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The Unknown Face of Voodoo

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In the aftermath of Pat Robertson’s self-righteous accusation that Haiti is victim of a powerful quake as a result of a pact its inhabitants made with the devil, there is only one thing I would like to say: “Pat Robertson, you know not of which you speak.”


Many have already had the opportunity to assess Pat Robertson’s failing mental state after New Orleans was hit by Hurricane Katrina, and the good ole faith healer, who claims to be able to stop hurricanes with his prayers, had the nerve to say that New Orleans was destroyed because of widespread sin in America. Where was Pat Robertson on August 29, 2005, I ask, and why didn’t he give us all an example of his power against the elements instead than passing judgment?


And now he is at it again. If his opinion about the destruction of the twin towers being caused by homosexuality and promiscuity wasn’t enough, he has now topped his act with the assumption that Haiti was destroyed because of its historical ties to the Voodoo religion. Although Voodoo—or Vodou, as the religion is known in Haiti—is still practiced behind closed doors, the country is almost entirely Catholic, thanks to the French influence in the area.


At this point I would like to throw in my two cents—not about Pat Robertson’s obvious faux pas and lack of sensitivity, but about the fact that he associated Voodoo with devil worship. Although Hollywood has done an amazing job demonizing the religion, most of what is routinely shown in films is just screen fiction selling to thrill seekers.


First of all, there is a difference between Voodoo and Hoodoo. While Hoodoo is the practical wealth of “recipes” used to fix different problems humans are afflicted by, Voodoo is a monotheistic religion not too different from Catholicism. Not too far from Pentecostal faith either, if one cares to compare the two.


Voodoo was born when Yoruba and Catholic beliefs merged together after African slaves were transported to the Americas. Voodooists—or Vodouisants—believe in one Creator, God, also known in some traditions as Olodumare. The Orishas personify the Catholic Saints and they are considered God’s helpers. The highest of all Orishas is Obatala, also known as Oxala or Ochala in some traditions, and he embodies the figure of the Christ.


Even if the image of a doll being jabbed by pins is what jumps to the mind the moment the word Voodoo is uttered, many Voodoo practitioners focus their work on doing good and wouldn’t harm a hair out of anyone. Most petitions are made to request healing and peace, abundance and love, balance and justice—earthly and divine.


I grew up in a family circle strongly influenced by the Voodoo religion, yet I have never harmed a soul. My upbringing taught me to respect all religions, especially those I don’t understand or know much of, and to appreciate the beauty found in all systems of belief. If anything, Voodoo taught me about the duality of humans and the existence of a side of good even in those who come through as completely rotten.


Pat Robertson, I hope you are taking notes.

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