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Sunday, February 21, 2010

The New York Times - Voodoo Apologist

Leave it to the New York Times.

The newspaper that has never encountered a Catholic-bashing story that it did not like is now serving as a voodoo apologist.

"Myths Obscure Voodoo, Source of Comfort in Haiti" attempts to convince readers that voodoo's poor reputation is simply bad PR--bad PR resulting from myth-spreading. Writer Samuel Freedman blames these myths on the Catholic Church's "antisuperstition campaigns in the 1860s" and on films from the 1930s and 1940s, such as "White Zombie". He also includes a quote from a USC professor who suggests that racism may be the source guiding this negative portrayal of voodoo. (No surprise there. The Times seems incapable of printing a column without referencing racism, homophobia, or--to a lesser extent--sexism)

The myth-spreading argument is specious, as evidenced by Freedman's failure to provide concrete examples. He belittles portrayals of voodoo as "cartoonish" and as nothing more than "intolerant cliches", but other than mentioning Pat Robertson's accusation that Haiti signed a pact with the devil, he fails to provide a single example of alleged voodoo beliefs and practices that worshipers argue is a myth.

Not one.

And a review of voodoo's beliefs and practices reveals why.

  • Voodoo was brought to Haiti by slaves from Africa and is "is believed to have started in Haiti in 1724 as a snake cult that worshiped many spirits pertaining to daily life experiences".
  • Bondye is the Creator of the universe, but he does not interact with Creation, so voodoo adherents direct their worship to lesser spirits called loa. The most influential of the loa are "Papa Legba (guardian of the crossroads), Erzulie Freda (the spirit of love), Simbi (the spirit of rain and magicians), Kouzin Zaka (the spirit of agriculture), and The Marasa, divine twins considered to be the first children of Bondye."
  • "Talismans are bought and sold as fetishes. These could be statues representing voodoo gods, dried animal heads, or other body parts. They are sold for medicine and for the spiritual powers that these fetishes are believed to hold. The dark side of voodoo is used by participants to summon evil spirits and cast hexing spells upon adversaries."
  • "The priesthood of voodoo is held by both men and women. There are stages of initiation into its priestly duties. Their functions are primarily: healing, rituals, religious ceremonies to call or pacify the spirits, holding initiations for new priests or priestesses, telling fortunes, reading dreams, casting spells, invoking protections, and creating potions for various purposes. These potions are for anything from love spells to death spells"
  • Rituals include "spirit possessed dancing". Anthropologist Alan Tippett says: "Probably there is no better extant example of [demonic] possession phenomena in the whole world than the form known as voodoo, especially the variety in Haiti."

University of Wisconsin Professor Patrick Bellegarde-Smith, a voodoo expert and voodoo priest, suggests that just as the Japanese often adhere to both Shinto and Buddhism, many Haitians practice both Catholicism and voodoo. The New York Times column failed to cite a Catholic expert on the issue, probably recognizing that even a nominal Catholic would know that syncretizing voodoo beliefs and practices with Catholic worship is a blasphemous perversion of Catholicism.

Demonic possession. Worshiping spirits. Talisman.

No, it is not myth-spreading that is responsible for voodoo's poor reputation; it is voodoo's occultic beliefs and practices which can take credit for that.

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