son Tegbessu ; and so on. Toussaint Louverture certainly came from a noble line, but not a royal one. He is a native of Habitation Bréda, in Haut-du-Cap (Saint Domingue/Haiti), and not Allada in Benin, as some rapacious Beninese are constantly saying, in search of tourist income and the glory harshly acquired by the captives they once sold. It was therefore, as we mentioned, the father of Toussaint Louverture who was born in Allada. Not him.
*** Melville J. Herskovits (and Frances Herskovits), in Dahomean Narrative: A Cross-Cultural Analysis. Evanston, 1958. p.409., presented "Damballa Hwedo" within a Dahomean narrative. But that was only due to the influence of the Haitian ritual, with which he was familiar, for having published on it 21 years prior, in 1937.
**** See the reporting by RTI (Radio Télévision Ivoirienne) "‪Informel/Korhogo : le poulet et la pintade beaucoup prisés dans le Poro‬", by Charles Tatou and Issa Diallo, posted on January 3, 2017 ;  URL :
***** See "God and the Pintards." In : Zora Neale Hurston. Tell my horse : Voodoo and Life in Haiti and Jamaica. New York, 1990. (1st edition 1938). pp.259-261.

(1) Louis Maximilien. Le vodou haïtien: rite radas-canzo. Port-au-Prince, 1945. p.42.
(2) To make credible her unfounded and racist Amerindian revision, Maya Deren deliberately confused the ancestors of the Haitians with those of the Black Dominicans. She has arbitrarily push back the arrival date of the Haitians' ancestors from 1679 to 1510, thus 169 years earlier than the recorded facts. See Maya Deren. Divine horsemen : the living gods of Haiti. Kingston, 1983. p.64.
(3) LeGrace Benson. "Qismat of the Names of Allah in Haitian Vodou". In : Journal of Haitian Studies, Vol 8 No. 2, 2002. pp.160-164.
(4) Carl Gustav Jung. L'énergétique psychique. Genève, 1973. p.99.
(5) Claude Savary. La pensée symbolique des Fõ du Dahomey. (Thèse) Genève, 1976. p.174.
(6) LeGrace Benson. "Some Breton and Muslim Antecedent of Voudou Drapo". In : Textile Society of America Symposium Proceedings Paper 867. 1996. ; URL :
(7) Jean Kerboull. Le vaudou. Paris, 1973. pp.93-94 ; 152-153.
(8) Mgr. Paul Guérin. Les petits bollandistes vies des saints de l'Ancien et du Nouveau testaments. Vol. 16. Paris, 1882. p.183.
(9) LeGrace Benson. Ibid.
(10) Guérin Montilus. Dieux en Diaspora : les Loa Haitiens et les Vaudou du Royaume d"Allada (Bénin). Niamey, 1988. pp.85-86.
(11-12) Auguste Le Hérissé. L'ancien royaume du Dahomey, moeurs, religion, histoire. Paris, 1911. pp.127,  110.
(13-14)  LeGrace Benson. "Some Breton...". Op. Cit.
(15) Gerson Alexis. "Aperçu sur les Mandingues haïtiens." In : Lecture en anthropologie haïtienne. Port-au-Prince, 1970. p.185.
(16) Denis Creissels.  Lexique Mandinka-Français. Lyon,  2011. [Online] URL :
(17) Amadou Hampaté Ba. Aspects de la civilisation africaine : personne, culture, religion. Paris, 1972.
(18) Milo Rigaud. La Tradition Voudoo et le Voudoo Haïtien. Paris, 1953. p.94.
(19) See Jean Kerboull. Le Vaudou : Magie ou religion? Montreal, 1973. pp.230, 231, 236, 240, 242, 248 ; Jean Kerboull. Voodoo and Magic practices. London, 1978. (Trad.) p.42.
