Modern Western culture would have you think that Voodoo is all pins and dolls. The truth couldn’t be more different. Voodoo is a full-on religion mostly practiced by the descendants of former African slaves in Haiti. Here is a little peek into this religion’s spirit world.
Spirits are everywhere
A core Voodoo belief states that there are spirits in everything and everyone. All those spirits were created by Bondye, the Voodoo God. Humans are spirits who walk the earth in the visible world. There are also invisible spirits like Loa, Zanj, Anvisib, and Myste. They all live in the invisible world of Ginen, along with the spirits of those who passed away.
Meet the Loa
The Loa spirits were made to help humans, but their personalities may be volatile. There are more than 1,000 different Loa, some of which can be protective and peaceful (as long as treated with respect), some are dangerous, aggressive, and forceful. Since there are so many of them, we will only introduce you to the most prominent ones at this point.
First, there is Legba, who’s the Loa responsible for crossroads and makes it possible to communicate with the spirits. Next, there is Agwe, who’s the Loa of the sea and has a female counterpart called La-Siren. Then, there is Danbala Wedo and his female partner Ayida Wedo. They are represented by a pair of snakes and stand for power and eternal life. There are also Ezili Freda, the Loa of love; Loko, the Loa of trees; Ogoum the Loa of strength; Aziyan, the Loa of trade and market; Azaka, the Loa of agriculture; and of course, Gede, the Loa of death.
The visible and the invisible
In the Voodoo tradition, the visible spirits (humans) serve the invisible ones (Loa). Among other things, this servitude means addressing them with respectful titles such as Papa, Manman, or Metres (father, mother, and mistress, respectively). When the Loa are happy with the way they’re being treated, they bless their visible servants with favors and protection.
Voodoo rituals of worshipping the Loa involve ceremonial drawings, prayers, and music. The combined force of all those elements can put the participants in a state of trance, where they can channel the greater powers of the Loa. These powers include medical cure, giving advice, and other physical activities they can’t normally perform.
The “Maryaj Mistik”
Unlike regular marriage between two people, there is a Voodoo ritual that marks the special spiritual protection of a Loa over a person. Much like many other weddings, the ceremony includes a ring, a cake, and special clothes.