Patrick Bellegarde-Smith —
Living Vodou

The word "Vodou" evokes images of sorcery and sticking pins into dolls. In fact, it's a living tradition wherever Haitians are found based on ancestral religions in Africa. We walk through this mysterious tradition — one with dramatic rituals of trances and dreaming and of belief in spirits, who speak through human beings, with both good and evil potential.

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is a professor at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee and author of many books about Vodou.

Pertinent Posts

After the earthquake first shook Haiti, we reached out to Bellegarde-Smith again asking about the context he brings to the current tragedy and its future consequences. Share his insight here.

SoundSeen (our multimedia stories)

Vodou Brooklyn

[slideshow, 5:09]
Stephanie Keith met a Vodou priest at a Buddhist interfaith event. He invited her to photograph and experience the religious world of his Haitian culture. Ten ceremonies later, she offers her images and reflections on these late-night rituals.

About the Image

An ougan, or Vodou priest, is possessed by the spirit of Gede in a basement in Brooklyn, New York.

(Photo by Stephanie Keith)

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1/12/10 Empath Haiti Sitting paying bills, fine-point pen in hand, feeling the fatigue of the workday, alone and afraid, I search for answers about making ends meet and increasing income...no money left, mind clouds and eyes blur. Why have You forsaken me? I fade in and out of the moment. Words murmured to myself become increasingly muffled as sounds blend into the cracking walls that surround and a stabbing pain shreds through my right arm, extended groping, pushing against a slab of cement that pins me to the ground... My skin has turned from a pale cream to a coffee bean brown. The words I utter are no longer familiar to me, but they flow like a bastardized staccato French. Ban mwen, souple'...My plump white flesh has withered to bare muscle and bone. My arm aches...it's crushed beneath a weight of cement. Nou bezwen....Screams and cries deafen me in this language. Kisa pi nou fe? Names are whispered somewhere in my mind, evaporating ami d the wails - Ketty, Brunel, Genevieve, Emmanuel, Mireille - their souls finespun, rising into the heavens. Sickness, despair, pain and pressure close me into shadows. Years of political usury cripple my strength. I breath in dust, cement and dirt. Toupatou... Heavy hands of dictatorial oppression squeeze my narrowing throat. My mouth will not open, the words fade into soft moans. I don't feel my body complete - it is in pieces, scattered, surging pain then numb, as if hacked by machetes. Kote nou ye? But my mind is racing, sifting in and out, several dimensions, all feel strange, but all familiar, as if I have dreamt these passages all before. Dust scrapes the inside of my nose. The gritty taste of mudcakes scratches the corners of my mouth. My lips swell parched, cracked and cut. My bones protrude like spikes from the depth of my soul. I smell hardened blood and death on me, around me. Only the Lord can reach me where I am. Only He knows where to find me. My mind darkens. I try to take a breath, inhale, rattling my throat, weak, fading.....then.. A burst of strength from who knows where forces me from the padded armchair in front of the computer and I drop the pen. I rise and walk around, shaking off this inexplicable moment of transfiguration, unsure of who I am, where I was, when and how it will again envelope me. by jjill ©28 janvier 2010

not too much as i taught high school in Togo in 1970-1971 and saw some of that first hand.

I find it strange that the professor does believe in heaven and hell but he believes that there are spirit beings. Why would an omnipotent God being need spirit beings to do His bidding?

This is the second time I have heard the Patrick Bellegard Smith interview. The second time was even better. I am in my 70s and presently in don't have any real feeling or belief in organized religion. I was raised Roman Catholic and subsequently became an Episcopalian. I have always felt I was more spiritual than a religious person. I have to say I connected with Mr. Smith in a way that is really hard to put a finger on but I feel more spiritual than ever and more comfortable in this state. Thanks for rerunning it.