(20) Melville Jean Herskovits. Dahomey, an ancient West African Kingdom. New York, 1938. Arrière-couverture.
(21) Melville Jean Herskovits. Dahomey, an ancient West African Kingdom. New York, 1938. p.224-225. fig.34.
(22-24) Melville Jean Herskovits. Ibid. pp.31, 224, 229.
(25)  T. Fourche, H. Morlighem. Une Bible Noire. Bruxelles, 1973. p.126.
(26) LeGrace Benson. "Some Breton...". Op. Cit.
(27) Milo Rigaud. La Tradition... Op. Cit. p.273.
(29) Les Affiches Américaines of Saturday July 30, 1774. Issue No.30, p.357. ; URL :
(30) Source : Les Affiches Américaines of Saturday June 4, 1774.  Issue No.22, p.261 ; URL : =389
(31) LeGrace Benson. "Some Breton...". Op. Cit.
(32) Les Affiches Américaines of Wednesday December 28, 1774. Issue No.52, p.614. ; URL :
(33) Les Affiches Américaines of Wednesday January 30, 1771. Issue No.5, p.0. ; URL :
(34) Pascal James Imperato, Gavin H. Imperato. Historical Dictionary of Mali. Lanham. (4th Edition) 2008. p.266.
(35) A. Chartier. "Le Cercle des Tagouanas" In : ‪Renseignements coloniaux, No.11. In : L'Afrique française‬: ‪bulletin mensuel du Comité l'Afrique française et du Comité du Maroc‬, Volume 31. Paris, 1921. pp.249-274.
(36) A. Chartier. "Le Cercle des Tagouanas" In : ‪Renseignements coloniaux, No.12. In : L'Afrique française‬: ‪bulletin mensuel du Comité l'Afrique française et du Comité du Maroc‬, Volume 31. Paris, 1921. pp.282-290.
(37) Assi Agnissan Aubin. "L'introduction de l'élevage bovin chez les Tagbana (Sénoufo du Sud) de la Côte d'Ivoire." In : L'Union pour l'Etude de la Population Africaine. No.27, 1997. ; URL :
(38) Encyclopedia of African Peoples‬. ‪Routledge‬, ‪2013. p.184.
(39) Assi Agnissan Aubin. "L'introduction de l'élevage bovin chez les Tagbana (Sénoufo du Sud) de la Côte d'Ivoire." In : L'Union pour l'Etude de la Population Africaine. No.27, 1997. ; URL :
(40) A. Chartier. "Le Cercle des Tagouanas" In : ‪Renseignements coloniaux, No.12. In : L'Afrique française‬: ‪bulletin mensuel du Comité l'Afrique française et du Comité du Maroc‬, Volume 31. Paris, 1921. pp.282-290.
(41) Pierre André Guerrier. Pour une haiti moderne, Vol. I. Paris, 2008. p.246.
(42) See Françoise Diep, François Moïse Bamba. Aux origines du monde : Contes et légendes du Burkina-Faso. Paris, 2007.
(43) Coulibaly Shighata. "Cosmos Sénoufo et ethnographie d'objets d'art traditionnel Sénoufo, Côte d'Ivoire". [online] posted on July 19, 2016 ; URL : ; Retrieved January 8, 2018.
(44) Claire Polakott. Into Indigo : African Textiles and Dyeing Techniques. New York, 1980. ; Quoted by Ronke Luke-Boone. African Fabrics: Sewing Contemporary Fashion with Ethnic Flair. Iola, 2001. p.50.
(45) Marcelle Colardelle-Diarrassouba. Le lièvre et l'araignée dans les contes de l'Ouest africain. Paris, 1975. p.64.
(46) Brice Ahounou. Le coq et la pintade : Symbolisme et culture politique en Haïti. in: Problemes d'Amerique latine. Paris, 1992. p.9.
(47) Les Affiches Américaines of Thursday December 6, 1787. Issue No.97, p.613. ; URL :
(48) Les Affiches Américaines of Thursday December 23, 1790. Issue No.10, p.650. ; URL :
(49) See Les Affiches Américaines of Wednesday October 19, 1768. Issue No.42, p.343. ; URL :
