[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

7086: Re: 7066: Talking about Vodou (still) (fwd)

From: Laura McPhee <llmcphee@iupui.edu>

While I have no desire to engage in an on-going debate regarding the
accuracy of my post a few weeks ago in which I stated that it has been
my understanding that Vodou is an intensely personal religion and its
practices vary from region to region, I feel compelled to respond to
the question "where do you people get this idea?"

Aside from personal interviews, that I feel would compromise the
spirit in which they were conducted if I quoted them here, I would
simply like to use the following sources as evidence for the above
mentioned claim regarding the variances in Vodou practice.  

This is not an exhaustive list.  I simply grabbed a few books on the
shelf next to me.  Unfortunately, most of my research material is at
my office - including descriptions of Vodou by Andre Pierre, Leslie
Desmangles, Max Beauvoir, and many others who describe Vodou as I have
done.  Hopefully, however, the following quotes will contextualize my

1.  ...since Voudoun is not a centralized religion, ritualistic detail
may differ enormously from region to region.  Rituals that are
important in a certain locality may be entirely unknown in other
regions.  Even within a given locality, as within a thirty-mile radius
of Port-au-Prince details may differ from one hounfor to another.  Any
complete documentation of a ritual would therefore hold true only for
that specific hounfor...[n]or is to be inferred that those rituals and
details that are cited represent universal practices (Maya Deren
"Divine Horsemen"). 

2.   Vodou was created by individuals drawn from many different
cultures.  It took on its characteristic shape over the course of
several centuries.  Vodou has never been codified in writing, never
possessed an institutional structure - a priesthood, a national 
church, an orthodoxy, a seminary, a hymnal, a hierarchy, or a charter.
It has no geographical center or mother church.  Its practice seems to
be highly variable locally (Sidney Mintz and Michel-Rolph Trouillot
"The Social History of Haitian Vodou").

3.   A definition of Vodou is problematic.  The tenets of the faith do
not exist in a written form, and instead are passed on by word of
mouth from one generation to another.  Not only can variants of the
belief system be found in different parts of the country, but rituals
and services differ from one temple to another depending on the
interpretation of the individual priest (Charles Arthur and Michael
Dash "A Haiti Anthology: libete").

4.   There is no typical Vodou.  There are many ways to serve lwa, and
whenever we enter into a discussion of Haitian religion, we must ask,
"What Vodou? Whose Vodou?" (Don Consentino "Sacred Arts of Haitian
Vodou" ). 

5.  ...no single person or organization has the final word on Vodou -
a complex system of universal knowledge and cultural practes with its
decentralized structure, Vodou has been diffused throughout Haiti,
growing and transforming to meet the needs of the people and the
existential realities of the land. (Phyllis Galembo "Vodou:  Visions
and Voices of the Land")

I hope this clears up any misunderstand as to why I would make the
statement I did.  I would also like to add that I do, indeed,
recognize Vodou as a religon and am not sure how my post could be
construed otherwise.

Laura McPhe