Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)

The religious folk cult of the West Indies, especially in Haiti, and the Creoles of the Southern USA. The term comes from the vodun, or snake-god worship of Benin (formerly Dahomey) in West Africa. It focuses heavily on the worship of the loa, spirits of local gods and ancestors, who often demand ritual Sacrifice. During a cult service a loa may possess (> Possession) an individual. This may extend to the dead. Zombies are the most outward manifestation of voodoo, though in fact is a minor element of the religion. Early misconceptions of native African religions led to many words and phrases still associated with pagan worship and Witchcraft, especially mumbo-jumbo, hoodoo (a variant of voodoo popularized by Lafcadio Hearn) and the placing of hexes (> Curses).

Voodoo was much misunderstood by White Americans and popular journalism, especially that by Hearn and George W Cable (1844-1925), the latter in Old Creole Days (coll 1879), served to perpetuate these beliefs among colourful interpretations. The best Supernatural Fictions incorporating voodoo have been by those writers who have directly witnessed and experienced it, including Grant Allen, Hugh B Cave and Henry S Whitehead. William B Seabrook (1886-1945) narrated his experiences in The Magic Island (1929), episodes from which are often reprinted in Anthologies. Dennis Wheatley sensationalizes the more popular concepts in Strange Conflict (1941), but Patricia Geary offers a more intelligent usage in Strange Toys (1987). In Night Boat (1980) Robert R McCammon (1952-    ) used a voodoo curse placed on a U-boat to convert the whole crew into the undead.

Most relevant movies have concentrated on the zombie theme (> Zombie Movies), usually without finesse. However, The Ghost Breakers (1940), starring Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard, was especially effective, and I Walked With a Zombie (1943), dir Jacques Tourneur (1904-1977) and scripted Curt Siodmak (1902-2000), treated the theme sympathetically.

Voodoo! (anth 1980) ed Bill Pronzini (1943-    ) is one of the few Anthologies to go beyond the zombie theme. [MA]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.