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Fredrick

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Voodoo
« on: November 18, 2011, 04:54:24 AM »

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Re: Voodoo
« Reply #1 on: November 18, 2011, 04:58:34 AM »

West African Vodun
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/West_African_Vodun

Voodoo altar with several fetishes in Abomey, Benin

his article is about the West African religion. For other uses, see Voodoo (disambiguation).
See also: Dahomey mythology and Yoruba mythology

Vodun or Vudun (spirit in the Fon and Ewe languages, pronounced [vodṹ] with a nasal high-tone u; also spelled Vodon, Vodoun, Voudou, Voodoo etc.) is an indigenous organised religion of coastal West Africa from Nigeria to Ghana. Vodun is practised by the Ewe, Kabye, Mina and Fon peoples of southeastern Ghana, southern and central Togo, southern and central Benin and (under a different name) the Yoruba of southwestern Nigeria.[1]

It is distinct from the various traditional animistic religions in the interiors of these same countries and is the main origin for religions of similar name found among the African Diaspora in the New World such as Haitian Vodou, the Vudu of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, Candomblé Jejé in Brazil (which uses the term Vodum), Louisiana Voodoo and Santería in Cuba. All these are syncretized with Christianity and the traditional religions of the Kongo people of Congo and Angola.

Theology and practice

Voodoo fetish market in Lomé, Togo.

Vodun cosmology centers around the vodun spirits and other elements of divine essence that govern the Earth, a hierarchy that range in power from major deities governing the forces of nature and human society to the spirits of individual streams, trees, and rocks, as well as dozens of ethnic vodun, defenders of a certain clan, tribe, or nation. The vodun are the centre of religious life, similarly in many ways to the cult of intercession of saints and angels that made Vodun compatible with Christianity, especially Catholicism, and produced syncretic religions such as Haitian Vodou. Adherents also emphasise ancestor worship and hold that the spirits of the dead live side by side with the world of the living, each family of spirits having its own female priesthood, sometimes hereditary when is from mother to blood daughter.

Patterns of worship follow various dialects, gods, practices, songs and rituals. Vodun recognises one God with many helpers called Orishas. A single divine Creator, called variously Mawu or Nana Buluku is an androgynous being who in one tradition bore seven children and gave each rule over a realm of nature - animals, earth, and sea - or else these children are inter-ethnic and related to natural phenomena or to historical or mythical individuals. The creator embodies a dual cosmogonic principle of which Mawu the moon and Lisa the sun are respectively the female and male aspects, often portrayed as the twin children of the Creator. [1]

Mawu's youngest child, Legba, was to remain with her and act as a go-between with her other children: in some clans he is young and virile while in Haiti he takes the form of an old man. Other deities might include Mami Wata, god/desses of the waters, Gu, ruling iron and smithcraft, Sakpata, who rules diseases and many others. Eshu, a messenger deity who relays messages between the human world and the world of the Orishas, is depicted as a dark, short man with a large staff and often a pipe, candy or his fingers in his mouth. As the mediator between the gods and the living he maintains balance, order, peace and communication.

All creation is considered divine and therefore contains the power of the divine. This is how medicines such as herbal remedies are understood, and explains the ubiquitous use of mundane objects in religious ritual. Voodoo talismans, called "fetishes", are objects such as statues or dried animal parts that are sold for their healing and spiritually rejuvenating properties. Sorcerers and sorceresses called Botono (or Aze/Azetos) are believed to cast spells on enemies on behalf of supplicants, calling upon spirits to bring misfortune or harm to a person or group. Animal sacrifice is a common way to show respect and thankfulness to the gods.

Mama, or Queen Mothers, are usually elder women who are elected by the kingmakers upon the death of the previous Queen Mother and are given the name of one of their highly respected female ancestors. The woman who is chosen is usually the oldest women in her clan, but this tradition may be overruled due to factors such as health, education, and national influence. The responsibilities of a Queen Mother are mostly geared towards activities among women. They take part in the organisation and the running of markets and are also responsible for their upkeep, which is vitally important because marketplaces are the focal points for gatherings and social centres in their communities. In the past when the men of the villages would go to war, the Queen Mothers would lead prayer ceremonies in which all the women attended every morning to ensure the safe return of their menfolk.

Demographics
About 23% of the population of Benin, some 1 million people, follow Vodun. (This does not count other traditional religions in Benin.) In addition, many of the 41.5% of the population that refer to themselves as Christian practice a syncretized religion, not dissimilar from Haitian Vodou or Brazilian Cadomblé; indeed, many of them are descended from freed Brazilian slaves who settled on the coast near Ouidah.[3] In Togo, about half the population practices indigenous religions, of which Vodun is by far the largest, with some 2 and a half million followers; there may be another million Vodunists among the Ewe of Ghana: 13% of the population of 20 million are Ewe and 38% of Ghanaians practise traditional religion. According to census data, about 14 million people practise traditional religion in Nigeria, most of whom are Yoruba practising Vodun, but no specific breakdown is available.[4]

European colonialism, followed by some of the totalitarian regimes in West Africa, have tried to suppress Vodun as well as other African indigenous religions.[5] However, because the vodun deities are born to each clan, tribe, and nation, and their clergy are central to maintaining the moral, social and political order and ancestral foundation of its village, these efforts have not been successful. Recently there have been moves to restore the place of Vodun in national society, such as an annual International Vodun Conference held in the city of Ouidah in Benin that has been held since 1991
« Last Edit: November 18, 2011, 07:17:35 AM by Fredrick »
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Re: Voodoo
« Reply #2 on: November 18, 2011, 05:16:45 AM »

Haitian Vodou
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haitian_Vodou

A large sequined Vodou "drapo" or flag by the artist George Valris, depicting the veve, or symbol, of the loa Loko Atison.

