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An American Vodou House

Sosyete du Marche, Inc’s Library

Loko Attisou: The Primal Houngan, Father of the Initiates

Loko_vevePapa Loko Atissou, is the Patron lwa of all houngans. In reglemen, he is honored after Legba and Marasa. Loko was the primary or first  houngan, and legend says he was a human who ascended to the status of  Lwa over time. Loko is also a tree that grows in Benin, Africa, and is  said to reach enormous heights, some 15 meters. Therefore, Loko is also  the Lwa of the Poto Mitan, the center post of the peristyle, where the  Lwa come down to be with the Vodou congregation.

Many songs in Vodou relate Loko to healing. He is also  said to be the wind that blows through a peristyle. As such, he hears  everything that happens - there is no lying under the tonnel of a  peristyle -- Papa Loko hears everything! This analogy to wind is also in all the songs - it is often said that Papa Loko blows through with  healing air. An interesting analogy to his breath of life that brings health and awareness to initiates.

It is Papa Loko who confers the asson, the beaded rattle  of priesthood to the Kanzo initiates. His symbols include the tree, the  poto mitan and the rooster. He is syncretized with St. Joseph as the  father figure, for he is the father of all kanzo initiates. Loko's colors are yellow and white, and he is often fetted on St. Joseph's feast day of March 19.stjoe_altar

I like the fact that New Orleans, a city of much Vodou and in dire need  of healing, has a large Italian population that marks March 19th with  traditional altars of bread and food for St. Joseph. Big, extravagant  spreads of breads, cakes and cookies, they are mean to invoke the  prosperity blessings of this popular Catholic saint. Even after Katrina, the St. Joseph’s day altars went up in tents and on street corners. So  powerful a presence is St. Joe, that even the devastation of the storm  could not stop the community from giving Him his altars of bread and  sweets.

Today in Haiti, Loko is still the preeminent Lwa of  healing. It is often stressed that the Kanzo initiation is the biggest  healing Loko does each year. Those who undergo its rigors -- and  survive it -- are a testament to the faith people place in this marvelous Lwa and saint.



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