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-
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-
At their height, these African, matriarchal empires reigned for more than 4,000 years—centuries before their conquer by the Dorian Greek invaders (6-
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-
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-
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-
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-
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-
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-
In time, it too would be ultimately reduced to the present day ethno-
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-
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-
Many in the Diaspora having become Christianized in which its theology has a built-
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-
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-
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-
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."
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-
(Peter Randolph's 1893 narrative "Slave Cabin to the Pulpit.")
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'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/
Source: National Geographic, Escape From Slavery: Underground Railroad, Vol. 166, No.1., July 1984'. Excerpted from book: -
The Ewe enslaved in America, as did all enslaved Africans brought their ancestral religions with them.