Vodoo

The word voodoo, which has many different names and spellings (like vodun, vodou, voudou, vudu, vodoun, vowdown, vooodooo, vundun) is the name of a West African animist, spiritual folkway. Some contemporary advocates wish to discredit the power of Voodoo by calling it a religion. However, the essence of Voodoo is a way of life that it is a supernatural ancestral connection, passed from generation to generation via oral tradition and the modeling of rituals and routine spiritual practices. Voodoo evolved across the centuries; has variations from tribe to tribe; and as "folkway" is the essential nature of Voodoo, it could not be destroyed by white people who enslaved West Africans in the New World. Religion, the faith mode of White people in the New World, on the other hand is based on formal organization, myths and dogma encoded in texts, buildings constructed for worship, and an hierarchy of ordained leaders.

Voodoo is animist. That is, all aspects of the natural world are seen as having spiritual identity that is immune to physical death. Voodoo animism includes belief in each person's spirit surviving the death of the body, so ancestors are called upon for inspiration, protection or other influences over the material world. In the New World, most Voodoo believers became Christian in order to enhance their welfare under the control of Christian owners; and now most of those Christian-Voodoo faithful happen to identify as Catholic. But the roots of Voodoo are from the Fon, Ewe, and Yoruba people of Africa. The word vodún is the Fon-Ewe word for spirit.

In voodoo many gods and spirits are prayed to or called on. Both spirits of nature and of dead people are important. The spirits of family member who have died are especially important. Voodoo often has rituals with music and dancing. Drums are used to make most of this music. In voodoo people often believe that a spirit is in their body and controlling the body. Having a spirit come into is wanted, and important. This spirit can speak for the gods or dead people you love, and can also help to heal or do magic.

African Vodu: The Beginning of Voodoo

Voodoo came to places like Haiti and the United States as vodu. Some people think voodoo and vodu are the same religion. Some people think they are not the same religion because voodoo has changed some after it was taken from Africa. For example, African vodu often has animal sacrifice (the animal is killed for the spirits), but this is not common in Haiti. Another example is that an African sea god became a Haitian sea goddess. Voodoo in Haiti and America has also added some Catholic ideas that were not known in African vodu.

Voodou in Haiti

Voodoo is an important religion in Haiti. When Haiti beat the French in a war and became its own country, the people of Haiti believed that voodoo had helped them win. Also, in Haiti there are both good priests and "dark" sorcerers (called bokor). The bokor acts like a kind of religious policeman, and may curse bad people. It is the bokor who are said to make zombies; becoming a zombie is the worst curse because it means a person loses their soul.

Voodoo in the United States

Voodoo originally entered the United States via immigrants from Africa and Haiti such as Marie LaVeau, "the voodoo queen of New Orleans". Marie was a pacifist and known for healing people. Though unprecedented, the local Catholic priest let Marie practice Voodoo in the Catholic Church, and as a result, she became famous, leading (along with others) many in Louisiana to believe in Voodoo.

In most parts of the U.S., voodoo is primarily practiced by African descendants, who follow the teachings as part of a family heritage. Louisiana, however, which is the U.S. state with the most voodoo believers, the belief system has attracted a number of caucasian followers as well.

An image of Voodoo sculptures made in wood.

A Voodoo Drum from Haiti

The Voodoo Queen of New Orleans, Marie Laveau

Voodoo in popular culture

People fear the unknown, and as most people do not know much about Voodoo, it is used to frighten and its practices (Hoodoo) are portrayed as evil. Voodoo is shown in many horror/suspense movies and has come into American pop culture through music, movies, art, and many other mediums.

Movies

Like many other religions and practices, people learn about voodoo and hoodoo through movies and TV shows, where it has gained the popularity it has today as a form of entertainment. Hoodoo was showcased in the 2005 horror-suspense movie, The Skeleton Key, starring Kate Hudson (correctly emphasizing that it was hoodoo that was being used), and in the 2009 Disney movie The Princess and the Frog.

Zombies are a large part of popular horror culture, and they originated in voodoo folklore from the original word, “nbzambi”, which refers to the primary sprit and/or to one’s soul. There are four types of zombies in voodoo: the Great Spirit, the Spiritual Soul, the Herbal Zombie and the Bargained Zombie. Each type is created differently. Zombies of voodoo folklore do not come to be from a zombie bite, it is a large misconception.

