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Voodoo Is Haitians’ Link to Africa With AM-Voodoo Pilgrimage

August 1, 1994

Undated (AP) _ African slaves brought to Haiti centuries ago lost most of their native culture, but were able to preserve the spirit-based religion they call voodoo.

When their French masters gave the slaves Christian symbols to worship, the transplanted Africans saw their own gods in the icons.

In a picture of Mary with the child Jesus, they found Erzulie, the spirit of love, and Guede, the god of death. In the image of St. Jacques on a white steed, sword uplifted, they saw Ogoun, their god of war. The serpent in the Garden of Eden was the snake-god Dambala.

The essence of voodoo is possession, the belief that spirits can enter a person. Forces of nature, objects, substances and rites - a trough of mud, a waterfall, candles, rum, animal sacrifice - are intermediaries with the spirit world.

African drums beat a sensual rhythm and sacred dances are performed, specific to the spirit being called by the houngan or mambo - voodoo priest or priestess. One dance imitates the wings of a large bird; another evokes the movement of a snake.

Voodoo is not concerned with afterlife, as Christianity is, but with resolving daily problems in a culture that has suffered more than its share. Through sacrifice and possession, believers hope a god will punish their enemies, bring them money, cure their illnesses, improve their lives, even show them the future.

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