In August of 2012, C. Wheeler, a retired man in his late sixties, was found dead in his bathtub inside his Florida home. Mr. Wheeler had not been seen for three days and his unmoved car in the driveway prompted his neighbors to investigate. Forcing their way into his home, the formidable stench of death confirmed their suspicions and they immediately called the authorities. With no signs of foul play, a break-in or fingerprints, police ruled the death a suicide and cited the kitchen carving knife embedded in Mr. Wheeler’s throat as the obvious cause of death.
Several days passed and Mr. Wheeler’s family had begun removing his personal belongings from the home in preparation of placing it on the market. His next door neighbor answered their door to find the late Mr. Wheeler’s elderly mother, hunched over and holding letters in one hand and a plain, white doll, made of yarn, in the other. Having just retrieved the delivered mail, she held up the doll and asked if it belonged to the neighbor. Although the neighbor replied that it was not theirs, they took the doll from the outstretched hand of the old woman. The elderly mother turned and left without saying another word. On her way to the trash can in the kitchen the neighbor felt a sharp pain in her finger and realized there was glass jutting from inside the doll’s neck.
The word ‘vodou’ means ‘spirit’, hence Voodoo, which is a religion, of spirits. Brought to North America via the slaves from West Africa in the 1700’s, the practice fuses African religions and the rituals of Roman Catholicism, presumably to disguise their actual beliefs from their owners. Voodoo’s African elements include worship of supernatural entities and the ancestral dead. Rituals include drums and dancing as an invocation to allow the summoned spirit entry into the corporeal body. Most Voodoo rituals involve the sacrifice of an animal. It is believed that the spirit will harness the animal’s energy as it leaves the carcass. The meat is then consumed as part of the ceremony.
(Above: Documented Voodoo ritual from the 1940’s by Maya Deren)
Practitioners of Voodoo or Voodooists, summon the departed souls on the other side of physical reality. In general, Voodoo is practiced to enhance one’s quality of life; often with regard to health and prosperity. But, on occasion and when deemed necessary, the magic favors revenge and is utilized in direct opposition of another’s well-being.
The religion is known to embrace acts of retribution on those whose actions warrant a response.
There are several methods of harnessing the power of spirits including a curse, spell, hex or Gris Gris bag and, of course, a Voodoo doll. A female Voodooist may serve a man red sauce and add a small portion of her own blood in an attempt to hex the man unto marriage.
(Above: Gris Gris bags)
There are spells to induce nightmares, inflict physical pain and suffering upon a former lover and betrayer and even one to make someone’s hair fall out.
Alternately, Gris Gris bags are used as protection against dark magic. Properly made, they will defend against attacks of negativity and harmful intent.
Similarly, voodoo dolls are not harmful by themselves; their purpose is to focus the energy of the user. In the case of Mr. Wheeler, it seems the intent was anything but benevolent. Pinning a photograph or the hair of the person at which the energy is being directed will assist in its delivery.
(Above: Haitian Voodoo Doll)
Perhaps the most terrifying aspect of voodoo is the ability of its practitioner to induce a zombie-like state upon their enemies. Research has discovered that a toxin from a puffer fish called tetrodotoxin or TTX can induce a death-like state for several days while the victim remains conscious. The additional use of a dissociative drug called datura removes the will of the victim and leaves them completely helpless. Imagine being unable to move or speak as you are mistakenly declared dead and placed inside a coffin to be buried alive. Your inner cries echo inside your head but are heard only by you. A perpetual panic attack chases your sanity and fear consumes your entire being. Sadistic irony plays out as you pray for death while dirt is shoveled over the top of the casket in which you are sealed. You are a voodoo zombie.
Belief in Voodoo ranges from a complete acceptance of its power to utter disregard as pure make-believe. An example of the former can be found when back in December of 2010, Haiti suffered the loss of over 2500 people from an outbreak of cholera. Local residents were so convinced that the deaths were a result of the actions of Voodoo priests that 50 practitioners were both lynched and stoned to death while others were hacked to death by machetes.
Mr. Wheeler died from a sharp knife plunged, by his own hand, deep into his neck. The mysterious yarn doll found by his mother in Mr. Wheeler’s mailbox had glass sewn into its neck. Perhaps it’s time to trade in that luck rabbit’s foot for a Gris Gris bag.