Haitian Vodou[1][2] (pronounced /ˈvoʊduː/ or /ˈvuːduː/, French: [vodu]; also written as Vodun[3][4] /ˈvoʊduːn/, or Vodoun,[1][3] and frequently rendered in English as Voodoo) is a syncretic[5] religion that originates in the Caribbean country of Haiti. It is based upon a merging of the beliefs and practices of West African peoples (mainly the Fon and Ewe; see West African Vodun), with Arawakian religious beliefs, and Roman Catholic Christianity. Vodou was created by African slaves who were brought to Haiti in the 16th century and still followed their traditional African beliefs, but were forced to convert to the religion of their slavers.[6] Practitioners are commonly described as Vodouisants [voduisɑ̃].

Overview

Vodou paraphernalia, Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

The principal belief in Haitian Vodou is that deities called Lwa (or Loa) are subordinates to a god called Bondyè. This supreme being does not intercede in human affairs, and it is to the Lwa that Vodou worship is directed.[7] Other characteristics of Vodou include veneration of the dead and protection against evil witchcraft.[8]

Haitian Vodou shares many traits with other faiths of the African diaspora, including the Louisiana Voodoo of New Orleans, Santería and Arará of Cuba, and Candomblé and Umbanda of Brazil. A Haitian Vodou temple is called an Hounfour.[9]

In Haitian Vodou Sèvis Lwa in Creole ("Service to the Lwa"), there are strong elements from the Bakongo of Central Africa and the Igbo and Yoruba of Nigeria, although many other African nations have contributed to the liturgy of the Sèvis Lwa. A significant portion of Haitian Vodou often overlooked by scholars until recently is the input from the Kongo. The entire northern area of Haiti is heavily influenced by Kongo practices. In northern Haiti, it is often called the Kongo Rite or Lemba, from the Lemba rituals of the Loango area and Mayombe. In the south, Kongo influence is called Petwo (Petro). Many lwa (a Kikongo term) are of Kongo origin, such as Basimbi, Lemba, etc.

Haitian creole forms of Vodou exist in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, eastern Cuba,[5] some of the outer islands of the Bahamas, the United States, and anywhere that Haitians have emigrated to. However, it is important to note that the Vodun religion (separate from Haitian Vodou) already existed in the United States, having been brought by enslaved West Africans, specifically from the Ewe, Fon, Mina, Kabaye, and Nago groups. Some of the more enduring forms survive in the Gullah Islands. There has been a re-emergence of the Vodun traditions in the United States, maintaining the same ritual and cosmological elements as in West Africa. These and other African-diasporic religions, such as Lukumi or Regla de Ocha (also known as Santería) in Cuba, and Candomblé and Umbanda in Brazil, have evolved among descendants of transplanted Africans in the Americas.

Name
The English transliteration voodoo has acquired negative connotations, and is therefore often avoided by scholars and practitioners in preference to the Haitian form vodou.[3][10][11] The latter word has traditionally been used in English (spelled vodu, vodun) to mean a fetish within the Vodou religion. Variant spellings in vau- reflect French orthography, and a final -n reflects the nasal vowel in West African pronunciations. African occupation by France occurred specifically when Napoleon ran France from Cairo.

Beliefs
Deities
Vodouisants believe in a supreme being called Bondye, but also worship many lesser spirits, as the loa. This belief is held in several West African religions, such as that of the Yoruba, Odinani, and Vodun. When it came in contact with Roman Catholicism, the supreme being was associated with the Judeo-Christian God, the loa becoming the saints.

Bondye
Bondye is the supreme god in Haitian Vodou. The word is derived from the French bon Dieu (good God).[7] Vodouisants regard Bondye as the creator of everything. Bondye is distant from its creation, being a pandeist deity. He is aloof from everyday affairs and Vodouisants do not believe they can contact Him for help.

 Loa
Because Bondye is unreachable, Vodouisants aim their prayers to lesser entities, the spirits known as loa, or mistè. The most notable loa include Papa Legba (guardian of the crossroads), Erzulie Freda (the spirit of love), Simbi (the spirit of rain and magicians), Kouzin Zaka (the spirit of agriculture), and The Marasa, divine twins considered to be the first children of Bondye.[12]

These loa can be divided into 21 nations, which include the Petro, Rada, Congo and Nago [13] The Petro and the Rada contrast most with one another, because the Petro are hot or aggressive and restless, whereas the Rada are cool or calm and peaceful.[citation needed]

The loa also fall into family groups, who share a surname, such as Ogou, Ezili, Azaka or Ghede. For instance, "Ezili" is a family, Ezili Danto and Ezili Freda are two individual spirits in that family. Each family is associated with a specific aspect, for instance the Ogou family are soldiers, the Ezili govern the feminine spheres of life, the Azaka govern agriculture, the Ghede govern the sphere of death and fertility. Each of the loa is associated with a particular Roman Catholic saint.

