Saints: St Ulrich or St Raphael Arkanj
Colours: White and blue; sometimes gold and sea-green also
Agwe, the great admiral, is the spirit and personification of the sea. Frequently depicted as a “green eyed mulatto man”, he is wealthy and owns a great ship, Imamou, on which he and his crew sail across the waters. His veve, generally, takes the form of this very ship, and many Vodou temples feature a boat hanging from the ceiling in his honour. In possession he often sits on a chair and “rows” it about the area, referencing his nautical nature; one of his epithets is koki lanme, that is, ‘seashell’. In fact, a conch shell drilled out is often sounded as a horn to call him during ceremonies.
The saint images frequently given to him (in houses where they are used) are St Ulrich and St Raphael Arkanj, because both are portrayed holding fish–a fitting example of how an element in the image represents the lwa.
In Vodou we say that the dead go anba dlo (under the water) for a year and reside in Agwe’s palace with him; as the sea is the physical road home to Guinen (Africa) it also serves as a metaphor for movement into the spiritual realm of the lwa and the ancestors. Agwe, then, serves as a sort of psychopomp, that is, a guide for the souls of the departed.
There is an elaborate ceremony undertaken for Agwe in which a sort of raft, or bak Agwe, is constructed and loaded with offerings, which are then taken out into the sea. Maya Deren’s footage of this ceremony is part of her Divine Horsemen documentary.
Agwe’s wife is La Sirene, the mermaid who lives in the sea, but he is also said to be married to (or at least the lover of) Ezili Freda. He is a lwa frequently married by Vodouisants, and brings constancy and plenty.
Agwe is a beloved lwa, and anyone who lives near the sea can appreciate the richness he brings to one’s life. Offerings to him include nautical items such as shells, oars; champagne; coffee; rice boiled in milk; melons; cakes with icing in his colours; and so on.
Agwe, of course, is properly a family name, and there several variations of this lwa included under that name, including Agwe Towoyo, Agwe Woyo Mede, Agwe Vodoun Miwa, Agwe Woyo Azili Menfo, and many others.