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7317: Re: 7294: Probable Islamic influence in Vodoun practices by Bebe (fwd)
"Are they many Islamic influences in Vodou today?" asks Jim.
I am going to advance eight points to show Islamic presence in Vodou and let
you judge for yourself.
1.Boukman, our famous hero of Bwa Ka-Iman, has been described by historians
as Islamic. His name has also been written as Boucqueman. Though, he came
from Jamaica, the first part of his name has nothing to do with "book" but
rather with Bouk, meaning "village". In Mali, the chief of the village was,
until a few years ago and maybe up to today, referred to as the Bouqueman
(pronounced: book-eeman) or the village Iman.
- I have difficulty to accept Frantz assumption of "bo kay Imam" for two
- Bwa can be interpreted as "wood" but it is also employed to designate a
person (ti-bwa, for instance and it might mean "boy" but not in a pejorative
sense). Furthermore, in Creole, bo is not easily confused with bwa.
- Ka, in several African language refers to "head". In other words, it
could mean: "the reunion of the man, head of the Iman."
Where is Michel DeGraff who could shed some valuable light on that subject?
The question is the object of many discussions and those who believe that Bwa
Kayiman means Wood of the Caimans rely on the fact that several maps of the
North, dating from the time of the colony, bear such names.
Vodoun, as an historical reminder, makes a few references to our Islamic
ancestors but from that to say that Islam has influenced Vodoun, I doubt it.
2.Lwas like Kongo Mousayi refer to the famous Kango Moussa usually and
wrongly referred to as Kankan Moussa, who was Islamic.
3.I was told that the people possessed by the Lwa Amin, in the Amin Lakou, in
the Gonaives region, did not speak Creole but expressed themselves in
"language" repeating two words: "la" and "ila" which sounds something like:
"la ila ila la". It's probably the well known "La ilaha illa 'llah" of Islam
which is the first part of the Shahada that means, "There is no god but God"
(The Shahada is the Profession of Faith that all converts to Islam must
4.Alfred Metraux reports having seen in the Marbial Valley the lwas Amin,
Siniga and Banbara as a triad in the hounfo of Manbo Mina. Those Nations were
already very islamized which might explain their unusual behavior as he
5,The boat of Agwe-ta-oyo is called IMAMOU.
In Mandinka and Arabic languages Almamy was the designation of "Al-IMAMU" or
"Al-Imam", the person who leads the Prayer, or in some cases, the chief of
the community, and/or a member of the Imami Muslim community. This should be
particularly interesting for those who research who discovered America first!
It is reported that one of the nominees is a Moslem from the Mali Empire by
the name of Abu-Bakr who led a huge expedition, at least century before
Christopher Columbus, into the "unknown seas" and never returned.
6.Dede Magrit was the name of the founder of the famous hounfo "Nan Kanpech"
that dates from the time of Independence. Dede is usually perceived today as
a Manbo because of her feminine name but in Arabic, Dede means: "father,
ancestor, grandfather". King Henri Christophe, it is said, was very wary of
her (or his?) activities and kept a constant watch on the hounfo from the
Citadelle. It would be more understandable if, in reality, Dede Magrit was a
man since at that time Moslems were reputed to be great warriors and could
have been seen as a threat to the Northern Kingdom of Haiti.
7.There is also the prayer mentioned in a previous post, during which the
participants answer: "sala malekum" as each "Nation" is saluted.
8. Many Lwas do not accept the offering of a pig for sacrifice. That absence
might be significant.
Was Islam a major belief system in Haiti? I don't think so. I am sure that it
still can be found in some places but mostly in family traditions. There are
remnants of the religion in Morne Rouge but I was told that it was
As time passes, it becomes hard to distinguish the origin of certain rituals
probably because it is totally negligible to the practice of Vodoun. However,
our religion being basically an ancestral religion doesn't forget those who
were the precursors of our Independance.
Bebe Pierre Louis