is a derivative of the world's
oldest known religions which have been around in Africa since the
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.
its essential wisdom originated in different parts of Africa long
the Europeans started the slave trade, the structure of Voodoo, as we
it today, was born in Haiti during the European colonization of
Ironically, it was the enforced immigration of enslaved African from
ethnic groups that provided the circumstances for the development of
European colonists thought that by desolating the ethnic groups, these
could not come together as a community. However, in the misery of
the transplanted Africans found in their faith a common thread.
began to invoke not only their
own Gods, but to practice rites other than their own. In this process,
they co-mingled and modified rituals of various ethnic groups. The
of such fusion was that the different religious groups integrated their
beliefs, thereby creating a new religion: Voodoo. The word "voodoo"
from the West African word "vodun," meaning spirit. This Afro-Caribbean
religion mixed practices from many African ethnics groups such as the
the Nago, the Ibos, Dahomeans, Congos, Senegalese, Haussars, Caplaous,
Mondungues, Mandinge, Angolese, Libyans, Ethiopians, and the Malgaches.
Essence of Voodoo
the voodoo society, there are
no accidents. Practitioners believe that nothing and no event has a
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.
knows it. Many spiritualists agree that we are not separate, we all
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
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
end. Rituals include prayers, drumming, dancing, singing and animal
serpent figures heavily in the Voodoo
faith. The word Voodoo has been translated as "the snake under whose
gather all who share the faith". The high priest and/or priestess of
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
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
the faithful, who in turn become the Loa, relaying advice, warnings and
desires. Voodoo is an animist faith. That is, objects and natural
are believed to possess holy significance, to possess a soul. Thus the
Loa Agwe is the divine presence behind the hurricane.
and dance are key elements to
Voodoo ceremonies. Ceremonies were often termed by whites "Night
or "Voodoo Dancing". This dancing is not simply a prelude to sexual
as it has often been portrayed. The dance is an expression of
of connection with divinity and the spirit world.
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
their own history and tradition. Another practical aspect of Voodoo
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
within the religion itself), or healing through faith itself as is
in other religions. Voodoo teaches a respect for the natural world.
the publics perception
of voodoo rites and rituals seems often to point to the evil or
side of things. There are healing spells, nature spells, love spells,
spells, joyous celebration spells. Spirits may be invoked to bring
and peace, birth and rebirth, increased abundance of luck, material
renewed health. The fact is, for those who believe it, voodoo is
It is also empowering to the person who practices it.
and its fight to survive.
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
enslaved Africans. When slavers brought these peoples across the ocean
to the Americas, the African's brought their religion with them.
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
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
who were the colonizers of Haiti, realized that the religion of the
was a threat to the colonial system, they prohibited all African
practices and severely punished the practitioners of Voodoo with
lashings and hangings. This religious struggle continued for three
but none of the punishments could extinguished the faith of the
This process of acculturation helped Voodoo to grow under harsh
conditions in many areas of the Americas.
survives as a legitimate religion
in a number of areas of the world, Brazil where it is called
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,
slavers were successful in stripping slaves of their Voodoo traditions
and beliefs. Thus Voodoo is, for most African Americans, yet another
of their heritage that they can only try to re-discover.
Power of Voodoo
strength that the Africans in Haiti
gained from their religion was so strong and powerful, that they were
to survive the cruel persecution of the French rulers against Voodoo.
was in the midst of this struggle that the revolution was conspired.
Voodoo priests consulted their oracle and learned how the political
would have to be fought in order for them to be victorious. The
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
rites and in the pantheon of Gods or Loas, which is composed of deities
from all parts of Africa.
government officially sanctioned
voodoo as a religion
April 10, 2003.
government has officially sanctioned
voodoo as a religion, allowing practitioners to begin performing
from baptisms to marriages with legal authority.
who practice voodoo praised the
move, but said much remains to be done to make up for centuries of
and persecution in the Caribbean country and abroad.
priest Philippe Castera said
he hopes the government's decree is more than an effort to win
amid economic and political troubles.
spite of our contribution to Haitian
culture, we are still misunderstood and despised," said Castera, 48.
an executive decree issued last week,
President Jean-Bertrand Aristide invited voodoo adherents and
to register with the Ministry of Religious Affairs.
swearing an oath before a civil
judge, practitioners will be able to legally conduct ceremonies such as
marriages and baptisms, the decree said.
a former Roman Catholic priest,
has said he recognizes voodoo as a religion like any other, and a
priestess bestowed a presidential sash on him at his first inauguration
ancestral religion, voodoo is an
essential part of national identity," and its institutions "represent a
considerable portion" of Haiti's 8.3 million people, Aristide said in
practitioners believe in a supreme
God and spirits who link the human with the divine. The spirits are
by offerings that include everything from rum to roosters.
permitted by Haiti's 1987 constitution,
which recognizes religious equality, many books and films have
voodoo as black magic based on animal and human sacrifices to summon
and evil spirits.
will take more than a government
decree to undo all that malevolence," Castera said, and suggested that
construction of a central voodoo temple would "turn good words into a
are no reliable statistics on
the number of adherents, but millions in Haiti place faith in voodoo.
religion evolved from West African beliefs and developed further among
slaves in the Caribbean who adopted elements of Catholicism.
is an inseparable part of Haitian
art, literature, music and film. Hymns are played on the radio and
ceremonies are broadcast on television along with Christian services.
for centuries voodoo has been looked
down upon as little more than superstition, and at times has been the
of ferocious persecution. A campaign led by the Catholic church in the
1940s led to the destruction of temples and sacred objects.
1986, following the fall of Jean-Claude
Duvalier's dictatorship, hundreds of voodoo practitioners were killed
the pretext that they had been accomplices to Duvalier's
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