A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE VODOUN ANCESTRAL RELIGION







The Vodoun ("Vudu" "Voodoo" "Vodou" "Vodun" "Vaudou" "Vaudaux") religion at its cosmological, theological, ritual and philosophical core, is an African ancestral religion, practiced today largely in West Africa, Haiti and througout the Diaspora.


Its fundamental tenants are the honoring of specialized deities typically born to Africans and honored along with their ancient, and recent ancestors, through specific ritual, prayer, evocation, and celebration. On a basic level, these deities are often described and symbolized as "forces of nature," and are honored with specific rites unique to their element.


They are headed by a dual god/dess “Mawu-Lisa” which has become viewed as masculine under African (and later) Western patriarchy. It is this level of Vodoun that is understood and practiced in popular culture. However, the Vodoun religion is far more cosmologically complex, and theologically grounded in the early development of African and global religious civilization than what is displayed in western religious history and culture.



By: Mama Zogbe Chief-Hounon Amengansie

Togo, West Africa  ©Mama Zogbe

ANCIENT ORIGINS OF VODOUN RELIGION

The Vodoun religion is estimated to have



Until the present, western revisionists credits the ancient social and religious history of these African matriarchs to the Dorian Greeks, and have hidden their cultural theology under "Greek Mythology."


The consequence of this action was intended to forever obscure the historical fact that the Vodoun (and other African) religion(s) was one of the major African, ancestral religions practiced all throughout the ancient world. Over the centuries, as the African matriarchs were conquered and their temples seized or destroyed, they migrated westwardly, ultimately settling into the West African region; the religion having adapted to the cultural and language nuances with each new settlement and wave of immigrants.


Currently, Benin (ancient Dahomey), the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Brazil, and Haiti are credited with being the "home" of the Vodoun religion by western scholars. However, the actual number of its practitioners and adherents throughout the world are far more numerous.


POPULAR MYTHS ON VODOUN’S ORIGINS IN AMERICA

existed for more than 10,000+ years, having its ancient roots in ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, East Africa, India, Asia Minor (ancient Turkey), ancient Crete, Thessalonia, ancient Israel, and in ancient Afro-matrilineal Ionia (later known as "Greece") , and later in ancient Rome. It was in all of these locations where the African, Queen mothers established their powerful temples and theocratic empires.


At their height, these African, matriarchal empires reigned for more than 4,000 years—centuries before their conquer by the Dorian Greek invaders (6-7th B.C.E).

Devotees dancing to the song of their deity of fire.

Togo, West Africa


The descendants of enslaved Africans in Haiti brought the Vodoun from West Africa, its customary “official” home. In truth, the Vodoun religion is as old as Africa. Its name “Vodoun” is the  Ewe & Fon attribution because it was they who were brought and enslaved in North America.  The complexities of ethnicity, lineages and ancestors, makes it impossible to suppress the Vodoun’s  biogenetic transference from generation to generation.

Haiti is universally credited by western “scholars” of developing and introducing the “Voodoo” religion into America. Haiti is also credited as the location where "Voodoo" reached its highest philosophical and cultural development. These historic claims though popular, are categorically untrue.


Haiti is not where the Vodoun religion was born, nor is it where it reached its highest pinnacle of philosophical, ritual and theological development, nor did they introduce the religion into America.


The Vodoun religion was being practiced in America long before Haitian influence. There were already powerful Vodoun priests and priestesses, and numerous Vodoun temples present in Louisiana and throughout the United States, many never having even encountered a Haitian.




Lack of the fundamental understanding by western, cultural experts of what it means to be “Voodoo” as it is known and understood in West African cosmology, is largely responsible for the perpetuation of this myth.


ENSLAVED AFRICANS BROUGHT VODOUN RELIGION TO AMERICA

In West African cosmology, the vodou are divine, specialized deities, whom, along with special ancestral and totemic spirits are cosmogenetically and biologically linked to the African at birth. As such, no individual or group can "introduce" these deities into ones biogenetic sphere. Further, the Africans who were imported and sold into the American slave-holding states, were transported directly from West Africa. The vodou deities and the exoteric “culture of the deities” (religions) also came directly from West Africa into America.


