Healer wants recognition for Haiti’s Vodou

Thu, Jun 5, 2008

Culture, Elders, News, Research

Healer wants recognition for Haiti’s Vodou

Jamaica Gleaner: Saturday | April 24, 2004

THE EXCLUSION of Vodou practitioners in plans to uplift Haiti will keep the country in a chaotic state, a Vodou priest said this earlier week.

Max Beauvoir, 68, of the Temple of Yehwe in Mariani, Haiti, said politicians, humanitarian organisations, and Christian leaders from abroad have refused to acknowledge the role of the religion in the country’s culture for 200 years. As a result, Haiti is on the brink of total collapse, and he believes Vodou gods are upset.

“I think if they continue with this kind of scheme of unfairness, [the gods] may soon be tired of them and see us all disappear,” he said.

Beauvoir is in South Florida to educate the public about his religion. He was one of several traditional healers from Haiti, the United States and Jamaica who were due to participate in a panel presentation in Broward County this month.

During his visit, Beauvoir has participated in a ceremony at a Vodou temple called “Halouba” in Little Haiti in Miami. He spoke last Sunday at a Vodou seminar at Florida International University, part of a series that will culminate with a Vodou Fest on May 1 at Bayfront Park in Miami.

Beauvoir said Creole linguists changed the spelling of the religion’s name to “Vodou” about four years ago to disassociate it from “Voodoo,” which has been stereotyped as an evil religion.

“So many movie producers have painted us as horrible and ugly to the point that even our children are afraid to look us in the eye,” he said. “But Vodou is a religion that covers all aspects of life and goes hand-in-hand with Haiti. It carries with it a vision of the human in the centre of the universe, among stars, animals, plants and among each other.”

Beauvoir, a biochemist educated in the United States and France, said his family has always practised the religion. He returned to Haiti in the 1970s and followed in the footsteps of his grandfather, who was also an hugan or Vodou priest.

He said people come from all over the world to his temple for physical, mental and spiritual healing, which he provides using plants, leaves and animals.

Beauvoir said Vodou is very much alive in South Florida, which has the largest Haitian population in the United States. It’s influenced by African and American Indian religions, and is related to the Santeria religion of Cuba, the Shango of Trinidad and Tobago and Macumba of Brazil. All can be traced to African religions, which slaves brought to the New World. Those who practise Vodou believe a goddess named “Yehwe” heads the universe, and her characteristics are manifested through 401 smaller deities who together make up her complete image.

People hold ceremonies in their homes and in Vodou temples, using decorative flags for messages from deities called “Lwa.” They sing and dance to call up the deities, which possess their bodies and cause them to take on one of Yehwe’s characteristics.

He said hexes, which many westerners associate with the religion, are only used when a vodouist is mistreated by another person and calls on a deity to intervene. “The largest part of the Haitians practise the religion,” he said. “They solve their daily problems through Vodou.”

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