Saints: Varies according to house, but often Saint Expedite (pictured), Saint Gabriel Arkanj, Saint Martin de Porres, or others

Colours: White, black, purple

Of all the lwa found in Haitian Vodou, Bawon is likely the best known outside of the religion, although frequently conflated in terms of iconography with other Ghede, his appearance in the James Bond classic Live and Let Die being but one example.

Bawon is a class of spirits, who are not Ghede per se, but something else altogether; within this class we find Bawons LaKwa, Simitiye, Pikant, Loran, Loray, Zile, and so on. Each of these iterations has a slightly different focus, purpose, and role to play. The Bawons are also arbiters and judges and are frequently petitioned to right wrongs, however, like the Nago lwa, one would be well advised to ensure one is in the right before calling on them for aid. They will find out who is innocent and who is not.

Vodou is an ancestral religion in which we venerate, elevate, and care for our ancestors. However there are “unclaimed” dead, many of whom are gathered into the Ghede nachon (more correctly, the fanmi, as the Ghede are better thought of as a family rather than a nation) by Bawon and his wife, Gran Brijit. Each cemetery has its own Bawon; this is the first man buried in it, and that Bawon can be found at that grave, which in Haiti is generally marked by a large cross.

As with the spirits of the dead, Bawon is a powerful healer, and it is said that if he refuses to dig a person’s grave, that person will not die. His reputation as a worker of magi comes from his patronage of secret societies in Haiti. Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier used imagery and accoutrements associated with the Ghede, around which he based his cult of personality.

Bawon’s possessions don’t tend to follow the standard stereotype of the Ghede (raucous laughter, filthy jokes, etc) that non-Vodouisants assume, at least in my own lineage. Instead, when he appears, he lies on the floor and is attired like a corpse in the Haitian fashion.

Objects and items associated with Bawon include skulls, grave digging implements, piman (kleren in which hot peppers have been steeped for a lengthy period), cigarettes, extremely spicy food, boujis in his colours, and so on. As with the Ghede nachon, he is celebrated at Fet Ghede, in early November.