The Big Book of Soul - Stephanie Bird

How much do you really know about "voodoo"?

Recent catastrophic events in Haiti have put a spotlight on the Caribbean nation’s culture, politics, and its main religion, Vodou.

Before the earthquake, this major form of worship — a combination of Catholicism and West African spirituality — seemed to exist only in movies and mythology. Average Americans likely have little knowledge of Vodou’s traditions, culture or even its transportation from Africa to French-speaking Haiti.

According to African-American folklore expert Stephanie Rose Bird, Vodou (commonly misspelled “voodoo”) is extensively practiced in the Creole regions of the United States and in many parts of the Caribbean — especially Haiti.

Bird describes Vodou as an organized religion equipped with priests, which — despite its kinship with Catholicism — exists as a close cousin to spiritual practice of Hoodoo. (Also derived from West Africa, the religion Hoodoo contains many similarities to its relative Vodou and shares many of the same rituals such as hexing and unhexing.)

In The Big Book of Soul, Bird not only defines these two African-based religions, but takes us on a journey deep into very soul of the people of West Africa.

Focusing mainly on the practice of Hoodoo in the United States, Bird uses poetic references to define the legend behind African soul and how its traditions and rituals formed today’s African-American culture.

In some ways a reference book, Bird’s compilation also provides practical advice on diet, the use of herbalism and how to make a “Love Draw Nation Sack” to make someone fall madly in love with you.

Bird presents us with a glimpse of a fascinating culture that has gone through unspeakable trials and horrors while still retaining many of its religious roots and ceremonies.

Anyone who enjoys experimenting with ancient organic beauty secrets like the facial cleanser Veggie Milk or Nefertiti’s Milk Bath soak — both of which are explained here — will find this book useful. It belongs on the bookshelf of everyone who enjoys exploring cultures.