The Origin of the Practice of Voodoo
Though it is not exactly known how Voodoo originated, it is believed to have Qbegun from Benin in West Africa. According to the Fon language, Voodoo would mean Spirit about the connection and reverence to the spirits.
The spread of this religion initially associated with ancestral worship began with the slave trade. When slaves were brought from West Africa to Haiti to work on the plantations for their masters who had colonized Haiti, they brought with them their religion. However, they were not allowed to practice this religion. A law was put in place in 1685 to ensure that the slaves gave up their worship practices. They were forbidden from practicing Voodoo and instead were converted to Christians by their masters.
The Catholic saw an opportunity with slavery to convert these individuals from the perceived dark magic practice to Catholicism. However, these salves did not automatically drop their religious practices. Instead, they merged both practices. This led to the syncretism between the original Voodoo magic and Catholic beliefs.
These slaves would ascribe different meanings to the saints of the Catholic Church as a way of combining both religions. For example, Saint Peter of the Catholic Church was also referred to as Papa Legbe, the gatekeeper of the spirit world.
In 1800, slavery ended in Haiti. However, it was a long process before this could be achieved. The practice of Voodoo by the slaves empowered and strengthened them through slavery. They were so energized that they began to revolt against the slave system. This ultimately led to the French Colonial masters leaving Haiti. Some took their African slaves and moved to New Orleans where the practice continued to spread.
It has also spread to other African nations, parts of the Caribbean and America. It is now officially recognized as a religion in both Benin and Haiti where it has strongholds.
Even after the end of slavery in Haiti in 1800, Voodoo followers were still victimized by the authorities then. The religion has been associated with cannibalism and other extreme evils even till date. Many members of other organized religions have the perception of voodoo as dark magic and its members are seen as evil or demon-possessed.
This origin, however, differs from that of Palo Mayombe that has its origins in Central Congo and began its spread from Cuba. Though the similarities exist in the fact that these religions were brought from Africa to these parts of the world by slaves. Slaves who refused to give up on their beliefs and chose to uphold them. Though in the case of Voodoo, there is some level of syncretism with the Catholic Church, it is not so with Palo Mayombe.
Palo Mayombe is a pure branch of Palo; undiluted in its worship and belief systems. Although some Paleros still result in the learning of the teachings of other faiths and make attempts to combine them all in their worship.