Inv. SSI/vh-27629
Baron Samedi's Engajan

Item acquired by the Curator in July 1979
Origin: Port-au-Prince, Haïti


Portable voodoo sorcerer's kit containing a doll, coins, photographs, various offerings and a voodoo canary.


Account of an experiment carried out in Senegal in 1984.


In voodoo, the hougan (priest), an adept of black magic, makes an engajan (commitment) to a loa (spirit) of the Petro or Zobop family for an evil purpose. He can control a ti-bon-ange, a bodyless soul, an astral zombie, to pursue his victim. This spirit is also called a duppy.

After spending a good part of the afternoon lounging beneath the African sun, I decided to meet up with my friend Alioune Dyié, the man in charge of the bar at the Téranga hotel.

In 1984, Mary and I were given an opportunity to take part in a two-month physiotherapy training programme at the Le Dantec hospital in Dakar, Senegal. The programme was aimed more at my wife than me, but I was delighted to have the opportunity to renew my acquaintance with Africa, the land where I was born.
The hotel was located right on the ocean and I soon became friends with Alioune. My interest in magic and foreign cultures opens many doors.
Everyday we played vicious games of wari (awele), and would regularly visit the markets in the hidden corners of the city, where tourists never dare venture. He even took me to a sacred forest to have me accepted by the jinns before introducing me to his marabout.

When I reached the bar, I saw right away that my friend was very troubled by a problem. He told me that somebody was stealing money from the bar till and that if he didn't find the thief soon, he was very likely to lose his job. He suspected one of the five barmen, but did not know how to catch him red-handed.
I suggested catching the thief using a wanga, a spell cast with the help of a small dagyde (voodoo doll). An acquaintance from Haiti - Houngan Si Malin Cherchant, a bokor from the Bizango sect - had taught me the ritual.
I made a small doll out of black cloth filled with special herbs and a bit of tobacco, placed it on the table and invoked Papa Legba, guardian of the doorways and crossroads, and with whom I had long had a special link. In voodoo, it is always the first loa invoked by the wording: "Papa Legba, ouvri barriè pou nous passer! Maître Carrefour, ouvri barriè pou nous passer." ["Papa Legba, open the way for us to pass. Master Carrefour, open the way for us to pass."]
I then offered him a bit of tobacco and a little snack which he is partial to. Next, I traced out the veve of Baron Samedi, because we would certainly have to send a ti-bon-ange or an astral  zombie to the thief.

But we first had to find out who the thief was. To do that, my friend wrote the names of the five suspects on different pieces of paper which were then placed around the doll. I then picked up three pennies*, symbolising theft, which would later be used to 'buy' the avenging loa. Alioune placed them in front of the five extremities of the doll.
We now had to eliminate the four innocent suspects. To do this we used the ritual described by Mary Tomich in Pin-tagram plus, starting from the position where the three pennies had been placed. The name left over was indeed the barman who my friend suspected the most. Alioune, a good Muslim on the surface, but deeply animist underneath, looked at the doll with terror in his heart and eyes.
The avenging spirit was linked to the doll, which was then locked up in a till at the bar. I put it there myself, because my friend refused to touch it.
Two days later, the suspect was overcome by a fit of terror. He had been sent to the hospital emergency room and ended up in intensive care. He admitted that he was the thief.
Naturally, he was fired!

*To invoke an astral zombie, the bokor must pour some rum and place three coins on the grave of the deceased before calling upon him using Papa Legba's stick.