voodoo (vōō´dōō) [from the god Vodun], native W African religious beliefs and practices that also has adherents in the New World. Voodoo believers are most numerous in Haiti, where voodoo was granted official religious status in 2003, and in Benin, where the religion has had official recognition since 1996. Similar observances are found in Jamaica, under the name pocomania, and in parts of the United States and in the Guianas. A highly developed voodooistic religion known as candomblé is found in Brazil.

Although the magical aspects of voodoo are related to beliefs and practices found throughout the world, the basic features of voodoo were brought by slaves from W Africa, particularly those from what is now Benin, where the beliefs are still widespread (as many as 60% of the people of Benin practice voodoo). Voodoo contends that all of nature is controlled by spiritual forces which must be acknowledged and honored through offerings and animal sacrifice; ecstatic trances (a means of communicating with the gods and spirits) and magical practices play an important role in its ritual. In the New World, Christian elements were introduced, and the African deities became identified with various saints. At various time attempts have been made to suppress voodoo, but voodoo survived and continues to flourish.

See also magic; Santería; zombi.

See A. Métraux, Voodoo in Haiti (tr. 1959); F. Huxley, The Invisibles (1966).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

American Voudou: Journey into a Hidden World
Rod Davis.
University of North Texas Press, 1998
Dancing Spirits: Rhythms and Rituals of Haitian Vodun, the Rada Rite
Gerdès Fleurant.
Greenwood Press, 1996
Anomalistic Psychology: A Study of Magical Thinking
Leonard Zusne; Warren H. Jones.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1989 (2nd edition)
Librarian’s tip: "Voodoo Deaths" begins on p. 56
Working the Spirit: Ceremonies of the African Diaspora
Joseph M. Murphy.
Beacon Press, 1994
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 2 "Haitian Vodou"
`Voodoo' on the Doorstep Young Nigerian Prostitutes and Magic Policing in the Netherlands
van Dijk, Rijk.
Africa, Vol. 71, No. 4, Fall 2001
Culture and Customs of the Dominican Republic
Isabel Zakrzewski Brown.
Greenwood Press, 1999
Librarian’s tip: "Voodoo" begins on p. 73
Theological Music: Introduction to Theomusicology
Jon Michael Spencer.
Greenwood Press, 1991
Librarian’s tip: "Voodoo and Haitian Politics" begins on p. 61
Cultures of Color in America: A Guide to Family, Religion, and Health
Sybil M. Lassiter.
Greenwood Press, 1998
Librarian’s tip: "Voodoo" begins on p. 122
Muntu: An Outline of the New African Culture
Janheinz Jahn; Marjorie Grenee.
Grove Press, 1961
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 2 "Voodoo: The Embodiment of the Gods"
Red, Black, Blond, and Olive: Studies in Four Civilizations: Zuni, Haiti, Soviet Russia, Israel
Edmund Wilson.
W.H. Allen, 1956
Librarian’s tip: "Voodoo Converts" begins on p. 125
Rara! Vodou, Power, and Performance in Haiti and Its Diaspora
Elizabeth McAlister.
University of California Press, 2002
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