Voodoo (Vodou, Vodoun, Vudu, or Vudun in Benin, Togo, southeastern
Ghana, Burkina Faso, and Senegal; also Vodou in Haiti) is a name attributed
to a traditionally unwritten West African spiritual system of faith
and ritual practices. Like most faith systems, the core functions
of Voodoo are to explain the forces of the universe, influence those
forces, and influence human behavior. Voodoo's oral tradition of faith
stories carries genealogy, history and fables to succeeding generations.
Adherents honor deities and venerate ancient and recent ancestors.
This faith system is widespread across groups in West Africa. Diaspora
spread Voodoo to North and South America and the Caribbean.
Hoodoo refers to African traditional folk magic. A rich magical tradition
which was (for thousands of years), indigenous to ancient African
botanical, magio-religious practices and folk cultures, its practice
was imported when mainly West Africans were enslaved and brought to
the United States.
Hoodoo is used as a noun and is derived from the Ewe word Hudu which
still exists today. Hoodoo is often used in African-American vernacular
to describe a magic "spell" or potion, or as a descriptor
for a practitioner (hoodoo doctor, hoodoo man or hoodoo woman), or
as an adjective or verb depending upon context. The word can be dated
at least as early as 1891. Some prefer the term hoodooism, but this
has mostly fallen out of use. Some "New Age" non-Diaspora
practitioners who have taken up Hoodoo as a hobby employ synonyms,
including conjuration, conjure, witchcraft, or rootwork. The latter
demonstrates the importance of various roots in the making of charms
and casting spells. It is important to note that in traditional African
religious culture, the concept of "spells" is not used.
Here again, this Afro-botanical practice has been heavily used by
the New Age, and Wiccan communities who have little understanding
of "Hoodoo's" spiritual significance as it is traditionally
used in Africa. An amulet characteristic of hoodoo is the mojo, often
called a mojo bag, mojo hand, conjure bag, trick bag, or toby; this
is a small sack filled with herbs, roots, coins, sometimes a lodestone,
and various other objects of magical power.
The term Vodou (Vodu or Vudu in Benin; and Togo; also
Vodon, Vodoun, Voudou, or other phonetically equivalent spellings.
In Haiti; Vudu (an Ewe word, also used in the Dominican Republic)
is by some individuals applied to the branches of a West African
ancestral religious tradition. It is important to note that the
word "Voodoo" is the most common and known usage in American
and popular culture, and is viewed as offensive by the Afro-Diaspora
practicing communities. However, the different spellings of this
term can be explained as follows:
The word "Voodoo"' is used to describe the
Creole tradition of New Orleans, Vodou is used to describe the Haitian
Vodou Tradition, while Vudon and Vodun and Vodoun are used to describe
the deities honoured in the Brazilian Jeje (Ewe) nation of Candomble
as well as West African Vodoun, and in the African-American Diaspora.
When the word "Vodou/Vodoun" is capitalized, it denotes
the Religion proper. When the word is used in small caps, it denotes
the actual deities honored in each respective tradition.
Its roots are believed to be varied and include the
Fon, Mina, Kabye, Ewe, and Yoruba peoples of West Africa, from western
Nigeria to eastern Ghana. In Benin, Vodun is the national religion,
followed by around 80% of the population, or some 4½ million
people. The word Vodún "Vodoun" "Vudu"
is the Fon-Ewe word for spirit. Voodoo in Haiti is highly influenced
by Central African traditions. The Kongo rites, also known in the
north of Haiti as Lemba (originally practiced among the Bakongo)
and is as widespread as the West African elements. The Vodoun religion
was suppressed during slavery and Reconstruction in the United States,
but maintained most of its West African elements.
Haitian Vodouisants believe, in accordance with widespread
African tradition, that there is one God who is the creator of all,
referred to as "Bondyè" (from the French "Bon
Dieu" or "Good God"). Bondyè is distinguished
from the God of "the whites" in a dramatic speech by the
houngan Boukman at Bwa Kayiman, but is often considered the same
God of other religions, such as Christianity and Islam. Bondyè
is distant from His/Her/Its creation though, and so it is the spirits
or the "mysteries", "saints", or "angels"
that the Vodouisant turns to for help, as well as to the ancestors.
