Showcasing the art and ritual of the African and African-diaspora religions

Vodou Flag for the Goddess Lasirèn

Catalog Number: A055

Religion and Denomination: Rada (Haiti)
Transatlantic Family of Religion: Vodun
Country of Origin: Haiti
Ethnographic Origin: Haitian
Materials: Glass
Date of Manufacture: 01/2008
Usage: Ritual (used)
Detailed Description of Significance:

This is a Hatian Vodou flag for the Goddess Lasirèn, the lighter-skinned wife of the god of the sea, Agwe.  His darker-skinned wife is Labalène, or “The Whale.”

This flag has a light-blue synthetic satin border, signifying the watery character of Lasirèn [French]/Lasirenn [Kweyòl], or “The Mermaid.” The woman on the flag is the mermaid form of this goddess. Lasirenn is the goddess of the deep ocean and music, and is the equivalent of a Siren. It is said she is very powerful and can steal people away to her ocean domain. Her oceans are said to be the source of all knowledge, and she is also the mother of fish. There is a chant in Vodun that goes like this: Lasirenn, Labalenn, chapo tombe a lamer! It translates as: “La Sirenn, La Balenn, my hat falls into the sea!” Falling hats into the sea is code for going under possession. Your head “falls” into the sea of consciousness, where all the knowledge and  power of the world preside. As on this flag, Lasirenn is usually depicted with having light skin.

Hatian ritual flags like these used to only be created exclusively for Haitian Vodou priests. However, in the mid-late 20th century, they became popular in the international art market. This object was probably made for the export market and was purchased at the Nomad gift shop in Cambridge, MA.  However, it has been seemlessly integrated into the Vodou ceremonies held by Manbo Asogwe, or Chief Priestess, Marie Maude Evans at Professor Matory’s house in Durham, NC.  

Flagmakers imaginatively combine the standard iconography of each god with their own creative inspirations in order to evoke the power and qualities of the deities.