"Paw use to take us across this small bridge that he'd built. For years, we'd track on across that bridge, and never thought nothing of it.
It was not until later that we realized that it wasn't no bridge at all; but a great-
You see, in those days, before the White man started clubbing and shooting them to death, they [the serpents] use to grow that big!"
passed down from great-
African descendants in the New World, owe much to Haiti, an independent, proud republic since 1804. As a result of their victory, Haitian Vodou, having its ancestral roots in many West African indigenous religions, is the most widely known African religion to have survived and flourished in the New World.
However, though always mis-
The Vodoun religion is estimated to have existed for more than 10,000+ years, having its ancient roots in Egypt, East Africa and in ancient Afro-
Additionally, in more recent times, what is not widely known nor extensively researched is Vodoun's history in America, more specifically, among the Ewe and other West African groups enslaved in America who brought the Vodoun religion directly from West Africa. It had been assumed because the Africans enslaved in America were not as numerous as those in Brazil or the Islands, that somehow their family spiritual lineages died out when the religions were violently suppressed.
It is widely acknowledged that the Vodoun religion is largely the result of the importation of Africans mainly from the West African Kingdom of Dahomey, (present day Benin to include Togo). Namely from the Ewe [ev-
With them came the Vodou religion which underwent the same religious persecution as the Congo and Yoruba groups, forcing it underground as it had existed until recently. Many priests and priestess [especially those who were prosperous] were murdered and forced off of their lands2. Many born to serve their divinities and ancestors found other discreet ways to manifest their spirits.3 Many out of fear simply "forgot,"-
The Vodou religion is estimated to be as old as 10,000 years, and is the official religion of Benin where thousands flock to her shores from surrounding nations to attend its annual festivals, and partake of its ancient rituals and ceremonies.
Contrary to popular belief, Vodou is not a monolithic religion. Though the official religion of Benin it is not the only country where Vodou is practiced. Many nations and regions throughout Togo, Ghana, Senegal, the Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Nigeria and other West African nations practice different variations of the Vodou, that is ethnically, culturally, linguistically and ancestrally distinct and indigenous to their own group. They are not imports from Benin.
Indeed, folk magic that is known in the America's as Hoodoo, contrary to what is being promoted as an exclusively Congo import, also was a fully developed tradition in Dahomey, and was also brought over to the America's on the slave ships by the Ewe groups. As the magic and beliefs of the common people, consider the quote below, extracted from an 1890 expedition by A.B. Ellis of the "Slave Coast". During his visit in Togo, Ellis observed and commented:
Though most of the records regarding the exact number of the many ethnic groups of Africans enslaved in America is not (nor will be fully) known. Anecdotal records, slave journals, biographies, Wills, and federal census records etc., do exist as to specific ethnic enslaved populations and their approximate geographical locations.
What exist here is simply a few historical anecdotal records of Ewe slaves and the recognition and validation of both their significant numbers enslaved in the U.S. during the early 1800's, and their contribution to the Vodou religion in the lineages of their descendants in America.
The Ewe are the major groups, and the Fon, Mina, Adja others are subgroups. However, they all descend from a common ancestor in the "East," meaning the nation of Ketu, [now Benin of Nigeria] which they claim as their birth home. Ketu is known as Amedzofe or Mawufe to the Ewe and Fon and the Ga-
Oral accounts tell of their existence in Ketu since the 11th century, long before the expansion of the Oyo empire. The Vodou religion existed in this region for well over 300 years. It was after the expansion of the Oyo empire when tension led to conflicts and the progressive migration of the Ewe, Fon and the Ga groups south.
The Ewe are also found in many other countries off the Gulf of Guinea, including Sierra Leone and Gabon. Their eighth and last common settlement was at the beginning of the 17th century in Notsie, a town located in the present Republic of Togo. Their language is called Ewegbe, literally "Ewe language", and consists of more than 35 different dialects.
1. E. Ofori Akyea. EWE. The Rosen Pub. Group., New York, 1998.
2. See AP: Blacks Forced off of Land
Papaws or Popos
[The] "Papaws or Popos were the largest group of Africans exported and enslaved [in America] in the early eighteenth century.
They were speakers of Ewe and in this language there is a word dzon'ku ' a sorcerer's name for himself and the world “nu” meaning man.
Put together the words mean a sorcerer man or witch-
THE EWE ENSLAVED IN AMERICA
(*Footnote pg 234) Zora Neale Hurston: “of Mules & Men “
“Thousands of Negroes from these serpent worshiping tribes
were at this time sold into slavery..... They bore with them their cult of the snake. At the same period these
Ewe speaking slaves [emphasis mines] were taken to Louisiana."
Newbile Niles Puckett
"The Magic and Folk Beliefs of the Southern Negro."
“Pay du Vaud “
(Home of Vodou)
That the term vodu should survive in Hayti and Louisiana and not in the British West India islands, will surprise no one who is acquainted with the history of the slave trade.
. . . the [Louisnana] French and Spanish drew their chief supply from the Ewe-
A.B. Ellis. The Ewe-
Amulets, Omens and Various Superstitions Among the Ewe
"Since the name even of a person, should fall into bad hands, may be used to the detriment of the bearer, of course anything that has belonged to a man, especially anything that has formed part of or has come out of his saliva, or the feces, can be used for a similar purpose.
