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Voodoo altar with multiple fetishes in Abomey , Benin (2008)
Bat is being prepared for a voodoo ritual, Akodésséwa fetish market , Togo
Skulls of various animal species
Akodésséwa fetish market, the largest voodoo market in West Africa in 2008

Voodoo [ ˈvuːduː ], also Vodun , Voudou , Wudu or Wodu , is a syncretistic religion that originally developed in West Africa and is now also at home in Creole societies in the Atlantic region and especially in Haiti . Through slavery , the practice came from the traditional religions of West Africa to the Caribbean , with elements of other religions - predominantly the Christian - being introduced. Voodoo has around 60 million followers worldwide.


Voodoo is an originally West African religion. The word "Voodoo" is derived from a word in the West African Fon for spirit . It is often used to represent various African-American religions.

Voodoo is part of the Yoruba tradition. The Yoruba crossed Africa from Egypt via a route that crosses Africa from the middle of the Nile to the middle of the Niger . In this area of ​​present-day Nigeria was a culture that today's science calls the Nok culture . Between 200 and 500 BC, the Yoruba peoples met the Nok and slowly began to merge with them. Under the leadership of King Oduduwa of the Yoruba, his people settled in the already existing city of Ile-Ife , which was considered a holy city for the local population. Their descendants conquered the regions through which they passed, and thus laid the foundation stone of the Yoruba Empire, which was to carry the faith on.

Voodoo is nevertheless a syncretistic religion made up of diverse African, Islamic, Catholic and also Indian elements, which resulted from the origin and history of the slaves in the West Indies : Torn from their African village communities and forced to work for the colonialists and to the Christian faith, some of the slaves attempted to continue their original religion and the hope and identity that they associated with it. For example, images of Catholic saints in voodoo are often representative of African spirits with similar properties or similar symbolic content.

Today, Voodoo is mainly practiced in the African states of Benin , Ghana and Togo , also in the Caribbean state of Haiti - and partly in Haiti's neighboring state, the Dominican Republic , where many Haitians live - and partly in Louisiana (USA). In Benin, Voodoo is an officially recognized religion together with Christianity and Islam. January 10th every year has been a voodoo holiday since 1996 , introduced by President Nicéphore Dieudonné Soglo . On April 4, 2003, Voodoo was made an official religion in Haiti by President Jean-Bertrand Aristide . Since then, houngans, bocore and mambos have had the same rights in Haiti as their Catholic counterparts. You can officially enter into marriages, perform baptisms, and preside over funerals.

Closely related religions of the Yoruba tradition are practiced in a slightly different form and under different names in Cuba ( Santería ) and in Brazil ( Candomblé , Umbanda ). In the different Caribbean states, due to the different behavior of the slave traders towards their slaves (and thus also due to differences in the teaching of the Catholic faith), Voodoo developed differently than in Haiti.

The Voodoo religion is spreading worldwide, especially in the continent of origin, Africa, as the black population in particular remembers its roots. In Haiti, an estimated three quarters of the people belong to the voodoo. At the same time, however, 90 percent also profess the Catholic faith.


Voodoo knows only one god , this is French Bondieu ("Good God"), derived from it called Bondye in Creole . However, since Bondieu is so powerful that the believer cannot turn to him directly, there is the loa as an intermediary. The Loa are divine spirits who have the power to change things. For the voodoo believer, the Loa Racine , the family loa, whose worship has taken place within the family for generations, are the most important contacts.

Cult and content

In Haiti's voodoo cult, the three loa nations Rada , Ghede and Petro (Creole: Petwo ) dominate. The Radakult is the older and therefore more traditional cult with African origins. Rada- loa are gentle in nature and have regenerative properties. The petro cult arose in connection with the wars of liberation of the Haitian slaves at the end of the 18th century. This explains the rather aggressive and warlike nature of the Petro-Spirits, some of whom are said to have actively participated in the struggle for independence. Initializing was the big vodoo ceremony of Bois Caiman ("Forest of Caiman") on August 14, 1791 in the north of the island. A slave who had fled from Jamaica, who called himself Boukman (probably a reference to the fact that he was well read), gathered slaves who had already fled and numerous slaves from the surrounding plantations around him that night. A war began under his leadership that only ended on January 1, 1804 with Haiti's declaration of independence. Voodoo played a crucial role in this all along and led to military symbols becoming firmly anchored in Haitian voodoo - a phenomenon not found in this form in other African American religions. One might think that the Petwo spirits would rather be avoided in ceremonies because of their difficult characters. This is not the case, however, as their explosive temperament makes them extremely dynamic in their effect. They are therefore happy to consult them, for example, when quick results are desired or serious illnesses need to be cured. Certain loa like Simbi Andezò belong to both the Rada and Petrò cult. Plèn dinò is another important place of pilgrimage shared with the Catholic Church.

