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The Misunderstood Religion of Voodoo

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The concept of having a religion was invented hundred thousands of years ago and it was created for people to express their beliefs, traditions, their views, and to worship a spiritual being or beings. Through the years, many religions emerged and has been popularized including Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, etcetera, however, some religions developed that is now categorized as immoral or villainous, an example of an “evil” faith is Voodooism. Not many people know that Voodoo is a religion as they think that it is related to witchcraft, satanism, or possessed-dolls mainly to control and make people feel discomfort. Undoubtedly, this picture of Voodoo is a misconception considering how movies and shows portray this religion as heinous. Voodoo is an acceptable religion as they have their own set of beliefs and values, rituals and an origin that explains their misunderstood malevolent reputation. There are two components in a religion, one of the main component parts are beliefs, Voodooism has their own set of unique beliefs coming from West African roots.

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Voodoo does not have any sacred texts to go by nevertheless, people who practice Voodoo believe in ancestor worship and animism – spirits inhabit all things; they pray to their ancestors for help as their god, Bondye, is detached from humans. Another way to connect with Bondye are Lwas or Loa; the Loa are spirits that are more powerful than a person’s ancestor and they act as a mediator between Bondye and humans. The loa each have their own families or “nanchons”: Rada, Petro, Nago, Kongo, and Ghede. Radas are the old spirits, Petros and Nagos are warriors, Kongos are from the Congo region also known as Simbi loa in Haitian Vodou, and Ghedes are spirits of the dead. Each loa are categorized within these families, each has their own personality, preferences and are depicted with their own symbol. The most well-known loa is called Papa Legba, Legba is in the Rada loa and is considered to be the gatekeeper of the loa world, similar in Catholicism of how St. Peter is the one in charge of heaven’s gate. Introducing the second main component of religion, rituals; in the previous paragraph, the Loa were described, but how are they summoned? Well, the loa are believed to enter our world and interact through spirit possession. This possession is not necessarily the exorcism that is depicted in movies or media, instead, the Voodoo priests called Houngans and Mambos for priestesses call upon the loa to overtake them. During the possession, the spirits will bless, heal, and prophesize people. This ritual lasts for a few minutes to a few hours, however, it will leave the possessed person exhausted with no memory of what happened.

This ritual could happen in private matters, their place of worship called a Peristyle, or public events such as the ceremony called ‘Fete for the Lwa’ meaning ‘Party for a Spirit’, this event also involves chanting, drumming, or singing while the possession is happening. In addition, Houngans and Mambos are able to perform weddings and baptisms as Voodoo was declared an official religion in 2003 which gained them the authority to do so. Furthermore, Voodoo has their own holidays which has some Haitian influences, some of the most significant holidays are Mange Loa, Fet Gede, and Bath of Christmas. Mange Loa means “ feeding of the Loa,” it occurs from the second to the third of January, it is when Voodooists offer drinks, cakes, goats, birds, chickens, or bulls to the loa as they believe that the Loa increase in power during the celebration. Fete Gede is all souls day, it takes place in the first and second of November in the cemetery where Voodooists go to pray, offer food, and light candles for the dead then they celebrate in the Peristyles for the entire night. Lastly, the Bath of Christmas is celebrated on December 25 – this event is one of the Catholic influence in Voodoo-, Voodooists sacrifice pigs, goats, and turkeys for the loa and rub themselves with a talisman for good luck. Overall, the religion of Voodoo has various rituals and festivals that provide their own integrity. If Voodoo is just any other religion, why is it so villainized? As mentioned before, Voodoo came from West African roots and it was brought to Haiti by slaves in the seventeenth century, where the Voodoo religion became more prominent. Voodoo became influenced by the Catholic Church; Voodooists believe that their God communicates with the priests and priestesses but not the common person and the loa are similar to Catholic Saints.

However, people of African descent were considered as slaves, were ridiculed and treated as non-human, so their religion was rumored to be evil, Houngans and Mambos were classified as witches. Movies depict Voodoo as something related to witchcraft, magic, or the “Voodoo dolls”, in contradiction, Voodoo dolls came from Europe from British people who practiced folk magic in the twentieth century rather than Africa or the Americas. Voodoo was only considered as evil because of prejudice and discrimination towards African Americans, especially since most people who practice this religion back then were people of African descent. It is clear that Voodoo is just another religion that should be respected as they have their own distinctive traditions and faith that makes Voodoo qualified to exist as a religion. There is also proof that people who were clouded by racism were the main cause of Voodoo’s dishonorable and sinful infamy. There are many unpleasant superstitions and myths isolated that has become the main focus on the religion, but when researched and separated from those myths Voodoo is not much different from the conventional religions today.

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