Morality
Vodou's moral code focuses on the vices of dishonour and greed. There is also a notion of relative propriety—and what is appropriate to someone with Dambala Wedo as their head may be different from someone with Ogou Feray as their head. For example, one spirit is very cool and the other is very hot. Coolness overall is valued, and so is the ability and inclination to protect oneself and one's own if necessary. Love and support within the family of the Vodou society seem to be the most important considerations. Generosity in giving to the community and to the poor is also an important value. One's blessings come through the community, and one should be willing to give back. There are no "solitaries" in Vodou—only people separated geographically from their elders and house. A person without a relationship of some kind with elders does not practice Vodou as it is understood in Haiti and among Haitians.

There is a diversity of practice in Vodou across the country of Haiti and the Haitian diaspora. For instance in the north of Haiti the lave tèt ("head washing") or kanzwe may be the only initiation, as it is in the Dominican Republic and Cuba, whereas in Port-au-Prince and the south they practice the kanzo rites with three grades of initiation – kanzo senp, si pwen, and asogwe – and the latter is the most familiar mode of practice outside of Haiti. Some lineages combine both, as Mambo Katherine Dunham reports from her personal experience in her book Island Possessed.

While the overall tendency in Vodou is very conservative in accord with its African roots, there is no singular, definitive form, only what is right in a particular house or lineage. Small details of service and the spirits served vary from house to house, and information in books or on the internet therefore may seem contradictory. There is no central authority or "pope" in Haitian Vodou, since "every manbo and houngan is the head of their own house", as a popular saying in Haiti goes. Another consideration in terms of Haitian diversity are the many sects besides the Sèvi Gine in Haiti such as the Makaya, Rara, and other secret societies, each of which has its own distinct pantheon of spirits.

Homosexuality in Haitian Voodoo
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homosexuality_and_Voodoo
is religiously acceptable and homosexuals are allowed to participate in all religious activities.[citation needed] However, in countries with large Voodoo populations (such as Benin, Togo or Haiti), some Christian influence may have given homosexuality a social stigma (see homosexuality and Christianity), at least on some levels of society.[citation needed] The Haitian Voodoo religion itself has remained open to people of all sexual orientations.

Haitian views of homosexuality
Voodoo is an ancestral religion, and viewed by some Western anthropologists as an ecstatic religion. It is not a fertility-based religion[citation needed] (see Fertility rites). This means that the majority of its members are not required by any religious law to reproduce, and homosexuals are not pressured to do so.[citation needed] Haitian Voodoo views sexual orientation as a part of the way God makes a person; homosexuals are free to pursue members of the same sex just as heterosexuals are free to pursue members of the opposite sex.[1]

In Haitian Voodoo, male homosexuals are seen as under the protection of the Erzulie Freda, loa of love and beauty[citation needed]. She is very feminine, allowing gay men to exhibit stereotypical traits during religious ceremonies. The documentary "Des hommes et dieux" presents interviews with several men who feel Erzulie made them gay.[2] Erzulie Dantor is seen as the patron of lesbians,[citation needed] although she is herself bisexual[citation needed] having a lot of children and two husbands, Simbi Makaya and Ti Jean Petro, though she is said to prefer the company of women.

Opposing views
There are, however, views among other Vodou practitioners that overt identification as homosexuals has no place within the tradition. The leader of Le Peristyle Haitian Sanctuary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, asserts that there is no connection between the Lwa and gender complexity, and states that "...your gender identification is your business. But you cannot evoke God to satisfy your sexual desires. We have suffered this kind of abuse of African-based religions long enough. It is time for it to stop."[3]

Similarly, the website for Mami Wata West African Diaspora Vodoun, based in the southern United States, notes that elders in the Vodoun religion are generally against initiating homosexuals. The Mami Wata organization itself followed this exclusionary practice until recently, but now welcomes all practitioners.

Religious experience
During Haitian Voodoo ceremonies, the houngans (priests), mambos (priestesses), and hounsis (initiates) dance around a poteau-mitan until one of them becomes possessed by one of the Loa. A person can be possessed by any Loa, regardless of gender.[5] During possession, the possessed dancer will begin to behave like the loa they are possessed by and they are treated with the utmost respect.

Reverend Severina KM Singh, a New Orleans Voodoo priestess[citation needed]explains,

    I have gay friends who practice and I can personally attest to the closeness of the Loa to them. I have witnessed wonderful and powerful rituals which they led. The intent in your heart matters more than your sexual orientation. I read for very many gay people and make offerings for them without any qualms at all. Voodooist believe in the transmigration of the soul. That means my soul could have been in a black male body at one time and an oriental female body at another time, not to mention the millions of lives spent in lower life forms. Some of them probably quite asexual or bisexual or transsexual.

