What is Voodoo?
“There is a voodoo mentality in the world that needs to change. Many people think that rituals, ceremonies, or candle burning can be dismissed as voodoo and hoodoo, or juju, and anyone who even tampers with these types of spiritual systems of devotion should be considered evil, a voodoo worker, or in some cases, a witch. This is what has been termed the voodoo mentality. Many individuals use the word voodoo with scorn and disdain, putting it into a negative context to refer to something evil or malicious acts, but the word voodoo derives from the word vodoun, which means “spirit” or the “spirit is present.” Vodoun teaches that we must recognize spirit in everything that we do. In every thought and in every action; the spirit is alive.
Vodou (this is the original spelling) is not hoodoo or juju, even though these words are used interchangeably by the uninformed. So what is hoodoo? The word hoodoo is a term or a nickname used loosely to describe rootwork or witchcraft in a negative context; however, hudu (this is the original Ewe spelling) is rooted in Afrikan ritual and magical religious practices, which are used mainly for healing and protection, whereas Afrikan witchcraft (practiced by women) and sorcery (practiced by men) have the sole purpose of being evil in nature. “Rootwork, or what many have come to be known as hoodoo, taken out of its original context, is a spiritual system born in the areas of the southern United States— Louisiana, the Carolinas, and Florida—and is based on Afrikan slave traditions mixed with a bit of Christianity, Judaism, Paganism, and Native Amerikan Shamanism. Hoodoo of the Amerikas (rootwork) is not a religion, nor is it considered religious, even though it can adapt to any one of many religious formations, like Christianity or Judaism.”1
“For root workers, known today as hoodoo workers, there are no governed structures or levels of hierarchy; it is more an individualistic study and practice of botany—herbs, roots, and minerals—blended with beliefs of myths and legends from many cultures, pagan and non-pagan alike, to spiritually manipulate the outcome of a person’s circumstance for either good or evil using supernatural means. Hoodoo practices are normally handed down from a practitioner or from an elder family member or teacher, with no need for initiation or ceremony.”1
On the other hand, vodou, totally different from hoodoo, represents a legitimate religion. It is a spiritual/religious system that derived from the traditions of the Afrikan slaves and upholds customary structures, levels of hierarchy, ethics, restrictions, and taboos; ceremonial initiations are mandatory. To truly understand the Afrikan spiritual background and heritage, we must first understand the extent of the slave trade, known as the Middle Passage.”
This is a complimentary excerpt taken from the book, Ancestor Paths – Honoring our Ancestors and Guardian Spirits through Prayers, Rituals, and Offerings by Aladokun. To learn more about the history of the voodoo religion and hoodoo traditions, you will need to read the book “Ancestor Paths”.
1. Referenced from “Hoodoo – In Theory and Practice – An Introduction to African-American Rootwork” by Catherine Yronwode