I cried when I heard this broadcast. Something hit me when I heard the Vodou worship music in this program. I had worshiped in a congregation with Pentecosal practice, so I do believe there is an evil spirit manifesting in person's life. That has been a reason why I took Vodou as an evil cult. Since then, my understanding about effects of Western Empire on colonial culture and religion, as well as economy, grew. I think one needs to understand the history of slavery and racism to truly comprehend third world cultures and religions. I don't know about Vodou except my concept about cursing through witchcraft and sorcery. But Christian faith contains blessing and cursing too, if not with a doll. If one believes cursing is not of God, in the context of love of Jesus, one may know he/she needs to choose blessing. Perhaps there are similarities in Vodou also? This broadcast challenged me to see Haitian religion in their frame of mind. There are dangers in 'trance', when a person abandons his/her spirit to unknowns. But people do this even in investing in the stock market, with 'trance' of greed. Maybe we are not seeing the cult aspect of Wall Street more than Vodou?

I have listened to you for a long time, and must say that the time and events made this absoluty the right time subject to to time to address this subject.Your speaker was informative, clear and believable, and helped me immensely in sorting thru my man thoughts on events, discussion ainterraction with the Haitian Culture. I am finally ready to take the next step to an open discussion, Thank you. Please never stop doing what you do so we well. Educating us about the people of the world thru their Faith..

You have had a Haitian chap telling that Haiti was quite poor and yet there was a great spirit among the people. News flash: I was just in Cuba for 2 weeks - and while not as poor as Haiti - there is also a great spirit there - and also while Catholicism is widely spread - I would be very hesitant to base this wonderful spirit on religious bases.

Dear Krista-

I always enjoy your show when I can. I have just finished listening to your Living Vodou program, and I must thank you. It is heartening, indeed, very exciting, to finally see this bona fide spiritual path portrayed as such in the mainstream media. I enjoyed it immensely.

Thank You,
Christine

I so agree to have this forum is amazing. A lot of cultural traditions are lost within scientific policy. I appreciate your feedback.

It was wonderful to see Vodou shown and described as a valid spiritual belief - not just as a crazy, entertaining, evil concept.

Bellegarde-Smith described how he rejected his Catholic-Christian upbringing and embraced vodou as practiced in his native Haiti. God has created human beings with many skin tones, hair textures, and music styles. Many in the world think that Christianity is Western European, forgetting that Jesus Christ was born in Israel. Unfortunately some Christians have tried to impose their culture as they sought to win souls for Christ in various parts of the world.
Bellegard-Smith seems to have equated rejection of Christianity with embracing of his African roots in vodou. He has allowed 417 demons (he calls them deities) to take control of his life. He has rejected the idea of a Creator God as told in the Bible, as well as the concepts of sin, heaven and hell. His descriptions of the activities of his 'deities" sounds more like the stories from Greek mythology. He stated that African religions are monotheistic but declares that the vodou god is merely an 'it,' not a person as Christians believe. He stated that Haiti is 100 percent vodou. The heritage of poverty in Haiti is seen in terms of their spiritual poverty with the practice of vodou as well as in the material sense with the extreme lack of human comforts that most Haitians face.

I have a deep respect and some degree of insight into the Vodou system of beliefs. I, therefore, was not particularly challenged by this program, but I enjoyed it immensly. However, I found the idea that the spirits are deminished in some way because of their lack of physicallity, interesting. I can't help but reflect on the attributes that may manifest if not constrained by the physical. In the Bible, we are told, " In my Fathers house there are many mansions." Perhapes the "Kingdom of Names" is merely one: The others, no doubt, beyond our ability to conceptualize.
I was particularly gladdened to realize that my decendents can correct the errors that I might have made that impact the worlds in a negative sense.
Keep up the good work.

I was of the impression, Vodou had nothing in common with the Roman Catholic Church. Now I have learned and understood, that they are indeed very closely related, of one family and origin. The saints of one serve as spirits for the other and vice versa. I found that insight to be very valuable. Thank you.

