My Boutey Vodou: Boutey for Gede



Glass bottle, yarn, newspaper, fabric, ribbons

This bottle is dedicated to the playful vodou lwa of death, sex, and children: Gede. Meant to visually allude to the child-like way he treats sex in most of his common depictions. The top of the bottle is supposed to allude to his zozo, his staff he carries around that has a penis attached to the top of it. This bottle is meant to present both death and sex as concepts that are not necessarily as serious as they are treated in daily society.

In my Shaking the Spirit class, we explored the Haitian Vodou, as well as Vodou in contemporary American settings, such as in New Orleans. Through this exploration, I have learned many things about Vodou, like the idea that is a separate belief system that is commonly applied to Christianity, meaning that many of the individuals who practice vodou, are also Christian. Another important fact would be that many common pop-culture depictions of Vodou and its practices in contemporary media are based on misconceptions. An example of one of these misconceptions would be the vodou doll, as we have learned that nowhere in any form of vodou exists a vodou doll as they are depicted in media. Although there are concepts/practices in Vodou that can be misinterpreted into the concept of vodou dolls. For our main project in the class, we explored one of these concepts, that being the Boutey Vodou, a.k.a. a vodou spirit bottle.

It is a common practice in vodou to use recycled alcohol bottles, and decorate them. This is usually done so as an offering to a specific Lwa, a vodou spirit. They do, however, have other uses as well, as they might be made in Wanga/Pwen, which are bottles made to concentrate symbolic meaning and communicate a message. There are several other reasons these bottles are made as vodou is a very flexible system of belief, and every individual can make of it as they see fit in their daily lives, but the main focus of a Boutey Vodou is to visually honor the beliefs of its creator. So, for our project for the class, we each were instructed to create a Boutey Vodou of our own. We were given creative freedom to have our Boutey Vodous represent whatever vodou concept we wanted, and were also allowed to decorate them as we pleased. I decided that I would make my Boutey Vodou an offering bottle, and in specific, an offering bottle to my personal favorite Lwa, Papa Gede.

To understand the choices I made in creating my Boutey Vodou, one must first understand Gede, and what he represents in Vodou. Gede is the patron vodou spirit ofDeath, sex, and children. Now this may sound like a strange combination of jurisdictions, but trust me, once you understand Gede’s personality, it will all make a lot more sense. Gede is commonly depicted in Vodou art and narratives as a tricky and playful spirit. Although he rules over very mature concepts like death and sex, his outlook on those concepts are very child-like in nature. An example of this would be his Zozo, which is a cane that Gede is often seen carrying which includes a penis on the tip of it. He often waves It around, and even shoves it into people’s faces. This is the reason why the top of my Boutey Vodou is very phallic. I wanted to be playful and “in your face” about the sex aspect of Gede, and I wanted to emulate his child-like outlook on the subject. You’re supposed to find it funny, or even feel discomforted by it. I feel that if my bottle has that effect, then I’m honoring Gede in the right way. Gede is also often symbolized by skulls, and since human remains are quite expensive, I decided to just draw a skull onto the fabric on the bottle, the fabric being one of Gede’s signature colors, purple. Gede’s main jurisdiction is death, so the skull reminds those seeing it of death, and make it a more open concept to his followers. Gede wants people to not fear death, and accept it as an inevitability, which is why he takes a very playful attitude towards death. Gede’s playfulness connects to his jurisdiction over children, as Gede likes to protect innocence, but also likes to apply that child-like innocence to adulthood as well. It’s hard to see, but I also put a newspaper clipping on the back of my bottle. The clipping is a picture of a man floating in a very spiritual pose. If you look at it at the right angle, it looks like the man is floating inside the bottle. This is supposed to depict Gede as a part of my bottle, being that he himself is in my Boutey Vodou, floating there, ready to deliver his lessons on sex and death. All in all, Gede teaches us to not be so serious about those concepts, as there is more to life than just worrying about them day in and day out, which is why I chose to honor Gede in my Boutey Vodou.

One thought on “My Boutey Vodou: Boutey for Gede

  1. Taylor Dancer

    I find it fascinating the way in which they are so casual about the subject of sex. In the west we tend to be very strict and serious when it comes to rules regarding sex. I wrote about a Chinese minority known as the Mosuo, they are matrilineal and do not practice marriage or monogamy in the traditional sense. Sexual relationships could last for one night or for someone’s entire life. Either is acceptable. I find that this rejection of traditional practice around sex to be fascinating. I would be curious to know how the rest of the culture views this god and the casual nature with which he deals with sex.


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