While just about everyone has heard of Voodoo, not so many are aware of its origins and how it is defined. The late Brad Steiger, who had an interest in the subject, wrote the following: "According to some of its more passionate adherents, Vodun/Vodoun is not a magical tradition, not an animistic tradition, not a spirit tradition neither, and it should be seen as a pagan religion. The deities of Voodoo are not simply spiritual energies and the path of Voodoo should not be followed for the sake of power over another. Although the Voodoo religion does not demand members proselytize, anyone may join. However, ninety-nine percent of its priesthoods are passed from generation to generation. The same individuals who esteem their Voodoo religion so highly, insist that it is neither dogmatic nor apocalyptic. Whatever outsiders may make of their faith, the sincere Voodoo follower declares that it has no apocalyptic tradition that prophesies a doomsday or end-of-the-world scenario."
The Sun Sentinel states: "...voodoo has survived years of suppression in Haiti to remain a strong component of that island's culture. It fuses African religions, Roman Catholicism and Indian mysticism. Voodoo's ties to Catholicism - Haiti's official religion - date to the efforts of early voodoo practitioners to mask their outlawed ceremonies as Christian rituals. Voodoo adherents believe in spirits that correspond to gods. They consult "houn'gans," voodoo's equivalent of priests, for everything from headaches to hex removal. The worship of voodoo gods includes ritualistic dances and ceremonies, herbal medicines and evil-deflecting potions, animal sacrifices and the casting of hexes or spells. The color of clothing also has a prominent role in voodoo."
Huffpost says: "Voodoo has ordained clergy, Hougan (priests) and Manbo (priestesses) that make a commitment to a spiritual path and can offer guidance when needed, but it is believed that each person is responsible for their own actions and capable of self-actualization. Voodooists especially places value on the strength of community for support and enrichment. Just as there are differences within other faiths, there is great variation within Voodoo beliefs and practices. In places and times where conditions are very desperate, Voodoo is often focused on survival. In my New Orleans community, many Voodooists feel that part of religion is service to their community, so there is an emphasis on healing and social activism. We also have many artists and musicians in our community, further reflecting New Orleans’ unique cultural spirit."
NewOrleans.com has something to share as well: "The most famous voodoo queen was Marie Laveau (1794-1881), a legendary practitioner buried in St. Louis Cemetery No.1. She was a devout Catholic and attended Mass at St. Louis Cathedral. She encouraged others to do so as well. She lived in the French Quarter on St. Ann Street, where many people stopped to ask for her help at all hours of the day and night. She was a free woman of color whom adopted children, fed the hungry and nursed the sick during the yellow-fever epidemic. She was known to help enslaved servants and their escapes."
Back to Brad Steiger: "In its outward appearances and in some of its practices, Macumba (also known as Spiritism, Candomble, and Umbanda) resembles Voodoo. Trance states among the practitioners are induced by dancing and drumming, and the ceremony climaxes with an animal sacrifice. The ancient role of the Shaman remains central to Macumba. He (it is most often a male) or she enters into a trance state and talks to the spirits in order to gain advice or aid for the supplicants. Before anyone can participate in a Macumba ceremony, he or she must undergo an initiation. The aspirants must enter a trance during the dancing and the drumming and allow a god to possess them. Once the possession has taken place, the shaman must determine which gods are in which initiate so that the correct rituals can be performed. The process is enhanced by the sacrifice of an animal and the smearing of its blood over the initiates. Once the initiates have been bloodied, they take an oath of loyalty to the cult. Later, when the trance state and the possessing spirit have left them, the aspirants, now members of the Macumba cult, usually have no memory of the ritual proceedings.”