Vodou, also written as Voodoo; Vodun, or Vodoun is a syncretic religion practiced chiefly in Haiti and the Haitian diaspora. Practitioners are called "vodouists" or "servants of the spirits" (Haitian Creole: sèvitè).
Vodouists believe in a distant and unknowable creator god, Bondyè. As Bondyè does not intercede in human affairs, vodouists direct their worship toward spirits subservient to Bondyè, called lwa. Every lwa is responsible for a particular aspect of life, with the dynamic and changing personalities of each lwa reflecting the many possibilities inherent to the aspects of life over which they preside. In order to navigate daily life, vodouists cultivate personal relationships with the lwa through the presentation of offerings, the creation of personal altars and devotional objects, and participation in elaborate ceremonies of music, dance, and spirit possession.
Vodou originated in the French slave colony of Saint-Domingue in the 18th century, when African religious practice was actively suppressed, and enslaved Africans were forced to convert to Christianity.Religious practices of contemporary Vodou are descended from, and closely related to, West African Vodun as practiced by the Fon and Ewe. Vodou also incorporates elements and symbolism from other African peoples including the Yorùbá and Bakongo; as well as Taíno religious beliefs, and European spirituality including Roman Catholic Christianity, European mysticism, Freemasonry, and other influences.
Vodou altar during a celebration for Papa Guédé in Boston. This altar has offerings to three nations (nanchons) of lwa: at top right are offerings to Rada spirits; at top left are those for the Petwo family; and those at bottom are for Guédé.