Voodoo ritualVoodoo, or Vodou is a West African-based religion of ancestral worship.  Voodoo literally translates to spirit in the Fon language of West Africa. Thus, worshipping of their ancestors or the spirits of their ancestors is the thrust of their religion.

The Voodoo we know of today, arrived in the West during the slave trading days. Originating in West Africa, it eventually was brought over to Haiti when the slaves were brought over. Voodoo has evolved some because it was mixed or integrated with  Roman Catholicism from the French plantation owners in the French-occupied Haiti.

Voodoo is a wonderfully ceremonial-based religion. Due to both Hollywood and bigotry, Voodoo's ceremonial ritual have unfortunately acquired a rather "dark" image. We usually envision only the black-magic or the lurid animal sacrifice scenes from what the movies have shown. For example, although animal sacrifices are apart of Voodoo, it is actually typical in most known religions. Black magic does occur as well, but does not only typify what kinds of rituals that truly take place. Some people tend towards the darker element within any religion, be it Voodoo or Islam or Christianity.

Ceremonies and rituals play a large part in the practice of Voodoo. Some can include the following: prayer, dance & music, animal & blood sacrifice, and spell work:


Prayer is an elemental part of a Voodoo ritual. Prayers are sung, usually in Haitian Creole. During a ceremony, prayers are sung to  Bon Dieu, or the "good god" and to other gods or goddesses called Loas or Lwas. They usually open a ritual with a prayer first to Bon Dieu and their ancestors and then continue the prayer to a specific Loa. It  is quite familiar to Catholicism and their saints. In Catholicism, if you need help for your dear pet, you would prayer specifically to St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals. 

Voodoo & Roman Catholicism Similarities

Voodoo Tarot cardDance & Music  

Dancing and music are also major elements of the Voodoo ceremony. Dancing is an expression of spirituality, of connection with divinity and the spirit world. Asagwe is a type of Haitian voodoo dancing used to honor the gods.  The manman, the largest of the three voodoo drums, signals for a dancer to start and sets the distinctive rhythm to which it is performed. The dance is characterized by sweeping circular movements, dips, and semi-prostrations.  Avalou  Haitian voodoo dances, is characterized by violent arm and shoulder muscle movements. Avalou literally means supplication or to ask humbly and earnestly in prayer.

Animal Sacrifice & Bloodletting

Animals are actually considered sacred in African religions and are used as offerings to the gods and ancestors. Animal sacrifice has a place in Voodoo ceremonies, but it is not such a focal point as the movies or books like to illustrate. The sacrificial animals are really consecrated offerings, made sacred for communal meals by the initiate, to share with their gods, ancestors, and the poor. Such rituals are common in other world religions such as Judaism or Islam.

Another ancient Voodoo ritual involves blood-letting. Using metal knives, members of the ritual cut their own bodies to release their blood. In doing so, they are showing how strong their faith is.

The following link gives an inside look at a West African Voodoo blood rite:

National Geographic West African Voodoo Blood Rite

Spell Work

Spell work is another form of ritual to connect to the gods and ancestors. But instead of dance and music, the needed materials for spell work can be herbs, oils, candles and other talismans (dolls, gris-gris). Just like in Wiccan spell work, spells act as a focus for intentions. It is important to note that most Voodoo practitioners use good magic, not the black magic the media is so ready to promote.


Please use the following link for a good source of information on  Voodoo and West African culture: http://www.npr.org/programs/re/archivesdate/2004/feb/voodoo/

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