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
Account of an experiment carried out in Senegal in
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
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
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
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
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.