Before Christianity came to West Africa in the period following the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, the West Africans practiced the Vodoun Religion and the principles of Voudon would provide the basis for the new hybrid Haitian Religion of Voodoo which would originate and appear on the Slave Island of St. Domingue.
The Voodoo Religion that originated on the Island of St. Domingue was essentially a hybrid Religion derived by combining elements of Traditional West African Religion and the Catholic Christianity the Slaves were exposed to in the diaspora.
The African Religion From Which Voodoo Originated
In its African form, Voodoo was called Voudon and it comes from the Fon word for “God” or “Spirit” known as “Iwa”.
Voudon was also a Monotheistic religion, which recognized one Supreme Being expressed in the Natural Metaphysical and Physical Forces of Life which the Africans represented symbolically as Deities or Angels.
The Moral teachings and life lessons of Voodoo were preserved and transmitted in an Oral Tradition which also included Divination.
Both these African Religions were Monotheistic believing in One Supreme Being expressed as the Neteru Deities like Ausar (Osiris) in the Metu Neter Oracle and the Orisha Deities like Ogun in the Ifa Oracle.
Just like the Deities of the Metu Neter and Ifa Oracles, the Voodoo Deties or Angels also represent the Primordial aspects of Nature like Earth, Fire, Water and Air in a manner similar to the Ancient Egyptian Deities Shu, Geb, Nut and Tefnut who are the first 4 Children from the The Supreme Being that also represent the 4 Elements of Nature that are the determinants of the Reality we experience in our Universe.
In addition, Voodoo applied the same underlying principle in conceiving of the Voodoo Deities not as actual Physical Gods, but as mere expressions of the Cosmic forces of Nature in the Moral and Physical planes of the Universe in the same way as the Deities of the Ifa Oracle and Ancient Kemet’s Metu Netu Oracle in the Ancient Egyptian Tree Of Life represent the Metaphysical Aspects of Nature such as Thought, Creation, Karma, Justice, Will, and Fertility.
However, as an Oral Tradition, it can be said that Voodoo probably originates and mirrors more closely Nigeria’s Ifa Oracle which remains an Oral Yoruba Tradition that also includes Divination to this day especially because most of the people that were enslaved were taken from West Africa after the 15th Century in the period when the indigenous African Religions practiced at the time were The Ifa Oracle and Voudon in its original African form.
The basic principles for the indigenous African Religions of Ifa and Voudon practiced during the time Africans were enslaved to the Americas were probably derived from the more Ancient Metu Neter Oracle which continued to survive in different forms in the indigenous African Religions of Ifa and Voudon that were practiced by Africans before they were enslaved by the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.
This may explain why Voodoo in the Americas and the African Religions of Ifa and Voudon it was based on used some of the same Iconography such as Snake symbols which were originally conceived and used in Ancient Kemet.
The African Origins of Voodoo gave the African Slaves a continuous sense of Identity and connection with their African Homeland.
As a result, the success of the Haitian Revolution has been attributed to the influence of Voodoo as a Unifying Principle that strengthened the Haitian resistance in a manner that other subsequent Slave Revolts like the Nat Turner Slave Revolt could not achieve because other Slave Revolts in North America were based entirely on the foreign religion of Christianity which was not strong enough to unify revolting Slaves in the United States.
After the Haitian Slave Revolt, Voodoo ended up as Haiti’s main Religion and Voodoo has since spread to the other former Slave Colonies of the Americas like Cuba, Brazil and the American South, in particular, New Orleans.
Important to understand is that the African Religion of Vodoun from which Voodoo originated is not the same Slave Religion frequently portrayed as Demonic, Polytheistic and Paganastic with repulsive practices like blood rituals and sticking pins into dolls.
In the final analysis, the emergence of Voodoo was an attempt by the earliest African Slaves to hold onto the last vestiges of their African identity in an alien land in which the memory of their Ancestral African homeland faded with each passing day.
Africans resisted this process of alienation by creating the hybrid Religion of Voodoo in the diaspora which combined their Ancient African Religious beliefs with the Catholicism they encountered in the Americas.