Magic powders are very numerous. One kind when blown against a door or window, causes it to fly open, no matter how securely it may be fastened; another, when thrown upon the footprints of an enemy, makes him mad; a third, used in the same day, neutralizes the evil effects of the second; and a fourth destroys the sight of all who look upon it.
A.B. Ellis. “The Ewe-
History of Stagville
"The slaves who were brought to America, and whose descendants labored at Stagville,[North Carolina] were generally of West African origin. Slaves generally came from agrarian societies including the Ibo, Ewe . . . peoples, societies that were predominantly family-
African Origins of Gullah People
Tuner's groundbreaking research in the thirties found words in the Gullah vocabulary from the following langauges : . . . Wolof, Malinke, Mandinka, Bambara, Fula, Mende, Vai, Twi, Fante, Ga, Ewe, Fon, Yoruba, Bini, Hausa, Ibo, Ibibio, Efil, Kongo, Umbundu, And Kimbundu.
"Da (dada)" -
The Water Brought Us,"by Muriel Miller Branch
Language Guide (Ewe verison):
Bureau of Ghana Languages, Accra
ANCIENT ORIGINS OF THE EWE & FON
"Melrose's Story of Land and Slaves
On January 8, 1736, Francoise (a slave belonging to Chevalier Louis Juchereau de St. Denis) and Marie Francoise were married in Natchitoches, La. The only clues indicating the origins of this African couple are the names of four of their children: Dgimby, Choera, Yandon and Coincoin. These names can be attributed to the Ewe linguistic group of the Gold Coast-
Landmarks: The Louisiana Metoyers:
Melrose's Story of Land and Slaves
Author: Mills, Elizabeth Shown. American Visions.
June 2000. pg. 40-
The Ewes moved into the area which is now Togo from the Niger river valley between the 13th and 14th centuries.
During the 15th and 16th centuries, Portuguese explorers and traders visited the coast. For the next 200 years, the coastal region was a major raiding center for Europeans in search of slaves, earning Togo and the surrounding region the name "The Slave Coast."
U.S. Department of State, Bureau of African Affairs October 1997
of Durham, NC
Little is known of Fanny Cannady
other than from her interview with the Federal Writer’s Project.
Vodou (Amengansie): The Burial Ceremony of Mama Zogbe
Voodoo: The Religion of Southern Slaves
The African Origins of "Voodoo": About.com Interview with Mamaissii Vivian
Common Misconceptions About "Voodoo"
"Voodo" Comes Alive in the African-American Diaspora
Slavery & American Restitution
Pope Apologizes for Centuries of Demonzing African Religions
Jewish Roots in Africa
Invisible Culture: Hoodoo Culture in Georgia and South Carolina
The African Origins of Hoodoo: About.com Interview:
Superstitions & Folklore of the South
The Religion of the Slaves
Dahomean Vodoun Culture of the Ewe & Fon
Library of Congress Changes the Way it Classifys African Reliigons
Slavery and Religion in America: A Time Line 1440-1866
A Slave In Brooklyn: Archeologists Uncover Ritual Artifacts
Plates in Graves: An Africanism?
1. Mama Zogbé (formerly: Mamaissii Vivian) Mami Wata: Africa's Ancient God/dess Unveiled. Mami Wata Healers Society.
3. Frederick Barth, Ethnic Groups and Boundaries. (Bergen, 1969).
4. John and Jean Comaroff, Ethnography and the Historical Imagination. (Boulder, Col., 1992).
5. John Thornton, Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World, 1400-
(Cambridge, 1992). 6. Joseph Harris, Global Dimensions of the African Diaspora, Washington, 2nd ed., 1993.
7. Colin Palmer, From Africa to the Americas: Ethnicity in the Early Black Communities of the
Americas, Journal of World History, 6, 2, 1995, 223-
8. Stephan Palmie, Ethnogenetic Processes and Culture Transfer in Afro-
in Binder, ed., Slavery in the Americas, 337-
9. Richard Walser, His Worship the John Kuner North Carolina Folklore Journal 19 (1971) 160-
10. Zora Neale Hurston: Mules and Men. HarperCollins Publishers, Incorp. January 1992.
11. Ajayi, Ade, J.F. & Espie , Ian, A Thousand Years of West African History, Great Britain, University of Ibadan, 1967.
12. Alapini Julien, Le Petit Dahomeen, Grammaire. Vocabulaire, Lexique En Langue Du Dahomey, Avignon, Les Presses Universelles, 1955.
13. Argyle, W.J., The Fon of Dahomey: A History and Ethnography of the Old Kingdom, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1966.
14. Chesi, Gert, Voodoo: Africa's Secret Power, Austria, Perliner, 1980.
15. Decalo, Samuel, Historical Dictionary of Dahomey, (People's Republic of Benin), N.J., The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1976.
15. Ellis, A.B., The Ewe Speaking Peoples of the Slave Coast of West Africa, Chicago, Benin Press Ldt, 1965.
17. Le Herisee, A. & Rivet, P., The Royanume d'Ardra et son evangelisation au XVIIIe siecle, Travaux et Memories de "'Institut d'Enthnologie, no. 7, Paris, 1929.
18. Rosenthal, Judy, Possession Ecstasy and Law in Ewe Voodoo, Virgina, University Press of Virginia, 1998.
19. Warren, Dennis, D., The Akan of Ghana, Accra, Pointer Limited, 1973.
By Mama Zogbe-
An Anecdotal Journey
"Paw" Mami Wata & Vodoun Priest.( Shiva & Tohossou)