I wouldn't say this program challenged but confirmed my assumptions about Vodou. I found it odd that you would say it was an odd new concept for Christians in reference to Vodou believers being ridden by spirits. This screamed to me classic demonic possession! I know you spoke of pentacostals being overtaken by the Holy Spirit and I do not discount this, but I do believe the darkside attempts to counterfeit God's workings. It reminds me of Revelation's "Lying signs and wonders,"

I understand as an interviewer, you would not want to insult your guests but I wish you would have shared that this appears extremely dangerous spiritually to Christians. To me practitioners of Vodou are clearly on the wrong path, so I am wondering if it would insult their spirts if they asked Jesus Christ to show them something?
This reminds of 1Peter 3:15 " But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,"

I have a better understanding of what I considere a beautiful religion and way of life. I wish we had Voodoo communities in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. I would love to visit with them. I wonder if they only speak French in their services.

I am also a "priest," though I have been ordained in the Episcopal Church. I know a little about Haiti, as it is the largest Diocese in The Episcopal Church. I know very little about vodou (mostly from seeing the movie, "The Serpent and the Rainbow" years ago). This interview was certainly an education for me. As a white, western-bred Christian, I needed to be reminded that although Haiti has been the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, economically, it is a very rich country spiritually and culturally. As other countries rush in to "save" Haiti, we need to listen carefully to those whom we consider to be "poor." As your guest pointed out, there is a resilient capacity for joy in the midst of suffering in Haiti. Jesus Christ also famously noted, "blessed are the poor." It seems to me that Haitians and vodou have something to teach all Christians and the rest of the Western Hemisphere about blessing and recognizing the presence of divine spirit in all things. Thank you very much for this broadcast.

In the name of Vodou, young girls are raped in religious ceremonies and human sacrifices still occur. The people are kept illiterate and poor and told they have to pay witch doctors large sums of money to be blessed. To not research and ask questions about these practices shows a complete lack of due diligence in reporting and I was, for the first time, very disappointed in this show.

Dear SoF,

Bravo for helping to explode the mythology of 'Hollywood voodoo' --- this particular program's greatest asset.
Moreover, based on personal experience, I wholeheartedly agree with Vodou's take on the balance between good and evil in human nature and attendant reward and punishment, as conveyed by your guest Patrick Bellegarde-Smith on behalf of his faith.
My greatest personal regret is to have been ringleader of a brazenly injurious gang of schoolyard bullies during my junior-high years, a fact which has left my life dogged by bad karma ever since.
My sole point of contention with Mr. Bellegrade-Smith's outlook lies in his suggestion that any given entity in the spirit world is wafting around in a state of frustrated yearning, pining for the dexterity of the human form.
A ludicrous notion, frankly too silly for words, with all due respect to the balance of Mr. Bellgrade-Smith's philosophy.
I'm trying to imagine Krista Tippett interviewing a spirit openly envious of our being bound (if not necessarily gagged) by the high-maintenance putrefaction of the corporeal plane.
Only a very foolish ghost would be caught, um, dead wishing for a personal taste of such a sorry state of being.
I'm sure even Pat Robertson would agree.

Krista, I was intrigued by your radio program with guest Patrick Bellegarde-Smith, as you discussed the core elements of Haiti's Vodou religion. Your interview style is very pleasant, and I appreciate how you are genuinely interested in the fascinating aspects of religion and culture. Your questions were non-offensive and thought-provoking, which proves that you've researched the subject matter and that you care to convey a deep reverence for people's beliefs. I also appreciate your desire to uncover misconceptions and present doctrinal facts. Your program served to both confirm and clarify my knowledge of Haiti's rich religious history. My ties to Haiti result from a two-year stint (1986-88) there as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons). While there sharing the gospel, I learned life lessons, and grew to love and respect the Haitian people. Now, as our church joins with other humanitarian organizations to provide relief to the earthquake victims, I am humbled, and feel grateful for the broad national and international support to a small country of which I am so fond. Thank you again, T. Corry (Utah)