The two largest and primary groups of Africans who were transported directly from West Africa into the United States, upon whom the Vodoun religion would soon overlay, were from the Congo and southwestern, Nigeria. The largest West African groups imported into America who actually brought the Vodoun religion with them were mainly from the Ewe, Guin and the Nago groups.


The “Nago groups” were the Vodoun-Yoruba worshipers who comprised the inter-ethnic (Ewe-Fon, Edo, Igbo, Ijaw, and other) sub-mixtures, which were long ago established in Badagry, southern Benin and southern Togo.



This blend came about as a result of their long history from ancient Ketu, to their continual political and economic struggles through warfare after the establishment of the Dahomean and the Oyo empires.


In between both of these nations quest for regional hegemony, there were sparse periods of inter-ethnic marriages, mass migrations, mutual commerce and inter-cultural sharing. It was these primary West African groups who initially laid the cultural, linguistic and the religious substratum for the African spiritual traditions that existed in America.



LATER HAITIAN AND OTHER CULTURAL INFLUENCES


As the exoteric “culture of the deities,” (religious practices) of these initial enslaved African groups were systematically suppressed, each new wave of West Africans imported would simply overlay or "refresh" the older traditions with the new, until they too were forcibly suppressed.


However, what is critical to understand is that although the “culture of the deities,” (religious practices) were outwardly suppressed, the deities themselves continued to be born with the African people, and the Vodou traditions though modified, continued in individual African-American families, and ceremonies were held in secret meeting places or masked in early Christian religious worship.


Haitian cultural and religious influence was the last to refresh what was clearly the exoteric (outer) cultural expression of the deities.


Additionally, even their influence did not began to take root until the early 1800s, shortly after Haiti won their independence, and many disgruntled, white French slaveholders fled to the U.S. and to Cuba, bringing many of the enslaved Africans with them.


The Haitian groups who refreshed and overlaid the diminishing Vodou exoteric culture in America, specifically in Louisiana, were largely from the Fon, a subgroup of the Ewe, and the final group to be imported- which is why their Haitian blends remained the most recent and the most enduring.


The point that is being made, is that the Vodoun religion was introduced into America by the Africans who were directly imported into the slave-holding states from West Africa. Over the centuries, as a system of African religious and cultural suppression was effected in America, the Haitian blended influence being the last, became the most enduring.


 In time, it too would be ultimately reduced to the present day ethno-botanical and magical folk practices known as “Hudu” (“hoodoo”). It is this Afro-folk tradition, (practiced all throughout African for centuries) that Hollywood and Christian evangelists enjoy labeling as the “Voodoo religion” proper.


Finally, spirits and deities can be born to anyone, anywhere; irrespective  of  race, ethnicity or faith.  How they are named and served is unique to each culture.  The purpose of this article is as it pertains to the Vodoun religion, and its African origins, family lineages and indigenous birthright of Africans the world over, is in making the important distinction concerning the cosmogenetic/ biological link that Africans and the Diaspora possess with the vodou spirits since time immemorial.  


This relationship, history, family lineages etc, is separate and distinct from the current promulgation within the 'New Age" culture," Hollywood fantasy and the Christian evangelical disparages promoting their version of Vodou worship as something either “magical” or “malevolent”.


These distinction are critical to understanding the consistency and the permanency, and the indestructibility of the unique relationship that the Afro-Diaspora have had with their ancient ancestors and gods for thousands of years.

RELIGIOUS PERSECUTON AND SUPPRESSION

OF VODOUN IN AMERICA

Photo: Devotees preparing medicine. Togo, West Africa.


The Vodoun religion centers on the divine will  God and the wisdom of ones biological Ancestors, and those elders who have guided the lives and destiny of its members. It is through  ones Ancestors that God’s divine laws are imbued. To forget ones ancestors, is the same as forgetting ones own destiny.




Photo:  Mama Zogbe (rt) with an American initiate.   Togo, West Africa


The forced suppression and constant demonization of African faiths is on-going . This calculated disparagement, has destroyed countless souls,  families  and has separate them from their Ancestral and divine source which is native to them from God.


