Haitians’ vernacular religion is a heterogeneous system organized around local kin groups that trace their identities to resistance to plantation slavery, economic freedom, and ownership of land. Members of ritual units include living, ancestors, and inherited Ginen (African) spirits, or lwa, whose powerful sway stems from their ability to afflict members wherever they reside, including abroad. The only remedy is collective ritual, involving food offerings, Catholic prayer, spirit possession/performance, music, and dance. The embodied performance promotes reciprocity and disciplines individualism’s threat to the unit’s social and moral life.
The term “voodoo” is a notorious racist symbol of the quintessential other. Outsiders’ sensational representations of voodoo have little to do with the religious practices and beliefs of ordinary Haitians. Rather, these distortions disguise the creators’ own imagined fears to project them onto Haitians, in turn questioning...
KeywordsRoman Catholicism in Latin America Syncretic Religions in Latin America Haiti and Afro-American Religions and New Age Practices
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