VodunVodun (aka Vodoun, Voudou, Voodoo, Sevi Lwa) is a syncretist religion that originates in West Africa with the Fon and Yoruba people. The name Vodun is derived from the local african word for spirit, and can be traced about 6,000 years back. Today, Vodun is practised in Benin, the Dominican Republic, Ghana, Haiti and Togo. It is the state religion of Benin and has recently been recognized as an official religion in Haiti.
The majority of the Africans who were brought to Haiti and the southern US as slaves were from West Africa, and their descendants are the primary practitioners of Vodun. The survival of the belief system in the New World is remarkable, although the traditions have changed. One of the largest differences however between African and American Voudun is that the African slaves of Haiti and the southern US were obliged to disguise their gods (Lwas) and spirits as Roman Catholic saints.
The majority of speculation as to why this was done is that it was an attempt to hide their "pagan" religion from their masters who had forbidden them to practice it. To say that Voudun is simply a mix of West African religions with a veneer of Roman Catholicism would not be entirely correct. This would be ignoring numerous influences from the native Arawak Indians, as well as the evolutionary process that Voudun has undergone shaped by the volatile ferment of Haitian history. It would also be ignoring the large influence of European paganism in Roman Catholicism and its pantheon of saints itself.
Each Vodun sect follows a different Loa (or Lwa, "mystery"), a tradition or path, sometimes a saint. The main Loa is Olorun or Bondye; his enemy is Obatala. There are hundreds of lesser spirits or spirits, but the main ones of the pantheon include Legba, Ghede, Damballah, Agwe, Ogou and Erzulie. A male Vodun priest is called a houngan (alternate spellings: hougan, hungan); a female one is a mambo. The central aspect of Vodun is healing people from illness.
It is similar to other syncretic religions such as Santeria, Candomble, Umbanda, and Obeah developed by slave cultures in the Americas.
Vodun is also known as Voodoo, the dominant religious system practiced in Haiti. A common saying is that Haiti is 80% Roman Catholic and 100% Voudon. It has also been historically practiced in slightly varying forms as a minor religion in parts of the southern United States, although immigration has seen Haitian Voudun spread to urban areas of the northern United States with considerable Haitian populations. In the southern United States, it has also influenced the system of folk magic and folk religion known as hoodoo.
What is often referred to as Voodoo cult is based on Vodun, but it is uncertain how much of the "dark magic" (including zombies and voodoo dolls) is based on Christian propaganda during colonial times, on movies and stories, and how much of it is actually practised by the "priests".
Haitian Vodun or Vodou can be divided into several rites, the largest of which are the Rada rite, whose origin is African and and Petro rite, a "hot" school of Vodou which originated in the new world experience of slavery.
Sticking pins in "voodoo dolls" was once used as a method of cursing an individual by some followers of Vodun in New Orleans; this practice continues occasionally in South America. The practice became closely associated with Voodoo in the public mind through the vehicle of horror movies.
For the military aircraft, see F-101 Voodoo