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Haitian Vodou | Wikipedia audio article

Haitian Vodou | Wikipedia audio article


Haitian Vodou (, French: [vodu], also written
as Vaudou ; known commonly as Voodoo , sometimes as Vodun , Vodoun , Vodu , or Vaudoux ) is
a syncretic religion practiced chiefly in Haiti and the Haitian diaspora. Practitioners are called “vodouists” (French:
vodouisants [voduizɑ̃]) or “servants of the spirits” (Haitian Creole: sèvitè).Vodouists
believe in a distant and unknowable Supreme Creator, Bondye (derived from the French term
Bon Dieu, meaning “good God”). According to Vodouists, Bondye does not intercede
in human affairs, and thus they direct their worship toward spirits subservient to Bondye,
called loa. Every loa is responsible for a particular
aspect of life, with the dynamic and changing personalities of each loa reflecting the many
possibilities inherent to the aspects of life over which they preside. To navigate daily life, vodouists cultivate
personal relationships with the loa through the presentation of offerings, the creation
of personal altars and devotional objects, and participation in elaborate ceremonies
of music, dance, and spirit possession.Vodou originated in what is now Benin Republic and
developed in the French colonial empire in the 18th century among West African peoples
who were enslaved, when African religious practice was actively suppressed, and enslaved
Africans were forced to convert to Christianity. Religious practices of contemporary Vodou
are descended from, and closely related to, West African Vodun as practiced by the Fon
and Ewe. Vodou also incorporates elements and symbolism
from other African peoples including the Yoruba and Kongo; as well as Taíno religious beliefs,
Roman Catholicism, and European spirituality including mysticism and other influences.In
Haiti, some Roman Catholics combine their faith with aspects of Vodou. This practice is denounced as diabolical by
virtually all Haitian Protestants.==Names and etymology==
Vodou is a Haitian Creole word that formerly referred to only a small subset of Haitian
rituals. The word derives from an Ayizo word referring
to mysterious forces or powers that govern the world and the lives of those who reside
within it, but also a range of artistic forms that function in conjunction with these vodun
energies. Two of the major speaking populations of Ayizo
are the Ewe and the Fon—European slavers called both the Arada. These two peoples composed a sizable number
of the early enslaved population in St. Dominique. In Haiti, practitioners occasionally use “Vodou”
to refer to Haitian religion generically, but it is more common for practitioners to
refer to themselves as those who “serve the spirits” (sèvitè) by participating in ritual
ceremonies, usually called a “service to the loa” (sèvis lwa) or an “African service”
(sèvis gine). These terms also refer to the religion as
a whole. Outside of Haiti, the term Vodou refers to
the entirety of traditional Haitian religious practice. Originally written as vodun, it is first recorded
in Doctrina Christiana, a 1658 document written by the King of Allada’s ambassador to the
court of Philip IV of Spain. In the following centuries, Vodou was eventually
taken up by non-Haitians as a generic descriptive term for traditional Haitian religion. There are many used orthographies for this
word. Today, the spelling Vodou is the most commonly
accepted orthography in English. Other potential spellings include Vodoun,
vaudou, and voodoo, with vau- or vou- prefix variants reflecting French orthography, and
a final -n reflecting the nasal vowel in West African or older, non-urbanized, Haitian Creole
pronunciations. The spelling voodoo, once very common, is
now generally avoided by Haitian practitioners and scholars when referring to the Haitian
religion. This is both to avoid confusion with Louisiana
Voodoo, a related but distinct set of religious practices, as well as to separate Haitian
Vodou from the negative connotations and misconceptions the term “voodoo” has acquired in popular
culture. Over the years, practitioners and their supporters
have called on various institutions including the Associated Press to redress this misrepresentation
by adopting “Vodou” in reference to the Haitian religion. In October 2012, the Library of Congress decided
to change their subject heading from “Voodooism” to Vodou in response to a petition by a group
of scholars and practitioners in collaboration with KOSANBA, the scholarly association for
the study of Haitian Vodou based at University of California Santa Barbara.==Beliefs==Vodou is popularly described as not simply
a religion, but rather an experience that ties body and soul together. The concept of tying that exists in Haitian
religious culture is derived from the Congolese tradition of kanga, the practice of tying
one’s soul to something tangible. This “tying of soul” is evident in many Haitian
Vodou practices that are still exercised today.===Spirits===
Vodouisants believe in a Supreme God called Bondye, from the French . When it came in
contact with Roman Catholicism, the Supreme Creator was associated with the Christian
God, and the loa associated with the saints.====Loa====Since Bondye (God) is considered unreachable,
Vodouisants aim their prayers to lesser entities, the spirits known as loa, or mistè. The most notable loa include Papa Legba (guardian
of the crossroads), Erzulie Freda (the spirit of love), Simbi (the spirit of rain and magicians),
Kouzin Zaka (the spirit of agriculture), and The Marasa, divine twins considered to be
the first children of Bondye.These loa can be divided into 21 nations, which include
the Petro, Rada, Congo, and Nago.Each of the loa is associated with a particular Roman
Catholic saint. For example, Legba is associated with St.
