Among the most important principles in the Vodu religion as practiced in Haiti is the veneration of God. Bondye (also referred to as Olohoum by some Voduists, from Yoruba Olorun “the master of the skies; supreme God”) designates the Supreme Being for Voduists, the Gran Mèt, the master of all matters, as he or she is often referred to. Because of the fluidity of gender in Vodu cosmology, as it is the case in African cosmology in general, although God is often called Papa Bondye, the ultimate Father, a male figure, some contemporary scholars view the Vodu God as also being female.
The Africans brought into the American hemisphere carried with them many of their religious beliefs and practices. The God of Vodu, as practiced in Haiti, displays fundamental African characteristics: It is the creator of all that is, transcendent, omniscient, immanent, benevolent, almighty, but also, and most important, removed from the human world. As a result, the Supreme God, Bondye, does not intervene in human affairs.
Providing assistance to human beings is the primary and direct responsibility of the Lwa, created by God to that end. The Lwa work in cooperation with Bondye, the Supreme Judge, omnipotent arbiter, and final authority, but also the God full of love and compassion for all his or her children in the midst of their terrestrial tribulations. The Lwa of the Vodu pantheon serve as the intermediaries between God and humans. Unlike Bondye, who does not intervene directly in worldly matters, although he or she protects the faithful, the Lwa preside over all aspects of human life and help with problems of daily existence from love and finances to family relationships and communal issues.
As it is the case in much of the African tradition, Bondye is not the object of any direct cult or worship. This is reserved to the Lwa. Yet it is fair to say that Bondye is the ultimate recipient of all prayers, all offerings, and all sacrifices. Indeed, Haitians, and in particular those from rural backgrounds in Haiti, never start a sentence without uttering Si Dye vle (“God willing”) or Bondye bon (“God is good”), another sign of God’s omnipresence in the daily lives of Vodu followers. Clearly, Voduists believe in the power and beneficence of this important cosmic force, Bondye, who, along with and above the Lwa, form this complex pantheon of supreme deities in Haitian Vodu.
Written by : Claudine Michel