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Correcting the Many Errors in Professor James Smalls "Science of Voodoo-Vodun" Interview

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We've run across this video a few times and have often resisted commenting. We are sure many have been inspired by it and we do not want to take away from that. However, it is time for us to address various misrepresentations of African Vodun, even if it comes from who many respect as a scholar. It is mandatory that those who know better expose this misinformation being presented by many of these Afrikan scholars who are not necessarily immersed in Afrikan culture, but you won't be able to tell by their words - unless you know culture yourself. This is for those that want to have REAL knowledge of Vodun (not "voodoo/vudu" as the misinformed professor pronounces it). This is no attack on Smalls, but it is only so long one can sit back and allow this misrepresentation to continue. Look at the video and then go through the points we bring out here.

Let's Begin

He states the word vudu/voodoo (spelling it the way he pronounces it) comes from the Fon (which he also mispronounces basically sounding like the word "fun" when he states it) language. This is incorrect in that there is no such word as vudu/voodoo in Fon. This spelling and his mispronunciation is due to French corruption of the real Fon word Vodun. It is nowhere near pronounced the way he says it. The "o" in the word Vodun is pronounced like the "o" in the word "vote". The "u" like the "oo" in "moon". And yes it does matter how it is pronounced.

He also states that the Fon are a nation. This is also incorrect. The Fon, as well as the Ewe (he mispronounces Ewe. The "w" is pronounced more like a "v" in reality), are a subgroup of the overall Aja "nation". The Fon are simply the largest Aja subgroup in Benin and made well known do to the tyrannical Danxome (Dahomey) structure created by the Fon and its capture and sell of Afrikans into captivity.

The term he says in Ewe that is supposed to mean "the god within me" actually translates to "Vodun (a particular deity) must be praised". This term is ONLY used after a person devoted to a certain deity receives or is guaranteed that their deity has granted blessing or will do so soon.

He states that to call on "god almighty" the Ayitian and Fon people use the word Lisa. This is partially correct. Lisa is never used without Mawu. So it would be Mawu Lisa. Lisa is the masculine half of the great divinity while Mawu is the feminine aspect. He also states that in Togo that use the term Lisa Sogbe (with an e at the end just as we spelled it here). There is no such Ewe word as Sogbe. He is probably trying to say Sogbo. And in fact, the Ewe say "Mawu Sogbo Lisa" to reference MawuLisa symbolically being in the sky but working through Sogbo, the great THUNDER DIVINITY. When these three words are used together, it is more of a chant instead of a name.

He also makes the mistake of using the term "Orisa system" just as many others within that tradition do. It is not the Orisa system. It is not the Orisa religion/tradition. It is not the Yoruba religion/tradition. It is not called Ifa or the Ifa religion/tradition. The Orisa and Ifa are only part of the bigger system and you can see us speak on the real name in several of our videos.

He states that in the "Orisa" tradition that there have been identified over 240 primary forces and another 500-1000 sub forces. We have NO clue as to where he is getting this from because that is not a part of our tradition.

He basically states that Vodun (not voodoo as he says) is not about destroying our oppressor. This definitely shows a lack of knowledge of Vodun and contradicts the whole Ayitian connection he is making, because the Afrikans of Ayiti did just that.

He states "Out of Vooodo, came judaism, christianity, and islam." They may have come from whatever voodoo is, but they definitely did not come from Afrikan Vodun in no way whatsoever. When people make statements like this, it confuses people and causes many Afrikans to feel that they can still hold on their foreign gods and still dabble within an Afrikan system when, in fact, biblical traditions and Afrikan systems are diabolically opposed to one another - locked into an eternal fight to the death.

He states that the Ayitians speak an Afrikan language, and then turns around and says the language they speak contains some French words. Then this is not an Afrikan language. And we also disagree when he says "some". There are many, many french words in Ayitian Creole.

He states that Oya took a second husband which was Ogun. This is absolutely false. Oya was married to Ogun BEFORE being married to Sango. She later married Sango. However, the professor implies that she had two husbands as he uses the term polyandry. This is absolutely not correct. The story he is relaying is a Lukumi/Santeria story. This is not an indigenous Afrikan story.

He states that "awo" means you come and you go, akin to what the west calls reincarnation. We are not sure where the professor is getting this misinformation. "Awo" means "secret" and people initiated to Ifa and are training in that priesthood are called awo. One of the words for reincarnation in Yoruba is "atunwa". In the Aja-Fon language, it is "jijo lile". "Awo" is never used in this sense.

He states that one has eight chances to reincarnate. That is not found in Afrikan Vodun. Also, Vodun doe snot mean "the god in me".

One thing we are quite happy about is how he exposed Touissant as a sell out. However, he was not a mulatto. HE does us service by informing the brother that Egypt is not the genesis of Afrika. The fact is Vodun is much much older than Ta Mare ("Egypt"). And we do agree with him, barring the fact that he does not pronounce the name of our tradition correctly, when he says "Vodun (he says "voodoo") is the saving grace of the Afrikan world". 

Finally, we end by saying that though we appreciate the work of these scholars, they often cross lines that they should not. Professor James Smalls does not know or live Vodun or Aja culture as illustrated above. The thing to do would be to allow those who have immersed themselves into the culture to speak on it. Unfortunately, many of our Afrikan scholars are in a reinvention stage and whereas they did not speak much on spirituality and culture much in the past, now they are attempting to do so. This is causing confusion for those who are at the gates of learning. When such confused persons reach us, if they do, we often have to clean up what people like Professor James Smalls have laid on them. We pray that you call got something from us.

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