Beliefs

Depiction of Baron Samedi, a bisexual lwa.

A large number of spirits or deities (lwa) exist in Haitian and Louisiana Voodoo. These lwa may be regarded as families of individuals or as a singular entity with distinct aspects, with links to particular areas of life.

Some lwa have particular links with magic, ancestor worship or death such as the Ghedes and Barons. A number of these are further particularly associated with transgenderism or same-sex interactions.[7] These include Ghede Nibo, a spirit caring for those who die young. He is sometimes depicted as an effeminate drag queen and inspires those he inhabits to lascivious sexuality of all kinds, especially transgender or lesbian behaviour in women.[8] Ghede Nibo's parents are Baron Samedi and Maman Brigitte; Baron Samedi is the leader of the Ghedes and Barons and is depicted as bisexual dandy or occasionally transgendered, wearing a top-hat and frock coat along with a womans skirt and shoes. Samedi's has a tendency toward "lascivious movements" that cross gender boundaries and also imply a lust for anal sex.[9]

Other barons displaying gay behaviour are Baron Lundy and Baron Limba, who are lovers and teach a type of homoerotic nude wrestling at their school, believed to increase magical potency.[10] Baron Oua Oua, who often manifests with a childlike aspect, has been called the baron "most closely linked to homosexuality" by Voodoo practictioners.[11]

Another lwa, Erzulie, is associated with love, sensuality and beauty. Erzulie can manifest aspects that are LGBT-related, including transgender or amazonian traits, in addition to traditionally feminine guises. When inhabiting men, these aspects can result in transgender or homoerotic behaviour, whereas they may result in lesbianism or anti-male sentiment in women. Erzulie Freda is seen as the protector of gay men, and Erzulie Dantor is associated with lesbians.

Practices

Voodoo ceremony, Jacmel, Haiti.

Liturgy and practice
After a day or two of preparation setting up altars, ritually preparing and cooking fowl and other foods, etc., a Haitian Vodou service begins with a series of prayers and songs in French, then a litany in Kreyòl and African "langaj" that goes through all the European and African saints and lwa honored by the house, and then a series of verses for all the main spirits of the house. This is called the "Priyè Gine" or the African Prayer. After more introductory songs, beginning with saluting Hounto, the spirit of the drums, the songs for all the individual spirits are sung, starting with the Legba family through all the Rada spirits, then there is a break and the Petwo part of the service begins, which ends with the songs for the Gede family.

As the songs are sung, participants believe that spirits come to visit the ceremony, by taking possession of individuals and speaking and acting through them. When a ceremony is made, only the family of those possessed is benefited. At this time it is believed that devious mambo or houngan can take away the luck of the worshippers through particular actions. For instance, if a priest asks for a drink of champagne, a wise participant refuses. Sometimes these ceremonies may include dispute among the singers as to how a hymn is to be sung. In Haiti, these Vodou ceremonies, depending on the Priest or Priestess, may be more organized. But in the United States, many Vodou practitioners and clergy take it as a sort of non-serious party or "folly".

In a serious rite, each spirit is saluted and greeted by the initiates present and gives readings, advice, and cures to those who ask for help. Many hours later, as morning dawns, the last song is sung, the guests leave, and the exhausted hounsis, houngans, and manbos can go to sleep.

On the individual's household level, a Vodouisant or "sèvitè"/"serviteur" may have one or more tables set out for their ancestors and the spirit or spirits that they serve with pictures or statues of the spirits, perfumes, foods, and other things favored by their spirits. The most basic set up is just a white candle and a clear glass of water and perhaps flowers. On a particular spirit's day, one lights a candle and says an Our Father and Hail Mary, salutes Papa Legba and asks him to open the gate, and then one salutes and speaks to the particular spirit as an elder family member. Ancestors are approached directly, without the mediating of Papa Legba, since they are said to be "in the blood".

Priests
Houngans (Male Vodou Priest) or Mambos (Female Vodou Priest) are usually people who were chosen by the dead ancestors and received the divination from the deities while he or she was possessed. His or her tendency is to do good by helping and protecting others from spells, however they sometimes use their supernatural power to hurt or kill people. They also conduct ceremonies that usually take place "Amba Peristil" (under a Vodou Temple). However, non-Houngan or non-Mambo as Vodouisants are not initiated, and are referred to as being "bossale"; it is not a requirement to be an initiate to serve one's spirits. There are clergy in Haitian Vodou whose responsibility it is to preserve the rituals and songs and maintain the relationship between the spirits and the community as a whole (though some of this is the responsibility of the whole community as well). They are entrusted with leading the service of all of the spirits of their lineage. Sometimes they are "called" to serve in a process called "being reclaimed", which they may resist at first.[14] Below the houngans and mambos are the hounsis, who are initiates who act as assistants during ceremonies and who are dedicated to their own personal mysteries.

A "bokor" is a sorcerer or magician who casts spells upon request. They are not necessarily priests, and may be practitioners of "darker" things and often not even accepted by the mambo or the houngan. Or, a "Bokor" would be the Haitian term for a vodou priest or other, working both the light and dark arts of magic.


