Voodoo is a sensationalized pop-culture caricature of voudon, an Afro-Caribbean religion that originated in Haiti, though followers can be found in Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Brazil, the United States and elsewhere.
It has very little to do with so-called voodoo dolls or zombies. 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 teaches belief in a supreme being called Bondye, an unknowable and uninvolved creator god.
Voudon believers worship many spirits called loaeach one of whom is responsible for a specific domain or part of life.10 CRAZY Things People Did With Voodoo Dolls
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.
In Christian theology, spiritual possession is usually considered to be an act of evil, either Satan or some demonic entity trying to enter an unwilling human vessel. In voudon, however, possession by loa is desired. In a ceremony guided by a priest or priestess, this possession is considered a valuable, first-hand spiritual experience and connection with the spirit world. Voudon originated with slaves who combined elements of their West African traditions and beliefs with the Roman Catholicism imposed upon them by their masters in a process called syncretism.
A law forbade the practice of African religions and required all masters to Christianize their slaves within eight days of their arrival. Slavery was condoned by the Catholic Church as a tool for converting Africans to morally upright Christians. Slaves forced to adopt Catholic rituals thus gave them double meanings, and in the process many of their spirits became associated with Christian saints. Furthermore, Desmangles notes, "Many of the African spirits were adapted to their new milieu in the New World.
An Introduction to the Basic Beliefs of the Vodou (Voodoo) Religion
Ogun, for instance, the Nigerian spirit of ironsmiths, hunting and warfare took on a new persona He became Ogou, the military leader who has led phalanxes into battle against oppression. In Haiti today, Ogou inspires many political revolutions that oust undesirable oppressive regimes. Though Haitian slavery ended in the early s, followers of voudon were often persecuted by authorities who demonized their religion.Vodou or Voodoo is a monotheistic religion that is often misunderstood.
However, as with any religion, followers of Vodou cannot be lumped into a single category. There are also many misconceptions, which are just as important to understand. Vodou is also known as Vodoun, Voodoo, and by several other variants.
It is a syncretic religion that combines Roman Catholicism and native African religion, particularly from the religion of the Dahomey region of West Africa the modern day nation of Benin.
Vodou is primarily practiced in Haiti, New Orleans, and other locations within the Caribbean. Vodou began when African slaves brought their native traditions with them as they were forcefully transported to the new world. However, they were generally forbidden from practicing their religion.
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Many Vodou practitioners also consider themselves Catholics. Some see the saints and spirits to be one and the same. Others still hold that the Catholic accouterments are primarily for appearance. Popular culture has strongly associated Vodou with devil worship, torture, cannibalismand malevolent magical workings.
This is largely the product of Hollywood coupled with historical misrepresentations and misunderstandings of the faith. The seeds of these misconceptions began much earlier than anything seen in the movies. A well-known incident in at Bois Caiman marked a crucial time in Haitian slave uprisings.
The exact details and intent are a matter of historical debate. It's believed that witnesses saw a Vodou ceremony and thought the participants were making some sort of pact with the Devil to thwart their captors. Some people -- even as recent as after the devastating earthquake -- have claimed that this pact has perpetually cursed the Haitian people. In the Vodou-influenced areas such as Haiti, slavery was extremely violent and brutal; the revolts of the slaves were equally as violent.
All of this led white settlers to associate the religion with violence and also helped fuel many unfounded rumors about Vodouisants. Vodouisants also accept the existence of lesser beings, which they call loa or lwa. These are more intimately involved in day-to-day life than Bondye, who is a remote figure. The lwa are frequently invited to possess a believer during ritual so the community can directly interact with them.
Vilokan is the home of the lwa as well as the deceased. It is commonly described as a submerged and forested island. It is guarded by the lwa Legba, who must be appeased before practitioners can speak to any other Vilokan resident. There is no standardized dogma within Vodou. As such, the information provided in overviews of Vodou such as this one cannot always reflect the beliefs of all believers.
Some common variations are included here. Share Flipboard Email. Catherine Beyer. Wicca Expert. It provides spiritual sustenance for the lwa, while the flesh of the animal is then cooked and eaten by participants. Each lwa has its own symbol and some have multiple symbols associated with them. However, Vodouisants do dedicate dolls to particular lwa and use them to attract a lwa's influence.During these challenging times, we guarantee we will work tirelessly to support you.
