They most certainly can. We just prefer to think of them as light skinned.
Scientifically speaking, the genetic origin of all humans living today is in Africa. So it is not a question of whether White people are naturally entitled to the Vodun or not. The big issue around it is mostly cultural, and for adherents to the idea of human biodiversity, capability of understanding Vodun. The cultural issues may be too big a barrier for most to respectfully cross.
I can’t say that all people of European ancestry can get it, but certainly some can. Those who do get it, same as Black folks, get it through their Ancestors. Rather than co opting Vodun, they learn the Vodun and various ways of honoring them, and then apply that to their spirituality in a way that honors their own Ancestors.
As an example, let’s say a person of mostly Nordic ancestry begins to have dreams and visions that are clearly from an Orisha presenting themselves in African form rather than “translating” their appearance to a Nordic one. This likely means that there is something in Vodun they need to learn that they might not otherwise get or understand. It is usually that they need assistance from an African because some knowledge has been lost to Nordic people that is still alive in Africans.
Some apparently European people though, actually need to go through the conversion to Vodun as a faith. It could mean that they have an African Ancestor who they are aligned with somehow, and this Ancestor wants them to basically be African. It could also be that they are not going to get what they need spiritually anywhere else.
The problem is that though the Spirits, not humans, choose who is going to serve them and how, humans do have issues and hangups. There is the external opposition to White faces in Vodun, and there is also the massive cultural and social chasm between Europeans and Africans. In order to fully embrace Vodun, a White person has a longer and more perilous road to travel than someone who wakes up Black every day of their lives.
As someone I don’t remember said long ago, a White person can put on a suit and be acceptable in western society. A Black person, no matter how well dressed, is still viewed as a n*****. That is in the diaspora. In Africa itself, most indigenous Africans do not trust White people, and for good reason. This may not be something to feel particularly bad about though, since Europeans often do not trust certain other Europeans, and some Africans often don’t trust certain other Africans. There is tribalism everywhere.
You should consider though, how you would feel if you met an African who told you they were having dreams about Odin, and they felt they were called to Asatru.
One of your first questions would be if they were mixed. If their answer was no, you would wonder whether someone was simply adding to their perspective or running away from their ancestry.
Like a person can’t solve the problems with their spouse in the arms of another lover, you won’t solve issues with your ancestry by running to a different culture. Though the Orishas belong to everyone, African culture belongs to Africans. Be mindful of the lines, so that you don’t disrespect your own Ancestors or someone else’s.
If you are a non African (or not recently African) person who feels called to Vodun, as I said, you will have a harder road and much more to prove. The reason why is that, especially if you are American, you will need to atone for your Ancestors’ and own your own contribution to the perpetuation of “white” supremacy, and the illusion of “white” privilege.
You will no longer have the luxury of living in the cognitive dissonance that the vast majority of your peers do, regardless of what political factions they profess. You will need to understand that much of what you call being a “good citizen” perpetuates “white” supremacy. There may be little you can do about some things without running afoul of those in power, but you will ultimately pledge yourself to supporting the system as little as possible.
Since we all pay for the crimes of our Ancestors, you won’t be exempt from the work of stopping negative cycles left from yours. We all have to go through this, and your road may be much more painful. If your family owned slaves, or you know of any abuses they committed against Black people, you will have to do appeasements to those they harmed and/or killed or facilitated the harm or killing of. You will have to be real about yourself and your background.
It will be difficult. I personally don’t know anyone western European or “white” who has made it through if they have not had a Black Ancestor within the past 5 generations. If that’s not you, then you may want to love our faiths from a safe distance…though even as a worshiper of select Orishas, you may still end up facing these issues. Once you open the gate, you can’t close it again.
A “white people trap” or “WPT” is an item that is sold to either scam or purposefully sabotage people of apparent European ancestry. At best it is something to fool them into thinking they are special members of some religion they think is cool and exotic, and at worst it can actually hurt or kill them or their loved ones.
Horror stories abound of naive European women and some men who have been lured into cults run by unscrupulous people, and then financially exploited or sexually assaulted. These are well publicized once they are found out. There are also “monkey paw” situations that have become stock Hollywood fare.
What doesn’t get a lot of attention is the horror stories about people buy items specifically for spiritual purposes, and then get their butts kicked by malevolent energies for being stupid or disrespectful. Nobody wants to talk about that.
…and though I can tell you a few stories of this happening to people I know and know of, I don’t want to mention any names. Instead, I am just putting this information out there to tell people to be aware. Be sure that you really understand how to respectfully approach any deity or spirit that you are bringing into your practice or your home.
