Thoughts by Jenifer

What is Vodou?

Vodou is a religion that originated in Haiti, combined with African traditions and elements of Roman Catholicism. It was created by the descendants of African slaves brought to Haiti. The word “Vodou” means “spirit” or “deity” in the language of the Dahomey kingdom, which is now Benin

In Vodou, everything is believed to have a spirit. Humans are seen as spirits living in the visible world, and there is also an unseen world with spirits called lwa. These spirits are believed to be in a mythical place called Ginen, which is like a cosmic version of Africa.

The same God mentioned in the Christian Bible is thought to have created both the universe and all spirits. According to Vodou beliefs, God made the spirits to help govern both the human and the natural world.

How is it practiced?

During Vodou religious ceremonies, some people enter a trance. In this state, they do things like eat, drink, dance, give advice, perform healing, or show special abilities. This happens because they believe the spirits are inside them. Vodou rituals, which include prayers, songs, dances, and gestures, aim to bring balance and harmony between people and the spirits. ​​Vodou, is performed to connect with the spirits and seek their guidance, protection, healing, and blessings. 

Vodou ceremonies follow a calendar combined with the Catholic calendar. They celebrate important spirits on specific days, like St. James’s Day for Ogou, St. Patrick’s Day for Danbala, and All Saints’ Day for ancestors. There are also other celebrations for family, initiation, and funerals that happen throughout the year.

Different Types of Voodoo Spells

Healing Spells: Vodou practitioners may perform spells and rituals to facilitate physical, emotional, or spiritual healing. These spells can involve the use of herbs, sacred objects, prayers, and chants.

Protection Spells: Protection spells aim to safeguard individuals, homes, or communities from harm or negative energies. This can involve the creation of protective charms, the use of rituals, or invoking specific spirits for their assistance and guidance.

Love Spells: Love spells in Vodou can be used to attract romantic partners, enhance existing relationships, or foster reconciliation. These spells often combine elements of ritual, prayer, and symbolic items like candles, oils, or personal objects.

  Perspective ;

Haiti is the birthplace of Vodou, and it holds immense cultural and spiritual significance. Similarly, Vudú Dominicano is often practiced alongside Catholicism, reflecting the nature of the country’s religious landscape. Voodoo involves rituals, ceremonies, and spiritual healing practices. In both regions Vodou blends West African Vodu beliefs, Indigenous Taino traditions, and elements of Catholicism; which were introduced during colonial times.

The meaning of voodoo took a dark turn during the colonial era and the slave trade. Voodoo practices were associated with African slaves brought to America. European colonizers and slave owners demonized and stigmatized African spiritual traditions to remain in control. 

In today’s date, Voodoo is seen as evil in certain places. America has a history of having religious bias and giving ethnic religions bad connotations around it. Voodoo, being an Afro-Caribbean religion, has faced discrimination and prejudice due to religious and cultural biases. Lack of understanding also plays a significant role in the negative perspective of voodoo.  Many people in America have limited exposure to accurate information about Voodoo. Misunderstandings, misinformation, and lack of firsthand experiences with religion contribute to negative stereotypes.

Voodoo in New Orleans:

Voodoo in New Orleans was brought to Louisiana by enslaved Africans. It is influenced by various cultural and spiritual traditions. Blending West African, French, and Catholic cultures.In Dominican Republic vudú emphasis on healing practices, spiritual cleansings, and protection rituals. It incorporates elements of herbalism and ancestral worship. However in New Orleans, they emphasis on rituals, ceremonies, and spirit possession. They also focus on seeking guidance, addressing personal and community issues, and honoring ancestors.

Vodoo in American media

Voodoo has often been sensationalized and misrepresented in popular media, including movies, books, and other forms of entertainment. The media tends to focus on aspects like black magic, curses, and harmful rituals, feeding into existing stereotypes and misconceptions. These distorted representations contribute to the perception of Voodoo as evil or dangerous.

Black Magic and Curses: Voodoo is frequently depicted as a practice centered around dark magic and the casting of harmful spells or curses. This portrayal sensationalizes the idea of Voodoo practitioners using supernatural powers to cause harm or manipulate others.

Voodoo dolls; another misrepresentation, which is often shown as objects for inflicting pain or controlling another person’s actions.

A perfect example of the twisted Vodou perspective is shown in the well known movie “Princess and the Frog” Dr. Facilier tries to trick and control Tiana and Prince Naveen. He tempts them via the song by promising to fulfill their wants in return for their confidence and loyalty. Dr. Facilier wants to take over their life and exploit them for his own evil plans.

It is important to understand that different regions practice Vodou differently. While Vodou originated in Haiti, it has evolved and adapted in various ways based on regional influences and cultural contexts. For example, in the Dominican Republic, Vudú Dominicano is practiced alongside Catholicism, reflecting the unique religious landscape of the country. It emphasizes healing practices, spiritual cleansings, and protection rituals, incorporating elements of herbalism and ancestral worship. On the other hand, in New Orleans, Voodoo is influenced by a blend of West African, French, and Catholic cultures. It places emphasis on rituals, ceremonies, and spirit possession, addresses personal and community issues, and honoring ancestors.

Sources used:

  1. “Ezili Dantor: Protector in Haitian Vodou.” Esme.com, Esme.com, 22 Nov. 2018, esme.com/single-moms/solo-mom-in-the-spotlight/ezili-dantor-protector-haitian-vodou.
  2. Warner, Marina. “The Trial That Gave Vodou a Bad Name.” Smithsonian Magazine, Smithsonian Institution, 1 Dec. 2008, www.smithsonianmag.com/history/the-trial-that-gave-vodou-a-bad-name-83801276/.
  3. “Vodou.” Britannica, Encyclopedia Britannica, 27 May 2021, www.britannica.com/topic/Vodou.
  4. “Voodoo in the Dominican Republic.” DR1, DR1.com, 9 Aug. 2019, dr1.com/articles/voodoo.shtml.
  5. Clarke, Patrick. “Race and Voodoo in the Dominican Republic.” VoiceLab9, WordPress.com, 9 Dec. 2012, voicelab9.wordpress.com/non-western-cultural-norms/race-and-voodoo-in-the-dominican-republic/.
  6. “Haitians Connect Voodoo to Health Care.” The News & Observer, The News & Observer Publishing Co., 9 Jan. 2016, www.newsobserver.com/health-wellness/article269343377.html.
  7. Ferrer, Jorge L. “Voodoo in Cuba: History, Mythology, and Politics.” Caribbean Studies, vol. 43, no. 1, 2015, pp. 159-192. ERIC, files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1072917.pdf.
  8. Lavallee, Ayla Jean Yackley. “Inside Benin’s Voodoo Festivals.” BBC News, BBC, 4 Sept. 2017, www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-41048840.
  9. “New Orleans Voodoo.” NewOrleans.com, NewOrleans.com, www.neworleans.com/things-to-do/multicultural/traditions/voodoo/#:~:text=New%20Orleans%20Voodoo%20is%20also,important%20part%20of%20their%20culture.