The Voodoo religion is one of the most, if not the most misconceived religion of our time. Often when Voodoo is mentioned, it is related to evil, black magic, devious sorcery, cannibalism, and harm. Although the Voodoo religion appears to the outsider as an illusion or falsehood, it has been an instrumental political force because it has helped the Haitians resist domination and form an identity of their own. Since the end of the 17 th century, Haitian Voodoo has overcome every challenge it has been faced with and has endured. The religion is based on a polytheistic belief system and represents a significant portion of Haiti's 8. 3 million people.
The engaging religion plays an important role in both the family and the community. Voodoo ceremonies allow participants to seek spiritual guidance, or help with their problems, making the religion a source of comfort. The main activity in Voodoo is the boundary between visible and invisible realities. Practitioners believe that there are no accidents, everything affects something else, and the universe is all one. In Voodoo, reality and illusion are fused to make things happen. Voodoo cannot be explained.
Voodoo is a very promising religion. It offers comfort and support to practitioners while Haiti remains unstable. There is a strong sense of tradition, but it is a very unique sense of tradition. Voodoo has no formal dogma, no specific organization, and no written text.
There is no right or wrong way to practice Voodoo. Because there was no formal history of Voodoo practitioners believed it was easier to form a bond with the supernatural world. Each individual has his / her own relationship with his or her specified god, and each relationship is unique. The religion is in the hands of the practitioner. People can choose how deep they wish to get involved in this religion. A practitioner of Voodoo decides for him or herself how to establish their personal bond with the supernatural.
In comparison religions like Catholicism, have guidelines to follow and consequences for all your actions. Voodoo allowed Haiti to form an identity of its own. Voodoo has been instrumental in the survival of Haiti because of its individualistic way of thinking. It is important to keep in mind that Haiti has been, and continues to be one of the most impoverished nations is the world. The fact that Haitian people's religion has remained unchanged for centuries proves that it is beneficial and promising. Voodoo remains adaptable as it has been throughout history, it is constantly changing to adapt to new situations that Haiti is faced with everyday.
After Haiti gained its independence it was ruled by one dictator after another. From 1860 until the present day, Haitian politics were never stable. During this period Haiti had thirty-five presidents, only five of them completed their terms. Through all of Haiti's political failure Voodoo has helped to resist domination, fight fragmentation of identity, with which the Haitians were constantly threatened, and avoid catholic conversion. Many of today's religions share strict beliefs that are found only within their own religion, they restrict the possibility to believe anything other that what the religion tells its followers to believe, in Voodoo you are not a follower. Voodoo is a religion influenced by many other religions; it allows its followers to feel free.
When Voodoo worshipers left Africa and reached the far away island of Haiti, the Voodoo religion changed. Catholicism of the slave owners, and various alternative religions from native islanders, influenced Voodoo. Voodoo easily incorporated these other religions because of its welcoming nature. Voodoo was appealing, especially to the slaves and poor members of a community. Because it was so inviting, it became a way for people with troubles and turmoil to unite. The slaves united through Voodoo to throw off white rule.
It was the first successful slave rebellion in the Western Hemisphere. Voodoo's success was starting. Voodoo is accredited to the success of the slaves, because of the strong bond it created. Voodoo teaches that life is made up of maintaining relationships and establishing bonds between one another.
This is the core teaching of Voodoo and the basis of life for Voodoo practitioners. In 1804, Voodoo also helped Haiti win independence as the first black republic. Voodoo united people with their community, communities with other communities, people with each other, but most importantly, Voodoo united people to the supernatural world. Many religions require attendance to a central meeting place to observe a speaker preach what people should and should not do. For example, Catholics go to church on Sundays and listen to a priest deliver a sermon. However, Voodoo ceremonies are a family event and a community bonding experience that has helped practitioners form an identity of their own.
The ceremonies are exciting, without a single dull moment. In Voodoo music and dance are the key elements of the ceremonies. A typical Voodoo ceremony gives the impression that it is a " wild party with a Voodoo theme" (Anderson pg. 96). The ceremonies are the most important event in Voodoo because the rituals people perform are to come in contact with the Lwa.
"Lwa is the supernatural, immortal spirits who oversee different areas of the natural world and human experience; Voodoo devotees serve the Lwa, providing offerings in exchange for their help and advice" (Turlington pg. 285). Without the ceremonies, the Lwa would be distant. The reasons to perform a ritual include, requesting a special favor, to ask for guidance when solving a problem, to counteract magic, to guard against harm, to heal the sick, to escape bad luck, to celebrate different aspects of success, to acknowledge special events, and to give thanks.
