Haitian Vodou originally began from the West African slaves from Benin, who worked for the French colonial masters. It is a syncretism of elements of different faiths. These faiths include the Yoruba Religion, Taino religion, the religion of the people of Kongo, modern mysticism and some Vodouists as the practitioners are called also include elements of the Catholic faith.
Voduists hold a belief in a Supreme god called Bondye. He is believed to have created the entire universe. However, they only relate with this deity through the lesser spirits, called the Laos. These Laos are believed to have control and the ability to influence different aspects of life. There are several Laos due to syncretism with the Catholic faith, these spirits have been associated with different Catholic Saints. Each family is also associated with different Laos and this reflects in the surname.
Vodou is seen as more than a religion by the Vodouist. It is a spiritual path that ties the body and soul together.
Vodouists believe that complete and unreserved dedication and commitment to the spirits would bring rewards from them but doing otherwise can bring about calamity, misfortune and other adverse effects. They also uphold the practice of animal sacrifice to energize the Lao they are dedicated to.
On a personal basis, a Vodou practitioner may decide to lay a table for the spirits he is dedicated to. It is usually set with pictures and images of the spirits, a jug of clear water, a vase of flowers a white candle.
Concept of the Soul:
According to the beliefs of Vodou, the human soul exists in two aspects. One is that which consists of biological functions like blood and breath, the other is the will, character, and mindset of an individual. One enables the individual to act, the other determines the action.
Vodouists refer to the Vodou temple as Peristils. The Priests and Priestesses of Vodou are called Houngans and Mambos. They serve as mediums between the entire community and the Laos. They are responsible for preserving the culture, beliefs, and traditions of the religion such as scared songs, proverbs, and chants. They are also in charge of rituals and ceremonies. The priests and priestesses of Vodou perform the act of divination on behalf of the initiates. Although, a non-initiate can also consult the spirits. Through spirit possession, these priests and priestesses provide healing, direction, and provision for the people.
An assistant priest who as an initiate helps with ceremonies and rituals is called a Hounsis.
Death and The Life After:
Vodou practitioners pay attention to the issues of death and the afterlife. They hold the belief that after a person’s death, his spirit gets trapped in any of the different aspects of nature. Some may be trapped in the waters or mountains or anywhere an echo can be heard. They are believed to be trapped there for a year and a day, after which a ceremony is held to usher them back into the world. However, some Vodouists hold the belief in a paradise a spirit can leave after death.