What do the documentary movies “The Divine Horse men” and “Voodoo” ( Full documentary) teach us about Vodou in Haiti?
Discuss the Vodou understanding of the relationship between God and the Lwas [Loas]
How are Catholic saints conceptualized in the Vodou conceptual scheme and what theory best explains this development?[read power point notes for the theories]
How does the Vodou understanding of a human being affect post mortem rituals in Vodou praxis?
Each question should be more than 800 words.1/12/2011

1

THE TERM

VODOU

SOME CORE ELEMENTS

BRIEF HISTORY IN HAITI

The Word “Vodou”

A gedevi [fon] word with varying meanings-

 spirit, gods, p , g ,
 the image representing a deity
 the spot where a deity’s image is located on a

compound.

Vodou as a Religion

 “vodou” is used to describe the complex of p
African religious manifestations in Haiti—and
other new world communities.

Vodou as an amalgam of various religions

As a Caribbean Religion religion Vodou is an amalgam of

 The traditional religion of Dahomey
 Religions of the kongo basin and surrounding groups in

west and central Africa-
 Folk Catholic beliefs and practices
 Elements from Taino Religion

But Vodou is more than a religion-

 It is a comprehensive system of cultural
knowledge transferred through oral traditions
such as proverbs and myths, stories, songs, folk
lore

Vodou as cultural knowledge

As cultural knowledge vodou informs

 Haitian customs
 traditional medical practices,
 rules that regulate behavior [economic-political-

social-]

 Its is a way of life

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2

Diversity-

Vodou is not a unified religious system

Beliefs, Ceremonies for the gods, the gods
themselves, organization of worship etc, vary
from group to group and region to region-

Even rituals are in different conceptual categories-

 Such as Rada, Nago, Kongo,Ibo,Petwo,Bizango

vodoo/voodoo

 As a negative label “vodoo” is a metaphor for
witchcraft, magic, dark satanic forces and
macabre rituals

 Considered a source of harm Considered, a source of harm

 A relic / sign of Africa’s ”primitiveness” and
“backwardness” bequeathed to Haiti

Source of negative label

 A carry-over of negative perceptions of Africa’s
indigenous religions

 Earlier writers and propagandist of the
nineteenth century who resented the idea of an
independent “Africanized Haiti” emphasized this
image.

Source of label

The western media

 Note -During the American occupation from 1915 to
1934-tales of cannibalism were spun, Stories of
torture and zombies were published and informed torture and zombies were published —-and informed
movies—

 Could be interpreted as attempts to portray a
barbaric image of Haiti—a way to justify the
“civilizing” presence of the marines

Source of label

 Activities of political figures—who sometimes spin a
mythologized Haiti of Zombis, sorcery and witches to
derail attention from the real cause of poverty and

ff i d i l it tisuffering and economic exploitation.

Source of label

 Westernized and elite Haitians who view vodou
as a dark force that tyrannizes the land and people, –
a product of ignorance.

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3

R I T U A I it I j JI It II II II If I ,t I JI ii ft • t II H II ff 11 1 I If If l ! 1 I I I I I” II O 11 11 11 I I t ! I

2

THE SOCIAL FRAMEWORK OF VOODOO

I.

Voodoo 1a essentially a popu.lJlr rd1g,on. The greater pan of its
adhcrtnts ate recruited ,1mang the pcru,ants who form 97 pdt’
cent nf Utt ltltal popufatlon Qf the coumcy N. to the city dwclle~
-!hey h,w• remnlncJ fairhful UI it in whatever mcosurc they
l.lJlvc !Lopl up their rural r)U!a. The practite rif Voodoo, along
witlt lhc c~du&ivc u,t of tile Crwh, lnnguage, is 0011 ot’ lhc
dw.ictcrimcs whicl1 iciciologista have kept to tl,stinqui!lh bc-
11’tcn- tht0 rn=e• and the amnll class Qf educated people wbo
c11je1y • .:cnain mnterioJ case and call 1hcmselvcs 1he. ‘elite’. Th~
111lltllbi;n o[ 1his ~lite, who ~re mooily Mulattos, adhere wi th the
urmon tc11oc1ty m We.1rcrn m<>des of Ille and thouglu, ond hW1ced lho.l the ~l!rc haa bucn
termed a: ‘caste’ and c>nc American sociolugis1, 1.cyburn,1 ha,gone
so i’ar aa to ,foscribc lhen1 as twn different naiona sharing t he
san,e cou.ru.ry. In fae1 tltc diffc:renc(e ha,,c been very much exag-
gerat4d.Th~ cllt.,, ii Mt~ cute tlince it i, OJl1:h 1,1 Lho~e who suc-
c,,..,4 In raiaing thcll5clvct, •itllet by Ullcnt, luck or politics from
lh• mJ ~o wide-
spre3d .w.d deep lhat lr c,;uJd be aaid to 101tclt everyone, T he best,

58

TllE SOCIA.L l’RAM!rWORK OP VOOOOQ 59

.-en those who don·t pracUse 11, !Jave to fight ag3inst tbe feelings
they cxp c.innot
•fford ctor or ch.cmist. Uut no. He ,s gc11ni tu II snpcrb house
wltcte he will oper:ile o.n the father of Vodun in
Coastal Benin

Unfinished, Open-Ended, Global

DANA RUSH

Vanderbilt University Press

NASHVILLE

I
I~

.

