Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, Vol 9, No 1 (2015)

Trees in Vodou: An Arbori-cultural Exploration

Andrew Tarter
Issued Date: 18 May 2015


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.

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DOI: 10.1558/jsrnc.v9i1.19582


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