1999: Lwa Sect Descripitions

Dear Children of the Spirits:

The key to our community and performance this year will be circles of initiation and the secrets they guard. In order to be initiated into the various circles, you must express which Lwa sect most resonates with your inner spirit. All members of the opera will ask one of the Playa Lwa to be their protege, even if they join a special task group such as the Ounsi (sacred to LEGBA) or the Acolytes (LOKO).

Like last year, each of the five sects will have a rich organizational and spiritual community of thier own and all special "characters" in the opera will be drawn from these sects. Furthermore, once you are inside you will begin receiving the secrets and developing your own. This PLAYA LWA GUIDE is only the starting point, designed to help align kindred souls and avoid overlap in the stunning visual impacts and unique communities we will be able to create if we start clearly. But once you have gathered...then your personal and collective creativity becomes the process and your personal and collective issues become the subject. Beyond the initiation into Playa Voodoo open to all opera participants, each sect will develop their own rite of initiation for admission into their secret circle.

Once you read this, invite the Lwas to draw near during your dreams, and then declare loudly to the opera email list which one has chosen you, attracts you, or stirs within you. From there the circles will be drawn.

Please note: In each section, you will find something called "Rudran Correlation". This refers to last year's opera. It is placed here to help those of you familiar with the opera last year to choose your LwaSect more clearly. If you are not familiar with last year's opera, don't be confused. Simply disregard the "Rudran Correlation".



2 pure LWAs...who are never disguised in the opera:


Based upon the intertwining rainbow serpents of Haitian (and many other mythos) these two water snakes represent the Native Land and Water. The green snake people of Dambala, the Dambalim, are never disguised in the opera, since they always maintain spiritual contact to the Playa. They wear little other than green mud, though they carry and are adorned with natural rattles and beads. They also represent natural harmony between the sexes are are very down to earth in every way.

Rudran correlation: this is a mixture between the water goddess aspects of the Phlegmatics (without the media issues) and the nature aspect of the Sanguines (without the aggressive wildness in animal skins)...The Damballim are cooly seductive, strong, and natural.


Just as the Haitian origin represents farming, the foundation of their society, our playa Lwa protects the twin foundations of the opera: building and drumming. Clad in denim, giant straw hats, and smoking various substances out of a corncob pipe, protegés of AZAKA, the Azakim, build and mud the opera towers before Burning Man or drum at the nightly playa voodoo ceremonies.

Amongst them, we hope to have a Drumming Theme Camp as part of our village, in which people learn African/Haitian drumming on the giant drums built by our own Professor Rubik (embaark@aol.com) but also on the set of Sacred Haitian Voodoo Drums carried out of the Haitian jungle on the backs of the newly initiated Houngans: Pepe (pepeozan@burningmanopera.org), Twan (http://home.earthlink.net/~twann), and Christopher (christopher@burningmanopera.org.

Rudran correlation: This sect honors by combining two important but unsung groups from last year, the Holy Drummers Ensemble and the builders and mudders who have worked so many wonders over the years.

3 LWAS DE MYSTERE: who will appear cloaked in a disguise in Act 1 of the opera, adding a further layer to their character.


As in Haiti, she represents the seemingly contradictory aspects of not only the virgin in white and but also the ultimate sex goddess, on the playa the Ezilim will also glorify the complex images of femininity and romance. As opposed to the naked Dambalim, she wears veils and lingerie...white kinky bridalwear that both enhances her considerable charms and feigns beguiling modesty.

Rudran correlation: This sect represents a unique challenge to women who dare to deal with their own issues of beauty, romance, feminity, and spirituality in a very provocative and intense way. It naturally beckons to the Divadassis...but to other Divas as well, whether from the Phlegmatic Goddesses or from other lands. It will be fascinating to see how this group of very special performers can work together (it will be smaller than the other sects...but still larger than the 8 or so Divadassis last year).

OGOUN: Just as in Haiti, the soldiers of OGOUN wear red, drink rum, and like to brandish both fire and weapons.

Rudran correlation: This sect combines the firey energy of the Cholerics...but it is more macho and aggressive...capturing some of the wilder Sanguine energy.



This group of Lwas represent a unique Haitian twist upon death cults. Possibly since death is such a commonplace reality in their society, it has become much more integrated into life...and so the Guede represent the sophisticated city folk who show up fashionably late, get drunk, smoke fat cigars, and joke and dance obscenely. They wear black sunglasses and stuff cotton in their ears and their black and purple often bears skull motifs.

Within the Guede, however there are both masters, like the formal, top-hatted dandy Bawon Samedi and his wife Gran Brigit (originally Celtic, she is a fascinatig cross between Kali, the sacred prostitute, and Elvira), and their slaves the zombies. We will fully explore this unique psychosocial relationship.

Rudran correlation: Although superficially they may look like the Melancholics, and they do share many symbols and issues, but their energy is perhaps closer to that of the good people from the Temple of Atonement, whom we plan to formally invite as collaborators in this sect.

2 META-LWAs of the two special task groups:


The old beggar, protector of the gates, the village, and the ceremony, LEGBA presides over the group of singers, the OUNSI, who will rehearse voodoo songs for two days in SF and then drive directly to the Playa, where they will live communally and lead the nightly drumming and dancing ceremonies and assist with the initiations and opera preparations.They will also sing and dance in the final performance.

If you would like to join the Ounsi, you do not have to be a professional singer, you just have to be able to carry a tune and sing it loud and strong while dancing for an hour or two every night. But most importantly you have to be the kind of person who relishes the opportunity to build and nurture a spiritual community from within and can commit to the entire rehearsal and playa time. Furthermore, since they will be supporting the rest of the opera so much, we will seek the opera’s support in supplies or other areas that can make the financial challenge of BM lighter for those who wish to help as Ounsi.


At the core of Le Mystère de Papa Loko, lies the initiation of novices into the secrets of each concentric circle. Symbolized by the butterfly of rebirth and manifesting himself as the wind, LOKO protects the GUEVO, the sacred initiation hut which stands next to the opera temenos out on the playa. In order to fully initiate any who choose into the Playa Voodoo community, the ACOLYTES will install and indoctrinate a new group of novices each night at midnight. Different Acolytes will be responsible for different parts of the initiation structure and process, but when the novices emerge the next morning, most will have spent their most memorable and intense night on the playa.

Although some Acolytes will be in the Ounsi, in general it does not require the full time commitment, as there are many valuable ways (utilizing various building, performing, and research skills) to help this noble endeavor.

Our own Mayor of Bucktown (mayorofbucktown@hotmail.com), will coordinate this exciting group both in the pre-playa development of rituals, the preparation and execution of the Guevo and its initiations, and the various stage roles in the final performance..This year a "priest" in the opera will be a functional role and not just a costume.

May the LWAs visit you tonite. Your brothers and sisters await your declaration of intent.