An old and often misunderstood religion, Voodoo is one of many pre-Christian faiths that can be traced to all the way to West Africa and Haiti. Even though it has been depicted as evil by Hollywood and the mainstream media, many of the deities and practices are in no way used for demonic or negative purposes. Instead, they share similar characteristics to Catholicism and some Pagan faiths. You have one God, but multiple deities that govern over nature, emotions, and even certain animals. Where Voodoo gets a bad rap the most is for its rituals and negative uses in certain regions of the world.
Ancestor worship in Voodoo is very prevalent in prayers and rituals, but with a twist. Instead of an afterlife, followers believe that their dead ancestors are still living among them as spirits. Aside from that, the practices and rituals vary from one congregation to another. Many still believe in animal sacrifices to show gratitude for a successful hunt, harvest, or other joyous occasions. One that stays solid is the appointment of Queen Mothers (similar to bishops or imams, but made to provide spiritual needs for their respected family clans). They are typically the elderly women in the clans and given a title based on their most respected ancestors (much like how the Pope is given his).
Animal sacrifices may turn some non-believers green in the face, but other rituals hold a more tolerable place in Voodoo. Special talismans, or "fetishes", are sometimes made from or are dried animal parts that help recharge a worshipper's soul or provided for certain purposes (ie: protection for evil). Other talismans are created from plants or other natural resources. The famous "Voodoo Doll" is one of them, but it's far from the doll-shaped pin cushion used in TV and movies.
Where Voodoo has been known for its negative uses is in the American southeast and any country that brought slaves from West Africa. During captivity, many practitioners would cast hexes and spells on their owners and bosses when their fellow worker was beaten or killed. One of the signs that they were used was a black X that can be found on or around old slave quarters. Some slaves even went as far as defacing free pendants given by Christian missionaries to show honor towards certain female deities. Many of those pendants were made of gold or silver at the time, making them last for generations.
Today, Voodoo is a minority religion that has survived and kept a strong following since. It is still prevalent in West Africa to a certain degree, but Haiti and the U.S. (specifically Louisiana and other southern states) have the most well-known presence when the religion is mentioned to non-believers. Like other religions, Voodoo has and can be used for both good and evil purposes. However, many go with the first due to the consequences that can arise with the second (having a hex backfire is one of them). Otherwise, Voodoo as a whole can be just as complex and positive as other organized faiths, but with its own set of beliefs and deities to worship.
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