Saint Joseph Papa Loko is the first Houngan. He is the father of all Houngans and Mambos, and highly respected by all. It is he who confers the asson, the sacred rattle of the Vodou priesthood. He is the guardian of the peristyle, quite naturally being the premier Houngan himself. Salutes to Loko are of the most complex and beautiful, giving him all respect. Loko is extremely strict when it comes to tradition.
Sometimes, even when things are being executed correctly, Papa Loko will appear in possession, and not extremely happy. He can be harsh when he sees that things are not being done properly. He cannot tolerate injustice, and is quick to punish those who have done wrong. He is the master of ceremonies and always has the appropriate answer to any question. He is known as a just judge and is often called in to make decisions when something is being disputed.
He is a master herbal doctor and knows all of their properties for both healing and magic, good or ill. If a particular case or illness is extremely difficult, Loko is called by Houngans and Mambos to prescribe the cure. He passes much of his knowledge about leaves and herbs to Houngans and Mambos, thus we have many of the secrets of herbs for both healing and magic. It is often said that Loko is the wind, or like the wind. Thus he is able to hear anything he so desires. He is associated with the beautiful butterfly and no secret is unknown to him.
Loko is known to come from the royal lineage of Dahomey. His number is 41 which is a sacred Royal number back in Africa. Although this would seem to make his origins clear, it does not. The original Caribbean Indians, the Taino, also served an ancestral spirit known as Loko. This Loko was associated with a sacred tree, and Loko today is still associated with a sacred tree. Many times one can see a bag, just for Loko, hanging on a tree near a peristyle.
Loko is served by Houngans and Mambos. There would not be a reason for someone who is not a Houngan or Mambo to serve this Lwa, as he is the giver of the asson, and this is what will call him to attend to someone. If you haven’t “pran asson” – taken the asson – there would be no reason to call this great mystery. He is associated with the images of St. Joseph and the Angel Gabriel. His feast is on January 6th, the day of Kings, and on May 1st. He may also be feasted on the days associated with his Saint images. His colors are white, golden yellow, and light green. His sacred day is Wednesday, the same day associated with the Nagos.