Voodoo Religion - Derivative of the World's Oldest Religions
Voodoo is a derivative of the world's oldest known religions which have been around in Africa since the beginning of human civilization. Some conservative estimates these civilizations and religions to be over 10 000 years old. This then identify Voodoo as probably the best example of African syncretism in the Americas. Ironically, it was the enforced immigration of enslaved African from different ethnic groups that provided the circumstances for the development of Voodoo. European colonists thought that by desolating the ethnic groups, these could not come together as a community. However, in the misery of slavery, the transplanted Africans found in their faith a common thread.
Voodoo is a Caribbean religion blended from traditional African religions and Catholic Christianity. Originally a slave religion, it is especially associated with the island of Haiti, although identifiably voodoo forms of spiritual expression are also present in Jamaica and Santo Domingo.
Voodoo recognizes one God, Bondye or Gran Met. However, there are a host of spirits or deities called loa which act as intermediaries between humans and God. The *La Place *Hounsi are servers, usually, but not always women dressed in white. Central to any Voodoo service are the drummers, since the *tanbu, the African drum, is the very central reality of the religious service. One can categorically state that human sacrifice is not now nor ever has been a part of Haitian Voodoo. The one or two documented cases of *cannibalism must be viewed as non-Voodoo inspired aberrations.
Voodoo is much criticized by foreigners in Haiti. Often it is simply because they profess a competing religion and don't want the people to stay with Voodoo. During Haiti's main slave trade era, a 56-year period, houngans and mambos built up the public religion of Haiti, Voodoo, in a weird amalgamation of African spirit religion and Catholicism. In 2003, the government of Haiti sanctioned Voodoo as an official religion. Believers can now be baptized and married within the religion.
Healers heal with herbs, faith healing (with the help of lwa and other spirits) and, today, even with western medicine! Voodoo is an important part of family life in any community that practices it. The high priest has a great deal of influence and gives spiritual advice when it is asked for. Voodoo is a West African word meaning 'spirit'; the original word was vodun. The basic ethos of the religion is that everything in the universe is connected.
Within the voodoo society, there are no accidents. Practitioners believe that nothing and no event has a life of its own. Voodoo is an animist faith. That is, objects and natural phenomena are believed to possess holy significance, to possess a soul. Another practical aspect of Voodoo ceremonies is that participants often come before the priest or priestess to seek advice, spiritual guidance, or help with their problems.
The priest or priestess then, through divine aid, offer help such as healing through the use of herbs or medicines (using knowledge that has been passed down within the religion itself), or healing through faith itself as is common in other religions. There are over 100 'spirits', called Loa, that Voodoo practitioners worship. These Loa interact with people and things to help create and maintain a spiritual balance. Voodoo is a religion of the universe.
Each voodoo is served by a wife (the voodoo-si). Because it is the role of the women to serve, women are deemed to be particularly worthy of being possessed by the voodoo, once they have been properly inititiated into the religion. The rules of the spirits provide respite from the lawlessness so typical in the streets of Haiti, West Africa, and other poor countries where Voodoo religion is most prevalent.
Twenty-one of the 101 spirits in the Voodoo religion are celebrated at the Sucre ceremony. Another key element of the religion is veneration of the spirits of ancestors. Among voodoo worshippers, the dead are thought to walk among the living during the dance of hooded Egunguns, who spin through the village in elaborate costumes.
When one dies, according to voodoo belief, the soul remains near the corpse for a week. During this seven-day period, the ti bon ange is vulnerable and may be captured and made into a "spiritual zombie" by a sorcerer. The process of cosmic manifestation is characterized by two phases, the first being involution, during which a multitude of spiritual units emerge from the Source and, after becoming more and more involved in matter, finally achieve self-consciousness in the physical world.
Thus, the individual spiritual units (the monads) reach the causal body (a spiritual body containing the seeds of karma that "cause" everything else) by descending through various grades of being.
Louisiana Voodoo, also known as New Orleans Voodoo originated from the ancestral religions of the African diaspora. A cultural form of the Voodoo religions which historically developed within the French- and Creole-speaking African-American population of the U.S. state of Louisiana. Thus came the advent of syncretization of the names and aspects of the Voodoo lwa to those of the Christian saints who most closely resembled their particular areas of expertise.
In the USA the Vodoun religion is derived from largely the Ewe and other West and central African groups. The similarity of the words hoodoo and Voodoo notwithstanding, hoodoo may have tenuous connections to Vodou, but may be an integral part of the Vodoun religion in West Africa and arguably throughout all of Africa.