Voodoo is a an Afro-Caribbean melange of different African religions (some over 10,000 years old) and Catholicism. The word "voodoo" comes from the West African word "vodun," meaning spirit. The foundations of Voodoo were established in various parts of Africa long before the Europeans started the slave trade, by the Angolese, Caplaous, Congos, Dahomeans, Ethiopians, Fon, Haussars, Ibos, Libyans, Malgaches, Mandinge, Mondungues, Nago and the Senegalese. Voodoo, as it's known today, was born in Haiti during the European colonization of the Americas by combining and modifying these African practices, and was primarily formed as a side-effect to the suppression of their own previous religious beliefs. Today Voodoo is the dominant religion of Haiti, practiced by Haitians from all walks of life. Practiced in Haiti itself and in the Dominican Republic, Brazil, New York, Miami and other haitian communities abroad.
Voodoo went "underground" and was practiced in secret for hundreds of years as a reaction to French leaders who prohibited all African religious practices with severe often deadly punishments. This persecution was instigated when the French began to see the religions of the Africans as a threat to the colonial system. During this period the Voodoo priests consulted oracles to learn how fight the political battle and emerge victorious. The revolution began in 1791 and continued until 1804 when the Haitians won independance.
Practioners of Voodoo believe that everything in nature is connected and there are no accidents. No event serves a life unto itself, but effects everything in the universe. Rituals of voodoo include prayers, drumming, song and dance, and animal sacrifice (the spirits of sacrificial animals serve to nourish the beings in the spirit world - this in turn makes those spirits happy, which is a desirable condition). Ceremonies in which song and dance are keys, are called Night Dancing. The dance serves as an expression of spirituality and a connection with the spirit world.
These ceremonies are lead by priests (houngan) and priestesses (mambo). The houngan and mambo have several functions in the religion. They are healers, using herbs and medicines, and calling on the spirits to heal the sick or injured. They also hold the religious ceremonies to call or pacify the spirits. They predict the future and interpret dreams. They cast spells and concoct potions of all kinds from love spells, good and bad luck spells, celebratory spells and even death spells. Sometimes during the ceremonies led by these houngan and mambo, spirits have been known to possess (mount) celebrants to offer advice, wisdom or warnings.
The spirits should not be thought of as gods however. Voodoo belief includes only one god, Bondye (however Bondye is very distant and vague, while the spirits are much more close and personal). There are three main categories of spiritual beings.
There are several Loa worthy of note:
- Legba, the gatekeeper between this world and the spirit world. He is the originator of life. He is pictured as an old man.
- Kalfu, the complement of Legba. He is the dark spirit and the originator of darkness. He is believed to be a very dangerous loa.
- Papa Ghede, Loa of death and resurrection.
- Dumballah, the father figure.
- Agwe, the ruler over the seas.
- Ogoun, the warrior.
- Erzulie, the earth mother. She is the spirit of the goddess of love. When she mounts someone they are cleansed.
Voodoo was also the name of my second favorite character in the game War Gods. Right behind CY-5.