Voodoo (Vodun) is a derivative of the world’s oldest known religions which have been around in Africa since the beginning of human civilization. The word “voodoo” comes from the West African word “vodun,” meaning spirit.
West African voodoo is practiced by about 30 million people, and is most prominant in nations like Ghana, Benin and Togo. Rituals and beliefs are extensive, and largely untouched by the outside influences that have shaped other types of voodoo.
Voodoo is a practical religion, playing an important role in the family and the community. One’s ancestors, for instance, are believed to be a part of the world of the spirits and this is one way that Voodoo serves to root its participants in their own history and tradition.
Another practical aspect of Voodoo ceremonies is that participants often come before the priest or priestess to seek advice, spiritual guidance, or help with their problems. The priest or priestess then offer help such as healing through the use of herbs or medicines or healing through faith itself as is common in other religions. Voodoo teaches a respect for the natural world.
About 17% of the population of Benin, some 1.6 million people, follow Vodun. There may be another million Vodunists among the Ewe of Ghana, as a 13% of the total Ghana population of 20 million are Ewe and 38% of Ghanaians practise traditional religion.
Vodun art is associated with Vodunists in Benin, Togo and Ghana. Art forms include bocio, carved wooden statues that represent supernatural beings and may be activated through various ritual steps, and Asen, metal objects that attract spirits of the dead or other spirits and give them a temporary resting place.