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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