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

Gu: Vodun of Iron and War

They say Gu was born with a human body and a blade as a head. This perfectly portrays his role as the god of iron and war. The two things are related; iron ore is used to make weapons for war, among other things.

A title like the Vodun of War denotes a spirit who is angry or out for destruction or chaos, but that’s false. A god of war is not necessarily there to sow conflict and division. Still, they are there to bestow victory, wisdom, and protection in battle when facing your enemies. Immediately we run into trouble. Why does he favor one side over another? These reasons are privy to him but always in the interest of ultimate fairness.

The Fon worshiped Gu to bring them success in war and protect them in conflicts, protect their wealth and community. At the end of the day, that is what a god of war is supposed to do—a more accurate title would-be protector of communities and nations.

There is also a building role. Iron is a symbol for minerals that can be mined and used to service those pursuits that strengthen and protect a nation. It stands for resources that can be used as weapons and defense. You can substitute nations with family, community, town, tradition, culture, city, or whatever you think is worthy of protection or strengthening. The Vodun of War resides over these matters. It dispenses favor, resources, wisdom, and advantage according to its divine wisdom and foresight.

Source: Vodun. Monique Joiner Siedlak

Agbe (or Agwe): Vodun of the Sea

Agbe is the third-born son of Mawu and Lisa. He is the one who is given dominion over the seas and sea life. There aren’t many stories based on Agbe, but as we look back to Mawu’s creation of the world, Agbe’s role within the world becomes obvious. When Mawu built the world, she was afraid that the earth would drown from the added weight, so her snake came in to save it. However, the waters can still be unpredictable, rough, and sometimes cause a whole host of problems.

The land is resting on an outline of great waters, waters that can engulf the land when disturbed. So Agbe functions to keep the waters at bay, provide safety, and protect from powerful storms. Agbe also has some effects on the land that the people experience. For instance, when earthquakes happen, they can be explained by his activity–he has made the water do something that makes the land shake. The serpent is primarily there to keep the world from sinking. The Fon being a fishing people, might have also worshipped Agbe for his luck.

So we see Agbe as the protector, provider, and calmer of seas. He’s not the only one who performs these roles, but he is one of the most powerful to do so. Again, we see how together each god’s roles feed on each other or strengthen each other. While Sakpata pushes for progress, Agbe is the one holding forces that threaten peace and the very land we live on intact.

You can pray to him for protection, maintenance, and calm in your life. These are, in a nutshell, where the spirit excels. But when displeased, it may be a source of chaos, destruction, especially the kind that upends people’s lives. So he is a potent spirit.

Source: Vodun. Monique Joiner Siedlak

Sakpata: Vodun of Earth

When Mawu was dividing the world between her children, Sakpata was given dominion over the earth, at the displeasure of his sister Sogbo. Sakpata came down from heaven with plants, crops, tools, and skills that humans could use for development. Because he had taken so much with him, he did not have space for other necessary elements like water and fire, which were stolen later.

Humans were excited when Sakpata descended from the heavens with these tools of wealth. There was a lot of promise in them, and they hoped they would see their lives improve. Legba, Sakpata’s youngest sibling, told Sogbo, who was given control of the skies, to withhold rain in the sky. Knowing that their mother noticed, Legba went to Mawu and told her water would not be enough for everyone on earth, including the plants. Alarmed, Mawu ordered Legba to tell Sogbo to withhold the rains, which he had already done.

Sakpata soon realized that his crops needed rain, but none came. A drought ensued that caused everything to become dry and brittle. Humans began getting angry with Sakpata. They harassed him and cursed him for lying to them about the prosperity and convenience he had promised. Legba came down and found his brother in a messy state. That was when he told Sakpata he would talk to Mawu on his behalf. He told Sakpata to watch for a messenger, wututu bird, who would say to him what to do when the time came. When the bird returned, it told Sakpata to instruct the others to light a great fire, so the smoke could rise to heaven, signaling their distress.

Because it was so dry, everything caught fire very quickly, and the fire leaped into the sky. When Legba saw, he went to Mawu and told her that the earth was burning and the fire was so high and powerful it might spread to the heavens. Alarmed, Mawu told Legaba to order Sogbo to release the rain. The rain put out the flames and returned fertility to the land. It was decided that although Sogbo controlled the sky, people can call for rain when needed.

What does this story reveal? In this context, it describes the role and power of the spirit of the earth, Sakpata. Sakpata is not the Vodun of Agriculture or fertility, but he is the god of progress and elevating society. When the spirit comes to rule over men, he brings them the tools of trade, crops they can domesticate, and abilities such as woodworking and carpentry skills. These are ways in which this spirit facilitates that mission of progress and growth by equipping humans with the capabilities to prosper, the right tools, and the right environment to do so.

Source: Vodun. Monique Joiner Siedlak

Xevioso: Vodun of Thunder

Xevioso is the god or lord of thunder. A god of thunder is one of the most common in cultures around the world. In Yoruba’s version, he is considered the strongest. He represents wrath, aggression, and punishment. In other words, Xevioso is understood as primarily a spirit of explosive, uncontrollable emotion like anger, violence, and tremendous power. This is a double-edged sword as he can protect those who honor him, but if they offend him in any way, he will likely turn on them.

