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ibstubro's avatar

How do you explain Voodoo?

Asked by ibstubro (18765points) December 6th, 2016

There are cultures that firmly believe in Voodoo.
I’m not looking for Wiki links. I’m looking for people that have had actual experience with Voodoo or Voodoo practitioners, and understand their beliefs. Or have personally researched Voodoo.
I am in contact with a man that believes he has coughed up live blacksnakes, and had something crawl out of his mouth and bite him on the chin. He appears otherwise lucid, intelligent and personable. Polite, soft-spoken, open.
I don’t know how to respond to his “curse”.

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11 Answers

Cruiser's avatar

To me it is futile to explain the inexplicable. I had an encounter with a purveyor of Voodoo paraphernalia during a visit to a store in New Orleans and had a definite “negative” vibe from that encounter that my instincts told me to get out of Dodge and I did. Here is an excerpt from a a page that addresses this…

“The most important way to protect yourself from the negative energy of others (that is what a curse is, essentially) is to always stay positive and to always be pleasant and polite to others. This seems very simple and it can also be very difficult as many of us are in the habit of worrying, complaining and stressing out over every little thing. But negative energy can be neutralized by positive energy. So, let a smile be your umbrella and a shield!”

“It also helps to avoid engaging with negative people. Negative energy also neutralizes positive energy, so hanging out with negative people can bring you down and make you a target. Also, if someone makes you feel nervous or fearful, you should trust your instincts. And if someone has boasted to you that they have cursed another person, rest assured they are capable of doing the same to you. The more time you spend with someone, the better they get to know you, the easier it will be for them to harm you, whether magically or otherwise.”

Darth_Algar's avatar

It’s a syncretic religion combining elements of West African and Caribbean religions and Roman Catholicism. That’s about the extent of my knowledge of it.

As a syncretic religion it’s likely to be highly open to personal interpretations and beliefs, which could make it difficult to explain in a kind of firm, codified way.

YARNLADY's avatar

The power of our minds has not yet been explained.

olivier5's avatar

It’s a magic belief system. Nothing that difficult to get.

Isaac Newton tried all his life to find a way to change lead into gold, and postulated a theory of gravity where bodies act on one another at a distance, without any medium. That too is “magic thinking”.

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Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

What people not from these islands refer to as “Voodoo”, has been grossly misunderstood for generations. As stated above, it is a blend of African tribal rituals and folk medicine strongly influenced by Catholic culture and rituals. It is the product of the Caribbean slave cultures, people who had to fend for themselves on the land within a social structure that provided no healthcare and without a codified justice system within the slave culture. Voodoo was a way to solve problems among people who had no access to science as we know it. Placing ritualistic curses on enemies, which is so popularly emphasized in fiction, played a very small part in it.

There are different cultures on different islands, depending on which country colonized them, so there were variations of what is called voodoo on Haiti, with different terminology and was practiced under many different names.

Zombies were people entranced at rituals, much like the trances and speaking of tongues in some fundamental Christian sects who believe they talk to God. These were people who were thought to be able to communicate with the dead, sometimes assisted by herbal hypnotics, narcoleptics, and paralysis-inducing drugs administered by a voodoo priest or priestess. They were sometimes painted a ghostly white in hopes of them not being noticed as they traveled through the netherworld. I’m assuming some never recovered and remained zombie-like, just like many drug abusers we see today. These rituals were seen by visitors throughout the centuries and became lucrative subjects in literature and later in film.

Today, there are festivals that incorporate many of the costumes and traditions of these old beliefs, but few take them seriously. It has been a source of embarrassment to the governments and educated people of these islands and has been discouraged in the latter part of the twentieth century. Political independence has brought healthcare and a good educational system to these islands, and this has replaced the necessity for these religions. Only recently have people felt a need to get back in touch with these aspects of the slave culture in order to gain a better understanding of their past.

The Caribbean consists of many thousands of small islands, difficult and expensive to access adequately by healthcare as most of you know it. Therefore, there is still a strong tradition of folk medicine in these islands with a bit of spiritualism in the mix—a common belief in a higher power. There is some ritual, if the patient so desires, but this usually consists of burning herbs or scented candles, ritual foods, some prayer or singing.

These practitioners are men and women who know their herbal pharmacology, often handed down from parent to child, and administer family medicine among their people the best they can. Doctors can only make monthly or quarterly visits by boat and plane to the most remote islands and they often consult these local practitioners before making their rounds of a given village, much like a doctor will receive a status report from a charge nurse before he sees patients on a hospital floor.

But as modern medicine is more evenly distributed, the practitioners of folk medicine—the last vestige of what is called voodoo—are quickly disappearing and the knowledge is in jeopardy of being forgotten.

Darth_Algar's avatar

@Espiritus_Corvus

And I have no doubt that that popular emphasis on curses, dark ritual, etc, was rooted in attempts to paint the negro as an inherently vile, debased creature who needed the religion and culture of the white man to uplift him and bring him to salvation.

Coloma's avatar

Personally I wish Voodoo dolls were real and did work. sticking a pin in some deserving persons behind and literally, creating a real pain in their ass would be quite gratifying. lol

rojo's avatar

^^ You Do ^^

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