The Vodouisant worships God, and serves the spirits, who are treated
with honor and respect as elder members of a household might be.
There are said to be twenty-one nations or "nanchons"
of spirits, also sometimes called "lwa-yo". Some of the
more important nations of lwa are the Rada (corresponding to the
Gbe-speaking ethnic groups in the modern-day Republic of Benin,
Nigeria, and Togo); the Nago (synonymous with the Yoruba-speaking
ethnicities in Nigeria, the Republic of Benin, and Togo); and the
numerous West-Central African ethnicities united under the ethnonym
Kongo. The spirits also come in "families" that all share
a surname, like Ogou, or Ezili, or Azaka or Ghede. For instance,
"Ezili" is a family, Ezili Dantor and Ezili Freda are
two individual spirits in that family. 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.
In Dominican Vodou, there is also an Agua Dulce or "Sweet Waters"
family, which encompasses all Amerindian spirits. There are literally
hundreds of lwa. Well known individual lwa include Danbala Wedo,
Papa Legba Atibon, and Agwe Tawoyo.
In Haitian Vodou, spirits are divided according to
their nature in roughly two categories, whether they are hot or
cool. Cool spirits fall under the Rada category, and hot spirits
fall under the Petwo category. Rada spirits are familial and congenial,
while Petwo spirits are more combative and restless. Both can be
dangerous if angry or upset, and despite claims to the contrary,
neither is "good" or "evil" in relation to the
Everyone is said to have spirits, and each person
is considered to have a special relationship with one particular
spirit who is said to "own their head", however each person
may have many lwa, and the one that owns their head, or the "met
tet", may or may not be the most active spirit in a person's
life in Haitian belief.
In serving the spirits, the Vodouisant seeks to achieve
harmony with their own individual nature and the world around them,
manifested as personal power and resourcefulness in dealing with
life. Part of this harmony is membership in and maintaining relationships
within the context of family and community. A Vodou house or society
is organized on the metaphor of an extended family, and initiates
are the "children" of their initiators, with the sense
of hierarchy and mutual obligation that implies.
Most Vodouisants are not initiated, referred to as
being "bosal"; it is not a requirement to be an initiate
in order 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. Priests are referred to
as "Houngans" and priestesses as "Mambos". 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. One does not serve just any lwa but only the
ones they "have" according to one's destiny or nature.
Which spirits a person "has" may be revealed at a ceremony,
in a reading, or in dreams. However all Vodouisants also serve the
spirits of their own blood ancestors, and this important aspect
of Vodou practice is often glossed over or minimized in importance
by commentators who do not understand the significance of it. The
ancestor cult is in fact the basis of Vodou religion, and many lwa
like Agasou (formerly a king of Dahomey) for example are in fact
ancestors who are said to have been raised up to divinity.
A common saying is that Haiti is 80% Roman Catholic,
20% Protestant and 100% Vodou. Thus the Catholic contribution to
Haitian Voodoo is quite noticeable. However, in the United States
the story is different, despite claims to the contrary.
Confusion about Voodoo in the USA arises because there
exists throughout the United States a widespread system of African
American folk magic belief and practice known as Hudu or more popularly
as hoodoo. The similarity of the words hoodoo and Voodoo notwithstanding,
hoodoo is not an organized religion like Voodoo, but is an integral
part of the Vodoun religion in West Africa and arguably throughout
all of Africa. Some aspects of hoodoo is considered derived primarily
from Congo and Angolan magical practices of Central Africa and retains
elements of the traditions and practices that arose among Bantu
language speakers. However, any serious practitioner who has travelled
and studied Hudu in West Africa, will readily conclude that this
ancient, magio-botanical practice is indigenous and essential to
all indigenous, West African religious systems, having only minute
Today, due to the suppression of the Vodoun religion
in America, most hoodooists are now members of African American
Protestant churches, such as the various Baptist, African Methodist
Episcopal (AME), Pentecostal, and Holiness denominations , but when
hoodoo is compared to some of the African religions in the diaspora,
the closest parallel is Cuban and Dominican Palo, a survival of
Congo religious beliefs melded with some Catholic forms of worship.
