The Journal of Negro History/Volume 7/Number 2/Holly's Les Daïmons du Culte Voudo

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4179212The Journal of Negro History Volume 7, Number 2 — Holly's Les Daïmons du Culte Voudo1922Robert Ezra Park

Les Daïmons du Culte Voudo. By Dr. Arthur Holly, Port-au-Prince, Haiti, 1919. Pp. lx-523.

The author of this unique volume declares himself "boldly, but without vanity, or false modesty" an esoterist, that is to say, one who is an adept at the interpretation of the occult and secret doctrines. This book, an exposition of the secret doctrine, is not, therefore, as its title might suggest, a scientific treatise upon the Voudo cult as it has existed and as it still exists in Haiti. It is rather an interpretation and defense of the primitive religion of Africa, particularly as it is represented in the religious customs and practices of the common people in Haiti today.

The sentiments which have inspired this undertaking are altogether admirable. "Haitiens," he says, "have reached a point in their efforts to conform to an alien culture where they are in danger of losing their personality as a people as well as their native culture." But now if ever is the moment, after the great cataclysm in Europe, to lift the ancestral cult from the dust and make it worthy of Haiti, of the African race.

"We are," he continues, "African-Latins. But our Latin culture is all on the surface. The old African heritage persists in us and controls us to such an extent that under certain circumstances we feel ourselves moved by mysterious forces when the silence of the night, throbs with the irregular rhythm, melancholly, passionate and magical, of the sacred dances of Voudo."

Dr. Arthur Holly is evidently learning, but he draws his knowledge from sources that are esoteric and therefore inaccessible to all except the adepts. What he has written is, therefore, neither science nor history. It has the character rather of revelation. It is impressive, but not intelligible to the uninitiated.

From his introduction, however, one gathers that he intends to show that Christianity and Voudoism are from a common source, that "the Bible," as he says, "belongs to us," i.e., the black people, but that this earlier and more primitive form of religion which is revealed in it has been corrupted by the white race.

It is an interesting idea, but more interesting is the evidence that it offers of the rise, among the Negro people of Haiti, of a racial consciousness which embraces in one conscious unity the Negro peoples of Africa and America. It is another spontaneous manifestation of that unrest of the black man which has found expression in pan-Africanism and in the movement in this country headed by Marcus Garvey, whose program is Africa for the Africans.

Robert E. Park

University of Chicago