Meaning of VOODOO in English

also spelled Voudou, French Vaudou, national religious folk cult of Haiti. Voodoo is a mixture of Roman Catholic ritual elements, which date from the period of French colonization, and African theological and magical elements, which were brought to Haiti by slaves formerly belonging to the Yoruba, Fon, Kongo, and other peoples of Africa. The term voodoo is derived from the word vodun, which denotes a god, or spirit, in the language of the Fon people of Benin (formerly Dahomey). Although voodooists profess belief in a rather distant supreme God, the effective divinities are a large number of spirits called the loa, which can be variously identified as local or African gods, deified ancestors, or Catholic saints. The loa are believed to demand ritual service, which thereby attaches them to individuals or families. In voodoo ritual services, a number of devotees congregate at a temple, usually a humble meeting place, where a priest or priestess leads them in ceremonies involving song, drumming, dance, prayer, food preparation, and the ritual sacrifice of animals. The voodoo priest, or houngan, and the priestess, or mambo, also act as counselors, healers, and expert protectors against sorcery or witchcraft. The loa are thought by voodoo devotees to act as helpers, protectors, and guides to people. The loa communicate with an individual during the cult services by possessing him during a trance state in which the devotee may eat and drink, perform stylized dances, give supernaturally inspired advice to people, perform medical cures, or display special physical feats; these acts exhibit the incarnate presence of the loa within the entranced devotee. Many urban Haitians believe in two sharply contrasting sets of loas, a set of wise and benevolent ones called Rada loas, and a harsher, more malevolent group of spirits called Petro loas. Petro spirits are called up by more agitated or violent rituals than Rada spirits are evoked by. A peculiar, and much sensationalized, aspect of voodoo is the zombi. A zombi is regarded by voodooists as being either a dead person's disembodied soul that is used for magical purposes, or an actual corpse that has been raised from the grave by magical means and is then used to perform agricultural labour in the fields as a sort of will-less automaton. In actual practice, certain voodoo priests do appear to create "zombis" by administering a particular poison to the skin of a victim, who then enters a state of profound physical paralysis for a number of hours. For decades the Roman Catholic church in Haiti denounced voodoo and even advocated the persecution of its devotees, but because voodoo has remained the chief religion of at least 80 percent of the people in Haiti, the Catholic church by the late 20th century seemed resigned to coexisting with the cult.

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