As soon as we hear of Haiti we think of voodoo and we also think of disaster. It's not just the recent massive quake. That will stand out in all of its history, of course -- with a staggering loss, and collapse even of the national palace (please pray). But it is not alone. Haiti is constantly a victim, a nation with some of the very poorest of the poor, unable to provide for itself, with residents often resorting to feeding their malnourished children mud. We have long donated to their food program. It is also disaster-prone. Consider that in 2008, four separate tropical storms or hurricanes -- Gustav, Fay, Hanna, and Ike -- hit in the space of thirty days, killing 8,000 and destroying sixty percent of the nation's harvest; entire cities were rendered desolate. Meanwhile, in 2004, it was Tropical Storm Jeane (2,500 dead); in 1998, Hurricane George (eighty percent of the crops); in 1994, Hurricane Gordon (1,000 killed) and so forth.
Haiti is not very blessed, and occult practices as well as corruption do not help. While Catholicism is supposed to be the national religion, the official religion -- as even sanctioned by then president Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 2003 -- is voodoo, which means spirits. While seventy percent of Haitians are Catholic, and thirty percent are Protestant, goes the saying, a hundred percent are voodooists, whereby spirits of deceased family members are contacted and revered and even allowed to enter the body during dancing trances.
They are called loua, and there are two general types: rada, which are "sweet" spirits, and petro, which are bitter.
The problem of course is that a bitter ghost or any spirit can be a deceptive one, a demon, in disguise, and the problem is also that the Church condemns necromancy (initiating contact with the dead through mediumship, fortunetelling, or sorcery, the essence of voodoo).
Meanwhile, many voodooists go beyond ancestor worship into spells, pagan nature rituals, and black magic, as even was believed to have been employed by former president François ("Papa Doc") Duvalier to keep power. Notes a travelogue: "Beliefs include zombies and witchcraft. Zombies are either spirits or people whose souls have been partially withdrawn from their bodies. Some Haitians resort to bokŭ, who are specialists in sorcery and magic." Notes National Geographic in a depiction: "One woman falls to the ground, convulsing for a moment before she is helped back to her feet. She resumes the dance, moving differently now, and continues dancing for hours. It is perhaps no longer she who is dancing: She is in a trance, apparently possessed by Erzuli, the great mother spirit."
Is it any wonder then that Haiti is disaster and poverty-prone? We have seen what has occurred in other voodoo hotspots such as New Orleans. Our prayers are with these people who need to rediscover their Catholic roots and also with the archbishop, who reportedly was killed in the disaster.
There is a presence of the Blessed Mother, but it is minimal. She is said to have appeared in Port-a-Prince in 1987. We are wondering what her message was, and whether it contained a warning.