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BOZACK

Haitian Vodou

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I live in New Orleans, and around this time of year the "voodoo" scene starts kicking it up a notch, with several ceremonies revolving around honoring the ancestors (all saint's day, etc.)

 

unfortunately new orleans is rotten with fake, cheesy, touristy, inauthentic "voodoo" spots. you have to do some pretty hard searching to get to the real deal.

 

I've been practicing Vodou (the Haitian spelling) for about 3 years now, and upon completing my college education, i plan to travel to Haiti to be initiated. I'm also considering traveling to Cuba to participate in the "scratching" ceremony to be initiated as a palero in the Mayombe tradition. Contrary to popular misconception, Vodou is a legitimate religion, and most "information" the masses have received on Vodou is actually misinformation. I plan on getting into a pretty deep discussion/explanation on our beliefs, cause i think it's important to dispell all the prejudices and misconceptions.

 

If you don't give a shit about any of this, it's cool. just don't waste your time telling those of us who are.

 

In conclusion, have any of you guys had any exposure to Vodou, Palo, Candomble, or any other afro-carib religions?

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Guest 455

That sounds pretty interesting bro, good luck....hope it works out for ya.....right on.

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brief (REALLY brief) history of Vodou

 

part I

during the slave trade in the 1500's, africans were viewed by most europeans as savage in every aspect. at the time, most of the slaves were being brought in from west africa, from tribes like the fon and yoruba. these west africans practiced religious traditions that believed in a god who was neither good or evil, but who was multifaceted and encompassed everything. therefore, everything in nature was considered sacred, and god was called by different names when different aspects of god were being honored. for example, if a yoruba tribesperson was honoring the masculine, sexual, energetic aspect of god, he would praise god as Chango, the spirit of dance, lightening, and masculine beauty/sexuality. if he or she wanted to praise the ocean and all its creatures, god would be worshiped as Yemaja, the female spirit of motherhood and the ocean. this is very different from the christian idea that god is male, and encompasses everything that is "good" (whatever "good" means).

 

okay i'm tired i'll resume in a few minutes

 

bear with me if this is boring, it gets more interesting.

 

maybe this is too educational for 12oz??

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anyway, european slavemasters/clergypeople dismissed african beliefs as satanic, and forced them to attend catholic masses and learn catholic beliefs. but the slaves were a step ahead (true g's). imagery and iconography is important to catholicism, and pictures of saints are fullof symbols. so when slaves saw pictures of st. patrick standing at the edge of the ocean with snakes at his feet, they were reminded of Danbala and Aida-Wedo, the husband-and-wife pair of water serpents that represented wisdom, fertility, creation, and purity. when they saw pictures of the Virgin Mary with a sword through her heart, they thought of Erzulie, the spirit of romance, femininity, eroticism, and material wealth. So when slaves were seen praying in front of homemade "catholic" shrines in their quarters, the slavemasters were impressed with their obedience. little did the white folks know that the slaves were secretly praising their native deities.

 

 

 

okay tired again. to be continued or whatever

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Not to steal your thunder or take this subject off point

 

But if we're discussing Vodou we can also discuss another pretty cool religion called Santeria as they have similar origins. and -Yes -it's a religion -not just a song by Sublime.

 

Here's an excerpt to help explain:

Santería or La Regla Lucumí originates in West Africa in what is now Nigeria and Benin. It is the traditional religion of the Yoruba peoples there. The slave trade brought many of these people to the shores of Cuba, Brazil, Haiti, Trinidad and Puerto Rico among others. But along with the bodies being brought over for sale into a life of misery, something else was being brought along. Their souls. And their religion.

 

First of all, Santería is not a 'primitive' religion. On the contrary, the Yorubas were and are a very civilized people with a rich culture and deep sense of ethics. We believe in one god known as Olorun or Olodumare. Olorun is the source of ashé, the spiritual energy that makes up the universe, all life and all things material.

