Reading 118, on Voodoo

 Voodoo Priest

The evil thing that the slave brought with him was his religion. You do not need to go to Africa to find the fetich. During the hundred years that slavery in our America held the Negro crushed, degraded, and apart, his master could deprive him of his manhood, his wife, his child, the fruits of toil, of his life; but there was one thing of which he could not deprive him,-his faith in fetich charms. Not only did this religion of the fetich endure under slavery—it grew. None but Christian masters offered the Negro any other religion; and by law, even they were debarred from giving them any education. So fetichism flourished. The master’s children were infected by the contagion of superstition; they imbibed some of it at the Negro foster-mother’s breasts. It was a secret religion that lurked thinly covered in slavery days, and that lurks today beneath the Negro’s Christian profession as a white art, and among the non-professors as a black art; a modern memory of the revenges of his African ancestors; a secret fraternity among slaves of far distant plantations, with words and signs,–the lifting of a finger, the twitch of all eyelid,–that telegraphed from house to house with amazing rapidity (as today in Africa) current news in old slave days and during the late Civil War; suspected, but never understood by the white master; which, as a superstition, has spread itself among our ignorant white masses as the ‘Hoodoo,’ Vudu, or Odoism, is simply African fetichism transplanted to American soil… ( fetich — fetish )


 V Dancer

My notes:

Freud has something very interesting to say about all that terrifies us. He tells us that we can only be afraid of things which we already know becoming strange. Like tonight, if you looked out of your window and saw the moon dripping blood , you’d be terrified. The moon is known, blood is known and their new avatars confuse us and gives rise to what Freud calls the ‘uncanny‘. But what is the normal again is a socio-cultural construct. Voodoo, seen through Western eyes is uncanny in this Freudian sense. Voodoo challenges us to rethink the definitions of normalcy and the liminal.

Voodoo, as we know it, is more an American power-construct than a Haitian religion. Voodoo is the national religion of Haiti.   Misconceptions regarding it abound. Please read here for a fuller and constructive treatment of the subject.

Incidentally, Hinduism too worships snakes and the snake is a symbol of ‘kundalini‘.

Image: Thanks for the image.

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