Human skulls, blood sacrifices, demon-possessed dolls, snakes, mysterious priests and priestesses, etc. Such is the image the media often portray. Unfortunately, this seems to be the perception the general public holds whenever “voodoo” is mentioned. Some people consider voodoo nothing but an archaic ancient pagan religion full of nothing but darkness, sorcery, witchcraft, demons and blood. But is voodoo really that evil?. Do voodoo worshippers believe in the supreme God at all?. Why do voodoo practioners worship ancestral spirits and lesser gods?
To begin with, yes, despite the numerous “versions” and “sects” in the traditional African belief system, the belief in an almighty, all-powerful God is central throughout. Traditional African worshippers (or voodoo worshippers) do believe in the existence of an omnipotent and omnipresent God just like in the three major abrahamic religions (Christianity, Islam and Judaism). There may be several names for this supreme being depending on which part of the world you go but the fact remains, it is the same God.
Contrary to media portrayals and popular beliefs, there isn't much difference between Voodoo and Christianity. In fact, the only major difference between voodoo and Christianity lies in the mode of worship of the above-mentioned supreme and all-powerful God.
In Christianity for example, Jesus is the way, the truth, and the light and that, no one goes to the Father (Almighty God) except through him (Jesus). It is the same in the traditional African belief system. In Africa, it is not a sign of great respect for a young person to frequently approach a king directly all alone. It is better for the young person to approach the king accompanied by an elder. It is also not a sign of great respect for a young person to frequent a king’s palace empty-handed. In the traditional African religion, the Supreme God is the king of all kings and the most powerful of all beings, and it would be a major sign of disrespect to approach Him directly without some preparations. In other words, we humans who are mortal beings, need some intermediaries to enable us reach this supreme God and that is where the lesser gods and the ancestral spirits come in. The point to note here is that, the lesser gods and the ancestral spirits function in a similar way to Jesus in Christianity.
Also, Traditional African believers believe and worship ancestral spirits the same way most Christians (especially Catholics) do believe and pray to saints. Saints are also ancestral spirits. In fact, the parallels between voodoo and Christianity are so strong that even Pope John Paul II spoke at length about the esteem with which he held practitioners of voodoo, acknowledging the “fundamental goodness” inherent in their practices, teachings, and beliefs. Pope John Paul II even attended a voodoo ceremony in 1993.
Voodooism is the mother of all religions and almost all religions in the world today had their roots in voodooism. Yes, the roots of voodooism predate any known religion in the world today. In other words, voodooism has been around in Africa since the beginning of human civilization. Contrary to media portrayals, there is a central moral code in voodooism that forbids the harming of other people. Yes, voodooism strictly prohibits the harming of others. Voodoo is a spiritual expression and a way of life and has nothing to do in common with witchcrafts or any of that sort.
Some people consider voodooism a violent religion because of the “blood” sacrifices. However, voodooism isn’t the only religion that practices blood sacrifices. In fact, most of the major religions in the world today including Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, etc., all practiced and most continue to practice blood sacrifices even today. In other words, voodooism is not as violent as the media (especially in Hollywood movies) often portray the voodoo religion to be. Compared to other religions in the world today, voodooism is without a doubt, one of the most peaceful religions we have.
The practice of voodoo comes in many forms and just like there are several churches, sects, and several denominational groups in the world today, there are several types and forms of voodoo practices. From Benin (the motherland of voodoo) to Ghana and Togo. From Haiti all the way to the city of New Orleans in Louisiana on the Mississippi river. From Mexico to Cuba and all the way to Brazil. The list goes on and on. Voodoo evolves and adapts along the way as we see in religions like Santeria.
In other words, voodooism is not some “archaic” ancient religion. Voodooism is a modern religion practiced by millions around the world and has officially been the national religion of Benin since 1996. Despite the numerous forms and types of voodoo all across the world, the central moral code in voodoo practices remains. Voodooism strictly prohibits the harming of other people. Voodooism cherishes nature and respects the environment. Voodooism cherishes the natural order of things and respects both the living and the dead.