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In 64 AD, a great fire broke out in Rome for six days and devastated much of the city. According to the writer Tacitus, “Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace.” The “abominations” committed by the early Christians were said to be cannibalism and incest, based on rumors circulating in Rome at that time which stemmed from a misunderstanding of the Eucharist.
This episode in the history of the early Church shows how easily a religion, especially a relatively secretive one, can be misunderstood and misrepresented. A similar case can perhaps be seen in the religion known as Voodoo (also known as Vodou or Voudon).
For many, the word ‘Voodoo’ conjures up images of magical dolls with pins stuck in them to inflict pain on one’s enemies and the resurrection of the dead as zombies. These images are the result of the misrepresentation of Voodoo by popular culture, and do not accurately represent Voodoo as understood by its practitioners.
Most people associate Voodoo with pin-filled dolls, designed to inflict pain on a cursed individual.
What are the Beliefs of Voodoo?
Voudon refers to "a whole assortment of cultural elements: personal creeds and practices, including an elaborate system of folk medical practices ; a system of ethics transmitted across generations [including] proverbs, stories, songs, and folklore... voudon is more than belief; it is a way of life," wrote Leslie Desmangles, a Haitian professor at Hartford's Trinity College in "The Encyclopedia of the Paranormal" (Prometheus Books, 1996). “Voudon teaches belief in a supreme being called Bondye, an unknowable and uninvolved creator god,” reports Live Science , and explains:
“Voudon believers worship many spirits (called loa or Iwa), each one of whom is responsible for a specific domain or part of life. So, for example, if you are a farmer you might give praise and offerings to the spirit of agriculture; if you are suffering from unrequited love, you would praise or leave offerings for Erzulie Freda, the spirit of love, and so on. In addition to helping (or impeding) human affairs, loa can also manifest themselves by possessing the bodies of their worshipers. Followers of voudon also believe in a universal energy and a soul that can leave the body during dreams and spirit possession.”
Voodoo paraphernalia, Akodessawa Fetish Market, Lomé, Togo . ( sarlay /Adobe Stock)
The History of Voodoo
Although the exact origins of Voodoo are unknown, it is generally agreed that this religion has its roots in West Africa. Modern day Benin is regarded as the birthplace of this religion, and the name ‘Voodoo’ itself means ‘spirit’ in the local Fon language.
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It has been suggested that Voodoo in West Africa evolved from the ancient traditions of ancestor worship and animism. The forms of Voodoo practiced today, however, are the results of one of the most inhumane episodes in modern history – the African slave trade that took place between the 16th and 19th centuries.
Zangbeto, a voodoo guardian of the peace under Yoruba religious belief. Zangbeto traditionally served as an informal police service to enforce the peace in rural Benin. ( pauli197 /Adobe Stock)
When African slaves were brought to the Americas to work on plantations, they brought Voodoo with them. Their white masters, however, had other plans regarding the religious practices of their slaves. A 1685 law, for instance, prohibited the practice of African religions, and required all masters to Christianize their slaves within eight days of their arrival in Haiti.
Although the slaves accepted Roman Catholicism, they did not give up their traditional beliefs either. Instead, the old and the new were syncretized, producing some unique results. Many of the Catholic saints were identified with traditional Voodoo lwas (spirits) or held a double meaning for the practitioners of Voodoo. For instance, in Haitian Voodoo , St. Peter is recognized as Papa Legba, the gatekeeper of the spirit world, while St. Patrick is associated with Dumballah, the snake lwa.
Although African slaves were brought to Haiti and New Orleans about the same time, i.e. the 1720s, the development of Voodoo practices in each area is quite different. In Haiti, Voodoo became a force that gave strength to and sustained the slaves through their hardships and suffering. Between 1791 and 1804, a series of slave revolts inspired by Voodoo practice culminated in the expelling of the French from Haiti.