Voodoo fetish market in Lomé , Togo (2008)

At the center of voodoo rituals are the sacrifice of animals or stimulants such as rum and tobacco as well as the priests , those initiated into the community , the festival and dance (see trance dance ) with its drum rhythms and chants assigned to various spiritual beings . The symbol of the priesthood is the ritual rattle called Asson . The loa occasionally take possession of the dancers, who are in a deep trance.

The Temple of voodoo are as Hounfours that the temple-using communities as Sosyetes ( kreol. For Communities designated). In Haiti, Sodo has become an important place of pilgrimage for voodoo; the Roman Catholic Church regards Sodo as a place of Marian apparition on the basis of the same alleged apparitions and organizes its own pilgrimages there in parallel .

The writer Hubert Fichte describes in two volumes his travels through the space of the Afro-American religion and his search for information about it.

In voodoo all sexual orientations including the practiced homosexuality are accepted.

Faith groups

There is no closed religious community, rather the followers of Voodoo are divided into individual groups. Each group worships a particular tradition, sacred figure, or loa . The top loa (in Santería and Candomblé is spoken of orishas or Orixás ) is Olorun , a very important loa is called Obatala . In addition, there are far more than 200 loa, including Papa Legba , as a mediator between gods and humans, Agowu , a loa that can trigger storms and earthquakes, Damballah , the loa of snakes, Ogoun , the loa of wars, Ghede , Agwe , Ti-Jean-Petro and Erzulie . A priest is called a houngan or babalawo , a priestess is called a mambo .

Alleged zombies are legendary notorious for the voodoo cult . They haunt children's nightmares, shock horror films and apparently have a real origin in the fringes of the voodoo cult. It is said to be robbed, permanently heavily anesthetized people who, living in physical neglect, have to do heavy labor . Since their relatives do not know about this existence and consider them dead and buried, their fate does not attract attention.

In these religions, obsession is part of the ritually performed union with a loa. Here it has nothing to do with the suffering of a mentally ill person; it is considered an honor to be "ridden" by the loa. People who were briefly consumed by the spirits during trance ceremonies are highly honored in Voodoo and questioned by the sick and those seeking help during the trance. Such a "possessed" person is from then on spiritually connected to the spirit being in question throughout his life. Often it is this loa who later wants a closer connection with the believer, which is created through an elaborate ritual.

Tchamba is an obsession cult in southern Togo that honors the spirits of former slaves.


The belief and practice of Voodoo overlap with other, primarily Christian, religions. Thus Mary , the mother of Jesus Christ , is syncretized with the female loa Erzulie . Erzulies Veve contains a heart pierced by a sword, as it is in Christian symbolism for Mary. In Haitian voodoo, the Christian saint and martyr Philomena of Rome is syncretistically venerated in the form of the female loa Filomez .

Voodoo in the US and Canada

Most of the African slaves brought to Haiti or the southern United States in the 18th century came from West Africa. The French colonial rulers forbade them to practice their beliefs and introduced Catholicism as an official religion. After Haiti gained independence from France on December 31, 1804, the old customs were again practiced in freedom .

Because of Christian influences, however, the North American and Caribbean voodoo differs from its belief in African origins. In addition to the beliefs of their ancestors, many of Haiti's inhabitants also profess Christianity at the same time and incorporate Catholic traditions into their rites . In Africa elements of Islam flow into Voodoo, conversely, spirit cults of Voodoo can be found in African popular Islam .

Today, adherents of voodoo cults can be found especially in New Orleans , Miami and Montreal . Marie Laveau had a great influence on the voodoo cult in the USA . Since Voodoo is mainly practiced here by Caribbean migrants, the contents of belief and practice also relate to the migration context, i.e. H. the everyday issues and needs of migrants.

Black magic

Voodoo is repeatedly associated with black magic . These ideas were nourished by the practices of the cult of the dead and the belief in the resuscitation of the long dead ( necromancy ). The female Loa Marinette is considered the most dangerous spirit .

