The Saints in the Mirror: A Study of Vodou Gods
It’s been said that one must be Catholic to serve the Vodou gods, due to the large majority of Vodouists who are devout Catholics, and pay homage both to the saints of the church and to the African gods. This presentation explores the current Vodou religious beliefs and rituals and the historical process by which the saints of the church were reinterpreted in terms of West African gods. The word Vodou means family of spirits, and those who venerate the spirits neither stick pins in dolls nor raise the dead to turn them into zombies as Hollywood would have us believe. Like other religions of the world, Vodou is system of beliefs and practices that gives meaning to life, uplifts the spirits of the downtrodden who experience life’s misfortunes, and instills in its devotees a need for solace and self-examination.
The class is facilitated by AHCC member Leslie Desmangles, Professor Emeritus of Religion and International Studies at Trinity College. A native of Haiti, he was educated in Haiti, Canada, and the United States and holds a Ph.D. in Anthropology of Religion (Religion and Culture) from Temple University in Philadelphia, specializing in African and Caribbean religions. He has published many articles on Haitian Vodou, Rastafarianism and Islam in the Caribbean. He is also the author of a 1994 award winning book on religion in Haiti entitled, The Faces of the Gods: Vodou and Roman Catholicism in Haiti. Professor Desmangles is co-founder of the Haitian Studies Association, the founder of the Journal of Haitian Studies, currently published in three languages by the University of California at Santa Barbara.
Professor Desmangles was honored at the annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association in December 2007 for his valuable contributions to Caribbean studies. In 2012, Trinity College named him the Charles A. Dana Research Professor, a position that he held for two years before retiring. He has been featured in a number of radio programs including All things Considered on National Public Radio, various news programs on the BBC radio, and has been interviewed on local and national television programs, namely NBC’s The Phil Donahue Show, the Today Show, CBS This Morning and Dateline. He has also appeared in documentaries featured on the Discovery Channel, National Geographic, the History, A & E channels in the U.S., and Vision Television Channels in Canada.
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