Remember that Vodun was not invented for westerners or with a western mentality. Take things out of context, and it can really mess you up.
If you are a “non African” but you are having Orisha dreams, it can be a bit scary, especially if you have no knowledge of traditional African faith. You may think you’re being approached by demons, or be told this by someone ignorant who means well but has politicised religion.
First of all, you should understand that Vodun is not witchcraft, though some may unknowingly attempt to use it for that. It depends what their definition of witchcraft is, and what it implies for them or their culture. Vodun is a belief system, and practitioners whether in Africa or the diaspora, worship the same God as normal Jews, Christians, and Muslims. It’s just that, like Hindus or Buddhists, we “see” It in a different way.
It may help you to understand that the Orishas are somewhat like Angels. They were, in fact, the original Angels from before Abraham, God keep his soul, was a twinkle in his great great great great…grandmother’s eye. Not to be confusing, Orishas are not all exactly Angels, but they are where the idea of them came from. Whether you should view the experience as positive or negative depends on why you’re being approached. It could be that you are being taken under their special care, or that they have a message for you, or that you have done or are doing something that has wronged them or something they are in charge of, as assigned by God.
For the answer to this, you should trust your own soul. It may be helpful to you however, to speak to an experienced male Vodun practitioner who is a child of Elegua, or priest on the matter though. The reason you would want to go to a male is because, whether some like it or not, men have a better instinctive connection to Elegua, the gatekeeper. A woman *can* do this for you, but if you want the best, you have to go to the best. If the only one within your resources to get to is female, then this is fine. Just don’t be surprised if she seeks male assistance or refers you to a male.
When you go to the priest or elder child of Elegua, they will most likely recognize you and which Orisha you have the most connection to right away. They will probably also do readings to confirm this. Tell them about your dream, and they will interpret it for you, and likely do readings to confirm that as well. You may be given tasks at that point.
It’s good news if the Orisha is calling you home to them. It does not matter at all if you are not Black. We are all descended from people from Africa, and even some European pre Christian faiths are not too far from the Motherland. If you have been called, you will be given instructions on how to be initiated to the Orisha. You will not have to convert away from your current faith. It just means that you have been given a gift to walk the path of a particular Angel, Saint, or Orisha. It is similar to the experience of some girls who are called to become nuns.
If your Orisha called himself Obatala or Olorun, or called himself God, but has an actual humanoid look, and you felt nothing but absolutely loved in the dream, then spiritually, that entity is the same as Jesus Christ. You may have been touched by him specially so that you could de-politicize or de-Santa Claus other Christians or perhaps remind Pagans that Jesus himself is not their enemy. This actually happens a lot. Many are sorely traumatized by the wrong actions and craziness of Christians and Muslims, and reject Jesus and any lesser deity that reminds them of Jesus. Where Vodun practitioners honor all avatars of the Supreme God including Jesus, many others do not, and this is a shame. Man needs the idea of something that is greater than himself in order to improve himself.
Some martial artists get the call from Shango. Once they’ve reached a certain level, it happens that some have a dream of fighting with him. If one wins against Shango in the dream it means that they have gained a degree of self mastery that they should take the next step and actually become a warrior, not just a martial artist, in real life. Somehow, they should take a position or post that will require they be ready to physically defend something.
If you dream of being a storm sweeping away trees and whatever is in your path, this is Oya. Oya seldom actually shows her face, so the dream is usually that you are the storm or you are the only thing standing through a storm. Some strong women have this dream. If you are carrying a child or being followed by children in the dream, and they are not crying, then it means you should have children.
Oshun often reveals herself as a peacock, a woman in a flowing yellow dress, a young but stunning girl in a white dress with white shell beads in her hair, or a nude woman covered in honey. If you are a man who works with metals or technology, and you see the nude woman covered in honey, it means you are working too hard or you have lost sight of what is important in life, and are being called like Ogun out of the forest.
Volcano dreams and dreams of being in a hot, barren wasteland where a very dark man takes your hand and tells you to follow him are Aganju dreams. You need to travel and change your scenery, or you should not fear the unknown.
Other fairly common Orisha dreams are:
The Orishas speak to everyone. They don’t have a particular religious denomination or race. They may appear to you as African looking people or as pale Europeans. If you look at the art about them, they are represented in many colors. So don’t freak out, just take the message.
© 1997 Sis. Nicole Lasher and respective guest authors.