In a previous post, an imperialist justified the current conditions of Haitians by placing blame on the religion used to gain independence. This led me to start researching one of the most misunderstood religions to date, Voodoo. Throughout the globe, Voodoo has been tied to witchcraft, darkness, and evil. And this misinterpretation perpetuates the negative stereotypes of African spirituality and culture.
Voodoo, also known as Vodou or Vodun, refers to an assortment of cultural elements. It’s a way of life that teaches the belief in a supreme God: Mawu-Lisa among the Fon, Olorun among the Yoruba, and Bondye or Gran Met among the Haitians. Followers of Voodoo believe in a universal energy and soul that leaves the body during dreams and spirit possession. The name means spirit in the Fon language, which is the official language of Benin.
Voodoo evolved from the ancient traditions of ancestor worship and animism, but the forms of voodoo practiced today are the results of the Transatlantic Slave Trade between the 16th and 19th centuries. The roots of this religion derive from West Africa, and it came about through the amalgamation of rituals from enslaved Africans of different ethnic groups. Groups such as the Fon, Nago, Ibos, Dahomeans, Congos, Senegalese, Haussars, Caplaous, Mondungues, Mandinge, Angolese, Libyans, Ethiopians, and Malgaches created the mixture. And believers worship many spirits, called Ioa or Iwa, who are responsible for a specific domain or part of life.
African slaves brought to the Caribbean brought Voodoo with them, but in 1685 The Code Noir was passed, prohibiting the practice of African spirituality and requiring all slave masters to Christianize their slaves within 8 days of their arrival in Haiti. Slaves were forced to accept Roman Catholicism, but they didn’t give up their beliefs and instead synchronized the old & new. In Haiti, Voodoo gave the slaves strength and sustained them through hardships and oppression. Between 1791 and 1804, slave revolts against the French were inspired by Voodoo practice.
The surviving colonists, along with their French-speaking slaves who practiced Voodoo, fled to New Orleans, Louisiana. Although Africans did practice this religion in the United States before 1791, it didn’t become a strong force until after the Haitian Revolution. Marie Laveau, a Creole woman who is known as the Voodoo Queen, popularized the practice in the 19th century. Voodoo is still practiced today through natives who see it as a part of their culture.
Voodoo teaches respect for the natural world and its rituals include prayer, music, dancing, singing, and animal sacrifice. African Holocaust advised the following:
Within the voodoo society, there are no accidents. Practitioners believe that nothing and no event has a life of its own.
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.
As a student of African history, I’m very green to a lot of information. So if you found a flaw in my research, please correct me below.
Until Next Time…
Garrigus, J. (n.d.). The “Code Noir” (1685). Retrieved January 14, 2020, from https://s3.wp.wsu.edu/uploads/sites/1205/2016/02/code-noir.pdf.
African Voodoo. (2016, April 18). Retrieved January 14, 2020, from https://africanholocaust.net/voodoo/.
Marie Laveau, The Voodoo Queen Of New Orleans. (n.d.). Retrieved January 14, 2020, from https://ghostcitytours.com/new-orleans/marie-laveau/.
The Origins of Voodoo, the Misunderstood Religion. (2015, April 21). Retrieved January 14, 2020, from https://www.ancient-origins.net/history-ancient-traditions/origins-voodoo-misunderstood-religion-002933.
Wonders: Vodou Religion. (1999). Retrieved January 14, 2020, from http://www.pbs.org/wonders/Episodes/Epi3/3_wondr3.htm.