Voodoo, Voodu, or Vo-du, is an umbrella term for ancient African religious practices and their pantheon of gods and goddesses, which merged with Catholicism during the slave trade in the French colony of Saint-Domingue and in Haiti. In practice, it centers around the belief that the deities worshiped possess the practitioner. It is a deeply misunderstood and maligned religion.
What Is the Origin of Voodoo?
The history and origins of Vodun or Vo-du as it is called by its followers are ancient and stretch back as far as ten-thousand years in the kingdom of Dahomey, which in modern geographical terms covers the land of Nigeria, Benin, and Togo. The religion is named after the god Vodun of the Yorba people of West Africa. The word Vudon is from the Fon word for “god” or “spirit”.
Interesting Facts About Voodoo
In the pantheon of Voodoo gods, there are eight deities commonly worshiped. The great creator god of the cosmos is called “Bondye.” Also popular is “Papa Legba,” who acts as an intermediary between humans and the gods. The next is “Maman Brigitte,” which is associated with death and the underworld. “Baron Samedi,” husband to Maman Brigitte is the god who watches over the cemeteries and is a shepherd of the dead. “Erzulie” is the Vogoddess of love and beauty. “Ogun” is the god of war, industry, and justice. “Damballah” is a creator god too, who worked with Bondye to create the cosmos. And finally, of these eight gods and goddesses, there is “Oshun,” goddess of waterways and oceans.
Voodoo is a syncretic religion. For this reason, it incorporates and adopts many rituals and beliefs into its tenets. Because of this, it is a polytheistic faith and adapts over time. Unlike many world religions, some of their intermediaries are actual gods. They are called “loa.”There are many kinds of loa, some of which are good, and some that are forces of destruction or ill luck. Another interesting fact about this great religion is that both men and women may serve as priests. Male Vodun priests are called Oungan (which is sometimes spelled as Houngan), and female priests are called Manbo. Because of its long history, Vodun (or Voodoo) is practiced by over thirty million people today and is the religion of Haiti.
What is Hoodoo, and what does it have to do with Voodoo
An easy way of distinguishing between the ancient religion of Vodun and the practice of Hoodoo is to remember that Hoodoo, unlike the former, is a collection of ritual folk magic that may be practiced by laypersons. It incorporates many systems of traditional herblore, folk medicine, and spiritual practices including protective spells for love, prosperity, and good and bad luck. Its origins are in Africa too. Much of what is called Hoodoo today is a spiritual practice that arose during the Transatlantic Slave Trade and American slavery.
How Voodoo Got A Bad Name
Again like its cousin religion, it has gotten a bad name through popular entertainment, American literature, and the Catholic Church’s propaganda against it. as well. Most of the stereotypes center around the belief that Hoodoo and Voodoo are black magic used to harm people. This is an unfortunate misunderstanding. Even today, its popularity is on the rise as it is being taken up by young black Christian Americans who want to celebrate their heritage.
Voodoo, a Force for Good
Despite its troubled history, Voodoo and Hoodoo are thriving today. There are more than thirty million followers of the religion and is gaining popularity in American black communities of younger generations who are trying to reclaim what was taken from them during slavery and segregation. It is not a religion of black magic. It is an ancient faith and a force for good in its communities.