Saints: St Joseph

Colours: Gold and green, white and gold in some houses

In the asson lineage of Haitian Vodou, every houngan and mambo asogwe has gone to see Papa Loko, the first priest, and received license from him to function at this rank. Loko is the guardian of form and procedure, subsumed under the name regleman in this form of Vodou. He can be stern when enforcing these rules and procedures, and has been known to come to a ceremony simply to correct an error or reprove someone who is slacking in even the slightest way.

Not only is he the master of ceremonial correctness, he is also an incredibly skilled medsen fey, or leaf doctor, and his knowledge of botanical cures is without equal. He is a mighty healer.

St Joseph is a common saint image associated with him as Joseph carries and cares for the infant Christ–a fitting image for Loko’s guardianship of the priesthood. Butterflies are also a common symbol for him, possibly because the transformation from caterpillar to butterfly reflects the change from simple person to initiate in the cocoon of the djevo.

As with the other Lwa, Loko is a sort of family name, and there are variations on this theme–Loko Atissou, Azagon Loko, Loko Miwa, and so on all falling into this family.

A common feast day for him is March 19th; as this falls two days after Dambala’s feast day, they are usually celebrated together.

There is a story about Loko, in which he was walking through Port-au-Prince one day, and shook beads from his hair. They were gathered up and used to string the first asson; when we as priests use the asson, we do well to remember Papa Loko, who makes priesthood and its challenges and rewards possible.