Human sacrifice was and is not part of the belief in voodoo. But rituals are practiced in which animals are sacrificed. These animal sacrifices serve on the one hand for the spiritual nourishment of the Loa , on the other hand for the nutrition of the believers. It is therefore a matter of ritual slaughter .

As in other cultures and religions, it can happen that priests and believers of Voodoo try to use their supposed powers for harmful magic. Voodoo priests and followers who practice such practices are called bocore . In contrast, there is the houngan , a voodoo priest who rejects such practices if, in his opinion, there is no morally appropriate reason. In the case of priestesses, this conceptual distinction is usually not made; they are always referred to as mambos .

Voodoo dolls

Voodoo doll

A well-known, but mostly exaggerated, custom is the making of voodoo dolls, which are often modeled after a specific person. Sometimes a photo is also stuck on the doll's head. By pricking the doll or piercing it with needles, pain is supposed to be inflicted on the person concerned. Rarer than the black magic voodoo dolls but for healing the sick used. This analogy spell was originally used by priests in Haiti .

Similar practices of damaging magic existed in Europe as popular belief in the form of the Atzmen .


In the past, the voodoo religion was deliberately abused for purposes alien to religion, in particular as a means of intimidation and threat.


Between 1957 and 1971, Haiti's dictator François Duvalier posed as Baron Samedi , a death spirit in voodoo, in order to intimidate his opponents and secure his political power.

Forced prostitution

Voodoo was abused in a different way in the milieu of forced prostitution . Here the belief in oaths taken by voodoo priests in West Africa served to make young West African women abducted to Germany compliant with their pimps, who also came from West Africa. Some reports do not mention voodoo, but rather the religion juju , which is also widespread in Nigeria, as a means of forced prostitution or equate juju with Nigerian voodoo.

Collections of voodoo objects

Lehmann Collection

Born in Switzerland, Marianne Lehmann has lived in Haiti for almost 50 years and raised four children there with her Haitian husband. Since a voodoo priest offered her a cult object for sale over 25 years ago, she began collecting these objects while developing a deep understanding of this important part of Haitian culture. The Haitian voodoo priests now see her as a “protector” of their cult objects, which they mostly sell out of material need. Over the past 25 years, Marianne Lehmann has built up a collection of over 2500 Haitian voodoo objects. It thus makes a valuable contribution to the preservation of Haitian cultural heritage .

The collection has been exhibited several times in Europe, e.g. B. in Berlin. The last chance to see the collection in Europe was in Bremen at the Überseemuseum . The exhibition ended on April 29, 2012. After that, the collection was to be shown in Toronto and finally in New York. The aim of the exhibitions is to point out the valuable content of Haitian Vodou and at the same time to draw attention to the threat to this culture from diverse influences. At the same time donations are to be collected, which will be used for the construction of a museum in Haiti itself in order to give this unique collection back to the Haitian people on a permanent basis.

Collection Christoph

In Essen, the Christoph Collection in the Soul of Africa Museum gives you the opportunity to get an idea of ​​West African Vodun. “In its entirety, the collection gives a deep and comprehensive insight into the voodoo culture of West Africa. The art of the voodoo culture is reflected in its entire breadth. I am convinced that the visitors to the exhibition will gain a lasting impression of what Voodoo really is. ”(Professor Adande, University of Cotonou)

Henning Christoph is a studied ethnologist and photo journalist and describes West Africa as his "second home", where he has been intensively documenting traditional rites in photos and films for 35 years, especially the Vodun culture in Benin.

Museum of the Peoples

The Museum der Völker in Schwaz, Tyrol, founded by Gert Chesi in 1995 , shows a number of high-quality works of art. Among other things, the museum houses an important collection of terracottas from the Nok culture as well as contemporary African voodoo figures and utensils from animism. This mix of different artifacts extends over a period of four thousand years and gives an insight into the cultic and artistic creation of mankind. As the author of twenty books and numerous articles, Gert Chesi has provided the museum with information that not only makes the global connections between the traditions understandable, but also explains them meticulously.

