Haitian Vodou

Topics: Slavery, Haiti, Haitian Vodou Pages: 7 (2608 words) Published: June 5, 2013
Vodou, A Haitian religion deeply rooted in colonialism stems from several African sources, which have constructed and maintained a hybrid Africana and European diaspora in the Caribbean. In an effort to preserve African tradition and spiritual belief, slaves in Haiti prior to the Haitian Revolution of 1791, established and developed the heterogeneous religion known as Vodou. As Vodou became a more prominent aspect of slave culture in Haiti the hybridization between traditional Africana religion and European religion fashioned a new system of belief. The fusion of Catholicism from Europe and African religions make up one of the most influential religions in Haiti today, in fact Vodou plays an imperative role in Haitian life. In addition to having a tremendous effect on Haitian religious practices, Vodou also plays a fundamentally important role in driving Haitian politics, economics, community, and social relations. From a student and non-Haitian perspective I seek to obtain knowledge on how Vodou has and continues to play a detrimental role in every aspect of Haitian life. Through analyzing and cross-examination of several texts it appears that without boundaries Vodou is important. Before delving into how Vodou effects nearly every aspect of Haitian culture I would like to first analyze the importance of understanding the roots and origin of a belief and practice that has become such a prominent aspect of Haitian life. In the eighteenth century the slave trade in Haiti ushered in a number of African slaves from various groups. These groups of African people brought with them to Haiti their traditions, beliefs, and lifestyles. In “Haitian Vodou” of Creole Religions of the Caribbean, the authors state that the slave trade was in fact the European way of “destroying all cultural connections” to the homelands of the slaves (Fernandez-Olmos and Paravisini-Gerbert 101). European slave owners and slave traders thought it necessary to force European ideals and beliefs onto their slaves, ridding and dismantling the beliefs and tradition of their native land. In this respect the slave trade played a significant role in the creation of Vodou, catalyzing Afro-European syncretism into a new belief system. Vodou began as a way for slaves to hold on to their cultural beliefs, and helped refute the impositions of Catholic religion that the French attempted to employ, as they saw it necessary to condition African slaves to their lifestyle (102). In my opinion Afro-European syncretism is one of the more complex and intriguing religious developments as it pertains to Vodou. In Voodoo Africa’s Secret Power author Gert Chesi describes the fusion of African and European culture stating that slaves brought with them the gods of Africa to the Caribbean where they then blended with the Saints and other Catholic and Christian symbols (Chesi 231). The imposition of Catholic and Christian beliefs by Europeans onto African slaves made it nearly impossible for African slaves to remain entirely devoted to their home land beliefs and traditions. African slaves in Haiti adopted Vodou as a means of maintaining their traditional beliefs, however, Christian and Catholic ideals were still important influential factors in the establishment of Vodou. The spirits often associated with Vodou known, as Lwa are similar to Saints in the Catholic Church. Slaves in Haiti dealt with the pressures of forcibly having to adapt to European religion by integrating their belief system with that of the European belief system. I think that Slaves in Haiti used Vodou as a stabilizing factor in Haitian culture. The ritual and practice that developed through the integration of European tradition with African tradition ensures that African tradition will remain considerably important regardless of the fact that Europeans once tried to dismantle African tradition and impose Western tradition on those slaves living in Haiti. Vodou serves as a mechanism for passing on tradition...

Cited: Chesi, Gert. Voodoo: Africa 's Secret Power. Austria: Perlinger, 1980. Print.
Hurbon, Laënnec. Voodoo: Truth and Fantasy. London: Thames and Hudson, 1995.
Print.
Fernández-Olmos, Margarite, and Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert. Creole Religions of the
Caribbean: An Introduction from Vodou and Santería to Obeah and Espiritismo.
New York: New York UP, 2003. Print.
Laguerre, Michel S. Voodoo and Politics in Haiti. New York: St. Martin 's, 1989. Print.
Michel, Claudine, and Patrick Bellegarde-Smith. Vodou in Haitian Life and Culture:
Invisible Powers. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006. Print.
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