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Difference Between Santeria and Voodoo

Santeria vs Voodoo

Santeria and voodoo are considered as religions practiced by people who believed in one God which is served by several spirits. Both religions also believe in possession of the spirits called “orishas” in Santeria and “loas” or “laws” in voodoo in the form of song and dance. In both religions, the loas or orishas and ancestors are identified with Catholic saints.

Santeria means “honor of the saints” or “way of the saints.” It is also known as “La Regla de Lukumi” or “Lukumi’s Rule.” On the other hand, “voodoo,” is an African word which means “moral fiber.”

Santeria and voodoo also share a similar beginning of African tradition and rituals that originated in Nigeria. The two were brought to the Western Hemisphere by slaves from North Africa specifically Nigeria. Since African traditional beliefs and other pagan activities were outlawed and banned in the Western Hemisphere, the slaves infused their pagan beliefs with Christianity to avoid persecution and death.

The Christian influences are another difference between Santeria and voodoo. Santeria is infused with Spanish Catholicism while voodoo is characterized by French Catholicism. Even the primary beliefs are different. Santeria is based on the Yoruba belief as opposed to voodoo’s Fon and Ewe beliefs.

Since Santeria is heavily influenced by Spanish Catholicism, it developed in the culture of Spanish-speaking countries and colonies and by extension the Spanish-speaking people. The focal point for Santeria growth is in Mexico and Cuba.

The same is true and applicable in voodoo as it developed in New Orleans with the influence of the French and American culture. Voodoo primarily came from Haiti.

The Hispanic people are more familiar with Santeria while the people of Haiti are more immersed in the worship of voodoo.

There is also an organized hierarchy of spirits in the Santeria and voodoo tradtion. The Santeria has seven principal Orishas (in Spanish, Las Sietes Potenciales Africanos) while the voodoo religion has twelve principal loas.

Slaves who brought Santeria and voodoo to America are also different. It is said that the slaves who brought Santeria were indoctrinated in Catholicism while the slaves who brought voodoo were not. Santeria, compared to voodoo, uses a lot of animal sacrifices, sometimes on a daily basis, while in voodoo practice their animal sacrifices are on a smaller scale.

Santeria is not an official religion and less popular and well known compared to voodoo which is the official religion of Haiti and has been depicted in the media and popular culture albeit inaccurately and in a bad light. Voodoo is also considered as a native practice compared to Santeria.


1.The main difference between Santeria and voodoo is the Spanish influence of Santeria and the French influence of voodoo.
2.“Santeria” means “way or honor of the saints,” mostly a Spanish word, while “voodoo” has an African etymology which means “moral fiber.”
3.Santeria is based on Yoruba beliefs while voodoo is based on Fon and Ewe beliefs.
4.People who practice Santeria call their spirits “orishas” while the voodoo practitioners called the same spirits as “loas” or “laws.”
5.The Santeria believe in seven principal orishas while voodoo has its own twelve principal loas.
6.Santeria came by the way of Cuba and Mexico while voodoo arrived by Haiti.
7.Santeria is mainly influenced by Spanish traditions while voodoo is derived from the French and American culture.
8.The people who practice Santeria use a lot of animal sacrifice while voodoo only uses such practice on a lesser scale.
9.Voodoo is considered as an official religion and is popular while Santeria is not very popular or well known. The latter is also not considered as an official religion.

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  1. Voodoo came from Africa and then went to haiti. It was not started in haiti.

    • Actually voodoo started in Haiti. What you are referring to is Vudon (vodun, voodun, vodou) the Yoruba religion from Nigeria and the vudon religion from Benin or Ghana was brought to the Americas and Caribbeans. Once in the Caribbean the vudon or Yoruba religion made a slight change in its name and practice. In my hometown of Louisiana it became hoodoo by name, Jamaica it became obeah, in Brazil it became candomble, it became Santeria in Mexico, in Cuba it became La Regla de Arara. That all have different names with different numbers of spirits in the pantheon and different ways it’s is practiced. However they all share the west African origins. Because there is slightly differences once it came to the Americas it was given different names. Slaves were not allowed to maintain their African religion so they masked their vision gods with a catholic saint. However if it’s not enough saint to cover the many voduon gods a big part of the practice is missing because each gods serves a distinctive and unique role that another can’t substitute which gives it a new practice and a new name. So yes voodoo started in Haiti which came from the African version of voduon

  2. this is a bit innaccurate. because the official religion of haiti is catholiscm. and many hatiains exlusivly practice catholiscm with no voodoo. but in cuba…. of the 80 percent catholics probaly 70 percent are santeria catholics. the 10 percent (probably less) are exlusivly catholic. which is extremely rare. its more common for someone to be pentecostal or protestant (converts from santeria)….. the remaining 18 percent reject all things catholic and are exclusivly santeria. santeria has nothing to do with catholicism. they are 2 completely different religions. with different beliefs. sometimes santeria only appears catholic. but this is only to outsiders. santeria is the official religion of cuba. most demographics wont tell u that because the people who say there catholic also practice santeria. most cubans are free thinking and spiritual people, who arent afraid to incorperate multiple faiths and ideas, and usally have ther own beleifs about things. its not uncommon for a cuban to be unexlusive with there religion unless ur one of those afrocubans (like me), who follows the religion in a more african style. voodoo is more popular becuase it exist in new orleans, and is technically american. but santeria by far has more followers. candomple is extremely similar to us to so were often grouped together. many foreiners, latin americans and non latins alike practice santeria abroad. its an extremely popular relgion among latin celebs and throughout the world

    • Haiti is 90% catholic and 100% voodoo. However it’s not a good idea to allow people to know you practice voodoo. Because of this you would think catholic is the primary religion but it’s not. Voodoo is. Voodoo is practiced under the guise of Catholicism by masking voodoo gods with saints. so even when Catholicism is being practiced at the surface voodoo is also being practiced covertly at the same time. It was voodoo that gave the Haitian rebellion the victory in defeating the European colonialists. In fact defeating one of the worlds largest and strongest armies the French at the time with a few black slave causing the French to sell the Louisiana purchase due to lost in money and lost in a battle against voodoo practicing Haitian slaves. The punishment for this still continues. The European western conquerers are still making Haiti suffer because of defeating them in the past and they also give voodoo a bad name through Hollywood and media because it was voodoo that gave the slaves supernatural help. So today voodoo is shunned although practice covertly.

  3. Why is Santeria capitalized and Voodoo not?

    • Because voodoo is a broad term describing various aspects of the religion, while Santeria is the actual name of a form of voodoo. It’s like if I say I am a man, I won’t capitalize man. If I say I am a man named Todd I would capitalize Todd. Although Todd and man are one of the same.

  4. @Dante – it’s more than just a little inaccurate. It’s completely inaccurate. Obviously some little housewife with too much time on her hands that thinks because she has some potential Hispanic blood she knows what either is. Makes me laugh. Tell ya what puta ask your grandmother or an older woman what either is… they’ll know far more than you.

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