Cultural Competency and Haitian Immigrants


Spirituality ... page 2: Voodoo

Purnell's Model

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Family roles & organization
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Workforce issues

Biocultural ecology

High-risk behaviors

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Death rituals

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Health care practices
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Health care practitioners




  • In Voodoo, there is a belief in one central God called Bondye or Bon Dieu. This God is similar to the God of Judaism, Christianity, or Islam.4, 21, 25, 26, 60   

  • Under this god there are three categories of spirits: the loa, the twins and the dead.

  • The loa or lwa are spirits of family members and the spirits of all major forces.21, 25, 26, 32, 60 

    • These forces include reproduction, health, good and evil.32, 60

    •  Any person or being who has an image of power could ultimately become a loa.26 

    • It is theloa that interact with people. People ask the loa for protection or luck. It is they who can cause good and bad things to happen.4, 21, 32, 60

    • During religious ceremonies loas may possess people and send messages through them.4, 60

    • The loas are paid by gifts during religious ceremonies. The gifts can include food, drink, or other gifts.21 Each loa has its own function and ability to control the forces of nature.4

    • Each family has a loa who serves as the family's spiritual protector. This loa is viewed as responsible for protecting the family against the evil of other spirits. In return the family has a ceremonial feast every year to honor their loa. The loa are thought to need the respect of the living to elevate their status in the spirit world.  Illness may occur as a result of not respecting your loa appropriately.31, 32 

    • Catholic Haitians often associate loas with Saints. For example Dumballah the snake loa is represented by St. Patrick and Erzulie the earth mother is represented by the Virgin Mary.4, 25, 26, 60

  • The twins

    • The twins are believed to be descendents of the one God.60  

    • They represent the dichotomy of good vs. evil male vs. female, etc.26, 60 

    • Haitians believe that if the twins are occasionally remembered in religious ceremonies, they will help improve your life.60

  • The dead

    • These are mostly the souls of family members.26, 60 

    • They are still considered part of the family and are helpful.26, 60

    • Ignored dead are thought to be dangerous.60




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