Haitian Voodoo

Doctrines In voodoo there is a supreme creator god whose gender is not defined and who is called Mawu. Voodoo worship and ritual practices, however, are directed to the loas (or voodoos), which are spirits, deities, spirits of nature, divine beings such as ancestors, monsters or deceased foetuses of royal lineages.
The loas can be divided into two families: the rada and the Petros. The loas that belong to the rada family tend to be rather calm; the Petros tend to be rather aggressive, and are sometimes used in witchcraft.
Inside these two families there are sub-families each of whose members is represented by a particular place -such as a tree, the sea, a river, a mountain-, or other things such as special days of the week, a specific colour, a song, a rite.
The loas protect those who serve them, and communicate with them by possessing them through trance dreams or entering into the person and, in doing so, take a human form. Each voodoo is served by a wife (the voodoo-si). Because it is the role of the women to serve, women are deemed to be particularly worthy of being possessed by the voodoo, once they have been properly inititiated into the religion.
The ceremonies take place in a temple known as the "houmf˛" and are open to anyone. In the houmf˛ there is a hierarchy that starts with the hougan (priest)-many of whom claim to descend from the loas. The female counterpart of the hougan is the mambo (priestess). The group of hounsi are believers that put themselves under the authority of a priest - they worship and serve the deities. The initiation rites of the hounsi are restricted to the hounsi alone.
The rites follow a certain structure: first the initial greetings, then the parade of the loa flags, invocations, libations, drawing of the loa signs in the floor, rites of orientation - cardinal points, animal sacrifices, offerings and finally the trance. The trance, which is the impersonation of the loa in the hounsi can also happen sometimes in the participants.
All of these stages are followed by specific forms of dancing and singing with the purpose of invoking each loa family. Each new stage is marked by the rhythmic playing of drums according to the instructions given by the hougan.

History Haitian Voodoo is the result of the importation of African slaves into the Antilles. The Africans were people from different classes in the society. Among them there were priests as well. The difference in the background of the slaves has helped integrating believes, rites, songs and dances of different tribes to create a syncretic religion.
From the beginning the authorities already suspected that the meetings organized by the slaves, even the ones connected to the dancing meeting were related to religious (actually, witchcraft) practices. To avoid that there was in 1704 an ordinance prohibiting the slaves to have night assemblies even under the justification of dance. Because this one was not efficacious other prohibitions followed this one.
The slaves were baptized as soon as they arrived in the country, as their conversion was the main justification for the trade.
Because the first slaves were from Guinea golf (DaomÚ and Nigeria) the structure of the religion is mostly daomenian. It was, however, altered by the arrival of the slaves originated from Congo and Angola. Since then, it became more complex.
Voodoo is a religion basically rural where the strength lies in the lacou, however, because of the transformations in the rural area such as the decadence of the Lacou, nuclearization of the extended family, disappearance of the societies of mutual aid -connected to the voodoo, general impoverishment rendering difficult monetary contributions to the ritual costs. The substitution of the Lacou - socio-economic and religious center- by a system of neibouhooring that was not well articulated, collaborate to the creation of regional centers and therefore of big temples - sometimes with capacity for two thousand people.
Voodoo was an important factor in the independence of Haiti.
Since the first Haitian constitution, during the colony, the voodoo was prohibited. However, after the war for independence tried to recuperated the voodoo. Many times it is attribute to the voodoo a secret character, this is explained by the fact that for very long voodoo had to survive in a clandestine way.
From the beginning to the present days there is coherence in the possessions and in the ritualistic aspect of the rite. However, the adoration of the serpent that seemed to have been quite common, disappeared in the 19th century.
Symbols There is almost no anthropomorphic representation of the loas, that are rather represented by fetishes such as: stone, vases, piece of metal.

Adherents 525 000

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