It’s my turn at The Eclective to talk about Books That Don’t Suck. For my first review, I chose Stephany Simmons’s Voodoo Dues.
That got me thinking about voodoo. Naturally.
I admit I know very little about it except what I’ve seen on telly (and if it’s on telly it must be true) or read in novels. Of the real deal I have zero knowledge.
What I do have is mad Google skills. So, I looked it up.
What I did know going into this research is that this isn’t just some funky mumbo jumbo to be laughed at. It’s a serious religion with deep spiritual roots and is to be respected as much as we would respect more “mainstream” religions. So, I share this in the greatest respect to further knowledge and information.
My hands-down favorite site for information on various religions is religioustolerance.org. It’s one of the best tools for non-biased information about various belief systems and it’s the main place I got my information for the post today and anything in quotes is something I took directly from their site.
There are essentially two completely unrelated forms of voodoo today. First there is “the actual religion Vodun practiced in Benin, Dominican Republic, Ghana, Haiti, Togo and various centers in the US – largely where Haitian refuges have settled.”
Then there is “an evil, imaginary religion, which we will call Voodoo. It has been created for Hollywood movies, complete with violence, bizarre rituals, etc. It does not exist in reality.”
I think we’re all pretty familiar with voodoo. Admittedly, it’s fun to both write and read about. Pitting a “good” heroine against an “evil” voodoo priestess is always good for some excitement. Likewise, the heroine obtaining help from a “good” voodoo priest can offer a nice counterpoint. But what is the truth?
Vodun, like most religions, is a mix of traditions. Each group of Vodun practitioners follow a slightly different path and worship a slightly different pantheon of Loa or spirits. In fact, the meaning of the word Vodun is, quite simply, “mystery.” And isn’t that what all spirituality is about? Penetrating the veil of mystery in the world around us?
It is believed that the Loa protect from evil spirits, give good health and good fortune. But the spirits needs humans as much as the Vodun need them as the human worshipers provide the Loa with food and other materials they need. It’s a two-way street.
The really cool thing is that in a world that was strictly patriarchal, both men AND women could be Vodun priests. And, contrary to Hollywood’s imagination, they only practice “white” magic. It is the bokors (also called caplatas) who practice black magic, something frowned upon by the priests of Vodun. And it is very rare indeed that entire congregation will take part in such dark deeds.
The human sacrifice thing is another Hollywood trope, though animal sacrifice is practiced. Before you freak out, the animals are killed humanely with a quick slice across the throat (much more humanely than your McDonald’s hamburger cow was sacrificed) and the blood is collected for rituals. Later the animal is cooked and eaten. There is no waste. There is nothing dark. In fact, many many religions have used animal sacrifice as part of their worship including Judaism.
And surprisingly, Vodun has a lot in common with Catholicism:
|Both believe in a supreme being.|
|The Loa resemble Christian Saints, in that they were once people who led exceptional lives, and are usually given a single responsibility or special attribute.|
|Both believe in an afterlife.|
|Both have, as the centerpiece of some of their ceremonies, a ritual sacrifice and consumption of flesh and blood.|
|Both believe in the existence of invisible evil spirits or demons.|
|Followers of Vodun believe that each person has a met tet (master of the head) which corresponds to a Christian’s patron saint.|
So, there you have it. Vodun in a nutshell. A fascinating religion with a rich, spiritual tradition of which we have only just scratched the surface.
So, what’s the myth here? That Voodoo has anything whatsoever to do with Vodun. It doesn’t.
And if you know more about Vodun or know of good links or books where we can learn more, be sure and leave a comment.