The Difference Between Hoodoo And Voodoo

“I’m a Voodoo Child, Voodoo Child, / Lord knows I am a Voodoo Child.” —Jimi Hendrix, “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)”

In A Nutshell

Pop culture continually intermixes many African Diasporic traditions and portrays them exclusively as Voodoo. However, most of what is portrayed in books, movies, and television is actually hoodoo. Voodoo is a religion that has two markedly different branches: Haitian Vodou and Louisiana Vodoun. Hoodoo is neither a religion, nor a denomination of a religion—it is a form of folk magic that originated in West Africa and is mainly practiced today in the Southern United States.

The Whole Bushel

Hoodoo, known as “Ggbo” in West Africa, is African-American folk magic. It consists mainly of African folkloric practices and beliefs with a significant blend of American Indian botanical knowledge and European folklore. It is in no way linked to any particular form of theology, and it can be adapted into numerous forms of outward religious worship. Although it is not a religion, there are elements of African and European religions at the core of hoodoo beliefs. Teachings and rituals are passed down from one practitioner to another—there are no designated priests or priestesses and there are no divisions between initiates and laity. Rituals vary depending on the individual performing them; there is no strict approach that one must adhere to. Today, hoodoo is mainly practiced in the Southern United States, and most people who practice hoodoo are Protestant Christians.

Hoodoo tradition emphasizes personal magical power invoked by the use of certain tools, spells, formulas, methods, and techniques. It ascribes magical properties to herbs, roots, minerals, animal parts, and personal possessions. Some spells even make use of bodily effluvia and detritus (menstrual blood, semen, urine, spit, tears, nail clippings, hair…you get the picture). Hoodoo spells are typically carried out with accompanying Biblical text, usually from The Book of Psalms, but they are generally not performed in Jesus’s name. The intention behind hoodoo practice is to allow people to harness supernatural forces in order to improve their daily lives.

The word “voodoo” comes from an African word meaning “spirit” or “God.” Vodou is an African Diasporic religion that comprises traditional African religious practices of numerous tribes—some of those tribes were rivals forced to unite for survival under the conditions of slavery. The tribes combined practices and thus created regleman (ritual order) to honor each tribe’s spirits. Their practices were also influenced through syncretism with French Catholicism; this is evidenced in the use of Catholic saint images to represent the Lwa (spirits) honored in Vodou.

Vodou is an established and structured Haitian religion that is a significant part of the Haitian culture. Followers of the religion believe in a god called “Bondye.” He is understood to be an omnipotent and distant god who does not directly intercede in the lives of humans. Practitioners worship him indirectly by venerating the spirits that assist him. Vodou has an initiated priesthood, but initiation is not required to join the religion (in fact, most people are not initiated). The main liturgical language of Vodou is Creole, the local dialect of Haitian French.

Vodoun (Louisiana Voodoo) is also distinctly different from Vodou (Haitian Voodoo). Vodoun is a fusion of religious and magical practices found today in the Southern United States. This combination of practices is derived from African traditions, namely West African Dahomeyan Vodun, and was brought over during the African slave trade. Vodoun has a correlation with Spiritualism and shares many magical practices with hoodoo. It encompasses various Lwa (spirits of Vodou), a considerable presence of the Catholic saints, and bits of Southern folk magic (including gris-gris, wanga, and mojo bags). Vodoun lacks the regleman (ritual order) that Vodou has. The primary liturgical language is English mixed with some French Creole.

Show Me The Proof

Common Misconceptions About Vodoun
Hoodoo, Conjure, And Rootwork: African American Folk Magic
Santeria Church: What is the difference between Voodoo, Hoodoo and Santeria

  • ethan


  • NakeshaWestrick

    what does it main difference between hoodoo and voodoo?

    • Hillyard

      Do you mean ‘what is the main difference between hoodoo and voodoo’?

  • Hillyard

    This is something I’ve never given much thought to, mainly due to the fact that I really don’t care. Having said that a bit of new knowledge is never a bad thing. Unless your a bad person that just learned how to create a chicken heart to eat NYC.

