Saturday, October 17, 2015

Haitian Voodoo Rites

Voodoo is one of the most misunderstood religions. Rituals involving animal sacrifices and its associations with skeletons and possession have given it a sinister reputation.  But New York photographer Les Stone sees it as a fascinating practice. He has been photographing Voodoo followers in Haiti for 25 years and produced incredibly powerful images from over 200 visits.He describes voodoo as 'a huge package of physical sensory overload' and his pictures  - of bulls and goats being bled to death, followers bathing in mud pools and blood-soaked dresses - capture the intoxicating energy of the ceremonies he attended. 

These men, photographed in a commune called Jacmel in southern Haiti, are portraying chaloskas, described by Stone as 'characters in military garb with a protruding mouth and claw-like teeth'. This figure is based on a military officer, Charles Oscar Etienne, who terrorised Jacmel around 1900

The blood of a slaughtered goat has stained the bandanna and clothing of a dancer at the Souvenance carnival of Haitian Voodoo

A worshipper carries a sword in Souvenance during an Easter ceremony where Voodoo rites inherited from their ancestors are celebrated

The Houngan stares into the camera as he licks the blood of a sacrificed animal from his fingers in St Yves

On a street in Port au Prince, during the Day of the Dead a man walks among the crowds with a skull on his head

A woman dressed in blue holds a carton of water in her hand as she lights candles on a cross as a symbol of respect to the spirits

At Plain Du Nord, a Voodoo society holds swords and liquor as they prepare to dance to celebrate and welcome spirits

Goat's blood runs down a woman's face after a sacrifice

A woman holds a candle while in a trance in Plaine Du Nord, Haiti

In St Yves, a Veve (a religious symbol commonly used in Voodoo) is created with flour on the ground preceding a ceremony

In the Plain Du Nord a woman smokes a cigar during the Voodoo ceremony which takes place in and out of the sacred 'mud pool'

A sacrificed goat lies beside a sacred mud pool in Plaine Du Nord as a man stares up at crowds gathered as part of the ceremony

A woman covered in the blood of sacrificed animals is pictured in the throes of her possession by the spirits at a ceremony in Sucre

This scene was found by photographer Les Stone in the central cemetery of Port Au Prince during Ghede - the day of the dead

A man sits clutching bones at the Port au Prince cemetery during Ghede, the day of the dead celebrations in Haiti

Symbols of respect for spirits are strapped to tombstones by Haitian people during the Voodoo ceremonies every year

All photos credit: Les Stone

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