This is the spirit you turn to when you are looking for justice. Still, anger is usually a sign that something isn’t as it should be, or there has been a violation of some agreement or law.

In most cases, spirits host and govern over the earth, and there is a set of agreements we have towards one another: a type of an unspoken agreement. We go into the world having agreed on a particular set of rules like not stealing from or hurting each other, and so forth. And when someone steals from us, we feel violated, and we have a right to be angry about it, even more so if we know they are getting away with it. Your anger is a sign that someone is not playing by the rules, an injustice has been done. Given this, it is not illogical to suggest that exercising your anger would restore justice and, therefore, balance the world. In other words, Xevioso is the protector and dispenser of justice. Through his acts, he enforces and keeps relations between the gods in check and us. It is not senseless, aimless, unexplainable anger, or fury. Although we may not understand it sometimes, it adds up on a cosmic scale.

Source: Vodun. Monique Joiner Siedlak

Prayer to Marie Laveau

PRAYER TO MARIE LAVEAU

Holy Mother of New Orleans Voudou, hear my prayer.
I humbly request your assistance.
Through you I feel the gentle power of Divine Justice.
Give me strength to stand against my enemies and protect me from those who wish me harm,

Sweet Heart of Marie, Show me your wisdom
That I shall speak the truth and elevate the Ancestors
Madame Marie, Bless me with the protection of Johnny Conker
That he shall always have my back.

Holy Mother of New Orleans Voudou, Bless me with the powers of the Sacred Serpent Li Grand Zombi
That I may walk in balance, equally male and female.
Holy Mother of New Orleans Voudou, Bless me with the spirit of St. Maroon

That I shall never take for granted the freedoms that I have.
And with the light that emanates from your Spirit, Madame Laveaux, all darkness is Obsolete.

Holy Mother of New Orleans Voudou, pray for me.
Holy Mother of New Orleans Voudou, hear my plea.
Holy Mother of New Orleans Voudou, Madame Marie, pray for me. Ashe!

Source: The Magic of Marie Laveau

The Myth of Marie Laveau, Part I

“Marie Laveau was a negress of café au lait tint, handsome in face, commanding in figure, and of remarkable intellect and force of character. She masqueraded as a hairdresser, thus learning the secrets of many a proud old New Orleans family. In helping sweethearts to secret meetings and forwarding clandestine correspondences, she had no equal and cared not whether the men and women she aided were old in coquetry and vice or young and innocent.”

~ Richmond Daily Palladium, 1900

The Hoodoo Altar

Before you begin any hoodoo work, you will need a place to do your rituals. This means you will need a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed, and a surface such as a table, box, chest, or even a large flat stone. Some people set aside a portion of the floor to use as an altar, or they use a dresser top, with ritual supplies stored underneath. You will need basic items and some extra items to personalize your altar.

Cover your altar with a white cloth, and place two white candles at the back on either end. Figures or pictures of saints or other religious images should be placed at the back, between the two white candles. Place your incense burner in front of the image and in the middle of the altar, and to the right of that keep some holy water or a bowl of water that you have blessed. These are the basics of the hoodoo altar.

You can add fresh-cut flowers, special stones, a dish of salt, and a small dish of graveyard dirt, if you wish. The important thing is to not place anything on your altar that doesn’t belong there. Altars can range from the very basic to the extremely elaborate.

Your altar and everything on it should be blessed or consecrated. Your candles should be blessed and dressed. All of the bowls and other containers should be washed with salt water, conjure water, Florida water, or Holy water.

As you become familiar with working with the various spirits, you will learn how to set up altars for each spirit or family of spirits. For individual magickal works, however, the altar will be as individual as the work is itself.

Source: The Voodoo Hoodoo Spellbook

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

Gris-Gris

A gris-gris, sometimes known as a grigri, is an object that most Voodoo practitioners craft for their patrons. This talisman or amulet has its origins out of Africa and is designed and crafted for various uses. It is commonly created to ward off evil or as just essential protection against anything classified as a spiritual attack on a person. However, this isn’t its only use since, in the more western area of Africa, they can be used for birth control. The practice of wearing a gris-gris was surprisingly used by believers and non-believers alike. Its appearance, while varied, was usually a small cloth bag inscribed with African verses that contained small ritualistic objects. Allegedly, it was also used in the Islamic faith as protection against evil spirits called Djinn.

In Haiti, they are seen as objects of good fortune used to improve the external lives of the wearers and imbued with some sort of incantation. New Orleans has its version of a gris-gris. While they may be inaccurately represented as a form of black magic, they are, in fact, a much more positive item in the arsenal of Voodoo objects. Unlike the belief that it was designed to bring ill-will on patrons’ enemies, records indicate people tampering with other’s amulets as a form of vengeance. It is believed that, in actuality, the gris-gris was just sources of healing and protection. Why would its original meaning change so much in the course of Voodoo history? Many believed Marie Laveau used these talismans to curse people, but odds are, she simply used them to improve the way of life of those around her.

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