Voodoo or Vodoun (of Pirates & Zombies*) is the religion and
magical belief system of much of the non-european inhabitants of the
Caribbean and surrounding lands. It is a hybrid of Christianity,
Old African Faiths and some Native American beliefs, particularly those
stemming from the Carib tribes.
Much of the symbolism is Christian and while this is largely a matter
of protective coloration to avoid persecution by the dominant
Europeans, some aspects of Christian faith have been incorporated.
The primary followers of Vodoun are African slaves, escaped slaves,
half castes African/Indian, African/European, superstitious Europeans
and (to some degree) the pirates and Buccaneers who live elbow to elbow
with these populations.
Most Europeans, at least publicly, dismiss Vodoun as either groundless
superstition or as debased witchcraft and sorcery. To
profess any belief in such practices is against logic, education and
Christian beliefs. In a world where wars are still fought over
Catholic or Protestant beliefs and people are still burned or hung for
Witchcraft, the heresy that Vodoun represents can be a serious
matter. As recently as 1693 Witches were executed in
Most Europeans, educated or otherwise, have only the vaguest ideas of
how Vodoun works. Their knowledge is limited to whispered stories
of Zombies and curses. Even amongst those people that profess
there is little known about how Vodoun actually works. These
secrets, or Mysteries, are kept by the Practitioners, the Mambo,
Bokors. What is known is that the Power of Vodoun Magic lies with
the interaction of the Practitioner (and followers) with the Spirits
Though most Christians regard the Loa as evil and demonic in nature,
the fact is that most Loa are not particularly evil (though some
are!) and most are extremely kind and beneficial. All of
the Loa can be petitioned to aid the Practitioner and the Followers
many different ways. The most common form of interaction with the
Loa is at Ceremony where the Loa possess or 'Mounts' a servitour so as
to facilitate interaction with the Practitioner and Servitours.
Such ceremonies are rousing, exciting and carnival like in practice,
filled with food, drink, tobacco, sweets, music, dancing and sexual
activity designed to appeal to the earthy side of the Loa's nature.
The Mambo, a Priestess of Vodoun or the Houngan, a Priest of Vodoun,
conduct these ceremonies, both large scale public ones and smaller
private ones, to petition the Loa to grant their knowledge, power and
aid to whatever the task at hand is. Mambo and Houngan use their
knowledge and skills for the benefit of their community and the
servitours that make up their 'Hounfo' (the Parish or area of the Mambo
or Houngan's influence.) It is very rare for Mambo or Houngan to
petition the Loa for evil purpose, though they will do so in defense of
the community. The Mambos and Houngans do not use their powers
for selfish ends but only for the good of their people.
The Bokor is different. He, and they are almost always male, uses
his powers for selfish purpose and frequently calls upon the darker Loa
and the creatures of darkness, for aid in achieving their nefarious and
selfish goals. Though they may well have followers the Bokor is
only peripherally concerned with their well being to the extent that
they can benefit him.
To most non believers the best known manifestations of Vodoun are
Zombies, Gris-Gris Bags and the infamous Dolls. Much that people
purportedly know about these items is mere superstition and wildly
inaccurate. Still, they should not be taken lightly or wholly
Common Vodoun Terms
This is not a complete list by any means, it is meant to provide
the Outsider with an understanding of SOME of the most frequently used
terms and expressions of Voodoo. The explanation given for each
term is the 'commonly understood meaning.' A Practitioner may
have a different interpretation of some of the terms!
Mambo - A Vodoun priestess
Houngan - A Vodoun priest
Bokor (Boccur) - A Vodun Sorceror
- A charm made by a practitioner for the benefit of the
person owning the bag. Its contents are secret, symbolic and
grant specific benefits to the bag's owner. They often give
the wearer luck or protection from specific types of harm or enhance
their personal attributes in some fashion.
Wanga - Bad luck or bad magic, usually directed at someone
Banda - The music associated with Voodoo rituals
Loa - A being of great power and belonging to one of several
Spirit families. They are not God the Creator, but are lessor beings
who take a more interactive role with humanity and the events of the
Rada Loa - The oldest and most beneficial of the Loa families.
Petra Loa - Younger, angrier and darker Spirit family
Ghede Loa - The youngest and weakest of the Loa families, can be
persuaded in either direction.
Duppies - Evil
ghosts, generally summoned and controlled by a Bokor.
LouGarou - A werewolf, usually female but not always.
- Similar to a Gris Gris Bag but is generally associated
with improving health, resisting diseases or poisons and enhancing
healing and recovery.
Ouanga - A type of talismans made from a variety of different
materials. These grant the wearer Powers and Abilities that are
otherwise unavailable to mortals.
Veve - A drawn
symbol repesenting a particular Loa.
Djab - A devil or demon. Weaker then Loa but very, very dangerous.
Baku - A powerful evil spirit, often used as servants by djab
Bondye - A name or term referring to God the creator
GranMet - Another term or name for God.
