Difference between Hoodoo and Voodoo

Updated on July 8, 2017

Most of us have heard of Voodoo. It’s the sensationalized practice of magic that is often portrayed in Hollywood as something that’s evil and dark (similar to witchcraft). But did you know that Voodoo dolls and dark curses are not even remotely related to what Voodoo really is? And to complicate this even more, did you know that Voodoo is not synonymous to Hoodoo? In this article we will discuss what Hoodoo and Voodoo are, and, aside from the obvious, explain how they are different.

Descriptions

Hoodoo
A rootworker or Hoodoo practitioner

Hoodoo is folk spirituality that was originally developed from various beliefs and customs of the people in Kongo, Benin/Togo, and Nigeria. The term is derived from the word Hudu, a language and tribe in Togo and Gana. It is also called “root doctoring,” “conjure,” “working the root,” “root working,” or “Ggbo” in West Africa. It is uncertain when Hoodoo started, but according to history, the first known hoodoo spells were performed in the 1800s.

Hoodoo is folk magic that was brought to the United States by the slaves from Africa. To save their beliefs, many African slaves adopted Christianity and practiced Hoodoo under the guise of Christianity to avoid further discrimination and oppression. This is why the use of the Bible and the recital of certain Bible verses are involved in some Hoodoo rituals.

Originally, Hoodoo was only practiced in the Southern part of the United States. However, with the movement of the colored people from the south to the north, Hoodoo spread across the country. Hoodoo has slowly become a hodge-podge of African-American practices, European folklore, American Indian plant lore, Braucherei, Santeria, Jewish Psalms, and Espiritismo. Nowadays, it is practiced by people of different races and religions.

In Hoodoo, there are no designated priests or priestesses. The rules on the practice and rituals are not stringent and are dependent on the person performing them. The teachings are also handed over from one generation of practitioners to another. Persons who practice Hoodoo are called “conjure doctors,” “conjurers,” “root doctors,” “rootworkers,” “two-headed doctors,” “hoodoos,” or “hoodoo man/woman.”

Hoodoo involves parapsychological powers and magic by the use of spells, formulas, potions, roots, animal parts, powders, herbs, minerals, talismans, incense, candles, oils, bodily fluids, and personal belongings. Some of the rituals are also done with specific verses from the Bible. Most of the tools used are homemade, but these days, commercially sold practice items are also available.

The practice of Hoodoo supports the idea that people should be allowed to use supernatural forces to improve their lives. Many people use Hoodoo for luck, success, love, health, protection, and money.

The following are few of the core beliefs of Hoodoo:

  1. The presence of a divine being – Hoodoo practitioners pray to a deity. This higher power can be referred to as “God” or any other divine beings from other religions such as Buddha and Santo Muerte.
  2. Divination – One of the most important abilities that root doctors should possess is the ability to predict the future and communicate with the spirits.
  3. Intention – In Hoodoo, it is acceptable to curse someone as long as the curse is “deserved.” However, if the curse is not righteous, it will have no effect on the person being cursed. These curses should also only be carried out by God or any divine being.
  4. Doctrine of signatures – Rootworkers supports the idea that each creature has a “signature” from a divine being that specifies its purpose.
  5. Life after death – In Hoodoo, dead people do not die; they move to another dimension from which they can observe and help the living. They can intercede with the divine being on our behalf in times of need.
  6. An eye for an eye – In Hoodoo, it is admissible for a person to use magic to protect himself or herself but also use it to take revenge on the person who has wronged him or her.
Voodoo
A Voodoo ceremony in Haiti

On the other hand, Voodoo is a religion established in Haiti which was brought by the West African slaves in the 17th century. It encompasses different practices of various African tribes and Catholicism. The term is derived from the African word vodu which means “spirit” or “god.” Voodoo is also called “Vodou,” “Voudou,” “Vuduu,” “Vodun,” or “Vodoun.”

When the West African slaves were captured and brought to Haiti, they secretly came together to practice their faith. For so many decades, Haiti was isolated and untouched by the outside world. This allowed the people to establish and give the Voodoo a structure. They developed their own gods, customs, and traditions.

Contrary to popular belief, Voodoo is not synonymous with evil or witchcraft. It is a religion that reflects the deep roots of the African people who survived slavery. Voodoo greatly helped the slaves survive through hardship. They sang, danced, and made music using drums and other indigenous materials in religious rituals. The rituals did not free them, but they were successful in scaring their abusers.