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We will get through this together. Updated: July 14, References. Voodoo is a religion practiced in the Caribbean and the southern U.
There are many forms of voodoo and some focus on magical elements. To try your hand at voodoo, make and manipulate your own voodoo doll or cast love and protection spells. Keep in mind that the results aren't guaranteed and practicing black magic could be risky. Warning: Take care when using voodoo for evil.
Practitioners believe that there is a price to be paid for everything. You may be required to suffer to make amends for your evil deeds. Voodoo is a religion that borrows elements of traditional African religions and Catholicism. One of the best-known voodoo practices is making a voodoo doll, which is thought to help practitioners magically manipulate specific people. To make a simple voodoo doll, focus on the specific person you want your doll to represent. Cut out a picture of the person or collect a personal item, like a lock of their hair or a scrap of their clothing.
You can then attach the picture or item to a small cloth figurine to make your doll. For more tips, including how to cast a voodoo love spell, keep reading! Did this summary help you? Yes No. Log in Facebook Loading Google Loading Civic Loading No account yet? Create an account.Most depictions of voodoo show a dark, mysterious religion that revolves around animal sacrifices, casting harmful spells, and using dolls to hurt others.
There are three main types of voodoo, each drawing their sphere of influence from a different place.
10 Things You Didn’t Know About Voodoo
West African voodoo is still practiced by around 30 million people, particularly in nations like Ghana and Benin. Rituals and beliefs are extensive, and largely untouched by the outside influences that have shaped other types of voodoo.
Louisiana voodoo is a unique brand of voodoo practiced, as its name suggests, mainly in Louisiana and the southeastern United States. Though brought over from West African voodoo, this form as been heavily influenced by the practices of Spanish and French settlers, as well as the Creole population.
Haitian voodoo, practiced in Haiti, has been largely shaped by its French influence as well as Christianity. At first glance, it seems that a religion that revolves around spiritual possession, potions, and the worship of ancestors would have little to do with Christianity.
However, there are strong parallels; in the case of Louisiana and Haitian voodoo, many Christian traditions, beliefs, and figures have been incorporated into this flexible religion.
The spirits are central to the practice of voodoo, and many of the central figures have Christian counterparts. Aida Wedo is a virginal figure of Mary, while Legba, the guardian gatekeeper, is a mirror image of St. In voodoo, important spirits that believers connect with are called the loa or lwa ; in some locations, these loa and their families can be called by the names of the Catholic saints they represent.
In West African voodoo, there is a very Christian belief that there is one supreme god ruling all. In fact, the parallels between voodoo and Christianity are so strong that there is no animosity between the two parties, and in many areas they peacefully coexist.
While at one time practitioners who had also been baptized could expect repercussions from the church for partaking in voodoo ceremonies, now priests from both sides are working hand-in-hand to help bring peace and prosperity to Africa, the birthplace of voodoo.
He even attended a voodoo ceremony inhelping to cement the amiable coexistence of these two seemingly opposite religions. Instead, a doll is only associated with the person in question—usually by attaching a picture of the person, or something that was in intimate contact with them, such as a lock of hair attaching this personification is actually the purpose of the voodoo straight pin usually seen in a voodoo doll, which is commonly believed to be an instrument of pain.
Other things are usually added to the doll, and these vary based on the intended purpose. Garlic, flower petals, perfumes, or even money can be added—not as a direct message to the person, but as an appeal to the spirits to open themselves to the doll and the wishes of those involved. The voodoo doll can be used for a huge variety of purposes, and most are benevolent. The voodoo doll in itself is not an evil or dark thing, but, like many religious and secular symbols, it can be made dark by the person who wields it.
Marie Laveau is one of the names most commonly associated with voodoo, and consequently she has become something of a surreal, larger-than-life figure. She was said to be born the illegitimate daughter of a Creole plantation owner and his half black, half Native American mistress.
Her first marriage ended when her husband disappeared under mysterious circumstances; her second, common-law marriage, however, lasted years and gave her 15 children. In addition to counseling those in need and selling gris-gris to everyone in all walks of life, she was also a hairdresser.
This allowed her intimate access to some of the most powerful people in New Orleans, who she would counsel while at the same time use to gather secrets and inside information on others in the city, helping to cement her position of relative power.Voodoo originated in the African kingdoms of Fon and Kongo as many as 6, years ago.