The ceremony is lead by the communities' priest or priestess, who serves as a leader and organizer for the congregation. Voodoo ceremonies last through the night, until the first light of dawn with continuous drumming, dancing, and chanting. The drumming is crucial to the ceremonies because it controls the dancing and rhythm of the ritual. The participants communicate with the immortal spirits through the dance, and chanting is used to invite the Lwa to join in the ritual. The climax of the night is when an animal is sacrificed. The animal is usually a chicken or other type of bird, which is killed humanely.
There are many misconceptions about the bird's head being bitten off. These misconceptions are false. The actions at the ceremonies cause Voodoo to be looked upon poorly. These ceremonies are the reason Voodoo is associated with evil, black magic, devious sorcery, cannibalism, and harm. To an outsider, the Voodoo religion may appear to be an illusion or phony.
However, most people have never seen a Voodoo ritual outside of the movie theatres and do not know the truth about this very small religion. For legitimate devotees, Voodoo is about serving the Lwa, not spells, curses, or raising the dead. Voodoo's real power comes from a close relationship with a deep understanding of the spirituality that surrounds us everyday. Nothing can be more magical then a close relationship with your Lwa. There are many misconceptions about the Voodoo religion that reflect poorly on Haiti and Voodoo practitioners. In reality, Voodoo is not a secret practice of mysterious, and sinister Haitian magic.
It is a rich religion that has lasted for centuries. These misconceptions harm the image of the Voodoo religion and blur the comforting nature. When the truths about Voodoo are known the appeal becomes vividly apparent. "The Hollywood version of Voodoo cruelly depicts Voodoo healers, priests / priestess , and diviners as little more than 'mumbo jumbo' talking frauds, cannibals and witchdoctors, whose only goal is to steal the souls of their unsuspecting victims, rendering them helpless, walking zombies in the end. Additionally, the over embellished and sensationalized Wes Craven movie which he alleges is based upon the book by Wade Davis 'Serpent & the Rainbow,' did little to educate the public about the true Voodoo religion." (Common Misconceptions About Vodoun) The most famous misconception about Voodoo is the Voodoo Doll. The Voodoo Doll is a symbol of an enemy made from cloth or wax that is stuck with pins to torment or kill.
The person who creates the doll must use a hair or nail clipping from the subject for it to work. The owner of the doll then subjects the doll to different stimuli. Some may be surprised, but Voodoo Dolls are completely unknown in Haiti and play no part in the religion or magic of Voodoo. Voodoo Dolls actually have European origins. Another Voodoo fallacy is the myth of the Zombie, or walking dead.
Stories of Zombies do exist but it is believed to be more of a Hollywood hyped myth then actual truth. A Haitian cab driver in 1980 said " Well no... personally Voodoo does not exist; it is impossible! I don't like it, people will do anything who believe in Voodoo- I have seen some of these zombies, flying through the air late at night, with rocket-fire from their feet! No, this Voodoo is dangerous; I just ignore it!" (Anderson pg. 89).
The practice of devil worshiping is another example of a fallacy associated with the Voodoo religion. Voodoo is far from Satanism. The Christian church does not recognize the gods worshiped in Voodoo so they are thought of as bad. " If there are good and bad spirits in Western religions, why cant there be good spirits and bad sprits in Haiti?" (Hunter, UF professor) Because Voodoo is so misunderstood, rumors are well known but the facts are not. Without a doubt, Voodoo is a beneficial and comforting religion in Haiti.
It has existed for centuries and is still commonly practiced. Voodoo has always been an instrumental force in fighting oppression in Haiti. Dating back from its roots as a means for slaves to get their freedom to Haiti officially sanctioning Voodoo as a religion in April 2003, Voodoo has united its devotees. Despite constant attacks on Voodoo in and out of Haiti due to its supernatural nature, it continues to thrive. It remains defiant from the rest of the world but represents the strength and rebellion of the slaves of Haiti from who most black Haitians descended from. Philippe Casi era a Voodoo priest said, " In spite of our contribution to Haitian culture, we are still misunderstood and despised" (O kara, Origins of Voodoo).
Voodoo helps and guides people who suffer and it serves as a comfort for those in need. Historically in Haiti Voodoo has and continues to be a very successful religion. Anderson, Michelle. "Authentic Voodoo is Synthetic." The Drama Review Summer, 1982: 89-110." Common Misconceptions About Vodoun" 20 May. web Sharon. "Haiti: Possessed by Voodoo." National Geographic July.
2004. 20 May. web 040707 tvtaboovoodoo. htmlHunte, Tracie. "UF professor: Haitian voodoo similar to western practices." Alligator online 20 May. web "Origins of Voodoo" 10 May.
web Shannon. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Voodoo. USA: Alpha, 2002. Webster's Dictionary & thesaurus. "Voodoo." New York: Shooting Star Press, 1995.