What is the Voodoo religion? Characteristics, history and myths
It is certainly one of the great myths of all time . When we hear the word voodoo , voodoo religion or the famous phrase “I’m going to make you voodoo”, it’s not exactly that we think of something positive. Throughout history, this belief has been presented to us as something evil, something related to the devil himself and that serves to harm people we hate, especially in a physical way. It’s a kind of spell, to make it clear.
However, for a little more than a decade now, especially since 2003 – when the Voodoo religion became official in Haiti – we have begun to clarify what really derives from this mythology, which has been distorted to the point of ridicule, as the experts point out. Millery Polyné and Elizabeth McAlister are two experts in the field who have helped to carry out various historiographic studies to demystify the “bad press” that voodoo suffers.
What is the Voodoo religion?
According to Polyné, an American of Haitian origin who arrived in the State of Florida (USA) in the 1990s, when he was only 14 years old, was already impressed by the comments and prejudices that were being reproduced when he was present at the time of socializing. “Even I didn’t know my own religion,” he says. It was because of these paradoxical moments that he decided to take advantage of his curiosity and study African-American and Caribbean history, where he teaches as a professor at New York University.
As it usually happens in this kind of cases, where the lack of knowledge and a bad projection of a distant culture is not very attractive to be investigated, we quickly internalize the first thing that is offered to us behind a screen, especially if it is a series or a movie. There are also hundreds of thousands of literary works that have not precisely helped to clear up these black legends that still persecute the voodoo religion.
Nothing could be further from the truth, all the fantasy that has been generated by this industry has been blatantly denied . It turns out that the origins of voodoo are to be found in the period of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, when the European powers were still trying to colonize the overseas areas in order to continue trading with slaves and importing wealth from the Caribbean islands, such as tobacco, sugar or rum.
At the hands of French missionaries, the voodoo religion is a direct descendant of Roman Catholicism, and some of its precepts are shared with Western Christianity. They have a God who commands spirits to work on the visible earth through flesh and blood human beings. Curiously, voodoo believes neither in heaven nor in hell . They simply believed in the good deed and peace that the ancestors had entrusted to those who professed this religion.
A deliberate manipulation
History always repeats itself and, as is often said, is written by the winners. And this was to be no exception. Given that voodoo comes from colonial and slavery times, the blacks who suffered these injustices took refuge in a religion that allowed them to maintain any glimmer of hope and comfort. It was at this time that the French waged a propaganda battle to prevent any kind of revolution that would allow the emancipation of their lackeys.
Indeed, the voodoo religion was at times a revolutionary act that put the imperialist forces of the moment in check on more than one occasion. Therefore, some influential global forces such as the Church, Haitian politicians and white scientists, began to organize a criminalizing narrative against this belief. Satanic rites, carnivorous ceremonies and idolatry of monsters is the image that was exported from the island to the West.
After Haiti’s independence in the 18th century, the poor villagers didn’t get rid of all this talk. Having suffered all sorts of humiliations from the French, it was the turn of the Americans who, curiously, were gaining independence from the English empire shortly before the Caribbean. Faustin Wirkus, admiral of the U.S. army, saw enormous potential in the riches to be exploited within Haiti, as well as installing permanent naval bases to dominate the seas of Central America.
The Haitian Tsunami
The memory of the fatal natural events that the island suffered in 2010 remains fresh, when on a quiet day a gigantic wave swallowed up the entire coast, reaching the area full of hotels and tourist resorts located on the seafront. Today, the area is still considered catastrophic, as well as the poorest country in the world according to a United Nations report.
On that occasion too, Haitians were not spared from insults and slander because they practiced the Voodoo religion. Without going any further, the evangelist and controversial American Pat Robertson, affirmed that the natural disaster had been a punishment from God for having made a pact with the devil in the year 1791. These are unfortunate statements that do nothing but incite hatred and racism towards an already very unhappy population.
- Hurbon, Laënnec (1993 / first edition in French: 1984). “The Imaginary Barbarian”. Mexico City: Fondo de Cultura Económica (translation by Jorge Padín Videla).
- Pancorbo, Luis (1993). “Voodoo Reflections”, “The Turtle Channel”. In: Río de América”. Barcelona: Laertes (pp. 303).
- Seabrook, William (2005). “The Magic Island”. Editorial Valdemar. Collection: El Club Diógenes / CD-229 (Translation by José Luis Moreno-Ruiz).