Thursday, January 21, 2010

Haiti Religion

Religion in Haiti

About 95% of the population "claim" Christian beliefs, although the most professed denomination by far is Roman Catholicism. Similar to the rest of Latin America, Haiti was colonized during a period during which Roman Catholicism was prevalent among European monarchs. Following in this legacy, Catholicism is enshrined in the Haitian constitution as the official state religion, and between 80 and 85% of Haitians are Catholics. But most also practice Voodoo, which along with Catholicism is an official state religion. If based strictly on the definition of Christianity as monotheism, which rejected dual religion, the number of Christian may be lower than 80%. The number for Afro-American religion will be higher.

Voodoo is based upon a merging of the beliefs and practices of West African peoples, (mainly the Fon and Ewe; see West African Vodun), with Roman Catholic Christianity. Hatian practiced dual religion or may be a mixed religion, not Roman Catholic per se, and not totally Christian beliefs. Christian like other Abrahamic religion, believed in monotheism (from Greek μόνος "only" and θεός "God"),it is the belief that only one God exists. Haitian Catholic is polytheism, a religion of Catholic cover with Haitian Vodou as a core. Is it Christianity or a new religion? , or just simply a way of life for the former slaves to escape from the hardship, the local people accept duality or all that come to help them?......a compromise of convenience?. Basically Haiti religion(mix of Catholicism and Voodoo)is Afro-American religions (also African diasporic religions), which are a number of related religions that developed in the Americas among African slaves and their descendants in various countries of the Caribbean Islands and Latin America, as well as parts of the southern United States. They derive from African traditional religions, especially of West and Central Africa.

Based on that the religion of Haiti is Afro-American religion, a mixed religion or dual religion of Haitian Vodou and Catholicism; not Christianity......strictly speaking.

Hatian Vodou
Haitian Vodou or Vaudou (French pronunciation: [vodu], Anglicised as Voodoo) is a syncretic religion originating from the Caribbean country of Haiti, located on the island of Hispaniola. It is based upon a merging of the beliefs and practices of West African peoples (mainly the Fon and Ewe; see West African Vodun), with Roman Catholic Christianity, which was brought about as African slaves were brought to Haiti in the 16th century and forced to convert to the religion of their owners, while they largely still followed their traditional African beliefs.

Basically Haitian Catholicism is not Catholicism we know, it is a traditional African religion, using Roman Catholicism to hide their traditional ("pagan" )religion. This type of religion was because of their past history of slavery, when the masters had forbidden slaves to practice their own religion. To practice their African traditional religion, the slaves make use of Catholicism(the religion of the master) as a cover. But in view of little knowledge on their traditional religion, they gather all their knowledge from different slaves of diversified background, and adopted it. They also adapted some Catholicism practices to perfect their religion practice. Eventually the syncretic religion unique only to Haiti was evolved. Thus, Haitian Vodou has roots in several West African religions, and incorporates some Roman Catholic and Arawak Amerindian influences.

The principal belief in Haitian Vodou is that there are various deities, or Lwa (commonly spelled Loa, which is spirit), who are subordinate to a greater God, known as Bondyè, who does not interfere with human affairs. Therefore it is to the Lwa that Vodou worship is directed. Other characteristics of Vodou include veneration of the dead and protection against evil witchcraft.

Haitian Vodou shares many similarities with other faiths of the other African diaspora, such as Louisiana Voodoo of New Orleans, Santería and Arará of Cuba, and Candomblé and Umbanda of Brazil. The Vodou temple is called a Hounfour.

In Haitian Vodou (Sèvis Lwa in Creole or "Service to the Lwa"), there are strong elements from the Bakongo of Central Africa and the Igbo and Yoruba of Nigeria, although many different nations of Africa have representation in the liturgy of the Sèvis Lwa. A large and significant portion of Haitian Vodou most often overlooked by scholars until recently is the Kongo component. The entire Northern area of Haiti is especially influenced by Kongo practice. In the North, it is more often called Kongo Rite or Lemba, from the Lemba rites of the Loango area and Mayombe. In the south, Kongo influence is called Petwo (Petro). Many loa or lwa (also a Kikongo term) are of Kongo origin such as Basimbi, Lemba, etc.

Haitian creole forms of Vodou exist in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, parts of Cuba, some of the out-islands of the Bahamas, the United States, and other places that Haitian immigrants dispersed to over the years. However, it is important to note that the Vodun religion (separate from Haitian Vodou) existed in the United States, having been brought over by West Africans enslaved in America, specifically from the Ewe, Fon, Mina, Kabaye, and Nago groups. Some of its more enduring forms still exist in the Gullah Islands. There is a re-emergence of these Vodun traditions in America, which maintains the same ritual and cosmological elements as is practiced in West Africa. These and other African-diasporic religions such as Lukumi or Regla de Ocha (also known as Santería) in Cuba, Candomblé and Umbanda in Brazil, all religions that evolved among descendants of transplanted Africans in the Americas.
(source: wikipedia)

African origins

The word vodou derives from vodũ, which in Fon, Ewe, and related language (distributed from contemporary Ghana to Benin) means spirit or divine creature (in the sense of divine creation).

The cultural area of the Fon, Ewe, and Yoruba peoples share common metaphysical conceptions around a dual cosmological divine principle Nana Buluku, the God-Creator, and the vodou(s) or God-Actor(s), daughters and sons of the Creator's twin children Mawu (goddess of the moon) and Lisa (god of the sun). The God-Creator is the cosmogonical principle and does not trifle with the mundane; the vodou(s) are the God-Actor(s) who actually govern earthly issues.

The pantheon of vodoun is quite large and complex. In one version, there are seven male and female twins of Mawu, interethnic and related to natural phenomena or historical or mythical individuals, and dozens of ethnic vodous, defenders of a certain clan or tribe.

