The Misconceptions of Voodoo

Haitian voodoo share many traits of other faith-based religions. Misconceptions of voodoo have giving Haiti a reputation for sorcery and zombies. Outsiders call the Voodoo religion “black magic”. Roman Catholicism is the official religion of Haiti, but the primary religion is voodoo. Voodoo is a religion with origins in West Africa-Benin and Togo (jamesduvalier.com). The basic concept of Voodoo is God, the serving of the spiritual beings, and the priesthood of voodoo.

voodoo altar
Merloze Tilme

In the Voodoo religion there is one God-the creator.(Bon Dieu).  The belief is that God is too distant from his creations. The priests worship God but serve the spirits, angels, or familiar spirits. Each of these lesser spirits represent an aspect of nature (lighting and thunder, keeper of the crossroads, and love beauty, and wealth). Catholics and Protestants in general believe in “Loa” (family or ancestors spirits), but Baptist and most outsiders consider them demons. Not saints to served (Schwartz). Although is usually associated with Satan. Satan or Lucifer is rarely used in the voodoo religion.

Initially Haitian and Louisiana voodoo were developed separately. Both colonies practiced voodoo along side with Roman Catholic in order to hide  their religious practices from European masters. In Haiti, since Africans outnumber Europeans. Voodoo was practiced more openly. Meanwhile, in Louisiana , there were fewer African. They had to find ways to hide their practices. Many believe that this where the charms, Voodoo dolls and the comparison between Vooddo saints and Catholic saints came about.

There are many spirits (loa) in Voodoo; the rada and the petro. The rada spirits are mostly are mostly seen as “sweet or cool” loa.  The petro spirits are  “bitter or hot”. The bitter spirits are more demanding of their children. Rada spirits were traced back to African origins. The petro spirits are of Haitian origin. Loa (saints)  communicate  to families members in dreams and even more dramatically, through trances. Loa’s usually have distinct identities; they have traits that range from good, evil, or demanding. They show displeasure by making people sick. To treat the illnesses, voodoo is often used. People believe that the Loa’s protect their children from misfortune. The Loa’s in return expect the families to “feed” them  through periodic rituals in which food, drink, and other gifts are offered to the spirits. Services are usually held at a sanctuary on the family land.

Many accomplished herbalists are voodoo priest who treat a variety of illnesses. The male specialists is called houngan or boko and females specialists are called mambo. The main functions of the Manbo’s and Boko’s is to hold initiations for new priests, telling the future and dream interpretation, casting spells, and healing. The priest creates potions for various purposes, from love spells to death spells. For many of these services the Voodoo priest will usually have a fee. Similar to the fees paid to ministers, rabbis, and catholic priest.

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