Voodoo Likely the First African-American Religion in America




“Chicken bones. Conferring with spirits and ethereal deities. Visions of graveyard rituals. These are the images movies and superstition have conjured about the practitioners of the religion of voodoo, or Vodoun.

Unlike Judeo-Christian religions, Vodoun encompasses all areas in a person’s life and incorporates intricate rituals for even the smallest daily routine. The religion stems from natural religions cultivated and handed down from generation to generation in Africa. Largely based on general concepts such as “nature” or the “spirit,” Vodoun is the predecessor to American voodoo. The name “voodoo” is actually a term created by those who saw the religion as evil, but it has derived from several sources, including “Vodou” in the Fon language and “Vudu” in the Ewe language. All told, more than 30 tribal groups in West Africa subscribed to the religion.

OK i’m not feeling this article at all. Starts off about voudun but then talks about “ase”; yoruba based religion and fon based religion are *not* interchangeable. And also I know its not hip in some circles to talk about Islam in Africa but plenty of enslaved Africans were muslims and stayed that way the best they could. I suggest people read Servants of Allah: African Muslims Enslaved in the Americas.

reblogged for the critique

While I appreciate the thrust of the original piece and am grateful for the conversation it has opened up, I would want to build on the critiques concerning Islam and Yorùbá traditional religion thus far by noting that Central African groups were among the first to arrive in the Americas as slaves. Culturally and linguistically Bantu-inspired traditions not only contributed to the development of Vodou in Haiti and hoodoo in the United States, but also inform ‘Kongo’ traditions in the Caribbean and Latin America, such as Afro-Cuban Palo Monte. To add another layer of complexity to the situation, some of those enslaved persons from the Kingdom of Kongo had already converted to Roman Catholicism by the end of the fifteenth century as the result of Portuguese missionization, so Christian aspects of Afro-Diasporic traditions (the use of crosses in Espiritismo, chromolithographs of saints in Lucumí, and so forth) are not always an imposition from above or matter of dissimulation. Of course, this remains a challenge to the popular historiography on these issues, yet the scholarly consensus has been turning towards this view with the recent publication of several new monographs, especially about Central Africans in the “New World.”