Voodoo in pop culture

Films (selection)


Novels (selection)

  • Laurell K. Hamilton - The Anita Blake series not only deals with voodoo in the form of raising the dead, but also addresses other aspects.
  • Marion Zimmer Bradley - Drums in the Twilight , Original 1976, German: Heyne, 1985 to 2000
  • Nalo Hopkinson - The Salt Roads. Warner Books, 2003
  • Alex Kortner: Dark dance. Droemer / Knaur, 2006
  • Brian Hodge : City of the Dead. Festa, 2006
  • Nick Stone : Voodoo. Goldmann, 2007
  • Ross Thomas, Voodoo, LTD., Alexander Verlag Berlin, Thriller, first published in 1992


  • In the piece Voodoo by the band Ghost Town , the singer compares himself to a voodoo doll.
  • Jimi Hendrix alludes (according to Charles Shaar Murray) with the song titles Voodoo Chile and Voodoo Child (Slight Return) to the influence of voodoo on the blues.
  • Aerosmith , the song Voodoo Medicine Man on the 1989 album Pump
  • In the song Voodoo by Deichkind (fictional) experiences with voodoo are described.
  • In his piece Akustik Voodoo, Daniel Wirtz compares the effect of music with that of voodoo.
  • Voodoo from Godsmack
  • Who do you Voodoo, Bitch from Sam B
  • The third album by the band Mr. Hurley & the powder apes is entitled Voodoo.
  • Voodoo by Chris Isaak , 1991
  • Voodoo by Black Sabbath from the album Mob Rules , 1981
  • Miles Runs the Voodoo Down, double LP Bitches Brew by Miles Davis , 1970
  • MOZ - Voodoo Slang from MOZ
  • Voodoo from Body Count
  • Voodoo circus by Genetikk
  • Voodoo Doll from 5 Seconds of Summer
  • Voodoo Doll from VIXX
  • The music of the Benin band Orchester Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou is often based on Vodun rhythms
  • Dr. John was a follower of this religion, so he sang songs about Voodoo, Hoodoo, the Loa and Marie Laveau, e.g. E.g .: Gris-Gris Gumbo Ya Ya, Walk on Gilded Splinters, Litanie des Saints. The trance-like rhythm of the songs should be reminiscent of a ritual trance. He also derives his stage name from the voodoo priest Dr. Exit John.

Video games

Radio plays (selection)


  • Oliver G. Becker: Voodoo in the penalty area. Football and Magic in Africa. CH Beck, Munich 2010, ISBN 978-3-406-60131-6 .
  • Gert Chesi : Voodoo in Africa. Haymon, Innsbruck 2003, ISBN 3-85218-433-9 .
  • Heike Drotbohm: Ghosts in the Diaspora. Haitian discourses on gender, youth and power in Montreal, Canada . Curupira, Marburg 2005, ISBN 3-8185-0415-6 .
  • Henning Christoph, Klaus E. Müller , Ute Ritz-Müller: Soul of Africa - the magic of a continent . Cologne 1999, ISBN 978-3829027151 .
  • Reginald Crosley : The Vodou Quantum Leap . Llewellyn Publications, 2000, ISBN 978-1567181739 .
  • Maya Deren : The dance of heaven with earth, the gods of Haitian Vaudou. ( Divine Horsemen, 1953) Vienna 1992.
  • Karola Elwert-Kretschmer: Religion and fear, sociology of the voodoo cults. Campus, Frankfurt a. M./New York 1997. (also: Hannover, Univ., Diss., 1995)
  • Andreas Gößling: Voodoo. Gods, spells, rituals. Knaur Taschenbuch, Munich 2004, ISBN 3-426-77733-9 .
  • Melville J. Herskovits : Dahomey. An Ancient West African Kingdom. 2 vol., New York 1938.
  • Laennec Hurbon: Voodoo: Truth and Fantasy. Thames and Hudson, London 1995, ISBN 0-500-30049-6 .
  • Gabriele Lademann-Priemer: Voodoo. Know what's right . Herder, Freiburg 2011, ISBN 978-3-451-06349-7 .
  • Karen McCarthy-Brown: Mama Lola; Voodoo in Brooklyn. EVA, Hamburg 2000 (original 1991).
  • Alfred Métraux : Voodoo in Haiti. ( Le Vaudou haitien. 1958) Gifkendorf 1994, ISBN 3-926112-39-5 .
  • Papa Nemo: The Way of Voodoo. From the basics to practice. Specialized publisher for esoteric philosophy, 2003, ISBN 3-936830-01-0 .
  • Heike Owusu: Voodoo rituals. Background, practice and protective measures. Schirner Verlag, Darmstadt 2006, ISBN 3-89767-533-1 .
  • Astrid Reuter: Voodoo and other African American religions. Beck, Munich 2003.
  • Laura Salm-Reifferscheidt (text), Ann-Christine Woerth (photos): Voodoo. Living with gods and healers in Benin . FA Herbig, Munich 2011, ISBN 978-3-7243-1040-2 .
  • Papa Shanga: Practice of Voodoo Magic. Esoterischer Verlag Paul Hartmann, 2000, ISBN 3-932928-00-8 .
  • E. Wade-Davis: Snake and Rainbow, Exploring Voodoo Culture and Its Secret Drugs. Knaur, Munich 1988.



