wikiHow to Do Voodoo

Two Parts:Understanding Voodoo’s Spiritual StructureConducting a Voodoo Worship Service

Voodoo, also spelled “vodou,” derives from the West African word “vodun,” which means “spirit.”[1] The voodoo religion traces to the Yoruba people of the 18th and 19th centuries, who lived in what are today the countries of Benin (formerly Dahomey), Nigeria, and Togo.[2] Its roots, however, are considered to be from 6000 to 10,000 years old. Voodoo is practiced in the parts of Africa it originated from, as well as in Haiti and parts of Louisiana in the United States, with each place developing its own form. The actual beliefs and practices of voodoo differ from how they are presented in the movies; voodoo’s practices are based on a tiered spiritual structure.

Part 1
Understanding Voodoo’s Spiritual Structure

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    Believe in a supreme deity. Although voodoo is seen as polytheistic, it actually has a single supreme deity who has mastery over natural and supernatural forces. This deity is called Mawu among the tribes of Benin and Bondye or Bon Dieu in the Americas.[3][4] However, unlike the Christian God, the supreme deity of voodoo is seen solely as a transcendent figure who does not interact with his worshippers except through his intermediaries, the spirits (voduns).
    • This supreme being is addressed by other names, according to the aspect of his godhood that is being addressed. As the creator, Mawu/Bon Dieu is also known as Dada Sêgbo. As the embodiment of life, Mawu/Bon Dieu is also known as Gbêdoto. As a divine being, Mawu/Bon Dieu is also known as Sêmêdo.
    • Other sources use the name “Mawu” as the name for the moon, which, along with the sun (Lisa), are twin children of the creator god, who in this instance is named Nana Baluku.[5]
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    Recognize the two forms of voodoo magic. Voodoo is a religion of dualities, with forces representing happiness and sadness, good and evil. Accordingly, there are two forms of voodoo magic, ‘‘rada’’ and ‘‘petro.’’
    • ‘’Rada’’ is good, or white, magic. This form of voodoo is practiced by a ‘’houngan’’ (priest/voodoo king) or ‘’mambo’’ (priestess/voodoo queen). ‘’Rada’’ magic is primarily devoted to herbal or faith healing, but also includes dream divination, and foretelling the future. It is the predominant form of voodoo.[6]
    • ‘’Petro’’ or ‘’congo’’ is evil, or black (or more correctly, red) magic.[7][8] This form of voodoo is practiced by a ‘’bokor’’ (sorcerer/witch doctor). ‘’Petro’’ magic is the magic involved in orgies, death curses, and zombie creation. ‘’Petro’’ is actually practiced far less than ‘’rada,’’ but is the form of voodoo Hollywood movies usually present.[9]
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    Revere the loa. The loa, also spelled ‘’lwa,’’ are the spirits. Some loa are the offspring of Mawu/Bon Dieu, while others are the spirits of the worshippers’ late ancestors. Good loa are roughly equivalent to archangels or saints (and may be worshipped using the figures of the Christian saints they most closely approximate), while evil loa are roughly equivalent to devils or demons. Some of the key loa are given below; some are more important in African vodun, while others are more important in Haitian and New Orleans voodoo:
    • Sakpata is Mawu/Bon Dieu’s oldest son, the ‘’ayi vodun’’ or spirit of the earth. Sakpata is the master of all diseases, with sons representing such diseases as leprosy, boils, and sores.[10]
    • Xêvioso (Xêbioso) is Mawu/Bon Dieu’s second son, the ‘’jivodun’’ or spirit of the sky and of justice. Xêvioso manifests himself in fire and lightning and may also be symbolized by the ram and the double axe.[11]
    • Agbe (Agwe, Hu) is Mawu/Bon Dieu’s third son, the “tovodun” or spirit of the sea. Agbe is revered as a source of life and represented by a serpent.[12] (The serpent is also known as Damballah/Dumballah and Le Grand Zombi, which may or may not be other names for Agbe.)[13][14][15]
    • Gu (Ogu, Ogou, Ogoun) is Mawu/Bon Dieu’s fourth son, the spirit of war, iron, and technology. He is the scourge of evil and evildoers.[16]
    • Agê is Mawu/Bon Dieu’s fifth son, the spirit of forestry and agriculture who rules over land animals.[17]
    • Jo is Mawu/Bon Dieu’s sixth son, the spirit of the air. Jo is invisible. [18]
    • Lêgba is Mawu/Bon Dieu’s seventh son, the spirit of the unpredictable nature of life[19], home, travel, the crossroads,[20] and, to many, the gatekeeper between the worlds of life and death, much like the popular image of St. Peter.[21] His ‘’petro’’ counterpart is Kalfu. Lêgba is often depicted as an old man, although some versions depict him as young.[22]
    • Gede (Ghédé) is the spirit of sex, death, and healing, often depicted as a clown-like skeletal figure wearing a top hat and sunglasses.[23][24] He may or may not be identical with Legba.
    • Erzulie (Ezili, Aida Wedo/Ayida Wedo) is the spirit of love, beauty, the earth, and the rainbow. She has the ability to divine the future from dreams and is noted for having a caring, genteel personality. She is identified with the Virgin Mary.[25][26][27]
    • Certain loa names are used as family names by groups of loa. Among these are Erzulie/Ezili, Ghede, and Ogou.[28]
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    Respect your ancestors. Voodoo’s roots include the worship of ancestors, whether those who immediately preceded the living, or the founders of the clan (the Toxwyo) the living belong to.[29]
    • Voodoo practitioners believe that everyone actually has two souls. The greater soul, the ‘’gros-bon-ange’’ (great angel), departs the body immediately at death to present its case before Mawu/Bon Dieu)[30] before it goes to Ginen, the “island beneath the ocean.”[31] A year and a day after the ‘’gros-bon-ange’’ has departed, the person’s descendants may recall it and place it in a ‘’govi’’, a small clay bottle, by the ritual sacrifice of an ox or equally precious animal.[32] (The Congolese word for the ‘’gros-bon-ange’’, ‘’nbzambi’’, is the origin of the word “zombie.”)[33]
    • The lesser soul, the ‘’ti-bon-ange’’ (little angel),[34] is roughly equivalent to the conscience and is believed to remain with the body for up to three days after death. During this time, a ‘’bokor’’ can supposedly convince the ‘’ti-bon-ange’’ that the body is not dead and use it to animate the body as a zombie.[35]

