Present day Haiti is a poverty-stricken land, with overpopulated urban areas, stripped landscapes, and a people struggling to survive in the face of civil turmoil and oppression. Bordering the Dominican Republic and otherwise surrounded completely by water, the Republic of Haiti (its official name) is a country of over seven million, the average yearly earnings at just over 1300 USD per capita. On the other hand, Haiti is rich in culture, music, and an overwhelmingly spiritual people who are legendary the world over. Haiti, like any Latin American country, is unique from her Caribbean sisters. The music, dance, and language of Haiti represent a connection between the spiritual and the material worlds that is entirely unique to this land.
In Haiti, as in much of Latin America, Christianity (mainly Catholicism) is the dominant religion, brought to the Americas by the early European conquerors who succeeded in converting hundreds of thousands of indigenous peoples throughout the centuries. As much as 80 percent of the current population is Catholic, thanks to the influence of the Creole elite and their French Catholic culture. Protestants form a strong 16 percent. However, an estimated 50% of the Haitian population still practice the long misunderstood, but deeply rooted Vodou religion.
[...] Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti. London: Thames and Hudson Hart, Richard. Slaves Who Abolished Slavery. Kingston, Jamaica: Institute of Social and Economic Research Hurston, Zora Neale. Tell My Horse: Voodoo and Life in Haiti and Jamaica. New York: Harper and Row . Métraux, Alfred. Voodoo in Haiti. Trans. Hugo Charteris. New York: Schocken Piedra, José. [...]
[...] An overview of Vodou When the average person hears the word Vodou, he may conjure up images of satanic worship, bonfire rituals, and animal sacrifice. Most of us are familiar with “voodoo dolls”, puppets created in the likeness of certain humans for the purpose of causing them physical pain. In actuality, Vodou is far more complex and intricate in both its belief system and its rituals. At its beginnings, the main purpose of Vodou was to perpetuate the ongoing balance that a human being must achieve in his lifetime. [...]
[...] Vodou was far from the bloody and dark worship that many people believed. However, European landowners naturally condemned the bizarre and unfamiliar rituals that Vodou entailed. Moreover, they feared that this religious practice would strengthen the bonds that black slaves had with their motherland. Such ties would only perpetuate feelings of homesickness and prompt runaways and even rebellions among the slave populations: The syncretistic nature of Voudou was disturbing to the church. Voudou assemblies were a cause for alarm among the colonists, for not only were they profane in their use of objects stolen from the church, but the planters feared they would serve as catalysts for slave insurrections. [...]
[...] For this reason, it was all the easier for European missionaries to invent links between Vodou and Christianity. One link came from an ambitious missionary's comparison of the lwa with Jesus. After having studied the Vodou belief system and the accompanying rituals and ceremonies, he recognized that the lwa served as an intermediary between man and God. The lwa was essentially a go-between, uniting the world of man and the world of the spirits. Such a notion was present in Christian belief, in the image of Christ. [...]
[...] “From Monkey Tales to Cuban Songs: On Signification.” In Sacred Possessions: Vodou, Santería, Obeah, and the Caribbean. New Brunswick: Rutgets University 122-150. Olmos, Fernández. Creole Religions of the Caribbean: An Introduction from Vodou and Santeria to Obeah and Espiritismo. New York: NYU Williams, Joseph J. Vodoos and Obeahs: Phases of West IndianWitchcraft. New York: Dial, 1932. [...]
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