History: While its origins lie among the religions of West African tribes, Vodou was forged in the crucible of the slave trade. Captured slaves were delivered to the United States by the hundreds of thousands, and also to French and Spanish plantation islands in the West Indies. African tribes - who in their homelands warred against each other, spoke different languages, and worshipped different deities - were united by the common bond of servitude. A kind of "pot-luck" religion developed, devoted to giving each tribes' deity their proper respect. Also thrown into the mix was Catholic symbolism, due to slave owners attempts to baptize and convert their slaves to Christianity. Thus was born Vodou.
Vodou came to the United Sates before 1803, when New Orleans was still a French holding. While the French Creole owned many African Slaves, the growth of Vodou in the 'States was curtailed by extensive legislation. Slaves were not allowed to gather, and the importation of slaves from the West Indies was banned, due to the epidemic of Vodou there. But following the Louisiana Purchase, such restrictions were relaxed considerably.
In 1794 on the French plantation island of Santo Domingo (now known as Haiti), a massive slave revolt erupted, due in part to the influence of Vodou. Following the revolt, large numbers of freed and escaped Haitian slaves poured into the United States. Vodou flourished in New Orleans, especially along the shores of Lake Ponti---. By 1817, the old Creole families were so frightened that ordinances were passed forbidding slave gatherings, except in designated areas at designated times. Vodou continued to flourish in secret, however.
By 1830, a Vodou "Queen" (Mambo) known as the Widow Paris united the city's varied secret Vodou sects. More widely known as Marie Laveau, Paris was a hairdresser for elderly Creole ladies who used her position to gather information. Not above bribing servants to spy for her, Marie Laveau used the information for blackmail, and to appear clairvoyant. Following Laveau's death in 1881, she was replaced by her daughter Marie Glapion, who ruled for almost another 10 years. The transition was so seamless, many believed she was the original Marie Laveau, using her powers to extend her lifespan. During her reign, Marie Laveau created thousands of new spells and rituals, and introduced snake-handling into Vodou ritual.
Powers: Powers granted to vodouisants (practitioners of Vodou) primarily come from two sources; Gris Gris, and the Loas.
Gris Gris: Also known as hoodoo, gris gris is all the foci-based minor magical powers attributed to vodou "witch-doctors." It operates on the principle of sympathetic magic: what is done to part of a person affects all of that person. Spells range from good-luck charms to protective talismans, from love potions to the so-called voodoo doll. They rarely take much effort to create - only the proper materials and expertise. While their effects may not be as spectacular as other magicks in the world of SMZ, there is a gris gris for practically any situation. A typical Houngan or Mambo's gris gris is best represented by a small Variable Power Pool which operates very much like a Gadget Pool, requires a Gris Gris skill roll to change. Some typical gris gris include;
"Take a lodestone and some brimstone to a crossroads at midnight. Light the brimstone with a match, and a spirit will appear and give you advice in gambling." [Gambling 16-, 1 charge (-2). cost:4]
"Place a dime under your client's tongue: If the client is under a spell, the dime will turn black." [Detect magic, OAF dime (-1), 1 charge (-2). cost:1]
"To send someone away, take a rotten egg and write that person's name on it nine times. You can also write where you want that person to go. Take it and throw it against their door at midnight." [8d6 Mind Control, one command: "Go to X" (-1/2), IAF egg (-1/2), 1 charge (-2), Indirect (+1/4), Command is Telepathic (+1/4). cost:15]
"To kill someone, get a sock or shoe that belongs to that person. Put graveyard dirt in it and bury it under their front steps." [1/2d6 RKA, 1 continuous charge of 1 month (+1/2), Uncontrolled (+1/2), Indirect (+1/4), Invisible Power Effects (+1), IAF shoe (-1/2). cost:22]
"To ensure the safety of your child, cut a lock of its hair while it is still a baby and keep it with you. The child must have all it's hair before it can die." [Regeneration 1 Body/Turn, Only up to 0 Body (-1/2), Uncontrolled (+1/2), Independent (-2), Usable by Others (+1/4), Target must be a baby at time of activation (-2), One continuing charge of 1 century (+2), IIF: Lock of Hair (-1/4). cost:7]
The Loas: The bulk of a Houngan or Mambo's mystical might comes from making themselves a medium for possession by the Loas (or lwas). While possessed, a serviteur (one who serves the loas by making themselves open to possession) has no control of their own actions - they retain no memories of their time during possession. The loa is totally in control. And while the loa does not have access to the memories and skills of their host, they have at their disposal their own considerable skills and powers. A vodou priest's ability to call upon any of the varying loas can be modeled by a Variable Power Pool with the following advantages and limitations; Can change powers as a 0 Phase action (+1), Gestures (-1/4), Incantations (-1/4), Limited Special Effect [multiforms] (-1/2), Possession takes full Phase (-1/2), Damage transfers between Forms (-1/4). Each loa is represented by a Multiform, and each of the character's loa should definitely be created in advance.
Damballah Oueddo: "Damballah Oueddo, Ou coulevre moins!
Damballah, our great serpent god, come and aid your people!"
Ogoun Badagris: "Ogoun Badagris, vini 'gider nous!
Ogoun Badagris! Vengeance is taken, power recalled!
Blood for blood, as your thirsty jaws demand!"
Duppies: Some loas are individualistic and unique, served by only one Mambo or Houngan and considered almost like that priest's "personal property." They do not fit easily within the normal Vodou liturgy, and are commonly referred to as "wild spirits" called djab or "duppies." Like other loas, they can possess people, and they each have their own unique identities and powers. Unlike loas, however, they are tied to the material world - very similar to poltergeists. Duppies can be found almost anywhere - they usually make their homes in unique places (such as a crossroads) or landmarks (such as a cave, tree, rock, etc.) or even the bodies of animals.
The function of these djab is magical as opposed to religious. A djab is most frequently invoked to take aggressive action against an enemy or business competitor. A djab requires payment from the client for it's services, usually in the form of animal sacrifice on a regularly scheduled basis. During the Haitian revolution djabs were very important, and were believed to confer immunity to the bullets fired by the white French enslavers. The congregation of a Houngan or Mambo who serves a djab is usually protected from possible acts of random aggression by the djab; generally by a 'garde', a magical shield effected by rubbing specially prepared dried herbs into shallow cuts ceremonially made in the individual's skin.
Each djab should be a unique creation, constructed in the same manner as a loa (Multiform). The houngan or mambo should also be given a small EC representing the djab's poltergeist-like abilities. Powers such as Telekinesis, Clairsentience, and resistant defenses can be included. Because of the djab's especially capricious nature, this EC should have the limitation Limited Power: Must petition Loa (which may be replaced with Activation to speed up gameplay).
Appendix 1: How to spell Vodou
It is generally accepted that the word 'vodou' is from the Fon language of Dahomey (now the Republic of Benin); and indicates divine energy, Godhead, spiritual power. It is closer to what Americans understand in the phrase, "May the Force be with you", than it is to "God the Father".
The Haitian pronunciation of Vodou is "Vo" as in "toe", and "dou" as in "you", with the accent on the second syllable - Vo-DOU. A person in Haiti who is a member of this religion is called a "Vodouisant", but that is really a French-originated suffix. The average Haitian does not say, "I am a Vodouisant", but rather, "I serve the lwa" or "I serve Guinea."
Spellings like Vodoun, Voudun, Vodun, and so forth, confuse people - in French orthography, a final 'n' is frequently silent. "Vodou" is the generally accepted spelling in Haiti - "Voodoo" is generally thought of as an American-ization.
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