African Religion
Vodoun is the heritage of the ancient Africans nations that were exiled in the New World. Its ways have been born throughout the darkest times by our forefathers in order to teach us how to live today and tomorrow. Vodoun is more than one thing, it is medicine, justice, police, it is art, dance, music as well as religious ritual. It is the common ground upon which we, the children of the African New World Diaspora, stand together. It is perfectly ordinary to be Vodoun without being religious as one can be Jewish and agnostic. So much so that in Haiti, the use of the word Vodoun (or voodoo, vaudou, vodu etc.) is a sign of alienation. My ambition is to show the breadth and diversity of our Vodoun soul. Not an easy task away from the cool shade of a mango tree in a warm Caribbean afternoon. We will start with the obvious, the rituals. Be aware that in Haiti alone there are many ways to celebrate the invisible, and what I present doesn't pretend to universality. Let us start with the basics, with Bondjé, Lésen, Lézanj we will get through this.
Vodoun songs are the walls, carrels and books of the great Vodoun public library in that we don't just let them be stored and retrieved occasionally, rather we live them, we live in them and we live through them. Ask any question of one the Vodoun people and he or she is liable to answer with a song. Snippets of songs are in ordinary conversations, even songs that other cultures would call "sacred" songs. Not that these songs are not sacred to us, but the particularity of Vodoun Culture is that there is no clear division between the sacred and the ordinary, whether in time or space. Instead we have "Régleman", and régleman rules the religious or ritualistic aspect of Vodoun Culture. A case in point is Lapriyè, the ritual prayer that opens a ceremony in its long or short form (a 5 minutes to 5 days span). That is Régleman in its purest form. There is a precise, pre-ordained manner to conduct a ceremony (within each ounfò tradition of course) and every member of the community knows it. The religious feeling stems out of following the Régleman, the only true, if invisible, church of Vodoun.
It is in the dance that Vodoun touches most closely to the mystical, for every motion that the dancer performs is a magical metaphor for the invisible world, and it is no wonder that spirits arrive most often during the dance. For the divine recognizes itself and is drawn into the eternal movement of the dance.

The Vodou Religion
In Vodou both man and cosmos are considered to be of two natures: half-metaphysical, half-material. The symbol of the cross (fig. 1) is often used to show how these realms reflect each other in the mirror which is the horizontal arm of the cross. "Sound the mirror!" is a formula repeated over and over in the liturgy of Vodou, a call to its devotees to ponder and plumb its deepest secrets.

The concept of the soul can be expressed as "that in a man who is capable of surviving physical death." Much of the dialog of religion over the millennia has been concerned with the human soul: whether soul or souls exist, their nature, their stages of development, their fate, their relationship to God and to other metaphysical beings, and their relationship to the individual lives of people. In traditions derived from Africa the existence of various spirits including the souls of man is a matter of direct experience. The presence of spirits is encountered frequently through the experience of "possession" which is enacted in ceremonial. These ceremonials in their symbolism also outline a path of development by which souls either return to the general psychic circulation of the community, or in rare cases, become divinities, individualized spiritual presences that are permanent as long as they are "fed" by the community.
Though we might want to think of these ceremonials as dramas, it would be a mistake to think that the participants are only play-acting. To witness ritual possession, or to experience its onset, leaves the unavoidable impression that something very real and very profound is taking place in the psyche of the possessed. Perhaps the possession-drama is similar to what takes place in the best performances in Western theatre, when the actor as is said "becomes the role." But true possession goes much further than this since the entire personality of the person possessed abandons its body, its "horse." The very different personality of the spirit that replaces it as master of the horse then manifests spontaneously as an actor in the present moment.

