Hoodoo vs Voodoo

Voodoo v hoodoo

Although “hoodoo” and “voodoo” sound similar, their meaning is different and relates to how the practice is slightly altered. I am going to explain the main differences to you. I have been working with hoodoo for many years, not so much in the last seven years but I wanted to share with you the main differences.

The main difference between these magic practices is that the voodoo is actually a religion followed by people, and hoodoo is considered folk magic - this is the simplest interpretations. However, both voodoo and hoodoo are expansively performed and have similar roots and elements in Africa. Voodoo and hoodoo are the final outcomes of mixed beliefs that cover parts of European religions, ancient worship, and some pagan traditions. As a religion, voodoo remains a structured foundation with grounded practices like religions leaders or representatives, religious services, teachings, and rituals. Hoodoo, on the other hand, is a folk magic that lacks organization and foundation. In voodoo, people call on the power of the lord with African gods, while the hoodoo believers invoke their lord by using Catholic saints or ancestors.

The voodoo religion is performed by non-Roman Catholics. And the folk magic – hoodoo is practiced mostly by Roman Catholics who believe in both the Catholic saints and the African concept of gods. Those who practice hoodoo are also followers of spiritualism. Those who practice hoodoo are called Vodousaints, while hoodoo followers or practitioners are known as root healers or doctors. Those who practice hoodoo see the folk magic as some kind of personal power that helps them or other people through their knowledge of animal parts, minerals, herbs, possessions and body fluids. Hoodoo can be used according to your interests, and habits. Those who practice hoodoo empower themselves by getting in contact with the gods and other supernatural forces.

A hoodoo practitioner establishes a connection to improve or decline a person’s well-being or life in general. As a magical practice hoodoo can help others by using specialist hoodoo knowledge and power in all aspects of life, including love, luck, evil, enemies. Voodoo, as I have mentioned, is the “original religion”, while the hoodoo remains as a result of religious oppression. In fact, hoodoo is a blending mix of foreign beliefs and religion with African roots created to hide the origins which were is seen as unacceptable in the pagan society lead by the Christians. Voodoo isn’t just a religion but also a way of life and culture. Hoodoo, on the other hand, specializes in magic powers and magic benefits (powders and oils) for those who practice hoodoo. You can practice hoodoo as a hobby but most people lay tricks to acquire some economic income.bThe influence and popularity of voodoo and hoodoo vary in different places. Voodoo is popular in former French colonies like Louisiana and Mississippi. And the hoodoo thrives more in Southern America. Hoodoo was brought by African slaves to the New World, and voodoo came through a former French colony known as Haiti. 

Voodoo is the “purer” and more ancient than hoodoo and encompasses different fields in society such as art, music, culture, philosophy, language, medicine, heritage, spirituality, justice, and power. Hoodoo remains a fraction of all this and focuses more on the power of magic and also the spiritual side of life. To summarize the differences between these two, I have made a list below. Scroll down to read the main differences between voodoo and hoodoo.

  • Voodoo is a religion, while hoodoo is considered as traditional folk magic.
  • Voodoo has a system because it’s an established religion. Hoodoo lacks one.
  • Voodoo followers stick with this religion only. Hoodoo’s followed by Roman Catholics.
  • Voodoo came indirectly through Haiti, while hoodoo arrived directly from Africa.
  • Voodoo is the “original religion” or “main belief”, while hoodoo is only a denomination.

The word “voodoo” has African origins, meaning “God” or “spirit”. Voodoo is an African religion that represents the traditional African practices of many different tribes. Some of them were rivals who were forced to unite in order to survive and fight slavery together. The tribes mixed practices and created a ritual order to pay respect to tribes’ spirits and gods. There was also the influence of French Catholicism in their practices. This can be noticed in the usage of Catholic saint pictures to portray the spirits respected in voodoo.

As I have previously mentioned, voodoo is a structured and established Haitian religion and represents an important part of the Haitian culture. Those who follow voodoo believe in a god known as “Bondye”. It’s believed that he’s an omnipotent god who indirectly intercedes in human lives. Those who believe in voodoo worship the god indirectly by respecting the spirits that assist him. Initiation isn’t required to join voodoo. In fact, most followers aren’t initiated. The liturgical language of voodoo is Creole – a local dialect of Haitian French.

There’s one more practice associated with voodoo known as Vodun. However, this isn’t an original religion but a combination of magical and religious practices you can find in Southern America these days. The Vodoun is distinctly different from the main voodoo and is derived from African traditions. It was brought to America by the African slaves during the African slave trade. The original name of the practice is West African Dahomeyan Vodun. It has a correlation with spiritualism and shares various magical practices with hoodoo. Vodoun has no ritual order like the voodoo and worships various Catholic saints. You can notice that it’s very similar to hoodoo. The main liturgical language is English mixed with French Creole.

Hoodoo, the African-American folk magic is mainly a combination of African folkloric beliefs and practices with a significant mix of Indian botanical knowledge, together with European folklore. Hoodoo can be adapted to numerous religion forms. Hoodoo is not a true religion. However, the core of its beliefs is consisting elements of European and African religions. There is no main priest or priestess in hoodoo and the rituals and teachings are passed down from one follower to another. There’s no division between initiates and laity, and the rituals depend on the individual performing. There’s no rule saying who should go first.

