Item Details

Trees in Vodou: An Arbori-cultural Exploration

Issue: Vol 9 No. 1 (2015)

Journal: Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture

Subject Areas: Religious Studies

DOI: 10.1558/jsrnc.v9i1.19582


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, conflicting 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 flexibility with regard to which trees they inhabit.

Author: Andrew Tarter

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