Encyclopedia of Latin American Religions

2019 Edition
| Editors: Henri Gooren

Vodou, Voodoo

  • Karen RichmanEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-27078-4_533


Haitians’ vernacular religion is a heterogeneous system organized around local kin groups that trace their identities to resistance to plantation slavery, economic freedom, and ownership of land. Members of ritual units include living, ancestors, and inherited Ginen (African) spirits, or lwa, whose powerful sway stems from their ability to afflict members wherever they reside, including abroad. The only remedy is collective ritual, involving food offerings, Catholic prayer, spirit possession-performance, music, and dance. The embodied performance promotes reciprocity and disciplines individualism’s threat to the unit’s social and moral life.


The term “voodoo” is a notorious racist symbol of the quintessential other. Outsiders’ sensational representations of voodoo have little to do with the religious practices and beliefs of ordinary Haitians. Rather, these distortions disguise the creators’ own imagined fears to project them onto Haitians, in turn questioning...


Roman Catholicism in Latin America Syncretic Religions in Latin America Haiti and Afro-American Religions and New Age Practices 
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Brown KM (1987) Alourdes: a case study of moral leadership in Haitian Vodou. In: Hawley J (ed) Saints and virtues. University of California Press, Berkeley, pp 144–167Google Scholar
  2. Brown KM (1991) Mama Lola: a Vodou priestess in Brooklyn. University of California Press, BerkeleyGoogle Scholar
  3. Desmangles L (1992) The faces of the gods: Vodou and Roman Catholicism in Haiti. University of North Carolina Press, Chapel HillGoogle Scholar
  4. Goldberg A (1981) Commercial folklore and voodoo in Haiti: international tourism and the sale of culture. PhD dissertation, Indiana UniversityGoogle Scholar
  5. Laguerre M (1980) Voodoo Heritage. Beverly Hills: SageGoogle Scholar
  6. Larose S (1975) The meaning of Africa in Haitian Vodu. In: Lewis J (ed) Symbol and sentiment. Academic, London, pp 85–116Google Scholar
  7. Lowenthal I (1987) “Marriage is 20, children are 21”: the cultural construction of conjugality and the family in rural Haiti. PhD dissertation, Johns Hopkins UniversityGoogle Scholar
  8. McAlister E (2002) Rara! Vodou, Power and Performance in Haiti and its Diaspora. Berkeley: University of California PressGoogle Scholar
  9. Métraux A (1959) Voodoo in Haiti (trans: Charteris H). Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  10. Murray G (1977) The evolution of Haitian peasant land tenure. PhD dissertation, Columbia UniversityGoogle Scholar
  11. Murray G (1984) Population pressure, land tenure, and Voodoo: the economics of Haitian peasant ritual. In: Ross E (ed) Beyond the myths of culture. Academic Press, New York, pp 295–321Google Scholar
  12. Ramsey K (2011) The spirits and the law: Vodou and power in Haiti. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Richman K (2005) Migration and Vodou. University Press of Florida, GainesvilleGoogle Scholar
  14. Richman K (2008) Innocent imitations: authenticity and mimesis in Haitian Vodou art, tourism and anthropology. Ethnohistory 55(2):203–227CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Richman K (2012) Religion at the epicenter: religious agency and affiliation in Léogâne after the earthquake. Studies in Religion/Sciences Religieuses 41(1):148–165CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Smucker G (1984) The social character of religion in rural Haiti. In: Foster G, Valdman A (eds) Haiti: today and tomorrow. University Press of America, Lanham, pp 35–56Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Notre DameNotre DameUSA