    • lbatfish

      But even creating giant chicken hearts isn’t as bad as putting mashed potatoes in the bottom of your sleepers and telling your mom that it’s a dead rat.

      • Hillyard

        My mom would have ended my existence.

  • Hadeskabir

    If you want to watch a good movie about Hoodoo watch “The Skeleton Key”, it’s a very good movie.

    • g.g.palin

      The skleleton key is alright but what about the Serphant and the Rainbow. However, I’m not sure if they focus on is hoodoo or voodoo.

      • Hadeskabir

        The “Serphant and the Rainbow” is about Haitian Voodoo. I haven’t watched that movie in years! I miss the time when Wes Craven made good movies.

    • Michelle

      I’m watching it now! It’s one of my favourites. I just had to explain to my friend the difference between the two. One of my dearest friends is a Voodoo Priestess. She is one of the most kind, sweet, and caring souls I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. As angry as I became at an ex she refused tip cross that line and she herself taught me the difference between Hoodoo and Voodoo. She also taught me some of the best herbal remedies for just about every ailment you could think of along with survival skills and above all the same values my own religion taught me and she was the image of humility, love, hope, faith, and to treat everyone I meet as if they were as close as kin.

    • Santana

      Excellent movie!

  • Scott

    All I know is that when the Hoodoo Trance takes Howard Moon he’s like a musical god

  • jake

    Wanna learn about that stuff watch the show supernatural it has a lot of terms that are explained in all kinds of folklore

  • Corinne Geller

    Watch THE DEAD FILES on the Travel Channel (number 88 in NYC) on Saturday night at 10 PM.. An empath medium named Amy Allen visits people’s homes who are experiencing serious paranormal events. She is a self-described “death medium” . She communicates with and sees the dead, as well as other types of entities. It completely will make a believer out of you. This is no happy, laughing, neurotic “Long Island medium”. Amy shows the dark side. It’s real and terrifying. Unbelievably compelling. We have NO idea what’s in store for us. I have come to believe life is brief and death is conscious and endless. Pray you go into the light and Don’t get hijacked on the way by some demon or negative entity. Really.

    • valarie

      U read my mind! Faithfully watch that show! We are made up of energy that never dies! Unfortunately I have had first hand unwanted supernatural experience that I never hope to relive. It changes u forever” I know there is some form of existence after death! Beware of things u dabble in this life. You might have consequences to face on the next plain!! Trust me! If the supernatural ever touches u, their is no going back!! Blessed be!!!

  • Boniface Wolfsong

    You are discussing Voodoo and Hoodoo, and you illustrate your article with a woman decorated for “Día de los Muertos,” which has nothing to do with either of those religions. El Día de los Muertos is a Meso-American tradition. Please, if you are trying to clear things up, then use a proper image to illustrate your article.

    • Couldn’t agree more! I posted this to my professional page and 2 people pointed it out right away. I almost didn’t share it because that bothers me to much.

    • Gaby Merman

      My first thought as well !

  • rosie1843

    oodoo is a religion that has two markedly different branches: Haitian Vodou and Louisiana Vodoun.

    Why do you assume that Vodou/Vodoun is only practiced in either Louisiana or Haiti? Why do people always ignore the West Africa countries when discussing Vodou/Vodoun?

  • Deryn Harris

    And the header image has hardly anything to do with either of them…

  • Macumba Willows

    Vodoun is the African religion. The Southern practice (not establish religion) is Voodoo (New Orleans and all that) and Hatian Religion is Vodou. Vodun or Vodoun is the african deity worshiped in that ATR called also Vodoun. The same with Orisha, you have Esin Ibile Orisa which means Tradidional culto of Orisha in africa, in North America and in the caribean you have Santeria, in South America you have Candomblé, but both worship Orishas.
    Voodoo is a magico-spiritual practice, Vodou is a religion and Vodoun is the ATR or African Traditional Cult of the Dahomeyian, actual Benin and around.
    Hoodoo is folk magic, not ATR nor ADR because is not religion nor cult, it’s “a magic system”, spellwork or whatever. Folk Magic or Spellwork fits perfect

  • Alma Mercer

    very good article thanks