Vodou is an animistic Caribbean spiritual tradition, most usually associated with Haiti, which traces its lineage to the shamans of ancient Africa. It blends together (through a process known as "syncretisation") a number of traditional African beliefs with elements from other faiths, most notably Catholicism (the religion of the French slave traders who took the shamans of Africa to the Caribbean New World), but also those of the indigenous Haitian Taino and Arawak people and the European pre-Christian pagans who also came to settle there.
Vodou believes in one creator-God called Gran Met ("Great Master") and a pantheon of lesser deities known as the Lwa. These entities, as well as the spirits of the ancestors ('zanset yo') are directly available to man through the mechanism of possession, a trance-like state where a person is taken over by one of these spirits so it may dispense healing, advice, or wisdom to the community faithful, who are known as Vodouissants.
The shaman-priest of Vodou is known as the Houngan and the priestess as the Mambo. Often accomplished healers, magicians, and leaf doctors (herbalists), these spiritual leaders are also experts on the nature, desires, and ways of interacting with the spirits, as well as therapists, counselors, and doctors for their community.
Readers, please enjoy this guest blog post by Leanna Greenaway, co-author of the new Catalog of the Unexplained.
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