Marasa Elou: Marasa, twins and uncanny children in Haitian Vodou


McGee A. Marasa Elou: Marasa, twins and uncanny children in Haitian Vodou. In: Gemini and the Sacred: Twins and Twinship in Religion and Myth. London: I.B. Taurus ; 2013.


During the first half of the twentieth century, the Marasa were the subject of considerable scholarly attention. Bearing obvious connections to African twin cults, devotion to the Marasa was seen as strong evidence for the survival of African practices in the Americas. In subsequent decades, as scholarly interests shifted, the Marasa received less academic attention. Nonetheless, the Marasa remain a central component of the religious lives of Vodouisants, particularly for those who are twins, triplets, or for people in families with multiple or unusual births. Marasa is an entire family of spirits—parents, siblings, ancestors, spirits of unbaptized children, and allied unusual people—that in its complexity has often confused outsiders. Careful examination of the Marasa, their mirror-like qualities and merging of many existential states—living, dead, one, many—provides insight into the ways that Vodouisants believe that the spiritual world interacts with the physical world. The Marasa are renowned for their power as healers. However, their strength as healers is equaled by their power to afflict misery, a source of anxiety and crisis for parents saddled with the task of raising powerful and cantankerous twins. Only through regular ritual action and the careful observance of taboos can this existentially perilous condition be managed with success. But to those who enjoy their favor, the Marasa bestow good fortune, economic prosperity, spiritual power, and insight into the secret workings of the world of the spirits.

Last updated on 11/15/2013