Haiti’s pact with the devil? Bwa kayiman, haitian protestant views of vodou, and the future of haiti

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This essay uses ethnographic research conducted among Haitian Protestants in the Bahamas in 2005 and 2012 plus internet resources to document the belief among Haitian Protestants (Haitians who practice Protestant forms of Christianity) that Haiti supposedly made a pact with the Devil (Satan) as the result of Bwa Kayiman, a Vodou ceremony that launched the Haitian Revolution (1791–1803). Vodou is the syncretized religion indigenous to Haiti. I argue that this interpretation of Bwa Kayiman is an extension of the negative effects of the globalization of American Fundamentalist Christianity in Haiti and, by extension, peoples of African descent and the Global South.

Original languageEnglish
Article number464
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding: Research for this article was funded by a Fulbright award and a SARIF award from the University of Tennessee.

Funding Information:
The majority religions of Haiti are Catholicism and Vodou. But Protestant Christianity has grown steadily in Haiti within a historical context of revolutionary triumph, poverty, foreign interference, state repression of the Haitian people and recent environmental disasters. Protestantism in Haiti has two major religious traditions: historical (or puritanical) Protestantism and Pentecostal and charismatic Protestantism (P/C). Historical Protestantism refers to the earlier forms of Protestant Christianity in Haiti that began when the Wesleyan Missionary Society established a missionary base in 1817 (Louis 2017).5 This includes the Methodist and Baptist faiths and stresses reserved, sober and unemotional forms of worship and an austere dress code for its adherents. Continuing in the 19th Century (1823–1873), the first Baptists in Haiti evangelized throughout the country. Among them were three men of African descent from the United States: Thomas Paul, William Monroe, and Arthur Waring. Their missionary work was conducted from 1823 to 1870 and was sponsored by the Massachusetts Baptist Missionary Society, the Baptist General Convention, and the American Baptist Free Mission Society. American Baptist missionaries, English Baptist missionaries, and Jamaican Baptist missionaries built on the work of the previous pioneers by establishing a Baptist presence in Port-au-Prince, Dondon, Cap Haitian, Port-de-Païx and Petite Goave. During this period Jacmel became a home base for Baptists. From these sections (southeastern coast, regions around the capital and St. Marc, a section of the northern coast, and the northern part of the central plateau) missionary work began to spread. The mission of these Protestant groups are described by Africana Studies scholar Celucien Joseph as follows: “to evangelize the Haitian people and to win the Haitian soul for Christ; to transform Haiti into a Christian nation; and to eradicate Vodou from the Haitian soil.” Like Pat Robertson, Protestant missionaries “constructed a Vodouphobic discourse whose central premise was the rehabilitation and redemption of the Haitian people and their lost souls (Joseph 2016, p. 247).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 by the author. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • Bahamas
  • Christianity
  • Globalization
  • Haitians
  • Human Rights
  • Protestants
  • Vodou

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Religious studies


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