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Eyeing Tourism, Haiti Battles Its Violent Reputation - HISTORY

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Author Topic: Eyeing Tourism, Haiti Battles Its Violent Reputation - HISTORY  (Read 3107 times)
Bianca
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« Reply #30 on: June 20, 2008, 11:35:52 am »










Myths and misconceptions



Vodou has come to be associated in the popular mind with the lore aboutSatanism, zombies and
"voodoo dolls."

While there is evidence of zombie creation, it is a minor phenomenon within rural Haitian culture and
not a part of the Vodou religion as such. Such things fall under the auspices of the bokor or sorcerer rather than the priest of the Loa.

The practice of sticking pins in dolls has history in European folk magic, but its exact origins are unclear. How it became known as a method of cursing an individual by some followers of what has come to be called New Orleans Voodoo, which is a local variant of hoodoo, is a mystery. Some speculate that it was used as a means of self defense to intimidate superstitious slave owners.
This practice is not unique to New Orleans voodoo, however, and has as much basis in European-
based magical devices such as the poppet and the nkisi or bocio of West and Central Africa.

These are in fact power objects, what in Haiti would be referred to as pwen, rather than magical surrogates for an intended target of sorcery whether for boon or for bane. Such voodoo dolls are
not a feature of Haitian religion, although dolls intended for tourists may be found in the Iron Market
in Port au Prince. The practice became closely associated with the Vodou religions in the public mind through the vehicle of horror movies and popular novels.

There is a practice in Haiti of nailing crude poppets with a discarded shoe on trees near the cemetery to act as messengers to the otherworld, which is very different in function from how poppets are portrayed as being used by voodoo worshippers in popular media and imagination, ie. for purposes of sympathetic magic towards another person. Another use of dolls in authentic Vodou practice is the incorporation of plastic doll babies in altars and objects used to represent or honor the spirits, or in pwen, which recalls the aforementioned use of bocio and nkisi figures in Africa.

Although Voodoo is often associated with Satanism, Satan is primarily an Abrahamic figure and has not been incorporated in Voodoo tradition. When Mississippi Delta folksongs mix references to Voodoo and to Satan, what is being expressed is social pain such as from racism. Those who practice voodoo are not attempting to worship or invoke the blessings of a devil.

Further adding to the dark reputation of Voodoo was the 1973 film adaptation of the thriller Live and Let Die, part of Ian Fleming's widely successful James Bond series, which had been continually in print in both the English original and translations to numerous languages.

Fleming's depiction of the schemings of a fiendish Soviet agent using Voodoo to intimidate and control a vast network of submissive Black followers got an incomparably greater audience than any careful scholarly work on the subject of Voodoo.

(See Mr. Big, Baron Samedi.)



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