Maman Brigitte is one of the loa (or lwa, spirits) in religious practices of Haitian Voudon and Louisiana Voodoo. While the loa are considered to be intermediaries between humanity and Bondye, the supreme deity of these religions, I do view Maman Brigitte as an aspect of the Divine Feminine, and, thus, Her spotlight here.
Lover of Bones, Lady of the Cemetery, Maman Brigitte (also known as Grand Maman Brigitte, Manman Brijit, or Manman Brigit) is a divine matriarch, protectress, and one of the Guédé (the death-spirits). She is wife to Baron Samedi, Lord of the Cemetery, and, like the rest of this family of spirits, uses profanities in both word and action. However, She is not a loa to be dismissed due to Her obscenities; rather, Maman Brigitte is one of the most powerful, offering protection to graveyards and to the dead. In Haiti, She is called upon when the first woman is buried in a cemetery, and is mistress to the deceased.
Sometimes seen as a Corpse Bride, Maman Brigitte calls upon us to face both our mortality and our ancestral lines. We are far removed from death in today’s Western society, with the dying often hidden away in hospices and hospitals, and the funerary rites enacted by undertakers and embalmers, rather than by family members and loved ones. What can we truly know of death if we are distanced from it? What do we understand by decay and decomposition if we do not experience it? How can we mourn fully if we are separated from our beloved dead within hours of their passing? Equally, what do we know of our ancestry? Can we trace our lines back through our matriarchal or paternal lineages? What about our spiritual lineages? How much do we really know about those who came before us, our Beloved Dead, and how they lived and died? Can we look their deaths in the eye? What about our own?
In these instances, Maman Brigitte is the quintessential mother, She who guides and nurtures, protects and cares. A loa of liminal space, She stands at the threshold, welcoming our spirits into the land of the dead as much as cradling our earthly remains. As such, She can be petitioned for aid when undergoing transitions of any form, but particularly physical or spiritual death, or when faced with bereavement and loss. She encourages us to respect death, and to understand its sacred place in our society, rather than hold it at arms length and/or be afraid of it.
Maman Brigitte is also the loa of money, and thus can also be called upon for help in financial matters, especially those of probates and wills. Again, She commands that we fully understand and respect the sacredness of these transactions. That said, Maman Brigitte can be just as lewd and irreverent as Baron Samedi, especially when we find ourselves taking matters too seriously — again, standing in the liminal space between the two — and sometimes steals His top hat and cane for Her own enjoyment. She enjoys rum mixed with hot peppers, both as a libation and as an anointment, resonates with the colours of purple, black, and white, and Her dances are legendary. Those who would prefer to connect solely with Her more light-hearted side would be wise to exert caution: Maman Brigitte does not suffer fools gladly, and She is forthright and plain in Her speech.
While some may associate Maman Brigitte with other Goddesses connected to the graveyard, such as the Yorùbá òrìsà, Oyà, or even the Celtic Brighid, with whom She shares both the roots of Her name and the art of healing (particularly in relation to the final healing of all), Maman Brigitte carries an altogether different energy. Neither can She be considered as “equivalent” to Ladies of the Underworld, such as Persephone or Hekate, for Her role is that of transitions, and of protecting the graveyards and the interred remains, rather than overseeing the Underworld (or land of the dead) itself. She will exact punishment on those who fail to respect or tend to the deceased, and can be aggressive in righting such transgressions.
As She is a female loa who is very much in control of Her own power, as well as truly understanding the act and function of death, Maman Brigitte holds Her own destiny in the palm of Her hand. She encourages us to reach out, and take hold of our own destinies, rather than “going with the flow”, and thus living (and loving) life while we can. An aspect of the Divine Feminine who is not to be feared, Maman Brigitte offers to us the chance to face our deaths head-on, as well as to truly embody and adore our own bones. And, at the end, She will love them for us.
Alvarado, D. (2011). Voodoo Hoodoo Spellbook. San Fransisco: Red Wheel/Weiser, pp.27-28, p.38, p.46, pp.48-49, p.61, p.251.
Ann, M., and Imel, D. M. (1993). Goddesses in World Mythology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, p.23.
Métraux, A. (1972). Voodoo in Haiti. Translated from the French, by H. Charteris. New York: Schocken Books. (Originally published in 1959).
Mihaltses, B. M. (2012). Gathering for Goddess. Schertz: Feminine Divine Works, pp.477-495.
Monaghan, P. (2014). Encyclopedia of Goddesses and Heroines (Revised Edition). Novato: New World Library, p.24.
Tann, M. C. (2012). Haitian Voodoo: An Introduction to Haiti’s Indigenous Spiritual Tradition. Woodbury: Llewellyn, p.120.
Note: On a fairly regular basis, I’ll randomly select a Goddess to talk about here on the blog. Want to know more? I’ll share some of my personal thoughts and experiences with this aspect of the Divine Feminine in the next instalment of my monthly newsletter, Reflections. You can sign up below (and when you do, you’ll get a link to my eBook, “My Personal Favourite Vibrational Essences”, straight to your inbox.)