As millions of Beninois prepare for the annual voodoo festival of offering prayers and animal sacrifices, do we really understand what voodoo is?
Once banned, voodoo is now an official religion in Benin, where the practice was born. About 60% of the country's seven million people practise the religion. Forms of voodoo also exist in Togo, Ghana, Haiti and Brazil.
Followers believe in a supreme God and spirits who link the human with the divine. Spirits are thought to exist in many things - from the earth, wind, thunder, giant baobab trees and pythons.
But for centuries the religion has been associated with black magic used for evil purposes and based on animal and human sacrifices.
Is voodoo a force for good or evil? Is there a place for voodoo in modern Africa? Does voodoo play an important part in your family? Do you have any voodoo stories to tell us? Are there any parallels with other religions?
This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.
I am a Christian and Christ taught us to judge no-one. I do not condemn voodoo. My suggestion is that voodooism should grow with the world. The animal sacrifices should be done away with. Perhaps if people stop condemning the worshipers as evil, there will be more research done in it and many will come out openly in organised groups to worship just as other religions of the world.
Adesuwa Iyase, Vancouver, Canada
There are two forces in the world: good and evil. Voodoo obviously belongs to the latter!
Moses Mulongo, Nairobi, Kenya
Why is it voodoo is a religion of yesteryear? Catholicism has been around since the middle of the fourth century AD when Rome wanted a unified religion throughout its empire. Does it not stand to reason that a religion that is more inclined towards nature and balance should be more accepted? Is that not what is taught in the Bible - tolerance?
Daniel King, Windsor
There is only one supreme power. All religions show the way for the well being of the individual and society. Opinions differ. Egos come in the way. Who are we to say otherwise? Maybe here and there fine tuning is to be done for all religions, including voodoo. All religions are great, as long as they respect individual's freedom, choice of worship and do not create law and order problems.
Sai Arjun, Chennai, India
There is little difference between the practices of voodoo and those of the world's main religions. They are all based on superstition and ignorance. The Catholic and voodoo rituals are eerily similar.
Nyakairu, Michigan, USA
Voodoo is a religion of yesteryear. It is a modern-day form of a backward form of worship. It should be discouraged as it has no place in modern day Africa. Let them embrace other religions like Christianity.
Ilishebo Michael, Kitwe, Zambia
It's rather unfortunate that the world's oldest religion, voodoo, is usually characterised as barbaric, primitive, with sexually licentious practices based on superstition. This is due mainly to fear and lack of understanding of the religion. I think anyone interested must take time to understand it, because it's not only for evil doing but good things as well. What I have noticed it's that Voodoo believers and practitioners do respect themselves and behave more cautiously than the so-called Christians nowadays. I think anyone interested should go down to Benin to witness this interesting religion.
Seth Afari, Geneva, Switzerland
There is no difference between voodoo and other religions. They all believe in a supreme being, sacrifices, songs, and special attire.
Mathias Daffa, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
Professor Ali Mazrui said he went to Europe and found plenty of Islam but no Muslims. He also said he found plenty of Muslims and no Islam. The meaning is that religion has been corrupted by us. Therefore, voodoo is not inherently good nor bad. What counts is the use to which we deploy it.
Kolade Ayegbusi, Lagos, Nigeria
This religion is not good. They kill humans and have inhuman practices. My father is from Togo and my mother from Ghana so I know what the Voodoo religion is all about.
Theodore Kofi Agbenorxevi, Lagos, Nigeria
Religion to me is all a matter of perception, and as there is freedom of worship, so there should always be freedom of belief, as long as those who prescribe do understand the simple fact that "Your rights end where mine start". Africans had their form of religion that was dubbed "Black magic" or "witch craft" by foreigners. I hate to contradict matters to do with religion and belief, and just like the Desiderata reads : "Have faith in God, whatever you perceive him to be". I prefer to let people have their free choice of belief and worship. So, Beninois have every right to hold their celebrations and believe in whatever they do, for religion is just a mystery!
Ndung'u Ndegwa, Nairobi, Kenya
I grew up in part of Ghana that had some believers in voodoo. As a child of Christian parents I don't know much about the religion, though one of my classmates became a voodoo priestess. But having grown up to learn that even we Christians celebrate pagan festivals without knowing it, I don't see why voodoo should be demonised.
Francis Quarm, Stockport, UK
As I look at other comments condemning Voodoo, I can't help but think this intolerance is what is wrong with us humans. Trust me Voodoo is just as believable as Christianity or Buddhism. If it works for them what's the problem. Evil is twisting your faith's teachings to kill your fellow humans! Wake up and see what that brings us daily.
Bob Gibbon, Ottawa, Canada
Voodoo is utter nonsense in the 21st century. We in India also have such forms of black magic which is all bunkum.
Vchandrasekhar, Chennai, India
Africans were truly religious before the arrival of Christianity. l have a tradition that l believe in, as it is out to develop and not to destroy. If voodoo is out to develop why not join the Beninois in celebration.
Clive Ayumbi Wankah, Buea, Cameroon.
Just look at the results. What has voodoo done for Benin? Or any other country, for that matter? The basket case called Haiti comes to mind quickly. Voodoo is clearly NOT a force for good.
