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Voodoo is mainly found in West Africa and in the countries of the Caribbean. But there are also voodoo adherents in the southeastern United States, especially in the state of Louisiana. In the West African country of Benin, voodoo is even the state religion. Voodoo evokes in most people images of dolls with priests pricking needles, of rituals involving bloody animal sacrifices, and of priests and priestesses in ecstasy and dancing wildly about.
A voodoo doll is the first object a westerner thinks of when it comes to voodoo. Voodoo dolls are featured extensively in Western films – usually in a negative sense. Sticking needles into voodoo dolls is portrayed as a way of hurting or causing harm to another person. In reality, voodoo adherents don't use a voodoo doll very often.
A voodoo doll can represent a spirit or a god being worshipped.
Compare this to the veneration of a saint in the Catholic Church. The doll can also represent a person for whom one asks, for example, luck or healing. In this case, voodoo adherents pin a picture of the person in question on the doll. This can also be another object, for example a lock of hair or a piece of the clothing of the person being prayed for. The doll is often decorated with flower petals or other decorations, with the intention of persuading the spirits to help the intended person.
The use of dolls to curse people, so common in Hollywood movies and books, comes from the so-called "hoodoo." Hoodoo is not a religion like voodoo, but a form of magic, originally from West Africa. Hoodoo and voodoo are often confused, but are actually two different concepts.
The serpent symbol is central to voodoo.
One of the most important Loas, Damballa, is depicted as a snake with a human head. Damballa is the Loa who created the cosmos and is the oldest of the Loas. The body of this serpent spirit consists of 7000 turns with which Damballa created the stars, planets, and other celestial bodies. With his shed snakeskin, Damballa created the seas and oceans. When the sun shone through the mist, a rainbow was formed, named Ayida Wedo. Damballa fell in love with the rainbow Ayida Wedo and married her. Damballa and Ayida Wedo are still husband and wife and are a symbol of balance between the sexes. Damballa is associated with the white color. Voodoo followers offer white chickens, eggs, rum, and ivory to Damballa.
Animal sacrifice is a daily practice in voodoo.
Countless scenes in Hollywood movies have again distorted the bloody sacrifices that take place in voodoo. Voodoo adherents have no fascination with blood or killing animals. According to the voodoo religion, the Loas need these offerings as a kind of food. After all, the Loas need energy to contact the mortals on Earth and to listen to their pleas. The energy of sacrificed animals transfers to the Loas, so that these spirits can continue to do their work. In many cases, the animals sacrificed during voodoo rituals are cooked and eaten by the faithful.
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