The resurgence of Voodoo in mainstream haitian culture could potentially be a game changer.

The revival of Voodoo in mainstream haitian culture could be a sign that the stranglehold that Christianity has had on the country is rapidly diminishing. No longer confined to mere emollient display on the fringes, the religion of Voodoo has now reclaimed its rightful place in the collective psyche of the citizenry and haitian mainstream culture. Due to its insipidity, maladaptiveness for those of African ancestry, and its reliance on a hierarchical structure that spans the globe, Christian theology could never fully compete with the more colloquial customs and traditions of Voodoo.
Every society has ideas (values and norms) that spell out how its citizens ought to live. The more adaptive these customs are, the more likely that particular society will enjoy success relative to its global counterparts. Voodoo, as with all other religions, arose out of the collective experience of living in a social group, hence its religious practices and beliefs affirm a person’s place in society, enhance feelings of community, and give the practitioners a certain level of confidence. Although a third of the haitian population is reportedly of Catholic faith, Voodoo beliefs and practices were never fully abandoned. In fact, Haitians are known to resort to Voodoo whenever conventional methods can’t provide relief to a serious or life-threatening illness.

By losing their ancestral religion due to the trans-continental slave trade, Blacks around the globe have had the hardest time coping during the past 400 years. Although Voodoo had always been co-opted and hybridized with Christian theology in various forms in places like Haiti and Cuba, such hybrid adaptations never truly provided the type of collective strength and cohesiveness for Blacks that are so typical of the role of religions in the lives of its practitioners. And as much as Haitians tried their best to retain Voodoo practices in subtle rituals in tandem with the Christian Bible during slavery, any gain from it was at best marginal. Voodoo rituals were strictly prohibited then, and there was a great deal of propaganda waged against it. It wasn’t until 1987 that the haitian constitution officially recognized Voodoo, Aristide would later proclaim it a state religion.

In order to fully understand why displaced Blacks throughout the new world insisted on holding on to their former religious rituals and practices, the answer may be found in the new religious doctrines to which they were exposed. Christian identity has always been a loosely affiliated global group of churches and individuals devoted to a racialized theology that primarily encouraged the subjugation of Blacks and other non-whites. One of the central tenets stemming from that theology is the belief that North European whites are the direct descendants of the lost tribes of Israel, God’s chosen people. The KKK , for instance, even used Christianity and the teachings of Jesus to justify their hatred of Blacks. They quoted Jesus as saying to the Jews in John 10:24-27: “Ye are not of my sheep….My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”
Slavery was also encouraged and condoned by the Christian church, and its main justification is to be found in Genesis 9: 25-27; “Cursed be Canaan! The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers. He also said, ‘Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem! May Canaan be the slave of Shem’.” This Genesis part of the Scriptures resonated with Christians primarily because they believed at the time that Canaan had settled in Africa and that his descendents had become black.
It is quite clear that it is impossible for Blacks to collectively thrive in such a pro-European and anti-Black religious atmosphere. Africans who were introduced to Christianity were hence exposed to a culture with customs and religious beliefs that were particularly suited to advance the collective interests of Northern Europeans, not the descendants of Africans. Voodoo, on the other hand, not only suited the spiritual and psychological needs of Blacks, it had also provided colloquial mechanisms to deal with everyday concerns such as anxiety and uncertainty that were handed down from one generation to the next. Its resurgence in Haiti, after four centuries in a hybridized form, may indeed be a game changer and may help foster the kind of deep collective purpose and national identity that are so desperately needed to sustain any long term prosperity and recovery.
The Voodoo pantheon is represented by a combination of remnants of African tribal religions and some elements of Catholic Christianity. It also includes deities, spirits, and ancestor veneration. Spirits fall into two categories; Rada, the calm, happy spirits, and Petro, the animated spirits often associated with black magic. For a detailed rundown on the religion of Voodoo, visit the website http://www.streetprophets.com/storyonly/2010/1/14/12374/8282

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