Haiti: Island of Black Magic, Voodoo and Zombies

What is Haitian Voodoo?

The Caribbean island of Haiti is one of the worlds most mysterious places. Hollywood and Saturday morning cartoons have given us this perception of Haiti and Haitian society, images of supernatural forces, demons, black magic, Voodoo dolls and zombies immediately spring to mind. Much of what we think we know about 'Hoodoo' and 'Voodoo' comes from these sources.

A voodoo doll is a representation of a real person which pain and suffering can be afflicted upon. Typically the voodoo priest or shaman, or you sat at home in your bedroom, takes a needle and stabs the doll somewhere in the body. In cartoons the person whom the doll represents is immediately hit with an unsuspected pain in the same area, often with hilarious consequences.  Wondering how to make a Voodoo doll? All you need is some of the targets hair and an image of their face. 

But there is way more to it than that, Voodoo is a full blown religion. They believe in a distant and unknowable creator god called Bondye who does not meddle in human affairs. Then there is a whole bunch of smaller gods who control elements and seasons and the typical polytheistic archetypes (think ancient Greece, Hinduism, Native American beliefs). They believe that people can be possessed by spirits and demons, who then have to be exorcised by a voodoo priest. 

The high priests are known as Houngans and Mambos. Ritually chosen by the dead ancestors they were able to, using clairvoyance, divine information from the spirit world while he or she was possessed. His or her tendency is to do good by helping and protecting others from spells, however they sometimes use their supernatural power to hurt or kill people. There are also Bokor sorcerers who practice Necromancy, perform black magic, resurrect the dead and other darker psychic phenomenon.

Hold up.. resurrect the dead? Yes that's what I said. This is where the first Zombies come from. The story of Clairvius Narcisse is a famous case in Haitian history. Narcisse was dead. Signed off by doctors and buried. His family cried, mourned their loss. The one day after 18 years he returned. When he told them the story of how he was dug up from his grave, resurrected, drugged and enslaved by an evil Bokor who forced him to work on his plantation, his family were surprised, but they accepted his story because they believed his experience resulted from the power of voodoo magic.