Flags are ritual objects in vodou; they are sacred and valuable. Each flag represents a lwa and symbolizes that spirit‘s power. Every vodou temple has at least two flags: one for a Rada lwa and one for a Petro lwa, whose opposing powers (hot and cold) must be equalized.
The flags are kept in the altar room. The sword master (la-place), who is an important master of ceremonies at the temple, and two female flag bearers carry the flags in solemn ceremony into the péristyle. The three of them begin the ritual by performing complex dance steps, in the course of which the flags greet the principal members of the vodou community. They also greet the corners of the temple and the Poteau mitan, the sacred post in the centre. As elsewhere in vodou, there is considerable freedom regarding the illustrations on the flags.
Yet, the symbols of the lwa, such as Danmbala‘s serpent and Erzulie‘s heart, and their accompanying signs (vévé), are specific and also appear on the flags.
© Photo: Haupt & Binder
The belief in Iwa; vodou temples and altars. Flags, figures and other ritual objects and their use in the cult.