One of the most important, interesting and surprising facts about that link between Haiti and Voodoo is that Haiti is a Catholic country. The other interesting and surprising facts is that most Voodoo ceremonies begin with a Catholic prayer. It is generally thought that the country is 70 percent Catholic, 30 percent Protestant and 100 percent Voodoo. Since 2003 Haiti has recognised Voodoo as a religion, but unlike the more traditional religions, such as Christianity, Judaism and Islam there are no sacred texts, churches, temples or mosques and there is no hierarchy of leadership.
However it is thought that the history of Voodoo reaches far back into history (over 6,000 years), and is based on traditions that have been used to honour nature and may have its origins in West Africa. During the 1700’s thousands of Africans were brought to Haiti to work on the plantations. When they arrived they were all baptised Catholics. They were forbidden to practice their own beliefs but continued to do so under the guise of practising Catholicism. In Western society Voodoo has been portrayed as Black Magic or in zombie movies giving it an air of satanic evil and human sacrifice, none of which is performed in Haiti. It is estimated that there are over 60 million people currently practising Voodoo throughout the world.
Ceremonies usually take the form of the followers gathering outdoors, by being outdoors it is believed that it is easier to make contact with any of the many gods that roam the universe (Loa). This is very similar to the role that the Greek gods of mythology took on. The priestess or priest then sacrifices an animal to the Loa. The reason for the sacrifice is that the Loa get worn out and they rely on humans to feed them, this feeding takes place by transferring the energy back to the Loa. The animal that is usually sacrificed is a chicken, the priest or priestess then asks the Loa spirits for advice or help with problems which are usually health based. Loa can make prophecies or give warnings which can come through the priest or may appear later in a dream. The Loa spirits have their own identities some are loving and some are demanding. It is believed that people becomes sick when the Loa are upset or annoyed.
When you stand back and look at Voodoo and Catholicism, there are many similarities, both religions are based around the beliefs of a supreme being; the existence of spirits and demons, an afterlife; they both focus their ceremonies on a central point, and during their services both consume flesh and blood; many of the Loa are considered in much the same way as saints and instead of St Peter at the gates of heaven, Voodoo has Legba. But there is one major difference between the two beliefs Voodoo does not believe in free will and personal choice.