Voodoo myths and misconceptions are plentiful. Voodoo, or Vodun as it is more accurately known, is one of the world’s oldest religions. It originated in Africa and goes back at least 10,000 years. One of the largest myths is the name itself – Voodoo. Some believe it means something sinister or malevolent. In truth, it is just the African word for ‘spirit’, nothing more and nothing less.
In order to examine myths and misconceptions properly it is important to look at the history of Voodoo. Why? The reason is because many of the Voodoo myths you hear about, even today, are the result of inaccuracies reported over 120 years ago.
How Voodoo Myths and Misconceptions Originated
Voodoo myths truly began when African slaves were taken from their homes to the New World. Slavers hoped to break the ties of religion that various tribes still held after their arrival to North America, South America and the Caribbean. Instead, these tribesmen who practiced Vodun came together and the new religion of Voodoo began. The myths started not long after because white settlers failed to understand the ancient religion.
In 1884 the Voodoo myths began to travel worldwide and back to Europe because of a book called. “Haiti or the Black Republic” written by an author named S. St. John. In this book St. John reported on activities he claims to have witnessed in the West Indies. From that point began the Voodoo myths, which many people have even today when they hear the word Voodoo.
Voodoo Myths that Exist Today
One of the myths that evolved in part because of St. John’s book involves human sacrifice. Even to this day there are people who insist that this myth is real – that anyone who practices Voodoo engages in human sacrifice. This simply isn’t true.
Radical, fundamentalist Christians and Muslims who kill in the name of god are a minority in those religions. The same is true of Voodoo followers – the majority of people have never killed anyone. The Voodoo myths of ‘witch doctors’ killing humans to perform spells or make potions are an exception, not the rule, when it comes to Voodoo. Like a Christian who bombs an abortion clinic or a Muslim who highjacks an airplane, Voodoo followers who kill anyone are a small percentage in relation to the millions of Voodoo practitioners worldwide. One of the biggest Voodoo myths is thinking human sacrifice is the norm.
One of the other myths around today is that Voodoo followers practice cannibalism, the eating of human flesh. The reason this is still one of the largest myths most likely stems from the fact that followers will engage in animal sacrifice. But even that sacrifice isn’t without purpose.
In Voodoo the sacrificed animal is used and consumed in a feast to honor the different pantheon of spirits called Loa. If you think about it, this behavior isn’t far from eating a ‘Christmas Goose, Turkey or Ham’. The key difference is most people get their meat from a butcher shop.
Dispelling Voodoo Myths and Misconceptions
Knowledge is power. The more people know about any religion the less biased about it they become. It’s a burden that all religions of the world face on a daily basis. But the more people learn about Vodun and its practices, the more Voodoo myths will be dispelled. So education, as with all things in life, including Voodoo myths, is the key to greater understanding.