This is a form of magic in either Caribbean or New Orleanian flavors. Many practitioners call themselves priests or priestesses, and they almost always do have magical powers, regardless of whether or not the supernatural exists or is even mentioned elsewhere inThe Versenote Ironically, Voodoo is more likely to be a hoax in explicitly supernatural settings. Sympathetic Voodoo Dolls (ie, what you do to them appears on the person they represent) are a classical trick, as is making zombies. Other practitioners simply use tarot cards or other divination tools and they always work, even if they have to rewrite reality to do it. Shrunken Heads may also be present.
What you don't see in the depiction of Hollywood Voodoo is anything resembling actual religious practice. The Christian elements of Voodoo are almost never shown, and the animistic elements are heavily stereotyped. The only deity ever mentioned is the death god Baron Samedi, and since Everybody Hates Hades, he's most often in an antagonist role of some sort. If he himself doesn't appear, male practitioners will dress like him by donning the famous tattered tuxedo, top hat, and skull makeup. Even if he's not a villain, it still leads to the mistaken idea that Vodou is centered around death and necromancy.
Real Life Vodou is a religion like any other; what Hollywood has is The Theme Park Version of hoodoo, the underlying folk magic system thereof. For more information, see Voudoun.
Not to be confused with Voodoo Shark, which is an explanation for a Plot Hole that raises more questions than the hole itself. There's plenty of overlap though, especially if—as mentioned earlier—the setting otherwise lacks any kind of magic.
DC Comics has the more modern character Empress, of Young Justice, who directly addresses the misconceptions about the vodoun she learned from her grandmother.
In Preacher, Jesse Custer seeks help from a Voodoo practitioner to get information out of his subconscious. While the ceremony is beginning, he comments on this trope, saying he thought the priest would be more like the James Bond example below. Immediately after he starts hallucinating and sees the priest as that character.
Averted in an issue of The Invisibles. Grant Morrison is well known for research on all his works, and he depicts a fairly realistic voodoo ritual, complete with fetish, idols, blood, candles and more of the stuff. Baron Samedi is shown and named, but he's just one of a lot of loa that the comic depicts.
In Hellblazer, Papa Midnite is a voodoo practicioner, and has a couple of zombie servants. However, it shows him perforiming some nice representations of rituals, averting the trope.
The James Bond film Live and Let Die. Magic and Voodoo are central to the plot, in a film series where nothing else supernatural is even remotely mentioned. Most of it is faked and only used to keep the locals in line, but then you have Solitaire, who has a genuine Virgin Power-based precognition, and Baron Samedi, who's implied to be more than an Enigmatic Minion who moonlights as a performer.
Pedro Cerrano in Major League, as a relatively minor example. "Jobu" and the specific rituals shown in the film are fictional in Hollywood Voodoo style, but the film depicts voodoo as a religion, shows "voodoo magic" as a form of prayer, and has an accurate mention of Jesus being revered as part of Voodoo theology.
The Skeleton Key, though they get bonus points for distinguishing between voodoo and hoodoo magic. A fairly creepy movie still, considering the occult subtext is not even revealed until halfway through the move. And no zombies or fortune-telling, the villains are centuries-old hoodoo practitioners who use precise rituals to jump bodies (making them essentially immortal) and leave their victims trapped as senile catatonics in their old bodies.
Voodoo makes another appearance in On Stranger Tides, used by Blackbeard.
A central theme in Eve's Bayou. To the movie's credit, Hoodoo is pretty accurately portrayed (except for it being referred to as "Voodoo," though this might have been to avoid confusing audiences). In fact, the difference between Hollywood Voodoo and real hoodoo is Lampshaded; Mozelle sarcastically mentions "sticking pins into a doll" before saying that you can't kill someone with Voodoo, and she is Christian as many hoodoo rootworkers are. Elzora's method of killing Eve's father is more accurate to hoodoo. It's worth mentioning that Mozelle herself never refers to her own practices as Voodoo, this is mainly Eve's assumption.
Angel Heart. Although it was difficult to tell where the voodoo ended and the Satanism began.
Parodied in the Discworld novel Witches Abroad. Discworld's magic has a tendency to make beliefs real, and enough people believing strongly enough can do just about anything. The voodoo works because the voodoo witch, Mrs. Gogol, believes it will... and then she makes the mistake of trying it on Granny Weatherwax, who knows all about belief and magic. She makes the spell backfire ... literally. Unlike most Hollywood Voodoo examples, "Baron Saturday" is characterized as dangerous, but not evil.
