- Thousands of vodouists gathered in the sacred city of Souvenance, in Haiti, over the Easter weekend
- The followers take part in an annual celebration that is mean to lure loa – or spirit helpers – into their bodies
- Goats, cows and chicken are sacrificed and people daubed with their blood in an attempt to ‘feed’ the loa
- Once possessed, people believe the spirits communicate with them, issuing prophecies or warnings
Published: 06:31 EDT, 17 April 2017 | Updated: 06:41 EDT, 17 April 2017
Worshippers dressed in white, sacrificed goats and cows, smeared themselves with blood and then danced in a sacred pool in an effort to bring forth loa – spirits that help to run the universe and can grant blessings.
Followers of voodoo, the unofficial religion of the Caribbean island nation, gathered in the holy city of Souvenance over the weekend to take part in one of its largest annual celebrations.
Most voodoo festivals coincide with Christian celebrations because former slaves were banned from practicing the religion; holding their celebrations on the same day as their Catholic masters was a good way of disguising what they were doing.
While Roman Catholicism is still the official religion of Haiti, the vast majority of Haitians are also thought to practice some form of voodoo.
Thousands of voodoo followers gathered in the sacred city of Souvenance, in Haiti, over the Easter weekend to take part in one of the religion’s largest annual gatherings to ask for blessing from spirits – or loa
Worshippers sacrifice animals in order to appease the loa, who are servants of their God Bondye, in the hope that they will be possessed by spirits who will them help them by granting blessings
As part of the festivities voodoo followers dance in the Ma bath, a sacred site that is supposed to help draw loa to them
Slaves brought to Haiti were banned from practicing voodoo, so timed their religious holidays to coincide with Christian festivals in an attempt to fool their Catholic owners
Thousands of people make the journey to Souvenance to take part in the days-long festival every year
Voodoo priests or priestesses, known as houngan and mambo respectively, sacrifice animals in order to ‘feed’ the loa and draw the spirits into the bodies of their followers
Practitioners of voodoo believe they can communicate with loa after being possessed, and use the opportunity to ask for advice. The loa may also communicate prophecies or warnings
Worshippers dress in white for the occasion to show they are practicing ‘rada’ or family voodoo, which is focused on healing or blessing, rather than ‘petro’ or black magic, which is typically the part of voodoo portrayed in films
While followers of voodoo believe spirits can be used to perform black magic and do harm to people, experts agree that most religious ceremonies are focused on obtaining healing or blessings
Both men and women participate in the Easter voodoo festival which is held in Souvenance, a town founded by freed West African slaves which followers believe will help them communicate with their ancestors
A woman is ‘possessed’ by a loa during the annual voodoo festival in Haiti. While the spirit is inside her body, people believe they can speak to it. If she is possessed by a male spirit, the woman will be referred to as ‘he’ until the spirit leaves
A houngan, or male voodoo priest, looks over a crowd of followers during once of the religion’s largest annual festivals
Two women display their blood-soaked outfits during the religious ceremony. Animals including chickens, goats and cows are killed in the hope that their escaping life-force will feed spirits who may then enter their bodies
Roman Catholicism is still the official religion of Haiti, though there is a common saying about the country which goes: ‘Haitians are 70 per cent Catholic, 30 per cent Protestant, and 100 per cent voodoo’
In voodoo, while there is an all-powerful God called Bondye, followers believe he cannot communicate directly with people, so they must appeal to his servants – the loa- instead (pictured, women take part in the ritual to summon loa)
Voodoo exists largely in the Caribbean and especially Haiti, though draws on West African practices combined with Western spirituality and some Christian teachings (pictured, female vodouists after a religious ceremony)
While the vast majority of voodoo rites focus on healing, ‘petro’ or dark voodoo does exist, and involves the cursing of people, the creation of zombies, and sometimes wild sexual orgies (pictured, women after taking part in a healing ritual)
Dancing and music often form a large part of the voodoo festival, with people often on their feet for hours at a time
Voodoo ceremonies usually take place around a poto mitan – a wooden pole in the centre of a dancing circle – which represents the centre of the universe
Followers of voodoo hope their sacrifice and dancing will lure good loa to them. Such spirits could include Legba, who is credited as being the origin of life, and Erzulie, the earth-mother who is the source of love and beauty
Voodoo exists alongside Catholicism in Haiti, with many Catholic prayers incorporated into their ceremonies, though Protestants view their religion as devil-worship
The Easter festival is so popular that the building where many of the ceremonies take place is often full, with dozens of people having to pray from outside the window