Vodou refers to the religious traditions of Haiti—a blend of Fon, Yoruba and Kongo traditions of Africa with French Catholicism. While Haitians do use the term Vodou, they more often speak of “serving the spirits,” the lwa, who are honored on altars and in sanctuaries and who are encountered with immediacy in the experience of possession. The term derives from the Fon name for the divinities—vodun.
The African Yoruba-inspired tradition in Cuba came to be called La Regla Lucumi or Santería, the way of the “saints,” so named because of the correspondence established by worshippers between Yoruba orisha (in Spanish, oricha) and the saints of the Roman Catholic Church. Of late, the term Santería has fallen out of fashion. Ritual communication with the orisha for guidance, well-being, and healing is at the heart of the Lucumi tradition.
Danballah is an African deity associated with rain, the serpent, and fecundity. In the Americas, Haiti is his main home. He is also associated with the ancestors and ancestral knowledge. In Haitian Vodou syncretism, he came to be identified with St. Patrick.
Elegba or Legba is the guardian god of gates and doorways and is thus associated with communication between the Divine and human realms. Often propitiated at the outset of rituals. In Haiti, this important deity is often identified with St. Peter who is also the keeper of keys and guardian of the doorway. In Cuba, he is called Eleggua and is associated with roads and cross-roads, often identified with St. Anthony, the transmigrating soul, or the Child Jesus of Prague.
The Rastafarian tradition arose in the 1930s in Jamaica as an African-identified, anti-colonial religious movement that saw Haile Selassie, the ruler of Ethiopia, as a savior. They took his name—Ras Tafari or Prince of Tafari—as the name of this movement.
Kwanzaa is a seven-day African-American festival observed from December 26 to January 1. The festival was started by Maulana Karenga in 1966 and has taken hold as a popular African-American holiday. It celebrates family and community, includes songs and gift-giving, and features the lighting of a seven branched candelabrum, with a candle for each day and each of seven principles: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith.
Afro-Caribbean religions include a wide range of religious traditions that have roots in Africa, came to the islands of the Caribbean with African captives, and developed distinctive forms in this new environment: Santería or the Lucumi tradition in Cuba, Shango in Trinidad, Obeah and Myalism in Jamaica, and Vodou in Haiti.