Haitian Voodoo

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Voodoo is a national religion in Haiti; whereby the majority of Haitians practice and believe in at least several aspects of voodoo. Voodoo is a spiritual system and the believers perform animal-based sacrifices and pray facing animals to beckon and feed the spirits (McGee, 243). The Haiti voodoo rituals are performed on different occasions and are meant to invoke the loua. As demonstrated in the following photograph, a voodoo priest has to be involved in starting ceremonies or sacrifices, as voodooists begin their ceremonies through praying to their family spirits.

The voodooists’ dedication to their periodic rituals is meant to offer sacrifices to the spirits to encourage them to continue providing protection to their children and save them from likely misfortune. In the rituals, gifts, drinks, and food are offered to the family spirits. The voodoo believers engage in two kinds of ritual services, the one conducted once in every year and the service that is performed once a generation. Nevertheless, voodooists conduct prayers regularly. The voodoo services are usually conducted at a sanctuary on a family land.

Besides, sacrifice, the voodooists engage in a specific dance, which they dedicate to the spirits. The belief system involves family spirits or loua inherited through the paternal and maternal lines. Because of the nature of loua; whereby there are rada spirit or sweet loua and petro spirit or the bitter loua, Haiti voodooists focus on praising them even when the loua are demanding, capricious, evil or good.


Haitian voodoo can also focus on summoning the spirits; whereby the voodooists conduct rituals to ask for support of the spirits (Laguerre, 18). During the ritual and as indicated below in the photograph, which shows a ritual conducted at the waterfalls, it is evident that Haitians conduct the services to try and lift up the sacred energies. The image shows people who are beneath the water and conducting prayers each at a different style. Based on the image, it is clear that voodooists engage in different ways of praising the spirits in order to be heard and for their problems to be solved. The demonstration also shows voodooists dressed fully in white meaning that they conduct rituals in a peaceful and clean way for their concerns to be listened to by the spirits. When dancing and praying, voodooists believe to have been taken by the spirit, therefore safe from any possible harm inside the water or on the grounds.

The Haitian voodoo ceremonies are conducted in the waterfalls normally to connect with the ancestors and their divine powers. Usually, the voodooists serve the spirits through the unconscious nature of the angels which enhance the community interactions. Through the conduct of sacrifices in the waterfalls, the practice helps in the retention of the relationship between the dead and the living. According to the demonstration in the photograph below, the living focuses on giving praise to the spirits. Once the sprits are invoked from below the great water, they tend to respond to the rhythm of the conducted dance, which aims at displacing the soul of those who is alive for a shining moment. Therefore, the conduct of ceremonies or rituals in the waterfalls strengthens the voodooists’ relationships with their family spirits and makes their prayers easily heard.


Haitian voodoo also involves sacrifices whereby the voodooists sacrifice goats and take the blood, which they smear themselves and conduct dances, especially during the yearly religious ceremony, which is held once every year (Hebblethwaite, 16). During the animal sacrifice dance, as indicated in the image below, the voodooists or the religious followers gather in the same village, like it was the case in Souvenance, north of port-au-prince when the annual holy ceremony was held there. Based on the image, worshippers are supposed to be all in white and expected to bathe in a sacred pool, as they dance in daydream states. When bathing in a sacred pool, voodooists are supposed to emerge completely in the pool for the cleansing from the sacrificial water. Also, the worshippers travel to the identified location of the ceremony together where they go praying and praising the spirits.

The animal sacrifice dance is usually conducted outside the temple and all followers, men, and women, dance together having stained through white clothes with goat's blood. The sacrificed goats are keenly selected to ensure they are the appropriate ones for such a sacrifice. When dancing, some worshippers hold real or wooden machetes, as others dance vigorously to an extent of arriving at a trance state. While at this state, Haitians express their devotion to the spirits, as they dance not controlled by their bodies but by the spirit inside. Besides, good number worshippers take the dance opportunity to swim in the sacred pool, which is based on their voodoo faith. Indeed, when dancing Haitians stay with bear feet, as they believe to be in a clean and holy place of worship, especially during the annual animal sacrifice dance.


Work Cited

Hebblethwaite, Benjamin. "The Scapegoating of Haitian Vodou Religion: David Brooks’s (2010) Claim That “Voodoo” Is a “Progress-Resistant” Cultural Influence."Journal of Black Studies 46.1 (2015): 3-22.

Laguerre, Michel S. Voodoo and politics in Haiti. Springer, 2016.

McGee, Adam M. "Haitian Vodou, and voodoo: Imagined religion and popular culture."Studies in Religion/Sciences Religieuses 41.2 (2012): 231-256.

November 24, 2023


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