Names and etymology

Vodou is a Haitian Creole word that formerly referred to only a small subset of Haitian rituals. The word derives from an Ayizo word referring to mysterious forces or powers that govern the world and the lives of those who reside within it, but also a range of artistic forms that function in conjunction with these vodun energies. Two of the major speaking populations of Ayizo are the Ewe and the Fon—European slavers called both the Arada.

These two peoples composed a sizable number of the early enslaved population in St. Dominigue. In Haiti, practitioners occasionally use "Vodou" to refer to Haitian religion generically, but it is more common for practitioners to refer to themselves as those who "serve the spirits" (sèvitè) by participating in ritual ceremonies, usually called a "service to the loa" (sèvis lwa) or an "African service" (sèvis gine).[20] These terms also refer to the religion as a whole.

Outside of Haiti, the term Vodou refers to the entirety of traditional Haitian religious practice. Originally written as vodun, it is first recorded in Doctrina Christiana, a 1658 document written by the King of Allada's ambassador to the court of Philip IV of Spain. In the following centuries, Vodou was eventually taken up by non-Haitians as a generic descriptive term for traditional Haitian religion. There are many used orthographies for this word. Today, the spelling Vodou is the most commonly accepted orthography in English. Other potential spellings include Vodoun, vaudou, and voodoo, with vau- or vou- prefix variants reflecting French orthography, and a final -n reflecting the nasal vowel in West African or older, non-urbanized, Haitian Creole pronunciations.

The spelling voodoo, once very common, is now generally avoided by Haitian practitioners and scholars when referring to the Haitian religion. This is both to avoid confusion with Louisiana Voodoo, a related but distinct set of religious practices, as well as to separate Haitian Vodou from the negative connotations and misconceptions the term "voodoo" has acquired in popular culture.

Over the years, practitioners and their supporters have called on various institutions including the Associated Press to redress this misrepresentation by adopting "Vodou" in reference to the Haitian religion. In October 2012, the Library of Congress decided to change their subject heading from "Voodooism" to Vodou in response to a petition by a group of scholars and practitioners in collaboration with KOSANBA, the scholarly association for the study of Haitian Vodou based at University of California Santa Barbara.

West African Vodun

Voodoo Ornaments on a table from Haiti

Voodoo Museum in New Orleans, table with voodoo ornaments in different shapes & sizes.

African Voodoo, an african child, standing amongst various animal artifacts which can be used for Voodoo.

The word voodoo, which has many different names and spellings (like vodun, vodou, voudou, vudu, vodoun, vowdown, vooodooo, vundun) is the name of a West African animist, spiritual folkway. Some contemporary advocates wish to discredit the power of Voodoo by calling it a religion. However, the essence of Voodoo is a way of life that it is a supernatural ancestral connection, passed from generation to generation via oral tradition and the modeling of rituals and routine spiritual practices. Voodoo evolved across the centuries; has variations from tribe to tribe; and as "folkway" is the essential nature of Voodoo, it could not be destroyed by white people who enslaved West Africans in the New World. Religion, the faith mode of White people in the New World, on the other hand is based on formal organization, myths and dogma encoded in texts, buildings constructed for worship, and an hierarchy of ordained leaders.

An image of Voodoo sculptures made in wood.

Voodoo is animist. That is, all aspects of the natural world are seen as having spiritual identity that is immune to physical death. Voodoo animism includes belief in each person's spirit surviving the death of the body, so ancestors are called upon for inspiration, protection or other influences over the material world. In the New World, most Voodoo believers became Christian in order to enhance their welfare under the control of Christian owners; and now most of those Christian-Voodoo faithful happen to identify as Catholic. But the roots of Voodoo are from the Fon, Ewe, and Yoruba people of Africa. The word vodún is the Fon-Ewe word for spirit.

In voodoo many gods and spirits are prayed to or called on. Both spirits of nature and of dead people are important. The spirits of family member who have died are especially important. Voodoo often has rituals with music and dancing. Drums are used to make most of this music. In voodoo people often believe that a spirit is in their body and controlling the body. Having a spirit come into is wanted, and important. This spirit can speak for the gods or dead people you love, and can also help to heal or do magic.

African Vodu: The Beginning of Voodoo

Voodoo came to places like Haiti and the United States as vodu. Some people think voodoo and vodu are the same religion. Some people think they are not the same religion because voodoo has changed some after it was taken from Africa. For example, African vodu often has animal sacrifice (the animal is killed for the spirits), but this is not common in Haiti. Another example is that an African sea god became a Haitian sea goddess. Voodoo in Haiti and America has also added some Catholic ideas that were not known in African vodu.