Because their captors were frightened, many slave owners prevented them from practicing their Voodoo. And if they did, they would be tortured or killed. Many plantation owners even forced their slaves to convert to Catholicism within eight days of the day of their arrival. The “Catholic” slaves still practiced Voodoo secretly, adding elements of Catholicism to enrich their faith. Catholic saints, symbols, prayers, and songs were incorporated in Voodoo.

Voodoo practitioners are called “Voodooists.” They believe in “Bondye,” their omnipotent, loving god. They also honor “Lwa” or “Loa” (spirits) which is represented by images that are very similar to Catholic saints. Voodoo believers maintain a relationship with a particular “Lwa” or “Loa” and live according to its principles and spirituality.

In Voodoo, priests are called “Hougan” and priestesses are called “Manbo.” The main language used in their ceremonies is Creole. They do not have a scripture.

Voodoo believes that each individual is accountable for her or his own actions. Practitioners also believe that when people die, their spirits are still with us to watch over us. Additionally, they believe that spirit possession and dreaming allow the soul to leave the body.

With the arrival of Voodoo in the United States, Louisiana Vodoun came to existence. Lousiana Voodoo is greatly influenced by the French, Creole, and Spanish cultures.

Nowadays, Voodoo is still practiced in Haiti, West Africa, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, and the United States (especially in New Orleans and Louisiana).

Hoodoo vs Voodoo

What, then, is the difference between Hoodoo and Voodoo?

The greatest difference between the two is that Hoodoo is folk magic whereas Voodoo is a religion.

Hoodoo comes from the word Hudu, a language and tribe in Togo and Gana. It is a hodge-podge of African-American practices, European folklore, American Indian plant lore, Braucherei, Santeria, Jewish Psalms, and Espiritismo. It involves parapsychological powers and magic by the use of spells, formulas, potions, roots, animal parts, powders, herbs, minerals, talismans, incense, candles, oils, bodily fluids, and personal belongings. A few of its core beliefs are divination, divine presence (can be any god from different religions), intention, the doctrine of signatures, life after death, and the “eye for an eye” principle. Hoodoo practitioners believe that supernatural forces should be used to improve their lives and curses to retaliate to those who wronged them.

Voodoo is derived from the African word vodu which means “spirit” or “god.” is a combination of West African religions which was then greatly influenced by Catholicism. Voodooists believe in their god called “Bondye” and the spirits called “Lwa” or “Loa.” The religion supports self-empowerment and individual responsibility, among other things.

People who practice Hoodoo is called “conjure doctors,”conjurers,” “root doctors,” “rootworkers,” “two-headed doctors,” “hoodoos,” or “hoodoo man/woman,” whereas a person who practices Voodoo is called a “Voodooist.”

In Hoodoo, there are no designated ministers so the rituals are handed from one practitioner to another. In Voodoo, the priests are called “Hougan” and the priestesses are called “Manbo.”

Comparison Chart

HoodooVoodoo
Folk spirituality originally developed from various beliefs and customs of the people in Kongo, Benin/Togo, and Nigeria; has become a hodge-podge of African-American practices, European folklore, American Indian plant lore, Braucherei, Santeria, Jewish Psalms, and EspiritismoA religion established in Haiti which was brought by the West African slaves in the 17th century; encompasses different practices of various African tribes and Catholicism
Derived from the word Hudu, a language and tribe in Togo and Gana.Derived from the African word vodu which means “spirit” or “god”
Also called “root doctoring,” “conjure,” “working the root,” “root working,” or “Ggbo” in West AfricaOther names include “Vodou,” “Voudou,” “Vudu” “Vodun,” or “Vodoun”
Persons who practice Hoodoo are called “conjure doctors,” “conjurers,” “root doctors,” “rootworkers,” “two-headed doctors,” “hoodoos,” or “hoodoo man/woman”A person who practices Voodoo is called a “Voodooist”
Practitioners believe in a divine being (can be any god from different religions) and supernatural forces to improve their livesPractitioners believe in “Bondye,” their omnipotent, loving god; they also honor the principles “Lwa” or “Loa” (spirits) which become their guide
Involves parapsychological powers and magic by spells, formulas, potions, roots, animal parts, powders, herbs, minerals, talismans, incense, candles, oils, bodily fluids, and personal belongings; a few core beliefs are divination, divine presence, intention, the doctrine of signatures, life after death, and the “eye for an eye” principle. Hoodoo practitioners believe that supernatural forces should be used to improve their lives and curses to retaliate to those who wronged themSupports the belief that each individual is accountable for her or his own actions; practitioners also believe that spirit possession and dreaming allow the soul to leave the body
There are no designated ministers; rituals are dependent on each practitioner and are handed from one rootworker to anotherPriests are called “Hougan” and priestesses are called “Manbo”