Abducted and forced into barbaric slavery in the colonial era, the West African peoples exploited for labor on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola shared the spiritual bond of their homeland. In the former French colony of Saint-Domingue, at the time among the richest in the world, these beliefs melded into a new religion.
Derived from the word meaning "spirit" in the former Kingdom of Dahomey, Vodou united slaves in defiance of their oppressors. Their faith inspired a revolution, forging the world's first and only republic founded by slave rebellion. The nation of Haiti.
Vodou was banned and brutally suppressed by French slaveowners in the colonial era. Despite being demonized by the Church, vilified by Western culture, and sensationalized by popular media ever since, Vodou has survived all efforts at eradication and flourishes in Haiti to this day.
Combining West African religious traditions of animism and ancestor worship, Catholicism, and remnant practices of the island's extirpated indigenous peoples, Vodou recognizes a single supreme deity – God – and a host of supernatural beings known as Lwa in Kreyòl.
To the faithful, these spirits have the ability to take possession of the human body and the divine power to intercede in the affairs of man. The Lwa embody forces and elements of nature, such as earth, water, air, and fire, and they represent human values and emotions including love, courage, wisdom, and justice.