voodoo (vōˈdō) [key] [from the god Vodun], native W African religious beliefs and practices that also has adherents in the New World. Voodoo believers are most numerous in Haiti, where voodoo was granted official religious status in 2003, and in Benin, where the religion has had official recognition since 1996. Similar observances are found in Jamaica, under the name pocomania, and in parts of the United States and in the Guianas. A highly developed voodooistic religion known as candomblé is found in Brazil.
Although the magical aspects of voodoo are related to beliefs and practices found throughout the world, the basic features of voodoo were brought by slaves from W Africa, particularly those from what is now Benin, where the beliefs are still widespread (as many as 60% of the people of Benin practice voodoo). Voodoo contends that all of nature is controlled by spiritual forces which must be acknowledged and honored through offerings and animal sacrifice; ecstatic trances (a means of communicating with the gods and spirits) and magical practices play an important role in its ritual. In the New World, Christian elements were introduced, and the African deities became identified with various saints. At various time attempts have been made to suppress voodoo, but voodoo survived and continues to flourish.
See A. Métraux, Voodoo in Haiti (tr. 1959); F. Huxley, The Invisibles (1966).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.