Maman & her Origins
“Okay, so…” Jaz wandered over to the table and sat down, getting comfortable. “There’s lots of theories about Maman, buuuuuuuuuuut…short answer: Maman Brigitte, as you probably read, is an adaptation, or incorporation, of St. Brigid of Ireland into folk belief. An Irish saint is less of a stretch to become a Loa than you’d think, really, considering that her legend claims she was born into slavery herself.”
“Through her devotion and so forth, she gained her freedom and became the patron saint of, well…the displaced, really. Men and women, but mostly women and children. All the women who wouldn’t fit into society, and their children - bastards, abused children, the abandoned. She is the mother-protector to those who literally have no hearth and home, no protection of their own.”
She took a sip of coffee. “When indentured servants came to the Caribbean, they brought St. Brigid with them, this patroness of the displaced, and she was integrated into the native populations, who’d been enslaved by the same types that held the indentures. So in a way, she became this common theme between the two populations. In literary terms, she became an Everywoman, the mother and protector of all.”
“The one thing you’ll usually always see is her red hair, or a red scarf - something red, because of her association to Ireland, primarily, but also because miracles attributed to her originally sometimes had red associated with them. It’s likely that the saint was an incarnation of an existing goddess worshipped by the celts, a figure associated with fire, already several hundred years old, at the very least.”
“So, what you are seeing, I think quite literally, are all the faces that Brigid has worn over the millennia. Both as a representative of those without faces, but also as an ancient. She is a figure who is at least two thousand years old, maybe older. She’s evolved, time and time again, but the one thing that remains constant is that association of red as her color. Does that make sense?”
Ava put her elbows on the table and sipped her coffee, “Yeah, that makes sense.” Her speech was low and thoughtful. That came a little too close to home. Was it a coincidence? Probably not, she reflected.
She made a quick glance around the table, then asked, “So red is a good thing to keep in common, that helps a great deal. Are there any other commonalities among them? I think I remember her saying something about rum and cigars, too…”
“Well, the basic parallels are there, of course - their background, the miracles they perform, who reveres them…but they do diverge significantly on one point.” Jaz grinned. “St. Brigid is notoriously a virgin; Maman Brigitte is most definitely not.”
Ava grinned broadly, “So, she lost her virginity in the Caribbean then, huh? Decided she liked the wild side of life?”
She considered, her eye catching David in her peripheral vision, “What about her relationship with the other Loa? Did they all come about the same way?”
“The Loa come in families, essentially,” Jaz said to Ava. “In the case of Maman Brigitte, we’re talking about the Ghede, of which she and the Barons are the parents, you might say. There’s a lot of different variations, and it really depends on the strain of Voudou or Hoodoo you follow, but Papa Ghede is syncronous with Baron Samedi, who is the patriarch. Baron Cimitiere, Baron de la Croix and Baron Kriminel are sometimes considered aspects of Baron Samedi or Papa Ghede, but Maman is the sole female figure.”
“The rest of the Ghede, of which Nibo is just one, are not strictly their children, but they are gathered under Baron and Maman’s protection. Some are syncretized with saints, some are folk figures. Maman is probably, well, not probably - she is the most ancient of them all.”
Ava filed away that little bit about ‘children’ with a distinct level of smug amusement. She didn’t show it, of course. Her spiritual family was starting to sound a lot like heractual family. Rowdy, prone to fuck with each other, but when the chips were down, they protected each other like no one’s business.
She looked at David sideways, wondering if he fit that equation. She trusted Eric more than him, and she hadn’t laid out much trust at all, yet.
Turning her eyes back to Jazmyn she glanced at Rafe, then said, “A Catholic priest once told me that when things were bad… really bad… most people preferred to turn to Mary instead of Jesus, or God… because she was closer to humanity, she was more forgiving, and she’d petition the others on your behalf. Kind of like running to mom when dad’s being a dick…”
She smiled and took a sip of her coffee, “So, then, if Maman is many things… that means I can draw from an assortment of different traditions and religions, the same way voodoun is made up of bits and pieces of everything?”
“To some extent, yes.” Jaz got up to refill her own mug. “Certain key components need to be there - the rum, the cigar, the pepper, the sexuality, the veneration for protection and guidance. Those are the immutable facets of her personality. Everything else, though? Up for interpretation.”
Ava raised an eyebrow, “The rum, cigar, and sex I get… the pepper… not so much.”
“There’s a lot of speculation about the origins of the pepper, but the most generally agreed-upon school of thought is that pepper was/is a way of proving that the spirits are something more than human.”
“The Guede family rub hot peppers on their skin, drink pepper rub, eat the peppers…it’s sort of the ultimate double-dare, in a way.”
“It’s also a handy way to tell the fakers from the real thing. People would claim to be ridden by the Loa, saying they were speaking with their voices, and so forth. Ingesting the peppers was a way of making sure that the posession was real, you know? After all, if you can’t handle something the spirit does all the time, the spirit obviously can’t be working through you.”
She smirked. “Maman Brigitte would take it to a new level, though. She rubs the pepper on her lady bits, laughing the entire time. That became the ultimate test of her possession - you can learn to drink the rum, you can desensitive your skin…but it’s hard to remain perfectly still and calm with a Caribbean Red on your clit.”