A Voodoo altar with a doll and cardsIf you are into magic, witchcraft, and/or faith healing, you’ve undoubtedly run across Voodoo and Hoodoo. But are you aware that these two belief systems are completely different from each other even though they may, at times, look like the same thing?

The main difference between Voodoo and Hoodoo is that the former is an actual religion while the latter is not. Voodoo has its own rituals, leaders, teachers, representatives, and services, plus two distinct branches: the Vodou of New Orleans and Louisiana, and the Vodue of Haiti. Hoodoo, on the other hand, is not a religion, has no organizational structure, and is practiced by individuals, sometimes called root doctors or root healers, who claim to have certain magical powers.


Voodoo arose in Haiti, whereas Hoodoo arose in Africa. Both were originally practiced by oppressed people in those places, and both came to America via slaves brought into the country during the 17th, 18th, and early 19th centuries.

Voodoo Beliefs and Practices

Voodoo followers believe in an omnipotent and unknowable Supreme Creator named Bondye. His name comes from the French term Bon Dieu, literally meaning “good God.” Per Voodoo belief, Bondye does not directly intercede in the lives of human beings. Consequently, Voodoo priests and priestesses call upon the Loa, spirits who work for Bondye. Different Loa are responsible for various aspects of human life. Generally a Voodoo service will be conducted in Creole, a Haitian French dialect.

Three of Voodoo’s most important families of spirits are those belonging to Rada, Petro, and Gede. Rada spirits are benevolent; Petro spirits are angry, violent, or evil; and Gede spirits are those who deal with death and dead people. Many Gede spirits are zombies, in the original sense of that word. In Voodoo, a zombie is a victim, not a monster. He or she is a walking dead person who must give obedience to the person who raised him or her from the dead. But they don’t eat the brains of the living or otherwise violently attack them. All that is simply fictional movie hype. Many people believe that the idea of zombies came into Haitian Voodoo culture as a means of expressing the deadness of being a slave. In other words, zombies and Voodoo itself arose as a spiritual force among slaves to help them endure their suffering.

Hoodoo Beliefs and Practices

Hoodoo practitioners practice a form of African folk magic, although they often call upon Roman Catholic saints or biblical characters such as Moses to aid them in casting their spells. Actually, Hoodoo practitioners generally are themselves Catholics who believe in both Catholic saints and African gods. In the United States, Hoodoo sessions are conducted in English and Hoodoo practitioners spell their magic "magick." The practitioner will use such things as roots, herbs, crystals, animal parts, and sometimes even a body fluid, such as tears, saliva, urine, etc., belonging to the person for whom the session is being conducted. A practitioner also will likely use text from the biblical book of Psalms but will not conduct the session in the name of Jesus. Rather, he or she calls upon the saints or others to help guide the use of the roots and other talismans used in the ceremony. Since Hoodoo is not a religion, it has no documents to pass down. Instead, practitioners pass on their powers to their own descendants.

Many people of both persuasions believe that Voodoo was the original religion, with Hoodoo becoming a denomination in much the same way as the Methodists, Lutherans, Baptists, et al., became denominations of Protestant Christianity. Although the general populace tends to look upon both Voodoo and Hoodoo as mere superstition, a rather large swath of people, located mostly in the Southeastern part of the United States, adamantly adhere to one of these belief systems.

Category: Religion Spirituality

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