Image of the Day – Haitian Vodou

As with most of the other religious practices featured in this week’s images, Haitian Vodou has its origins in African religious practices and beliefs that the slaves brought with them, mixed with elements of Catholicism, as well as the practices of the remaining indigenous peoples on Hispaniola. The rituals of Vodouisants (practitioners of Haitian Vodou) include song and prayer, the possession of the body by spirits, and supernatural protection and aid. The Vodou pantheon has a supreme being, Bondye, but the worship of spirits is also common; as the African origins of these beliefs mixed with Catholicism, the spirits became connected to saints, and Bondye was equated to God. Like Umbanda, Vodou focuses on spiritual well-being, protection, and aiding others, and charity, love, and familial ties are all important to Vodou. Contrary to popular belief, the use of “voodoo dolls” to cause people harm and Vodou’s connections to Satanism are stereotypes that do not actually reflect the beliefs or practices of the Vodou religion itself; while dolls do play a role within Haitian Vodou practices themselves, they serve more as messengers to the spirits than as vehicles to cause harm. As a result, the public perception in North America of what “voodoo” is has little to do with the actual beliefs and practices involved in Haitian Voudou, which focus on positive forces and using the spirits’ powers and voices to help people.

Voudouisants during a Haitian Vodou ceremony.

Bonus Image: A Haitian Vodou Altar.

A Haitian Voudou altar, incorporating symbols and elements from African religions, Christianity, and Vodou's own syncretic symbolism.

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About Colin M. Snider

I have a Ph.D. in history, specializing in Latin American History and Comparative Indigenous History. My dissertation focused on Brazil. Beyond Latin America generally, I'm particularly interested in class identities, military politics, human rights, labor, education, music, and nation. I can be found on Twitter at @ColinMSnider.
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