Written by Algoth’s Grove
“The mutton train is a quick ride into popular belief systems that lead your heart astray. Research everything before you judge its being… That way fear wont lead you into the wolves den wearing warm sheep wool.”
The media, the big screen and fantasy novels love to portray anything otherworldly as evil and wrong. What people do not understand is that it is the human that makes the religion, spirituality or way of life evil and dangerous.
Because of the word of mouth spreading like wildfire concept people often confuse these ways of life as harmful and something to be stayed far away from. It would interest you then that many Hoodoo practitioners are in fact protestant christians. Lighting candles, doing blessings and using the Book of Psalms or other parts in the bible as spells or as basis’s for ritual.
One of the most interesting theories of the origin of word Hoodoo is that it could have come from the Gaelic words Uath Dubh (pronounced Hoodoo). The word means spiky ghost, evil entity or spirit, or bad ghost. It can also mean unlucky or cursed. It was said that ships that sunk were hoodoo’d, in fact anything that went wrong would have been hoodoo’d. The folklore practice of Hoodoo with its myriad mix of African, European and Scott-Irish magick has been, like most practices under the pagan umbrella, confused and lost in translation over the years.
You’ve probably heard these terms thrown around loosely: Black man at the crossroads, jack’ o lantern, black cat walking across your path and haint. These terms all come from a Scottish-Irish background and prove the origin of Hoodoo. However, because the mixture of the origin of slaves into the America’s brought a vast collection of superstitions, magical practices and beliefs, Hoodoo has never had a finite origin. It also has absolutely no hierarchical system and is simply, at its core, practice of herbal magick, hexes and a solitary form of witchcraft. It is not African in origin, but has African influences tied into its practices in every corner.
Santeria practice is a collective spiritual belief system that stems from the Yoruba tribes of West Africa. The worship of Olodumare – the creator, Olorun – the ruler of the heavens, and Olofi – the mediator between heaven and earth, is the core of the Santeria tradition.
Unlike Hoodoo, Santeria is African at its core. Many Santeria practitioners worship both the christian or catholic saints alongside the Orisha’s (Earth Guardian spirits akin to Demi-Gods worshipped in Santeria practices.) However, when delving deeper into the West African tradition now spread across the world, the Saints become one with the Orishas. An example would be that of Saint Anthony and Elegguá who is one of the main Orishas in Santeria practice. Elegguá tests the practitioners integrity and is he who stands at the crossroads and makes contact with the other-worlds. Saint Anthony and Elegguá are one in the same at the core of Santeria.
Today Santeria has mixed multi-cultural outlook and its core, whilst remaining largely African, has the liberty to include spiritual practices from across the world. The link between the Catholicism and African folklore magick came from the Cuban meeting of different cultures seeking a unified spirituality. Each agreed on welcoming in the others faith and it is from this union that Santeria was born. Santeria involves strict initiation which at its first stage lasts a year and a day. Their belief in the life force, Ashe, is something which mirrors the Chinese version of Qi. Even though animal sacrifice may occur within Santeria, it is also nothing like the mainstream idea. The animal is eaten and not hurt in any manner. They have no church and do not practice spells. Their lives are lived to the best of their ability and believe in Iwa Pele which loosely translates to building a gentle and understanding character.
Now that we have covered the differences between Hoodoo and Santeria let us look at the main branches of Voodoo:
Voodoo practices are filled to the brim with amulets, protection dollies, charms and age-old chants and songs. All branches of Voodoo believe in a singular supreme deity who is unconcerned with the going-on’s of humanity, and is not implored in prayer or ritual, but is venerated. Louisiana Voudoo and Haitian Vodou differ in that Louisiana voodoo incorporates Voodoo Queens, Kings and Hoodoo spells charms and herbal remedies.
The world of Voodoo is hierarchical unlike Hoodoo. Where Hoodoo is a folklore practice, Voodoo is akin to a step ladder approach walking alongside a catholic outlook. The Saints are venerated and so are many of the biblical figures. At its core it comes from the influence of the African slave trade across the world. The Hail Mary is just as important as the remodelled Lord’s Prayer. The original Aramaic Lord’s Prayer which speaks of a heavenly mother and father is not used. It is also common that Louisiana Voodoo makes use of Gris-Gris or Juju which are amulets or dolls used as magickal amulets or charms. It is interesting to note that the Voodoo belief system incorporates a matriarchal lineage system to allow priestesses to run main rituals.
The birth of today’s Voodoo, regardless of it being the Louisiana lineage or Haitian lineage, is a culmination of christian and folklore intermingling. A singular God, prayers and magickal incantations bound by formal ritual and a degreed system make up the entire practice. The differences have come when the ways of life settled and matured in different parts of the world, each being influenced by the peoples needs and their immediate surroundings.
At the core of Hoodoo, Voodoo and Santeria, we see a beautiful culmination of how christianity and folklore magick held hands and venerated the gods together. Many practitioners who stand under the modern pagan umbrella have their anti-monotheistic opinions but have accepted Voodoo, Hoodoo and Santeria, not realising that this is the proof of how people have worked together to venerate the gods, the spirits and the ways of returning to spirit. Yes, the methods and the teachings may differ but the lesson that roars from within these ways of life is that humanity has already found a union, and if 30 million Voodoo practitioners across the world can find christian and magickal union and still bare witness to incredible rites of passage then how come we still have such a blind eye to unity?
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