Anthony the Hermit, and Damballa is associated with St. Patrick.The loa also fall into family
groups who share a surname, such as Ogou, Ezili, Azaka
or Ghede. For instance, “Ezili” is a family, Ezili Danto
and Ezili Freda are two individual spirits in that family. Each family is associated with a specific
aspect, for instance 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.===Morality===Vodou’s moral code focuses on the vices of
dishonor and greed. There is also a notion of relative propriety—and
what is appropriate to someone with Dambala Wedo as their head may be different from someone
with Ogou Feray as their head. For example, one spirit is very cool and the
other is very hot. Coolness overall is valued, and so is the
ability and inclination to protect oneself and one’s own if necessary. Love and support within the family of the
Vodou society seem to be the most important considerations. Generosity in giving to the community and
to the poor is also an important value. One’s blessings come through the community,
and one should be willing to give back. There are no “solitaries” in Vodou—only
people separated geographically from their elders and house. A person without a relationship of some kind
with elders does not practice Vodou as it is understood in Haiti and among Haitians;
additionally, Haitian Vodou emphasizes the ‘wholeness of being’ not just with elders
and the material world, but also unity with the interconnected forces of nature.There
is a diversity of practice in Vodou across the country of Haiti and the Haitian diaspora. For instance, in the north of Haiti, the lave
tèt (“head washing”) or kanzwe may be the only initiation, as it is in the Dominican
Republic and Cuba, whereas in Port-au-Prince and the south they practice the kanzo rites
with three grades of initiation – kanzo senp, si pwen, and asogwe – and the latter
is the most familiar mode of practice outside Haiti. Some lineages combine both, as Mambo Katherine
Dunham reports from her personal experience in her book Island Possessed. While the overall tendency in Vodou is conservative
in accord with its African roots, there is no singular, definitive form, only what is
right in a particular house or lineage. Small details of service and the spirits served
vary from house to house, and information in books or on the internet therefore may
seem contradictory. There is no central authority or “pope” in
Haitian Vodou, since “every mambo and houngan is the head of their own house”, as a popular
Haitian saying goes. Another consideration in terms of Haitian
diversity are the many sects besides the Sèvi Gine in Haiti such as the Makaya, Rara, and
other secret societies, each of which has its own distinct pantheon of spirits.===Soul===
According to Vodou, the soul consists of two aspects, in a type of soul dualism: the gros
bon ange (big good angel) and the ti bon ange (little good angel). The gros bon ange is the part of the soul
that is essentially responsible for the basic biological functions, such as the flow of
blood through the body and breathing. On the other hand, the ti bon ange is the
source of personality, character and willpower. “As the gros bon ange provides each person
with the power to act, it is the ti bon ange that molds the individual sentiment within
each act”. While the latter is an essential element for
the survival of one’s individual identity, it is not necessary to keep the body functioning
properly in biological terms, and therefore a person can continue to exist without it.==Practices=====
Liturgy and practice===A Haitian Vodou temple is called a Peristil. After a day or two of preparation setting
up altars at an Hounfour, ritually preparing and cooking fowl and other foods, etc., a
Haitian Vodou service begins with a series of prayers and songs in French, then a litany
in Haitian Creole and Langaj that goes through all the European and African saints and loa
honored by the house, and then a series of verses for all the main spirits of the house. This is called the “Priyè Gine” or the African
Prayer. After more introductory songs, beginning with
saluting Hounto, the spirit of the drums, the songs for all the individual spirits are
sung, starting with the Legba family through all the Rada spirits, then there is a break
and the Petro part of the service begins, which ends with the songs for the Gede family. As the songs are sung, participants believe
that spirits come to visit the ceremony, by taking possession of individuals and speaking
and acting through them. When a ceremony is made, only the family of