The Doctor Who New Adventures novel White Darkness by David McIntee uses spelling as a distinguishing feature: American soldiers who don't know what they're talking about refer to "voodoo" and "zombies", native Haitans and the Doctor talk of "vodoun" and "zombi". Mind you, despite McIntee Showing His Work there's still an evil voudon priest who actually worships the Great Old Ones...
The Eighth Doctor Adventures novel The City of the Dead is set in New Orleans, and as the story deals heavily with magic and the occult, mentions of Voodoo practices are mentioned (and are on display in a few scenes). And unlike most Doctor Who stories, there is no scientific explanation for the sorcery on display, the magic is real and the Doctor at one point befriends a real magical being in a naiad.
Older Than Radio, despite the trope name: In 1884, English diplomat Spencer St. John published Hayti; or The Black Republic, a highly negative and sensationalistic tome based loosely on his experiences in Haiti. According to St. John, Voodoo (or Vaudoux as he spells it) consists of sexual debauchery, black magic, raising the dead, ritualistic cannabalism, and blood sacrifice (both animal and human).
In William Gibson's Count Zero there are entities in the matrix that appear to be loa, Legba appears most often but Baron Samedi as well, even riding certain deckers as "horses". They're actually AIs, fragments of Neuromancer and Wintermute.
Beauvoir and his crew are Voudon believers, but nothing much is ever made of it. They explain their beliefs (which are in line with actual Voudon) when asked, but are otherwise quietly religious like prettty much anyone.
The Larry Niven and Barnes collaboration The California Voodoo Game isn't about voodoo (much). One suspects the title was chosen because more people have heard of "voodoo" than what it's actually about, or (for an in-universe reason) the game was given that title as a red herring to keep people who boned up on vodou and Hollywood Voodoo from gaining an "edge" due to out-of-character knowledge.
An episode set in New Orleans (after Hurricane Katrina) centered around the machinations of an evil voodoo priest. Brennan and Booth also recruited a houngan ("good" priest) to help them catch the villain. However, all the murders in the episode were accomplished by quite ordinary means. They do a quite good job of leaving the belief and ambiguity there. Did Bones have issues remembering what happened because of the Voodoo spell, or the blow to the head?
Another interesting aspect comes from Booth and Bones discussing Voodoo. While Booth, a practicing Christian, frequently insults Voodoo, Bones calls him out on the fact that he's being a Jerkass because of all the Hijacked by JesusHollywood Voodoo in media.
Indeed, when the topic of bringing people back from the dead come up, which Booth discusses as silly, Bones points out the Christian belief that Jesus came back to life after dying on the Cross.
Doubly subverted on Castle, as Rick actually talked to a practitioner about the religion, and she was portrayed as a normal, non-stereotypical person. When he saw her after writing the book he had gone to her to research, she was somewhat annoyed at the way he portrayed her religion (which, apparently, was more along the lines of traditional Hollywood Voodoo).
Played with in an episode of Heroes, where the Petrelli brothers end up in Haiti and come across dolls tied to a tree. Nathan makes a sarcastic comment about Voodoo, to which Peter replies that they're not voodoo dolls, but are for some other ceremony. They aren't mentioned anywhere else in the episode, and Peter gave an uncharacteristic National Geographic-esque description. The writers must have felt obligated to mention Voodoo in an episode where they visit Haiti.
The Tales from the Darkside episode "Parlour Floor Front" deals with this, though it's subverted in that the practitioner is easily the most sympathetic character in the episode and simply wants to live and let live, which stands in stark contrast to his Jerk Ass landlady.
In a Seven Days episode, a Hollywood Voodoo practitioner prays for a miracle that will save her friend from the electric chair. She's a little disappointed when that "miracle" turns out to be Frank. At the end of the episode, she recruits the help of the episode's Big Bad's wife to save an innocent man's life and punish her husband in a voodoo ritual.
Possibly an aversion. While the Voodoo practitioner does have the stereotypical look, she's a good guy who seems to practice it more as a real religion, albeit an oddly effective one. The episode keeps it ambiguous whether or not her "spells"/prayers actually do cause things to turn out alright or if Frank showing up et al. are just coincidences.
A long-term viewing of the Law & Order franchise will tell you that someone in the writer's room has some hang-ups about Santeria. From a child killer on The Mothership who claims to hear the voice of a saint, to a ritualist on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit who's fingered for child sacrifice, to a fraudulent and murderous faith healer on Law & Order: Criminal Intent, there isn't really a lot of positive portrayal of the faith.
