Program InformationSeries: A Moment in Time
Year Produced: 2010
Faced with intense opposition in the French ruling class, the African slaves of Saint-Domingue, now Haiti, took their traditional Vodou religion underground by combining it with Roman Catholicism.
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Lead: Faced with intense opposition in the French ruling class, the African slaves of Saint-Domingue, now Haiti, took their traditional Vodou religion underground by combining it with Roman Catholicism.
Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.
Content: Vodou originated in Western Africa. The word in the indigenous Fon language of Dahomey, now Benin, means “spirit” or “deity.” Each human is a spirit of the perceptible world and after death crosses over into the invisible realm which also is inhabited by spirits, ancestors--those who are recently deceased--and angels. Vodou (anglicized as voodoo), as it evolved in the Western hemisphere, gradually adopted many of the characteristics of Roman Catholicism, the most important being its acceptance of the Christian God as the deity. He created the spirits of the universe--the lwa, visible and invisible--to help Him keep humanity under control and bring order into the world.
In practice, Vodou is a family cult in which the spirits, especially of ancestors, are implored to provide protection, health and welfare to those still alive. Central to Vodou is the pursuit of healing through the assistance of the invisible spirits. Prayers, singing and dancing, accompanied by drums, are part of Vodou ceremonies. During these--at times--adherents often enter a state of trance, give divinely inspired advice, perform athletic feats, or attempt to cure the sick. The purpose of these rituals is to connect with the spiritual universe and bring order out of a world that is in chaos.
During the time of slavery, the opposition to open Vodou ceremonies was so intense from the French in Haiti that rites were forced underground, and many followers gradually began to synchronize their celebrations with the church year. In Haiti, two-thirds of the population is Roman Catholic, but many of these participate in the rituals of Vodou on the side, as do many others in the Haitian diaspora in the South America and the United States.
At the University of Richmond, this is Dan Roberts.