 

Olorun interacts with the world and humankind through emissaries. These emissaries are called orishas. The orishas rule over every force of nature and every aspect of human life. They are approachable and can be counted on to come to the aid of their followers, guiding us to a better life materially as well as spiritually.

 

Communication between orishas and humankind is accomplished through ritual, prayer, divination and ebó or offerings (which includes sacrifice). Song, rhythms, and trance possession are also means with which we interact with the orishas and how we are able to affect our day to day lives so that they we may lead deeper and fuller lives during our stay in this world.

 

In the New World the orishas and much of the religion was hidden behind a facade of Catholicism with the orishas themselves represented by various saints. The slaveowners would then say "look at how pious this slave is. She spends all of her time worshipping Saint Barbara." Unbeknownst to them, she would actually be praying to Shangó, the Lord of Lightning, fire and the dance, perhaps even praying for deliverance from that very slaveowner. This is how the religion came to be known as Santería. The memory of this period of our history is also why many in our religion regard the term Santería as a derogatory.

 

The traditions of Santería are fiercely preserved and full knowledge of the rites, songs, and language are prerequisites to any deep involvement in the religion. Initiates must follow a strict regimen and are answerable to Olorun and the orishas for their actions. As a person passes through each initiation in the tradition, this knowledge deepens and their abilities and responsibilities grow accordingly. In fact, during the first year of their initiation into the priesthood, the initiate or Iyawó or 'bride' of the orisha must dress in white for an entire year. The iyawo must not look into a mirror, touch anyone or allow themselves to be touched, and they may not wear makeup, or go out at night for this year.

 

La Santería is famous for its 'magic'. This magic is based on a knowledge of the mysteries or orishas and how to interact with them to better our lives and the lives of those who come to us for the aid of the orishas. We live under the premise that this world is a magical one. This knowledge seems 'supernatural' only to those who don't understand it, but it really is quite natural.

 

Although the people were yanked away from their homes in Africa and enslaved in the New World, the orishas, the religion and its power could never be chained down and the religion survives now. Not as an anachronism, but ever growing even now in such places as France and the Netherlands.

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In Miami there used to be an alley between the central jail and the courthouse, everynight it would fill up with dead chickens ( a staple of voodoo rites)... something about if the prisoner stepped over the blood or carcass of his particular chicken, then he would fare better in the court proceedings...

 

As you might guess, it was called 'chicken alley'...

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"Voodoo" not vooduo.....sounds like a french dish involving lots of melted cheese

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Originally posted by BOZACK

i plan to travel to Haiti to be initiated.

 

The first day my friend's brother got off the plane in Haiti, he got robbed at gunpoint. That same day he got the fuck outta there and went to D.R.

 

Also watch out for the Hi 5 when your down there.

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good luck with Haïti

 

its the poorest country in the american continent

 

dont get lost in the ghetto!

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Originally posted by space base

Bozack, has voodoo ever actually worked for you?

 

I was going to get to this point later, but Vodou is not about "casting spells." Vodou does enable people to achieve goals through many hours of prayer, service to the lwa (saints/deities) and rituals. Vodouissants DO however use sacred herbal baths, wanga (powerful cloth bundles of various herbs and animal substances) and other objects. however, these objects are totally useless if they are thought of as totally iindependent of prayer/visualization/meditation. Vodou "magic" (I HATE THAT WORD!!) is only meant to HELP you, not todo the work for you.

 

Also, most Houngans (Vodou priests) refuse to perform any ritual or construct any magical object if it is intended to harm someone. Karma is a BIG part of Vodou, and to manipulate Vodou to harm someone is looked down upon.

 

So YES, Vodou has actually worked for me. For example, when I was young and naive and just beginning my journey, i decided to experiment with a ritual to gain money. Now I know that this is a selfish endeavor, and i would not manipulate Vodou for this purpose unless it was necessary. like i said, young and dumb. So I went to my altar, performed what needed to be done. I didn't win the lottery or nothin, but i found $6 in my bible immediately afterwards and $20 in the mall parking lot that afternoon. I'd say it's OK for a first try. I'm not so big on performing "magic" for petty shit; most Vodouissants aren't. I'm more into unselfishly serving the lwa. It pays off greater in the end.