those possessed is benefited. At this time it is believed that devious mambo
or houngan can take away the luck of the worshippers through particular actions. For instance, if a priest asks for a drink
of champagne, a wise participant refuses. Sometimes these ceremonies may include dispute
among the singers as to how a hymn is to be sung. In Haiti, these Vodou ceremonies, depending
on the Priest or Priestess, may be more organized. But in the United States, many vodouists and
clergy take it as a sort of non-serious party or “folly”. In a serious rite, each spirit is saluted
and greeted by the initiates present and gives readings, advice, and cures to those who ask
for help. Many hours later, as morning dawns, the last
song is sung, the guests leave, and the exhausted hounsis, houngans, and mambos can go to sleep. Vodou practitioners believe that if one follows
all taboos imposed by their particular loa and is punctilious about all offerings and
ceremonies, the loa will aid them. Vodou practitioners also believe that if someone
ignores their loa it can result in sickness, the failure of crops, the death of relatives,
and other misfortunes. Animals are sometimes sacrificed in Haitian
Vodou. A variety of animals are sacrificed, such
as pigs, goats, chickens, and bulls. “The intent and emphasis of sacrifice is not
upon the death of the animal, it is upon the transfusion of its life to the loa; for the
understanding is that flesh and blood are of the essence of life and vigor, and these
will restore the divine energy of the god.”On the individual’s household level, a Vodouisant
or “sèvitè”/”serviteur” may have one or more tables set out for their ancestors and
the spirit or spirits that they serve with pictures or statues of the spirits, perfumes,
foods, and other things favored by their spirits. The most basic set up is just a white candle
and a clear glass of water and perhaps flowers. On a particular spirit’s day, one lights a
candle and says an Our Father and Hail Mary, salutes Papa Legba and asks him to open the
gate, and then one salutes and speaks to the particular spirit as an elder family member. Ancestors are approached directly, without
the mediating of Papa Legba, since they are said to be “in the blood”. In a Vodou home, often, the only recognizable
religious items are images of saints and candles with a rosary. In other homes, where people may more openly
show their devotion to the spirits, noticeable items may include an altar with Catholic saints
and iconographies, rosaries, bottles, jars, rattles, perfumes, oils, and dolls. Some Vodou devotees have less paraphernalia
in their homes because until recently Vodou practitioners had no option but to hide their
beliefs. Haiti is a rural society and the cult of ancestors
guard the traditional values of the peasant class. The ancestors are linked to family life and
the land. Haitian peasants serve the spirits daily and
sometime gather with their extended family on special occasions for ceremonies, which
may celebrate the birthday of a spirit or a particular event. In very remote areas, people may walk for
days to partake in ceremonies that take place as often as several times a month. Vodou is closely tied to the division and
administration of land as well as to the residential economy. The cemeteries and many crossroads are meaningful
places for worship: the cemetery acts as a repository of spirits and the crossroads acts
as points of access to the world of the invisible.===Priests===Houngans (Male Vodou Priest) or Mambos (Female
Vodou Priest) are usually people who were chosen by the dead ancestors and received
the divination from the deities while he or she was possessed. His or her tendency is to do good by helping
and protecting others from spells, however they sometimes use their supernatural power
to hurt or kill people. They also conduct ceremonies that usually
take place “Amba Peristil” (under a Vodou Temple). However, non-Houngan or non-Mambo as Vodouisants
are not initiated, and are referred to as being “bossale”; it is not a requirement to
be an initiate 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. Sometimes they are “called” to serve in a
process called being reclaimed, which they may resist at first. 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. The asson (calabash rattle) is the symbol
for one who has acquired the status of houngan or mambo (priest or priestess) in Haitian
Vodou. The calabash is taken from the calabasse courante
or calabasse ordinaire tree, which is associated with Danbhalah-Wédo. A houngan or mambo traditionally holds the
