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Vodun F.A.Q. – How does Vodun approach abortion?

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In short, Vodun and diaspora belief systems are pro choice. Individuals may have their own opinions about it and various houses and groups may approach it differently, but generally, abortion is not considered something inappropriate or “sinful”. It could be classed as unfortunate or misfortune when it has to be done, but there is nothing like “sin” attached to it so long as it is done respectfully.

For us, every atom in the Universe is sacred, but this does not translate to allowing one’s self to be harmed because one’s own atoms and one’s own life is also sacred. A person with a womb is not obligated to carry a pregnancy that they do not want to. There does not need to be any special reason or excuse. She is allowed to prevent or stop pregnancy as a matter of natural prerogative.

Interfering with a woman’s prerogative is an offense akin to rape which is definitely inappropriate and punishable. It is disrespectful to her and to her ancestors who built her. Only her comfort or discomfort with carrying someone’s genes into the world is relevant.

This does not mean that the decision to carry or not carry a child to term is based on whimsy or just feelings. Aside of the normal considerations like the financial and psychological, and overall situation into which a child would be born, there may be spiritual considerations as well. Someone’s situation at the moment may be pretty bad, but things may improve or it may be that the woman thinks her situation is worse than it is. It could be that though her situation is bad, her ancestors advise her to carry through anyway because the child needs to be born to help change it.

The question of destiny will come up in a practitioner of almost any ATR or ADR, as soon as the question of abortion does. So if after all the thinking, praying, and divination, there is still just no way that the pregnancy should continue, the abortion is done with the gravity it deserves. The child is grieved because they are a child, and it is unfortunate that they could not be born at this time.

This gravity, by the way, is why contraception is considered highly important to most of us. If we’re aware, we’ve been staying close to our Ancestors since before a relationship or even fling that could result in pregnancy started. We tend to take precautions so that this situation doesn’t arise, and if it does, the question of whether or not the ancestors would have been okay with the union being fruitful has already been answered.

It is also not considered a great idea to be sparking a bunch of new souls with people one’s Ancestors would not approve of. Scientifically, once you conceive, that child’s DNA is all up in your system. So decades after you have conceived with Mr. Toxic, his baby’s cells are still in you. Nope. Not something any of us want.

Vodun and most other ATRs and ADRs are very pro science because we are about aligning with Nature. Fetomaternal microchimerism has become a feature in our spiritual and moral decision making because something that becomes a part of your body becomes a part of what influences you.

So the decision to go ahead with an abortion is basically a last ditch effort to minimize damage. It is not approached casually. The situation that would bring it about is prevented to the best of our abilities.

So we try not to even have sex with someone the Ancestors would not want us to make a baby with. If we’re forced to or do so for medicinal reasons, we use contraception. If that fails, abortion is an option.

When weighing the options, one reason we consider abortion a damage control measure is the concept of “abiku”. An abiku is basically a child who is born, traumatized, and dies repeatedly. Abortion itself can cause the kind of damage that may create one, but this is unlikely except in cases where oppression, war, or disasters cause too many miscarriages and child deaths. Abortions done out of necessity during such situations will get mixed in with that atrocity. On the other hand, in a stable situation, the injury is a one time thing and the child may return (since some of their cells are still in the mother) at a better time and merged with the cells of their siblings who would have better experiences.

It’s complicated, and things don’t always go so smoothly, but as I said, the idea is to minimize the damage.

New Facebook Community for Afrocentric Vodun, Hoodoo, and Other Diaspora Systems

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Protection NkisiThere is a new community for practitioners of Vodun and diaspora belief systems on Facebook.  Afrocentric Vodun is for those who understand that the home of our faith is in Africa, and are actually concerned about African people at home or abroad.  We share articles and photos and discuss topics of concern as well as share personal news, insights, and opinions on Vodun and what we can do for the African community.

Feel free to join and invite your friends as well.

What is Voodoo?

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Yemaya Altar Ornament

an altar ornament for the Orisha Yemaya

Voodoo is a term used to describe a variety of  polytheistic, panentheistic, and hierarchical monotheistic belief systems rooted in West Africa.  Its more accurate name is Vodun, which means the spirits or essences (of nature).