History

Vodou original area

African origins
The word vodou derives from vodũ, which in Fon, Ewe, and related language (distributed from contemporary South Eastern Ghana beyond the Volta River to Benin) means spirit or divine creature (in the sense of divine creation).

The cultural area of the Fon, Ewe, and Yoruba peoples share common metaphysical conceptions around a dual cosmological divine principle Nana Buluku, the God-Creator, and the vodou(s) or God-Actor(s), daughters and sons of the Creator's twin children Mawu (goddess of the moon) and Lisa (god of the sun). The God-Creator is the cosmogonical principle and does not trifle with the mundane; the vodou(s) are the God-Actor(s) who actually govern earthly issues.

The pantheon of vodoun is quite large and complex. In one version, there are seven male and female twins of Mawu, interethnic and related to natural phenomena or historical or mythical individuals, and dozens of ethnic vodous, defenders of a certain clan or tribe.[citation needed]

West African Vodun has its primary emphasis on ancestors, with each family of spirits having its own specialized priest and priestess, which are often hereditary. In many African clans, deities might include Mami Wata, who are gods and goddesses of the waters; Legba, who in some clans is virile and young in contrast to the old man form he takes in Haiti and in many parts of Togo; Gu (or Ogoun), ruling iron and smithcraft; Sakpata, who rules diseases; and many other spirits distinct in their own way to West Africa.

European colonialism, followed by totalitarian regimes in West Africa, suppressed Vodun as well as other forms of the religion. However, because the Vodun deities are born to each African clan-group, and its clergy is central to maintaining the moral, social, and political order and ancestral foundation of its villagers, it proved to be impossible to eradicate the religion.

Haitian Revolution
The majority of the Africans who were brought as slaves to Haiti were from Western and Central Africa. The Vodun practitioners brought over and enslaved in the United States primarily descend from the Ewe, Anlo-Ewe, and other West African groups.[citation needed] The survival of the belief systems in the New World is remarkable, although the traditions have changed with time and have even taken on some Catholic forms of worship.[5] Two important factors, however, characterize the uniqueness of Haitian Vodou as compared to African Vodun; the transplanted Africans of Haiti, similar to those of Cuba and Brazil, were obliged to disguise their loa (sometimes spelled lwa) or spirits as Roman Catholic saints, an element of a process called syncretism.

Roman Catholicism was mixed into the religion to hide their "pagan" religion from their masters, who had forbidden them to practice it. Thus, Haitian Vodou has roots in several West African religions, and incorporates some Roman Catholic and Arawak Amerindian influences. It is common for Haitians followers of the Vodou religion to integrate Roman Catholic practices by including Catholic prayers in Vodou worship. Thus Vodou incorporated some formal elements of Roman Catholicism, while remaining totally unChristian in its essence. Throughout the history of the island from independence in 1804 to the present, missionaries repeatedly came to the island to convert the Haitians back to the Christian religion previously forced on them. This missionary influence—as well as experience with abusive practitioners—has made many Haitians regard Voudu as evil.

Vodou, as it is known in Haiti and the Haitian diaspora, is the result of the pressures of many different cultures and ethnicities of people who were uprooted from Africa and imported to Hispaniola during the African slave trade. Under slavery, African culture and religion was suppressed, lineages were fragmented, and people pooled their religious knowledge and from this fragmentation became culturally unified. In addition to combining the spirits of many different African and Amerindian nations, Vodou has incorporated pieces of Roman Catholic liturgy to replace lost prayers or elements. Images of Catholic saints are used to represent various spirits or "mistè" ("mysteries", actually the preferred term in Haiti), and many saints themselves are honored in Vodou in their own right. This syncretism allows Vodou to encompass the African, the Indian, and the European ancestors in a whole and complete way. It is truly a Kreyòl religion

The most historically important Vodou ceremony in Haitian history was the Bwa Kayiman or Bois Caïman ceremony of August 1791 that began the Haitian Revolution, in which the spirit Ezili Dantor possessed a priestess and received a black pig as an offering, and all those present pledged themselves to the fight for freedom.[15] This ceremony ultimately resulted in the liberation of the Haitian people from French colonial rule in 1804, and the establishment of the first black people's republic in the history of the world and the second independent nation in the Americas.

Contemporary
Today Vodou is practiced not only by Haitians but by Americans and people of many other nations who have been exposed to Haitian culture.

Many Haitians involved in the practice of Vodou have been initiated as Houngans or Mambos. In Haiti, a houngan or mambo is considered a person of possible high power and status who acquire much money; it now is a growing occupation in Haiti, attracting many an impoverished citizen to its practice, not only to gain power but to gain money as well. Some Vodou practitioners with a hunger to live a life of wealth and power became practitioners so they could exploit foreigners and Haitians who are uneducated about Vodou, bringing them into a web of deceptions to collect large incomes in exchange for poor quality work.

