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Voodoo is a religion with African roots. It is supposed to be a mix of African, Catholic, and Native American traditions in the Americas and the Caribbean. It's a sensationalised pop-culture caricature of voudon, an Afro-Caribbean religion with adherents in Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Brazil, the United States, and everywhere else. It has nothing to do with voodoo dolls or zombies, for example. It is practised all around the world, although no one knows how many people are Voodooists. Voodoo has no scripture or authority in the world. It is centred on the community and encourages personal growth, empowerment, and responsibility. In many places of the world, voodoo is varied, and it differs from community to community. This is largely about New Orleans and Haitian Voodoo. Voodoo is a religion that embraces and incorporates the human life. It is practised by imperfect humans who may use religion for their own ends.
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To comprehend their beliefs, you must first comprehend how a Voodooist views the universe. Voodoo practitioners believe in the existence of a visible and invisible world, both of which are connected. Our forefathers and mothers are still with us in spirit since death is a passage to the invisible realm. They keep an eye on us and motivate us. There are the Lwa, which can be regarded as archetypes of human characters (like Ogun the warrior) and others that represent more particular concerns or locales, in addition to our forefathers and loved ones we knew in life (like Marie Laveau in New Orleans).
Voodooists form ties with the Lwa in order to seek their advice and assistance with problems in the visible world. This is analogous to the secular practise of studying and honouring notable historical personalities in several aspects. Someone who wants to make a difference in the world might find inspiration in Martin Luther King Jr. or Mahatma Gandhi and feel a sense of connection with them. They might read their books, hang a poster of them on the wall, commemorate their birth or death dates, and try to follow in their footsteps. A Voodooist, in a similar way, cultivates a relationship with a specific Lwa, attempts to comprehend and embody the ideas they represent, connects spiritually to effect transformational change, and manifests this energy in the external world to aid the living.
The Lwa are known and approachable, similar to Catholic saints or Hindu god figures, whereas the "big good God," while caring, is distant and above specific human problems. Although there are appointed clergy in Voodoo, such as Hougan (priests) and Manbo (priestesses), who commit to a spiritual journey and can provide advice when needed, it is theorized that people is accountable for their own actions and capable of self-actualization. The power of community is very important to voodooists for support and enrichment. There is a lot of variance in Voodoo ideas and practises, just like there is in other faiths. Voodoo is generally focused on surviving in places and eras where situations are extremely severe. Most Voodooists in my New Orleans neighbourhood believe that part of their religion is to serve their neighbourhood, therefore there is a strong emphasis on healing and social activity. We also have a lot of artists and musicians in our neighbourhood, which adds to New Orleans' distinct cultural spirit.
Our perception of Voodoo is tainted by racism. It has its roots in slavery and is inextricably linked to the political and social growth of this hemisphere. Slaves of African origin practised voodoo in America and the Caribbean, and their culture was both dreaded and despised. Slaves were not treated as fully human beings. Their religion was regarded as superstition, their priests were called witchdoctors, and their Gods and Spirits were vilified. Slaves of African heritage ousted the country's European rulers and took control. Several slaves practised Voodoo, and some of its military leaders were priests who motivated and rallied their villages to fight for independence. Other European and American colonies that relied on large numbers of slaves as plantation labour were alarmed by the Haitian Revolution. Voodoo (and other Afro-Caribbean faiths) images and lexicon became menacing and engrained in those societies as being something horrifying, linked to slaughter and violence. Throughout most places, it was violently suppressed. It became a forbidden subject.
Over time, American culture became attracted by this strange ritual, and it began to be depicted as sensationalised horror in movies and books. Hollywood invented "voodoo" techniques, and most of the terrible pictures we have in our heads are from a movie. We have accepted a mythology produced by Hollywood as fact. "Voodoo" has been associated with evil and the potential for harm in modern folklore. However, Voodoo is still widely practised in Haiti, and it has a role in politics. Government and religion are a divisive combination. In that sense, Voodoo is no different from any other belief system. Several Voodooists in the United States hide their religion because they are terrified of how they will be regarded. While this is reasonable, it also adds to the assumption that they are secretly practising something unpleasant or aggressive. Fear feeds on itself.
Voudon teaches the belief in Bondye, an ultimate entity who is unknowable and unengaged. Many spirits (called loa) are worshipped by Voudon believers, each of whom is responsible for a distinct area or aspect of existence. If you're a farmer, you might praise and offer sacrifices to the spirit of agriculture; if you're dealing with lost love, you might laud or offer sacrifices to Erzulie Freda, the spirit of love, and so on. Loa can show themselves through seizing the bodies of their devotees, in addition to assisting (or obstructing) human affairs. Voudonists believe in a universal energy as well as a soul that could leave the body through dreams and demonic possession. Spiritual possession is commonly regarded an act of evil in Christian theology, with Satan or some demonic force attempting to enter an unwilling human vessel. Possession by loa, on the other hand, is desirable in voudon. This possession is regarded a significant, first-hand spiritual experience and link with the spiritual realm in a ceremony led by a priest or priestess.
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