The Spread of Voodoo Practices
The colonists who survived fled to New Orleans, some accompanied by their French-speaking slaves who were Voodoo practitioners. It is from these new arrivals that Voodoo began to grow in New Orleans . Although Voodoo was practiced in that part of the United States prior to 1791, it was not as strong a force as in Haiti, and it was brutally suppressed each time it emerged. It was only in the 19th century that Voodoo practices in New Orleans were codified by the enigmatic Marie Laveau.
Portrait of Marie Laveau, allegedly d. 1888.
Voodoo has since spread to other African nations, the Caribbean, as well as North and South America. In Benin and Haiti, Voodoo is now officially recognized as a religion. Nevertheless, Voodoo is still a rather misunderstood religion due to its inaccurate portrayal by the media.
Instead of associating this religion with zombies and Voodoo dolls, we should perhaps take the time to better understand Voodoo, and view it as a way of life or a set of guiding principles held by its believers.
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Vodou, also spelled Voodoo, Voudou, Vodun, or French Vaudou, a traditional Afro-Haitian religion. Vodou represents a syncretism of the West African Vodun religion and Roman Catholicism by the descendants of the Dahomean, Kongo, Yoruba, and other ethnic groups who had been enslaved and transported to colonial Saint-Domingue (as Haiti was known then) and partly Christianized by Roman Catholic missionaries in the 16th and 17th centuries. The word Vodou means “spirit” or “deity” in the Fon language of the African kingdom of Dahomey (now Benin).
Vodou is a worldview encompassing philosophy, medicine, justice, and religion. Its fundamental principle is that everything is spirit. Humans are spirits who inhabit the visible world. The unseen world is populated by lwa (spirits), mystè (mysteries), anvizib (the invisibles), zanj (angels), and the spirits of ancestors and the recently deceased. All these spirits are believed to live in a mythic land called Ginen, a cosmic “Africa.” The God of the Christian Bible is understood to be the creator of both the universe and the spirits the spirits were made by God to help him govern humanity and the natural world.
The primary goal and activity of Vodou is to sevi lwa (“serve the spirits”)—to offer prayers and perform various devotional rites directed at God and particular spirits in return for health, protection, and favour. Spirit possession plays an important role in Afro-Haitian religion, as it does in many other world religions. During religious rites, believers sometimes enter a trancelike state in which the devotee may eat and drink, perform stylized dances, give supernaturally inspired advice to people, or perform medical cures or special physical feats these acts exhibit the incarnate presence of the lwa within the entranced devotee. Vodou ritual activity (e.g., prayer, song, dance, and gesture) is aimed at refining and restoring balance and energy in relationships between people and between people and the spirits of the unseen world.
Vodou is an oral tradition practiced by extended families that inherit familial spirits, along with the necessary devotional practices, from their elders. In the cities, local hierarchies of priestesses or priests (manbo and oungan), “children of the spirits” (ounsi), and ritual drummers (ountògi) comprise more formal “societies” or “congregations” (sosyete). In these congregations, knowledge is passed on through a ritual of initiation (kanzo) in which the body becomes the site of spiritual transformation. There is some regional difference in ritual practice across Haiti, and branches of the religion include Rada, Daome, Ibo, Nago, Dereal, Manding, Petwo, and Kongo. There is no centralized hierarchy, no single leader, and no official spokesperson, but various groups sometimes attempt to create such official structures. There are also secret societies, called Bizango or Sanpwèl, that perform a religio-juridical function.
A calendar of ritual feasts, syncretized with the Roman Catholic calendar, provides the yearly rhythm of religious practice. Important lwa are celebrated on saints’ days (for example: Ogou on St. James’s Day, July 25 Ezili Danto on the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, July 16 Danbala on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17 and the spirits of the ancestors on All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, November 1 and November 2). Many other familial feasts (for the sacred children, for the poor, for particular ancestors) as well as initiations and funerary rituals occur throughout the year.
