The Sacred Religion of Voodoo
Everyone has heard of voodoo dolls and people being transformed into zombies. But what else do you know about the sacred religion of voodoo?
On April 10, 2003, Haiti's government finally recognized and officially sanctioned voodoo as a religion.
Voodoo is a very old earth-based religion, and some people claim that it has been in existence for at least 10,000 years in various forms. It is a united merging of African, African-American and European beliefs and practices centered around the lwa. The lwa are sometimes referred to as The Invisibles and are able to enter human bodies. They are believed to be fully present in all aspects of nature, whether trees or mountains. The lwa control the structure of time as well as each individual's life from birth until death.
Those that practice voodoo do not purport the lwa to be gods. Rather, they are supernatural beings who serve as mediators between God and each human. During each ritual the lwa are summoned by the Houngan, known as the priest, or the Mambo, otherwise known as the priestess. The lwa are asked to grant requests or to participate in services.
There are three different branches of the lwa. The first are the Rada lwa, who are the oldest spirits, and include Legba, Erzulie Freda, La Sirene and many others. The second branch of the lwa are known as the Petro lwa. These lwa are quest aggressive and Ogoun is one such lwa. The very last type of lwa is called the Ghede lwa. The Ghede are led by Barons and are spirits of the dead. Maman Brigitte is considered a Ghede lwa.
When it comes to magic, the lwa's magic is much more accessible than other types of magic, such as witchcraft. It is not a special or innate power, but a technique for dealing with things which can be earned by anyone. These magical powers can be used for both good and evil.
Magic powers can be found everywhere in nature and can be activated on command by someone who knows how to cast the correct spell. Successful magic makes demands upon the user, such as heavy power of concentration. Any sort of serious physical exertion should therefore be avoided before attempting magic.
There are two main types of magic: magic by image or magic by contact. If your aim is to perform magic by contact, this involves influencing someone through the laying of hands or casting a glance. Magic can work on names and on materials that contain the vital energy of the intended receiver of the magic. These may include articles of clothing or a similar personal item. After a spell has been cast over them, they are placed near the intended person so that the magic may begin to work.
Magic by image is used in long-distance situations. Probably the best example of this would be the ubiquitous voodoo doll. The person using the doll must concentrate fully on the victim so that the link to the recipient of the magic will be fully established in the thoughts of the one performing the magic ritual. Many people fear damaging magic, but magic can also be used as a defense against any type of bad magic. The intention is the decisive factor in this process as the power itself is neutral.
Believers are firmly convinced that it is possible to capture supernatural forces and enclose them in bottles, called wanga, and use the wanga to cast spells. These are often used to deploy defense magic. At the most, a wanga may cause illness or a setback and has a limited sphere of action.
Of course, the most dreaded form of sorcery is the ancient practice of creating a zombie. Only the Houngan know the secret and the exact dose of poison to administer in order to make people appear dead. According to popular belief, the making of a zombie is determined by the capture of one of the individual's spirits. The zombie is aware of everything that is happening around him, but is not able to react. He is controlled completely by the Houngan. Because some fear zombiism excessively, there are families that ensure their dead are well and truly dead by poisoning their bodies before burial.
in voodoo, a person's ancestors play a powerful and important role. One's ancestors are believed to be part of the world of spirits and are often called upon for guidance and help. Music and dancing are also both very important elements when it comes to practicing voodoo. When one dances, one connects with the spirit world and all things divine.
There are beautiful pieces of voodoo art available on the market today in the form of voodoo flags. These are generally made using sequins and beads and put upon various exotic fabrics and are very time-consuming to make.
One thing that I highly recommend to anyone interested in voodoo and the tarot is a book called The New Orleans Voodoo Tarot which is written by Louis Martinie and Sallie Ann Glassman and comes with a gorgeously illustrated tarot deck. It is my own personal favorite tarot deck by far, and always yields interesting answers to any questions that you may have.