Thursday, June 30, 2011

Haiti Journal Entry: Voodoo

After my class last semester, I was excited to learn more about voodoo in the community of Thomazeau and throughout Haiti. There were a variety of opportunities to learn about this fascinating religion.  Some of these opportunities included talking with local pastors about their experiences with those who practice voodoo as well as those who were members of the church, in the past. Those currently practicing were not as willing to communicate with us.  This may have been because of the language barrier and the fact that the man that took my friend and I around to look at these temples was not that confident in his English.  he could read and speak wonderfully but asking questions was difficult because he didn't understand as much as he could speak.

We were able to see one of the main temples as well as a voodoo altar. It was fascinating to see in more detail much of what I had learned from my class last semester.  At times this alter (above) would have images on the back wall and the cloth bags would be filled with offerings and taken to the temple.  The temple is the room with the pole in the center (left).  There are two rooms on each side of this building (right).  The rooms are where some specific ceremonies take place.  I will need to reread about what ceremonies would take place in those rooms, though I think they might be used for isolation.  This part of the conversation did not translate from English to Creole and back very well.
Voodoo Dolls and binging ceremonies

Later in the week we went to visit the natural springs which were full of evidence of voodoo ritual and practice. The springs consisted of voodoo dolls and remnants of other Voodoo ceremonies. The majority of the voodoo dolls we saw were used to bind people, either to the country or to someone else. The man telling us about this tree where individuals were bound, met his wife because she had bound him to her. Though his words needed to be translated, his facial expressions and intensity of his experience did not.

I am not sure what this was but was told it was "voodoo"
As we were leaving Haiti we met a man, named Juan, in the airport. He grew up in Haiti, but currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia. He talked to us about some of his experiences growing up in a voodoo home. He had been bound to the ceremonies and his family who practice voodoo. He remembered running and hiding in friend’s house but still being scared of the spirits. When he was finally old enough to make his own decisions he had accepted Jesus and was a Christian. When he told some of his family members, they tried to bind him to Haiti but he was able to escape because, as he said, “Jesus could now protect him, and Jesus was stronger than the demons,” that were being used to bind him.

This trip was an interesting contrast to the much more academic approach I had experienced in my class on the religions of the African Diaspora.  My class was excellent and gave me a deep understanding of what those who practice Voodoo believe and the history of the religion and Haiti, but the class did not allow me to fully understand the power of the Vooddo spirits from a Christian perspective.  The trip certainly did help me to gain this understanding.

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