Today, you can find hoodoo followers in Southern America. Most of them are Protestant Christians. As we’ve mentioned, hoodoo tradition is all about magical power due to minerals, roots, spells, herbs, animal parts and some personal possessions. Those who practice hoodoo can make spells using body fluids such as tears, menstrual blood, urine, spit, semen, nail clippings, and hair. This makes the picture of hoodoo clearer now. Hoodoo spells are usually companioned by Biblical text coming from The Book of Psalms. However, the spells aren’t performed in Jesus name but in the name of other supernatural forces in order to bring improvement or decline in people’s lives. I will now try to expand your knowledge of these two practices, I have gathered a few interesting facts below. There is so much that you can gain from the voodoo and hoodoo differences.

  • Until recently, voodoo was seen as a superstition rather than some original religion. This is mostly because of racism considering the fact that voodoo is practiced mostly by African people. And maybe Voodoo doesn’t have written doctrine but the religion has sixty million followers worldwide that cannot be denied.
  • Many consider voodoo as practice related to black magic, curses, and zombies due to ignorance. The popular concept has nothing to do with the actual purpose of the practices and rituals voodoo has. These practices and rituals are dedicated to good health, seeking blessings, success and prosperity, inner healing, and raising luck.
  • The slaves who created voodoo couldn’t write or read, however, they managed to develop a highly visual iconography to present voodoo. The symbols they’ve created are often presented and used in movies and sensationalist literature as “curses”. However, the main purpose of these symbols was to identify and invoke the spirits, such as the spirits of love, prosperity, luck, fertility, and protection for everyone.
  • The key symbol in voodoo is crossroad because it presents the place where the physical world divides from the spirit world. It’s also the place where good and evil divide telling us something about voodoo’s nature – it represents human nature.
  • There are many families of spirits in voodoo. However, we’ll talk about the three most important ones. The first is the benevolent spirits known as “Rada”. These spirits are the most often summoned and petitioned. The second most important is the angry, violent spirits. Some of them are genuinely evil in order to represent the evil side of human nature and are known as “Petro”. And the third crucial are the spirits who deal with dead people and death in general. They’re known as the “Gede”.
  • You probably know zombies but what you didn’t know about them is that they originated in voodoo religion. However, they’re nothing like the zombies you know from movies and series. According to the voodoo religion and folklore, zombies don’t eat brains. In fact, they don’t eat anything because they’re actually dead and lost the ability and primary need for food. Also, they’re not the violent type as usually presented on television and internet unless they’re ordered by their master to become violent and commit a crime. Otherwise, they can’t act independently and according to intuition. Just imagine slaves because that’s what zombies are actually in voodoo religion – the obedient slaves of whoever revived them from the grave.
  • In voodoo, zombies aren’t monsters but victims. That’s why Haitians never fear zombies but fear becoming one. For those who didn’t know, “zombiism” represents a metaphor for slavery in sociological terms. In this religion found by slaves, slavery is the worst thing that can happen to you. Thus, being a slave is close to being dead.
  • If you plan to raise a zombie or want to curse an enemy, don’t go to a priest or priestess and ask for advice because they’re not the ones dealing with black magic. Visit a sorcerer also known as “bokor” if you want to play on the dark side. 
  • Did you know that during a voodoo ritual, the followers invite the spirits to possess them? After they fall into some voodoo spirit trance that can look frightening but people experience it as a great blessing from the spirit world. Voodoo spirits also enjoy the physical sensation when showing up, which includes drinking lots of rum.
  • There’s an urban legend that many know about voodoo associated with so-called “voodoo doll”. However, curses don’t have anything to do with voodoo, but hoodoo. The doll is used as a tool to bestow a certain curse, and we previously mentioned that curses are a hoodoo thing. For example, if you dislike someone, you can create a voodoo doll that portrays the person. After, you probably curse the doll as cursing the person and stab it in particular parts to put your curse to work. Although this doll is often used in movies and series, it’s rarely used by the practitioners of hoodoo.
  • Followers of voodoo turn to this religion as a way to deal with ongoing suffering. Voodoo developed differently when it left Africa, carrying around the torment and suffering from those who sand its songs. The voodoo in Haiti became known as Vodou – a spiritual force that helped slaves endure their ongoing suffering. In fact, this religion and the spiritual force are guilty of the infamous slave revolts back in the 1800s when slaves pushed the French out. Voodoo religion symbolizes the suffering of the slaves. And in honor of them, thousands of people fill the Haitian streets to “baptize” themselves and pray in a pool filled with mud – a symbol of history’s darkest times. On Easter, they call the spirits while wearing white. They also sacrifice animals to soak in their blood. Sometimes, they even mix and drink the blood with rum.
  • Allegedly, voodoo followers believe in two worlds: the visible one – the one we live in and the invisible world where our deceased ancestors continue to exist. Death is said to separate us from this world in which our dead ancestors watch over everything.

I hope you enjoyed my explanation of voodoo and hoodoo. My final question is what would you choose to believe: the voodoo or the hoodoo? Which sounds more interesting?

By Florance Saul
Apr 26, 2018