We all believe some wild stuff. Experience, for better or worse, shapes our existence. It happens everywhere but particularly regarding the subject of religion, stereotype and myth abound. Much has been written about this by Richard Dyer who theorizes that stereotypes function to “make the visible invisible.” This is where religion lives, in this space between the visible and invisible. Let’s “see” what we can find when we look at the most popular stereotypes surrounding the traditions of Voodoo and Santeria (La Regla Lucumi.)
- Voodoo and Santeria are evil.- This negative stereotype has been perpetuated by movies and TV for decades. History shows that these ancient religions have various ways for dealing with your enemies, but that is a natural outgrowth of the slavery and oppression practitioners of these religions have suffered.
- Possession is scary and demonic. In reality both Voodoo and Santeria incorporate elements of mediumship, where participants can connect with the divine to receive and give messages.
- Voodoo dolls exist. No, they don’t, not in the way you’re imagining. I detail this popular fallacy in my recent video Fire Fire Fireside Chats: The truth about Voodoo Dolls. Check it out.
- Voodoo and Santeria are based on cruel animal sacrifice. The truth of the matter is while may Voodoo and Santeria houses, or spiritual organizations, use animal sacrifice, it is done in a humane and expedient manner. Much more respectful to the animals than commercial meat processing endeavors. Very often the meat is eaten and/or used to further the health of the participants.
- Voodoo is linked with flesh eating zombies. This is one of my least favorite myths. Zora Neale Hurston, pioneering folklorist and anthropologist, discovered some of the various formulas for creating what in Voodoo is known as a Zombie. This method was used most often as a social control in societies where there was no adequate resources for dealing with problem individuals. The formula is based on a paralyzing agent that is found in fish, it would be used to temporarily immobilize someone, who would then be buried. The individual would then be dug up and transported to a farm or other area where they would be put to work, all the while remembering little of their former life.
This is only a short list of the crazy things that I have heard people say about voodoo. Luckily I got to address some of these issues during a recent series of blogtalk radio interviews. You can check out the links below if you would like to hear me continue to rant on these topics. Thanks to Katherine Waddell for helping me arrange these interviews, and much thanks to all the show hosts who allowed me their time and their open minds to discuss these issues. I apologize to the hosts whose links are absent. I am still experiencing technical difficulties.
Please be mindful in all that you do, and when you hear another stereotype consider what the real truth may be.