asson in their hand, along with a clochette (bell). The asson contains stones and snake vertebrae
that give it its sound. The asson is covered with a web of porcelain
beads.A bokor is a sorcerer or magician who casts spells on request. They are not necessarily priests, and may
be practitioners of “darker” things, and are often not accepted by the mambo or the houngan. Bokor can also be a Haitian term for a Vodou
priest or other practitioner who works with both the light and dark arts of magic. The bokor, in that sense, deals in baka’ (malevolent
spirits contained in the form of various animals).===Death and the afterlife===
Practitioners of Vodou revere death, and believe it is a great transition from one life to
another, or to the afterlife. Some Vodou families believe that a person’s
spirit leaves the body, but is trapped in water, over mountains, in grottoes—or anywhere
else a voice may call out and echo—for one year and one day. After then, a ceremonial celebration commemorates
the deceased for being released into the world to live again. In the words of Edwidge Danticat, author of
“A Year and a Day”—an article about death in Haitian society published in the New Yorker—and
a Vodou practitioner, “The year-and-a-day commemoration is seen, in families that believe
in it and practice it, as a tremendous obligation, an honorable duty, in part because it assures
a transcendental continuity of the kind that has kept us Haitians, no matter where we live,
linked to our ancestors for generations.” After the soul of the deceased leaves its
resting place, it can occupy trees, and even become a hushed voice on the wind. Though other Haitian and West African families
believe there is an afterlife in paradise in the realm of God.==History=====
Before 1685: From Africa to the Caribbean===The cultural area of the Fon, Ewe, and Yoruba
peoples share a common metaphysical conception of a dual cosmological divine principle consisting
of Nana Buluku, the God-Creator, and the voduns(s) or God-Actor(s), daughters and sons of the
Creator’s twin children Mawu (goddess of the moon) and Lisa (god of the sun). The God-Creator is the cosmogonical principle
and does not trifle with the mundane; the voduns(s) are the God-Actor(s) who actually
govern earthly issues. The pantheon of vodoun is quite large and
complex. West African Vodun has its primary emphasis
on ancestors, with each family of spirits having its own specialized priest and priestess,
which are often hereditary. In many African clans, deities might include
Mami Wata, who are gods and goddesses of the waters; Legba, who in some clans is virile
and young in contrast to the old man form he takes in Haiti and in many parts of Togo;
Gu (or Ogoun), ruling iron and smithcraft; Sakpata, who rules diseases; and many other
spirits distinct in their own way to West Africa. A significant portion of Haitian Vodou often
overlooked by scholars until recently is the input from the Kongo. The entire northern area of Haiti is heavily
influenced by Kongo practices. In northern Haiti, it is often called the
Kongo Rite or Lemba, from the Lemba rituals of the Loango area and Mayombe. In the south, Kongo influence is called Petwo
(Petro). Many loa (a Kikongo term) are of Kongo origin
such as Basimba belonging to the Basimba people and the Lemba.In addition, the Vodun religion
(distinct from Haitian Vodou) already existed in the United States previously to Haitian
immigration, having been brought by enslaved West Africans, specifically from the Ewe,
Fon, Mina, Kabaye, and Nago groups. Some of the more enduring forms survive in
the Gullah Islands. European colonialism, followed by totalitarian
regimes in West Africa, suppressed Vodun as well as other forms of the religion. However, because the Vodun deities are born
to each African clan-group, and its clergy is central to maintaining the moral, social,
and political order and ancestral foundation of its villagers, it proved to be impossible
to eradicate the religion.===1685-1791: Vodou in colonial Saint-Domingue
===The majority of the Africans who were brought
as slaves to Haiti were from Western and Central Africa. The survival of the belief systems in the
New World is remarkable, although the traditions have changed with time and have even taken
on some Catholic forms of worship. Two important factors, however, characterize
the uniqueness of Haitian Vodou as compared to African Vodun; the transplanted Africans
of Haiti, similar to those of Cuba and Brazil, were obliged to disguise their loa or spirits
