Haitians celebrate Festival of the Dead
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Dressed in black, white and purple, revelers in Haiti visit cemeteries during the country's annual Fete Gede, or the Festival of the Dead.
The celebration of spirits, which is often held during the first two days of November, coincides with the Roman Catholic festivities of All Saints' Day.
It's an intricate affair.
During the festival, believers dress up as Gede spirits known as “Loas” and say they become possessed by those who hear their prayers and provide favors to members of their congregation.
“The Gede spirit has manifested in my head for 30 years,” says Atesi Auguste, who sells fried food in the streets of Cite Soleil, one of the most crowded, poorest and violent slums on the outskirts of the capital.
Auguste and her husband, Raynold Alexandre, are well known voodoo priests in the slum, and three of their six children are priests, too.
Every year during the celebration, they paint their faces with white powder, wear special clothes and walk through the shantytown's narrow pathways to pay tribute to the spirits.
They also drink and wash their faces, eyes and even genitals with a mixture of rum and hot chili peppers, and offer coffee, food, rum, music and dances to their deceased loved ones and Baron Samedi, the ruler of the graveyard.
Among all the Loas, Baron Samedi is one of the most respected and is said to be the protector of children and last hope for the sick. He is often depicted drinking alcohol, smoking tobacco and following young women in a provocative manner.
Mimose Bernard, a 44-year-old believer, performs voodoo rituals for other residents in the slum from the beginning of October to Nov. 2. She says Baron Samedi is a good spirit who helped protect her with good health and good luck.
“I remember that I was 10 years old when I first invoked the Gede spirit,” said Bernard, who lives with her child in a tiny home built from old metal sheets.
By DIEU NALIO CHERY, Associated Press