The Contemporary New England Witch

The Contemporary New England Witch
Ms Faith

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Santeria, Voudon & Hoodoo. Should you be scared?

 Evening greetings,

A few updates before we get into tonight's discussion.  Firstly, I want to thank a close friend for making it possible for me to acquire a new laptop computer, which will make it easier to continue my discussions with you and to finish up a couple of manuscripts that I hope to have in a publisher's hands by summer. 

Secondly, I say this with fingers crossed, but we are looking at possibly keeping Enchantments open!!  If everything works as I hope in the next couple of months I will be in a better position and will not be forced to close Enchantments doors forever.  Thanks to you, my witchy reader, for the positive thoughts and good energies you've been sending. They really do make a difference.

Now onto tonight's discussion.  You may have heard of Voodoo? It's properly pronounced Voudon.  Over the past century, primarily because of some movies made of the Zombie genre, Voudon and associated beliefs such as Santeria and hoodoo have gotten a pretty bad reputation. Before you assume they are evil incarnate, or not as 'white' as Wicca, let's discuss exactly what they are. Remember, witches and witchcraft have been painted with a pretty black brush over the centuries also.  And you know we're nice and not evil, so let's take a clear, unbiased look at these magickal belief systems.

When I started to research these belief systems several years ago, I started off motivated by a basic thought "Why would anyone believe in a religion that is evil, harmful and hurts others."  I simply didn't believe it. Keeping in mind that as humans we've created religion for us, ourselves, our family, our communities. These are familial, important and necessary aspects of our individual lives, so again "Why would anyone create or practice a religion that was so dark and full of danger?"  My research confirmed what I suspected, that these magickal belief systems have been maligned and the subject of rumors and lies, much as witchcraft and other beliefs have been, that don't fall neatly into a Judeo-Christian dogmatic system. 

Voudon - Vodun or Vudun ( — that is, with a nasal u on a high tone) (so spelled in the Fon language of Benin and the Ewe language of Togo and Ghana; also spelled Vodon, Vodoun, Voudou, Voodoo etc.) is a traditional Polytheistic organised religion of coastal West Africa, from Nigeria to Ghana. ...  

 This is a religion, that is pagan at its roots. It is a religion that recognizes many different gods and goddesses and comes from the West Coast of Africa. It was brought to this country, or vestiges thereof, by those people enslaved by Colonial human traffickers and forced to live here in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.  This colorful tribal culture brought the songs, the sounds, the words and the beliefs with them. Similarly all immigrants to this country have brought the familiar with them from the 'old country'.  People, especially in a new land, want to surround themselves with the familiar. 

Voudon's (Voodoo is an inappropriate term for this, and is used by those who are not familiar with its workings)  basic principles originated in different parts of Africa long before the onset of the slave trade.  The religion of Voudon as it is practiced today was created in Haiti during the time of the French colonization of Hispaniola.
 The word "vodoun" derives from vodu, meaning "spirit" or "deity".  This religion has wedding ceremonies, blessings for infants, rites of passage for young people and services for the deceased.  The practitioners call upon various Gods and Goddesses or spirits to aid them in their work, to make the sick heal, the weak stronger, to eliminate the evil, dark energies found around large concentrations of people.  As much as I teach against there being a singular dark force called devil or by another name, I do not claim that there is no evil in the world. Yes, sadly, our nightly news showcases this fact every evening. I just place the cause or blame rightly where it belongs, on the shoulders of humans.  There are times, I truly believe,  if there was a devil, he'd take one look at what humans do to one another and run his tail away as fast as possible, scared out of his wits!

During the preceding years of the civil war in the United States of America with tensions building between the inhumanly enslaved African Americans and the slave owners, a fear based on cultural ignorance and superstition grew to a peak that culminated in slaves revolting,  massacres and ended with the Civil War. The fears and superstitions at this time in history grew and intensified into the cultural fear that still lingers today.  Of course this type of cultural superstition, that a belief such as Voudon, is evil or akin to devil worship does not last on its own without each successive generation adding a bit of fuel to the fire. 

In the 1930's early Hollywood movies struck upon a provocative premise that many people enjoyed, zombie movies. The first zombie movie was released in 1932.  White Zombie starring the incomparable Bela Lugosi of Dracula fame, came out and a new genre of films was born. With these films came a strong emphasis on what was termed Voodoo, and the connection between horrors such as stealing a person's soul, turning them into mindless zombies and paralyzing people with magickal powders and the religion of Voudon was cemented. 

In my research Voudon is a religion that embraces nature and the elements of the natural world. They tend toward work both offensive and defensive and may practitioners believe that it is o.k. to cast magick to harm those who would seek to harm them.   Well, even in the version of the Wiccan Rede we use in ritual at Enchantments states 'Lest in thy self defense it be, ever mind the rule of three.'  It really comes down to the practitioner and their magickal goals. 

Santeria is an African based religion similar to Voudon, originating in Cuba and Brazil, which incorporates  deities and spirits found in Voudon and mixes it with worship of Roman Catholic Saints, in a mixture of religions that serves many especially those who hail from Hispanic or Latin cultures.

Hoodoo is a word of American origin from the 19th century.  The etymology dictionary speaks of the origin of the word as being first recorded in '1875, as "one who practices voodoo," Amer.Eng., probably an alteration of voodoo. Meaning "something that causes or brings bad luck" is attested from 1882.'

 Needless to say there is strong cultural bias surrounding this word when it was first introduced into the vernacular.  Setting aside the assumptions and rumors, Hoodoo consists of African folkloric practices, with a considerable addition of American Indian botanical knowledge and European magickal folklore.  Though primarily the largest group of practitioners of  Hoodoo are black, it has always been practiced by whites and blacks since its inception in America.

Hoodoo is known by other regional names such as "tricking", "rootwork", and "conjuration".  The term rootwork comes from the herbal practice where they use roots of many herbs and plants as a base for many of their magickal workings, from spells to charms.

It really matters not what culture or ancestry you hail from, magick and spell work works for all.

Many years ago I would have turned my nose up to magick not of the 'Wiccan' variety, but thankfully the Goddess has allowed me to continue learning and eventually I got over myself!  The witch I am today will use brick dust to keep harm as well as those who mean me harm, away from my doorstep.  I take this from the practice of hoodoo, and from this practice I have also carried devils shoestring to bring in protection, luck and financial prosperity. 

I have done candle magick utilizing both the Arch Angel Michael and the Celtic Goddess Morrigan to bring protection and safety while traveling, especially flying. 

From the practice of Santeria I have learned of Botanicas that are found in many large cities, which are Latin based magickal supply stores.  These shoppes can be exciting, very educational and all I've seen are bi-lingual with Spanish being the primary language.  For someone like me, surrounded by the magickal daily, not to mention my own witch store, I find Botanicas exotic and lots of fun! 

                                    A Mexican Botanica

But even if you can't find a Botanica near you, and there aren't many around, at Enchantments we carry many of the ingredients and supplies normally found in a Botanica for that practice of magick. 

Of course the answer to the question we started with, 'Should you be scared?' Of course not.  No one practices a belief that they don't feel benefits them, their family and lives.  Why would they?   I strongly recommend that when faced with something that causes you fear, learn about it, understand it and then decide if it warrants such a response. 

Peace and Happiness

© 2010 Enchantments, LLC Portions of this blog posting may include materials from my book “Enchantments School for the Magickal Arts First Year Magickal Studies.” For more information, see or go to the title of tonight's discussion and click, it will link you to my school's website.

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