I listen to your program while waiting for my wife to come from here class at church and find some of your discussions to be fascinating and thought provoking. The African-American today (Feb. 14, 2010) was very interesting and enjoyable. I liked his attitude and manner. Last week there was the discussion of "Living Vodou" (is it sometimes spelled VooDoo?), much of the material was somewhat new in my understand of this practice. I am a Christian and today there were several in the congregation at our curch who have lived, worked and served with the Christian church in Haiti. Some are returning to Haiti this week and another group have been serving as medical people in the country. So we hear a lot about the earthquake and caregivers to Haitian people. Some of our ministry families (Americans) lost their lives in collapsing buildings. We have been giving thousands of dollars of relief money and our denomination (as have other Christian groups of various kinds) has been giving hundreds of thousands in funds to help these dear people who have been devastate by this event. My question is "How do those who practice Vodou respond to tragedies like this?" Also, "How do you respond to the activities of those who believe it is a God of love and compassion Who is loving through them as they love and serve in compassionate ministries?" Mr Bellegarde-Smith taught, if I am not incorrect, that in Vodou there is no concept of God who expresses love in this way? Christians believe there is a Personal Father-like God to whom we are accountable and honors those who serve others in love.

Sincerely, Dick Barker

I used to live with a Haitian family in Cambridge, MA. This story brought back wonderful memories of their spiritual ceremonies and celebration of life! Thank you :-)

I personally believe that there is two forces. One that opreates in the dark and the other that operates in the light.

I'm from the Catholic faith, and seeing certain photos such as these are rather strange to me. It almost has a similarity to seeing photos of an exorcism being performed. I do not believe in "vodou," and feel it is not of the Christian faith to do such things or acts. From the photo above, I see a ritual being performed that is very wild like.

When you think of the word “Vodou” most people automatic think of Louisiana, because of all of the tricks and so call black magic. Most people only say that because of the movies that was produce in Louisiana and I’m being from there, you here this all the time. I don’t believe in it myself but after reading this text people from Haiti believe in this Vodou stuff based on ancestral religion in Africa.

For many years I have try to understand the practice of VODOU Talking to friends who have practice it I do not dismiss things they said true.. Listening to the author tell this story and the picture she have made you feel like you there..

This is the first time I have heard Prof. Smith, and found him very interesting man. I am an Criminal Justice major and studying Religion 212, at Strayer University. Even though I am learning, and have a very open mind. The Drums are very interesting and I enjoy them very much.

I really enjoyed the POD Cast regarding the VODOO I found it very interesting and opened my mind and views of this belief.

I have heard about this before, and do know that some people practiced this or pay obeisance to so form of spirits such as this, I mean listen to spirit telling them what and what has happened in the past, happening presently and what will happen in the future. This is more similar to what Cherubim and Seraphim and Celestial church do often. It is good I am learning more about religion.

I have always had a deep respect and curiosity about the magic of Vodou. It has been known and understood to be a religion of spirits. Originating in wit French slaves due to the suppression of African religions as they were forced to worship and believe in other forms of religions such as Christianity.

I have heard of Vodou before and with any religion you have people who participate in different ways. Vodou like any religion can be peaceful or harmful. It is those around that are fearful of the unknown that make anything forbidden or spread mistruths.

woo-woo (ˈwuːˌwuː)
adj
1. based on or involving irrational superstition

I found it interesting. I did not know much about Vodou and this podcast has given me an insight to a new culture.

Albino Africans were dismissed lightly by both of you with a little chuckle. Are you aware of their plight? Thousands live in fear of attack, mutilation and/ or death by those who believe in the magical powers of their body parts. Pleae consider the voodoo basis of these misguided practices. Grass roots groups like ZeruZeru, Asante Mariamu, &Underthesamesun are trying desperately to protect these innocents and provide education, vision and dermatological aid. A more professional examination of a topic so lightly laughed off would be a welcome follow up. Eric Boos of Zeru Zeru would be a perfect counterpart to the discussion. He is a PhD , lawyer, educator at University of Wisc, as well as a lay Catholic missionary in Africa for 20 yrs, currently heading up a new compound in Tanzania for these gentle souls.