Adam Richards, Omaha, NE
Despite my very limited understanding of voodoo, I believe that it has been demonized by majority populations in the Americas during the peak of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. It is merely another example of xenophobia, or at least, a fear of the strange or unknown. It is important to note that what is considered common knowledge about voodoo is nothing more than a stereotypic portrayal by popular culture of an alien cultural practice.
Abu-Bakar, Washington DC, USA.
Some of the voodoo practices that held sway in the past were never questioned because of the fear of dire reprisals if one were to contravene them. People have now advertently or inadvertently, contravened some of the voodoo don'ts to no harm at all, which proves that voodoo was merely a traditional society's way of self-sustaining, which has no place in modern Africa.
Musyoki Kimanthi, Nairobi, Kenya
Voodoo is an evil force which may appear to be good at the onset. The good it may portray is often short-lived and will yield bad results eventually. I think it originates from the devil, Satan. Anything which originates from the devil is bad and can never be good. I'm sure you'd rather associate with good rather than bad. For as long as Africa practises voodoo, the many problems that have hampered her development will continue.
Sammy Imevbore, Coventry, UK
I firmly believe that voodoo is a force for bad. As a Christian I believe in Jesus and nobody else, and cannot understand how in the 21st century Africans keep doing such practical sacrifices. I think it's really horrible.
Berthie Matona, Bristol, England.
A lot of people think that voodoo is wrong only because they think it is against Christian teachings. The truth is that there are a lot of very good aspects to voodoo and, if incorporated with Christianity, it would yield amazing results. Throw out the bad elements first, of course.
Didi Newlove, Namur, Belgium
Let us not forget that it was probably the uniting force of voodoo that helped the slaves in Saint Domingue throw off their French, and other colonial, oppressors. Voodoo is a serious attempts to grapple with ontological and empirical issues - it should not be so easily dismissed by society
Reuben Loffman, London
Voodoo exists and I believe it's used for evil purposes. I think the practice should be discouraged since it has no place in these modern times.
Edwin Batiir, Tamale, Ghana
My grandfather used to have voodoo known as 'mabieh'. When I was a small boy, my grand father used to bless me along with other kids by speaking audibly to his voodoo or mabieh in order to chase away the sickness from us. The bad thing was after the death of my grandfather some years ago, his elder son called upon Christians to his home from a neighbouring village and burnt down all voodoo materials to ashes. So voodoo or mabieh does not exist now in our home in south Sudan.
Peter Tuach, Minnesota ,USA
I think voodoo is a force of evil and originates from Satan. It is outright devil worship where people are remotely controlled and manipulated for evil. This is obvious when you realise that countries which make voodoo their national religion, or have the large population of them practicing it, remain the poorest countries in the world. I have seen people being manipulated and hypnotised for years and made to live under terrible conditions. This religion should be banned.
Emmanuel Adelaja, Bracknell, UK
I personally do not believe in voodoo, but growing up in Ghana I have heard so much made of it, even by very educated people, which has made me believe, maybe, just maybe, it does exist. I however fully disagree with Emmanuel Adelaja who thinks it should be banned. What one chooses to worship is one's right and should not be controlled. The argument that religion has anything to do with the socio-economic development of any nation is lame and baseless. My native Ghana has one of the most religious populace on the surface of this earth and we are still very far from rich. It is only hard work, good policies and mutual respect that can bring our continent out of the unfortunate position we are now. Ostracizing people because they do not share our religious beliefs should have no place in our culture if we really want to rise up as a continent.
Raphael Afaedor, Prague, Czech Republic
Voodoo is a good religion. It is the missionaries who portray it as devil worship. It is a part of the African culture. If voodoo, one of the world's oldest religions, is evil, then all the major world religions are so too.
Anand Nair, Haridwar, Uttaranchal State, India
Voodoo, for many of these nations, provides a form of worship that was not brought over by the Europeans - and in my mind that is a good thing.
Alex Theoharides, United States
My father before he passed away 30 years ago used to be a voodoo priest. The short period I lived with him I know that voodoo power existed. This power is evil and they use it to do evil things. A voodoo priest can use his voodoo power to kill and torment people. I do not believe any good things can come out of voodoo. The power of voodoo is limited. Anyone who believes in Jesus Christ has greater spiritual power than any voodoo man or woman.
Emmanuel Osunkoya, Chicago, USA
I think voodoo, like the cutlass, could be used for both good and bad purposes. If one considers the fact that Africa had its religion before the advent of the Bible, then we can only say that voodoo is for good. Voodoo punishes sins and that serves as a deterrent. Christianity or any other religion says pray for forgiveness and that is increasing the number of thieves in our societies. If we don't come back to our roots, then we will always be deceived by these so-called men of God.
Ike Tetteh, Accra
In films and television programmes voodoo is portrayed as a force of evil. We always see the necks of chickens being cut and voodoo dolls being pricked. What I would like to understand is the origin of voodoo and why is it so taboo? Surely to be so well established there must be positive elements to it?
Melanie, Wimbledon, England
There is absolutely no truth to voodoo. It is a state of mind, a farce, used by fraudulent individuals to control and exploit the weak! I will volunteer for any voodoo experimentation under the following conditions: 1. I am not asked to ingest anything, 2. I am not asked to apply any fluids, ointments, powders or gases, to my body, 3. the event takes place in open air for all to witness, 4. there's no physical contact between me and the voodoo practitioner!
Godfrey Ofem, Chicago, USA