In January 2010, after the Haiti earthquake there was an outburst of solidarity prayers in Benin with the victims. Traditional ceremonies were organized to appease the spirits and seek the blessing of ancestors for the Haitians. Also a "purification ceremony" was planned for Haiti.[16] In a 2010 news story, CNN reported, "At least 45 people, most of them voodoo priests, have been lynched in Haiti since the beginning of the cholera epidemic by angry mobs blaming them for the spread of the disease, officials said."

Myths and misconceptions
Vodou has come to be associated in popular culture with the lore of Satanism, zombies and "voodoo dolls". Zombie creation has been referenced within rural Haitian culture,[18] but it is not a part of the Vodou religion proper. Such manifestations fall under the auspices of the bokor or sorcerer rather than the priest of the Loa.

The practice of sticking pins in dolls has history in folk magic, but its exact origins are unclear. How it became known as a method of cursing an individual by some followers of what has come to be called New Orleans Voodoo, but more appropriately Hoodoo (folk magic), is unknown. This practice is not unique to Voodoo or Hoodoo, however, and has as much basis in magical devices such as the poppet and the nkisi or bocio of West and Central Africa. These are in fact power objects, what in Haiti is called pwen, rather than magical surrogates for an intended target of sorcery whether for boon or for bane. Such Voodoo dolls are not a feature of Haitian religion, although dolls intended for tourists may be found in the Iron Market in Port-au-Prince. The practice became closely associated with the Vodou religions in the public mind through the vehicle of horror movies and popular novels.

There is a practice in Haiti of nailing crude poppets with a discarded shoe on trees near the cemetery to act as messengers to the otherworld, which is very different in function from how poppets are portrayed as being used by Vodou worshippers in popular media and imagination, i.e. for purposes of sympathetic magic towards another person. Another use of dolls in authentic Vodou practice is the incorporation of plastic doll babies in altars and objects used to represent or honor the spirits, or in pwen, which recalls the aforementioned use of bocio and nkisi figures in Africa.[citation needed]

Although Vodou is often associated with Satanism, Satan is rarely incorporated in Vodou tradition. Mississippi Delta folksongs mix references to Vodou and to Satan.[citation needed]

Further adding to the dark reputation of Vodou were films such as The Serpent and the Rainbow and Live and Let Die (part of Ian Fleming's widely successful James Bond series). Fleming's depiction of the schemings of a fiendish Soviet agent (see Mr. Big, Baron Samedi) using Vodou to intimidate and control a vast network of submissive black followers reached an incomparably greater audience than any careful scholarly work on the subject of Vodou.

To address the myths and misconceptions that have historically maligned the practice and present a more constructive view of the religion, in April 1997, fifteen scholars gathered at UCSB for a colloquium on Haitian Vodou, The Spirit and The Reality: Voodoo and Haiti created a new association under the name, the Congress of Santa Barbara also known as KOSANBA.

Organizations
In the aftermath of the Duvalier dictatorship, a number of individuals, including many houngan, sought to organize means of defense for Haitian Vodou from defamation by evangelical Christian missionaries and congregations. One of the first leading houngan to formally organize other houngan in solidarity was Wesner Morency (1959–2007), who established the Vodou Church of Haiti in 1998 (registered in 2001 by the Ministry of Justice) and the Commission Nationale pour la Structuration de Vodou (CONAVO). Another individual who has pursued the organization of houngan is Max Beauvoir, who established and heads the National Confederation of Haitian Vodou.

However, the ability to organize and speak on behalf of most, if not all Vodouisants is hampered by the spirituality's historically-decentralized nature.
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Re: Voodoo
« Reply #3 on: November 18, 2011, 08:03:54 AM »

Louisiana Voodoo
Not to be confused with Hoodoo (folk_magic) or Haitian Vodou.

Louisiana Voodoo, also known as New Orleans Voodoo, describes a set of underground religious practices which originated from the traditions of the African diaspora. It is a cultural form of the Afro-American religions which developed within the French, Spanish, and Creole speaking African American population of the U.S. state of Louisiana. It is one of many incarnations of African-based religions rooted in West African Dahomeyan Vodun. They became syncretized with the Catholicism and Francophone culture of south Louisiana as a result of the slave trade. Louisiana Voodoo is often confused with—but is not completely separable from—Haitian Vodou and southern Hoodoo. It differs from Vodou in its emphasis upon Gris-gris, voodoo queens, use of Hoodoo occult paraphernalia, and Li Grand Zombi (snake deity). It was through Louisiana Voodoo that such terms as gris-gris (a Wolof term) and voodoo dolls were introduced into the American lexicon.

