Santeria vs. Voodoo

Santeria merges as a diversity of different faiths. It means ‘way of saints’ or ‘honor of saints. It is an amalgamation between the orthodox Yoruba religion in West Africa and Catholicism.

The religion is also known as La Regla de Lucumi or Lucumi or ‘Lukumi’s Rule’. It emerged in Cuba between the 16th and 19th century. The roots go back to Africa, where the Yoruba tribes practiced the Lucumi religion. Between 1940 and 1960, the immigrants from Cuba spread Santeria in the United States. The religion also features Spanish Catholicism, and to this extent, it is also characterized by Spanish culture. It is well developed in Spanish-speaking people and colonies.

Voodoo is a word originating from Western Africa, and it means ‘moral fiber.’ It blends elements of French Catholicism and traditional religions of West Africa. It developed in Haiti between the 16th and 19th centuries during the Atlantic slave trade. Voodoo can be traced to the Fon and Ewe in West Africa, currently known as Benin. Voodoo can also be spelled as Vodou or Vodun.

In Voodoo, Iwa is a veneration of deities frequently identified as Yoruba gods and Roman Catholic saints. Iwa is an intermediary of the distant and magnificent figure that does not involve itself with humans, Bondye (God).

Voodoo’s paranormal ancestral connection is passed from generation to generation by rituals and spiritual practices. The rituals involve performers drumming that make most of the music, singing, dancing, praying, and even animal sacrifice. These actions inspire Iwa to possess one of their members with a spirit. Once the spirit comes into the member, it can speak to the god (Bondye), dead people, heal, protect, and even do magic.

Similarities between Santeria and Voodoo
  1. Both Santeria and Voodoo are religious practices upheld by people who believe in a common God that is served by several spirits.
  2. Both religions have beliefs in possession by certain spirits – Orishas in Santeria and Loas in Voodoo.
  3. Both spirits – Orishas and Loas – are sometimes identified with Catholic saints.
  4. Santeria and Voodoo were both presented in the Western Hemisphere by slaves from North Africa, most likely Nigeria. The slaves permeated these beliefs into Christianity to avoid being persecuted, since their traditional religious expression was forbidden.
  5. These religions’ ultimate goal is to preserve rituals and cultures to future generations.
  6. Animal sacrifice is integral in both Santeria and Voodoo since they use blood for initiations and cleansing.
  7. During their ceremonies, both use dancing, singing, and drumming to connect with and worship their deities.
Differences Between Santeria and Voodoo
  1. The Santeria deities are known as Oricha or Orisha, while the Voodoo deities are known as Iwa. However, they are both known as the Yoruba gods and Roman Catholic saints.
  2. Santeria means “the way of saints,” whereas the term voodoo meaning “moral fiber” has its origin in African-Haitian religious, traditional practices.
  3. Santeria is based on Yoruba beliefs, while Voodoo is based on Fon and Ewe beliefs.
  4. There is a Spanish influence in Santeria, whereas in Voodoo religion the French influence is more prominent.
  5. Santeria developed among Afro-Cuban communities while Voodoo developed among Afro-Haitian communities.
  6. Santeria’s house of worship is known as the Casa Templo, while Voodoo’s temple is cited as the Ounfo. In Casa Templo, there is an inner room called igbodu, where rituals take place. The ceremonial site found within the Ounfu is known as peristyle.
  7. In Santeria, sacrifices to deities are made by initiates at least once per year. Ebbo is the name of the offering, which can contain a butchered animal, fruits, flowers, or candles. On the other hand, Voodoo demands sacrifices too, but different Iwa are believed to like different food types in this religion. Oungan organizes the annual feasts where animal sacrifices are made to diverse Iwa.
  8. Possession of spirits. In the possession ceremonies in Santeria, the possessed member is referred to as the “horse,” and they say that at the point where the Oricha has already “mounted” them. After the possession, the individual claims not to have any memories of the event. In Voodoo, the possessed individual is known as chual, whereas the act of possession is known as “mounting a horse.”Crise de iwa is the trance of possession.
  9. Santeria practitioners believe that herbalism is a foremost essential in their healing practices and plays significant roles in their members’ health. In Voodoo, Oungan is consulted but he may often send his clients to medical professionals.
  10. In Santeria, the ritual performing ceremonies are known as Toque De Santo. They are also known as Tambor. In these ceremonies, the Oricha is summoned, and the practitioners believe that he is capable of healing the sick and blessing those who deserve it. The Voodoo’s ceremony is often known as the dans. The word comes from dancing, which has a prominent role in religious gatherings. In most cases, the gatherings are held at night with songs and dances, and the Iwa is summoned to join the rite. Food offerings and animal sacrifices are made to Iwa during these ceremonies.
  11. Initiation in Santeria is known as kariocha. The initiation requires a payment, but the amount is decided according to the status of the practitioner and the client’s wealth. Santero oversees the initiation ceremony where the initiate is called Iyabo. It is usually a seven-day ceremony. Sacrifices are made to the Oricha, and a four-legged animal is slaughtered accompanied by twenty-five birds. After the ceremony, the initiate sare supposed to go through a year-long period called the journey of iyawo. During this period, they are expected to perceive numerous restrictions. They are to learn about different deities and how to make sacrifices to them. This is always marked as a life-changing event. Initiation in Voodoo tends to be expensive and needs a lot of preparation. The initiate, who is also known as Kanzo, goes through four levels of initiation. Once the initiate completes the fourth stage, the individual becomes a manbo.
  12. In Santeria, there are rites sketched to make peace with the soul of the departed called itulu. Santeras or santeros are believed to communicate with the spirits of the dead. Practitioners believe that spirits offer advice and give warnings. Voodoo followers also believe in the afterlife. But there’s a different approach. For one year and one day, they believe the deceased’s spirit to be trapped in water and mountains or anywhere one can call and hear an echo. After one year and one day, a ritual is performed to release the deceased’s spirit into the world to live again. Now the spirit can live anywhere, in the trees or even the wind.

