Birth of Voodoo
Practiced by over 4 Million Believers

Birth of Voodoo
Practiced by over 4 Million Believers

Vodun or Vudun is a traditional Polytheistic organised religion of coastal West Africa, from Nigeria to Ghana.

It is distinct from the various traditional animistic religions in the interiors of these same countries, as well as from various religions with often similar names of the African Diaspora in the New World, such as Haitian Vodou.

The similar Vudu of the Dominican Republic, Candomblé Jejé in Brazil (which uses the term Vodum), Louisiana Voodoo, and Santería in Cuba, which are syncretized with Christianity and the traditional religions of the Kongo people of Congo and Angola.

The word vodún is the Gbe (Fon-Ewe) word for spirit. When the word is capitalized, Vodun, it denotes the religion.

When it is not, vodun, it denotes the spirits that are central to the religion.

"Voodoo" is the most common pronunciation amongst English speakers. Vodun is practiced by the Ewe, Kabye, Mina, Fon, peoples of southeastern Ghana, southern and central Togo, southern and central Benin,and (under a different name) the Yoruba in southwestern Nigeria.

About 18% of the population of Benin, some 1 million people, follow Vodun. (This does not count other traditional religions in Benin.)

In addition, many of the 43% of the population that refer to themselves as Christian practice a syncretized religion, not dissimilar from Haitian Vodou or Brazilian Cadomblé; indeed, many of them are descended from freed Brazilian slaves who settled on the coast near Ouidah.

In Togo, about half the population practices indigenous religions, of which Vodun is by far the largest, with some 2½ million followers; there may be another million Vodunists among the Ewe of Ghana: 13% of the population of 20 million are Ewe and 38% of Ghanaians practice traditional religion.

According to census data, about 14 million people practice traditional religion in Nigeria, most of whom are Yoruba practicing Vodun, but no specific breakdown is available.

European colonialism, followed by some of the totalitarian regimes in West Africa, have tried to suppress Vodun as well as other traditional religions.

However, because the vodun deities are born to each clan, tribe, and nation, and their clergy are central to maintaining the moral, social and political order and ancestral foundation of its village, these efforts have not been successful.

Recently there have been moves to restore the place of Vodun in national society, such as an annual International Vodun Conference held in the city of Ouidah in Benin that has been held since 1991.

In the West African Country of Benin were voodoo was born it is an official religion, practiced by over 4 million believers. 

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Houngans (Male Vodou Priest) or Mambos (Female Vodou Priest) are usually people who were chosen by the dead ancestors (loas) and received the divination from the deities while he or she was possessed.

His or her tendency is to do good by helping and protecting others from spells, however they sometimes use their supernatural power to hurt or kill people.

They also conduct ceremonies that usually take place "Amba Peristil" (under a Vodou Temple). However, non-Houngan or non-Mambo as Vodouisants are not initiated, and are referred to as being "bossale"; it is not a requirement to be an initiate to serve one's spirits.

There are clergy in Haitian Vodou whose responsibility it is to preserve the rituals and songs and maintain the relationship between the spirits and the community as a whole (though some of this is the responsibility of the whole community as well).

They are entrusted with leading the service of all of the spirits of their lineage. Sometimes they are "called" to serve in a process called "being reclaimed," which they may resist at first. Below the houngans and mambos are the hounsis, who are initiates who act as assistants during ceremonies and who are dedicated to their own personal mysteries.

A "bokor" may be a practitioner of "darker" things and is often not even accepted by the mambo or the houngan. Or, a "Bokor" would be the Haitian term for a vodou priest or other, working both the light and dark arts of magic.