Voodoo (often written and pronounced as “Vodou”) is a mystical/magic tradition deeply rooted in the African shamanism and magic traditions but strongly influenced by Christianity, especially by Roman Catholicism. Brought to the New World by African slaves, Vodou persisted throughout the centuries and is now a lively spiritual movement all across the southern states and in the Caribbean Sea region. Its true center is Haiti – the saying that Haiti “is 80% Roman Catholic, 20% Protestant and 100% Vodou” is all too true.
Contrary to common beliefs, Vodou is not all about creating zombies, killing chickens and summoning evil spirits. While Voodoo spells, nature spells or even necromantic spells do exist, it is mostly a way of serving and communicating with powerful spirits, called “loa” by houngans (Vodou priests) or mambos (priestesses). Loa sometimes can be asked to help the priests in return for their services. The priests and priestesses contact the loa during long rituals during which they are ridden (“possessed”) by the spirits. While it still has nothing to do with any form of black magic, it can be a most unsettling experience for those untrained in the ways of this form of magic. It is not recommended to try complicated Voodoo spells at home unless you are a houngan or mambo yourself.
While loa can be calm or dangerous, none of them can be called “evil” or “good” in a Christian sense of these words. The darker paths of Vodou can be used only by bokors (sorcerers that have learned both white and black magic), but even for them killing animals or creating zombies are nothing more than myths.
Voodoo, much like the Wicca religion, is a misunderstood religion. It should also be noted that many traditions you find in Judeo-Christian religion can also be found in the Wicca religion. That said, Voodoo is also a religion that is deep in traditions like Wicca and Judeo-Christian. As such, Voodoo celebrates major life events like births, marriages, and deaths, but the religion that began in Africa has evolved over time.
Voodoo, or more accurately ‘Vodun’, believes in a chief God named Olorun and minor spirits called Loa . In essence, this practice is similar to Christianity. In Christianity, there is a supreme god and then saints associated with particular activities or occupations. For example, in Christianity the saint of protection (or law enforcement) is St. Michael. In Voodoo the Loa spirit of protection is named Ayza.
It should also be noted that Voodoo goes by several different names or variations of the name including Vodun, Vodoun, Voudou and Sevi Lwa. The term voodoo actually comes for the African word Vodun for “spirit”. Some anthropologists believe the religion goes back as far as the dawn of human civilization, or by conservative estimates 10,000 years.
When Europeans began sending African slaves to the New World, Voodoo, as we know it today, was born in Haiti. Many slavers mistakenly thought by desolating the various African ethnic groups it would stop them from forming as a community. Instead, the opposite happened. These transplanted slaves fused their varying beliefs together to form the new religion we called Voodoo. Since that time it has spread to parts of the southern United States, as well as South America.
In 1884 an author named S. St. John wrote an inaccurate book called, “Haiti or the Black Republic” after exploring the West Indies region. In it, St. John described Voodoo as an evil religion, including descriptions of human sacrifice, cannibalism, and a host of other wicked acts. Naturally, this book caught the imagination of people outside the area that had never visited the place. As a result, the misunderstanding and fear of Voodoo began to spread, much of which is still present today. Hollywood also helped perpetuate the misconceptions with many movies that cast Voodoo in an unfavorable light.