African Myth & Religion
Many of these religions are an integral aspect of their storytelling traditions and also contain descriptions of the basic archetypes, arranged in identifiable structures. This may manifest, as a belief in ancestor worship, nature and spirit deities considered responsible for the human condition, some being "life-enhancing" while others are "life-consuming". Great nature is freely worshipped as the Supreme Being who controls the destiny of human evolution, animals, plants and fluctuations in climate. In some regions the idea of a "Great Spirit" (Creator God) had emerged, who was usually associated with the sun, moon, sky, rainbow, or lightning. For some Africans the power or omnipotence of that God enabled him to create the first man and woman while others consider God to be responsible for all things visible and invisible.
The spirit-beings are often symbolically connected with their own particular views of Heaven and in various mythological accounts united with a Primal Earth God or Goddess. This polarity indicates a belief in the Supreme Being as being bi-sexual, androgynous or hermaphroditic. In other areas beliefs in sacred spirits of sea, lake, mountain, earth etc have long been venerated by the indigenous peoples. Evil or bad circumstances are invariably attributed to demonic spirit forces but are more usually credited to the earthly activities of witches, shamans, and wizards. Possession by these spirits is attributed to and directly responsible for any antisocial or violent behavior and consequently exorcisms and purifications are widely practiced. The application of magic, consultations with witch doctors or priests and divination is also widely accepted and accepted as everyday events. It is presumed that demons can be coerced or manipulated to reveal some aspect of the future or directly affect the outcome of a set of circumstances. Talismanic magic is also considered efficacious and widely practiced, protective charms and amulets are considered to have a direct influence on the well being of an individual. Sacred shrines and burial places likewise have a special importance in their religious beliefs.

Like the North American Indian tribes, African tribes revered their own intermediary totemic spirits associated with the protection and guardianship of any particular clan calling upon them to carry the thoughts and wishes of the tribe to their ancestors or the Supreme Creator. Prayer and communion are essential elements of religious worship with a local village medium acting on behalf of the community. The medium usually adopts a trance state using either dance, music or chanting or speaking simply from the heart to convey the message from the ancestors. Likewise people seek out professional mediums to convey their own personal message and wishes to their gods or ancestors who are propitiated i.e.: bribed with lavish gifts and offerings

Many of these tribal communities also believed and practiced the institution of Divine Kingship whereby their own rulers or kings were imbued with the qualities of a god or were themselves semi-divine beings and therefore the representatives of a particular tribe or people. There is a clear belief in the afterworld, reincarnation and the transmigration of souls from one dimension into the other and that their ancestors could assume an earthly existence and that similarly that a human being could attain the qualities of an ancestor or immortal being after they had died. Death was therefore viewed paradoxically not only as the termination of life but more importantly as a gateway into another world.

1. The Dinka of Sudan 2. The Kimbu of Tanzania 3. The Yoruba of Nigeria 4. The Shona of Zimbabwe
The religion or worship of Nature Spirits is more highly developed in northeast Africa while fetishism though widely practiced gradually changes into idolatry as one travels into the southern regions. Everything in the African World is full of inanimate and animate spirits who are obedient to the will and magic of sorcerers, witches and shamans. While every clan or family performs regular worship or ritual to its' own ancestors and institutes its' own taboos. The souls of their dead are frequently believed to inhabit the bodies of living animals, plants, trees, mountains etc. The Zulus for example refrain from killing certain types of snakes, which they consider, are the embodiment of their ancestors. They believe also that evil spirits can take possession of the living.
The Yoruba, one of the oldest intact belief systems in Africa, believe that each person has at least three spiritual entities. Firstly there is the breath spirit or "emi" which resides in the lungs and heart and is constantly fed by wind from the nostrils. This is the vital force, just as fire is fed by the blacksmith's bellows, this emi endows us with the ability to walk, speak, hear etc. There is a shadow spirit or "Ojiji" which follows its owner like a dog and when we die awaits our hopeful return to heaven. Finally there is a guardian spirit, often referred to as the "Eleda" or "Ori" which has to be nurtured through occasional sacrifice and rules our head region - perhaps another term for conscience. After death the "eleda" travels to the portals of heaven and confesses to the Supreme God Olorun who decides accordingly whether we should go to Orun Rere (Good Heaven) or Orun Buburu (Bad Heaven). High crimes and misdemeanors or simply wickedness consist of crimes such as theft, murder, cruelty, and misuse of witchcraft, poisoning and slander.

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