Misconceptions Because Hollywood has mis characterized representations of Voodoo for decades, most people who aren’t directly familiar with the religion have a lot of misconceptions about what it truly is.
That’s certainly true of a lot of things seen in movies and television shows, but when you’re talking about a major religion with around 60 million adherents, misconceptions matter. These ten misconceptions about Voodoo are prevalent, though they’re hardly the only ones.
10 THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT VOODOO
6. Voodoo Isn’t A ‘Real’ Religion
The common spelling, “Voodoo,” is itself an American way of mishandling the religion as it originally began, first in West Africa, and later, in places all over the world. Vodun was originally practiced by the Gbe-speaking ethnic groups of West Africa, and over time, the religion moved over to the New World. Variations on the religion popped up in Brazil (Candomblé Jejé), Cuba (Cuban Vodú), Spain and the Dominican Republic (Dominican Vudú), Haiti (Haitian Vodou), and Louisiana, which is where the spelling, “Voodoo,” remains.
5. Voodoo Is Condemned By The Catholic Church
This misconception makes sense if the only aspects of the faith people have seen include the dark representations favored by Hollywood. In reality, Voodoo is closely associated with Catholocism, and significant aspects of the two faiths have become intertwined over the years. Spiritualism is a big part of all forms of Voodoo. In the case of Haitian and Louisiana Voodoo, many of those spirits have Catholic counterparts, including representations of Mary and Saint Peter. As a result, the Catholic Church hasn’t condemned Voodoo; it has accepted it with open arms.
4. Voodoo Dolls Are Used As Instruments Of Torture
We’ve all seen the movies, where a character picks up a Voodoo Doll and stabs it with a straight pin to cause excruciating pain for whomever the doll represents. It makes for great storytelling, but it’s a gross misrepresentation of what a Voodoo Doll is actually used for. In reality, they are used for benevolent purposes in nearly every instance of their use. This means that no matter how hard you jab a pin into a doll representing your ex, they aren’t going to double over in pain when you stab a doll you made in their likeness.
3. Adherents Practice Black Magic
Once again, Hollywood is to blame for this misconception, as it often depicts people practicing black magic through sacrifice or some other means. In reality, there is no line dividing the spiritual practices of any Voodoo religion, so there is no distinction between black or white; in the end, it’s just magic. Of course, this isn’t magic of the Penn & Teller variety; it’s more of a communion with the spirits than it is cursing someone or pulling a rabbit out of a hat. While there isn’t a black or white type of magic, there is a form of spiritual possession called “red magic.”
2. Practitioners Sacrifice Animals To Finish Dark Incantations
When you’re watching a movie depicting a Voodoo ritual of animal sacrifice, it’s probably only partially related to the practice done IRL. Animal sacrifice is a big part of the religion, but it’s not done as a means of taking on the animal’s life force to initiate some spell; it’s done to combine the life force with something called the Lwa (or Loa). The Lwa is an aspect of Louisiana Voodoo and Haitian Vodou, and they are the primary spirits of the faith. They are sometimes called “Mystères” and the “Invisibles,” who act as intermediaries between humanity and the Supreme Creator.
1. Voodoo Practitioners Don’t Believe In God(s)
There is a common misconception about Voodoo, which revolves around the belief that the religion’s practitioners do not believe in or follow a deity. This is about as far from the truth as a misconception can be, as the main tenet of all forms of Voodoo is that there is one God, Bondye. In comparison to other religions, Bondye is similar to Yahweh, the God of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. According to Voodoo, there is only one God, so it is technically a monotheistic religion, but it does feature numerous spirits, which likely contributes to this misconception.