~

Introduction

Ouvre /es yeux, etrange,; et sache ou poser res pas.
lei, un arbre n ‘est pas un arbre, une source n ‘est pas une source.

Tout est mystere et mystique.
Open your eyes foreigner, and know where you step.

Here, a tree is not a tree, a stream is not a stream.

Everything is mysterious and mystical.

Eustache Prudencio, “Ouvre les yeux, ctranger,” Vents du lac

I n the summer of 1993 I traveled to the fonner slave port city of Ouidah, Benin (fonnerly Dahomey), in West Africa, to investigate the contempo-
rary manifestations of the early to mid-nineteenth-century repatriation-

from Brazil to Benin-of a distinguished group of manumitted fonner slaves
known commonly as the “Brazilians.” I spoke with members of many Brazil-
ian families-de Souza, da Silva, Gomez, Concei9ao, d’Almeida, Lima, and
Olympio, among others-from whom I learned a great deal regarding Brazil-
ian family histories. I was able to document Brazilian architecture, masquer-
ade, and food preparation. Within West African Brazilian culture, I anticipated
finding a melange of African-Brazilian religious art and expression returned
to Benin and reintegrated into the local traditions. I found nothing of the sort.
Brazilians I spoke with were either Catholic or Muslim. The Brazilian histo-
ries, arts, and customs were interesting, but I sought something with a larger
spiritual focus. Because I was in the heartland of Vodun, I did not need to look
very far to find “spirit.” In fact, I could not help but notice the very public
display of Vodun arts punctuating the Ouidah. landscape and infonning the re-
ligious expression of the majority of the city’s inhabitants.

It became clear that Vodun was Ouidah ‘s pulse. People said that the trees
in Ouidah were “watching” and that Ouidah’s earth was “breathing.” In my
Western mindset, l started asking direct questions about Vodun, which were
met with resistance. For example, the first time I asked my research assistant
for an explanation of a Vodun shrine in the street, she looked the opposite
direction and responded “Why should I look at that? Do I want to become
blind?” Why, I wondered, were African Brazilians so pleased to talk about

1

2 Vodun in Coastal Benin

their histories, but most other people from Benin were resolute in their unwill-
ingness to discuss Vodun? I was compelled. I needed to learn more.

This book is inspired by wonderment, perplexity, and admiration. The

source of this inspiration is Vodun, the predominant re ligious system in south-
ern Benin, Togo, and extending into southeastern Ghana. It is the origin of
Haitian Vodou, which is the foundation of Hollywood’s Voodoo. However,
both African Vodun and Haitian Vodou have next to nothing in common with
Hollywood’s exaggerated caricature of a s inister faith entangled with false

ideas of human sacLESLIE G. DESMANGLES

THE
. … … . … . . .. …. .. … … …. .. . . -· . .. .. .. . .

FACES
…… . .. .. ….. . . · · ·· ··· . . ….. . .. . .. ·· · · · ·· ·

OF THE
.. . . . . .. · •·· · · . . …. .. … … . .. .. . . . . … . .. .. .

GODS
VODOU AND ROMAN

CATHOLICISM IN HAITI

THE UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA PRESS

CHAPEL Hil l & LONDON

THE FACES

OF THE

GODS AND

PUBLIC

LI FE

In analyzing, in this chapter, the )was whose per-

sonae relate more directly to Vodouisants’ pub-

lic life, I will give special attention to the pub-

lic rituals offered to these lwas. And in keeping

with the thesis of this discussion, I will consider

symbiosis as it occurs in the myths about these

!was as well as in the rituals. The chapter ends

with a description of Bondye’s envisaged per-

sonae because, ahhough he does not enter di-

rectly into the lives of Haitians, the mythology

that surrounds Bondye includes that of all the

other !was.

THE LWAS OF PUBLIC LIFE

EziH: The Luxurious Vir9in Mother

If motion is ensured by Damballah, and if. as
generating principle, the phallus is symbolized

by Legba and Gede, Ezili represents the cos-
mic womb in which divinity and humanity

are conceived. She is the symbol of fecundity,

the mother of the world who participates with

the masculine forces in the creation and main-

tenance of the universe. As mother, Ezili co-

operates with the sun lwa Legba, who ensures

the florescence and nurture of all living things.

When she cooperates with Gede, she symbol-
izes Ginen’s cosmic womb from which the

released ancestral gwo-bon-anjs are reclaimed.

She is represented not only by the govi or
clay jar in which the gwo-bon-anj is believed

to reside, and whence it emerges to possess

the living, but by the devotee’s possessed body,

which serves as her temporary vessel. and from
which her personae emerge as she manifests
them to the community. In combination with
Damballah, Ezili guarantees the flow of human

132 The Faces of the Gods

generations. Vodou mythology conceives her as the moth er ofth ]was and
of humanity. She is believed to have given birth to the first human beings
after Bondye created the world, and since that time her powers of provision
have continued to grant children to the human community.

Because Vodouisants see her as sexually fertile, they invoke her in mat-

ters related to conception and childbearing . Indeed, without her patronage
a woman would not be able co conceive. ln the peristil, it is to her that

women sing:

I said: “Ezili you are the venerable one, oh!”

Extend your hand, gives us children, oh!

l said: “Ezili, you are a venerable one, oh!”

Ezili, oh! you are the venerable one, oh!

As a symbol offecundity, Ezili is not identified merely with sex. Like the

Virgin Mary, to whom she corresponds. she is imagined as the symbol of
womanhood, the image of exquisite beauty that fills every man ‘s dreams.




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