BOSTON – Two separate crimes against children in the last few days, a haunting parable: the authorities have pointed out that Voodoo rituals as a possible motive.
But the practitioners of Haitian Vodou, which supporters of the games otherwise to distinguish it from other variants, to say that the religion does not sanction violence and the fear of the crimes spark a backlash against their community.
“We are attacked,” said Maude Evans, a Haitian native and Vodou priestess in Boston Mattapan neighborhood. “I’m really afraid that this is how it’s going to be from now on. They will do things and blame it on Vodou.”
Two sisters in East Bridgewater were arrested late last month after they tied up and burned a 5-year-old girl, permanently disfiguring her, in a voodoo ritual” meant to get rid of her, a demon, the authorities say. Peggy LaBossiere, who was arrested with her sister, Rachel Hilaire, also is accused of threatening to cut off the head of the girl from the 8-year-old brother with a machete.
About a week later in nearby Brockton, the officials said, a mother put her two children in what she described as a ritual of “voodoo things,” according to the court documents. Days later, at a vigil that drew hundreds of mourners to the crime scene, a local Christian bishop denounced the practice of Voodoo, to the cheers of the crowd.
Voodoo refers to religious practices developed by Caribbean slaves who took spiritual traditions of their native Africa and merged with the elements of Christianity and other religions. Adherents generally believe everything is infused with a spirit, and that the prayers and other devotional acts will help to provide them good health and protection.
But there has been a movement in recent years in Haiti to refer to the practices as Vodou, which means “spirit” or “god,” to set it apart from the AMERICAN Deep South variants are more associated with the occult objects such as Voodoo dolls and talismans.
The negative image of Voodoo in the American culture goes back at least to the Hollywood films of the 1920’s and 1930’s, said Patrick Bellegarde-Smith, a retired professor of African Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. In “White Zombie,” in 1932, a film that is often credited as the first feature-length zombie flick, Bela Lugosi plays an evil Haitian voodoo master who commanded an army of zombies.
Lunine Pierre-Jerome, Randolph, Massachusetts, resident, who was raised in a Haitian Vodou household and still in private practice, is firmly convinced that what is described as “voodoo” in these cases is not a reflection of her culture.
“Some see us as the worship of the devil or evil spirits, but that is far from what it is,” Pierre-Jerome, who teaches at the Cambridge university in Boston and was a longtime administrator in the Boston public school system.
Evans agreed: “We don’t hurt children. It’s about healing.”
The mother of the woman accused of killing her sons had to be delivered to the police about her daughter and her mental health and said her daughter had an obsession recently with a range of conspiracy theories, rituals and mythology, The Brockton Enterprise reported . It is not clear whether the woman is a follower of Haitian Vodou, and her lawyer did not respond to an e-mail is sent on Friday.
The women are accused of burning the child blew the fire into her face and cut her on the arm and in the collar area with a needle-like object, police said. LaBossiere and Hilaire, who is of Haitian origin, said that they were carried out “cleansing baths” on the children, but denied threatening or harming The Company reported . The police said the girl’s mother asked the ritual.
The women have pleaded not guilty to murder, assault and other charges and are being held without bail. A lawyer for LaBossiere declined to comment, and an attorney for Hilaire did not respond to a text message on Friday.
A spokeswoman for the Plymouth prosecutor, which is the treatment of both cases, declined to comment.
“Cleansing baths” that someone from a kind of spiritual power are common in the various forms of the religion, said Jeffrey Anderson, professor of history at the University of Louisiana-Monroe who has studied Louisiana Voodoo and Haitian Vodou. But Anderson said he is not aware of any ritual involving the deliberate burning of a child in the face and speculated that the woman may have hurt the girl by accident.
Animal sacrifices are also in Vodou, but “only the devil can destroy the lives of people,” Pierre-Jerome said.
Elizabeth McAlister, a professor of religion at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, who specializes in Haitian Vodou and other Afro-Caribbean religions, also questioned the link between Vodou and the two cases.
“Vodou never sanctions stitches or any form of child abuse,” she said. “It seems nonsensical.”
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