Haitian Vodou finds it’s roots in the religious culture of Africa. During the slave trade, French and Spanish traders imported African slaves from areas throughout the African continent, with the greatest numbers of slaves coming from the Congo, Benin and Nigeria. These African nationals, brought to the Island of Hispanola [which later was broken into Haiti and the Dominican Republic], soon began to share their practices with the Taino Indians, the native peoples of the Island. The Congo had already begun the process of integrating Christianity with their own religious beliefs and customs, and the French and Spanish slave owners demanded that all slaves adopted the Catholic faith, at least outwardly.
It was the amalgamation of these cultures and the religious beliefs that birthed Haitian Vodou. Haitian Vodou is a unique religion, but not a new religion. Vodou is as old as Africa, with the ancient religion still being practiced in Benin, and throughout those areas of Africa which still celebrate the religions of Mami Wata and Fa. The name Vodou comes from the Fon to whom the word Vodou simply means “Spirit” or “Divine Spirits”, and the use of this name really reflects the nature of Haitian Vodou.
Practitioners of Haitian Vodou, called Vodouisant, believe in one God, who we call Bondye, which is derived from the French Bonne Dieu, meaning Good God. Bondye is eternal, the creator of all that is, including all the Spirits that exist. Bondye however is distant, running the universe after all is a fairly time consuming task, and one that requires a lot of attention. However, Bondye does not wish to leave us without recourse, and so he gave us the Lwa, the Spirits of Haitian Vodou.
Lwa are not gods of any sort. Lwa are Spirits, each one is associated with different area’s of human life, or the human condition, along with the elements that make up our environment. There are Spirits associated with love, wealth, abundance, luck, for assistance in getting jobs, Spirits that are associated with parenting, protection, defense, life, fertility, healing and of course death, amongst others. There are Spirits associated with the land, farming, business, the sea, rivers, rocks, tree’s, mountains, clouds and rain. Each of these Spirits can work with us to improve any area of our own lives.
Haitian Vodou is a religion where we worship God, and serve these Spirits. In serving these Spirits we find peace, comfort and potential. The potential is based in the Vodou philosophy. Vodou is not fatalistic by nature. Priests of Haitian Vodou, called Houngan if a male or Mambo if a female, will offer divination services of various types. Many Houngan and Mambo will divine using playing cards, or Tarot cards [although the use of Tarot cards is more popular outside of Haiti where these are more accessible], mirrors, candles, water, or speaking with the Lwa through the act of possession to determine information that will assist either the Vodouisant or anyone that comes to them for aid.
Houngan and Mambo will also work with the Lwa in Spiritual work to help others achieve goals. A person that is undergoing a period of bad luck may benefit from a series of baths that will remove the bad luck and bring the person good luck. A person may wish to improve their love life, obtain help in finding a job, or obtaining a promotion, or even improve their working environment. Assistance with wealth, money and abundance, and luck with gambling are common works brought to Houngans and Mambos. Really, Vodou can help with any areas of life, so long as the work is in accordance with the will of God. This is an important thing to remember when working with the Spirits of Vodou. As I mentioned above, these Spirits are not gods, and their power to help us comes from God. Spiritual work [magic] can, and will assist your situation, so long as the work does not go against the plan that God has for you. This can be addressed in a consultation, which should be conducted prior to any magical working.
The Lwa can be worked with by anyone who wishes to serve them, and through various ceremonies and services individuals can create their own relationships with the Lwa. Vodouisant will often marry individual Lwa [or groups of Lwa] to obtain their blessings in their day to day lives. Lwa can also be invoked to protect people or areas through what is called a gad. There is further information available on these ceremonies at our Vodou Services page.