At its core, it is somewhat agnostic, in that the vast majority of adherents believe that it is impossible to accurately define or imagine the Supreme God.  So rather than treat the Supreme God as a Santa Claus type figure who it’s okay to make our petty requests to, practitioners petition theVodun, Lwa, or Orishas instead.  This serves the dual purpose of avoiding blasphemy and working with nature, rather than against it or in spite of it, to fulfill one’s desires or get things done properly.

Because of political, cultural, and social changes and upheavals, Vodun is not practiced in the same way it was in pre colonial times, even in Africa.  Some changes were for the better, and some for the worse, and some are a matter of opinion.  Overall though, the vast majority of practitioners today are balanced people being true to their time tested ancestral faiths.

What It Is and What It Ain’t

One thing that needs to be made very clear about Vodun is that it is practiced in different ways in different regions in Africa and abroad.  How it is practiced in southern Benin is different from how it is practiced just an hour drive away, and also different from how it is practiced in various places in Nigeria, Ghana, etc.

There are a few things about it that are consistent though.  There is the belief that there is or may be a Supreme Being that no human mind can ever fathom.  Whether or not one believes that it exists as a being with a kind of Superpersonality is left to the individual.  It is not considered a relevant question.  If it does exist as we humans think of existence, it exists in all dimensions and is above space and time.  What is relevant are the forces of Nature that we can observe some aspects of, though total understanding of them is also out of the human reach.  Some call this Ultimate Be-ing Mawu-Lisa, Olodumare, Segbe, Nyame, or God.  It depends on the region, language, and to some degree their level of exposure to other belief systems including Islam and Christianity.  Some did not consider the concept of the Almighty relevant for so long, because It is Unfathomable, that the idea simply did not enter their minds, so names of what some would call technically “lesser gods” were used to describe it once they were re exposed to the concept through Judaic faiths.

Then there is the belief in an Emissary of at least the concept of the Almighty.  This is the father-mother aspect of whatever the Force of Creation/Existence is.  The fact that we exist on whatever level that may be is enough to justify the need for some psychological and spiritual representative of the Force of Creation.  This idea has been beneficial to mankind in many ways, one of which is to keep us mindful of the whole of Creation and our duty to it as good residents of the planet Earth.  Some call this Emissary Obatala.

Then there is the belief in a Gate Keeper who, depending on the region/tradition, is at the same time a sort of trickster.  The reason it is both is because it governs perception.  It creates both useful illusions of division and the dangerous illusions that naturally select the foolish or maladaptive out of the realm of the living.  Some call the Gate Keeper Eshu, Elegua, or Legba.

Then, and this is very important, there is the belief that Ancestors must be honored.  Before there was conscious knowledge of DNA and genetics, West Africans understood the importance that the physical and psychological and spiritual traits of the Ancestors, to those living in the present.  In practice, this means that except in some extremely rare cases (that I personally have never heard of) the line of priesthood is ancestral.  Those who are not in an ancestral line are able to serve as priests to a degree, but they will never be in the official line of priests in the vast majority of places in Africa.  They can only receive some degree of endorsement to lead and teach others in their area.  Some practices and knowledge are exclusive to ancestral priests.  Some call the Ancestors Egungun, and some Kulito, and some other terms, depending on their language.

The belief that Nature itself is sacred.  It is not that the mountain has a Spirit.  The mountain is a Spirit-and-a-physical-body.  Scientifically, this could be described as the idea of multidimensional existence.  So when a ritual object has been made and imbued with the ashe or energy of a particular Force of Nature, it does not merely represent it.  It at least in part, embodies that Force of Nature.  Some call these Forces of Nature Orishas, some Orixas, some Alusi, etc.  It depends on language and traditions.  The importance of multidimensional existence or the sacredness of Nature is central to being ridden by the Orishas.  Since we are Soul-bodies, the Forces of Nature can be personified in us at their will even if as humans we are unable to fully grasp the idea of the will of a Force of Nature.  For this reason, we also generally believe that the person does not choose which Force of Nature is at their head or makes contact with them.  The Force of Nature chooses the human to head, ride, or to make contact with at a given moment.

Another difference between west African originated belief systems and some others is a distinct lack of quid pro quo. There is some exchange principle involved with observance to deities, but this is not all there is to it. There is no presumption of human ability to demand anything or necessarily expect anything based on offerings, but the offering is an important part of aligning with the deities. The exchange principle in observance and offerings is because of the exchange principles in Nature.

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