Source: occultist.net

Poppet (Voodoo Doll)

As portrayed in modern media, the idea of a Voodoo doll is simply a doll or a figurine representing a person in one’s life. It is then created by using personal objects with attachments to said person (for example, hair) and then using the doll to enact all kinds of spiritual acts. The most popular acts that people associate with Voodoo dolls are that of vengeance and mayhem.

In western media, it’s often shown that people with hate towards another person create the doll to hurt and curse people instead of what the dolls are initially intended for. Once a staple of West African traditionalism and Haitian beliefs, it is now reduced to nothing more than a tourist novelty. Voodoo Dolls have a terrible reputation. It is always depicted in popular media as a small, stitched-up doll that you imbue with your enemy’s essence. It then uses a needle prick, causing pain and inconvenience. And while it’s not unheard of that the dolls are used for curses, it’s doubtful that they are commonly used for this purpose.

The process of making the dolls has nothing to do with stitches and stuffing. Instead, the dolls are customarily made from sticks, straws, or any personal and organic material of the people that you’d like represented in the image of the figurine. As with West African spirituality, they are physical representations of the spiritual realm around people. Taking place on altars and surrounded by objects of interest. These physical conduits to family, friends, and loved ones are there to bring connection with that of the Lwa and to leave prayers and petitions of goodwill unto those that people are close to.

Source: Marie Laveau: Life of a Voodoo Queen. Monique Joiner Siedlak

Hoodoo in Savannah

The Geechee culture is a remnant from what was once a society of black slaves. The area they call home stretches from Savannah southward to an area just below the Ogeechee River, from which they draw their name. Often times this culture is mistakenly called ‘Gullah’, but in actuality the Gullah people exist in an area to the north of Savannah, between Daufuskie Island and Charleston, South Carolina. The two peoples are similar, but not interchangeable: both are rooted in slavery, but the Geechee people have a history and tradition all their own.

Freed after the Civil War, these Island people would often group near the coast where both fishing and farming was plentiful. The community developed their own dialect. In addition to what amounted to their own language (also called ‘Geechee’), this culture also had an elaborate belief system through their African descent. These beliefs are centered on a deep spirituality, believing in both ghosts and in a type of magic cast by charms, potions and amulets.

This magical ability to cast spells is called ‘conjuring’, or ‘casting roots’. A magic spell itself is called a ‘conjure’. The spell is often cast by burying a bag or bundle on the property of the unsuspecting victim. There are also ways of conjuring involving secret potions to drink, powders, nail clippings, and that most powerful of talismans—graveyard dirt. Someone skilled in the art of casting spells is called a root doctor, or a witch doctor. They can be employed if you feel that magic is being used against you.

A witch doctor is very different from a witch, which is often called a ‘boo-hag’. Not to be confused with the Hollywood version, witches in this tradition look no different from regular people. Witches are more akin to vampires, because the belief is that they steal the breath and life-force or essence of the victim. To have your essence stolen by a witch is known as ‘being rid’ or ‘ridden’. If someone looks poor or sickly, the assumption is that a boo-hag stole that person’s energy in the middle of the night; they are being “rid by a witch.”

Li Grande Zombi

Li Grande Zombi is the major serpent spirit of worship among New Orleans Voodooists. In New Orleans Voodoo, snakes are not seen as symbols of evil as in the story of Adam and Eve. Snakes are considered to be the holders of intuitive knowledge—knowing that which cannot be spoken. Women often dance with serpents to represent the spiritual balance between the genders. Voodoo rituals in New Orleans almost always include a snake dance to celebrate the link to the ancient knowledge. The origin of Li Grande Zombi can be traced to the serpent deity Nzambi from Whydah in Africa. According to the Bantu Creation story, Nzambi is the Creator God:

Nzambi exists in everything and controls the universe through his appointed Spirits. In the beginning only Nzambi existed. When he was ready to create, millions and millions of pieces of matter swirled around him counterclockwise until Ngombe was born. Ngombe is the universe, the planets, the stars and all physical matter. Nzambi then created movement, and the matter that he had created began to change and drift apart. So, he decided to create a being that could traverse the universe and mediate between matter and space. Nzambi focused on a fixed point and gave life to a being who was simultaneously man and woman, a manifestation of the nature of Nzambi, called Exú-Aluvaiá.

