Voodoo Mystery

Voodoo is a mysterious, evil religion, stemming from darkest Africa. Many people believe it has been used to bring about the early deaths of unwelcome researchers and to resurrect the zombified bodies of dead believers. Voodoo, also known as Vodun, Vodoun, Voudou or Sevi Lua, originated in the west African countries of Nigeria, Benin and Togo. ‘Voodoo’ is an ancient African word for ‘Great Spirit’, and the religion itself is believed to stretch back many millennia. The first the developed world knew of it was when slave traders started capturing African workers in the sixteenth century, and deporting them to the West Indies. On arriving in the islands, the slaves were forcibly invested in the Catholic faith, but as there were few facilities for them to actually practise this new religion, many slipped back into their native traditions.

The connotations of evil and fear that are associated with vodun originated primarily from the white plantation owners’ obsession with the threat of slave revolts, for they and their overseers were outnumbered 16 to 1 by the field hands whom they worked unmercifully in the broiling Haitian sun. As the black population increased and the white demand for slave labor remained unceasing, vodun began to take on an anti-white liturgy. Several “messiahs” emerged among the slaves, who were subsequently put to death by the whites in the “big houses.”

A number of laws began to be passed forbidding any plantation owner to allow “night dances” among his Negroes. In 1791, a slave revolt took place under the leadership of Toussaint L’Ouverture (1743–1803) which was to lead to Haiti’s independence from France in 1804. Although L’Ouverture died in a Napoleonic prison, his generals had become sufficiently inspired by his example to continue the struggle for freedom until the myth of white supremacy was banished from the island. After the Concordat of 1860, when relations were once again reestablished with France, the priests who came to Haiti found the vestiges of Catholicism kept alive in vodun. The clergy fulminated against vodun from the pulpits but did not actively campaign against their rival priesthood until 1896 when an impatient monseigneur tried to organize an anti-vodun league without success.

It wasn’t until 1940 that the Catholic Church launched a violent campaign of renunciation directed at the adherents of vodun. The priests went about their methodic attack with such zeal that the government was forced to intercede and command them to temper the fires of their campaign. Today there are more than 60 million people who practice vodun worldwide, largely where Haitian emigrants have settled in Benin, Dominican Republic, Ghana, Togo, various cities in the United States, and, of course, in Haiti. In South America, there are many religions similar to vodun, such as Umbanda, Quimbanda, or Candomble. A male priest of vodun is called a houngan or hungan; his female counterpart, a mambo. The place where one practices vodun is a series of buildings called a humfort or hounfou.

A “congregation” is called a hunsi or hounsis, and the hungan cures, divines, and cares for them through the good graces of a loa, his guiding spirit. Their religion was founded on the idea of one supreme God – an unknowable but almighty force. Under Him there lies a network of ‘Loa’ or spirits, which are broadly equivalent to the Christian idea of patron saints. Each Loa represents a different area of life and has certain qualities. For example, if a farmer was worried about his crops he would focus his worship on the Loa known as ‘Zaka’, the spirit of agriculture. Despite the similarity between these African faiths, and their own, the French and Spanish conquerors refused to accept that these enslaved savages could have their own indigenous religion. Fearing that they were actually worshipping the devil, Voodoo was banned, and slave leaders and priests were beaten into confessing that their rituals were evil.

However, the Voodoo faith was continued in secret, particularly in Haiti. Over time it even adopted some aspects of the Catholic religion, as descendants of the original slaves spread throughout across the Caribbean. The belief of West Indian workers mixed with Voodoo practices of slaves taken to the American southlands and a centre for the faith was soon created in New Orleans with its fertile blend of French, Spanish and African cultures. Today, 15% of New Orleans citizens, and 60 million people worldwide, practise Voodoo.

In 1996 it was also made the official faith of Benin. Despite this official recognition, there is still a great deal of mystery and fear attached to Voodoo rituals. At the centre of the temple there is a post used to contact spirits, and a highly decorated altar. There is a feast before the ceremony, and a particular pattern relating to the Loa being worshipped is outlined on the temple floor. Dancing and chanting accompanied by beats from rattles and religious drums called Tamboulas begins. One of the dancers is said to be possessed by the Loa, enters a trance and behaves just as the Loa would. An animal, normally a chicken, goat, sheep or dog, is sacrificed and their blood is collected. This is used to sate the hunger of the Loa.

There is also the matter of the voodoo doll and voodoo curses. Anthropologist Walter Cannon spent several years collecting examples of “voodoo death,” instances in which men and women died as a result of being the recipient of a curse, an alleged supernatural visitation, or the breaking of some tribal or cultural taboo. The question that Cannon sought to answer was, “How can an ominous and persistent state of fear end the life of a human?” Fear, one of the most powerful and deeprooted of the emotions, has its effects mediated through the nervous system and the endocrine apparatus, the “sympathetic-adrenal system.” Cannon has hypothesized that, “if these powerful emotions prevail and the bodily forces are fully mobilized for action, and if this state of extreme perturbation continues for an uncontrolled possession of the organism for a considerable period . . . dire results may ensue.” Cannon has suggested, then, that “vodun death” may result from a state of shock due to a persistent and continuous outpouring of adrenalin and a depletion of the adrenal corticosteroid hormones. Such a constant agitation caused by an abiding sense of fear could consequently induce a fatal reduction in blood pressure. Cannon assessed voodoo death as a real phenomenon set in motion by “shocking emotional stress to obvious or repressed terror.”

Voodoo black magic is performed by Caplatas or Bokors who place curses, and stick pins in Voodoo dolls to cause people pain and suffering. However, this use of Voodoo is very rare, and the faith is promoted by its followers as being a wonderful way to understand the human condition and the world around us.

Even though some of the practices seem a little strange, are they really much different from evangelist rituals or even archaic Catholic rites? However, those who practise Voodoo say these rumours and myths have been borne out of ignorance and misplaced fear. Voodoo, they say, is actually a peaceful religion very similar in emphasis to the Catholic faith. They say it should cause no feeling of trepidation in anybody. As with many of Humanity’s mysteries, a little tolerance and understanding goes a long way to revealing the truth.

(Sources : Encyclopedia of Unusual and Unexplained Things; 100 Most Strangest Mysteries by Matt Lamy)
(Pic sources : Pic 1 (Doll used in the African/West Indian practice of voodoo) taken from 100 Most Strangest Mysteries page 200)


  1. wow voo doo, hopes to get the doll only ^^

  2. Very informative blog regarding a voodoo.

  3. @Ever Smith: Thanks for dropping by and reading my blog

  4. oo vodoo only cant be destroy by moslem religion,


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