History

Gris-gris
African influences
Voodoo was brought to the French colony Louisiana from Africa and from the Haitian exiles after the Haitian revolution. From 1719 to 1731, the majority of African Captives came directly from what is now Benin, West Africa, bringing with them their cultural practices, language, and religious beliefs rooted in spirit and ancestor worship. Their knowledge of herbs, poisons, and the ritual creation of charms and amulets, intended to protect oneself or harm others, became key elements of Louisiana Voodoo.[1]

The slave community quickly acquired a strong presence in Louisiana. The colony was not a stable society when slaves arrived, which allowed African culture to maintain a prominent position in the slave community. (160) According to a census of 1731-1732, the ratio of African slaves to European settlers was over two to one.[1] The ownership of slaves was concentrated into the hands of only a few of the white settlers, facilitating the preservation of African culture.[1] Unlike other areas of active slave trade, there was little separation in Louisiana between families, culture, and languages.[1] The Embargo Act of 1808 ended all slave imports to Louisiana.[2] Authorities promoted the growth of the slave population by prohibiting by law the separation of families. Parents were sold together with their children under fourteen years of age.[1] The high mortality of the slave trade brought its survivors together with a sense of solidarity.(160) The absence of fragmentation in the slave community, along with the kinship system produced by the bond created by the difficulties of slavery, resulted in a “coherent, functional, well integrated, autonomous, and self confident slave community.”[1]) As a result African culture and spirituality did not die out, but rather thrived in French Creole culture.

The practice of making and wearing charms and amulets for protection, healing, or the harm of others was a key aspect to early Louisiana Voodoo.[1] The ouanga, a charm used to poison an enemy, contained the poisonous roots of the figure maudit tree, brought from Africa and preserved in the West Indies. The ground up root was combined with other elements such as bones, nails, roots, holy water, holy candles, holy incense, holy bread, or crucifixes. The administrator of the ritual frequently evoked protection from Allah, the Christian God, and Jesus Christ. This openness of African belief allowed for the adoption of Catholic practices into Louisiana Voodoo.[1]

Another component of Louisiana Voodoo brought from Africa was the worship of ancestors and the subsequent emphasis on respect for elders. For this reason, the rate of survival among elderly slaves was high, further “Africanizing Louisiana Creole culture.”

Catholic influence
The slave trade also brought the belief in spirits which is central to Louisiana Voodoo. The spirits presided over every day matters of life, such as family, love, and justice. Originally, these spirits were called by their African names, but once French Creole replaced native African languages, their original names were no longer used. The spirits then adopted the names of Catholic Saints. Each spirit was paired with a Saint in charge of similar spheres of life.[2] The adoption of Catholic practices to the voodoo faith soon became an integral part of what is known today as New Orleans voodoo. Catholic traditions, such as prayers including the Hail Mary and the Lord’s Prayer, baptism, and the sign of the cross were incorporated into voodoo practices.

Voodoo queens

Marie Laveau

During the 19th century, Voodoo queens became central figures to Voodoo in the United States. Voodoo queens presided over ceremonial meetings and ritual dances. They also earned an income by administrating charms, amulets, and magical powders guaranteed to cure ailments, grant desires, and confound or destroy one’s enemies.[4]

Most noted for her achievements as voodoo Queen of New Orleans in the 1830s was Marie Laveau. Once the news of her powers spread, she successfully overthrew the other voodoo queens of New Orleans. She acted as an oracle, conducted private rituals behind her cottage on St. Ann Street of the New Orleans French Quarter, performed exorcisms, and offered sacrifices to spirits. Also a devout Catholic, Marie encouraged her followers to attend Catholic Mass. The influence of her Catholic beliefs further facilitated the adoption of Catholic practices into the Voodoo belief system.[5] Today, she is remembered for her skill and compassion for the less fortunate, and her spirit is considered one of the central figures of Louisiana Voodoo.

Today, thousands visit the tomb of Marie Laveau to ask favors. Across the street from the cemetery, offerings of pound cake are left to the statue of Saint Expedite; these offerings are believed to expedite the favors asked of Marie Laveau. Saint Expedite represents the spirit standing between life and death. The chapel where the statue stands was once used only for holding funerals.

Marie Laveau continues to be a central figure of Louisiana Voodoo and of New Orleans culture. Gamblers shout her name when throwing dice, and multiple tales of sightings of the Voodoo queen have been told. Her grave has more visitors than the grave of Elvis Presley. Although she is not yet officially considered a saint, there is a strong movement to have her canonized.

Commercialization
During the 1930s, true Voodoo went underground when New Orleans became a tourist destination. Voodoo acquired an exotic, Hollywood image in the 1932 film White Zombie. The misconception developed that the principal elements of Voodoo are hexing and sticking pins into dolls. Visiting tourists asked favors of voodoo practitioners, who made it a point never to refuse one who asked for help. Exhausted by fame, voodoo became an underground religion. At this time, those in search of a fortune took up the “business of superstitions,” charging money, as true voodoo followers never did, for fake potions, powders, and gris-gris.

Beliefs and practices

Tomb of Marie Laveau

Louisiana Voodoo is a conglomeration of beliefs that has evolved over time and continues to adapt to its surroundings. As it has been a religion conserved by oral tradition, has no sacred book or canon and is followed by many, the beliefs of Louisiana Voodoo vary somewhat from person to person. Louisiana Voodoo combines elements of European and African beliefs, and Roman Catholicism. It is a dynamic religion that has both adapted to and shaped New Orleans culture.

