– Reality and Imagination
heard about Voodoo? Al the time we see the pinned dolls in movies or TV
We ask ourselves what are their purposes…they were only created to
The book which cought the
imagination of people outside the West Indies, and which was
much of the misunderstanding and fear that is present today is “Haiti
Black Republic”,written by S.St. John. It is an inaccurate and
book, written in 1884 and which describes Vodun as a profoundly evil
and included lurid descriptions of human sacrifice, cannibalism etc,
which have been extracted from Vodun priests by torture. Hollywoodfound
rich source for Voodoo screen plays. Horror movies began in 1930s and
today to misrepresent Vodoo. It is only since the late ‘50s that the
studies by anthropologists have been published.
It all started 6 000 years ago in
Africa, but can be directly traces to the West African Yaruba people
who lived in
the 18th and 19th centurydahomey, which occupied
today’s Togo, Benin and Nigeria. It was brought to Haiti
and the other islands in West Indies
slaves were brought there by force. When the slaves arrived, it was
to them to practice those rituals and were baptised inte the Roman
Church, but altough they attended Mass regurarly, they kept practicing
rituals in secret. It was also actively supressed during colonial times
the priests were either killed or imprisoned. The Dahomean were forced
create Voodoo Orders or underground societies and so to continue to
their ancestors and their powerful gods. It was again supressed during
regime. In Benin,
exemple, the Vodun religion is freely practiced since1989 and since
1996 it is
formely recognized as Benin’s
official religion. It is also followed by most adults in Haiti.
be found in many large cities in North America,
particularly in American South. It is laso related to other religions
santeria in Cuba,
Trinidad, condomble, xango, macumba and batuque in Brazil,
obeaj in Jamaica.
All the Vodun practicers worship
three goups of spirits: the saints(also known as loa ), the
and the twins (marassa). The loa are often associated
saints and African tribal deities and many combine characteristics of
the indentification of St.Patrick with a native sake deity. Individuals
the obligation to worship a particula r loa, as well as the family dead
spirits of the twins among the ancestors. There is no hierarchy of
no centralised control, and the cult groups are aided to do rituals by
(also called hungan) or
priestesses (mambo) but not necessarely.
As well as the
Catholics, the Vodun belief
includes a chief God Olorum, who is
remote and unknowable. He authorised a lesser God Obatala to create the earth and rhe life forms. A battle
between the two gods led to Obatala’s temporary banishment. The spirits
originated from Dahomey
are called rada; those who were added later are often deceased headers
new world and are called Petro.
Followers of Vodun believe that each
person has a soul which is composed of two parts: a
gros bon ange or “big guardian
angel” and a ti bon ange, meaning “little guardian angel”.
Although the African and Haitian
Vodun have the same source, along the time little differences apeared.
say African Vodun is more agressive but of course is just my opinion.
The African followers rely on unseen forces to
govern their world and their lives. Most of West
2.5 million Ewe are devout believers. The coastal people learn from
honor their divinities. Parents use
voodoo to teach their children how to behave and what the comunity
them. Each morning worshipers make an offering to the local god, asking
There are voodoo healing hospitals
were all kind of cures can be found, from cures for leprosy to ones for
paralysis. In these hospitals there are shrines of the loa and the
invoke their spirits. One declared “The gods protect us. They direct
actions and tell us which medicines to take so no harm can come to us.”
shrines are a little bit funny: they smoke, drink gin and smell good.
Every three years, in May, a
seven-day celebration is held and the meeting place hundreds of
area villages come and pay homage Flimani koku, the healing god. During
celebration weird things happen “with the help of our gods” as they say
brings a heated knife to his tongue but after several repetitions, his
doesn’t even redden”. Only for the strangers this things seem weird but
participants it seems normal.
During the ritual a feast has to be
prepared and a chiken has to be killed on the forehead of a boy and
cooked in a
cabalash. Before this the Kokuzun participants follow the deities
command: “ Do
not have sex or eat goat meat for two weeks before the celebration, and
with a clean heart.
Haitian Voodoo rituals involve a
feast before the main ceremony and a dance. The dancing will typically
intensity until one of the dancers ( usually a hounsis- students
Vodun) becomes possesed by o loa and falls. His or her ti bon ange has
their body and the spirit has taken control. The possesed dancer will
the loa and is treated with respect and ceremony by the present. While
possessed they may walk, dance, eat and even give advice to and
for ill. A possessed individual is known as the deity’s “horse” and the
is said “to mount” his “horse”. At the end of the possession the
expected to have no memory of the experience. The dance and the whole
accompanied by a lot of drumming and singing. The drummings and the
be appropriate for the particular group of spirits to be invoked,
loa has his or her own particular drum rythms and songs. They are thus
to participate in the dance.
The Haitian form oh spirit
possessionb is clearly derived from similar, somewhat more highly
fhenomena in elements of voodoo are derived.
A Vodun ritual contains a number of
elements taken over from catholicism as the Hail Mary, the Lord’s
Littany of Saints, the sign of cross, baptism, the use of bells,
crosses and pictures of saints.
There are more similar points of
similarity between Roman Catholicism and Vodun: both believe in a
being, the Loa resemble Christian Saints, in that they were once people
exceptional lives, and are usually given a simple responsibility or
attributes, both believe in an after life, followers of vodun believe
persona has a met tet (master of the head) which corresponds to a
Sticking pins in ‘voodoo dools” was
once used as a method of curing an individual by some followers of
Vodun in New Orleans; this practice
continues occasionaly in South America.
The practice became associated with Voodoo
in the public mind through the vehicule of horror movies.
Vodun is not what we all thought
about it, but a religion like others and the hot details about, were
inventions we see all the time at TV and we take for granted.