I get asked all the time, “Why did you name a yoga studio Voodoo Yoga?” The short answer is I didn’t, it was the name when I bought the studio! The next question that usually follows is “Um, well why didn’t you rebrand? Voodoo is bad magic”.
And I get it, Voodoo certainly has that reputation thanks to Hollywood. When I have been at local festivals and community events spreading the message of peace, love and yoga I have had people come up to me specifically to tell me that there is no way that they would visit a place with Voodoo in its name. But if they had researched they would know that Voodoo is good! It is not black magic, not devil worship, not a cult.
Originating in Africa it has spread through the slave labour trade. At a time when slaves were considered less than human, the religion was ridiculed, feared and clouded with racism. So let’s clear things up a bit.
Voodoo has no set scripture to draw meaning from, but put simply, Voodooists believe in a single supreme God, called Bondye, and believe in lessor beings, called Iwa, who support humanity. Iwa are involved day to day life, sacrifices, including animal sacrifices, are made to them to aid in their assistance and they are called on during ceremonies. Voodoo practices are community-centred, supporting healing, individual empowerment and experience. Voodoo dolls were made in the likeness of the recipient with the purpose of drawing on Iwa’s to bestow gifts and love upon the recipient.
The religion has many parallels to Catholicism, in fact in 1993 Pope John Paul II participated in a Voodoo ceremony and praised the religion for the “fundamental goodness” in their practices, teachings and belief system. Like Catholicism, Voodooists also believe that you transition to an invisible world after death and watch over the living in spirit.
None of this sounds like devil worship to me. At the very core of Voodooism is good. We also believe that yoga is good magic for the body, mind and spirit. So that’s why we chose to stick with the name Voodoo Yoga. It’s good magic!