Sunday, February 1, 2015

Voo Doo is alive and well in North Carolina.

Papa Joe is a Voo Doo priest in the suburbs of Raleigh. He opened his own temple and now is a pseudo celebrity with a recent documentary (and subsequent Facebook page). Now, you may not believe in Voo Doo, but it is a religion with over 10,000 years of African history attached. Western culture makes jokes of the religion in cartoons like Scooby Doo or horror movies like Kate Hudson's Skeleton Key, but both African and American history (via the slave trade) is intertwined with the belief structures and its many sub-faiths.

While many of African American culture have traded their Voo Doo heritage for "amens" in North Carolina Baptist churches, Voo Doo continues to thrive despite early European colonists attempt to strip it from an entire race of people. Some are choosing to return to the religion with the modern freedoms to do so.

VooDoo like many other religions is polytheistic and has several gods. A hierarchy which leads to a head deity named Bon Dieu. The Serpent is the revered religious icon in Voo Doo which often has been a source of conflict for Christians who use the same icon to represent evil. Often Voo Doo is mislabeled satanic because of this.

Damballah created all the waters of the earth. In the form of a serpent, the movement of his 7,000 coils formed hills and valleys on earth and brought forth stars and planets in the heavens. He forged metals from heat and sent forth lightning bolts to form the sacred rocks and stones.

When he shed his skin in the sun, releasing all the waters over the land, the sun shone in the water and created the rainbow. Damballah loved the rainbow's beauty and made her his wife, Aida-Wedo.

The Gods can manifest themselves in participants of the ceremonies via a process of possession. The ability to move in out of one's souls. Possession is the act of displacing the gros-bon-ange and becoming the animating force of the body.

Young people possessed by an old loa may seem frail and decrepit, while the old possessed by a young loa may dance and cavort with no thought to their disabilities. Even facial expressions change to resemble the loa. That is why when a male loa possesses a female devotee, the pronoun he is used to describe the devotee, and vice versa. A possessed devotee is called a cheval or horse; when a loa takes possession, he "mounts" the devotee.

It's really a captivating religion, and while I'd love to swap bodies with Kate Hudson and see her miserably cry from being stuck in a fat redneck girl's body, my guess is that the reality of  Voo Doo as a religion, is more ceremonial than supernatural (you are of course encouraged to make your own opinion). So it makes me wonder, why does Voo Doo have such malicious undertones for many? Is it misunderstanding, or is it possibly that there is more to Voo Doo than we really know? Is that the reason North Carolina slave owners made such an effort to erase it from their slaves lives.

But then again... "It doesn't work, if you don't believe it."

1 comment:

  1. I'm a New Orleans transplant. Your article brought me a little slice of home. Thank you!