Sunday, May 2, 2010
Yesterday I watched this excellent documentary from the History Channel. Voodoo Secrets (2005) is narrated by actor Michael Dorn, who played Star Trek's Mr. Worf.
The film begins in the nation of Benin in West Africa and shows the current practice of the voodoo or spiritualist religion of the native peoples. The traditional religion of West Africa believed that there were spirits everywhere and the spirits can be made to act on behalf of human beings. In order to gain the assistance of the spirits, worshipers offer the sacrifice of animals and rituals which may involve the believed possession of people by the spirits.
The documentary shows a woman going to see a Voodoo healer for treatment of severe headaches. The healer sends his patient to the Voodoo market to obtain an animal skull which the healer then blesses and performs ritual magic to transfer the woman's headache from her body to the animal head.
The film then shifts to the Caribbean and North America. It is explained that when slaves from West Africa were introduced to Catholicism, they identified Catholic saints with the spirits they had worshiped in Africa. The film details the events of the slave revolt in Haiti in the 18th century. The leaders of the revolution began the revolution with a Voodoo ceremony and pledged allegiance to the spirit of war if he would help them in their struggle. This is what Pat Robertson was talking about when he made his infamous comment after the Haitian earthquake that the leaders of the Haitian Revolution had sold their souls to the devil.
When slaves from Santa Domingo were transported to New Orleans, this began the long tradition of New Orleans voodoo. The legends and the few facts surrounding the Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau are detailed. Another interesting tidbit is the untimely sudden death of author Robert Tallant in the 1950s. Tallant was the author of a sensational book published in the 1940s called Voodoo in New Orleans which many Voodoo practitioners believed contained many lies and exaggerations including libeling the great Marie Laveau.
Voodoo Secrets is well worth the time of anyone who is interested in this subject.