Sacred Snakes + St. Patrick : The Voodoo Connection

Damballa flag featuring Aida and Erzulie at Haiti Cultural Exchange, Brooklyn. Photo by Lilith Dorsey. All rights reserved.
Damballa flag featuring Aida the sacred snakes, and Erzulie at Haiti Cultural Exchange, Brooklyn. Photo by Lilith Dorsey. All rights reserved.

Everyone knows the story about St. Patrick driving the snakes from Ireland. Not many people know about the Voodoo loa Damballa, father, creator, and wise man in white who is often depicted as St. Patrick. At least one reason for this was the imagery associated with St. Patrick. Since Damballa is a sacred serpent, the snakes on the Catholic lithograph were used by practitioners to represent this loa. This provided both good cover for the actual practices, and a readily available source of images.

However the mythology surrounding these sacred snakes goes back to way before anyone ever heard of St. Patrick.  Damballa “created the world. He used his 7,000 coils to form the stars and the planets in the heavens and to shape the hills and valleys on earth. He used lightning bolts to forge metals and make the sacred rocks and stones. When he shed his skin he created all the waters on the earth. And when the sun showed through mist settling on the plants and trees a rainbow was born. Her name was Ayida Wedo. Danbala loved her and made her his wife. They are still together today, the serpent and the rainbow. Danbala and Ayida Wedo.”

Together Damballa and Aida Wedo represent the sacred process of creation from birth to limitless possibility. They show us where we have come from, and where we can go. Viewed as creators of our modern existence, they intertwine, meet, mix, and meander throughout the lands of the world. Joined together like the earth and the sky they embody, they are never apart. Very often they are honored on March 17, also known as St. Patrick’s Day.

Sacred Snakes Now and Always

It isn’t just tradition that reveres Damballa and Aida Wedo. They have been embraced by modern culture as well, as in the Drapo flag pictured above, and in the Video from the popular Haitian group RAM. Through their Rara music that “has roots in the voodoo religion where music plays a crucial role in spiritual practices,” they have been providing audiences with a modern experience for over 20 years.

RAM – Damballa

Have a Blessed St. Patrick’s Day, and if you enjoy what you read here please remember to share, share, share !

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