Quote of the week: “I am big enough to admit that I am often inspired by myself.” – Leslie Knope


I came across this podcast called “Stuff You Should Know” and two hosts talk, Josh and Charles, about a different topic per episode from patents to traffic and to practically everything. The other day I listened to an episode called “What’s the Deal With Voodoo?”

Josh starts out by telling a story on how there was a slave uprising in Haiti in August 1791. He said it was the only successful slave uprising in the world. That’s a bittersweet sentence because that’s awesome that it happened, but sad that it was the only successful one in the world.

Anyway, during that time, he said that a group of slave leaders and “maroon” leaders got together in a place called the Alligator Woods. They conducted a ritual known as voodoo and pledged their support for this rebellion.

Side note: Maroons were runaway slaves staging guerrilla warfare against plantations and white colonists.

A week later, thousands of slaves revolted and murdered every white person they could find, and burned all the plantations down. Josh mentions some gory details that I will spare you from, so you can go back and listen for those true fans of the podcast. He added that historians say that was the start to making Haiti a free republic, which occurred about 13 years later in 1804.

That particular voodoo ritual in 1791 is what gave voodoo a bad reputation. Since then, it has been fictionalized by Hollywood. Josh said that Pat Robertson, a well-known Christian TV persona, called voodoo “a worship to the devil.”

Josh gave Robertson’s example by stating that when Haitians wanted to get the French colonists to leave, the natives made a deal with the devil.

The French would leave in exchange for the natives’ souls, and that’s what caused the Haiti earthquake in 2010. That’s way too conspiracy thinking for me.

Josh and Charles debunk this conspiracy, which is pretty great. One of them said voodoo is a subjective religion that governs day-to-day life.

There are two different types of voodoo: African and Haitian. In the Haitian voodoo, there is a supreme god (I’m not sure on the spelling, so I’m not going to try).

However, you can’t talk directly to the main god. You have to channel through hierarchal ancestral spirits. This is interesting.

One of the hosts said the term “god” means ancestral spirits. The spirit world is just as real as this the living real world. You may want to listen to the podcast for more clarity on this aspect of the religion.

Both hosts sound similar so I may write that Josh said this, but it very well could’ve been Charles.

In African and Haitian voodoo, there are not spells and evildoing, according to Josh. It’s doing good in your community and being a good person.

Josh said a priest or priestesses gives voodoo practicers guidance and then they live by that guidance.

In African tradition, the evil aspect does exist, which is dark side called Bo. Again, I’m not sure on the spelling and when I tried to Google it, I couldn’t find the correct spelling. Thank you for bearing with me.

Voodoo priests and priestesses do not carry out evil voodoo, but they are familiar with it and try to get people to stay clear of it. Josh or Charles added that priests and priestesses do use voodoo dolls.

About 30 million people in West Africa still practice voodoo, according to Charles. In Benin, a French-speaking West African nation, voodoo is the official religion. One of the main aspects of voodoo is communicating with spirits to find out messages from the supreme god.

To retrieve a message, someone or something has to be possessed, which is called a “horse.” The person or something has to conduct the possession, which is called a “rider,” in Haitian voodoo, according to Josh. If you are confused, you are not alone.

I had to rewind so many times to understand everything because the hosts jump around on different elements of voodoo. I understand it’s a complicated topic, but still.

The bridge between African voodoo and Haitian voodoo is that spirit possession exists. In both practices, there is a gatekeeper between the spirit world and the human world. He needs to be addressed before a possession can happen.

They said the gatekeeper’s name, however please listen to the podcast for the correct name. The last thing I want to do is offend the gatekeeper by spelling his name wrong in a column. Please forgive me, gatekeeper!

Continuing on, you can take any object and make it a ritual, sacred object, hence voodoo dolls. They noted that the objects or dolls aren’t used for harm.

In Bo, or evil voodoo practices, they can be used for harm. Additionally there are ceremonial dances and spirits are invoked through music, Josh said.

One mind-blowing fact mentioned was that when Africans were brought over in Christopher Columbus’ days, they were baptized to Christianity, but they wanted to continue practicing voodoo.

In order to do so, Africans would combine voodoo ideals/practices with Catholicism. So, conspiracy time, if there could be some voodoo practices in with Catholicism.

This takes you about halfway through the podcast episode. I can continue with part two next week.