Contrary to this, Thomas Paine opined that: “all national institution or religion, whether Jewish, Christian or Muslim, appear to me no other than human invention setup to terrifying and enslave mankind’s to monopolise power and profits.” Overtime Africans has shown resilience in preservation of her cultural patrimony. African mysticism had overtime been the most fascinating and disconcerting aspect of African tradition. African traditional religion (ATR) is the custodian of African Cultures and its ideologies; it is being handed-down from one generation to another with diverse orientations and practises with its centrality on sacrifices.
Generally, African traditional religions are orally and less scrawled; its emphasises the belief in the supreme being, the strict conformity to spirits, worship of the dead, traditional medicine practices, markings on the skin, carving of dreadful figurine, spirit dance and the use of magic. Traditional religion has the notion that humanity has an intertwined ethos with the supernatural. Attempting the statistical evaluation of adherence to African traditional religion is hard to come by; practitioners of traditional religions across Sub-Saharan African are distributed among 43 countries and were estimated to number over 100million, although the largest religion in African is Christianity and Islam.
Voodooism is practised by the Ewe people of Eastern and Southern Ghana, and southern and central Togo, and Southern and Central Benin. It is also practised by some Gun people in Lagos and Ogun in Southwest Nigeria. Similar religion with similar names were found among African in Diaspora which were swept away by the wind of slavery in the New World such as: New Orleans, Cuban vodu, Dominican Vudu, Brazilian Vodum, Haitian Vodou. However, a significant reference was made known in a movie series titled: The Originals; with its setting in New Orleans. The series characterised the Yoruba people in West Africa as the repository of sorcery and witch craft; with the instance when ‘Babatunde’ which is a witch, was able to forge the fearsome blade that could nab and bring so much agony to an Original Vampire that is presumed to be strong and undefeatable, when stabbed with it. History shows that in ancient times that pre-Christian beliefs include knowledge of the power of light, blessings and curses, and the oppressive dark curses and spells is now often associated with dark spirit and witchcraft.
Earlier in history, beforehand the early church showed how a religion shrouded in secrecy could be relatively stigmatised, misunderstood and misrepresented. Voodoo is a victim of such oppression and repression pushing it towards the verge of extinction by the early church. The name Voodoo to many is a symbol of: twisted fate, suffering, pain, Death. These dented perspectives of Voodoooism cannot be complete without the rightful inclusion of some believe held by some quarters stating that: ‘the word ‘voodoo’ conjures up images of magical dolls made of wood or thread with pins stuck in them to inflict agony on one’s enemies and the resurrection of the dead as zombies.’ This early defective image of Voodooism was held by its practitioners as a misrepresentation of Voodoo by the superior culture. It was spiteful and do not represent what Voodoo stands for and its preachings.
Voodooism is a rich cultural based and animist religion, personal tenets and practices cutting across regions and continents. The spreading believes and knowledge of Voodooism as a way of life came to a significant point of apprise when slave trade came to the shores of Africa. Slave trade was the greatest demeaning and invasive inhumanity against humanity which took place between 16th and 19th centuries.
Africans were enslaved socially and psychologically under the disguise of trade; they were brought to the Americas with shackles against their will. Millions of Africans were swept under the earth by: diseases, natural disasters, malnutrition, murdered, exhaustion, and some drowned; during and after their voyage to an unknown land.
Slaves were brought to work on their sugarcane plantation and some were turned to beast calling them ‘gladiators’ to fight in the arena just to satisfy their cruelty. Atticus a slave; transformed into a gladiator in the Epic movie titled: Pompei, was characterised to be a black of African descent.
He was depicted to be in possession of carved wooden images that symbolises is religion; they all brought Voodoo with them. Unknowingly to them the slave masters had other plans of self-subjugation regarding the religious practise of their fellow human labelled slaves. A law was promulgated in the year (1685) that put a halt to the practise of African religions, and this required all slave masters to Christianise their slaves within eight days of arrival at Haiti. Without no major resistance the slaves got converted and accept Roman Catholicism, but advertently they didn’t forgo their traditional belief but seek succor from it.
According to history, it has it that many of the Catholic saints were identified with traditional Voodoo lwas (spirits). However, in Haitian Voodoo St. Peter is recognised as Papa Legba, meaning: the gatekeeper of the spirit world while, St. Patrick is associated with Dumballah.
Oddly enough, in the 1720s; African slaves were shipped to Haiti and New Orleans the spread of Voodoo practice in each area was quite different. Voodoo became a wedge of solace and strength, that facilitated sustainability for the slaves through hardship and penury. Between 1791 and 1804, a number of slave revolts was recorded inspired by Voodoo practise, and it reversed the tide of history form: slave hunting, to slavemasters annihilation. This attrition heralded the relegation of the French from Haiti.
The masters that survived the revolt fled to New Orleans, with some their loyalist French-speaking slaves who are Voodoo worshippers. It is from these new arrivals that Voodoo began to have a strong footing in New Orleans. Voodoo had since proliferated to other African nations, over shored to the Caribbean, North and South America.
Voodoo is officially recognised as a religion in Benin and Haiti. Voodoo had suffered an agelong stigmatisation from every quarters of civilization for aligning the religion with: bewitchment, the dead, carved fearsome images, dolls, sorcery, bad luck. Voodoo is a misunderstood religion due to its inherent religious practices: that maybe invoking an obvious mental discomforting illusions that could result to a daytime nightmare. Maybe we should take time to study the cosmology of Voodooism , and look at it as a way of life or set of spiritual tenets held by its followers.