The African Religion Vodu and Catholicism

2444 Words5 Pages

The terms voodoo, hoodoo, black magic and conjure arouse different ideas and interpretations such as fear, fascination, or repugnance. For some, the image of voodoo dolls, which are used to bring pain to the one’s enemy are associated with these words. Others might consider curses and spells used for evil intentions to be at the heart of voodoo. A more innocent notion of voodoo encompasses the idea that it is to be used for the communal good. All of these ideas came together and merged with Christian and Catholic beliefs after Africans were transported to the Americas and subjected to unimaginable horrors as slaves. Many historians define voodoo as “a syncretism between the African religion Vodu and Catholicism.” Voodoo is an entirely new creation, which was born as the African slaves were confronted with New World religions. These new ideas were “camouflaged as European saints, the Orisha divinities continued to be invoked, fed, and celebrated by their transplanted New World devotees, who in turn expected protection and assistance from their ancient spiritual guardian.” In some cases, slaves used the culturally accepted Catholic saints as a cover for their ancestral beliefs which were often seen as foolish and heretical by their masters. This new belief system “met new world needs that the settled and passive African modes could not match.” Voodoo held an important part in many slaves’ lives as remnants of their African beliefs evolved into a meaningful and powerful force. Voodoo was an essential element of survival for many slaves because it helped them cope psychologically with the physical torment they endured, it gave them a sense of power in impossibly difficult situations, and it served as a unifying force.


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...e and was treated as an evil force which needed to be shunned by all. The views of voodoo within the outside community continued to transform into something that was more entertaining than menacing. Eventually the practices spread beyond slave communities and continued after slavery was abolished, leaving behind a legacy that looked almost nothing like the original African predecessor.

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