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"Voodoo" is derived from Vodun, the indigenous African word, meaning spirit. Vodun is a way of life in which a number of spirits or deities are called upon and celebrated, including ancestors or elders in the spiritual world. Various forms of magic are used for the betterment of those who follow it. It works for those who believe it.
An Introduction to Voodooism
Voodoo differs from West African Vodun in that it integrates Catholicism, Christianity and Native American concepts. Voodoo was largely practiced by African and Indian slaves in the southern regions of the United States and the West Indies.
Vodun Around The World
The Gullah, African descendants living in South Carolina and Georgia are prominent voodooist. Louisiana also retains a population of African, Creole and French descendants who practice voodoo. Marie Laveau was a renowned creole voodoo priest in New Orleans in the 17th century. Today, she still has mainly admirers and followers. Voodoo is the major religion of Haiti and very common in Jamaica, Brazil, Puerto Rico and less common but prevalent in Cuba. Of course it remains common in it's place of origin, Africa. From the western coast of Ghana across to Nigeria, Vodun and other religions synchronized with Vodun are prevalent.
Vodun recognises one God with many helpers called Orishas. A single divine Creator, called variously Mawu or Nana Buluku is an androgynous being who in one tradition bore seven children and gave each rule over a realm of nature - animals, earth, and sea - or else these children are inter-ethnic and related to natural phenomena or to historical or mythical individuals. The creator embodies a dual cosmogonic principle of which Mawu, the moon, and Lisa, the sun, are respectively the female and male aspects, often portrayed as the twin children of the Creator.
Vodouists believe in, Bondye (Creator). Bondye does not intercede in human affairs. Vodouists direct their worship toward spirits subservient to Bondye, called Orishas and Loa. Every Loa is responsible for a particular aspect of life. Each Loa reflects the many possibilities inherent to the aspects of life over which they preside. In order to navigate daily life, vodouists cultivate personal relationships with the Orishas and Loa through the presentation of offerings, the creation of personal altars and devotional objects, and participation in elaborate ceremonies of music, dance, and spirit possession.
Vodou has often been associated in popular culture with Satanism, zombies and "voodoo dolls". Zombie creation has been referenced, but is not a part of Vodoo or Vodun. Such manifestations fall under the auspices of the bokor or sorcerer, rather than the priest of the Orishas and Loa. The practice of sticking pins in voodoo dolls has history in folk magic. "Voodoo dolls" are often associated with New Orleans Voodoo and Hoodoo as well the magical devices of the poppet and the nkisi or bocio of West and Central Africa.
The general fear of Vodou in the US can be traced back to the End of the Haitian Revolution (1791). The US, seeing the tremendous potential Vodou had for rallying its followers and inciting them to action, feared the events at Bois-Caiman could spill over onto American soil. Fearing an uprising in opposition to the US occupation of Haiti, political and religious elites, along with Hollywood and the film industry, sought to trivialize the practice of Vodou. The elites preferred to view it as folklore in an attempt to render it relatively harmless as a curiosity that might continue to inspire music and dance.”
Hollywood often depicts Vodou as evil and having ties to Satanic practices in movies such as The Skeleton Key, "The Devil’s Advocate", The Blair Witch Project, The Serpent and the Rainbow, Child's Play, and Live and Let Die, and in children’s movies like The Princess and the Frog.
In 2010, following the 7.0 earthquake that devastated Haiti, negative attention to Vodou also followed. One of the more notable examples would be of televangelist Pat Robertson’s televised discourse on the subject. Robertson stated that the country had cursed itself after the events at Bois-Caiman because he claimed they had engaged in Satanic practices in the ceremony preceding the Haitian Revolution. "They were under the heel of the French, you know Napoleon the third and whatever. And they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said 'We will serve you if you will get us free from the prince.' True story. And so the devil said, 'Ok it's a deal.' And they kicked the French out. The Haitians revolted and got something themselves free. But ever since they have been cursed by one thing after another"
Voodoo has been widely misrepresented as a form of sorcery or witchcraft that can personally affect or inflict upon someone. Misconceptions of voodoo include sacrifices, conjuring, and even reanimation of the dead. While many believe these stories and practices, anthropologists have insisted that these bizarre voodoo practices can heal and help people from various illnesses or pains.
In Anthropology, religion is defined as the study of religion in relation to other social institutions, and the comparison of religious beliefs and practices across cultures similar to the cultures of the Caribbean and various other places that believe in Voodoo. "Voodoo is not some kind of dark mystical force, it is simply a legitimate religion," says anthropologist Wade Davis, a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence who has studied voodoo extensively in the Caribbean nation of Haiti.
If Voodoo is to be considered a religion it must have a hearth area and with voodoo that is somewhat of a mystery. The origin of Voodoo is unknown but the general region that is thought to be the root of Voodoo is in the nation of Benin or Dahomey which means "spirit" in the local language of west Africa. Voodoo practices were passed down from generation to generation in small closed off groups. Practices including Ancestral worship, animism, and deeply ritualistic ceremonies which is used for prayer, healing, "sorcery", and cultural rituals.
Following of Vodun is chiefly found in West Africa, Brazil, Southern United States and the Caribbean, particularly in Haiti, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic. Smaller minorities exist in Cuba and around the world. It is noted that more than 30 million people follow Voodooism worldwide, however the exact number is unknown.
- Benin; state religion, 7 million.
- Dominican Republic
- Puerto Rico
- Sects of Georgia, South Carolina and Louisiana
Bondye; Creator god; Haiti and Africa