as Roman Catholic saints, an element of a process called syncretism. Two keys provisions of the Code Noir by King
Louis XIV of France in 1685 severely limited the ability of enslaved Africans in Saint-Domingue
to practice African religions. First, the Code Noir explicitly forbade the
open practice of all African religions. Second, it forced all slaveholders to convert
their slaves to Catholicism within eight days of their arrival in Saint-Domingue. Despite French efforts, enslaved Africans
in Saint-Domingue were able to cultivate their own religious practices. Enslaved Africans spent their Sunday and holiday
nights expressing themselves. While bodily autonomy was strictly controlled
during the day at night, the enslaved Africans wielded a degree of agency. They began to continue their religious practices
but also used the time to cultivate community and reconnect the fragmented pieces of their
various heritages. These late night reprieves were a form of
resistance against white domination and also created community cohesion between people
from vastly different ethnic groups. While Catholicism was used as a tool for suppression,
enslaved Haitians, partly out of necessity, would go on to incorporate aspects of Christianity
into their Vodou. Médéric Louis Élie Moreau de Saint-Méry,
a French observer writing in 1797, noted this religious syncretism, commenting that the
Catholic-style altars and votive candles used by Africans in Haiti were meant to conceal
the Africanness of the religionbut the connection goes much further than that. Vodounists superimposed Catholic saints and
figures onto the Iwa/Ioa, major spirits that work as agents of the Grand Met. Some examples of major Catholic idols re-imagined
as Iwa are the Virgin Mary being seen as Ezili. Saint Jacques as Ogou, and Saint Patrick as
Dambala. Vodou ceremonies and rituals also incorporated
some Catholic elements such as the adoption of the Catholic calendar, the use of holy
water in purification rituals, singing hymns, and the introduction of Latin loanwords into
Vodou lexicon.===1791–1804: The Haitian Revolution===
The most historically iconic Vodou ceremony in Haitian history was the Bois Caïman ceremony
of August 1791 that took place on the eve of a slave rebellion that predated the Haitian
Revolution. During the ceremony the spirit Ezili Dantor
possessed a priestess and received a black pig as an offering, and all those present
pledged themselves to the fight for freedom. While there is debate on whether or not Bois
Caiman was truly a Vodou ritual, the ceremony also served as a covert meeting to iron out
details regarding the revolt. Vodou ceremonies often held a political secondary
function that strengthened bonds between enslaved people while providing space for organizing
within the community. Political leaders such as Boukman Dutty, a
slave who helped plan the 1791 revolt, also served as religious leader, connecting Vodou
spirituality with political action. Bois Caiman has often been cited as the start
of the Haitian Revolution but the slave uprising had already been planned weeks in advance,
proving that the thirst for freedom had always been present. The revolution would free the Haitian people
from French colonial rule in 1804 and establish the first black people’s republic in the history
of the world and the second independent nation in the Americas. Haitian nationalists have frequently drawn
inspiration by imagining their ancestors’ gathering of unity and courage. Since the 1990s, some neo-evangelicals have
interpreted the politico-religious ceremony at Bois Caïman to have been a pact with demons. This extremist view is not considered credible
by mainstream Protestants, however conservatives such as Pat Robertson repeat the idea.===Vodou in 19th-century Haiti=======1804: Liberty, Isolation, Boycott====
On 1 January 1804 the former slave Jean-Jaqcues Dessalines (as Jacques I) declared the independence
of St. Domingue as the First Black Empire; two years later, after his assassination,
it became the Republic of Haiti. This was the second nation to gain independence
from European rule (after the United States), and the only state to have arisen from the
liberation of slaves. No nation recognized the new state, which
was instead met with isolation and boycotts. This exclusion from the global market led
to major economic difficulties for the new state. Many of the leaders of the revolt disassociated
themselves from Vodou. They strived to be accepted as Frenchmen and
