Voodoo is a complicated religion to try to explain. So we shall begin at the top. In Voodoo, there is the one God, called Bondye (he is known by other names as well). It is believed that he is the creator of everything. He is all-powerful, but is far away and really doesn't interact with people in their day-to-day lives. Voodooisants serve the Loas. Loas are not gods, they are spirits. There are literally hundreds of different Loas. We will be discussing a few of the main, most well-known ones. It is said that a person does not "choose" Voodoo. Voodoo "chooses" them. This is true in my case. In my teenage years, I became very interested in different religions. I read as much as I could about quite a few of them. When I started learning about Voodoo, it all seemed almost familiar to me. The more I learned, the more it seemed to call out to me.
Serving the Loas is an honor and is also rewarded. Each Loa has their own things that they like to have done for them. When these things are done and the Loa is pleased, the person is rewarded. Different Loas reward in different ways. For instance, if you are interested in finding a love-interest, or strengthening a relationship, or in being more desirable, you might want to serve Erzulie. She is referred to as the Loa of Love. She rewards the people who serve her with love and beauty. She is also a protector of women and children. Each Loa has different aspects, different sides. For instance, Erzulie Freda is the aspect of Erzulie that is calm and cool. Her petro side is known as Erzulie Dantor. This is her hot aspect. Her more violent side. This would be who, for example, a battered woman might want to call on to exact some revenge on her violent spouse. For now, we will be talking about the Rada Loas. These are the ones who are calmer with softer personalities so to speak. To serve Erzulie Freda, you would use the colors pink and white. She enjoys offerings of pink champagne, fresh flowers and perfume. She also likes mirrors and jewelry. She loves things that are beautiful and feminine. Her day is Friday. So this would be the day that she would most appreciate her offerings. It is said that she is slightly vain and loves to be complimented. She is a very popular and very loved.
Papa Legba is very important in the practice of Voodoo. He is the guardian of the gates between the living and the dead. He must be summoned to open the gates before a person is allowed to speak to any of the other Loas. Papa Legba is also very popular. To ask Papa Legba to open the gates, you must give him a small offering. He enjoys rum, coffee, coconut and peanuts, just to name a few. You can honor him at a graveyard or at a crossroads, and of course at an altar that is set up for him. We are fortunate that we have an old graveyard not too far away that actually has a crossroads right in the middle of it. Sometimes in addition to the offerings we set on his altar, we will also take offering the crossroads to leave for him. Papa Legba's colors are red and black and sometimes white. His days are Saturday and Monday. He is envisioned as an older black man who walks with a cane. He wears a straw hat and smokes a corncob pipe. Among his offerings, he also likes cigars, toys, and crosses. Papa Legba is a great protector and is very good about opening doors to opportunities. Those who serve him will be looked after and will have a path cleared to what they are trying to obtain. However, he may also give you a little lesson if you have not done something that you should have or perhaps not use your best judgment. There are different chants to call on Papa Legba. This is the one that we use.
Papa Legba, open the gates. Your children are waiting.
Papa Legba, open the gates. Your children await.
Repeat it three times, getting a little louder each time. When you are finished speaking to Papa Legba or whichever Loas you are communicating with, you can thank Papa Legba and ask him to close the gates.
Baron Samedi is a well-known Loa. He is envisioned as a tall black man with either a skull face or his face painted as a skull. He wears black and purple and a black top hat. He is usually seen wearing dark sunglasses, sometimes with one of the lenses taken out. Baron Samedi is a Petro Loa. One of the hot ones who are easily excited. So a little more care goes into serving him. He is the leader of the Ghede. The Ghede are the spirits of death. They are known for being loud Loas. They drink, smoke, use foul language and tell dirty jokes. It is said that they do all of these things because they are already dead, so they are not worried about consequences. Baron Samedi is a very strong Loa. He can protect against illness and help you with difficult tasks. He can also help when a person has been wronged. Baron Samedi enjoys rum and coffee-one cup black and one cup with sugar. He enjoys hot peppers steeped in rum. His colors are primarily black and purple, but sometimes white and his days are Saturday and Monday. On his altar you might find a deck of cards, some dice, cigars, and peanuts. Some people find him intimidating because of his looks, but he can also be a loving and kind Loa. You simply want to be sure that you treat him with respect, as you do with all of the Loas.
The clergy in Voodoo is made up of Mambos which are the women and Hougans which are the men. Then you have the Bokors who can be men or woman. A Bokor does magic for a fee. A Bokor practices two-handed magic which means it can be light or dark, or a comination of the two. A Bokor does not have a problem in casting controlling spells and things of that nature. Not all who practice Voodoo practice the magic. For some it is simply serving the Loas and leading a good life.
The serving of the Loas is taken very seriously. Voodooisants go to much detail in creating the altars for their Loas. Sometimes a lot of time and money is involved in the altars and the offerings. Voodoo practitioners will hold a feast or festival. This is known as a "fet". The ceremony will consist of lots of drumming and dancing. The food that is served is also shared with the Loas. Infact, the Loas are served first. Some of their favorites are chicken, pork, yams, and definitely some desserts. The Loas love the sweets. I have found that they really enjoy jambalaya. The like food with a little spicy "kick" to it. After the food and dancing, sit back and have some conversations with them. Discuss with them the things you are doing and things that you would like to see happen. Ask for their guidance if you need it. Just be sure that you don't only do something for them when you want something from them. They will see right through this and your rewards will not be nice. If you can't afford to give extravagant gifts, then give what you can. Most of the Loas will appreciate the effort. Some people serve one Loa and others serve many. You will get back what you put in. If you take care of the Loas, they will take care of you.
It is hard to learn about Voodoo. There are some books and websites who claim to be about Voodoo but who don't seem to know the first thing about it. I have seen a website claiming to practice Voodoo, that had an inverted pentagram and a devil on the site. There is no devil in Voodoo. It is not devilworship. It is not about zombies. Voodoo magic is very powerful but more often than not it is used for good. The people who actually practice Voodoo are usually very caring people who are out to do good in the world. Voodooisants accept people for who they are. They do not exclude people because of color or age or sexual preference. The Loas judge people by what is in their hearts, not the color of their skin. It is a shame that people are not as accepting of Voodoo as Voodoo is of them. Voodouns are a loving people who serve the Loas and reap the rewards. Most are forced to worship in private because of the prejudices against them. If you want to see how fast a person can shun you, just tell them your religion is Voodoo. So many Voodouns must practice in secret for fear of violence and prejudice. We won't give up our beliefs. We serve the Loas and love them. They take care of us and love us back. We are Voodoun. This is who we are.