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Vodou: Visions and Voices of Haiti
by Phyllis Galembo

Vodou: Visions and Voices of Haiti "It has been said that Vodou is not so much a religion as a practice: This is not to downplay the spiritual importance of the tradition, but to emphasize the importance of active service rather than passive belief in Vodou spirituality. Followers of Vodou do not identify themselves as 'Vodouists,'' as adherents of the Catholic church would say they are 'Catholics.'' Rather, they say they are 'servants of the spirits.'"

This passage from Vodou: Visions and Voices of Haiti effectively summarizes the book's underlying message. Vodou is a portrayal of the people of Haiti and their tradition of Vodou, as one - a living culture... physical life infused with the drama of the otherworldly, a spiritual tradition reflective of the character of its devotees. Veves and other sacred artwork decorate the text, complementing the rich, evocative photographs that bring this message to life.

The book's Introduction gives us some background history, which will be especially helpful to those who have no familiarity with the tradition, or who have only read more mainstream or "New Age" approaches to it. It is a distinct reminder that Vodou developed as a tradition that served a deep need among its early practitioners. It grew out of a time, a place, and a people; and it was very much for those people.

The book then invites us to take part in a celebration of images and words. Appropriately, we are greeted by the Spirits, or as they are known in Vodou - the Lwa. A small representation of the most commonly known lwa are honored here: Legba, Ezili, Ogou, Gede, Bawon Samdi, Azaka, Lasirenn, Danbala and Ayida Wedo, and the darker Bosou.

Elements that are crucial to Vodou practice are explained, such as the temple, dance space, altars, rattles, flags, drums, and dolls. Although the book does not purport to provide a look into secret ceremonies - for example, you won't find instructions on how to do a Vodou ritual here - it does create an intimate connection between subject and reader.

Prose, prayer, and poetry inform the text. Passages include works by Zora Neale Hurston, Harold Courlander, Alfred Metraux, Maya Deren, Theodore Beaubrun (from the Haitian band Boukman Eksperyans), Karen McCarthy Brown, anthropologists, manbos, and other important and renowned figures. These wise offerings educate the reader on the essential truths of Vodou.

Vodou: Visions and Voices of Haiti is an important - albeit somewhat brief - sharing of a culture that lives its spiritual truth daily. It is highly recommended for those who have a serious interest in or genuine love of the tradition, and are looking for the real heart and soul of Vodou.

Vodou: Visions and Voices of Haiti, page 13, Ogou


Read user reviews or purchase online at Amazon:
Vodou: Visions and Voices of Haiti

You might also be interested in my reviews of:

The New Orleans Voodoo Tarot
by Louis Martinie and Sallie Ann Glassman

Afro-Brazilian Tarot
by Alice Santana and Giuseppe Palumbo

Book review by Nellie Levine






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