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Religious syncretism exhibits blending of two or more religious belief systems into a new system, or the incorporation into a religious tradition of beliefs from unrelated traditions. In the case of Haitian Vodou, Vodou blends two or more religious beliefs into one system, therefore it can be characterized has syncretism. Vodou is a syncretic system derived from deeply rooted African beliefs and colonial French Catholicism. As a reaction to being torn violently from their roots, the slaves tried to resume their cultural and religious traditions. Ancestral spirits were invoked and celebrated in secret, far from the master's eyes. The worship of saints and the Catholic sacraments served as a screen and a support for African beliefs. The creation of a coherent belief system was extremely important in the development of a feeling of unity among the slaves which would provide them with a sense of self and community. The process of syncretization among the African religions helps to explain why Vodou found it relatively easy to accept and integrate parts of Christian religious belief and practice into the local religious activity. Resistance to conversion was met with terrible violence, so Africans already saddled with the horror of being a slave would also suffer extra depreciations because they wished to celebrate their native religion. A solution fell into place though, and this solution was nearly identical all across the Americas. The Africans would pretend to convert to Catholicism, and secretly continue their religious traditions under the guise of Christian worship. Catholic symbols, like the Eucharist and the Saints, came to have double meanings. Initially this integration was purely functional, providing a cover of legitimacy for religions that were severely proscribed. Naturally, most Africans did not want to leave behind their old traditions. But after a few generations a real syncretism became part of the duality of beliefs of the slaves themselves, who...
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