The Origin of VodunMap of Benin Map of forest by Kevi
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About our authorMeme Vlafonou
Mémé VLAFONOU is a loving mother of seven children, Marie, Madeleine, Luc, Martin, Victoire, Raphaël and Galbert. She was born into a polygamous family. When she was an adolescent, her mother told her the tale about the Origin of the Vodun. Mémé VLAFONOU wants to pass on her Beninese culture to younger generations. Mémé VLAFONOU likes to watch her children and grandchildren grow over the years. Meme VLAFONOU speaks three languages including Mahi, Fongbe and Nago. Mahi is her mother tongue.
About Polygamy in West Africa
Polygamy, and in this case polygyny, is the practice of one husband having multiple wives. In 2004, West African law prohibited this practice but has done little in preventing polygyny. Historically speaking, the women who were raised in the parts of Africa that have been essential to the agriculture community have a less likelihood of being involved in polygamy families. This is because women who are actively working in agriculture are viewed as somewhat of an equal. It is important to note that the polygamous marriages that were conducted prior to 2004 are still honored. In some cases, polygyny relationships that are forbidden can be maintained with a tax-like structure, but not always. Polygamous relationships are sometimes promoted in religion but often it could be practiced because of the lack of eligible males in a country. According to anthropologists, countries with higher disease rates often have more polygamous relationships prevalent. An underlying rationale to this phenomenon, is to give birth to as many children as they can since many of the children may pass away due to disease. Therefore, outlawing polygamy does not prove to lower these types of marriages. Polygamy is the norm in West Africa and is often looked as a strong familial support system. Children are looked after by not just their biological mother but also their father’s other wives. Wives often become close family members who share the goal of raising healthy and prosperous children. Men are often pressured to uphold polygamous relationships even if they themselves are not too keen on the idea. Societal pressures to have multiple wives is buried in the idea that those who are wealthy should have more wives. Often time the first wife is under the impression that she will be the only wife. Some wives are content with this idea because they do not have to feel pressured by all the responsibilities while other wives do not like this practice.
The author of a few of our storybooks are either from families with polygamous relationships or currently in them. Their situations make them who they are regarding how they raise their children, both their biological one and the ones from their polygamous family.
Images From Our StoryHunter meets Yexue Hunter shoots Yexue Hunter in Village Dog Judith
As humans, we identify ourselves upon a variety of beliefs and values. Among these identities is often a religion – be it Christianity, Islam, Judaism or Vodou (sometimes referred to as Voodoo in popular Western contexts, though it is the less preferable spelling). What is different among these religions is the lens upon which each is viewed. Many power dynamics are at play where religion exists. Our Benin folktale, told by Meme Vlofonou, centers on the history and origin of Vodou and to understand the story it is important to understand a bit of the history and diaspora of Vodou in Africa, Haiti and the United States.
With the history of the transatlantic slave trade came another history that changed the culture of many places. The movement of ideas, customs and beliefs created a diaspora of people when those ideas mixed with the local beliefs. Specific to this topic, there was also a movement of spirituality. According to Saumya Arya Haas’s article “What is Voodoo? Understanding a Misunderstood Religion,” Vodou has no written text and when practiced in the America’s, is thought to be a combination of Catholicism, Native American Traditions, and African beliefs. Haas points out that this religion looks different in different parts of the globe – as most religions do. She says Vodou “is community-centered and supports individual experience, empowerment and responsibility.” This is very different from the popular conversation in the “Western” world and it is important to make this distinction before carrying on.
What is the responsibility of the mainstream media and places like Hollywood to represent topics that are sacred to others in a realistic way? At the moment, there is still a lack of respect in much of the public representations of Vodou. One example to start the conversation is the article “Black Savagery and “Voodoo” Horror at Universal Studio’s Bayou of Blood,” also written by Haas. She discusses her disappointment in the Universal Studio’s film about her religion and she discusses a letter she wrote to their office addressing this concern. She explains that they appreciated her concern, but their view on the topic comes with an assumption that the audience has the means and know-how to rise above these stereotypes and that they realize that this is fiction rather than fact. This is not a fair claim due to the repetitive nature of the misinformation of the Vodou religion that most Western audience’s experience and with a lack of personal experience.
