Vodou priest wants religion recognized

The exclusion of Vodou practitioners in plans to uplift Haiti will keep the country in a chaotic state, a Vodou priest said Wednesday.

Max Beauvoir, 68, of the Temple of Yehwe in Mariani, Haiti, said politicians, humanitarian organizations, and Christian leaders from abroad have refused to acknowledge the role of the religion in the country’s culture for 200 years. As a result, Haiti is on the brink of total collapse, and he believes Vodou gods are upset.

“I think if they continue with this kind of scheme of unfairness, [the gods] may soon be tired of them and see us all disappear,” he said.

Beauvoir is in South Florida to educate the public about his religion. He is one of several traditional healers from Haiti, the United States and Jamaica who will participate in a panel presentation from 5:30 to 9 tonight at Broward County Main Library. The event is titled “Holistic and Traditional Healing.”

Beauvoir spoke Sunday at a Vodou seminar at Florida International University, part of a series that will culminate with a Vodou Fest on May 1 at Bayfront Park in Miami.

Beauvoir said Creole linguists changed the spelling of the religion’s name to “Vodou” about four years ago to disassociate it from “Voodoo.”

“So many movie producers have painted us as horrible and ugly to the point that even our children are afraid to look us in the eye,” he said. “But Vodou is a religion that covers all aspects of life and goes hand-in-hand with Haiti. It carries with it a vision of the human in the center of the universe, among stars, animals, plants and among each other.”

Beauvoir, a biochemist educated in the United States and France, said his family has always practiced the religion. He returned to Haiti in the 1970s and followed in the footsteps of his grandfather, who was also an hugan or Vodou priest.

He said people come from all over the world to his temple for physical, mental and spiritual healing, which he provides using plants, leaves and animals.

Beauvoir said Vodou is alive in South Florida, which has the largest Haitian population in the United States. It’s influenced by African and American Indian religions.

Those who practice Vodou believe a goddess named “Yehwe” heads the universe, and her characteristics are manifested through 401 smaller deities who together make up her complete image.

People hold ceremonies in their homes and in Vodou temples.

“The largest part of the Haitians practice the religion,” he said. “They solve their daily problems through Vodou.”

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