Published in Jul 2020 / Updated in Nov 2020
Hoodoo, also known as ‘folk magic’, is a combination of various spiritual and superstitious beliefs and practices common among the African American culture. It is a form of folk magic that draws on spirits, objects, or herbs mostly for personal gain and development.
While Voodoo is a traditional religion that deals with the unseen world of the spirits. The two words sound similar and are often seen as interchangeable by people who aren’t familiar with their meanings. But they are very different.
In fact, Voodoo is actually a certified religion. Both are a melting pot of various superstitions and beliefs and have deep origins seated in west Africa. But where did these terms come from? And what is the difference between hoodoo and Voodoo?
The term Hoodoo actually has a very dark and complicated origin. It began as a way for African and Haitian slaves to rebel against slavery and keep their connection with their ancestral culture and religion.
Hoodoo began as a secret traditional religious practice done by African slaves in America away from their slave owners. Most times, Hoodoo is associated with the Roman Catholics and Christianity. It is believed to have come from West African slaves in particular and is now largely practiced in places such as Louisiana though not exclusively so.
Unlike Voodoo, Hoodoo is not linked to religious practices in any way. While Hoodoo users are often catholic, it is mostly a form of individual power invoked through spells, potions, or herbs. Some rare spells may even make use of body fluids when invoking magic. But as African slaves came into contact with their white counterparts, the influence of the white culture and religion mixed with the African culture and belief system to create what we now know as modern-day ‘Hoodoo’.
Voodoo, or as it is often called ‘Vodou’, is actually a religion in its own right. For a long time, it was believed to be the name of the religion of the Haitians who identify their religion as ‘serving the spirits’. Just like Hoodoo, it started as a mixture of the different African cultures that had been forced together through slavery and the culture of their white masters.
In the Fon language of the Benin Republic, Voodoo means ‘deity’ or spirit’. Nowadays, Voodoo is practiced majorly in two places; the Haitian Voodoo and New Orleans or Louisiana Voodoo. Though, it has become a very wide-spread religion.
A commonly known part of Voodoo is the ‘Voodoo doll’. Voodoo dolls are human-like figurines or dolls with pins inserted in them. They also originated from the Fon people of Benin Republic. Depending on the user, it could be either a religious or a superstitious object. The person wielding the Voodoo doll is believed to have power over the doll and the human person it represents.
Hoodoo vs Voodoo; Differences Explained
While you may see yourself as having an astounding amount of knowledge on voodoo and hoodoo because of the movies you’ve watched, in actuality, most Hollywood movies about these terms are often wrong and under-informed. And the two terms are often used interchangeably when they are actually very different. So, what is it about voodoo and hoodoo that makes them so different from each other?
1. Its Organization
Voodoo is a fully-fledged religion with its own traditional practices and institutions. It has its own religious leaders, teachers, and followers. Voodoo practitioners have their rituals and services just like any other religion.
But, while Voodoo is a religion and deals more with community, Hoodoo practitioners may use Hoodoo to draw power for themselves, or someone they want to help. Hoodoo lacks this organizational functionality and is instead, more about personal gain. This gives them more freedom to engage in other religious practices. Some Hoodoo practitioners may dabble in healing or séance and are often prided on their knowledge of herbs and plants.
2. Their Deities
Voodoo followers invoke the ‘loas’ (spirits of the Haitian and Louisiana Voodoo) by calling on African deities.
On the other hand, most Hoodoo practitioners call on catholic saints or biblical characters when summoning their magic. While some Hoodoo followers may combine both the catholic faith with African beliefs, Voodoo followers strictly follow the African deities.
Hoodoo followers are often referred to as ‘root doctors’ or healers. While Voodoo practitioners are called ‘Vodouisants’.
Some Voodoo and Hoodoo Facts
When the African slaves created Voodoo, they couldn’t read or write. So, they created images and symbols to use to represent different parts of the religion. These are the symbols we see in movies and books.
While voodoo is often thought to be related to black magic and curses, the rituals are often meant for invoking blessings, healing or luck.
Zombies originated from Voodoo as a metaphor for slavery.
Hoodoo is the term associated with curses. In reality, Voodoo has no association with curses.
Voodoo followers believe in the existence of two worlds; the seen world and the unseen world of the spirits; where our ancestors stay.
For a lot of Voodoo followers, Voodoo is more than just a religion but is a way of life. Voodoo followers are devoted and will most likely practice it all their lives. Hoodoo is less formal and is often seen as a branch of voodoo.
In actuality, Hoodoo did start as a result of the persecution of Voodoo followers. With some Voodoo practitioners deciding to lessen their religious practices and break out.
So as you can clearly see, the difference between Voodoo and Hoodoo is actually a lot. And hopefully, you’re more educated on both terms in case you ever decide to become a Voodoo or Hoodoo practitioner.