So basically what we ask of you, as an audience of this folktale, is to realize the misrepresentation of the religion of Vodou (if you hadn’t already) and enjoy some of the rich history and artistry of its roots. This story would often be told orally and would be passed down through the generations. Our partners in Benin have taken photographs and drawn pictures to enhance the text and we are all excited to be a part of this project.
A very special thank you to Karishma Kumar, Anna Garwood, Megan Villone, Hanna Beck Sawyer, and Terry Wright for their work in compiling the storybook, the Three Sisters Education Fund. The folktales of tradition, culture and love were written by these talented individuals: Madame VLAFONOU, Meme VLAFONOU, Madame Angele AFFOVOH (Maman Rosine), Maman Rachelle AGBAKA, and Donald LINKOU.
Thank you to all the following individuals on their hard work. Our illustrator Madame Anie Gandoto SEMASSOUSSI, our photographer’s Madame Judith VLAFONOU, Marcy Hessling O’Neil, and Florence OLOUBAI. The models to help explain the culture Linette ADJINATA, Sandra ADJINATA and our staff and assistants in Benin Madame Sandrine CHIKOU, Mlle Nikki Ayouba WOROU.
Also thank you to the Peace and Justice Studies program at Michigan State University as well as LEADR for their support.
Voodoo In New Orleans Today
Hoodoo is a non-religious belief in the objects of Voodoo, or gris gris. Gandolfo likens it to a belief that a four-leaf clover is lucky. New Orleans has had a long line of famous hoodoo practitioners and shops, and people here still talk about spells that use images of saints, chicken feet, graveyard dust, brick dust, gunpowder, pins and needles, candles and incense.
Photo provided by Cheryl Gerber
Origins of Voodoo
Voodoo is a derivative of the world's oldest known religions which have been around in Africa since the beginning of human civilization. Some conservative estimates these civilizations and religions to be over 10 000 years old. This then identify Voodoo as probably the best example of African syncretism in the Americas. Although its essential wisdom originated in different parts of Africa long before the Europeans started the slave trade, the structure of Voodoo, as we know it today, was born in Haiti during the European colonization of Hispaniola. Ironically, it was the enforced immigration of enslaved African from different ethnic groups that provided the circumstances for the development of Voodoo. European colonists thought that by desolating the ethnic groups, these could not come together as a community. However, in the misery of slavery, the transplanted Africans found in their faith a common thread.
They began to invoke not only their own Gods, but to practice rites other than their own. In this process, they commingled and modified rituals of various ethnic groups. The result of such fusion was that the different religious groups integrated their beliefs, thereby creating a new religion: Voodoo. The word "voodoo" comes from the West African word "vodun," meaning spirit. This Afro-Caribbean religion mixed practices from many African ethnics groups such as the Fon, the Nago, the Ibos, Dahomeans, Congos, Senegalese, Haussars, Caplaous, Mondungues, Mandinge, Angolese, Libyans, Ethiopians, and the Malgaches.
The Essence of Voodoo
Within the voodoo society, there are no accidents. Practitioners believe that nothing and no event has a life of its own. That is why "vous deux", you two, you too. The universe is all one. Each thing affects something else. Scientists know that. Nature knows it. Many spiritualists agree that we are not separate, we all serve as parts of One. So, in essence, what you do unto another, you do unto you, because you ARE the other. Voo doo. View you. We are mirrors of each others souls. God is manifest through the spirits of ancestors who can bring good or harm and must be honored in ceremonies. There is a sacred cycle between the living and the dead. Believers ask for their misery to end. Rituals include prayers, drumming, dancing, singing and animal sacrifice.
The serpent figures heavily in the Voodoo faith. The word Voodoo has been translated as "the snake under whose auspices gather all who share the faith". The high priest and/or priestess of the faith (often called Papa or Maman) are the vehicles for the expression of the serpent's power. The supreme deity is Bon Dieu. There are hundreds of spirits called Loa who control nature, health, wealth and happiness of mortals. The Loa form a pantheon of deities that include Damballah, Ezili, Ogu, Agwe, Legba and others. During Voodoo ceremonies these Loa can possess the bodies of the ceremony participants. Loa appear by "possessing" the faithful, who in turn become the Loa, relaying advice, warnings and desires. Voodoo is an animist faith. That is, objects and natural phenomena are believed to possess holy significance, to possess a soul. Thus the Loa Agwe is the divine presence behind the hurricane.