(50) See Les Affiches Américaines of Wednesday June 11, 1777. Issue No.24, p.178. ; URL : ; France. "Interrogatoire de la Négresse Assam, du 27 septembre 1757. Extrait des minutes du greffe du Tribunal du Cap." AN, Arch. Col. C9A 102. Annexed in Carolyn E. Fick. The Making of Haiti: The Saint Domingue Revolution from Below. Knoxville, 1990. p.251.
(51) LeGrace Benson. "Some Breton...". Op. Cit.
(52) Robert M. Baum. A religious and social history of the Diola-Esulalu in pre-colonial Senegambia. (thèse), Yale, 1986. pp.6-7.
(53) Koumbouna Keïta. "Les religions traditionnelles et l'islam comme facteur d'intégration". In : Ethiopiques No. 57-58: Revue semestrielle de culture négro-africaine ; 1er et 2e semestres 1993. URL :
(54) Koumbouna Keïta. Ibid.
(55) LeGrace Benson. "Qismat...". Op. Cit.
(56) Mamadou Seyni M'Bengue. La politique culturelle au Sénégal. Paris, 1973. p.11.
(57) Les Affiches Américaines of Thursday December 6, 1787. Issue No.97, p.613. ; URL :
(58-59) Jean Dard. Dictionnaire Français-Wolof et Français-Bambara : suivi du dictionnaire Wolof. Paris, 1825. pp.xix, xviii-xx.
(60-61) Pierre Anglade. Inventaire étymologiques des termes créoles des Caraïbes d'origine africaine. Paris, 1998. pp.44, 98.
(62) Papa Samba Diop. Archéologie littéraire du roman sénégalais. Paris, 1995. p.48.
(63) Les Affiches américaines of Wednesday Nov. 19, 1766. Issue No.47, p.394. ;  URL :
(64) Papa Samba Diop. Op. Cit. pp.73, 127.
(65) Bernard Nantet. Dictionnaire d’Histoire et Civilisations africaines. Larousse, Paris, 1999. p.134.
(66) Oumar Niang. "Les patronymes fulbe (peuls) origine mythique et symbolique". [online] posted on November 25, 2017 ; URL : ; Retrieved on june 10, 2018.
(67) "Qui sont les Peuls?" [online] posted on August 19, 2011 ; URL : ; Retrieved on June 10, 2018.
(68) See Les Affiches Américaines of Wednesday Oct. 19, 1768. Issue No.42, p.343. ; URL :
(69) Henri Gravrand. "Le Symbolisme Serer". In : Psychopathologie africaine, 1973, IX, 2 : 237-265.
(70) Madiya, Clémentine Faïk-Nzuji. Le dit des signes :  ‪répertoire de symboles graphiques dans les cultures et les arts africains‬. Louvain, 1996. p.62.
(71) Henri Gravrand. Op. Cit.
(72) Milo Rigaud. La Tradition Voudoo et le Voudoo Haïtien. Paris, 1953. p.421.
(73) Robert Farris Thompson. Flash of the Spirit : African & Afro-American Art & Philosophy. New York, 1983. pp.108-110.
(74) Auguste Le Hérissé. L'ancien royaume du Dahomey, moeurs, religion, histoire. Paris, 1911. p.297.

How to cite this article:
Rodney Salnave. "Vèvè (ritual drawings) are not muslim".
Jan. 27, 2018; updated on June 11, 2018. [online] URL : ; Retrieved on [enter date]

Contact :
Twitter : @BwaKayIlMent

All rights reserved. No part of this web page may be reproduced, transmitted, sold, or given away in any form or by any graphic, electronic or mechanical means, including photocopying, recording, taping, scanning, or otherwise or by any information storage and retrieval system, or transmitted by email without the prior written permission from the author and/or administrator, except in the case of brief quotations for the purpose of presentations, articles or reviews. 

Copyright Ⓒ ASAOMEDIA, 2016-2018