Vodou (also spelled Voodoo, Vaudoux, Vodun, Voudou & Vaudon) commonly known as Sevis Ginea or "Ginea (African) service", is the traditional religion & culture of the Haitian people. Some people use the term "Voodoo" to include any & all African-based diasporic religious traditions as they have survived in the West (such as Santeria/Lukumi in Cuba, Candomble & Umbanda in Brazil, etc.), but this is completely inaccurate & misleading. The word Vodou identifies a very specific set of similarly related traditional practices only. In addition to Vodou as it is practiced in Haiti, there is also Vodun in Africa, which remains the "parent" or root religion of Haitian Vodou, though its contemporary form is no longer what it was during the time of the Atlantic slave trade. The two traditions have evolved independent of each other for the past 250 years. There is also Voodoo or Hoodoo (a variant form of Afro-based magical practice) as it exists in the Southern United States.
The word Vodou comes from the Fon language of Dahomey (present day Benin) & translates roughly as "Spirit". The Vodou religion is an amalgamation of several African traditions that arrived in the hearts & minds of the slaves beginning around the year 1522, continuing up to the revolution in 1791, & continuing to evolve in almost complete isolation until 1860. Its geographic origins come from three separate sources: The first & greatest source is of course Mother Africa, principally the Fon traditions of old Dahomey (& to a lesser degree, the neighboring Nago traditions from present day Yoruba-Land or Nigeria), & the traditions of the Bantu speaking peoples of the Kongo basin. The second source are those traditions of Native America, principally the Taino/Arawak Indians of the island we now know as called Haiti, & elsewhere in the Caribbean. The last influences are European (which are slight) & include Catholicism (the principal liturgical & artistic influence), French Martinist Kabbalism, Spiritualism, & the traditional mysticism of the French Gypsies.
Vodou is a monotheistic religion and traditional culture whose faithful believe in a single creator God who in Haiti is commonly called Bondje (from the French Bon Dieux, or "Good God"). Beneath this Ultimate source of creation is a host of lesser divinities called Lwa (Loas), a Creolized word of dubious etymology. It probably arrives from any one of several Ewe dialects all denoting similar ideas such as "mystery", "law", or the like. Vodou believes that Bondje is a remote & largely impersonal force, too remote to concern him/her/it-self with the daily problems of mankind. It is the Lwa (Loas) then who intercede in the life of the living, healing us, protecting us, etc. The power of the Lwa (Loas) is great, but it is also finite. Only God is all-powerful.
The Vodou is not just a religion, but also a culture, a way of life.
In fact, it is far more appropriate & accurate to speak of "Vodou Culture", than of the "Vodou Religion". This is a complete socio-cultural system inseparable from the way of life for its faithful, one capable of answering any & all questions we might face in life. It is a familial oriented tradition, a joyous & celebratory tradition. Outsiders come to the Vodou for all manner of issues. Vodou heals; Vodou protects; Vodou solves problems, & binds people in strong, healthy family units. The Vodou is a living tradition evolving to meet the needs of its faithful, having survived for millennia in one form or another.
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