Trees in Vodou
An Arbori-cultural Exploration
Keywords: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.
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