Music and dance are key elements to Voodoo ceremonies. Ceremonies were often termed by whites "Night Dancing" or "Voodoo Dancing". This dancing is not simply a prelude to sexual frenzy, as it has often been portrayed. The dance is an expression of spirituality, of connection with divinity and the spirit world.
Voodoo is a practical religion, playing an important role in the family and the community. One's ancestors, for instance, are believed to be a part of the world of the spirits, of the Loas, and this is one way that Voodoo serves to root its participants in their own history and tradition. Another practical aspect of Voodoo ceremonies is that participants often come before the priest or priestess to seek advice, spiritual guidance, or help with their problems. The priest or priestess then, through divine aid, offer help such as healing through the use of herbs or medicines (using knowledge that has been passed down within the religion itself), or healing through faith itself as is common in other religions. Voodoo teaches a respect for the natural world.
Unfortunately, the public's perception of voodoo rites and rituals seems often to point to the evil or malicious side of things. There are healing spells, nature spells, love spells, purification spells, joyous celebration spells. Spirits may be invoked to bring harmony and peace, birth and rebirth, increased abundance of luck, material happiness, renewed health. The fact is, for those who believe it, voodoo is powerful. It is also empowering to the person who practices it.
Voodoo and its fight to survive.
Despite Voodoo's noble status as one of the worlds oldest religions, it has been typically characterized as barbaric, primitive, sexually licentious practice based on superstition and spectacle. Much of this image however, is due to a concerted effort by Europeans, who have a massive fear of anything African, to suppress and distort a legitimate and unique religion that flourished among their enslaved Africans. When slavers brought these peoples across the ocean to the Americas, the African's brought their religion with them. However, since slavery included stripping the slaves of their language, culture, and heritage, this religion had to take some different forms. It had to be practiced in secret, since in some places it was punishable by death, and it had to adapt to the loss of their African languages. In order to survive, Voodoo also adopted many elements of Christianity. When the French who were the colonizers of Haiti, realized that the religion of the Africans was a threat to the colonial system, they prohibited all African religion practices and severely punished the practitioners of Voodoo with imprisonment, lashings and hangings. This religious struggle continued for three centuries, but none of the punishments could extinguished the faith of the Africans. This process of acculturation helped Voodoo to grow under harsh cultural conditions in many areas of the Americas.
Voodoo survives as a legitimate religion in a number of areas of the world, Brazil where it is called "CandomblÃ©" and the English speaking Caribbean where it is called "Obeah". The Ewe people of southern Togo and southeastern Ghana -- two countries in West Africa -- are devout believers. In most of the United States however, white slavers were successful in stripping slaves of their Voodoo traditions and beliefs. Thus Voodoo is, for most African Americans, yet another part of their heritage that they can only try to re-discover.
