Throughout the history of Haiti as a free nation, intolerance of her people’s belief in Voudon and the lwa has repeatedly taken up arms against her culture. The Catholic Church in particular has felt threatened by the people’s practice of Voudon despite the fact that the old saying is usually true: who appears at the ounfo (temple) on Saturday night will be seen at Mass on Sunday.
So called Antisuperstition Campaigns have popped up repeatedly. These are organized attempts, the first of which occurred in 1896, by first the Catholic Church – and later Protestant missionaries – to “cure” people of their “superstitious” belief in Voudon. The prominent Catholic campaigns happened in 1912, 1913, 1925, 1030, 1940 and 1941. By 1986 the Protestants were in on the deal, preaching not only against Voudon but against Catholicism as well, and those efforts continue to this day.
A fine idea of the thought process of organized Christianity in its battle against “superstitions” is given by this quote from The Cross Versus the Rattle. The book, written by Father Carl Edward Peters during the 1941 campaign, gives one priest’s eye witness account of the Church’s efforts to stamp out Voudon once and for all:
We must… break the bottles and jugs, rip up the images, pull out and burn the posts and the cross [in the ounfo] carry away the stones, take away the necklaces, crush the cayes-lwa [spirit houses], cut the worshipped wood, desecrate all that reeks of the superstitious ‘service’. … And they will not take us seriously if we are not strict.
Like children playing with an electrical cord, the voudonists must be deprived of their toy and, through harsh paternal discipline, come to see the error of their ways.
Though not as formalized as in prior decades, and now more often led by fundamentalist Protestant faiths than the Catholic Church, this “saving of souls” continues in Haiti. And so, too, does Voudon. Grace a Bon Dieu ~
Header: “The lwa and the lamb”, dwapo lwa (ceremonial flag) via Madalia Art