It's actually subverted on SVU. The actual practitioners are portrayed as normal people, who insist that the murder goes against everything their religion stands for. The detectives (eventually) listen, and start looking for other possibilities. Their ADA is even hesitant about getting the search warrant because of the religious grounds. The murderer was actually a pedophile (and didn't actually practice Santeria) hoping to disguise it as a ritualistic killing.
Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Catspaw". Sylvia holds a tiny figure of the Enterprise over a candle, and the ship in orbit heats up dangerously.
The X-Files episode "Fresh Bones" features basically a voodoo war of revenge. They have a clever subversion to the usual Religion of Evil aspect of Hollywood Voodoo when we find out that the only one using it to harm people is a greedy American.
The villain of Starsky & Hutch episode "Murder on Voodoo Island" is an evil witch doctor of this kind.
Due South had an episode titled "Mojo Rising" featuring a Haitian community (who strangely all talked with American accents) which revolved around a local Voodoo church. The writers clearly had done quite a bit of research (there are a lot of accurate terms), but it did have rival voodoo practitioners casting curses on each other and the police station on the receiving end of a voodoo curse (which turned out to mostly be a whole lot of grass seed, which started growing after the fire alarm was set off
Parodied in the I Love Lucy episode where Little Ricky is born. Ricky is dressed up as a voodoo guy for his show at the club and doesn't want to take time to change before rushing to the hospital, thus freaking out the nurses.
Also listed above in comics, Baron Sunday appeared in an episode of Lois and Clark. He was a copter pilot who was framed for drug smuggling thanks to one of Clark Kent's early bylines(Clark was deceived by the real smugglers into believing that the pilot was guilty). He had apparently learned voodoo while on the run from the law, and now used that magic to get revenge on Clark.
Given the cliche nature of voodoo in Hollywood, critics mocked the 1989 TV series A Man Called Hawk for trotting out its use in its first season. The series folded two episodes later. This may have led to the world's first instance of Jumping the Voodoo Shark.
In the Gilligan's Island episode "Voodoo", a witch doctor arrives on the island and uses Voodoo Dolls to take control of the castaways (and turn the Professor into a zombie).
Hoodoo is used by the Winchesters from Supernatural from time to time in their cases.
In Mannequin 3: The Reckoning, wherein a spirit is anchored to a kidney she donated to her sister, Sam mentions hoodoo as a stopgap measure for dealing with the ghost.
Probably one of the most offensive examples of this trope was in The Incredible Hulk. Firstly, the main Voodoo practitioner was a con-man using the religion to manipulate his followers. Secondly, the followers were portrayed as so naive that they literally could not tell that the con man was using fireworks (despite living in 20th-century America), until David pointed it out to him, and believed the small explosions he created to be magical in nature. Finally, and probably worst, a doctor who deceptively pretended to be a Voodoo practitioner to manipulate the people into letting her perform medical treatment on them WITHOUT THEIR INFORMED CONSENT, effectively doing EXACTLY WHAT THE CON MAN WAS DOING, was portrayed as completely justified.
Features heavily in the MacGyver episode "Walking Dead", with the villains using a voodoo cult as part of their protection racket. The episode at least pays lip service to voudon being a genuine religion and that what the villains are doing is a perversion of it.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World: Danielle, a voodoo priestess, uses physical objects from the explorers to cause them sickness, creates zombies with her magic (who are cured of their trance with salt).
Mission: Impossible: The IMF indulge in some Hollywood Voodoo as part of their plan to cause a falling out among the bad guys in "Bayou". Their voodoo is meant to be fake, of course, but their ritual does convince someone who is supposed to be a genuine believer.
Papa Legba is shown in American Horror Story: Coven along with historical voodoo priestess Marie Laveau. In this depiction, he has more in common with Baron Samedi, however.
Utterly averted, surprisingly enough, in an episode of Friday The 13th: The Series—Jack Marshak, resident Cool Old Guy, The Mentor, and knowledge-broker in all things occult, gives a somewhat-abbreviated but completely accurate depiction of the true nature and beliefs of Voudoun (complete with footage of actual ceremonies!), the innocents being terrorized in the episode are benevolent, wise priests and priestesses, and while Micki and especially Ryan are wary at first due to Hollywood Voodoo depictions, eventually they come to realize the faith is a perfectly valid, good, harmless belief system and join in rather enthusiastically with the cultural carnival being held. The only aspects of this trope which appear in the episode are all being carried out by the Villain of the Week, and they are stated repeatedly to be evil, twisted perversions and not a part of true Voudoun at all.
Priest has the titular character use a voodoo doll against a foe with a Body Surf ability. It worked because the magic targeted his soul rather than the body.
