A Whole Lotta Mumbo Jumbo: The Perpetuity of Vodou Misconceptions
Vodou, beyond simply a religion, is a living tradition. It is a way of life and a worldview long misunderstood. Vodou, by definition, means “spirit,” and spirit is awareness, understanding, and judgment: all things the religion has never received in good light. Vodou was birthed by slaves and is a fusion of West African Vodun influence and the religious traditions of European slave masters, including the rituals of Roman Catholicism. I propose that the religion, by consequence of both its racial association and the longstanding existence of Black prejudices, never held a chance of being understood. To consider my central argument, one must understand how various historical contexts have always influenced the way we look at—or rather, look down at—the religion. Created by slaves, a word synonymous with subhuman, animal, and property at the time the religion arose, Vodou was never to be accepted by outside observers. In the earliest documents to recount the religion, documents written by white males, Vodou is described as salacious, animalistic, and violent: all traits indicative of the racial discrimination of Black individuals at the time, and all traits which the religion is still misperceived as today. What may be the biggest misconception of the religion is that it has ever been something to fear, though centuries of mistrust and western cinematic culture made sure the world did. Due to a widespread and continued lack of understanding, made most noticeable by media misrepresentations and public and temporary public figure slander among other influences, Vodou misconceptions persist today and will until we are willing to learn from the course of history.
Vodou, misconceptions, Haiti, prejudices, Honors College
Ohrabka, M. K. (2022). A whole lotta mumbo jumbo: The perpetuity of Vodou misconceptions (Unpublished thesis). Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas.