The History Of Voodoo And Slavery
Voodoo played a such a significant role in Slave life that the Slave Revolt in Haiti was preceded by a Voodoo Ceremony…
However, the true essence of Voodoo as a Religion and Philosophy as it was understood and practiced by Slaves themselves as transplants from the African Continent in an alien land and oppressive culture has been distorted in mainstream culture obscuring the relationship between Voodoo and Slavery.
Origins Of Voodoo
Voodoo (Vodun) is a derivative of religions that have been around in Africa for time immemorial. But saying the word Voodoo anywhere in the world is tied to darkness and evil. It is a byword for bad religion. Ironically, it was the enforced immigration of enslaved Africans from different ethnic groups that provided the circumstances for the development of Voodoo.
European colonists thought that by desolating the ethnic groups, these could not come together as a community. However, in the misery of slavery, the transplanted Africans found in their faith a common thread. They began to invoke not only their own Gods, but to practice rites other than their own.
In this process, they co-mingled and modified rituals of various ethnic groups. The result of such fusion was that the different religious groups integrated their beliefs, thereby creating a new religion: Voodoo…Such was the roots of the relationship between Voodoo and Slavery.
The word “voodoo” comes from the West African word “vodun,” meaning spirit. This Afro-Caribbean religion mixed practices from many African ethnics groups such as the Fon, the Nago, the Ibos, Dahomeans, Congos , Senegalese, Haussars, Caplaous, Mondungues, Mandinge, Angolese, Libyans, Ethiopians, and the Malgaches.
Essence Of Voodoo
In voodoo God is manifest through the spirits of ancestors who can bring good or harm and must be honored in ceremonies. There is a sacred cycle between the living and the dead…Rituals include prayers, drumming, dancing, singing and animal sacrifice.
Voodoo is an animist faith. That is, objects and natural phenomena are believed to possess holy significance, to possess a soul. The supreme deity is Bon Dieu.
There are hundreds of spirits called Loa who control nature, health, wealth and happiness of mortals. The Loa form a pantheon of deities that include Damballah, Ezili, Ogu, Agwe, Legba and others.
Voodoo is therefore in its essence a hybrid Religion driven by the desire of enslaved Africans to recapture their Humanity by creating a new belief system of their own in contrast to the Religion of their Masters who controlled every aspect of their being except their Minds and Souls.
The relationship between Voodoo and Slavery has not altered the essence of the Religion.
Conclusion: Voodoo’s Legacy
When Slavers brought Africans across the ocean to the Americas, the African’s brought their religion with them which would eventually lead to the birth of a new Religion based on the relationship between Voodoo and Slavery.
However, since slavery included stripping the slaves of their language, culture, and heritage, this religion had to take some different forms. It had to be practiced in secret, since in some places it was punishable by death, and it had to adapt to the loss of their African languages.
It is within this limited space that Slaves relived the fading memories of Home in the form of a new Spiritual belief whose mere existence resembled some form of resistance.
A resistance that would ultimately lead to emancipation.
There’s a lot more to Voodoo in terms of Theology, and Practice. The full text link of the reference article below provides a decent and comprehensive description of Voodoo as a Religion.