Trees in Vodou

An Arbori-cultural Exploration


  • Andrew Tarter University of Florida



Vodou, spirits, religion, Haiti, nature, ethnobotany, anthropology, deforestation


Trees are an important dwelling place for the spirits of the Vodou pantheon. I describe arboreal rituals dedicated to the veneration of tree-residing spirits, taboos against cutting sacred trees, con?icting taboos against planting certain trees, and a ceremony for removing a spirit from one tree and placing it in another. After discussing common folk beliefs about particular tree species, and examining associations between these species and individual spirits, I suggest that a rapid decrease of trees in Haiti mandated the ceremony for removing a spirit from a tree and placing it somewhere else. Consequently, as tree diversity dwindled into the handful of primary species utilized in rural Haiti today, a large pantheon of spirits had to be funneled into an increasingly limited number of trees. Accordingly, Vodou practitioners had to facilitate spirit ?exibility with regard to which trees they inhabit.

Author Biography

Andrew Tarter, University of Florida

Andrew Tarter's research is funded by the the National Science Foundation, the Wenner Gren Foundation, the Fulbright Program, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. He is a PhD Candidate in cultural anthropology, at the University of Florida.


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How to Cite

Tarter, A. (2015). Trees in Vodou: An Arbori-cultural Exploration. Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, 9(1), 87–112.