  • Mounted by the Gods (2003), directed by Alberto Venzago , documentary film in which Alberto Venzago accompanied Mahounon (one of the most powerful voodoo priests in Africa) with his camera for almost ten years, films secret voodoo ceremonies and sacrificial rituals and access to holy places gets.
  • Voodoo - The power of healing. (2010), recorded: Henning Christoph
  • Voodoo - Magician of the Earth (2013), director and camera: Gert Chesi for the Museum der Völker

See also

Web links

Commons : Voodoo  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Voodoo  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ ORF ON Science: Voodoo in Cyberspace , Österreichischer Rundfunk , undated
  2. a b Papa Nemo: The Way of Voodoo - From the Basics to Practice. Verlag Fachverlag for Esoteric Philosophy, Siegburg 2003, ISBN 3-936830-01-0 .
  3. Voodoo Festival , Festivals of Religions
  4. Stefan Rocker: Voodoo cult in Haiti: The god descends into the mud hole. August 7, 2005 ( Memento of September 5, 2008 in the Internet Archive )
  5. ^ Spread of the voodoo cult in the world. ( Memento from May 16, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) on: br-online.de
  6. Brief information on religion: African American religions. on the website of the Religious Studies Media and Information Service e. V.
  7. Voodoo - An attempt to unveil the term and represent a religion. to: relinfo.ch
  8. ^ Alfred Métraux : Voodoo in Haiti. ( Le Vaudou haitien. 1958) Gifkendorf 1994, ISBN 3-926112-39-5 .
  9. Astrid Reuter, 2003, p.
  10. Milo Rigaud: Secrets of Voodoo . Pages 36 f, published 1969. ISBN 978-0872861718 at Google Books
  11. James Henderson: Haiti: Deliverance from evil . The Daily Telegraph , June 10, 2003, accessed January 10, 2015.
  12. Irene Monroe: The Roots of Voodoo's Acceptance of Gays . Huffington Post , November 2, 2011.
  13. ^ A b Description of Various Loa of Voodoo , Webster University , 1990
  14. ^ William Rizzuto: Origins of the Lwa ( Memento of March 14, 2014 in the Internet Archive ), Vodou Roots, 2013
  15. Boukman Eksperyans: Filomèz , hougansydney.com, undated
  16. Heike Drotbohm: Ghosts in the Diaspora. Haitian discourses on gender, youth and power in Montreal, Canada. Marburg: Curupira, ISBN 3-8185-0415-6 .
  17. ^ Bob Corbett: Selected Voodoo terms . Webster University , undated
  18. ^ Stephanie Hanes: Jean-Claude Duvalier, ex-Haitian leader known as Baby Doc, dies at 63 . Washington Post October 4, 2014.
  19. Dietmar Seher: Women with voodoo forced into prostitution - raid in NRW , derwesten.de of October 26, 2012
  20. Maik Baumgärtner, Lisa Bjurwald: Human trafficking in Europe: The abused longing. Spiegel online from February 16, 2014.
  21. From Nigeria to the street prostitute. Stern, April 2, 2008.
  22. nawao.org
  23. ^ National Museums in Berlin ( Memento from September 9, 2012 in the web archive archive.today )
  24. Übersee-Museum Bremen
  25. ^ Foreword website of the museum ( Memento from August 16, 2016 in the Internet Archive )
  26. ^ Museum website
  27. ^ Museum website
  28. ^ Website Gert Chesi
  29. Dr. John: [1] , [2] , [3] Youtube
  30. Voodoo - The Power of Healing. on: kino.de
  31. Voodoo - Magician of the Earth. on: vimeo.com