This religion is seen not only in Haiti, where its origins lie, but also in Mexico and South America, and most famously in New Orleans, where its practitioners have included Dr John, the shaman Drummer, and Marie Laveau, the New Orleans healer. It is from the academic studies of this religion that we have received some of the most powerful images of modern mystery faiths. It is also known as Vodou, Vodun, and many other variations, depending upon the writer concerned. As at attempt at compromise, Voodoo will be used to discuss the Haitian religion as a cultural signifier, while Vodun (which means spirit or sacred) will be used to discuss the actual religion of the area.
Vodun, moreover, is not the only religion in the area based upon the entwined influence of African Gods, Christian imagery, and native American shaman faiths. Other interesting religions of the area include Santeria, the faith of the Yoruba in Cuba and the Diaspora, Candomble, and Umbanda. These three religions are referred to under the umbrella term of ‘Macumba’.'Macumba'. While this essay will study the differences and similarities between the Vodun and Santeria, the other religions of this region are also worthy of mention, as they have produced transculturation in differing ways, especially Umbanda, which is unusual even for the area:
Umbanda in perhaps the youngest of these forms only emerging
in 1904 and strangely enough being a fusion not of Christian and
African beliefs, but Hindu, Buddhist and African beliefs.
(Patrice, 2003, page 7)
Even such a well-known religion such as Jamaican Rastafarianism, which is fundamentally a Christian religion, combines elements of a pan-African religious perspective, including
There would be a mystic return to the African homelandlinked
to notions of cultural recovery through a spiritual connection to
the African homeland. The belief in the soul's return to Africa
after death was widespread in the Caribbean.
(Olmos and Paravisini-Gebert. 2003, page 156-7)
Rastafarianism is a connection between the deeply religious Christian community, and the equally religious Pan-African faiths of the Caribbean. Furthermore, the idea of a spiritual movement back to Africa after death ties it in strongly to the Vodun, Candomble, and even Espiritismo, which is the Creole interpretation of spiritualism in areas such as Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Southern states of the United States.
In all the religions of the Caribbean so far discussed, the importance of spiritual connection with the dead, with ancestors in Africa, and direct contact with the gods, or Lwa, who will be discussed later.
Voodoo is seen by outsiders as a very 'dark' faith, one in which the priests and priestesses kill their enemies through magic, the famous 'voodoo' dolls, and rites which involve animal sacrifice (and human sacrifice too, it is alleged). Other myths of voodoo imagine the creation of many Zombies as workers, have become the staple of horror movies, and TV shows such as 'Hex'.
Santeria, while associated with Vodun, concentrates much more upon the worship of Gods in the guises of Catholic Saints. The very name means 'Worship (or way) of the Saints", and so provides a perfect example of the mixing of Christian and African religions in this melting pot of faiths known as the Caribbean.
This essay seeks to analyze the true religions of Vodun and Santeria, approaching the faiths through a history of the people, from a consideration of the cultural influences of both religions, to the nature of the worship before Slavery was abolished. The role of Voodoo in Haiti and New Orleans will be considered,