Damballah is one of the most important spirits in the Haitian and Louisiana Voodoo traditions. He is the creator of life and is referred to as the Sky Father. The deity takes a serpent form and created the cosmos by using his coils to form all the planets and stars and then shed his ski to create water. He also serves as the cosmic equilibrium, ruling both the mind and intellect.
“Damballah” by John Edgar Wideman tells the story of the slave Orion who openly rejects his white master. This disobedience ultimately ends in Orion’s death at the hands of his master, which a young boy on the plantation witnesses.
The title refers to the idea that slaves have their ancient traditions destroyed by their slavery as Christian culture is imposed on them by their slaveowners. As such, slaveowners and white Americans have robbed Africans not only of their bodies and physical agency but also of their spiritual and intellectual traditions. "Damballah" is a call back to that ancient tradition....
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