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who have witnessed or participated in ceremonies. As stated earlier in this article this data can hardly be empirical because the nature of many of these accounts of historic practices are qaulified against the religious and ethnic practices of those individuals providing the acounts. For modern practices however, this becomes more straightforward accounts of Vodun rituals and beliefs. For instance, Henry Lewis Gates Jr. did a documentary for PBS in which he traveled to Ouidah, Benin, the current hub of Vodun activity and also the home of the world’s larges Vodun market place. While in Benin he spoke with a practicioner of Vodun who was willing to speak to him about many of the objects found in the market place, and also with a guide who was willing to speak to him about some artifacts and sites that are still standing from Vodun’s historic past. What We Do Know About the Practice of Vodun: Vodun is an animistic religion, which means that it is a belief system in which one of the major principles is the fact that the spirit can separate from the body. Animisim also includes the belief that concious life, as we understand it to be in human biengs, can be attributed to nature and inanimate objects, or phenomenon (Merriam –Webster). This idea that the spirit is separate from the physical body and can be associated and attached to other beings and objects is expressed in Vodun with the idea of possesion. In Vodun practice there is much language given to, and expression of the spirit of a diety possesing the body of an individual, or bieng housed in a sacred vesel for a period of time, as well as possesing objects of nature. This belief can also be witnessed in direct discourse with practicioners of Vodun with regards to their beleifs of what brings rain, sun, storms, and good harvets and many other phenomenons of nature. It can also be witnessed through the ritual possession of beings by the spirit of a diety. This manifests itself in what appears to be a trance like state where the individual is not conciously aware of their actions or their words. In Vodun there is no religious doctrine or dogma. Beleifs and practices are all individualized based on the diety and beliefs of the person or tribe. Many of the beleifs, practices and understanding of the religion is passed down from generation to generation. This means family dieties usually remain the same, unless there is an encorporation of a spirit by a member of the family. This is not to say however, that there is no fudemental belief system in place for Vodun, it is just less rigid than what has been produced through Abrahamic Religions system of codification. In Vodun there is a heirarchy involved in the classification of spirits. There is one spirit who is seen as imnipotent, and reigning over all other spirits. Many practicioners call him Damballah and he is seen as a male spirit. The other spirits that are below him are all classified into two catagories, either good (kind) spirits, or bad (evil) spirits. Damballah, however can neither be classified as good or evil because of his supreme nature. The way that the dieties are venerated is through the creation of altars. These altars can be either public, like when used for ceremonies and gatherings, or private, kept in one’s home as a shrine to their spirits. The altars would be decorated with the symbol of the diety which is being worshiped. Most altars would include Damballah in addition to the lesser spirits that are being venerated. The altar would be used as the place and vessel of worsip. They are the place where sacred objects of each spirit are placed, ritual offerings are made as well as the place where prayers would be made. Each spirit has special things that are associated with them, according to what powers they posses, that would dictate the objects that are placed on the alter, the 9

Ikon Volume 1 Issue 1  

This is the final project for my English 5080 special topics New Orleans Course

Ikon Volume 1 Issue 1  

This is the final project for my English 5080 special topics New Orleans Course

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