(By Devin Vanderpool) “Haiti is 30 percent Christian, but 100 percent vodou (Haitian voodoo).”  This is a statement I’ve heard several times through my years of working in Haiti. I’ve come to realize just how close to true this actually is. Because Christians in Haiti might not practice Vodou, but they are certainly wary of the negative effects it can have on their communities. An example that comes to mind is a memory of my husband disposing of a snake as three (Christian) Haitian women screamed that he had killed a demon. The negative effects of Vodou are particularly visible as we near the Haitian celebration for Mardi Gras, called Kanaval. In Haiti, Kanaval goes for weeks preceding Lent. And while many Haitian Catholics and

Protestants do use this time to prepare for the Lenten season, Vodou practicers openly worship spirits during the Carnival parade, known as defile. They use it as a time to assert the dominance of Vodou priests and priestesses, known as houngans and mambos, on the communities. Many Vodou worshippers dress up as the spirits they are worshipping. Some dress as zombies, devils or the dead. The most dedicated Vodou worshippers use this time to thank the spirits that they believe helped them gain their independence from France in 1803. In this atmosphere one might see fights break out, curses cast, even lives lost. In 2015, Kanaval was canceled after a performer in a parade was shocked by a high-voltage wire, leading to a stampede. Eighteen were killed and 78 more injured in the resulting chaos. READ MORE