The Faces of the Gods: Vodou and Roman Catholicism in Haiti

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University of North Carolina Press, 1992 - Religion - 218 pages
Vodou, the folk religion of Haiti, is a by-product of the contact between Roman Catholicism and African and Amerindian traditional religions. In this book, Leslie Desmangles analyzes the mythology and rituals of Vodou, focusing particularly on the inclusion of West African and European elements in Vodouisants' beliefs and practices. Desmangles sees Vodou not simply as a grafting of European religious traditions onto African stock, but as a true creole phenomenon, born out of the oppressive conditions of slavery and the necessary adaptation of slaves to a New World environment. Many observers have referred to such New World religions as fusions of religious practices. Desmangles instead uses the concept of symbiosis, which he defines as the juxtaposition of diverse religious traditions, coexisting without fusing. Desmangles uses Haitian history to explain this symbiosis, paying particular attention to the role of the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century maroon communities in preserving African traditions and the attempt by the Catholic, educated elite to suppress African-based "superstitions". The result is a society in which one religion, Catholicism, is visible and official; the other, Vodou, is unofficial and largely secretive. Both religions continue to play a part in Haitian politics, and Desmangles chronicles the role of Vodou and Catholicism in the fall of Jean-Claude Duvalier and the rise of Father Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

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The Faces of the Gods: Vodou and Roman Catholicism in Haiti

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Vodou is an integral part of life for Haitians, providing a system of beliefs and practices that give meaning to life. The author (religion and area studies, Trinity Coll., Hartford) offers a ... Read full review


Religious Paradox or Symbiosis
The Shaping of Two Religions
Symbiosis and the Changing

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About the author (1992)

Leslie G. Desmangles is professor of religion and international studies at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. He was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

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