The Voodoo Religion of Haiti

The Voodoo religion of Haiti is an ancient African-based religion existing today in American, Haiti and the Dominican Republic.  The word “Voodoo” as translated from Haitian Creole means “Sacred, of God.”

The Voodoo religion is a very old religion.  The Loa are the same forces recognized in all African-based religions throughout the world.  In the Haitian Voodoo, these forces include the Loas Papa Legba, Marassa, Papa Ogu, Erusile Freeda, Erusile Dantour, Dumbala, Papa Aqwe and Baron.  The names may differ in other African-based religions, but the force or power remains the same, with practitioners recognizing those same attributes of these divine forces. 

The Voodoo religion, as many other great religions, has a defined order of service and hierarchy.  I have provided some very basic information as an introduction to this religion, along with some of the terms and definitions used.

Voodoo is an African-based religion, originally from the West Coast of Africa.  The Voodoo religion of Haiti is ancient and, although it predates Christianity, its adherents recognize Jesus Christ, much like those Jews who also recognized Jesus Christ and became "Christians."  African-based religions originated from the motherland, Africa, landed in other countries such as Brazil, Haiti and Cuba, via the very active practice of salve-trade in the late 1800's, becoming the religions known today as Candomble, Santeria, Yoruba, Ifa, Candomble, Regla de Ocha (Santeria/Lucumi) and Voodoo.  They share the same premise as any other religion that they are of one God or Universal and Supreme Being.  

The Voodouisants, or practitioners of the Voodoo religion, believe in one God, Jesus Christ and the Loa/Lwa.  The Loa are the workers or messengers of God, carrying prayers to God and guiding the individuals from birth until death.  To the non-practitioner, the Loa may also be identified as the Holy Spirit or Saints.  An individual may enter a Voodoo Sanctuary and find images or statues of Saint Jacques, the Black Madonna, images of the Blessed Mother, and other Saints.  The Voodouisant will recognize these images as the Loa Papa Ogu and Erusile Dantour and the Forces that they carry.   At birth, each individual received a God-appointed spiritual guide or Loa that is the governing force for their life, much like the concept of astrological signs. 

Although the Voodoo religion does not have a holy book, the Voodoo is passed down through word of mouth.  There is a sacred order to services and ceremonies conducted called the Pantheon. The Pantheon defines the strict order of the songs sung and the drum rhythms played in the Humofor (Sanctuary or Church).  A song for Papa Ogu in the Pantheon will say “Satan can’t win”; this is sung for an individual who is experiencing confusion in their life.  Many prayers/songs in the Pantheon will ask the Loa to bring love into the home, or maybe to bring relief to a family that is suffering from much dissention. 

There are many levels of initiations (baptismal) in the Voodoo religion.  They are as follows:  1.) Hunsi - entry level of initiation (baptized congregation member), 2.) Hunsi Kanzo - assistant to the Mambos and Hungans (Deacon), 3.) Mambo - Priestess (female) and Hungan Priest (male), 4.) Gro Mambo - High Priestess (female) and Gro Hungan - High Priest (male). This is the highest level of initiation in the Voodoo.
 
Mambos and Hungans are ordained with the rites or permissions to conduct rituals and are required to study the spiritual medicines, the prayers, conduction of ceremonies, and divinations or readings with cards, smoke, water or candlelight.  The initiation of a Priest or Priestess takes seven (7) days. During this time, the newly anointed Mambo or Hungan must endure fasting, prayers, sacrifices and ceremonies.   Mambos/Hungans train or study for a period that can take up to 17 years.  The knowledge is so great that they will never know it all in their lifetimes.

The Priest or Priestess is expected to heal in the way that the Voodoo religion offers.  The Voodoo religion offers a chance for change to those who seek its help, i.e., healings of the mind, body, spirit, family, finance, health, etc. 

Readings provide a road map to an individual's life giving direction on to live in the manner God intended. The reading will always give the prescription to aid in the direction, bath, cleansing, ritual or ceremony to solve problems in health, family, friends, relationships, and finances.

 

Spiritual bath can range from a very simple cleansing to a more complex ceremony and bath. For centuries, African-based religions have been successfully treating illnesses such as blood pressure problems, diabetes, circulation, heart diseases, fertility, cancer, AIDS, and body pain for centuries.

Sacrificing of animals such as goats, roosters and sheep plays a major part in rituals.  The offering or sacrifice is conducted with much respect for the animal or bird, giving thanks for the life that had been given for us to eat.  After the sacrifice, the sacred meat or holy meat is eaten, much like the Kosher meat of the Jewish religion.

Spiritual possession is the state in which the body of the Priest/Priestess is taken over (inhabited) by the Loa.  The Priest/Priestess loses physical consciousness and the body is used as a vessel to service the people.  When the Loa possesses the body of a groomed and trained Priest/Priestess, the attributes of the Loa through speech, dance and works are clearly manifested. 

There is an organization that has become an important resource and verification agency for African-based religions.  If you wish to learn more, contact NARC/ National African Religion Congress at (866) 725-6760.