The WWF briefly played host to Papa Shango, a wrestling vodoun who used his voodoo curses against his opponents, causing matches to be thrown out when his opponents' boots caught fire and they started projectile vomiting.
Charles Wright had previously done rough versions of the Shango gimmick in the independents as the Soultaker and Baron Samedi.
TNA had "The Voodoo Queen" Roxxi Laveaux, who was inserted into the Voodoo Kin Mafia. Previous to her entry, the group had absolutely nothing to do with Voodoo (or Mafia; the name was just a dig at Vince McMahon's initials). After a bit of Roxxi gyrating and "purple mist", she soon had nothing to do with Voodoo either.
Averted in Mage: The Awakening. There is a Legacy of mages who raise zombies and have a strongly vodoun bent. However, they name themselves the Bokor, and base themselves almost entirely around the aspect of the religion of the same name.
Mage's "Magical Traditions" introduces Southern Conjure as a legitimate "flavor" upon which to hang your character's actions. It's fairly respectful, well researched, and differentiates between voudon and hoodoo, although it offers a special merit called "Seventh Son of a Seventh Son" that basically turns any mage into a walking, talking Fate Arcana magnet.
Mage: The Ascension has the Bata'a, an umbrella-term for Mages who practice Vodou-based magic. For a long time it was the largest independent Craft in the world (ie, not part of the Traditions), before joining the shamanic Dreamspeakers.
Scion generally averts the trope by featuring the Loa as one of the pantheons and elaborating on their influences. While the signature character of Brigitte de la Croix does raise zombies and drive a hearse, it's not because she practices voudon, but because her dad's Baron Samedi. And her rival is a daughter of Erzulie who plays the hell out of the "love goddess" imagery.
Ravenloft's domain of Souragne is built out of this trope. Voodoo also turns up in Gothic Earth's version of Haiti and New Orleans.
Vampire: The Masquerade has the Samedi, a bloodline of Vampires who are either (depending on your interpretation) descended from the actual Baron Samedi or a Vampire who thought he was.
There are also the Serpents of Light, the Sabbat antitribu of the Followers of Set (who consider them heretics for denying Sutekh), who have their own Vodou-based Blood Magic paths and worship Damballah.
In the GURPS sourcebook GURPS Voodoo: The Shadow War, players can create ritual adepts who use either Voodoo trappings or Hermetic rituals to channel subtle magical effects and command spirit beings. The Shadow War mentioned in the title is between the Hermetic Orders, an Ancient Conspiracy who secretly control the western world, and the Voodoo Lodges who have begun to fight back and subvert their authority, with both sides also having to deal with dark adepts, their evil spirit allies, and their Dark Masters.
Call of Cthulhu has some Voodoo spells, including dolls, contacting/summoning loa and spirits, hexes, protection, and Create Zombi (distinguished from Create Zombie). But, like all magic in CoC they cost the caster SAN.
The Deadlands sourcebook featuring Voodoo-based mystics actually is pretty faithful to the reality. It's even established that they typically need "conjure bags" to perform their magic, and they're better at keeping zombies from rising in the first place than rising them. A few of the more cinimatic elements do slip in, however.
A central theme in the Monkey Island games. "Voodoo" is just the game term for any form of magic or supernatural act, and is not treated as inherently good or evil. The main expository figure of the series is the "Voodoo Lady", who deals mostly in divination and is never seen to use malicious spells on anyone (though she may well have arranged for others to use them). Big Bad LeChuck is apparently a practitioner as well, having used voodoo dolls on occasion and notably being able to bring himself Back from the Dead at will. Even the main character has created voodoo devices and cast spells on his own.
Averted in the first Gabriel Knight game, which features extensive exposition on actual, real-life voodoo and its history.
Although they somewhat shot themselves in the foot on the issue when the owner of the historical voodoo museum, who gives a lot of exposition about the religious and historical context of voodoo turns out to be an evil cultist after all, whose leader is possessed by the spirit of a dead voodoo priestess. Not that that makes his information any less accurate.
This is also a case of Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane, as the Sons of Samedi are known for using drugs to make people believe their voodoo magic is the real deal, and at least once before the Boss had been drugged by them, so there's no telling if he was legit magic or just making the boss think he was killing an immortal person or flinging him about.
Montezuma, a voodoo priest who can be hired as a henchman in Evil Genius. His description reads: 'To the outsider, the principles and rituals of voodoo seem dark and sinister, but generally they are not. In the case of Montezuma, however, they certainly are.'