The Power of Voodoo
The strength that the Africans in Haiti gained from their religion was so strong and powerful, that they were able to survive the cruel persecution of the French rulers against Voodoo. It was in the midst of this struggle that the revolution was conspired. The Voodoo priests consulted their oracle and learned how the political battle would have to be fought in order for them to be victorious. The revolution exploded in 1791 with a Petr"” ritual and continued until 1804 when the Haitians finally won independence. Today the system of Voodoo reflects its history. We can see the African ethnic mixture in the names of different rites and in the pantheon of Gods or Loas, which is composed of deities from all parts of Africa.Egungun, Egungun ni t'aiye ati jo! Ancestos, Ancestors come to earth and dance! "I'm sick of the war and the civilization that created it. Let's look to our dreams, and the magical to the creations of the so-called primitive peoples for new inspirations." - Jaques Vache and Andre Breton "Capitalism is the astounding belief that the most wickedest of men will do the most wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone." -John Maynard "You know that in our country there were even matriarchal societies where women were the most important element. On the Bijagos islands they had queens. They were not queens because they were the daughters of kings. They had queens succeeding queens. The religious leaders were women too. " -- Amilcar Cabral, Return to the Source, 1973
The Origins of Voodoo
An old and often misunderstood religion, Voodoo is one of many pre-Christian faiths that can be traced to all the way to West Africa and Haiti. Even though it has been depicted as evil by Hollywood and the mainstream media, many of the deities and practices are in no way used for demonic or negative purposes. Instead, they share similar characteristics to Catholicism and some Pagan faiths. You have one God, but multiple deities that govern over nature, emotions, and even certain animals. Where Voodoo gets a bad rap the most is for its rituals and negative uses in certain regions of the world.
Ancestor worship in Voodoo is very prevalent in prayers and rituals, but with a twist. Instead of an afterlife, followers believe that their dead ancestors are still living among them as spirits. Aside from that, the practices and rituals vary from one congregation to another. Many still believe in animal sacrifices to show gratitude for a successful hunt, harvest, or other joyous occasions. One that stays solid is the appointment of Queen Mothers (similar to bishops or imams, but made to provide spiritual needs for their respected family clans). They are typically the elderly women in the clans and given a title based on their most respected ancestors (much like how the Pope is given his).
Animal sacrifices may turn some non-believers green in the face, but other rituals hold a more tolerable place in Voodoo. Special talismans, or "fetishes", are sometimes made from or are dried animal parts that help recharge a worshipper's soul or provided for certain purposes (ie: protection for evil). Other talismans are created from plants or other natural resources. The famous "Voodoo Doll" is one of them, but it's far from the doll-shaped pin cushion used in TV and movies.
Where Voodoo has been known for its negative uses is in the American southeast and any country that brought slaves from West Africa. During captivity, many practitioners would cast hexes and spells on their owners and bosses when their fellow worker was beaten or killed. One of the signs that they were used was a black X that can be found on or around old slave quarters. Some slaves even went as far as defacing free pendants given by Christian missionaries to show honor towards certain female deities. Many of those pendants were made of gold or silver at the time, making them last for generations.
Voodoo, meaning "spirit," may be one of the world's oldest ancestral, nature-honoring traditions, according to Mamaissii Vivian Dansi Hounon, a member of OATH, the Organization of African Traditional Healers in Martinez, Georgia.
Some anthropologists estimate that voodoo's roots in Benin—formerly Dahomey—West Africa may go back 6,000 years. Today an estimated 60 million people practice voodoo worldwide.
At a voodoo ceremony, believers gather outdoors to make contact with the Loa, any of a pantheon of spirits who have various functions running the universe, much like Greek gods. There is also a responsibility to care for beloved and deified family spirits and to honor a chief god, Bondieu.
Where Does The Idea of Voodoo Zombies Come From?
The idea of zombies is also partially based on fact, but isn’t an ordinary part of voodoo. Sorcerers in rural Haiti have been known to “zombify” people by administering various plants and chemicals, such as the poison from a blowfish.
These sorcerers would essentially administer drugs to a person that would put them into a coma. Their breathing and heart rate would slow down to the point that they would appear dead. So families would bury them, and then they would be dug up by the sorcerer days later still alive.
This practice may have resulted in permanent brain damage or other complications in many victims, which leads to the portrayal of a slow brain-dead zombie. Sadly, many of these zombies are believed to have then been kept as slaves by the sorcerers and used for their own labor and devices.
However, this practice has no real connection to voodoo except that both occur in Haiti. Voodoo doesn’t condone or practice any kind of zombification.
Looking to get more in touch with the spirit world? Check out my article Talking To Ghosts: How To Communicate With Spirits of The Dead to learn more.
