~ African Religion In America ~
Voodoo, Hoodoo, Santeria and Macumba (as it is popularly called) all have their origins in both Africa and Catholic America. The African people, who were brought to the New World as slaves, carried their religion and magic with them. Those religious and magical practices, however, did become modified to suit the needs of the New World.
Those slaves, who were brought to the Americas by Catholic colonists, learned to adapt their religion and customs to the faith of their masters in order to continue their traditions veiled though it was. Such was not the case in the Protestant English colonies. Whereas, the Catholic Church regarded the African slaves as human beings and insisted upon their conversion, the Protestant colonists did not think of their slaves as fully human and, therefore, took little interest in their conversion. They further feared any slave congregation, even religious, as being conducive to revolt.
The transplanted Africans often blended their African religious and magical heritage with the Catholicism of their masters and the result is the hybrid religions of Voodoo, Santeria, etc. The Loas and Orishas had their counterparts in the saints of the Church. The mysticism of the Church and its concern for the deceased also was a linking factor between Latin Christianity and African religious tradition.
~ Voodoo ~
Voodoo has been portrayed merely as the practice of evil or harmful magic. In our culture, the first thing that comes to mind when we hear the word, "voodoo", is that of death curses, pinned dolls and mindless zombies. While these are indeed part of Voodoo, they are only a small, negative part of this very rich and generally positive religion.
Voodoo has its origins in Africa, among the people of Dahomey. This was the area from which came many of the slaves brought to the French colonies in the New World. The very term, "voodoo" comes from the Dahomean word for spirit, vodun.
In Voodou, there is a strong emphasis on paying honor to one's ancestors and to ancestors of antiquity. Some ancient ancestors are particularly honored as being divine, or almost divine, these entities are called laos. The Loas are numerous and some seem to either derived or combined with others. Those Loas who have similar functions or jurisdictions are said to belong to a family (of a principal loa, eg. the Guedes, Guedehs or Ghedes).
Some of the principal Loas are:
Damballa - Great father loa (St. Patrick).
Ayida Wedo - Wife of Damballah, determines human destiny.
Guedeh -Ruler of fire & death.
Barons Samedi - Male ruler of cemeteries.
Manman Brigitte - Female ruler of cemeteries.
Agwé - Loa of the sea (St. Expeditus).
Ogoun - Loa of war (St. Joseph).
Legba - Loa of the crossroads & door to spirit world (St. Peter).
Erzulie - Loa of love.
Simbi - Loa of magic & psychic power.
Azacca - Loa of farmers & healing.
Loco - Loa of vegetation & healing herbs.
~ Hoodoo ~
Hoodoo is an Americanized corruption of the term voodoo and its practice. Hoodoo carries a less religious connotation as it is simply folk magic of African-American origin. To simplify (perhaps overly so) the difference, Voodoo would entail magic done with the help of the Loas or spirits and Hoodoo would not.
To learn more about Voodoo & Hoodoo read, VOODOO & HOODOO by Jim Haskins or FAMOUS VOODOO RITUALS & SPELLS by H.U. Lampe.
Santeria and Voodoo both are religions have much in common, in that they both came to America and evolved here in a similar manner. One could say that Santeria is to the Spanish African-American culture that Voodoo is to the French. While there are many similarities between the two religions, it's not quite as simple as going from one tongue to another. First, the African roots are somewhat different. Santeria's African origin is from the Yoruba people of the area, now in Nigeria. The slaves in the Spanish colonies had a different native language and culture from those in the French New World. This difference is reflected in the differences of their religious evolution.
Macumba, Umbanda, etc. are Brazilian/Portugese blends of African & Catholic religions.
The Santeria counterpart of the Voodoo loas are the Orishas. Las Siete Potencias Africanas or The Seven African Powers are the principal Orishas in Santeria.
Las Siete Potencias Africanas
The Seven African Powers are:
Obatalá - rules peace & purity (O.L. of Mercy).
Elegguá - Messenger, opens & closes doors (St. Anthony).
Changó - Rules thunder, passions, power (St. Barbara).
Oggún - Rules war & work (St. Peter).
Orúnla - Rules divination (St. Francis of Assissi).
Yemayá - Rules the sea, women, maternity (O.L. of Regla).
Oshún - Rules love, marriage, gold (O.L.of La Caridad del Cobre).
Other important Orishas are:
Olofí - Aspect of Olodumare, the Supreme Being (Crucified Christ).
Oyá - Ruler of death & cemeteries (O.L.of Candelaria).
Babalú-Ayé - Ruler of healing & illness (St. Lazarus).
Ochosi - Ruler of hunting & jails (St. Isidor).