Hello, First, I so appreciate and love On Being—thank you for this show!
This was one of my least favorite shows—granted that the interview was prior to recent disasters that have taken place in Haiti, however, I kept waiting to hear from Mr. Bellegarde-Smith how the voudou spiritual odyssey can help to alleviate/address the very real poverty, hunger, and deprivation of the majority of Haitians. Even his post-interview comment seemed rather evasive as he talked about how the many who perished in Haiti were now in a better, next phase…where is the compassion and help for people living in Haiti in the here and now?

He came from a privileged background/family, and, from what I know of Haiti (granted, I'm not a scholar), and I would be curious what his view is on how the elite families of Haiti might address sufferings of fellow Haitians with tangible actions—economic empowerment, food security, equality, etc. Perhaps Mr. Bellegarde-Smith does address this in his actions or teachings but in the interview it seems that he rather concentrated on how uptight "white" religion and spirituality is . (Yes, I do think many European manifestations of religion are greatly disconnected from the body, but churches that do not have dancing or high vocalization can still be legitimate, transformational spiritual institutions. And, yes, while many African American churches can be said to be "joyful communities," there are deep deep problems of crime, violence, poverty, etc. within these communities.)

I don't mean to sound harsh about Mr. Bellegarde-Smith, I guess I was just left wanting to better understand how the spiritual or spirit guidance of voudou impact people's lives and how one lives—I didn't quite get this from him.

Thanks, Debbie

Have you interviewed Eban Alexander III?

Trent Gilliss's picture

No, we haven't, Luis. What prompted your question from this interview?

This morning as I heard Patrick Bellegarde-Smith describe “Living Vodou” to Krista Tippett at www.onbeing.org, I finally connected my thoughts enough to recognize the nub of my logical problem with the idea of “doing justice,” implicit in “struggles against injustice” all around us. In a justly ordered world, “You get what you deserve.” The world of giving and receiving justice assumes consensus on what “you deserve.” Patrick-Bellegarde helped me see the contrast between trying to establish this kind of social order, and trying to accept and respond to “what you get.” What you get cannot be changed; you may on the other hand come to recognize many options you have what you as a matter of fact have gotten for your efforts or simply for being what you are said to be.

I accept the Darwinian proposition that the species traits that survive evolution are those that happen to be available to adapt to unforeseen, let alone unplanned, environmental contingency—from weather to war to impoverishment to accommodating diversity of species members’ responses to external stimuli, including our attempts to control one another. I also recognize the capacity in every human being to defy doing what we want them to or demand that they do as long and however confined as s/he may be confined or physically and emotionally manipulated. That perversity, that indefatigable capacity to disobey orders, is in itself a source of diversification that strengthens individual and group resilience and resistance to being torn apart from inside and outside ourselves. In this vodou world view that I share, individuality in the face of pressures to believe and feel rightly instead of wrongly, is a cause for exploration if not celebration. And as in victim-offender mediation as I have enjoyed it, what people do as a result of having hurt and been hurt by one another lends a greater sense of control and security to all concerned once what now gets done is detached from the wrongness or rightness of what has happened, where past becomes prologue rather than something undeserved that requires fixing by giving and receiving just deserts. Synergy among species members driven apart by the entropy of distrust requires letting go of notions of what must be done, to focus instead on what each of us might offer next. Resilience implies acceptance that in the face of violence as in responding to all misfortune, trial and error promises more than trying to make wrongs right. In the vodou world view I share, justice is beside the point, a distraction from promoting human trust, honesty and resilience. Love and peace--hal

JUSTICE DENIED
Hal Pepinsky, pepinsky@indiana.edu, “peacemaking” at pepinsky.blogspot.com
January 13, 2014

