Vodouists believe in a distant and unknowable Supreme Creator, Bon’Dye (derived from the French term Bon Dieu, meaning “good God”). According to Vodouists, Bon’Dye does not intercede in human affairs, and thus direct their worship toward spirits subservient to Bon’Dye, called Loa. Every loa is responsible for a particular aspect of life, with the dynamic and changing personalities of each loa reflecting the many possibilities inherent to the aspects of life over which they preside. In order to navigate daily life, vodouists cultivate personal relationships with the loa through the presentation of offerings, the creation of personal altars and devotional objects, and participation in elaborate ceremonies of music, dance, and spirit possession.
Vodoun originated in the Caribbean and developed in the French Empire in the 18th century among West African slaves when African religious practice was actively suppressed, and enslaved Africans were forced to convert to Christianity. Religious practices of contemporary Vodoun are descended from, and closely related to, West African Vodun as practiced by the Fon and Ewe. Vodou also incorporates elements and symbolism from other African peoples including the Yoruba and Kongo; as well as Taíno religious beliefs, Roman Catholicism, and European spirituality including mysticism, Freemasonry, and other influences.
Vodoun has often been associated in popular culture with Satanism, witchcraft, zombies and “voodoo dolls”. Zombi creation has been referenced within rural Haitian culture, such manifestations fall under the auspices of the bokor or sorcerer, rather than the priest of the loa. The practice of sticking pins in voodoo dolls has history in folk magic. “Voodoo dolls” are often associated with New Orleans Voodoo and Hoodoo as well the magical devices of the poppet and the nkisi or bocio of West and Central Africa.