Voodoun, or Voodooo as it is vulgarly known, is probably the best example of African syncretism in the Americas. Although its essential elements originated in different parts of Africa long before the onset of the slave trade, the structure of Voodoo as we know it today was born in Haiti during the French colonization of Hispaniola. Ironically, it was the forced recombination of African slaves from different cultures that provided the circumstances for the development of Voodoo. Despite cultural and language differences and the inhuman institution of slavery, the transplanted Africans found in their various faiths a common thread.They commingled and modified rituals of various African spiritual systems, integrating their beliefs into a new religion: Voodoo, an Afro-Caribbean religion that mixed practices from the Fon, the Nago, the Ibos, Yoruba, Congos, Senegalese, Haussars, Caplaous, Mondungues, Mandinge, Angolese, Libyans, Ethiopians, and the Malgaches. Of these peoples, the Yoruba, who were taken from the empire of Dahomey (part of modern Nigeria), were the most numerous, and Voodoo can be most directly traced to the Yoruba religious system.
The word "vodoun" derives from vodu, meaning "spirit" or "deity" in the Fon language of Dahomey.
The Africans in Haiti used Voodoo as an integrating spiritual force, and in solidarity, they were able to survive the cruel persecution of the French, who forbade all African religious practices and severely punished the practitioners of Voodoo with imprisonments, beatings, torture, and death. They forced all slaves to undergo Roman Catholic Christian baptism and superimposed Catholic Christianity on them. The slaves responded to these and other oppressive subsystems of slavery through solidarity with each other, and continued to perform Voodoo rituals in secret, even at the risk of their own lives. The spiritual practice of Voodoo also continued openly, disguised as Catholicism: Voodoo deities, or loa, were identified with corresponding Catholic saints, and the worshippers incorporated Catholic statues, candles and holy relics into Voodoo rituals.
The religious struggle continued for three centuries, ending with the Haitian revolution of 1791; which began with a Voodoo ceremony and continued until 1804, when the Haitians overthrew their oppressors and won their independence, becoming the first independent black country in the western hemisphere. Today the system of Voodoo reflects its history. Modern rituals reflect the religion's background of spiritual solidarity under extreme oppression. At the same time, Voodoo is an exciting multicultural fusion, composed of elements of different rites and characteristic deities from all parts of Africa.
Cousin religions of voodoo are practiced throughout the Caribbean region, including in Jamaica and Trinidad. In Cuba, a syncretic religion called Santería evolved from Yoruba foundations mixed with Spanish Catholic beliefs. All of these Caribbean religions are related in belief structure and similar pantheons, but vodoun has many characteristics that make it unique among the Caribbean belief structures. A highly malleable religion, voodoo beliefs and practices can vary hugely from community to community in Haiti itself. Still widely practiced in Haiti, voodoo has migrated with Haitians to many other parts of the world, with particularly strong communities in New Orleans, Miami and New York City. Each of these communities have spawned new evolutions of voodoo. Worldwide, voodoo has fifty-million followers.
Links of Interest:
Fred, the Voodoo Doll - help destroy Fred through a series of sadistic experiments.
New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum - vast collection of Voodoo artifacts, including walking tours, swamp tours, and various rituals.
Vodou - by Mambo Racine Sans But.
Voodoo in New Orleans - photos of Voodoo related places in New Orleans.
Voodoo Information Pages - general information about the religion of vodoun, also called voodoo, practiced in the Caribbean country of Haiti.
Voodoo Queen - virtual tarot from mardi.gras.com.
Voodoo Server, The - from medicine to zombies.
Zombies and Voodoo Trivia Quiz - test your Voodoo IQ! What is a Zombie, anyway?
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