The word voodoo comes from the word vudu, the Dahomean “spirit”, an invisible mysterious force that can intervene in human affairs.”[5] The worship of spirits remains a vital part of the practices of voodoo in Louisiana. Followers of Louisiana voodoo believe in one God and multiple lesser but powerful spirits which preside over daily matters of life, such as the family, the sky, and judgment.[5]

The core beliefs of Louisiana Voodoo include the recognition of one God who does not interfere in people's daily lives and spirits that preside over daily life. Spiritual forces, which can be kind or mischievous, shape daily life through and intercede in the lives of their followers. Connection with these spirits can be achieved through dance, music, singing, and the use of snakes, which represent Legba, Voodoo's "main spirit conduit to all others."[2] Unlike the Judeo-Christian image, the Voodoo serpent represents "healing knowledge and the connection between Heaven and Earth."[2] Deceased ancestors can also intercede in the lives of Voodoo followers.[2]

The main focus of Louisiana Voodoo today is to serve others and influence the outcome of life events through the connection with nature, spirits, and ancestors. True rituals are held "behind closed doors" as a showy ritual would be considered disrespectful to the spirits. Voodoo methods include readings, spiritual baths, specially devised diets, prayer, and personal ceremony. Voodoo is often used to cure anxiety, addictions, depression, loneliness, and other ailments. It seeks to help the hungry, the poor, and the sick as Marie Laveau once did.

Louisiana Voodoo and Christianity
As a result of the fusion of Francophone culture and voodoo in Louisiana, many Voodoo spirits became associated with the Christian saints that presided over the same domain. Although Voodoo and Catholic practices are radically different, however both saints and spirits act as mediators with the Virgin Mary and Legba presiding over specific activities. Early followers of Voodoo in the United States adopted the image of the Catholic Saints to their spirits.[3]

Other Catholic practices adopted into Louisiana Voodoo include reciting the Hail Mary and the Lord’s Prayer.

Voodoo superstitions and spells

Li Grand Zombi

Many superstitions also related to the practice of Hoodoo developed within the Voodoo tradition in Louisiana. While these superstitions are not central to the Voodoo faith, their appearance is partly a result of Voodoo tradition in New Orleans and have since influenced it significantly.

    A lock of a girls hair brings good luck.
    If you lay a broom across the doorway at night, a witch can't come in and hurt you.
    Having a woman visit you the first thing on Monday mornings is bad luck for the rest of the week.
    Don't borrow or lend salt because that is bad luck.
    If you sweep trash out of the house after dark you will sweep away your luck.
    Don't shake a tablecloth outside after dark or someone in your family will die.
    To stop a Voodoo spell being placed upon you, acquire some bristles from a pig cooked at a Voodoo ritual, tie the bristles into a bundle and carry them on you at all times.
    If a woman sprinkles some salt from her house to yours, it will give you bad luck until you clean the salt away and put pepper over your door sill.
    If a woman wants her husband to stay away from other woman, she can do so by putting a little of her blood in his coffee, and he will never quit her.
    If a woman's husband dies and you don't want her to marry again, cut all of her husband's shoes all in little pieces, just as soon as he is dead, and she will never marry again.
    You can give someone a headache by taking and turning their picture upside down.
    You can harm a person in whatever way you want to by getting a lock of his hair and burning some and throwing the rest away.
    You can make a farmer's well go dry by putting some soda in the well for one week, each day; then drawing a bucket of water out and throwing it in the river to make the well go dry. [6]

In Voodoo spells, the "cure-all" was very popular among followers. The cure-all was a Voodoo spell that could solve all problems. There were different recipes in Voodoo spells for cure-all; one recipe was to mix jimson weed (Warning: due to the toxicity of Jimson Weed, it is not advised for unskilled practitioners to create) with sulfur and honey. The mixture was placed in a glass, which was rubbed against a black cat, and then the mixture was slowly sipped.[6]

The Voodoo doll is a form of gris-gris, and an example of sympathetic magic. Contrary to popular belief, Voodoo dolls are usually used to bless instead of curse. The purpose of sticking pins in the doll is not to cause pain in the person the doll is associated with, but rather to pin a picture of a person or a name to the doll, which traditionally represents a spirit. The gris-gris is then performed from one of four categories: love; power and domination; luck and finance; and uncrossing.

Voodoo and Spiritualism

Gris-gris

The hallmark of the New Orleans Spiritual Churches is the honoring of the Native American spirit named Black Hawk, who lived in Illinois and Wisconsin, not in Africa, or Haiti.[8] Furthermore, the names of some individual churches in the denomination—such as Divine Israel—bring to mind typical Black Baptist church names more than Catholic ones.

The New Orleans Spiritual religion is a blend of Spiritualism, Voodoo, Catholicism, and Pentecostalism; the Voodoo-influenced "Spiritual Churches" that survive in New Orleans are the result of a mingling of these and other spiritual practices. It is unique among African-American "Spiritual" religions in its use of "Spirit Guides" in worship services and in the forms of ritual possession that its adherents practice.

Voodoo today

New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum

Today, Voodoo is a major tourist attraction to the city of New Orleans. Shops selling charms, gris-gris, candles, and powders cater to both tourists and practitioners.[10] The New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum houses numerous artifacts and provides daily tours of the museum, the St. Louis Cemetery, and the New Orleans French Quarter.[11] The museum also provides spiritual services including matrimony blessings, marriage ceremonies, consultations, and other rituals.
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