All religions are very specific with the details which set that religion apart from others. However, when all the little details are melted away, there are only a mere handful that are different in essence. When looked at closely, even the religions which are perceived completely dissimilar at first glance are surprisingly similar. For example, the Voodoo religion, and that of early Christianity are stereotyped as extremely different, but with closer inspection, not only are these two religions are very obviously similar, but Voodooism stemmed, partly, out of Christianity.
Both religions revolve around a mortal individual being used as a mouthpiece by a higher, being, be it spirit or god, to communicate with our mortal world. Yet at the same time, each religion has taken its own path and although equivalent in essence, have very different aspects with respect to background (such as time and status), as well as publicity, and language. In the Voodoo religion, a priestess hosts a number of different ceremonies each year. During these ceremonies, one of the people present (usually the priestess herself) is supposedly possessed by one or more spirit(s) who then communicates with the rest of the people present.
A typical example of a Voodoo ceremony is that described in the book Mama Lola by Karin McCarthy Brown. Here, Mama Lola, as this voodoo priestess is known, lives in Brooklyn and does all she can to stay faithful to her Haitian religion. After inviting her voodoo family for what will be the birthday celebration of the spirit Azaka, all members, important and close gather to help set up the intricate and festive alter in the basement of Mama Lolas small apartment in Brooklyn, New York.
While setting up the alter, they are sure to include only the things Azaka likes such as his favorite colours, (blue and white) the right liquors, and all of his favorite foods are cooked and placed under the alter, only to be eaten after it is given to him, and then given back for them to eat. Next, all will gather in front of the alter, and begin to prey. After the first few prayers they begin to add songs which include some step/dance moves, and as the Mama Lola, leading the ceremony, feels the energy heighten, and the tension thicken, she pushes it further and further until a spirit makes an appearance.
Although the ceremony is meant for Azaka, all major spirits are honored, and some show up; possessing a human body. After the possessions are through, the entire family goes to bed, only to wake up in the morning to call upon Azaka one last time for directions on how to dismantle the alter and any last pieces of advice he is willing to give out. In contrast, early Christianity, includes only one person in particular at each oracle would go into a trance, upon request from someone seeking advice.
The most popular of these oracles was the Oracle of Delphi where the Pythia, the priestess of Apollo, when asked for advice, would enter a cave, and become completely transfixed by what was said to be the spirit of Apollo and she could then communicate with people on behalf of the God. A temple was erected around the cave, and after an offering was made to the god, in return for the advice, Pythia would sputter many incoherent things which were then interpreted by the prophetic priests who translated her utterances into prophetic perimeter.
The details which create differences between these two religions, are extremely important to both religions. For example, the background of both religions consists mostly of the times each priestess practiced her prophetizing. While the Pythia lived in the 14th century BCE, Mama Lola is very modern and still lives and practices her religion today. Thus, even though the time eras are extremely different, the idea of prophetizing has lived long enough to still be alive in present times, although it is in its own, Voodoo manner: as different a manner it may be which makes a large difference in the two religions.
Secondly, status has a large effect on the difference of the two religions. Pythia, on one hand, was sought after by many, and people came from all over the Mediterranean to seek this precious advice, and often left a plethora of gifts. Her cave had a temple built around it, and she was extremely well known. In comparison, Mama Lola came from the extreme poverty of Haiti in the Dominican Republic. She held her ceremonies in the basement of her small apartment, and often had a hard time gathering enough people, or family members for her services in a city which is jam packed with people everywhere you go.
This aspect of the two religions creates a large gap of difference, though the core of both religions remains the same. Publicity is also an important aspect which sets these two religions apart. Mama Lola, for example, has a very tight family which consists of a small close-knit community, and holds her services in the basement where most anyone who is not involved in the ceremony wouldnt even know it was taking place! But the Oracle of Delphi was something everyone in all of Greece, and beyond knew about.
It was held in a temple where just about everyone could visit, and so long as they had something to offer in return, really anyone could get advice from her. The distinction made the different levels of publicity in either religion is ample and noteworthy. However, again, it doesnt change the identical core which holds both religions in their distinguished place. While ones publicity is almost without limits, the others can barely be made smaller. Yet one more aspect which exhibits the substantial difference between these two religions without effecting their core, is language.
The Pythia at Delphi prophetized in tongues which needed to be interpreted by certain, trained people; the prophetic priests. Without these translators who rephrased Pythias prophesies into nice and neat prophetic prose, the entire oracle itself, -regardless of which one, would be useless. What good is a prophet who cannot be understood? In opposition, when a spirit came to one of Mama Lolas ceremonies, it spoke in a known language so that it could be understood by anyone spoke it, or cared enough to learn, at least to understand it.
Since the point of these religions is for divine being to speak to humans, through a human body, language is of utmost importance. While in the Voodoo religion, the spirit is easily understood by anyone who can understand the language, in order for the Pythia at Delphi to be used, the people seeking advise are completely dependent on the interpreters to receive the answer to their questions, and thus have no choice but to be left with second hand advice; it had to go through the priests before the one seeking advice could receive an answer.
With this in mind, it is hardly possible to be quite sure of how precise the priests interpreted Pythias utterances, and how well they really knew how to do their jobs –regardless of how wholeheartedly the people of Greece believed in them. It is amazing how two religions, such as Voodoo and Christianity, can be filled with so many awesome differences with respect to time eras, status, publicity, and language, and yet still have an almost identical core ideal.
This also demonstrates that this core ideal of the use of humans as a mouthpiece of the divine has been a long lived concept which people, such as Mama Lola and her family, still believe in and practice today. Perhaps this proves there is some truth in the idea, and most likely, we will never know for sure, whether this concept, in its many different forms continues to live on, or if it dies out.