A lot of questions are arising about voodoo following recent high-profile criminal incidents involving rituals on children.
In one incident, two sisters in East Bridgewater, Massachusetts pleaded not guilty on Jan. 29 after they permanently disfigured a 5-year-old girl in a ritual involving fire. One week later, Brockton, Massachusetts police arrested another woman for fatally stabbing her two sons in a different voodoo ceremony.
Voodoo’s roots go back thousands of years in West Africa, from a traditional religion known as vodun, and brought throughout the Caribbean and the United States by slaves. It flourished in Haiti where adherents incorporated many of the practices with Roman Catholicism, according to CNN.
At the heart of voodoo is the belief in spirits that inhabit human bodies and have the ability to influence lives. Practitioners utilize various rituals to contact these them. To most adherents, these spirits are benevolent and offer guidance and good fortune. Some practitioners, however, use the rituals to perform evil magic.
Many in the Haitian-American community are concerned about a backlash that could arise from the two recent criminal cases. The assaults on the young victims give credence to misinformation about voodoo, the practitioners fear. It feeds long-held distortions that voodoo is a mostly evil practice. These distortions began during slavery to repress the religious practice and convert Africans to Christianity.
Here in the United States, voodoo is associated with New Orleans. There was a brief resurgence of interest in voodoo in some African-American communities in the 1970s. But most adherents today are centered in Haitian communities scattered across the nation.