Survivals of Haitian and West African-influenced Vodou
religion in the southern US are claimed by some to be found within
the African-American Spiritual Churches of New Orleans, a city with
a large Catholic population. This is a fallacious assumption.
The Spiritual Churches of New Orleans are a Christian
sect founded by Wisconsin-born Mother Leafy Anderson in the early
20th century. These churches incorporate Catholic iconography, ecstatic
worship derived from African American Protestant Pentecostal sources,
and a large dose of Spiritualism, but a closer examination shows
that 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 (Anderson's home state), not in Africa, or Haiti.
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.
In sum, Haitian Voodoo is derived from West African
religious traditions and was retained in modified form by enslaved
Africans living in the Caribbean who were held captive by Catholics.
However, in the USA the Vodoun religion is derived from largely
the Ewe and other West and central African groups.
Voodoo is a derivative of the world's oldest known
religions which have been around in Africa since the beginning
of human civilization
Public relations-wise, Vodou has come to be associated
in the popular mind with such phenomena as "zombies"
and "voodoo dolls". While there is ethnobotanical evidence
relating to "zombie" creation, it is a minor phenomenon
within rural Haitian culture and not a part of the Vodou religion
as such. Such things fall under the auspices of the bokor or sorcerer
rather than the priest of the Lwa Gine.
The practice of sticking pins in "voodoo dolls"
has history in healing teachings as identifying pressure points.
How it became known as a method of cursing an individual by some
followers of what has come to be called "New Orleans Voodoo",
which is a local variant of hoodoo is a mystery. Some speculate
that it was one of many ways of self defense by instilling fear
in slave owners. This practice is not unique to New Orleans "voodoo"
however and has as much basis in European-based magical devices
such as the "poppet" and the nkisi or bocio of West
and Central Africa (see also Paket kongo).In fact it has more
basis in European traditions, as the nkisi or bocio figures used
in Africa are in fact power objects, what in Haiti would be referred
to as 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. In fact,
voodoo always gets a bad rap in movies with possibly the only
exception being the film London Voodoo where voodoo is shown as
a force for good.
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 "voodoo worshippers"
in popular media and imagination, ie. 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. One Haitian artist particularly known for his
unusual sacred constructions using doll parts is Pierrot Barra
of Port au Prince.
New Orleans Artist, Sallie Ann Glassman who is a Voodoo
Priestess, Connie Born, and Krewe Of Mid City float
designer Ricardo Pustanio and others all artfully capture
the real spirit of New Orleans in their fantastic and
exciting Mardi Gras Voodoo dolls creations. These dolls
are fashioned of carefully selected fabrics and original
designs each unique to the artist. They are often dressed
in skirts and necklaces made of real Mardi Gras beads.
Each one-of-a-kind doll represents New Orleans' richly
diverse and fascinating culture and these artist are
the most sough after dolls to purchase.
Kumina is both the religion and the music practiced by
the people who inhabit the region of eastern Jamaica.
These people have retained the drumming and dancing of
the Bantu-speaking peoples of the Congo. Like the Kongo
practitioners from Cuba, they have kept a large amount
of the Kongo language alive. In the Americas there are
many Kongo-derived religions still being practiced today.
There are two main aspects of Kongo religion that are
quite distinctive. One is the practice of bringing down
spirits of the dead to briefly inhabit the bodies of the
faithful. The purpose of this is so that the ancestors
may share their wisdom, providing spiritual assistance
and advice to those here on Earth. Without exception,
all such faiths in the Americas retain this central feature
of Kongo faith. The other feature is the extensive work
with Inquices (Enkises, Nkisi). The Inquices are very
like the Orishas of Yoruba tradition, but also different.
In Cuba and Brazil, where Yoruba influence was strongest
in the Americas, they are often syncretized with the Orishas.
They may best be described as being both the most ancient
of ancestors as well as being associated with specific
powers in nature. The Inquices do not tend to possess
as detailed a mythology as the Yoruba gods.kumina is found
Obeah (sometimes spelled "Obi") is a term used
in the West Indies to refer to folk magic, sorcery, and
religious practices derived from Central African and West
African origins. As such, Obeah is similar to Palo, Voodoo,
Santeria, rootwork, and hoodoo. Obeah is practiced in
Suriname, Jamaica, the Virgin Islands, Trinidad, Tobago,
Guyana, Belize, the Bahamas, St. Vincent and the Grenadines,
Barbados and many other Caribbean countries.
