Haitian Vodou and Saint Patrick

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Before there were Shamrock Shakes, before there was even a Saint, there was a man we call Patrick. He said that he had been stolen into slavery across a western sea and then, years later, escaped back across the sea to freedom.¬† A real person in 5th century Europe, he has since become encrusted in North Atlantic myths and traditions that we know well – shamrocks and snakes and more. Less well-known is that enslaved Africans, ripped from their homes and brought to Haiti to labor for French Catholics, with their religion outlawed, adopted Saint Patrick, equating him with the serpent spirit Danbala while demonstrating outward compliance with their captors’ imposed religion.

As we reflect on transformation and change, the inspired syncretism of Haiti reminds us that humans find their way to meaning under even the worst circumstances, and that we can find the inspiration we need to sustain ourselves if we are willing to seek it out.