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Research On Voodoo

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Voodoo and It's Misinterpretation in America

Voodoo is a religion rich in heiratage and founded in faith and community. The religion has been villianized by western culture and has been wrongly portrayed

as malignant and dangerous. The religion is not founded in any of the "black magics" or fear popularized by Hollywood films, but rather it is based on balance and tradition. The religion is not something which should be encountered with inhibition or fear induced from childhood horror stories, but embraced for it's strength and history.

Voodoo (also known as Vodun, Vodou, Umbanda, Quimbanda, and Candomble) originated as an amalgam of African religions during the slave trade. As slaves were shipped from Africa to the Caribbean

and America, groups of slaves sharing a similier heretage were broken apart to prevent any since of community or bond between them. With no connection beyond the tortures of slavery, the slaves had little chance to establish any relationship to their

fellow captives. Hailing from lifestyles and cultures far removed from each other, the only opportunity for a common bond came from sharing their deep faiths. Though different religions, the intense faiths allowed an intellectual exchange and common bond. With several different religions present in any given group of slaves, the majority of slaves adapted by holding a service which accepted all lineages and respected all ancestreal lines of faith, both aspects being of primary concerns in African religions. These services were effective in blending the rites and practices of many religions into one combination religion. This adaptation

effectively created a new religion, Voodoo, which translates to "spirit" in several African languages. This new religion gave the slaves a since of alliance with their nieghboring slaves and, with that alliance, a since of community. This new found unity was viewed as a threat to the French and British

plantation owners of the newly settled colonies. As a means to quell the religious unity, the plantation owners forbid the practice of religion and punished slaves who attempted to pursue voodoo. Catholicism was presented as an alternative to the African-based but now independent

and Caribbean

religion. Instead of accepting the Catholic religion, many slaves only incorperated it into the establishing Voodoo religion. Catholicism remains an important aspect of Voodoo, and many of it's methods and rituals are currently practiced as Voodoo (this is especially accurate in Santeria, a Cuban based Voodoo). The punishments of practicing voodoo forced voodoo to remaine secretive until slavery itself died out. Voodoo became a myth among plantation owners and only to the surface once slaves or former slaves acquired a means to own property through the revolution of 1804. This revolution was spurred by Voodoo priest and priestesses who had worked in secracy and organized the slaves into an army. When the slaves overcame there oppressors voodoo became a publicly

accepted religion in the Caribbean

.

In the three centuries of religious oppression, Voodoo became a symbol of pride and independence for the slaves. Any pride in a slave is of course regarded as a threat to the slave owner. Rumors of human sacrifice and devil worship became prevalent in the social circles of plantation owners and slave traders. These statements had no validity, but traveled quickly throughout Europe and America. The practicers of Voodoo embraced this fear as means to frighten their former masters and gain some respect in a world where they were deprived of everything. Former slave owners quickly found themselves duped into the beliefs of Voodoo dolls and hexes. This early means of freedom through fear is a reason Voodoo is still treated as a sinister religion. It is not that the Voodoo practice was frightening, but that that image was adopted as a means to assure it's existence

. No historical evidence of human sacrifice or affiliation with western principles of Satan has been discovered. Any affiliation with the occult has occurred

only recently with the "Gothic" movement in pop culture, and is not related with any orthadox Voodoo practices.

Voodoo redeemed itself throughout the 1800's with peaceful practice throughout the Caribbean

and Southern points in America. In 1884 S. St.James wrote the book Haiti or the Black Republic. This book possessed graphically described accounts of canabalism, human sacrifice, and the structured teachings of "bad" or "black" magic. St. James sources were the testimonies of voodoo priests who were tortured into these false confessions given during the times of revolution. St. James also used the written statements from the deposed plantation masters as accurate accounts as to why voodoo practicers were being executed. Though exaggerated

, and in some instances simply imagined, the book was widely distributed and read. As the American film industry emerged in the 1930's, a wealth of horror stories pictured voodoo as a menacing culture. Voodoo, being practiced primarily by individuals without access to the American film society offered no resistance or information while these false protrayals were being made. It was not until the 1950's that any information from legitimate studies emerged.

Primary religions involved in the African aspect of Voodoo are Macumba and Candomble of the Yoruba people of Nigeria, and several now extinct tribes from the Congos and Cameroon. These religions lay the ground work for the course of religious ceremonies and contain the origins for the deities

worshipped in modern voodoo. Voodoo's principle deity

, Olorun (also known as Oloddumare) is the voodoo equivalent to the Christian God. Though the name can be trace to the Yoruba tribe, it is unknown if he is a rimnant of the Catholic involvement in voodoo. Obatala, is a composit of many tribes primary god. He is represented as the giver of life and creator of human kind. Obatala is subserviant to Olorun, but is said to have created the other, lesser Gods. For instance Eleggua, goddess of opportunity and Oya, goddess of fire and wind were both created by Obatala for humanity. In addition to containing the gods of many African cultures, voodoo also expresses the belief in minor spirits who watch or protect specific objects or occurrences

. Those who were created at the beginning of life are referred to as Rada, and are worshipped as members to the family of Gods. Individuals who lived great

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