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Voodoo Around the World: Where It’s Practiced and How It Differs

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Written by: Tina Caro

Voodoo is a religion spread over many different countries. The most interesting thing about voodoo is that each country embraces this belief and practice in a unique way, shaping it to its lifestyle, its history, and its needs. Voodoo might sound like a niche religion, but it’s not! All around the world voodoo is one of the most practiced witchy religions of all time. So where is Voodoo practiced, exactly?

Let’s dive into it to learn more about the huge impact of voodoo in the religious sphere and how this belief is practiced. Shall we?

KEY TAKEAWAYS

Voodoo, a diverse and complex belief system, is practiced predominantly in Haiti, with millions of adherents worldwide, making it one of the largest African diaspora religions.

Different Voodoo traditions, such as Haitian Vodou, Louisiana Voodoo, and West African Vodun, share common elements like ancestor worship, but each has unique rituals, deities, and cultural influences.

Practitioners of Voodoo come from various backgrounds, including African, Creole, and African-American communities, with each group adding its own cultural nuances to the practice.

There are various types of Voodoo, including Vodou in Haiti, Hoodoo in the Southern United States, and Candomblé in Brazil, all reflecting the syncretic nature of the religion and its adaptability to different regions.

Voodoo in numbers – where is Voodoo practiced?

There are 14 million voodoo practitioners in Nigeria, 10% of the population.

In Benin, there are around one million, 18% of the population.

In Togo, half of the population follows traditional African religions, with the most powerful voodoo having two and a half million followers.

RegionCountries
West AfricaBenin, Togo, Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast
HaitiHaiti
Louisiana, USAUnited States (specifically Louisiana)
BrazilBrazil
CubaCuba
Dominican RepublicDominican Republic
Table 1: Voodoo Practices by Region

One million voodooists are in Ghana, a country of 23 million inhabitants.

And this is only to talk about voodoo, not other traditional African religions, which are also very present in these countries.

Countries with highest number of Voodoo practitioners.

On the other hand, surveys in these regions state that those classified as Christians are often syncretistic practitioners of both Christianity and African religions, whether voodoo or other traditional animist religion.

In Haiti, although 80% of the population is Catholic and 16% Protestant, around 50% are still considered to practice voodoo.

The population is almost 10 million inhabitants. In Puerto Rico, it is less than 1%, over a population of 85% Catholic and 8% Protestant, with four million inhabitants.

In the Dominican Republic, the followers are around 1% or less, over a population that is 87% Catholic and 4% Protestant in a total of almost 10 million inhabitants.

The U.S. state of Louisiana, with 4 and a half million inhabitants, is 28% Catholic and 60% Protestant, with the percentage of voodoo followers between 1 and 3%.

In short, we can talk about over 60 million voodoo followers worldwide!

Key features of different Voodoo traditions

TraditionKey Features
West African VoodooAncestor worship, deities known as Orishas or Loas, divination rituals, ritual dances and drumming, use of charms and talismans
Haitian VodouWorship of spirits called Lwa, syncretism with Catholicism, ceremonies featuring drumming, singing, and dancing, emphasis on community and healing
Louisiana VoodooBlend of West African, Native American, and European traditions, focus on spirits known as Loas, rituals with music, dance, and food offerings
Brazilian VoodooSyncretism with Afro-Brazilian religions like Candomblé, worship of Orishas and ancestral spirits, ceremonies involving drumming, chanting, and possession
Cuban VoodooSyncretism with Catholicism, worship of spirits called Orishas, rituals involving dancing, drumming, and spirit possession
Dominican VoodooBlend of West African, Catholic, and Taino indigenous influences, worship of spirits known as Misterios, healing ceremonies, use of herbs and rituals

Who practices Voodoo?

Voodoo practitioners are almost always individuals of medium or low economic, social, and cultural capacity.

However, it often happens that people of middle and upper classes with Western or Westernized culture mix their ancient traditions with Christian or Islamic beliefs to which they have converted, often living in both religious spheres and practicing different aspects of each in public or in private.

During the European colonial era in African countries, attempts were made to suppress voodoo and other traditional African religions. However, their strong presence in their cultural and family worlds has made this disappearance impossible.

Battle_for_Palm_Tree_Hill
Haitian Revolution

Today, the restoration of this cult is growing in all the countries that practice it, especially after the first International Voodoo Conference having been held in 1991 in the city of Ouidah, Benin.

This dynamism of voodoo is also being followed by the religions born of it, like Santeria or other forms, which are experiencing a new expansion in the northern, central, and southern areas of America.

Different types of Voodoo

Given the widespread dissemination of voodoo among nations, tribes, clans, and languages ​​according to the presence of the different followers of this religion, we can understand that it presents different gods, rituals, languages, expressions, chants, and modalities according to the area of practice.

We mentioned before African, Haitian, Puerto Rican, Dominican, and Louisiana voodoo. They are all voodoo but have different nuances. Thus, we will only quote the second and the last a little more extensively.

 

Haiti’s Voodoo

Haiti’s voodoo features syncretistic elements between African voodoo and Catholicism, born in the sixteenth century from black slaves brought to the island of Hispaniola (today Haiti and the Dominican Republic). In this theology, the main god is Bondye (good God) and the lower gods are called loas. The supreme god is far from men and they only relate to the loas, never to Bondye.

The syncretism arose by practitioners assimilating the praises of the Catholic saints and thus protecting themselves from the persecution of the Catholic colonizers against their original beliefs.

The most powerful and important loa is Papa Legba, the intermediary between men and the creator god; there is also Erzulie Freda, the loa related to love life and emotions; Simbi, linked to sorcery and magic; and Kouzin Zaka, which is the loa linked to the field life.

Haiti’s voodoo subdivides loas into 21 families including Congo, Nago, Petro, and Rada.

Rada is sometimes considered as white magic and Petro as not-so-white magic, since his praises are not as calm as in the Rada; since they identify with the native African homeland, they remember the past and the good times lived there, but they are aggressive and furious because the loas Petro identify with the era of chains, slavery, death, and the struggle for freedom.

Voodoo in Louisiana

Louisiana Voodoo has a lot of Catholic, French, Spanish, and Creole mix from African slaves in the area. An element of its own is the gray-gray amulet, which is a small sack with oil, nails, hair, bone, stones, and personal items that are worn around the neck or braided secretly in clothes, and serves as protection. Its origin is in Saharan Africa, and it had a diabolical nature (one demon helped protect itself from another).

Another element that highlights much of this type of voodoo compared to others is the importance of voodoo queens (who preside over ceremonies and dances), the use of occult elements, as well as voodoo dolls.

Through sympathetic magic, dolls that symbolize the person to be harmed are made, so by inflicting pins, burning, or subjecting them to different destructive actions, the same effect is intended on the person whom it symbolizes, something that is also proper Voodoo.

The voodoo of Louisiana also gives great importance to the spirit of the snake Li Grand Zombie, which is ultimately the spirit of the snake Damballah, which is already present in African Voodoo, a symbol of health and unity between earth and sky.

Snake Damballah
Snake Damballah

Is voodoo practiced in your country? Do you practice it? Let me know in the comment section down below!

About
Tina Caro

Tina Caro is a witch with more than 10 years of experience, a yogi, an astrologer, and a passionate supporter of all things holistic! She’s also an owner of the website Magickal Spot where she discusses a variety of her favorite topics.

Magickal Spot has helped thousands of readers worldwide, and she’s personally worked with hundreds of clients and helped them manifest desires to have a happier and more abundant life.

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