Created from African Slaves
Created from African Slaves
|Haitian Vodou or Vaudou is a
syncretic religion originating in the Caribbean country of Haiti. It is
based upon a merging of the beliefs and practices of West African
peoples (mainly the Fon and Ewe), with Arawakian religious beliefs, and
Roman Catholic Christianity.
Vodou was created by African slaves who were brought to Haiti in the
16th century and still followed their traditional African beliefs, but
were forced to convert to the religion of their slavers.
The principal belief in Haitian Vodou is that deities called Lwa (or Loa) are subordinates to a god called Bondyè.
supreme being does not intercede in human affairs, and it is to the Lwa
that Vodou worship is directed. Other characteristics of Vodou include
veneration of the dead and protection against evil witchcraft.
Vodou's moral code focuses on the vices of dishonour and greed. There is
also a notion of relative propriety — and what is appropriate to
someone with Dambala Wedo as their head may be different from someone
with Ogou Feray as their head. For example, one spirit is very cool and
the other is very hot.
Coolness overall is valued, and so is the ability and inclination to
protect oneself and one's own if necessary.
Love and support within the
family of the Vodou society seem to be the most important
considerations. Generosity in giving to the community and to the poor is
also an important value.
One's blessings come through the
community and there is the idea that one should be willing to give back
to it in turn. There are no "solitaries" in Vodou, only people separated
geographically from their elders and house.
A person without a
relationship of some kind with elders will not be practicing Vodou as it
is understood in Haiti and among Haitians.
Haiti is a
Catholic country. But daily life still moves
to the rhythms of spirit religion. When slaves from all over Africa were
brought here to Haiti they forged a new spirit religion one that
incorporates elements from their adversary the Catholic church.
Haiti Voodoo Dance
Benin is the home
of Voodoo. The ancient animist belief was taken by slaves from this tiny
West African state to Haiti and New Orleans.
Benin is the only country
in the world that officially recognizes Voodoo as a state religion,
affording it the same national status as Christianity or Islam.
But, as Unreported World reveals, Voodoo is trapping thousands in
poverty and causing some families to sell their children in to slavery.
Seen by its adherents as traditional belief that connects them to their
land, culture and ancestors, Voodoo is a complex set of beliefs and
obligations that, it is claimed, has helped enforce religious and social
order for more than 4,000 years.
However, as reporter Evan Williams and
director James Brabazon discover, it is frequently perpetuated by
threats, fear and even the kidnapping of young children.
Voodoo has come to be associated in popular culture with the lore of Satanism, zombies and "voodoo dolls". While there is evidence of zombie creation, it is a minor phenomenon within rural Haitian culture and not a part of the Voodoo religion proper.
Such manifestations fall under the auspices of the bokor or sorcerer rather than the priest of the Loa. The practice of sticking pins in dolls has history in folk magic, but its exact origins are unclear. How it became known as a method of cursing an individual by some followers of what has come to be called New Orleans Voodoo, but more appropriately Hoodoo (folk magic), is unknown.
This practice is not unique to Voodoo or Hoodoo, however, and has as much basis in magical devices such as the poppet and the nkisi or bocio of West and Central Africa. These are in fact power objects, what in Haiti is called pwen, rather than magical surrogates for an intended target of sorcery whether for boon or for bane.
6-Year-Old Girl Burned in Haitian Voodoo Ritual
6-year-old Frantzcia Saintil will be scarred for life.
Such Voodoo dolls are not a feature of Haitian religion, although dolls intended for tourists may be found in the Iron Market in Port au Prince. The practice became closely associated with the Voodoo religions in the public mind through the vehicle of horror movies and popular novels.
second- and third-degree burns over 25% of her body, including her face,
torso and legs.
However, this was no accident.
Frantzcia Saintil was
the victim of a voodoo ritual perpetrated on her by her own mother,
Marie Lauradin, 29 and her grandmother, Sylvenie Thessier, 70.
There is a practice in Haiti of nailing crude poppets with a discarded shoe on trees near the cemetery to act as messengers to the otherworld, which is very different in function from how poppets are portrayed as being used by Voodoo worshippers in popular media and imagination, i.e. for purposes of sympathetic magic towards another person.
Another use of dolls in authentic Voodoo practice is the incorporation of plastic doll babies in altars and objects used to represent or honor the spirits, or in pwen, which recalls the aforementioned use of bocio and nkisi figures in Africa.
Although Voodoo is often associated with Satanism, Satan is rarely incorporated in Voodoo tradition. Mississippi Delta folksongs mix references to Voodoo and to Satan.
Further adding to the dark reputation of Voodoo were films such as The Serpent and the Rainbow and Live and Let Die (part of Ian Fleming's widely successful James Bond series). Fleming's depiction of the schemings of a fiendish Soviet agent using Voodoo to intimidate and control a vast network of submissive black followers reached an incomparably greater audience than any careful scholarly work on the subject of Voodoo.
To address the myths and misconceptions that have historically maligned the practice and present a more constructive view of the religion, in April 1997, fifteen scholars gathered at UCSB for a colloquium on Haitian Voodoo, The Spirit and The Reality: Voodoo and Haiti created a new association under the name, the Congress of Santa Barbara also known as KOSANBA.