Who Do? Voodoo!
Haitian Holiday Hash
You might be thinking: “Voodoo? In a series about world religions?” The answer is a resounding YES! We began this series discussing Yoruba, a religion from Africa whose beginnings were from Odun and his sixteen sons. Those sons went on to have their own kingdoms and their faith spread. Voodoo, also known as Vodun, comes from the Yoruba spirituality. Based also on Catholic beliefs, Voodoo is a Fon-Ewe word meaning “spirit”.
As with the more recently discussed Eastern spiritualities that valued their ancestors, Voodoo is a religion that honors the spirits of both the living and those of passed ancestors. With the use of music and drums, Voodoo rituals celebrate the spirit in all and pray that spirits of the deceased will return and inhabit one’s living body. These spirits are thought to be full of wisdom and healing powers..
Known as Vodu in Africa, the religion migrated with its believers to Haiti. As with any translocation of peoples and beliefs, some things were left behind and other things evolved into different rituals. The animal sacrifices common in Africa were not practiced in Haiti and the more prevalent Catholic rituals from the Spianish explorers were incorporated.
A war for independence in Haiti led the people to believe Voodoo had helped them defeat the French. It was in Haiti that the bokor, or religious policeman/sorcerer came into being. The bokor would sentence those seen as being evil and deny them the right to have a soul. These people, living without the benefit of the belief’s spirits to inhabit them, became known as the walking dead or zombies. Because the Voodoo culture considered someone who did not have the benefit of an ancestor’s soul to be dead, these people were seen as being condemned to wander aimlessly throughout eternity.
As the Port of New Orleans became an international port, immigrants from both Africa and Haiti arrived in Louisiana and brought with them their Voodoo faith. Marie LaVeau was one such practitioner who was allowed by the Roman Catholic Church in Louisiana to practice the culture within the Church. Many continued the practice of Voodoo as a way to regain and maintain the culture of their heritage.
The most commonly known aspect of Voodoo is the zombie. However, what you might have learned from pop culture is largely incorrect. The original word from which zombie has come is “nbzambi”. This refers to the primary spirit of a person. Voodoo has four types of zombie, none of which results from the bite of another. Hollywood made that up and today it is a public relations theme that many believe.
The Four types of Voodoo zombies are the Great Spirit, the Spiritual Soul, the Herbal Zombie, and the Bargained Zombie. While the names have been used in negative or scary connotations, it is really important to remember the beginnings and story of the Yoruba faith and the purpose of calling on the wisdom of one’s ancestors when studying Voodoo. It was a belief in the healing powers of the elders that drives this faith.
One cannot ignore, however, the prevalence of misconceptions that surround Voodoo. Most are the result of its popularity in popular culture and the ease with which the entertainment industry both used and abused it. From the concluding joke in the Cary Grant, Myrna Loy, and Shirley Temple movie “The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer” to the David Bowie song “Magic Dance”, the mystical powers of Voodoo have been immortalized. “You remind me of the babe [man]. (What babe? [man]) The babe [man] with the power. (What power?) The Power of voodoo. (Who do?) You do. (Do what?) Remind me of the babe.”
At the turn of the twentieth century, the African and Haitian immigrants in New Orleans, found themselves with new musical instruments to play and a new type of music was heard. These followers of their African heritage and cultural faith in Voodoo soon had people snapping their fingers and moving their feet to new rhythms. For audiences accustomed to the regality of classical music, this new art form called jazz seemed to possess people. Soon people like Jelly Roll Morton were said to play music that reached into one’s soul and his music was accused of eliciting wicked desires.
The intent of the Voodoo religion, much like Odun’s request to his son’s to seek out the salt water that would heal his eyes, was for healing and spiritual fortitude. While many may know the word and delight in pretending to play with certain mistaken aspects, Voodoo should be remembered for the belief system it is – a belief system based upon honoring one’s ancestors and the intent to lead the best life one can. The Hollywood aspects, however, will not fade any time soon. Hopefully, though, neither will the jazz that its children gave the world. Rather than being possessed, jazz opens the soul and lets us smile, move, and celebrate life – the real intentions of the ancient beliefs of Vodu.
Haitian Holiday Hash
In case you think I have forgotten that not everyone in a vegetarian, you will be happy to learn that meat is permissible in the Voodoo culture. Usually chickens were eaten but that was more a matter of practicality than religious edict. Chickens are easy to maintain on an island and were less likely to die en route from larger continents. They would also provide eggs as well and thus were a double source of protein. This recipe calls for ground beef but chopped grilled or broiled chicken can be used as well. In fact, for a quick evening meal, stop by a grocery store and pick up a rotisserie chicken and half the cooking will already be done for you! You can also use black beans in place of the meat for a great vegetarian meal.
½ lb cooked ground beef or diced chicken; 1 can of black beans drained as meat substitute
1 Tblsp cooking oil
½ cup sliced mushrooms
½ cup diced tomatoes
½ cup chopped onion
½ cup dried bread crumbs
¼ cup Parmesan cheese
1 clove or ¼ tsp minced garlic
1 can artichoke hearts, drained
1 tsp each of rosemary, thyme, marjoram – chopped finely or dried (To taste)
3 egg whites
Heat oil over medium heat and add the mushrooms, onion, and garlic. Cook for about 8 minutes or until tender. Turn heat off or remove to a large bowl. Add the meat or beans, artichokes, tomatoes, cheese, herbs, and bread crumbs. Beat egg whites with mixture until stiff peaks form and fold into your meat/vegetable mixture. Pour into a casserole dish and bake for twenty minutes at 350-degree Fahrenheit.
For a more colorful casserole, feel free to add creamed corn and ½ cup of red and green bell peppers.