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Originally posted by Edika

good luck with Haïti

 

its the poorest country in the american continent

 

dont get lost in the ghetto!

 

thanks! haiti is pretty much one big ghetto, so it's kinda hard to avoid that element. but i'mused to getting lost in ghettos

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anyway....back to the history part.

 

to make a long story short, for every African spirit, slaves found a Catholic Saint that matched up with it. And later, it grew beyond the purpose os keeping their native religion disguised. Africans began to realize that their deities had ALOT in common with the Catholic saints. Coincidence? No way!! we believe that these similarities are proof that these spirits really do exists EVERYWHERE, and happened to appear to christians manifested in the form of saints. So the two kind of merged together to form one:

 

St. Peter/ Legba - messenger of god, holds keys to gate of spirit world

St. Isidore/ Azaka - peasant farmer, tied to earth

St. Patrick/ Danbala - Snake spirit, wisdom, creation

St. Sebastian/ Gran Bwas - guardian of forest/ herbs/ vegetation

 

the list goes on and on and on

 

Also, the Native Americans that originally resided in Haiti before the colonists barged in with their slaves contributed to the formation of Vodou. Our knowledge of herbs comes largely from them, and several of our lwa are Native American in origin.

 

So basically, Vodou is a hybrid between Christianity (Catholicism) and African religions, with other influences thrown in the mix including:

 

Native American Beliefs

Freemasonry (secret societies, handshakes, etc.)

Judaism

A little bit of European occult practices

 

The fact that about 35-40% of Vodou is based on Catholic beliefs should dispel the myth that we are evil and anti-Christian, although our religion is very different from Catholicism.

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shitmop, i'm glad you brought up the zombification thing.

 

for all you skeptics, ZOMBIES ARE REAL and science has proven their existence. fortunately, zombification has no real place in the Vodou religion, except that some corrupt priests who deal with the darker side of the practice secretly perform zombification.

 

zombies are usually created as an act of revenge, or to have a mindless creature to serve as your slave. to create a zombie, a bokor (a "sorcerer" who practices an impure form of Vodou to obtain selfish ends) creates a powder that contains several elements, the most important being a poison that is extracted from a gland in puffer fish. other ingredients may include powdered human bones, herbs, etc. but the essential ingredient is the puffer fish stuff. it actually puts a person in a state easily mistaken for death. they become paralyzed, and their pulse and breathing is reduced to an rate so low it is undetectable even by doctors. basically, the person is physically on the edge of being dead (can't move, talk, barely breathing) yet concious the whole time. even though they are concious, they are barely so. the part of the brain that allows free will and decision-making is impaired severely. that's pretty fucking scary. the victim remains this way for days and is usually declared dead by a doctor and buried alive. if you're cremated, sucks for you. immediately after the burial of the still-alive victim, the bokor digs up the "corpse" (actually alive) and administers other drugs that gradually restore the victim's physical capabilities. the victim basically remains in a semi-concious state, unable to speak or perform basic decision-making thought processes. this leaves the "zombie" at the bokor's disposal, and they'll act as a slave. in one instance, a bokor had created a legion of zombies to work for free on his banana plantation. sometimes zombies are rescued and rehabilitated, and occasionally Haitians will report seeing a person believed to have been dead, alive and wandering around aimlessly. inthese cases, the family usually rescues the zombie and tries to rehabilitate them.

 

again, it's pretty evident that zombification has no spiritual affiliation, other than the fact that it was once believed that the puffer fish poison was magical. this is prior to the scientific investigation of the drug. so basically, the rotting corpses you see running around in cheesy horror flicks don't exist, but half-dead zombies do. i'll try to dig up a national geographic article i once read on this puffer fish poison and post it.

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