Voodoo - Reality and Imagination

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Voodoo – Reality and Imagination

Who hasn’t heard about Voodoo? Al the time we see the pinned dolls in movies or TV spots. We ask ourselves what are their purposes…they were only created to scare…and nothing more.

The book which cought the imagination of people outside the West Indies, and which was responsible for much of the misunderstanding and fear that is present today is “Haiti or the Black Republic”,written by S.St. John. It is an inaccurate and sensational book, written in 1884 and which describes Vodun as a profoundly evil religion, and included lurid descriptions of human sacrifice, cannibalism etc, some of which have been extracted from Vodun priests by torture. Hollywoodfound this a rich source for Voodoo screen plays. Horror movies began in 1930s and continue today to misrepresent Vodoo. It is only since the late ‘50s that the accurate 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 parts of today’s Togo, Benin and Nigeria. It was brought to Haiti and the other islands in West Indies when the slaves were brought there by force. When the slaves arrived, it was prohibited to them to practice those rituals and were baptised inte the Roman catholic Church, but altough they attended Mass regurarly, they kept practicing their rituals in secret. It was also actively supressed during colonial times when the priests were either killed or imprisoned. The Dahomean were forced to create Voodoo Orders or underground societies and so to continue to worship their ancestors and their powerful gods. It was again supressed during Marxist regime. In Benin, for 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. It can be found in many large cities in North America, particularly in American South. It is laso related to other religions such as: santeria in Cuba, Shango in Trinidad, condomble, xango, macumba and batuque in Brazil, obeaj in Jamaica.

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All the Vodun practicers worship three goups of spirits: the saints(also known as loa ), the ancestors and the twins (marassa). The loa are often associated withcatholic saints and African tribal deities and many combine characteristics of both, as the indentification of St.Patrick with a native sake deity. Individuals inherit the obligation to worship a particula r loa, as well as the family dead and the spirits of the twins among the ancestors. There is no hierarchy of priests and no centralised control, and the cult groups are aided to do rituals by priests (also called hungan)  or priestesses (mambo) but ...

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