good Catholics rather than as free Haitians. Yet most practitioners of Vodou saw, and still
see, no contradiction between Vodou and Catholicism, and also take part in Catholic masses.====1835: Vodou made punishable, secret societies
====The new Haitian state did not recognize Vodou
as an official religion. In 1835, the government made practising Vodou
punishable. Secret Voodoo societies therefore continued
to be important. These societies also provided the poor with
protection and solidarity against the exercising of power by the elite. They had their own symbols and codes.===20th century to the present===
Today, Vodou is practiced not only by Haitians but by Americans and people of many other
nations who have been exposed to Haitian culture. Haitian creole forms of Vodou exist in Haiti,
the Dominican Republic, Cuba, some of the outer islands of the Bahamas, the United States,
and other places to which Haitians have immigrated. There has been a re-emergence of the Vodun
traditions in the United States, maintaining the same ritual and cosmological elements
as in West Africa. These and other African-diasporic religions,
such as Lukumi or Regla de Ocha (also known as Santería) in Cuba, and Candomblé and
Umbanda in Brazil, have evolved among descendants of transplanted Africans in the Americas. Former president of Haiti François Duvalier
(also known as Papa Doc) played a role in elevating the status of Vodou into a national
doctrine. Duvalier was involved in the noirisme movement
and hoped to re-value cultural practices that had their origins in Africa. Duvalier manipulated Vodou to suit his purposes
throughout his Reign of Terror. He organized the Vodou priests in the countryside
and had them advance his agenda, instilling fear through promoting the belief that he
had supernatural powers playing into the religion’s mysticism.Many Haitians involved in the practice
of Vodou have been initiated as Houngans or Mambos. In January 2010, after the Haiti earthquake
traditional ceremonies were organized to appease the spirits and seek the blessing of ancestors
for the Haitians. Also a “purification ceremony” was planned
for Haiti.===Controversy after the 2010 earthquake
===Following the 2010 Haiti earthquake, there
were verbal and physical attacks against vodou practitioners in Haiti perpetrated by those
who felt that vodouists were partially responsible for the natural disaster. Furthermore, during a Cholera outbreak in
2010 several Vodou priests were lynched by mobs who believed them to be spreading the
disease.==Demographics and geographic distribution
==Because of the religious syncretism between
Catholicism and Vodou, it is difficult to estimate the number of Vodouists in Haiti. The CIA currently estimates that approximately
50% of Haiti’s population practices Vodou, with nearly all Vodouists participating in
one of Haiti’s Christian denominations.==Gallery of Haitian Vodou objects====
Myths and misconceptions==Vodou has often been associated in popular
culture with Satanism, witchcraft, zombies and “voodoo dolls”. Zombie creation has been referenced within
rural Haitian culture, but is not a part of Vodou. Such manifestations fall under the auspices
of the bokor or sorcerer, rather than the priest of the loa. The practice of sticking pins in voodoo dolls
has history in folk magic. “Voodoo dolls” are often associated with New
Orleans Voodoo and Hoodoo as well the magical devices of the poppet and the nkisi or bocio
of West and Central Africa. The general fear of Vodou in the US can be
traced back to the end of the Haitian Revolution (1791-1804). There is a legend that Haitians were able
to beat the French during the Haitian Revolution because their Vodou deities made them invincible. The US, seeing the tremendous potential Vodou
had for rallying its followers and inciting them to action, feared the events at Bois
Caïman could spill over onto American soil. After the Haitian Revolution many Haitians
fled as refugees to New Orleans. Free and enslaved Haitians who moved to New
Orleans brought their religious beliefs with them and reinvigorated the Voodoo practices
that were already present in the city. Eventually, Voodoo in New Orleans became hidden
and the magical components were left present in the public sphere. This created what is called hoodoo in the
southern part of the United States. Because hoodoo is folk magic, Voodoo and Afro-diasporic
religions in the U.S. became synonymous with fraud. This is one origin of the stereotype that
Haitian Vodou, New Orleans Voodoo, and hoodoo are all tricks used to make money off of the
