Dorsey a Must-Read on African Diaspora Religions


I've long followed the writing of Lilith Dorsey, an initiate of Santeria, Vodoun and New Orleans Voodoo, and discovered her first through her Patheos blog Voodoo Universe. I like her approachable writing style and the spiritual experiences and insights she shares. Finally, I completed reading her book (2005) Voodoo and Afro-Caribbean Paganism. I'm not doing a typical review because there are plenty of those out there. I thought I'd just share some things that stood out to me as a Pagan and a Vodou initiate myself.


One thing I liked is that this book is written for a reader that's already Pagan but one who doesn't know much about traditions like Vodou, Santeria, Candomble and others. I think Dorsey gives a good overview of these various African Diaspora religions in one place, which makes it easier to see both the similarities and the differences. I think there's a tendency even within well-meaning Pagan circles to lump all of these traditions into the same box when the truth is that each one has its own unique qualities and expressions. And just because you may know something about one, like Santeria, doesn't mean you understand the others. Even if you're a practitioner like me--there is still so much I don't know about Vodou, for goddess' sake! The more I learn about Vodou, the more humbled I am, especially because these practices do not come from my birth culture (white America). Dorsey, however, grew up in these traditions and has lived them her whole life.


Dorsey gives a nice glossary of terms and brief explanations of basic spiritual concepts in a way that leaves you wanting to know more. The book helped expand my own understanding of the concept of ashe, which "operates like a universal life force energy." Ashe is a complex and beautiful concept, and one I'm trying to integrate more into my awareness. Overall, the book is not a how-to-practice manual but rather educational and informative for Pagan readers who are genuinely curious. Dorsey also includes plenty of resources, books and films for further learning. If you'd like to know more, I think Dorsey's book is an excellent starting point and definitely a resource worth having!

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