The practice of Voodoo is often looked upon as something to be feared and evil and aggressive form of black magic. Is voodoo really as evil as we think? The truth is; it is most notably the complete opposite. Voodoo is heavily connected with the Christian Church and more noticeably the Catholic Church. Most forms of voodoo in which there are three main types, all have heavy concentrations of Christian beliefs and do not claim to be either black or white in its magical practices.
The History of Voodoo
The history of voodoo is one shrouded in a considerable fog. Those that have heard about Voodoo often picture a violent ceremony with lots of trances, animal sacrifices, dolls and blood. The believed history is that the practice began with the traditional ancestral worship and practice of West Africa. When the new worlds were being discovered and cultivated many African slaves were captured and carried to places like the Americas, and Haiti. When the slaves were transported to their new locations they did not, however, lose their beliefs in ancestral magic and worship. Along with the new world for the slaves came the indoctrination of Christian belief and most consequently the practice of Catholicism. Which became well integrated into their previous practices. The spirits that they worshiped and believed influenced pretty much everything were quickly aligned and converted to Catholic saints. They paralleled them believing that no matter what they were called the basic influence of their spirit was the same. When the French moved to New Orleans after the revolts in Haiti they took with them their family slaves. Some of these slaves carried with the belief in Voodoo, while in New Orleans some of the more rigid traditions became more relaxed and were influenced by other cultures. Cultures such as the Native American tribes that live in the area, other slaves, the Spanish, the French and the Creole. The culmination of all of these cultures created what is called New Orleans Voodoo.
The Hierarchy of the types of voodoo are:
|African voodoo:||African Voodoo tends to be a bit more feral, in the sense that it involves both the belief in power from nature as well as Christian beliefs. The use of spirit possession, animal sacrifice, and trance magic is often used to invoke power and attain results. Hoodoo is the African form of folk magic.|
|Haitian Voodoo:||Haitian Voodoo while based on ancestral African Practices, integrated into traditions held by native Haitians. Haitian Voodoo has become the most well-known and revered forms of Voodoo practices because it became so crucial during the independence revolts the Occurred in Haiti. The practice was even banned in Haiti during and for some time after the revolts because it was believed to empower the revolutionaries.|
|New Orleans Voodoo:||New Orleans Voodoo is a unique version of voodoo, in the regard that its practices are more relaxed and include many practices that neither African or Haitian Voodoo contain. New Orleans Voodoo really mainly relates to New Orleans and some on the southern states in the U.S. However, it is probably the most accepted version of voodoo. New Orleans Voodoo is a mix of West African Voodoo, Haitian Voodoo, French Customs, Spanish Customs, Christian Beliefs, and Creole Customs. In terms of Christian beliefs, it mainly represents the Catholic faith often interchanging Spirits or Loa with saints of the Catholic faith. New Orleans Voodoo also holds the custom of having not only high priests and High priestesses but King and Queens of Voodoo, most notably Marie Laveau.|
Commonalities in all types of voodoo:
- The belief in a Supreme God
- The integration of Christianity
- The belief that voodoo is neither black nor white magic in practice but neutral and has the potential to be used in either sense.
- While there is a belief in one God, all voodoo acknowledges the presence of spirits, and ancestors in their practice.
Terminology of Voodoo
Terminology Used in Voodoo: Well I think the basic jargon that is important to know. It is all important but these will be referred to more often.
|Bondye (Bohn- Dyay):||The good God or Supreme God in Voodoo.|
|Gris- Gris:||A neutrally charged charm that contains a lot of power. It uses both black and white magic.|
|Loa:||The spirits that manage and influence different everyday things in nature and human life. (these loa are often represented as saints in some Voodoo.)|
|Juju:||A New Orleans charm for healing or good result|
|Mambo:||A priestess of Voodoo.|
|Oungan:||A priest of Voodoo.|
|Papa Legba:||The main spirit the controls the portal to both sides of the planes. When wanting to contact any spirit for whatever reason, Papa Legba is honored first so he might open the door to let the others through.|
|Left-handed magic:||Black magic or malevolent magic.|
|Right- Handed magic:||White magic or benevolent magic.|
Voodoo is often looked at as evil when it is far from the truth. Voodoo like most magic claims to be neither good or bad but the potential to be both, with a favoring of good magic. Voodoo is heavily based on Christian beliefs and often incorporates the Catholic Church. So much so, that Pope John Paul II has even acknowledged the practice. Voodoo is not a magical pagan practice anymore and has instead become a mostly-benevolent religion with many ties to the Christian Church. Something which seems to be an oxymoron in the idea of Witchcraft. Although Witchcraft, as I have stated before, is a practice rather than a religion and a Witch can be of any religion or faith they want. Voodoo practitioners can still classify themselves as witches if they want but often the case is that they are just practicing their religion. Voodoo has a rich history of pain, power, belief, and integration. Voodoo takes from every place and makes it a part of its rite and in doing so has created a mystery for itself. A mystery that provokes people to seek it out in the streets of New Orleans, the Island of Haiti or the planes of Africa.
What do you think of voodoo as a magickal practice? Do you consider it witchcraft or religion?
Links to Terminology:
Terms and Definitions Taken from: BeliefNet
A more Through glossary list here: Voodoo Shop