A myriad of  misinformation and myths abound concerning the origins

To further obscure and complicate matters, in the West, the first independent black republic, Haiti, is also universally credited by western scholars of  developing the Vodoun religion, or at least, introducing the “Vodou” religion into America.  High profile academic journals, trade book authors and ATR (African Traditional Religious) practitioners, continue to unquestionably perpetuate this myth as well.  

The claim that Haiti introduced the Vodoun religion into America might survive historical and academic scrutiny only if one were to completely disregard or accept the notion that the more than 50 million Africans transported across the Atlantic directly on to America’s shores, arrived linguistically, spiritually and culturally ignorant. That is, until they were culturally and spiritually civilized by other enslaved Africans; who incidentally, were transported across that same ocean from the same or proximal  geographical regions, to suffer the same exact fate.

It would however, be correct to state that groups of Haitians, were brought to the Southern United States by slave owners escaping the Cuban War of Independence (1895–1898), and the Haitian Revolution (1791–1804). These groups brought with them their own Haitian Vodou traditions, adding to (or merging with) the Vodoun traditions that were already well established in free townships and underground as late as the 1800's by the Africans already enslaved in America.

Lastly, the only historic connection of Nigeria to the Vodoun religion is the nation of Ketu, in what is now the Republic of Benin, in southwestern Nigeria. Known by the Ewe as Amedzofe, it is the more ancient ancestral home of the Ewe, Fon and other Gbe Vodoun groups prior to the expansion of the Oyo empire into their region around 10-1100 B.C.  It was this expansion which triggered the constant warfare,  forcing the Ewe and other Gbe groups to flee (1100-1300 B.C.) to Adja-Tado, present day Togo.

Another runner-up that stubbornly persists in popular culture, largely perpetuated by some western anthropologists and a majority of Christian evangelicals, is the myth that Vodoun is a “slave religion,” or a religion created by the “poor, ignorant and superstitious African (freed and enslaved) masses.”  Their newly invented pagan faith they claimed, was merely employed as a psychic balm to either help them to endure or to aid them in surviving their preordained sufferings from Slavery and later, Jim Crow Segregation. Counter to this, is the myth that the West Africans were already “Christianized” either by European colonial invaders of their native country before they arrived, or were “Christianized” on the slave ships en route to the New World.  

It is true that in the 1400’s, Portuguese “missionaries” were commissioned to coerce the Dahomean kings and other local chiefs to convert to Catholicism. Some did for political and economic reasons.  However, this opportunistic ploy in no way affected the overwhelming masses’ of Africans who saw no divine benefit in adopting Christianity.   Further, the fact that the enslaved Africans neither spoke nor could they read the foreign European languages of their captors; coupled with the esoteric nature of their spiritual essence, made it impossible, without facing a grim death or long suffering, to instantaneously “convert” to a theological religion which condoned their enslavement, or forced them to abandoned  the very deities and ancestors who aided them in their survival across the Atlantic.

of the Vodoun religion. By far, some of the  most popular claims that continue to endure, is the notion that the Vodoun originated in either Haiti, Nigeria or in the former Dahomean, West African Kingdom now known (since 1975) as Benin.   Many seekers after visiting their local diviners, when troubled by a spirit, will proclaim that their “roots reading” indicates that they are “Vodou,” and that their ancestors hail from the West African country of Benin.  Some are even told that they descend from the “royal lineages” of  Dahomean kings.  Some Americans who travel to Benin, and might thru happenstance, encounter the Vodou culture, are duly “initiated.” Upon their return to the U.S., a unique phenomena occurs in which they arrive proclaimng the same mythical story, namely that Dahomey is the birth home of the Vodou religion; and that its chief priests are the “supreme royal chiefs” over  all of the Vodou for the Diaspora and  (in some cases) indeed the world.

Mami Wata: Africa's Ancient God/dess Unveiled Vol. I

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“How is it possible that a 10,000 year old religion originated in a country [Dahomey] whose existence date no further back

than 800 years?”


  Fig 1:  Behanzin Hossu Bowelle "The King Shark" (1841-1906).

            11th king of Dahomey.

Photo: Geiser, Alger.

   Origins of the  

Vodoun Religion

       A Closer Look At Dahomey’s Claim


            by: Mama Zogbe: Chief Hounon-Amengansie

© Mama Zogbé. All Rights Reserved





Dispelling the Abolitionists Myth Dispelling The Haitian/Nigerian Myth Examining Popular Myths RESOURCES ON THIS SITE
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