Voodou in Haiti

Voodoo is an important religion in Haiti. When Haiti beat the French in a war and became its own country, the people of Haiti believed that voodoo had helped them win. Also, in Haiti there are both good priests and "dark" sorcerers (called bokor). The bokor acts like a kind of religious policeman, and may curse bad people. It is the bokor who are said to make zombies; becoming a zombie is the worst curse because it means a person loses their soul.

A Voodoo Drum from Haiti

Voodoo in the United States

Voodoo originally entered the United States via immigrants from Africa and Haiti such as Marie LaVeau, "the voodoo queen of New Orleans". Marie was a pacifist and known for healing people. Though unprecedented, the local Catholic priest let Marie practice Voodoo in the Catholic Church, and as a result, she became famous, leading (along with others) many in Louisiana to believe in Voodoo.

The Voodoo Queen of New Orleans, Marie Laveau

In most parts of the U.S., voodoo is primarily practiced by African descendants, who follow the teachings as part of a family heritage. Louisiana, however, which is the U.S. state with the most voodoo believers, the belief system has attracted a number of caucasian followers as well.

Voodoo in popular culture

People fear the unknown, and as most people do not know much about Voodoo, it is used to frighten and its practices (Hoodoo) are portrayed as evil. Voodoo is shown in many horror/suspense movies and has come into American pop culture through music, movies, art, and many other mediums.

West African Vodun

Movies

Like many other religions and practices, people learn about voodoo and hoodoo through movies and TV shows, where it has gained the popularity it has today as a form of entertainment. Hoodoo was showcased in the 2005 horror-suspense movie, The Skeleton Key, starring Kate Hudson (correctly emphasizing that it was hoodoo that was being used), and in the 2009 Disney movie The Princess and the Frog.

Zombies are a large part of popular horror culture, and they originated in voodoo folklore from the original word, “nbzambi”, which refers to the primary sprit and/or to one’s soul. There are four types of zombies in voodoo: the Great Spirit, the Spiritual Soul, the Herbal Zombie and the Bargained Zombie. Each type is created differently. Zombies of voodoo folklore do not come to be from a zombie bite, it is a large misconception.

Voodoo Ornaments on a table from Haiti

Names and etymology

Vodou is a Haitian Creole word that formerly referred to only a small subset of Haitian rituals. The word derives from an Ayizo word referring to mysterious forces or powers that govern the world and the lives of those who reside within it, but also a range of artistic forms that function in conjunction with these vodun energies. Two of the major speaking populations of Ayizo are the Ewe and the Fon—European slavers called both the Arada.

These two peoples composed a sizable number of the early enslaved population in St. Dominigue. In Haiti, practitioners occasionally use "Vodou" to refer to Haitian religion generically, but it is more common for practitioners to refer to themselves as those who "serve the spirits" (sèvitè) by participating in ritual ceremonies, usually called a "service to the loa" (sèvis lwa) or an "African service" (sèvis gine).[20] These terms also refer to the religion as a whole.

Voodoo Museum in New Orleans, table with voodoo ornaments in different shapes & sizes.

Outside of Haiti, the term Vodou refers to the entirety of traditional Haitian religious practice. Originally written as vodun, it is first recorded in Doctrina Christiana, a 1658 document written by the King of Allada's ambassador to the court of Philip IV of Spain. In the following centuries, Vodou was eventually taken up by non-Haitians as a generic descriptive term for traditional Haitian religion. There are many used orthographies for this word. Today, the spelling Vodou is the most commonly accepted orthography in English. Other potential spellings include Vodoun, vaudou, and voodoo, with vau- or vou- prefix variants reflecting French orthography, and a final -n reflecting the nasal vowel in West African or older, non-urbanized, Haitian Creole pronunciations.

The spelling voodoo, once very common, is now generally avoided by Haitian practitioners and scholars when referring to the Haitian religion. This is both to avoid confusion with Louisiana Voodoo, a related but distinct set of religious practices, as well as to separate Haitian Vodou from the negative connotations and misconceptions the term "voodoo" has acquired in popular culture.

African Voodoo, an african child, standing amongst various animal artifacts which can be used for Voodoo.

Over the years, practitioners and their supporters have called on various institutions including the Associated Press to redress this misrepresentation by adopting "Vodou" in reference to the Haitian religion. In October 2012, the Library of Congress decided to change their subject heading from "Voodooism" to Vodou in response to a petition by a group of scholars and practitioners in collaboration with KOSANBA, the scholarly association for the study of Haitian Vodou based at University of California Santa Barbara.