Loas are a part of the Vodun pantheon; they are spirits that are part of one’s metaphysical consciousness and come into play whenever called on from the realm in which they exist.
In other words, one has to be conscious believers (Voduists) of their (Loas) spiritual existence to be in contact with their energy. Once their energy is manifested, Loas come into existence as supernatural beings or spirits that can enter the human body.
Azaka, Azake, Mazaka, Papa Zaka, Mede, Kouzin, or Couzen came into existence after the Haitian Revolution when enslaved Africans were allowed to own land.
The origin of Azaka’s name is thought to be pre-Columbian, from the indigenous Taino Indian language stemming from zada, meaning corn, or maza, meaning maize.
Azaka is mainly depicted as male, although some scholars say that this Loa is also female. Similarly, Azaka is said to only exist in a “good” form. However, it has also been exposed as having a “fiery” (Azaka La Flambo) side.
Mainly, Loas functions in whatever gender or form in which humans place them. Loas are neither positive nor negative. However, they have been used by human beings for good deeds, such as renewing balance and harmony in one’s life, or for bad deeds, such as hurting someone who is unprotected.
Azaka remains a steady representation in Vodun religion as the spiritual connection between humanity and land, hence the titles of “Patron Loa of Farmers” and “Minister of Agriculture.”
As the patron Loa of farmers, workers, and laborers, Azaka functions as a reminder of a shared inheritance—of peasant ancestry, family ties, and a profound relationship with the Earth.
Azaka, spirit of the land, nurtures the seeds and tills the Earth. It is from Azaka, the Loa, that one can learn about the abundance of steady labor and its possible fecundity.
Azaka is humble in its knowledge of Earthly possibilities and is therefore always depicted as shy, yet representative as strongly symbolic of the human spiritual and physical roots.
Loas may show their character by possessing, riding, or mounting people who may call on them. While being mounted by a Loa, one may find oneself capable of participating in acts and speaking in tones that are unusual for them in a spiritless state. Hence, if one is ridden by Azaka La Flambo, one may find oneself experiencing an insatiable hunger for sex and food.
Azaka La Flambo works with the fire of creative imagination by smoking a pipe from which figures appear within the puffs of smoke. Azaka La Flambo handles what the Earthgives (i.e., lava) and uses that to take from the infinite darkness, the metaphysical and the unseen, to create images and sounds that tell of the human experience via myths and stories.
No matter the creative outcome of Azaka, whether called on as female or male, good or fiery, Azaka Mede, the deity of agriculture, will answer when provided with specifics exclusive to its character.
When one is calling on Azaka, one will wear blue (denim suit or dress) and red (neckerchief) and a straw hat; a sack (makout), machete, or sickle; provide foods such as corn of various varieties and forms, cassava bread, sugar cane, rice and beans, tobacco, herbs, cereal, and rum; draw a veve’ (symbolic drawing) during a ceremony; as well as make ritual statements on an altar with an image representative of Azaka, such as the Catholic image of St. Isadore.
When Azaka arrives, one develops a long appetite for food and begins to walk with a limp, representative of carrying a large workload. One also begins to mimic movements reflective of hoeing and digging.
It is said that the Loa Azaka requires all of this (colors, symbols, offerings, and image) to help those who call on it to comprehend the honest, sincere reality of working hard to earn a fruitful harvest in their life.
The quality of working hard to produce a fruitful harvest is what gives Azaka, the Loa, the title of Minister (Mede) of Agriculture, focusing on the significance of its role in the Vodun community, particularly in Haiti.
Neither Azaka nor the practice of Vodun is exclusive to the Haitian community because Vodun includes elements from other African people such as Kongo, Mandingo, Ibo, Yoruba, and Mondong, along with aspects of the religion of the Arawaks, Freemasonry and Catholicism. Also known as Kouzen Zaka, Azaka is identified as the cousin or brother of the common person.
Further, Loa is referred to as fle’Vodou (flower and quintessence of Vodou) and lewa (the king). Fle’ Vodou and Lewa, Azaka, the Loa, and the entire Vodun religion were suppressed temporarily by people attempting to oppress practitioners in parts of Africa, Brazil, and the Americas (North, South, and Central).
Vodun was suspect and vilified by Europeans who made every attempt to eliminate its existence and practice. Voduists were skinned alive, hung, flogged, and imprisoned and had their instruments of practice (drums, flags, clothes, assons—calabash covered with special beads with a bell tied to it) destroyed.
Hence, the association with Saints of the Catholic religion as Voduists maintained their practice under their guise. Azaka is identified with Saint Isador of the Catholic religion because this is the patron saint of farmers; he wears blue pants and a cape with a sack slung over one shoulder as he kneels in prayer and an angel behind him plows the land with a pair of white oxen. Azaka, the Loa, is celebrated and affiliated with Labor Day in Haiti (May 1).
Scheub, Harold – A dictionary of African mythology : the mythmaker as storyteller
Molefi Kete Asante, Ana Mazama – Encyclopedia of African Religion
Knappert, Jan – African mythology : an encyclopedia of myth and legend
Monagha, Patricia – New Book Of Goddesses & Heroines
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