Religious systems are inseparable from society for the most part. As a rule, these systems are created and supported to function for the same cause of making the society more integrated. The Vodun religious practice is driven by the principles of “fluctuation, transformation and open-mindedness” (Rush 60), as reputable sources explain. Thus, the concept of the unity of all elements of the universe, including those that are seemingly incompatible, such as human society and nature, is introduced in the Vodun religion. Speaking of the practical application of the Vodun postulates, the aforementioned transformation principle must be considered as the key to understanding this religious practice. With the help of the Vodun practice, one can be reunited with nature and reconcile with one’s being a part of the grand universe.
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The Minkisi practice, on the contrary, disregards the idea of unity through transformation, its adepts preferring to focus on the natural variety. In addition, it is quite peculiar that the Vodun practice does not presuppose splitting the universe into black and white, for the lack of a better expression – quite on the opposite, the Vodun practice transcends the principles of good and evil, leaving the dilemma of the duality of human nature to be solved instead. The Minkisi practice, in its turn, is obviously aimed at introducing the community to a range of moral values, shoveling the problems of the search for one’s self, as well as the reconciliation of people and nature, aside. As Volavkova explains, the polytheistic nature of the Minkisi practice mixed with the concept of duality, i.e., the existence of the good and the evil deities, shines through in the artworks devoted to the Minkisi culture and different attributes of the Minkisi practice, especially in the fetish figures: “Fetish figures are generally divided according to the character of their effect into two principal groups: the malevolent and the benevolent” (Volavkova 52). The given peculiarity, which pertains to the Minkisi religious practice yet is weirdly absent from one of the Vodun religious traditions, can be considered the key to understanding the differences between the two.
Indeed, while the Vodun practice is pretty much what one would expect a pagan religion to be, with the reconciliation between a man and nature, as well as the redefinition of a man’s place in the “circle of life,” the Minkisi practice comes miraculously close to the concept of the Christian faith, with its unceasing battle between the good and the evil. Considering the two fully relate to each other, however, would be quote a stretch. There are countless numbers religions that draw the line between good and evil; more to the point, most religions have the exact personalities or concepts that represent the good and the bad, i.e., the deities associated with purity and the ones that are usually related to vice.
In addition, the differences between the Minkisi religious practices and those of the Vodun religion often concern the redefinition of a person’s place in the religious hierarchy. While in the Minkisi practice, people are traditionally believed to be inferior to the almighty gods, both the good and the evil ones, in the Vodun practice, the “assimilation of peoples and spirits” (Rush 62) is possible. While in the Minkisi religion, the idea of combining the humane and the deistic is completely impossible, the Vodun religious practice allows for making the link between people and the superior creatures stronger.
Rush, Dana. “Ephemerality and the ‘Unfinished’ in Vodun Aesthetics.” African Arts 43.3 (2010), 60–75.
Volavkova, Zdenka. “Nkisi Figures of the Lower Congo.” African Arts 5.2 (1972), 52–50.