Who are the Lwa of Vodou? Although they are often taken to be gods, they are not. In Vodou, there is only one God, and the Mysteries which serve under Him/Her/It, or however you choose to define Deity.
The Lwa of Vodou are many things - energy patterns long establish through prayer and ritual; entities that once were human; spirits that have never had corporeal bodies. Think of them as the Ancestors of the human race, elevated to the status of Lwa or Saints. The Catholic church continues to elevate simple human beings to supernatural status every year. Here in Philadelphia, we have the great Lwa Mother Katherine Drexel. She's a saint by definition of the Church, but a lwa by any other name. People pray to her and serve her by going to mass, holding pieces of her clothing against their bodies and asking her to effect cures for them or family. Hmmm...sounds like a Vodou Lwa to me!
Folks who come to Vodou often want to work with the main Lwa of the Rada or Petro pantheons; I tell my students, start with your family Lwa first. When they look at me like I am crazy, I gently remind them that all Vodousant serve their family lwa first - their ancestors. Bring your Great Grandmother her favorite drink regularly to your ancestor altar, and watch her go to work for you! Bring your family into your circle, and they will always reward you.
It's not unlike making friends. Would you approach a stranger on the street and ask for their help, or would you go to someone more familiar? Family is even a better bet - after all, they have a vested interest in you succeeding. It makes them look good by vicarious association. The Lwa of Vodou are much the same.
The other major mistake is to think of the Lwa as didactic in nature - good or bad, easy or hard. The groupings are not a reflection of their natures, per se -- but are the indication of their African origin. Rada spirits come from the West African coastline, and include the tribal affiliations of Arada, Dahomey, Senegal and Ibo. The Kongo nation of spirits are from the Congo. Petro is the name given to the spirits who were born on the island of Haiti - Dantor, Ti-Jean Petro. Think of nations as ‚Äústyles of servingÄĚ - for instance, Ogoun is served both in the Rada nation as Ogoun but also in the Petro Nation as Ogoun Feray. Another way of thinking about - if the American ambassador went to Japan, they would fet him Japanese style. He would still be an American. So Ogoun is Ogoun - but in Rada service, we work one way and in Petro service, we work another. That is why one doesn’t just pick a Lwa and wing it - there is a right and a wrong way to do the work. Practicing Vodou is a lifetime of work, understanding and growth. The Lwa are here to help, but we must make the effort to approach it correctly.
I've listed here the main players of the various nations. Again, there are many, many variations on a theme, but these are some of the primary energies one encounters in Vodou work.