This morning as I heard Patrick Bellegarde-Smith describe “Living Vodou” to Krista Tippett at www.onbeing.org, I finally connected my thoughts enough to recognize the nub of my logical problem with the idea of “doing justice,” implicit in “struggles against injustice” all around us. In a justly ordered world, “You get what you deserve.” The world of giving and receiving justice assumes consensus on what “you deserve.” Patrick-Bellegarde helped me see the contrast between trying to establish this kind of social order, and trying to accept and respond to “what you get.” What you get cannot be changed; you may on the other hand come to recognize many options you have what you as a matter of fact have gotten for your efforts or simply for being what you are said to be.
I accept the Darwinian proposition that the species traits that survive evolution are those that happen to be available to adapt to unforeseen, let alone unplanned, environmental contingency—from weather to war to impoverishment to accommodating diversity of species members’ responses to external stimuli, including our attempts to control one another. I also recognize the capacity in every human being to defy doing what we want them to or demand that they do as long and however confined as s/he may be confined or physically and emotionally manipulated. That perversity, that indefatigable capacity to disobey orders, is in itself a source of diversification that strengthens individual and group resilience and resistance to being torn apart from inside and outside ourselves. In this vodou world view that I share, individuality in the face of pressures to believe and feel rightly instead of wrongly, is a cause for exploration if not celebration. And as in victim-offender mediation as I have enjoyed it, what people do as a result of having hurt and been hurt by one another lends a greater sense of control and security to all concerned once what now gets done is detached from the wrongness or rightness of what has happened, where past becomes prologue rather than something undeserved that requires fixing by giving and receiving just deserts. Synergy among species members driven apart by the entropy of distrust requires letting go of notions of what must be done, to focus instead on what each of us might offer next. Resilience implies acceptance that in the face of violence as in responding to all misfortune, trial and error promises more than trying to make wrongs right. In the vodou world view I share, justice is beside the point, a distraction from promoting human trust, honesty and resilience. Love and peace--hal

For me this was great timing as I'm reading the novel "The Roving Tree" partly set in Haiti. Today's discussion so helped me understand the culture of Haiti that is so much part of the book. Thank you - feels like it happened for a reason!

Thank you for the program, On Living Vodou. I found it most enlightening. Today is the Feast of the Baptism of Jesus and your program gave new meaning to the Gospel of the day in which the Spirit descended on Jesus at his baptism by John.
I rarely miss "On Being" and am grateful to NPR for their quality programming which includes "On Being."

....Screams and cries deafen me in this language. Kisa pi nou fe? Names are whispered somewhere in my mind, evaporating ami d the wails - Ketty, Brunel, Genevieve, Emmanuel, Mireille - their souls finespun, rising into the heavens. Sickness, despair, pain and pressure close me into shadows. Years of political usury cripple my strengthI cried when I heard this broadcast. Something hit me when I heard the Vodou worship music in this program. I had worshiped in a congregation with Pentecosal practice, so I do believe there is an evil spirit manifesting in person's life .

I have a strong faith in by belief, which happen to be Christianity. I been to New Orleans several times and I have seen what I believe were voodoo dolls. But what I can't say what the dark side of someone thoughts are hatred towards another person might produce. I stay away from people and places that speaks of such violent behavior. My faith does not teach this practice.

I so agree to have this forum is amazing. I couldn't stop wondering how I never new how interesting Vodou is.

