What Is Voodoo?

history, practice & dolls

What is Voodoo is dedicated to providing information about the religion of Voodoo in its many forms. This site provides historical, religious, and other information about Voodoo, and what it means to its practitioners and those unfamiliar with the origins and details of this religion.

Voodoo originated in West Africa, and has now spread across many parts of the World, but remains a religion that is often associated with West Africa, the Caribbean and parts of the United states, specifically Louisiana.

Voodoo, what exactly is it?

Voodoo (also spelled Vodou) is an ancient West African religion practiced by more than 30 million people in Benin, Togo and Ghana. Voodoo varieties are also present in the United States, and the Caribbean. The word 'vodou' comes from the languages of West Africa, and means 'spirit'. That is appropriate as Voodoo is a religion of spirits. Practitioners of Voodoo (who are called Voodooists) believe that the world of humans is shared by the world of the spirits. When a person dies, his spirit passed to the world of the unseen but is still able to see the human world, the visible world. Spirits, it is believed, in some cases can even impact the world of the living.

Belief in Voodoo crossed the Pacific ocean when captured slaves came to the Americas from Africa, more than 400 years ago. Different Voodoo traditions intermingled and formed the different varieties of Voodoo we see today in the Americas. Voodoo believers and practitioners keep alive an oral tradition of their religion and culture which includes rites, chants, and the use of a variety of voodoo supplies including dolls, candles, and other paraphernalia. The three main varieties of Voodoo are:

Haitian Vodou

Haitian Vodou is a syncretic religion, which means that it is a combination of multiple varieties of Vodou. Haitian Vodou originates in the Caribbean country of Haiti, and is a result of the combination of beliefs and practices from the West African religion, Arawakian beliefs, and Roman Catholic Christianity. Vodou was created by African slaves who were brought to the Americas from West Africa and is based on their traditional African beliefs.

The basic belief of Haitian Vodou is that spirits or deities called Lwa, which are subordinate to a higher god called Bondye, can and do interact with the human world and can affect change beyond the spirit world in which they ëliveí. Bondye, the supreme being of the Vodou religion, does not interfere with human affairs, so most of communication and prayers of Haitian Vodou is directed towards the Lwa.

The Haitian form of Vodou is practiced not only in Haiti but also parts of the Dominican Republic, eastern Cuba, some minor islands of the Bahamas, the United States, and wherever there is a migrant Haitian population.

Louisiana Voodoo (New Orleans Voodoo)

Louisiana Voodoo, which is also known as New Orleans Voodoo, like other forms of Vodou, is based on West African religious traditions which were brought over by slaves hundreds of years ago. The Louisiana Voodoo was developed among the French, Spanish, and Creole speaking Africans of the state of Louisiana.

Often confused with Haitian Vodou, Louisiana Voodoo is different int he sense that it puts a lot of emphasis on Gris-gris, voodoo queens, the use of occult paraphernalia, and the snake deity called Li Grand Zombi.

Louisiana Voodoo is a collection of beliefs that have come together overtime and are still evolving to the changing society around them. It combines elements and beliefs from European, African, and Roman Catholicism. Louisiana Voodoo has had a great impact on the culture of New Orleans, and has shaped the image of that city to a great extent. As a result of being in close proximity to Christianity in New Orleans, Louisiana Voodoo has taken on a lot of characteristics of those religions, including the association of Voodoo spirits with Christian saints; these associations are created through the overlap of dominions presided over by both the Christian saints and Voodoo spirits.

As with other forms of voodoo, Louisiana Voodoo is not a highly popular religion and is limited to certain areas of the southern U.S. especially Louisiana, and specifically New Orleans.

West African Vodun

Vodun, also known as Vudun, is a religion of coastal West Africa, stretching from Nigeria to Ghana. Vodun is practiced by some of the peoples in the following areas: Ghana, Togo, Benin, and Nigeria.

West African Vodun is the original form of the religions of Voodoo and Vodou found in the Americas including Haiti, the Caribbeans, and southern United States.

Vodun beliefs are built around spirits and other elements of divine origin which govern the human World. The hierarchy of these being ranges from major gods governing the elements, as well as human society, to vodun that deal with more minor concerns such as streams, trees, rocks, certain clans and tribes, or nations.

Believers and adherents of Vodun emphasise ancestor worship and believe that humans and spirits occupy the same plane of existance. Each family of spirits is believed to have its own female priest, which is usually passed on from mother to daughter.

Close to 30 million people in Africa practice West African Vodun.