The villainous Prawlers in Dark Reign 2 have a Voodoon for a healing unit and as an ultimate weapon they can summon Baron Samedi - a hulking demon-like brute. The "actual" Baron Samedi is supposed to look something like this◊ and is a relatively benign, if highly hedonistic, unrestrained, lustful and foul-mouthed entity that overwatches the transition of souls to the otherworld and sometimes cures and protects the living.
Gabriel Tosh in StarCraft II is even capable of creating and using a working voodoo doll. Well, working in that it affected someone. Just not the right person.
He's also psychic. For all we know, this was actually a way of getting around the neural inhibitors he has. The lore comments that Spectres, which is what Tosh is, tend to be eccentric and carry totems that they believe enhance their power, though they may nothing about actual voodoo.
The trolls in World of Warcraft practice a voodoo-type religion, referring to their gods as the loa. One of them shows up in the pre-Cataclysm quest chain to retake the Echo Isles, and is — of course — named Bwonsamdi.
Stay away from da voodoo...
Diablo III's Witch Doctor class is quite clearly this trope played straight: they can summon walls of zombies, conjure poisonous frogs and scare monsters with a giant ghostly totem.
Escape From St Marys offers Mrs Desai, which fans tend to call "the voodoo lady." Her voodoo potion involves throwing ingredients into a cauldron in the chemistry lab.
At one point, Penny Arcade had a voodoo doll as a throwaway joke. When trying to figure out how to get rid of it, Gabe and Tycho settled on burning it. Cue the victim walking down a sunny street whistling a merry tune...and then "MY FLESH!"
Sluggy Freelance had Gwynn make a voodoo doll of Riff in an attempt to gain revenge on him; she quickly threw it in a cupboard when Zoe came into the room, with the result that Riff immediately threw himself into a cupboard.
The "Come Swing From My Branches" arc of Skin Horse features a New Orleans Voodoo priest who insists that the doll thing is actually hoodoo and zombies are victims of TTX poisoning. While talking to a reanimated abomination of science. Eventually, he decides that he can do the whole "respect the dead" thing by being gentlemanly to the cute zombie girl.
Remy: I was supposed to donate these body parts to science... Unity: I'm science!
The PJs features Haiti Lady, a practicing Voodoo priestess.
Of course, the extent of her powers varies from episode to episode. They work fine for throwaway gags, but not for anything plot-relevant. The most believable curse, at least to the other residents, is giving Sanchez (a lifelong smoker) cancer of the larynx.
One episode of 2 Stupid Dogs had Super Secret Squirrel battle a Voodoo-practicing goat who has made dolls of Super and The Chief to control them. Morocco Mole finds the dolls and starts playing with them. Hilarity Ensues.
What's interesting is that the villain seems to have some grounding in Hoo-Doo ritual, whereas his good opposite is just a generic "Fairy Godmother".
By his behaviour, he seems to be a bokor (a sort of professional Deal with the Devil middle man) — dealing with baka "bribable spirits" as opposed to a voodoo priest who would commune with the loa.
There's also a slight Author's Saving Throw in one line of the song..."I got Voodoo, I got Hoodoo, I got things I ain't even tried...", implying that Facilier isn't committed to one tradition, but uses whatever will bring him power.
When he mentions "hoodoo", he summons a white chicken, which is a case of Artistic License - Religion. White chickens have absolutely no magical connotation in hoodoo whatsoever; it's the black ones that you have to worry about.
As an interesting turn of events, the directors wanted to avoid using real voodoo symbols for fear of upsetting real practitioners and summoning bad spirits.
This is a plot point late in the Underdog story "Just in Case".
My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic has the recurring character Zecora, a zebra who's pretty obviously a "voodoo-lady". Speaks with a quasi-Caribbean accent, has various loa-style masks about her home (deep in the spooky marshy forest, of course), and practices low-grade magics and illusions, as well as becoming the local apothecary. Quasi-subversion of the normal trope though, in that it's not "real magic" (which in the pony-verse you need to be a unicorn to do) but rather practiced rituals, tricks and herbal concoctions.
Unlike most voodooiennes in fiction, Zecora is never portrayed as evil or self-serving. Creepy, yes. Incomprehensible, yes. Strange, yes. Evil, no.
Marie Laveau of Louisiana (often the inspiration for a lot of Hollywood Voodoo stories) subverted this trope by being a real life practitioner, but also exploiting it by encouraging the locals to think she had an arsenal of powers and jinxes. In reality, she was most likely using local superstitions to curry favours and influence New Orleans' wealthy folk.
There are some places in New Orleans and Haiti that sell "Voodoo Dolls" to ignorant tourists.