gullible.The elites preferred to view it as folklore in an attempt to render it relatively
harmless as a curiosity that might continue to inspire music and dance.Fearing an uprising
in opposition to the US occupation of Haiti (1915-1934), political and religious elites,
along with Hollywood and the film industry, sought to trivialize the practice of Vodou. Hollywood often depicts Vodou as evil and
having ties to Satanic practices in movies such as White Zombie, The Devil’s Advocate,
The Blair Witch Project, The Serpent and the Rainbow, Child’s Play, Live and Let Die, and
in children’s movies like The Princess and the Frog, though this last example countered
this trope with a kindly voodoo priestess who helps the main characters. In 2010, a 7.0 earthquake that devastated
Haiti brought negative attention to Vodou. Televangelist Pat Robertson stated that the
country had cursed itself after the events at Bois Caïman, because he claimed they had
engaged in Satanic practices in the ceremony preceding the Haitian Revolution. “They were under the heel of the French, you
know, Napoleon the third and whatever. And they got together and swore a pact to
the devil. They said ‘We will serve you if you will get
us free from the prince.’ True story. And so the devil said, ‘Ok it’s a deal.’ And they kicked the French out. The Haitians revolted and got something themselves
free. But ever since they have been cursed by one
thing after another.”==KOSANBA==
Scholarly research on Vodou and other African spiritual retentions in Haiti started in the
early 20th century with chronicles such as Zora Neale Hurston’s “Tell My Horse”, amongst
others. Other notable early scholars of Haitian Vodou
one could cite are Milo Rigaud Alfred Metraux and Maya Deren, for example. In April 1997, thirteen scholars gathered
at the University of California Santa Barbara for a colloquium on Haitian Vodou. From that meeting the Congress of Santa Barbara
was created, also known as KOSANBA. These scholars felt there was a need for access
to scholarly resources and course offerings studying Haitian Vodou, and pledged, “…to
create a space where scholarship on Vodou can be augmented.” As further described in the Congress’ declaration:
“The presence, role, and importance of Vodou in Haitian history, society, and culture are
unarguable, and recognizably a part of the national ethos. The impact of the religion qua spiritual and
intellectual disciplines on popular national institutions, human and gender relations,
the family, that plastic arts, philosophy and ethics, oral and written literature, language,
popular and sacred music, science and technology and the healing arts, is indisputable. It is the belief of the Congress that Vodou
plays, and shall continue to play, a major role in the grand scheme of Haitian development
and in the socio-economic, political, and cultural arenas. Development, when real and successful, always
comes from the modernization of ancestral traditions, anchored in the rich cultural
expressions of a people.”In the fall of 2012, KOSANBA successfully petitioned the Library
of Congress to change the terms “voodoo” and “voodooism” to the correct spelling “Vodou”.==Organizations==
In the aftermath of the François Duvalier dictatorship, a number of individuals, including
many houngan, sought to organize means of defense for Haitian Vodou from defamation
by Christian missionaries and congregations. One of the first leading houngan to formally
organize other houngan in solidarity was Wesner Morency (1959–2007), who established the
Vodou Church of Haiti in 1998 (registered in 2001 by the Ministry of Justice) and the
Commission Nationale pour la Structuration de Vodou (CONAVO). Another individual who has pursued the organization
of houngan is Max Beauvoir, who established and heads the National Confederation of Haitian
Vodou.==See also==
Afro-American religion Haitian mythology
Haitian Vodou art Hoodoo
Juju Louisiana Voodoo
West African Vodun Witch doctor==Footnotes====References====Further reading====External links==
Haiti in Cuba: Vodou, Racism & Domination by Dimitri Prieto, Havana Times, June 8, 2009. Rara: Vodou, Power and Performance in Haiti
and Its Diaspora. Voodoo Brings Solace To Grieving Haitians—All
Things Considered from NPR. Audio and transcript. January 20, 2010. Living Vodou. Speaking of Faith from American Public Media. Audio and transcript. February 4, 2010
Voodoo Alive and Well in Haiti—slideshow by The First Post
Inside Haitian Vodou—slideshow by Life

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