Many in the Diaspora having become Christianized  in which its theology has a built-in infusion of disinformation and judgment against all indigenous faiths. The enormous suffering in many families is due to their confusion, fear and ignorance based upon the monopoly that Christianity has claimed on their souls.


This persecution has been going on for more than 2000 years. However, thanks to the availability of the global Internet and other cultural and historical resources, many are finally challenging the authenticity and legitimacy of what they have been taught; and are now courageously seeking to re-connect back to their ancestral soul.




 

All throughout America, an aggressive campaign was implemented to do away with all African traditional religious practices once and for all. Heavy fines were often levied. Brutal forms of torture, severe beatings, genital castration, lynching's, and even death was imposed on anyone caught practicing any form of the religion. Stringent laws were passed to prevent the Africans from speaking any African languages, building shrines, making ritual drums, or any musical instruments. Family members and neighbors were encouraged to "report" one another if caught practicing any form of the religion.






























These medieval laws were so successful, that in less than one generation, the many priests and priestesses who were not murdered, were forced to practice underground, earning Vodoun the undeserved reputation of being “dark, malevolent and mysterious.”


Intentionally mocked as "Voodoo", no clear distinctions were made between the ancestral religious traditions and its beneficent practices, and the "darker" maleficent traditions such as "sorcery, conjuration, and witchcraft." Tantamount to the spiritual-genocidal equivalency of blending Satanism with Christianity proper.


Because the African Diaspora welded no significant economic, or political clout, and most of what remained of its priesthood duly maligned and discredited, it became nearly impossible to present the true spiritual reality of what Vodoun actually is, and its profound importance to the spiritual sustenance of the African Diaspora.


Unfortunately, many "New Age" (Neo-pagans, Themas, Satanists, etc.,) believers are inexplicably drawn to the Vodoun religion based upon the mis-belief that it is a magico-cultic blend of the "dark arts," with no clear theological structure, or moral foundation. Nothing could be further from the truth. Unfortunately, to prevent further cultural vulturization from these disaffected groups, the Vodoun deities and their nature will not be written about in this article nor on this website.





    I've Got A Way To "See"               The Spirit


"I've got a way to see the spirit. If I am going any place in the night, I can walk along the road, and if anybody died in a house, and I pass that house out in the country, and I want to see whoever it was that died,

I can spit on the ground in front of me, and hold up my arm, and look under there,  and I can see whoever it is that died.

If you look back, you can

always see them hiding behind you. I have to look under my left arm, if I want see them before they scare me."


"Voodoo" woman".

Sumter, South Carolina



“. . . In some places, if the slaves are caught praying to God, they are whipped more than if they had committed a great crime. The shareholders will allow the slaves to dance, but do not want them to pray to God. Sometimes, when a slave, on being whipped, calls upon God, he is forbidden to do so, under threat of having his throat cut, or brains blown out. Oh, reader! this seems very hard- - that slaves cannot call on their Maker, when the case most needs it. Sometimes the poor slave takes courage to ask his master to let him pray, and is driven away, with the answer, that if discovered praying, his back will pay the bill.”


 (Peter Randolph's 1893 narrative "Slave Cabin to the Pulpit.")



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See: The True Origins of the Vodoun Religion

INTRODUCTION

 

Image (above):

 'Cudjo Lewis, ‘Cujo’, meaning "born on Wednesday" who was Ewe, was amongst the last shipload of Africans from Dahomey whose ship the “Clothilde,” landed directly in Mobile, Alabama in 1859.


After the Civil War,

Cudjo and his shipmates founded Plateau, Alabama. The Vodoun religion of Africans enslaved in America came directly in their blood from these and other “serpent worshiping” sibs/

clans.


Source: National Geographic, Escape From Slavery: Underground Railroad, Vol. 166, No.1., July 1984'. Excerpted from book: -Mami Wata: Africa's Ancient God/dess Unveiled-Reclaiming the Ancient Vodoun Heritage of the Diaspora.


The Ewe enslaved in America, as did all enslaved Africans brought their ancestral religions with them.