A report by Brian Dowling for the Boston Herald. Our thanks to Peter Jordens for bringing this item to our attention.
Two macabre attacks on children blamed on alleged voodoo rituals have practitioners and scholars warning the spirituality in no way gives rise to ceremonies that harm or maim people — let alone killing — as part of its practice.
“In voodoo, we can’t think negative of people,” said Neite Decimus, a voodoo priest and anthropologist in Brockton, where a mother is charged in the double murder of two of her sons in what she claimed to have been a voodoo ritual.
“It’s hard for us to even think negative about an animal,” he added, saying the misrepresentation of the spirituality worried him. “When it comes to voodoo, it’s misconstrued on many fronts.”
Last month, two East Bridgewater women were charged with maiming a 5-year-old girl in a purported voodoo rite designed to expel a demon causing the girl to act up. This week, Latarsha Sanders of Brockton was charged with murdering two of her sons in a voodoo act.
The religion, carried by slaves from Africa to the Caribbean where it branched off in Haiti, Cuba, Louisiana and Brazil, has taken a darker turn in popular culture, standing in as a ghoulish sacrificial form of devil worship.
At the center of its spirituality, though, is an idea that prohibits harming another human, according to Trinity College religious studies professor Leslie Desmangles.
“The human being has in himself a spark of God, who they call ‘Bondye,’ ” Desmangles said, saying the name translates to “good god.”
“Everyone has it and therefore what I really have spiritually within me is in my neighbor. One does not have the right to diminish the grandeur of God, which dispensed His own goodness to all people,” he said.
Decimus said: “When you start developing who you are as a human, you become a little god.”
Voodoo can call for sacrifices to gods of chickens, goats, cows, but even those are done with respect and “every bit of the animal is consumed,” Desmangles said.
He stressed that the mutilation and killing in these crimes are not part of voodoo.
“A lot of Americans think this religion has a lot to do with the macabre or sticking things in dolls, cannibalism or killing people. There’s nothing like that at all,” Desmangles said.
But voodoo’s reputation makes it an easy target for mentally ill people to claim as their basis for “terrible” acts.
Desmangles added: “Because of this macabre notion and image that people have of the religion, they are probably much more liable to use voodoo to explain certain things they do much more so than other religions, such as Buddhism or Hinduism or the like.”