West African Vodun has its primary emphasis on the ancestors, with each family of spirits having its own specialized priest- and priestesshood which are often hereditary. In many African clans, deities might include Mami Wata, who are gods and goddesses of the waters; Legba, who in some clans is virile and young in contrast to the old man form he takes in Haiti and in many parts of Togo; Gu (or Ogoun), ruling iron and smithcraft; Sakpata, who rules diseases; and many other spirits distinct in their own way to West Africa.

European colonialism, followed by totalitarian regimes in West Africa, suppressed Vodun as well as other forms of the religion. However, because the Vodou deities are born to each African clan-group, and its clergy is central to maintaining the moral, social, and political order and ancestral foundation of its villagers, it proved to be impossible to eradicate the religion. Though permitted by Haiti's 1987 constitution, which recognizes religious equality, many books and films have sensationalized voodoo as black magic based on animal and human sacrifices to summon zombies and evil spirits.

Haitian Revolution

The majority of the Africans who were brought as slaves to Haiti were from Western and Central Africa. The Vodun practitioners brought over and enslaved in the United States primarily descend from the Ewe, Anlo-Ewe, and other West African groups. The survival of the belief systems in the New World is remarkable, although the traditions have changed with time and have even taken on some Catholic forms of worship. Two important factors, however, characterize the uniqueness of Haitian Vodou as compared to African Vodun; the transplanted Africans of Haiti, similar to those of Cuba and Brazil, were obliged to disguise their loa (sometimes spelled lwa) or spirits as Roman Catholic saints, an element of a process called syncretism.(Syncretism is the attempt to reconcile disparate or contrary beliefs, often while melding practices of various schools of thought. This may involve attempts to merge and analogise several originally discrete traditions, especially in the theology and mythology of religion, and thus assert an underlying unity allowing for an inclusive approach to other faiths).

Roman Catholicism was mixed into the religion to hide their "pagan" religion from their masters, who had forbidden them to practice it. Thus, Haitian Vodou has roots in several West African religions, and incorporates some Roman Catholic and Arawak Amerindian influences. It is common for Haitians followers of the Vodou religion to integrate Roman Catholic practices by including Catholic prayers in Vodou worship. Throughout the history of the island from the day of independence of 1804 to the present, missionaries repeatedly came over to the island to convert the Haitians back to the Christian religion which previously had been forced on them. This has set many Haitians to project vodou as an evil religion, from the influence of the missionaries to abusive practitioners who use vodou to persecute.

Vodou, as it is known in Haiti and the Haitian diaspora, is the result of the pressures of many different cultures and ethnicities of people being uprooted from Africa and imported to Hispaniola during the African slave trade. Under slavery, African culture and religion was suppressed, lineages were fragmented, and people pooled their religious knowledge and from this fragmentation became culturally unified. In addition to combining the spirits of many different African and Amerindian nations, Vodou has incorporated pieces of Roman Catholic liturgy to replace lost prayers or elements. Images of Catholic saints are used to represent various spirits or "mistè" ("mysteries", actually the preferred term in Haiti), and many saints themselves are honored in Vodou in their own right. This syncretism allows Vodou to encompass the African, the Indian, and the European ancestors in a whole and complete way. It is truly a Kreyòl religion.

The most historically important Vodou ceremony in Haitian history was the Bwa Kayiman or Bois Caïman ceremony of August 1791 that began the Haitian Revolution, in which the spirit Ezili Dantor possessed a priestess and received a black pig as an offering, and all those present pledged themselves to the fight for freedom. This ceremony ultimately resulted in the liberation of the Haitian people from French colonial rule in 1804, and the establishment of the first black people's republic in the history of the world and the second independent nation in the Americas.

(source: wikipedia)


1.Ezili Dantor (also spelled Erzulie with Danto or Danthor) is the Petro nation aspect of the Erzulie family of lwa, or spirits in Haitian Vodou. Ezili Dantor is considered to be the lwa of motherhood, single motherhood in particular. She is most commonly represented by the image of Black Madonna of Częstochowa whose origins are believed to be in copies of the icon of the Black Madonna of Częstochowa, brought to Haiti by Polish soldiers fighting on both sides of the Haitian Revolution from 1802 onwards. Other depictions of Ezili Dantor include the Black Madonna, as well as Our Lady of Lourdes and Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

Ezili Dantor is associated with the black creole pig of Haiti, her favorite animal sacrifice, and the colors gold and blue, sometimes green and also red to signify that she is a Petro lwa.
Her favorite offerings include: a fried pork dish known as griot, creme de cacao, rum, Florida Water perfume, and strong unfiltered cigarettes.

2. Pat Robertson's response to the 2010 Haiti earthquake drew controversy. Robertson, a religious broadcaster, claimed that Haiti's founders had sworn a "pact to the Devil" in order to liberate themselves from the French slave owners and indirectly attributed the earthquake to the consequences of the Haitian people being "cursed" for doing so. CBN later issued a statement saying that Robertson's comments "were based on the widely-discussed 1791 slave rebellion led by Dutty Boukman at Bois Caiman, where the slaves allegedly made a famous pact with the devil in exchange for victory over the French." Various prominent voices of mainline and evangelical Christianity promptly denounced Robertson's remarks. Pat may has historical fact to back him, and the liberty of his personal view on the earthquake, but timing of his response was not right.

Haitian is the first slave republic, they may have escaped the slavery; but still suffered from natural disasters, poverty, violence and crime; and they are economically disadvantage compare with their neighbor, Dominican Republic. Is Pat Roberson speak the true? it is for you to ponder, and wonder.....

Related articles/references:
1. Haitian Vodou,
2. Pat Robertson controversies,

No comments:

Post a Comment