On the night of 14 August 1791, slaves from nearby plantations gathered deep in the woods of Bois Caïman, what was then the French colony of Saint-Domingue. By the fire, a young, possessed woman, slit the throat of a large black creole pig and distributed its blood to the revolutionaries, who swore to kill the slave masters. And so the legend goes, the world’s richest colony was overthrown and the first black republic, Haiti, was born. Haitian Vodou became a religion with rebellion and freedom at its heart.
This is the legendary history that lies beneath the many conceptions and misconceptions of vodou.* How does this (the history behind vodou) change, if it does at all, the way we think about vodou? At what point in our knowledge journey do we accept the unknown or the different? Vodou is perceived negatively in the West largely because of the loss and sacrifice of human life. What makes other traditional rites, such as the death sentence more socially acceptable? As humans it’s easy to negatively judge the unknown or the different, but, what’s more fascinating than a culture/religion born out of past oppression that now serves to unite and strengthen a people?
In part II of our Friday the 13th series we’ll take a trip to Benin, West Africa to get an Eastern perspective on vodou.
*Vodou is a religion practised mainly in Haiti; vodouists believe in a distant and unknowable Supreme Creator, Bondye (derived from the French term Bon Dieu, meaning “good God”).
Photo credit – Reuters Blogs