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7077: Vodou's status in Haiti (fwd)

From: "Desmangles, Leslie" <Leslie.Desmangles@trincoll.edu>

I've been following with interest the discussion concerning the nature of
Vodou in Haitian society. It's a misunderstanding to think of Vodou as a
religion. It is more than a religion, or a philosophy for that matter.Vodou
is a way of life that permeates all of Haitian culture. It is part of the
culture that is expressed, even unconsciously, by those who claim not to
submit themselves to its worldview and its sacred principles. Take for
example the veve-like iron works that adorn the buildings throughout Haiti,
the art that decorates the interior walls of many homes whose inhabitants
claim not to have any connections with Vodou, or the many healing methods
that are labeled as "natural", but which in fact derive from Voudou's
traditional healers. 

I think we need to look very carefully at what we mean by "religion". As I
have often noted, Vodou doesn't have a hierarchy of priests or a
clearinghouse for what it teaches. To be a serviteur or a practitioner is
not to choose to identify oneself with any sets of dogmas or religious
principles. In Haiti, one is born in a culture that is imbued with Vodou's
spiritual consciousness. In the words of Ben Gurion who was once asked what
it meant to be a Jew, he said that Jewishness was a state of "I-am-ness".
The same can be said of serviteurs. To be a serviteur is a state of
"I-am-ness" that seizes the entire person and transforms his or her psyche.
That psyche is shaped gradually through acculturation from birth into

Leslie G. Desmangles
Trinity College
Department of Religion and
International Studies Program
Hartford, CT 06106
(860) 297-2407 desk
(860) 297-5358 fax