Roots of Haiti's Vodou-Christian Faith
African and Catholic Origins
by R. Murray Thomas
June 2014, 276pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-3203-1
$65, £50, 57€, A90
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-3204-8
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How can Haitians adhere to both Roman Catholic and Vodou belief systems?

This book traces the development of Haiti's combined Vodou-Christian religion from 1500 to the present and explains how this combination of distinct faiths coalesces in a coherent belief system.

What are the historical reasons for the popularity of two contradictory worldviews in Haiti, Vodou and Catholicism? What elements of Vodou and Catholicism are alike, and how are they drastically different? What is the connection between indigenous African religions and Vodou? And why has religion in Haiti evidenced an accelerating rate of change in recent decades? Roots of Haiti’s Vodou-Christian Faith: African and Catholic Origins answers these questions and more in its examination of the highly unique and often-misunderstood religious practices in Haiti.

Reaching back half a millennium to the European conquest of the island of Haiti, author R. Murray Thomas inspects the origins and nature of these two competing and complementary religious traditions: the traditional African faiths brought by the slaves who were imported to Haiti to labor in the fields and mines, and the Catholicism promoted—often violently—by Spanish and French colonial authorities. Following a historical background, the subsequent chapters focus on the organization of Haitian religion, spirits, creation belief, causes and ceremonies, maxims and tales, symbols and sacred objects, sacred sites, religious societies, and the future of the Vodou-Christian faith.


  • Provides a history of Haiti's unique religious tradition that explains how Spanish and French colonizers established Catholicism in Haiti and identifies how the connections between Vodou and African indigenous religions formed over the past five centuries
  • Proposes seven "principles of accommodation" that enable Vodou-Catholicism to be regarded as a cohesive, rational system by the vast majority of Haitians
  • Presents information culled from hundreds of references from the professional literature as well as interviews with two university professors who are both authorities on Haitian Vodou-Christianity and practitioners of the faith
R. Murray Thomas, PhD, is professor emeritus of educational psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. His published work includes Praeger's Moral Development Theories—Secular and Religious: A Comparative Study as well as Comparing Theories of Child Development, Recent Theories of Human Development, and contributions to Encyclopedia of Human Development and Education. Thomas holds a doctorate in psychology from Stanford University.
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