What media has portrayed as representations of Voodoo for decades, most people who are not directly familiar with religion have many misconceptions about what it really is.
This certainly applies to many things seen in movies and television shows, but when you’re talking about a prominent religion with about 60 million followers, misconceptions are essential.
These ten misconceptions about Voodoo are widespread
Voodoo isn’t a ‘real’ religion.
The usual spelling, “voodoo,” is itself an American way of abusing religion as it originally started, first in West Africa, and later in places around the world. Vodun was initially practiced by West African Gbe speaking ethnic groups, and over time the religion moved to the new world.
In Brazil (Candomblé Jejé), Cuba (Cuban Vodú), Spain and the Dominican Republic (Dominican Vudú), Haiti (Haitian Vodou) and Louisiana, where the spelling remains “voodoo”. Although each culture has its specific form of Voodoo, they are all characterized as syncretic religions, those that combine different aspects of two faith systems.
Haitian Voodoo is one of the most widely used in the world today, as the majority of Haitians practice and only 2.1 percent of the Haitian population identifies Haitian Vodou as their primary religion, but due to the syncretic nature of the faith, many Roman Catholics also follow some aspects of the belief in addition to their traditional Catholic practices. More than half of Haitians identify themselves as Roman Catholics.
Condemned by the Roman Catholic Church
This misconception makes sense if the only aspects of faith that people have seen include the obscure representations promoted by movies industries. In reality, Voodoo is closely related to Catholicism, and essential elements of the two religions have become intertwined over the years. Spiritualism is a large part of all forms of Voodoo.
Consequently, the Catholic Church did not condemn Voodoo but accepted it with open arms. Because the two religions are so closely related, many voodoo practitioners were baptized into the Catholic Church. Indeed, this is a new association, as it was in the past.
Fortunately, that is no longer the case, and the two religions have a long history of working together. Pope John Paul II talked at length about the practice of Voodoo and even talked about the practices of faith, which, according to him, had “fundamental goodness” about them. In the early 1990s, he attended a voodoo ceremony, which further strengthened the relationship between the two religions.
Voodoo dolls used as torture tools
We have all seen the movies where a character grabs a voodoo doll and stabs it with a straight pin to cause unbearable pain to anyone who represents the doll. That makes for good stories, but it is a gross of lousy representation of what a voodoo doll is used for.
In reality, they are used for benevolent purposes in almost every instance of their use. This means that no matter how much you insert a pin into a doll that represents your ex, they will not double in pain if you add a doll that you have made to look like them.
Know for practicing black magic.
Again, the film industry is responsible for this misconception, because it often portrays people practicing black magic through sacrifice or other means. In reality, no line divides the spiritual practices of a voodoo religion, so there is no distinction between black and white; in the end, it’s just magic.
Of course, this is not magic of the Penn & Teller variety; it is more communion with the spirits than cursing someone or pulling a rabbit out of a hat. Although there is no black or white kind of magic, there is a form of spiritual possession called “red magic.”
When a practitioner evokes an evil spirit instead of a benevolent one, or they are bribed by such a spirit to do something ominous, it is called Red Magic.
Sacrificing of animals to make dark spells.
If you’re watching a movie with a Voodoo ritual of animal sacrifices, it’s probably only partially related to the practice done IRL. Animal sacrifice is a large part of religion, but it is not done as a means of taking on the life force of the animal to perform a particular spell; it is done to combine the life force with something called the Lwa (or Loa).
The Lwa is an aspect of Louisiana Voodoo and Haitian Vodou, and they are the primary spirits of the faith. They are sometimes called “Mystères” and the “invisible”, which act as intermediaries between mankind and the Supreme Creator.
Voodoo practitioners do not believe in God(s)
The belief that the practitioners of the Voodoo religion do not believe or follow a deity revolves around a common misconception. This is entirely not correct because the principal tenor of all forms of Voodoo is that there is only one God i.e., Bondye. Compared to other religions, Bondye is similar to Yahweh, the God of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
According to Voodoo, there is only one God, so it is technically a monotheistic religion, but it contains many spirits, which probably contribute to this misconception. In Voodoo, there are three categories of spiritual beings. The Lwa are the spirits of deceased members of a person’s family. They are the primary forces in the universe, including good and evil, reproduction, health, and all other aspects of daily life.
Voodoo is mostly about personal gain.
Because Voodoo is often portrayed as a means to achieve some kind of malicious purpose in movies, there is a common misconception that religion focuses on personal gain.
Although there are certain aspects of the religion that focus on promoting a person’s personal growth, the most significant concern of Voodoo centers around healing. Healing of the individual, or healing an entire village, is the main focus of religion, and it has a lot to do with where it is practiced all over the world.
Voodoo practitioners pact with the devil
In the 18th century, Haiti was ruled by the French, but a revolution on the island overthrew its oppressors, which for some time in history, marked the rise of a colony of slaves and their independence as a free state.
At that time, French propaganda claimed that the Haitians made a pact with the devil to overthrow their oppressors, and the misconception that this was the case remains prevalent today.
When a devastating earthquake hit Haiti in 2010, American television evangelist Pat Robertson said it was God’s revenge for the pact made hundreds of years earlier.
Voodoo Practitioners Can Raise The Dead
It is unlikely that anyone would believe that a voodoo priest or priestess can actually raise the dead, but a widespread misconception about how Voodoo treats death gave rise to the concept of zombies.
The term was first mentioned at the beginning of the 19th century in Robert Southey’s book, “History of Brazil,” where he referred to the “zombi” as an aspect of Voudon Lwa.
That remains true, but the distortion of history combined with the exploitation of cultural misconceptions in film and television has turned the original “zombi” into brain-eating monsters seen in popular culture around the world.
Although the concept of the zombie comes from Candomblé Jejé, it has nothing to do with brain-eating monsters. Instead, zombies in Voodoo tradition are victims, brought back to life by priests called Bokors.
Strict regime of rituals and practice
When Voodoo is shown on the silver screen, it seems to follow a specific practice that must be followed exactly as prescribed, or the results will be chaotic and even deadly.
In reality, this is far from the truth, because there are so many variations in practicing the many forms of Voodoo; one priest could do something completely different from another to achieve the same result.
Unlike most religions, Voodoo does not have a strict code for practitioners to follow; instead, it revolves around traditions that have been passed down through the ages and across the oceans.