How African Spirituality Got Tied to Satan
From white colonizers to contemporary pop culture
“You must stop your Satanic idol-worship.”
“You devil worshipper.”
“You will go to Hell.”
These are all common comments said to me as a third-generation practitioner of Vodu, an ancient West African spiritual and herbal practice. Mostly these things are said by Christians preaching their faith on me.
I used to react harshly, which normally ended in an argument or insults. As I grew older, I realized that most people have little knowledge of African history or spiritual traditions. African spiritual and herbal traditions like Vodu have historically been, and continue to be, stigmatized and associated with Satan or the devil.
According to Wikipedia:
Satan, also known as the Devil, is an entity in the Abrahamic religions that seduces humans into sin or falsehood. In Christianity and Islam, he is usually seen as either a fallen angel or a genie, who used to possess great piety and beauty, but rebelled against God, who nevertheless allows him temporary power over the fallen world and a host of demons. In Judaism, Satan is typically regarded as a metaphor for the yetzer hara, or “evil inclination,” or as an agent subservient to God.
Most Africans today will agree with this definition and even label all African spiritual practices as “Satanic.” While there are indeed many frightening spirits in Vodu (that is, Vodu Adeti, Vodu Sakapata, Enukpepe, etc.), there are no spirits that are inherently evil because they can all bring positive outcomes as well. As my Vodu priest father puts it, “Vodu is like a knife. It can be used to do bad or good — it depends on the person.”
Satan is a concept imported into African societies through colonialism to stigmatize African spirituality.
Fearful spirits in traditions like Vodu are feared because of their ability to wreak havoc in their negative manifestation. In their positive manifestation, they can benefit society. For example, in Vodu practice, Vodu Sakapata, the deity of epidemics like…