Obeah is associated with both black and white magic,
charms, luck, and with mysticism in general. In some Caribbean
nations Obeah refers to African diasporic folk religions
with admixtures such as Hindu puja; in other areas, Christians
may include elements of Obeah in their religion—Obeah
is associated with the Spiritual Baptist church—and
the word Obeah, although not the practice of Obeah, appears
in a text associated with the religion of Thelema.
In Jamaica, slaves from different areas of Africa were
brought into contact, creating some conflicts between
those who practiced varying African religions. Those of
West African Ashanti descent, who called their priests
"Myal men" (also spelled Mial men), used the
Ashanti term "Obi" or "Obeah" -- meaning
"sorcery" -- to describe the practices of slaves
of Central African descent. Thus those who worked in a
Congo form of folk religion were called "Obeah men"
or "sorcerers." Obeah also came to mean any
physical object, such as a talisman or charm, that was
used for evil magical purposes. However, despite its fearsome
reputation, Obeah, like any other form of folk religion
and folk magic, contains many traditions for healing,
helping, and bringing about luck in love and money.
During the mid 19th century the appearance of a comet
in the sky became the focal point of an outbreak of religious
fanaticism and Christian millennarianism among the Myal
men of Jamaica. Spiritualism was at that time sweeping
the English-speaking nations as well, and it readily appealed
to those in the Afro-Carbbean diaspora, as spirit contact,
especially with the dead, is an essential part of many
During the conflict between Myal and Obeah, the Myal
men positioned themselves as the "good" opponents
to "evil" Obeah. They claimed that Obeah men
stole people's shadows, and they set themselves up as
the helpers of those who wished to have their shadows
restored. Myal men contacted spirits in order to expose
the evil works they ascribed to the Obeah men, and led
public parades which resulted in crowd-hystreria that
engendered violent antagonism against Obeah men. The public
"discovery" of buried Obeah charms, presumed
to be of evil intent, led on more than one occasion to
violence against the rival Obeah men.
Laws were passed that limited both Obeah and Myal traditions,
but due to the outrages perpetrated by the mobs of Myalists,
the British government of Jamaica sent many Myal men to
prison, and this, along with the failure of their millennialist
Christian prophesies, resulted in a lessening influence
for Myalism, while Obeah remained a vital form of folk
magic in Jamaica. By the early 20th century, Myalism was
considered a thing of the past, and Obeah dominated.
One aspect of Obeah with which many visitors to the Virgin
Islands are familiar (although they may not fully comprehend
it) is the Mocko-Jumbie, or stilt dancer.
In the Virgin Islands Obeah tradition, a Jumbie is an
evil or lost spirit, related to the Kongo word Nzumbi,
which led to the sensationalistic Zombies of Hollywood.
Jumbie however, retains more of the word's original meaning.
It is sometimes associated with a child who has died before
being baptized. Such a child is said to be forced to forever
walk the earth at night, and is easily identified by its
backward-facing feet. The connection between the Jumbie
and death is extended into botany: Abrus precatorius,
a species of tropical legume bears deadly toxic red and
black seeds called Jumbies in English-speaking regions
of the Caribbean. By contrast, the Mocko-Jumbie of the
Virgin Islands is brightly colored, dances in the daylight,
and is very much alive. The Mocko-Jumbie also represents
the flip-side of spiritual darkness, as stilt-dancing
is most popular around holy days and Carnival.
site is being developed for the paranormal enthusiast seeking
a home turf haunted adventure. Our skilled staff is busily
assembling a wide and varied selection of tantalizing destinations
-- from slightly off the beaten path to certifiably haunted!
We have enlisted the skills of numerous paranormal investigative
organizations and independent psychics to seek out the famous
and the infamous: whatever your fascination, be it ghosts,
vampires, werewolves, haunted places -- Haunted America Tours
is the expert choice to begin your adventure.