An enchanting collection of photographs has given a glimpse inside Haiti’s Vodou faith – but it’s not all animal sacrifice and evil spirits.
Anthony Karen said he felt compelled to travel to the Caribbean country after a documentary piqued his interest in its dark and mysterious rituals.
But once there, he discovered there are many misconceptions about the religion he now considers one of the most organic and natural forms of spirituality.The New York-based photojournalist said Vodou – known to most as voodoo after Hollywood coined the term in the 1920s – is feared because of ignorance.
‘It’s unfortunate that it’s chastised as much as it is,’ he said.
‘As with any religion, there is a dark side to Vodou, when channeled through a Bokor (a sorcerer of sorts) but this is not common practice, and in fact it’s extremely rare and often looked down upon by many Vodouisants themselves.’
Meanwhile, the practice of sacrificing animals and drinking their blood is misunderstood in Western society, he believes, and rather than being sinister these are a celebration of strength and being at one with nature.
‘The practice of sacrificing animals is a sacred ritual, which means feeding the spiritual bodies and entities through the angels of the earth,’ Karen said, adding that such rituals are not exclusive to Haiti or the Vodou faith.
It is like recycling and regrouping the various energies to strengthen the body and the soul to assist in living this human experience.’
The meat of the animal is then shared within the Vodouisaints’ family or community with nothing being wasted.
According to Karen, many Haitians turned away from the religion following the earthquake in 2010 as they blamed the practice for the seemingly relentless natural disasters affecting the island.
But he said they are now finding their way back to the ancient faith.
‘Today, things have somewhat calmed and many are returning to Vodou for comfort, strength and self-empowerment, in asking for the help and assistance of their ancestors.’