Guinee - The Underworld. The place that souls go for eternal rest.
Zombi - A person who dies, usually thought to be killed by a bokor, who
comes back after three days to serve its Master as a
powerful but mindless slave.
Servitour - One of the faithful followers of Vodoun, but not a
Hounfo - The 'Parish' or portion of a community cared for and protected
by a Mambo or Houngan.
Simbi Loa (Sim' bi) - Simbi
Loa are a large and diverse family of serpent Loa originally from the
West Central Africa / Kongo region. In the Caribbean area they are
most commonly worshipped by the Cimmaroons, especially those on the
other Loa the Simbi Loa do not 'Mount' people in services to
communicate with the practitioner. Instead they manifest themselves
as, or through, snakes.
Goofer Dust - Dust or dirt from a grave. An ingredient in some
items and charms as well as reputedly having pwers of its own.
Gurunfindas - A type of
Ouanga that wards Wanga and Voudon attacks by redirecting them at
someone else. It is made with a small, dried and hollowed out gourd and
a variety of ingredients including parts from a cadaver. It can
be used many times. A Practitioner is able to direct where the
deflected attack goes. A non-practitioner cannot control the
Resquardos - A type of Paquet-Congo that protects from poisons,
venoms, diseaes, Wanga and curses. It has a tiny carved sword
sewn into the pouch. The sword will break when the resquardo
shields its owner from the threat. It is a ONE USE item.
Gambler Gris-Gris - A favorite of gamblers, it is suppose to improve
the wearer's luck at dice OR cards. (The charm is specific to the
method of gambling.) In both cases the bag is made of red
flannel. A Dice Gris-Gris contains, amongst other things, a
lodestone, while the Card Gris-Gris has a shark's tooth in its contents.
Wanga Bag - Similar in construction and design as a Gris-Gris Bag
but these are intended to deliver Wanga (Bad Magic) or a Curse to an
intended target. They are made for a specific individual and must
be placed amongst his or her possessions or in their home to be
effective. Goofer Dust is an ingredient and the bag is sewn from
a shroud taken from a corpse at
least nine days dead.
Loa Bottle - Also called a 'Spirit Bottle.' These are used to
trap or imprison a
Poppet – The
Voodoo Doll. Poppets are not necessarily devices for evil, though
they can certainly be used in that fashion
Gro-bon-Ange - The part of the soul which animates the human body. The
gro-bon-ange is an individual and immortal part of the soul which can
pass through stages and MAY eventually become a loa. It is THIS
part of a human soul that has value to certain dark creatures
Ti-bon-Ange - The part of the human soul that is the changeless,
impersonal cosmic consciousness. Upon the death of the individual
the ti-bon-ange rejoins the cosmic forces and can be reused.
- The building or outdoor area where ceremonies are held.
Mitan - The center pole in a peristyle. It represents the center of the
universe and the access to the spirit world. All the dancing revolves
around the poto mitan.
- The sacred magic rattle of the houngan or mambo. It is a gourd
with natural handle and the outside is covered with bits of coral and
- Loa come to a ceremony and possess a serviteur. A horse and rider
image is used as the loa is said to MOUNT the serviteur. The loa takes
over the serviteur's body during possession. It is not clear where the
serviteur goes while his or her body is possessed by the loa.
tet (washing of the head) - An initiation ceremony held for
serviteurs after they have been mounted for the first time.
- The initiation ceremony of fire for those moving into a very
serious level of Voodoo practice.
of the Asson - The final initiation into the status of being a houngan
The Music and the
place - A master of ceremonies who works directly under the houngan or
- The director of music and dancing.
- A group of servers, usually women, dressed in white.
Rada Music - Played with drums, incessently, for
hours and hours and hours
Bula drum - A very small drum beaten by a seated drummer with two
long thin sticks used for Rada music
Segond drum - A smaller drum, perhaps 2 foot tall, beaten
by a seated drummer holding the drum between his knees. This drum is
usually beaten with the hands and is also used in Rada ceremonies
Manman drum - The largest of the three Rada drums, about 3 ft.
tall. It is beaten by a standing drummer using a small wooden hammer in
one hand and the other bare hand.
The Manman drum is also used in Petro ceremonies
Petit or Ti-Baka drum - Small drum used in Petro music, beaten with
drum - This
is a huge ceremonial drum carved from a single tree trunk. It is
6 foot or taller and must be beaten by drummers who are on a
platform. This is a sacred drum, almost an idol itself, and
is used in both Rada and Petro ceremonies.
scrap of paper or parchment with magic words,
phrases or prayers written on it. Used in many items and sometimes
carried as 'protection' by believers.
More terms will be introduced as the game progresses.
* Please note, this is MY
interpretation of Voodoo for the purposes of
this game. Though I have endeavoured to use real terms and
vocabulary, it is not intended to be an accurate reflection of the