Part 2
Conducting a Voodoo Worship Service

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    Worship outdoors. Voodoo temples, known as ‘’hounfors’’ or peristyles, are built around a center pole called a ‘’poto mitan’’. They may include a rough roof, but are otherwise outdoor settings.[36][37]
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    Dance to the beat. Both the ‘’houngan’’ or ‘’mambo’’ who lead the service and the congregation take full part in a voodoo service. Most of the worship is in the form of chanting and dancing to the beat of drums under the direction of a ‘’houganikon’’ with the assistance of white-garbed women called ‘’hounsi.’’[38]
    • During the service, the ‘’houngan’’ or ‘’mambo’’ may shake a beaded rattle called an ‘’ason’’ (‘’asson’’) made from a calabash or ring a handheld bell called a clochette.[39]
    • The service may run for several hours, as each of the loa is honored with its own song, starting with the good loa and ending with the dark loa.[40]
  3. Image titled Do Voodoo Step 7
    Handle snakes. As noted above, the snake is the symbol of the loa known as Damballah/Dumballah, Agbe, or Le Grand Zombi.[41][42] The serpent is identified with creation, wisdom, and the intellect, and is seen by some practitioners as a protector of the young, the helpless, the deformed, and the handicapped. Some even equate the serpent loa with that of Legba or Ghede as a gatekeeper to the afterlife.[43]
    • A ‘’houngan’’ or ‘’mambo’’ possessed by the serpent loa will usually hiss rather than speak. [44]
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    Become possessed. During a service, one or more worshippers may become possessed (mounted) by loa. Usually, those possessed are the more dedicated practitioners, known as ‘’serviteurs’’, who fall to the ground. While channeling a loa, the worshipper is identified by the name and gender of that loa, not by his or her own name and gender.
    • After the loa departs the body of the serviteur, the serviteur may undergo a ritual head-washing (‘’lave tet’’) if it was the first time he or she had been mounted.[45]
    • If an evil loa possesses someone, it can be identified by turning the serviteur’s eyes red.[46]
  5. Image titled Do Voodoo Step 9
    Sacrifice animals. In voodoo, animal sacrifice serves two purposes:
    • During the service, the life force released when the animal is sacrificed recharges the loa to enable them to continue their service to Mawu/Bon Dieu.[47]
    • After the service, the sacrificed animal provides food for a communal meal, which helps to bond the worshippers to one another.[48]
    • Not all voodoo practitioners practice animal sacrifice. Many American voodoo practitioners instead choose to offer their loa store-bought food; some are even vegetarians.[49]


