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8445: Bob Corbett and the Internet on Voodoo (fwd)
Our list master is usually very cool, but when he gets hot, he's hot! In this particular case, I find that I both agree and disagree with his stance, especially in the matter of "political correctness."
On the yea side, the giving of a new name to an old reality doesn't change the nature or the perceptions of that reality. A gang of Chimeres is a gang of Chimeres, and a thug is a thug, whether you call the one "popular organization" and the other "Senator" or "Major." Also, he who calls me a nigger or a monkey is not likely to change his perception simply because I dignified myself with a new name.
On the nay side, people are entitled to name themselves and their creations, regardless of what the New York Times Manual of Style says. The Wien vs. Vienna analogy is not very good because Vienna is a value-free translation. "Voodoo," in contrast, is so loaded with prejudices and negative attitudes that it no longer qualifies as translation.
The search engine google.com came up with 667,000 hits for "Voodoo," 75,000 hits for "Vodou" and 3,300 for "Vodun." I went on to sample five entries under each category. Under "Voodoo," the first entry was an archive at nandotimes.com -- books and articles in English written by non-Haitian authors. The next random entry was an interactive site that sells voodoo dolls. The third item, at apple.com, was a promotional page for "Digital Voodoo," which you can experience live at the upcoming Macworld Conference and Expo, in July at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City. The next item, at Zodee.com in Australia, provides the latest in female undergarment, "available in Eclipse (Nearly Black) and Celestial (Skin)." Bob Corbett's Dictionary of Voodoo Terms was the next item in line after this most titillating of offerings. The last item in my survey was an ad for "Voodoo Spells," a booklet on "modern spells and voodoo rites" by Vivi Mitchell, which sells for $2.99!
. This was followed by the lyrics to the song "Voodoo-U" by Lords of Acid ("I'm gonna voodoo-u," etc.)
A quick scroll under "Vodou" (still at google.com) brought up the site for the "Sacred Arts of Haitian Vodou" exhibition, several pages selling Haitian art and crafts, some scholarly stuff in English and French, and a bunch of material in the Czech language. Most enticing was an ad for Madame Freda, "Voyante Haitienne" in Paris who promises good results in developing one's natural gifts, and guaranteed protection against evil spirits (readings: FF250 + 1 candle).
"Vodun" is the preferred term among African-Americans, Benin writers and the "politically correct" set within the African diaspora.
>From my quick survey, it would appear that white folks in the US have appropriated something they call "voodoo," which reflects with amazing accuracy a lot of their ignorance, prejudices and fears vis-à-vis African spirituality, but which has little in common with the religion of Haitians. The other two categories (Vodou and Vodun) have their faults as well, but they come across as much less confusing or offensive.