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Wonders: Vodou Religion


The slave trade displaced millions of Africans from their native lands. Uprooted from their societies, the Africans brought with them their family values, beliefs, traditions, and religious practices. Vodou is the only traditional African religion to survive in the New World.

Vodou originated in the ancient kingdom of Dahomey (present-day Nigeria, Benin, and Togo) and derives from the Fon word for "God" or "Spirit." Other accurate spellings include Vodun, Vodoun, but never voodoo, the sensationalist and derogatory Western creation. Vodou is a comprehensive system of knowledge that has nothing to do with simplistic and erroneous images such as sticking pins into dolls, putting a hex on an adversary, or turning innocents into zombies. It is an organized form of communal support that provides meaning to the human experience in relation to the natural and supernatural forces of the universe.

Vodou is essentially a monotheistic religion, which recognizes a single and supreme spiritual entity or God, known as Mawu-Lisa among the Fon, Olorun among the Yoruba, and Bondye or Gran Met in Haiti.

Possession, an important dimension of Vodou worship, is among the least understood aspects of the religion. Through possession, both the lwa (the great communal spirits) and the community are affirmed. The participants transcend their materiality by becoming spirits, and the spirits renew their vigor by dancing and feasting with the chwal, or horses, for it is said that during possession the lwa rides a person like a cavalier rides a horse. Equally as important, possession is a time when the lwa communicate in a tangible way with the people, who during such times receive answers to pressing questions.

Source: Microsoft Encarta Africana. ©1999 Microsoft Corporation. Used with permission.


Regional Map


Ashanti Kingdom
Dahomey Kingdom
Vodou Religion