The Baron is seen as the ultimate father of the Gede nation in Haitian Vodou. The Gedes are large, unruly class of spirits who are the often unknown, unreclaimed, and usually uncared for dead. It takes a big energy to control all those spirits and that job falls to The Baron. Although he has several names and avatars like Baron Simitye (cemetery) or Baron Samedi, he is in fact, simply The Baron. The cemetery is where the dead reside, as heard in this song:
Simitye-a, o ple moun-yo.
Baron mande-o tout moun ki la yo, si se Bondje'k mete-o?
The Cemetery, oh it is full of people
Baron asks if all those people are there by God's will?
The cemetery is a magical place. Being the crossroads of both the living and the dead, it is a deep well of immense power, danger, and magic. Here lie the ancestors, with all their knowledge and all the power of the dead at their finger tips. Here is where we come to gather this knowledge, because it so ready and available. Here is the domain of the Baron.
Traditionally, the grave of the first male buried in a cemetery is considered to be the location of the Baron's grave. Why? Well, as the oldest grave, the occupant has had access to each and every person buried in the grave yard. If we think of the cemetery as a large community of souls, then this first person is the gate keeper, the sign post and the most respected. Not just for his age, but because he's been there the longest! He's seen it all, and as such, knows everything.
In Haitian Vodou, the Baron is often called the Father of the Gedes. How many times have you passed an old cemetery, with the grass over grown, weeds sprouting and no flowers in site? Those dead are long forgotten, left to fend for themselves. But the Baron is still there, waiting, watching, gathering information and time. The forgotten dead are called Gede, and they answer only to the oldest occupant of the graveyard, the Baron.
I find it funny that people today assume the Baron's personality, the black clothing, the dark brooding attitude. It's as if being a gothic groupie some how makes the assumption of the Baron's form more palatable. The Baron is beyond caring, beyond our simple rules and reasons. He is like Father Time - timeless, ageless. Married to Maman Brigit, together they rule over the dead, making way for their multitude of children to have egress into this world.
Baron is syncretized with St. Martin de Porres, the Catholic saint shown with the sick and dying in the background. He likes fiery rum, laced with hot peppers, unfiltered cigarettes and ancestral foods like strong cold coffee, white bread, popcorn and peanuts. His veve is comprised of the cross, the coffin and the spade, all symbols of the dead and of graveyards. Listen for him in the still of the night, as steel shovels hit hard packed earth.