The Caribbean was first explored by Christopher Columbus. It was named after the CARIB, a warlike tribe of cannibalistic Indians that occupied some of the Lesser Antilles at the time of the European conquest. Columbus’ discovery has lasting effects on the culture and religion of the area. Caribbean culture is a blend of many original cultures. The Caribbean people have struggled for centuries to retain their ancestral links while creating something entirely new and different. The food and religion plays an important role in the lives of the Caribbean people, a description of which is as follows.
The main religion of the Caribbean is Voodoo. Voodoo or Vodou or Vodun is a pantheistic Afro-Caribbean Culture that has evolved from the fusion of different religious beliefs. It is the religion of Haiti but is also practiced in Brazil, Trinidad, Cuba and some southern states of USA especially Louisiana. It is mixture of religious practices from Roman Catholicism, “the Fon, the Nago, the Ibos, Dahomeans, Congos, Senegalese, Haussars, Caplaous, Mondungues, Mandinge, Angolese, Libyans, Ethiopians, and the Malgaches.” Voodoo has played a key role in the culture and history of the Caribbean people. Voodoo was first noticed during the period of European colonization of Hispaniola. The European colonists started slave trade and a large number of blacks were forcibly enslaved. This threat paved way for the development of Voodoo. Despite of the European attempts to divide the African tribes, it was their religion that kept them united. The African tribes were so much unified and strengthened by their common religious beliefs that in turn made them to resist the cruelty of the French rulers. The French banned the practice of all African religions and those who were found practicing Voodoo were severely penalized. This tussle went on for three centuries and throughout these years; the African tribes preserved their religion secretly. It was Voodoo that enabled the Africans to plan a revolution against the Europeans in 1791 and ended in a victory in 1804.
Voodoo holds a primary place in the Caribbean culture. The rituals of voodoo are used to contact spirits. There are various purposes for contacting spirits such as to ask their favor for healing against disease, and sometimes for protection against evils. The male and female priests called Houngan and Mambo respectively preside over each ritual. These rituals often take place in a Vodun temple called a ‘hounfour’.
The Caribbean food consists of mainly African dishes and the ingredients include yams, corn meal, cassava, sweet potatoes, bananas and plantains. Some of the main cuisines of the Caribbean include Foo-foo, Bambula cake, or bammie, Cou-cou or Fungi, Conkies, or Duckanoo and many more. Most of the recipes are centuries old and passes over from generation to generation.
Religion or Voodoo has very strong impacts on the Caribbean culture and society throughout the years. It has been instrumental in the social and political changes and also exercises psychological and physical impacts. Voodoo is practiced in the form of black and white magic. White Magic s performed with the help of candles, oils, plants, and potions. It is done to get positive effects such as for the gain of love, power or money. The rituals or ceremonies are conducted by the Voodoo priests. The black magic or “Red Voodoo” is an opposite of white magic and is conducted for evil and harmful actions. It is conducted by a Bokor, who uses evil acts of sorcery that includes death and zombie curses. A zombie curse is a ritual in which the Bokor poisons his human subject, which results in his death. After three days, the dead is revived and the subject becomes the slave of the Bokor. Like the Greek and Roman mythology, the Voodoo also believes in multiple gods. These gods are responsible for the performance of different actions in the universe.