  • Voodoo’s reputation precedes Hollywood movies about it. Some believe voodoo acquired its dark reputation as a result of the Haitian Revolution (1791 to 1804), which was kicked off by a voodoo ceremony that empowered the slaves who took part to ultimately free themselves from French colonial rule.[50]
  • Voodoo’s relationships with Christianity vary according to the denomination. They are presently on good terms with Catholicism, which had originally tried to stamp out the practice of voodoo. (In addition using Catholic saint icons to represent certain loa, male loa and ‘’houngans’’ are addressed as “Papa,” similar to addressing priests as “Father,” and female loa and “mambos” are addressed as “Mamon,” similar to addressing the leader of a convent as “Mother.”) Protestants, however, regard voodoo as devil worship and seek to convert practitioners at every opportunity.[51]
  • Although voodoo practitioners may be seen as having supernatural power, many have wielded a significant amount of temporal power as well. Louisiana ‘’mambo’’ Marie Laveau had a day job as a hairdresser, giving her access to members of New Orleans high society and their secrets. (For the most part, she used this power to help the sick, homeless, and hungry.) However, many believed her to have lived an exceptionally long life, possibly because she named one of her daughters after herself and that daughter also became a ‘’mambo.’’[52]
  • Similarly, the process of turning someone into a zombie draws as much on chemistry as it does on ritual. It begins by paralyzing the victim with ‘’coupe poudre’’, a powder containing a neurotoxin obtained from puffer fish of the genus ‘’Fugu’’ sprinkled in the victim’s shoes. (This same fish is served as a delicacy in Japan, with ideally only enough of the toxin remaining to numb the tongue.) The proto-zombie is buried alive then disinterred several days later and given a hallucinogen called the “zombie cucumber” to disorient the victim and sap the will so the zombie will obediently perform menial tasks. This process is used in Haiti to punish wrongdoers within the voodoo community.[53]
  • Another part of voodoo, the voodoo doll, is commonly shown as a way to torture someone by sticking pins or nails into it or to kill by hanging it as the effigy of the intended victim. However, it can also be used to bless someone by sticking pins of various colors into it, according to the desired blessing. It can also be used as a love charm if made with the prospective lover’s hair or pieces of the person’s clothing and be talked to as one would talk to charm someone into falling in love.[54]
  • The voodoo doll is often part of a talisman called a ‘’gris-gris’’, which is a small cloth or leather bag marked with verses from the Koran holding an odd number of engravings keyed to the person who will wear it. Related to the ‘’mojo’’, it is used to bring good luck, ward off bad luck, and sometimes as a means of birth control.[55] It is most commonly used in Louisiana voodoo.[56]


  • Practicing voodoo is not without consequences, particularly in matters of love spells. Practitioners are cautioned not to use such spells on those they only lust after, as the spells involve binding their souls to those whom they seek to enamor. Priestesses, as a rule, separate themselves from worshippers as much as possible to avoid the temptation of abusing their powers in this manner.[57]

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Categories: Paranormal Beliefs