Sources: The Voodoo Hoodoo Spellbook

Mummy Brown

Until relatively recently, Egyptian mummies, believe it or not, were used to produce a type of paint, which was called Mummy Brown, Mommia, or Momie. The main ingredient of this paint was, as you may have already guessed, ground up Egyptian mummies. This powder was mixed with white pitch and myrrh to produce a rich brown pigment. It was first made in the 16th century, and became a popular color amongst the Pre-Raphaelite painters of the mid-19th century.

For instance, it has been recorded that the British portraitist, Sir William Beechey, kept stocks of Mummy Brown. The French artist Martin Drölling also reputedly used Mummy Brown made with the remains of French kings disinterred from the royal abbey of St. Denis in Paris. It has been suggested that his L’interieur d’une cuisine is an example of extensive use of the pigment, while the mesmerizing painting by Edward Burne-Jones, entitled The Last Sleep of Arthur in Avalon, is also believed to have been painted using Mummy Brown.

Apothecary: Using Ground Mummies to Cure Disease

Art supplies were not the only things that ground bones of mummies were used for. More surprisingly, perhaps, is their use for medicinal purposes. This was due to the belief that mummies contained bitumen, which was used by the ancient Greeks to cure a variety of diseases. Apparently, in the absence of real bitumen, the so-called bitumen from a mummy would do just as well. Keep in mind that the word mummy itself is derived from the Persian word for bitumen, mum or mumiya.

As a result of this belief in the medicinal properties of Mummy powder, Egyptian mummies were exported to Europe, ground down, and sold in apothecaries throughout the continent. Part of the craze for Mummy powder was due to the claim that mummies had a mysterious life force that was transferrable to whoever ingested it. Hence, ground mummies were consumed by Europeans well into the 18th century.

Sources: Ancient Origins, “The Gruesome History of Eating Corpses as Medicine” in Smithsonian Magazine, “Ground Up Mummies Were Once an Ingredient in Paint” in Smithsonian Magazine.

Ars Goetia: Buer

Buer —> The Tenth Spirit is Buer, a Great President. He appeareth in Sagittary, and that is his shape when the Sun is there. He teaches Philosophy, both Moral and Natural, and the Logic Art, and also the Virtues of all Herbs and Plants. He healeth all distempers in man, and giveth good Familiars. He governeth 50 Legions of Spirits, and his Character of obedience is this, which thou must wear when thou callest him forth unto appearance.

Ars Goetia: Paimon

Paimon —> The Ninth Spirit in this Order is Paimon, a Great King, and very obedient unto Lucifer. He appeareth in the form of a Man sitting upon a Dromedary with a Crown most glorious upon his head. There goeth before him also an Host of Spirits, like Men with Trumpets and well sounding Cymbals, and all other sorts of Musical Instruments. He hath a great Voice, and roareth at his first coming, and his speech is such that the Magician cannot well understand unless he can compel him.

This Spirit can teach all Arts and Sciences, and other secret things. He can discover unto thee what the Earth is, and what holdeth it up in the Waters; and what Mind is, and where it is; or any other thing thou mayest desire to know. He giveth Dignity, and confirmeth the same. He bindeth or maketh any man subject unto the Magician if he so desire it. He giveth good Familiars, and such as can teach all Arts.

He is to be observed towards the West. He is of the Order of Dominations. He hath under him 200 Legions of Spirits, and part of them are of the Order of Angels, and the other part of Potentates. Now if thou callest this Spirit Paimon alone, thou must make him some offering; and there will attend him two Kings called Labal and Abalim, and also other Spirits who be of the Order of Potentates in his Host, and 25 Legions. And those Spirits which be subject unto them are not always with them unless the Magician do compel them. His Character is this which must be worn as a Lamen before thee.

Haunted South: Poogan’s Porch Restaurant (Charleston, South Carolina)

At the popular Poogan’s Porch restaurant in Charleston, you might not just experience a delicious meal; you may experience the supernatural as well.

The Victorian house that now serves as the home of Poogan’s Porch was built in 1888 and two sisters, Elizabeth and Zoe St. Amand, once resided there. The women were said to be incredibly close, so much so that when Elizabeth passed away, it sent the elderly Zoe into a mental breakdown.

After neighbors found her roaming the street calling out for her dead sister, she was taken to a local hospital where she lived out the rest of her life. It appears Zoe felt her afterlife, on the other hand, should be lived out at her former home.

Stories of folks spotting the ghost of Zoe on the street and inside the house, calling out and looking for Elizabeth, started shortly after her death, but became much more frequent once it was converted into a restaurant in 1976.

Oh, and did I mention a dog named Poogan, the restaurant’s namesake, also happens to haunt its rooms? Yep.