Warleah Teamah
Dr. Joel Peterson
Philosophy of Religion 1060
20 April 2014
On Being: Patrick Bellegarde-Smith — Living Vodou
As I look through the shows on; On Being with Krista Tippett, that I can talk about with the class I came upon a religion Voodoo; that I don’t think get discussed enough to help us truly understand it to see the connection it has with other religions.
I really enjoy listening to Priest Patrick Bellegards-Smith talk about the real practices of Voodoo, and the reality of it; his teachings reminded me of other religions that are misunderstood because other people create negative images of them, and put them on the movie screen and sometimes from that point on it is what people will relate this religion too.
I was ignorant of what it meant to practice voodoo myself; even though I had never thought about really understanding what the voodoo religion is, I still thought I knew what it was from watching movies betraying Voodoo practices, but I was far from knowing the truth of the religion.
As an African I felt ashamed for thinking that Voodoo involved doles and pins to control other people, as I was now being enlighten by Bellegrade-Smith teaching. You are never too old and it is never too late to learn and be enlighten.
Bellegard-Smith interview began with his explanation of what Haittian Voodoo Spirits are called deities. Deities can be understood as what Christians called Angles, or archangels, he said that deities are neither good nor bad, and there is no such thing as “evil spirits”, because all spirits are equally evil and good.
He goes on to say that evil does exist and as a human being you have to be able to control evil. I was not surprised to hear how in voodoo there are sprits, which can be looked as like Angles, that are in Christianity, but what was surprising is that in Christianity Angles are good or bad who have battle between good and evil, but I’ve never read ever that the Angles good and evil where equal.
He continue, that you don’t choice to be a Voodooist the deities call you into the spirit world, which is called the ‘landomi” being in a sleep stage but you are not sleeping’ the calling comes with a strong feeling indicating you need to do something about what going on around you or in the world.
This process reminds me of how the leaders of Catholic, Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists and almost every other religion around always state that they was chosen by a higher being, they had a calling to spread the word of god so it seems like religion of any source there is always an invitations to be part of the holy world.
I wonder how can we have all these similarities and still be able to point at another religion and say yours is not real when we all know that the holy powers are more greater then we could every understand, and explain.
He explain that, when you are chosen by the deities you experience something the Aborigines in Australia called the dreamtimes, and at the same time that you’re being chosen and going throw this process so are members of your families; this seems like the deities from my perception wants the family to come together to take care of whatever is threatening the family good or bad.
He then talks about the characteristic of the spirits. He says that the spirits appears to you in a forms of a person but they don’t have bodies and they may come to you as someone you already know and trust, and that was how one of his spirits came to him, in the form of his grandmother. I think that so amazing and chilling at the same time to have a spirits come to you in a form you can relate too, which would help you take the invitation more easily and you would listen with more of an open mind to what you were told to do.
When a deity takes over your body he described it as you giving your car to a friend and praying that you get your car back the same way you give it away, because you are now no longer in control. As the deities is within your body you are going through a trance and won’t remember what really had happen and those around you have to tell you what happened.
Now he take a step back a little and talks about the history of the Voodoo religion he says it goes way back to west Africa in the country of Dahomey, which we now called Benin and this is where most of the Haitian people originated from before they were enslaved and brought to Haiti; now don’t this sound like a familiar story in the Bible about the Israelite being enslaved by pharaoh.
Benin is at the core of Haitian culture he says, but there were other African ethnic group that were brought to Haiti too. When the European colonized them in Haiti Catholicism was the official religion of the colonizers and the slaves and common people had to hide their sprits that was inside of them and the way they hide them was by using the Catholic saints and because of that to this day many Haitians combine Voodoo practices with Catholic devotion.
We should understand that deities are not God and when Haitians pray they don’t address their prayers to God they address their prayers to a number of spirits in the spirit world that are called lwa; now doesn’t this sound like how Christians pray through Jesus to reach God or Muslims pray through Mohamad to reach Allah.
At the ending of his interview he stress that the spirits in voodoo claims each individuals and they have a personality of their own with their own problems, and one will become predominant depending on your spirituality and your personality. There are many other spirits that will also interact with you and the sprits may struggle with each other and a priest will favor a certain spirits depending on the significant of that sprit to the priest.
He talk about one spirit who is really important to him her name is Ezili Danto and she present one of the black virgins in the Roman Catholic Church, who represent motherhood, motherly love. He also said that you can have as many as 400 spirits and you may not call upon all of them and as the years past one spirit that was significant before may not be, and will fall back and let another lead.
This was an enlighten interview into the Voodoo religion and understanding of their spirit world. I see so much similarities with other religions in the world that makes me believe that we are all truly connected and God reaches each and one of us in a way you feel that will help us understand him and our purpose.
I think we should take what each religion can teach us to be a good person and use that to help us salvage our world. One of the things he said that will forever stay with me is that, evil does exist and as a human being it’s up to you to control that evil, which I think is so true no matter what your religious selection is. We all have seen evil in this world and its action are from our own human hands and we must take the responsibility and stop it, but we allow, greed, ignorance and hatred to blind us and this is where we get all the pains in this world.

Thank you, Warleah Teamah