The word "voodoo" comes from the Fon language, in which it means "sacred," "spirit" or "deity. For example, a Voodoo priestess is often referred to as a mambo or manbo. This is a combination of the Fon word for "mother" or "magical charm" and the Kongo word for "healer. The Fon kingdom was located in what is now southern Benin, a region some anthropologists refer to as the "cradle of Voodoo.
Voodoo is also an official religion in Benin, where as many as 60 percent of the people are followers [Source: BBC ]. Since Voodoo is primarily an oral tradition, the names of gods, as well as the specifics of different rituals, can change in different regions or from generation to generation.
However, African Voodoo has several consistent qualities no matter where people practice it. Along with the belief in multiple gods and spiritual possession, these include:. Many of these traits, particularly ancestor worship, polytheism, and the importance of music and dance, are also important in other African religions. So, in practice, Voodoo looks a lot like other traditional African religions. Many observances appear to be part celebration, part religious service incorporating rhythmic music, dancing and songs.
Many rituals take advantage of the natural landscape, such as rivers, mountains or trees. Through decoration and consecration, ordinary objects, like pots, bottles or parts of slaughtered animals, become sacred objects for use in rituals.
In parts of Africa, people who want to become spiritual leaders in the Voodoo community can enter religious centers, which are much like convents or monasteries. In some communities, initiates symbolically die, spending three days and nights in complete seclusion before being returned to the outside world. Initiates learn the rituals, colors, foods and objects associated with different deities, as well as how to communicate with the loa.
The spirits have different personalities and different requirements of their followers, much like the gods in Greek and Roman myths.
Some people associate Voodoo with evil, but many of its rituals, even those that include the sacrifice of live animals, focus on respect and peace. Its religious leaders become community leaders, providing guidance and settling disputes. Leaders also frequently provide medical care in the form of folk medicine. Priests, priestesses and other practitioners typically dedicate their work to helping and caring for others. Curses, witchcraft and spells designed to do harm fall instead into the category of bo.
However, most anthropologists agree that Voodoo leaders have a working knowledge of bowhich is separate from Voodoo, believing that understanding how it works is necessary to fighting it. Sorcerers known as botonorather than Voodoo priests and priestesses, are said to control more sinister spells. In some cases, though, people act as both priests and botono, depending on the situation. This African form of Voodoo is a precursor to the Voodoo practiced in Haiti and other parts of the Western hemisphere.Signed in as:.
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Who Are Miss Sha' and Mr. Feed coming soon. How are we supposed to return your call if you don't leave us a message?! Open today.You don't have to look far to find references to Voodoo in popular culture, especially in the Western world. Zombie movies, of course, have distant roots in Haitian Voodoo. Novelty stores sell pin-filled dolls to target anyone from miscreant romantic partners to unreasonable bosses. Even World of Warcraft has its own brand of Voodoo, found in Zul'Gurub's Hakkari witch doctors, jinxed hoodoo piles and punctured voodoo dolls.
Representations like these are a big part of what many people would mention if asked to describe Voodoo. Some people would also talk about spiritual possession and animal sacrifice. Many might reference a specific place -- usually the Caribbean islands, like Haiti and Jamaica, or the southeastern United States, especially New Orleans and the Mississippi delta.
In spite of their prevalence in most people's minds, many of these stereotypes have nothing to do with Voodoo. Others are related only tangentially. However, some of the stereotypes include a grain of truth, and one -- spirit possession -- is central to the Voodoo religion. According to the Voodoo tradition, there is one supreme god, who is known by different names in different parts of the world. In Haiti, for example, he is called Bondye, which comes from the French bon dieumeaning "good god.
For this reason, Voodoo practitioners must rely on hundreds or thousands of other spirits to communicate with god. These spirits are known as loa or lwa in Haiti; anthropologists writing about African Voodoo often refer to them as spirits or gods.
The spirits exist in a hierarchy. There are major, powerful loa, many of whom have their own holidays, celebrations or other observances. There are also minor spirits, who play various roles in different regions. Communities and even families have their own loa, such as the spirits of beloved or influential family or community members. The loa receive their power from god and communicate with god on behalf of followers. During ceremonies and observances, followers of Voodoo ask the spirits for advice, protection or assistance.
The process is reciprocal; followers must look after the loa by performing rituals, which sometimes come in the form of animal sacrifice. Other rituals allow followers to thank the spirits for protection, blessings or good fortune.