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Although Voodoo is practiced in small parts of Africa, Central, North and South America, it is actually most prevalent in the Caribbean, especially in Haiti where it was given official religious status in 2003.
The religion was initially introduced to the Caribbean islands over five hundred years ago when people living in West Africa were taken from their homeland and forced into slavery in the Caribbean. When they arrived they brought with them their own beliefs, customs and ancient rituals from which Voodoo emerged.
Voodoo takes its name from the West African word ”vodun,” which means spirit, and the actual practices are derived from those of over a dozen different African ethnic groups.
People who practice Voodoo believe that every event that takes place happens as the result of another event. They believe that we are all connected to the universe and each other so everything and everyone will ultimately end up somehow affecting something or someone else.
In Voodoo religion there is one supreme God under which many other spirits or Loas work. These Loas are seen as having control over the prosperity, health and happiness of mortals. Each Loa has a different purpose or responsibility (family, love, harvest etc.) so people who practice Voodoo tend to make offerings to different Loas depending on which area of their lives they want to improve. The offerings can differ because each Loa is said to have a different preferred color, number, fruit or vegetable.
During Voodoo ceremonies, which typically involve drums, music, dancing and the participation of everyone present, Loas can possess the bodies of the ceremony participants. When a Loa enters the body of a participant the person is said to actually become the Loa. A person possessed by a Loa usually relays advice, warnings and desires to the ceremony participants.
For many Voodoo is more than a religion, it’s a way of life. Believers turn to Voodoo priests and priestesses not only for spiritual guidance but also for advice and medicinal healing.