By Rachele Viard
All Saints Day and All Souls Day, celebrated on Nov. 1 and Nov. 2, are important days in Haiti, particularly for those who practice Vodou. On Nov. 2 many practitioners flocked to cemeteries throughout Haiti bringing with them offerings of food, dark rum, as well as, candles to commemorate the country’s Vodou Festival of the Dead Fête Guédé.
At the Port-au-Prince national cemetery, priests and priestesses gathered all dressed in white at what is believed to be the oldest grave. It is at this site that they beckon Baron Samedi, one of the loas, or spirits, of Haitian Vodou. Baron Samedi is a loa of the dead, and the guardian of cemeteries.
During the ceremony Vodou practitioners danced, others fell into trances, and placed food before the cross to serve the dead and then shared a meal.
Other Haitians commemorated the day by remembering dead relatives. The Day of the Dead combines elements of Christianity with Vodou practices and coincides with All Souls’ Day, an occasion to remember the deceased and pray for the souls of those in purgatory, according to Catholic tradition. Many celebrants go to church before heading to cemeteries.
Voodoo a religion brought to Haiti by slaves centuries ago, is a blend of African spirituality with Christianity and is not only practiced in Haiti, but also in many parts of the Caribbean, Brazil, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Ghana, Togo, Benin, and Nigeria.