The word ‘voodoo’ comes from the Fon language, (spoken in Benin, West Africa), and means a kind of power which is mysterious and, at the same time, fearsome. Voodoo is invested in all parts of Haitian life and has a considerable influence on each person and on each natural element.
Voodoo, is a monotheistic religion associated with Roman Catholicism, and is linked with ‘witchcraft’, which is a part of the indigenous African spirituality that is often misunderstood. As with any other religious group, the followers of the Voodoo religion cannot be placed in any one category. Two categories of the Voodoo religion are animism which states that spirits inhabit in all things, and Loh-ah which claims that spirits are more powerful than a person’s dead relatives.
Voodoo is primarily practised in Haiti, New Orleans, and other areas of the Caribbean. This religion began when enslaved African brought their native traditions with them when they were forcefully transported to the New World. However, they were generally forbidden from practising their religion. To get around these restrictions, the enslaved people started to believe in their gods. They also performed their rituals using the items and imagery of the Catholic Church. Whenever a Voodoo practitioner regarded someone as a Christian, that person was generally a member of the Catholic faith. Practitioners regard the saints and spirits as the same, while others believe that the Catholic elements are primarily for appearance.
Voodoo is seen has having a strong link with devil worship, torture, and magical workings. The seeds of these misconceptions began during the Haitian slave uprisings in 1791 at Bois Caiman. It is believed that witnesses saw a Voodoo ceremony and thought the participants were making connections with the Devil. In Haiti, enslavement was extremely violent and brutal; the revolts of the enslaved were equally as violent. All of this led white settlers to associate the religion with violence and also helped fuel many unfounded rumours about the religion.
According to the tradition of Voodoo, humans enter into communication with the spirits in a much ritualized manner. The spirits are unpredictable and will only be of help if one comes into contact with them correctly through the elaboration of various rituals. The Voodoo service takes place in the temple and this ritual must be officiated by a priest or a priestess.
The Voodoo supporters attribute illnesses and deaths to the wrath of angry ancestors; hence, the considerable importance given to the ritual and appeasement ceremony. The Voodoo ceremony embraces several elements, including: music, dance, food offering, drumming, and animal sacrifices. In the Voodoo ceremony, the Rada Loas are the first to be served; they represent the guardians of principles. They play an important role through the different healing processes and their principal characteristic is the fact that all of their actions are directed toward good.
The Rada and Petro rituals use both defensive and offensive enchantment, and can help to obtain justice against those who have done wrong. The ritual of possession, which appears in the Petro ritual, constitutes the most important way to connect the spirits or ancestors with human beings. A possession crisis appears when the Voodoo practitioner is in a situation of marriage with a Loa and becomes his “horse.” The possessed person suffers from amnesia, which is explained by the fact that no one can be god and human at the same time. This possession crisis generally appears in a ceremony called Mange-Loa and constitutes the major happening in the Voodoo ceremony.
The Voodoo conceptualization of the world involves the belief in continuity between life and death. In Voodoo, death is perceived as a regeneration of all society if the various death rituals and the burial services are well executed. Also, considerable importance is attributed to dead persons and the regular maintenance of the tomb. Thus, Voodoo succeeds in attaining reconciliation between the world of the living and the world of the dead.
In Voodoo religious practices, there are many elements that are used for mysterious purposes. Although many rituals require candles, oils, powders, etc., in addition to incense, there are also rituals which require only incense. For example, Fast Luck Incense is burned as an offering in the hope that it will bring good luck. One method is to write your wish or need on a small piece of parchment paper and place the incense on the paper. As the incense smoke and aroma rise, it is believed that the meaning of the words go with it.
Non-physical, spiritual power is difficult to assess, but it is a part of this world. The belief in supernatural power mingles with Christianity.
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Simpson, G. E. (1980). Religious cults of the Caribbean: Trinidad, Jamaica and Haiti (3rd
ed.). Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico: University of Puerto Rico.
DATE POSTED: March 27, 2019