The Origins of Voodoo, a Misunderstood Religion - History
Voodoo Religion – The History
Voodoo is a religion that was brought to the Western coasts by slaves from Africa. It is believed to have started in Haiti in 1724 as a snake cult that worshipped many spirits pertaining to daily life experiences. The practices were intermingled with many Catholic rituals and saints. It was first brought to the Louisiana area in 1804 by Cuban plantation owners who were displaced by revolution and brought their slaves with them.
Voodoo is spelled several ways: vodun, vaudin, voudoun, vodou, and vaudoux. It is an ancient religion practiced by 80 million people worldwide and is growing in numbers. With voodoo’s countless deities, demonic possessions, animal sacrifices (human sacrifices in the Petro -- black magic form of voodoo) voodoo practitioners cannot understand why their religion is so misunderstood.
Voodoo rituals are elaborate, steeped in secret languages, spirit possessed dancing, and special diets eaten by the voodoo priests and priestesses. The ancestral dead are thought to walk among the living during the hooded dances. Touching the dancer during this spirit possessed trance is believed to be dangerous enough to kill the offender.
Talismans are bought and sold as fetishes. These could be statues representing voodoo gods, dried animal heads, or other body parts. They are sold for medicine and for the spiritual powers that these fetishes are believed to hold. The dark side of voodoo is used by participants to summon evil spirits and cast hexing spells upon adversaries.
Voodoo Religion – The Priesthood and Rituals
The priesthood of voodoo is held by both men and women. There are stages of initiation into its priestly duties. Their functions are primarily: healing, rituals, religious ceremonies to call or pacify the spirits, holding initiations for new priests or priestesses, telling fortunes, reading dreams, casting spells, invoking protections, and creating potions for various purposes. These potions are for anything from love spells to death spells all for a hefty fee of course.
Key items are used in the many rituals of voodoo. The priest’s geographical area of influence is called the parish. An eclectic array of items covers the altar in the temple or hounfort a peristyle is a roofed or open space where the public voodoo ceremonies take place. The items on the altar would be used in its rituals and include objects that have symbolic meaning: candles, food, money, amulets, ritual necklaces, ceremonial rattles, pictures of Catholic saints, bottles of rum, bells, flags, drums, sacred stones, and knives.
Voodoo Religion – The Beliefs
Voodoo belief recognizes one Supreme Being who created the universe, but who is too far away for a personal relationship with its worshippers. Therefore, the cult followers serve the loa or lesser deities to gain guidance for their lives. The loa are the spirits of ancestors, animals, natural forces, and the spirits of good and evil.
An interesting concept of voodoo belief is the ritual that takes place one year and one day after the decease of a relative. Voodoo belief states that there are two parts of the human soul. The two parts consists of ti-bon-ange (little good angel) and gros-bon-ange (great good angel). The gros-bon-ange is the body’s life force, and after death, the gros-bon-ange must return to the cosmos. To make sure that the ti-bon-ange is guaranteed a peaceful rest, the gros-bon-ange must be recalled through an elaborate expensive ritual involving the sacrifice of a large animal, like an ox, to appease the ti-bon-ange. If the ti-bon-ange spirit is not satisfied and given a peaceful rest, the spirit remains earthbound forever and brings illness or disasters on others.
Voodoo Religion – How does it compare with Christianity?
When comparing Christianity and the Voodoo religion, the more apparent difference is that Christians do not have to elaborate with expensive rituals to appease God. Christians believe that God , in His mercy, sent His Son Jesus to fulfill any sacrifice needed to quell evil and uplift the goodness of God. Those who worship God in truth have a close relationship with Him. He is closer to us than a brother ( Proverbs 18:24 ).
Voodoo practitioners have historically survived several attempts of others trying to subdue the religion by burning shrines, forcing conversion to different religions, and beating its clergy. They are now protected in Haiti thanks to the country’s 1987 Haitian Constitution.
The myth of the voodoo doll as a tool to bestow a curse is something that has been propagated by popular culture and Hollywood in particular. This doll pertains to a type of African folk magic called hoodoo. They have very little place in the religion and are not used by the majority of practitioners.