What's the deal with Voodoo?


Announcer: Welcome to Stuff You Should Know from howstuffworks.com.

Josh Clark: Hey, and welcome to the podcast. With me as always is Charles W. "Chuck" Bryant. How do you like your chair?

Chuck Bryant: I hate this chair.

Josh Clark: Dude, do you realize that in like the last eight podcasts we just complained at the beginning.

Chuck Bryant: I know. People are probably so tired of it.

Josh Clark: Yeah. So let's instead, Chuck - instead of complaining, as is our usual way these days. Let's go back in time.

Chuck Bryant: Oh, yes.

Josh Clark: I'm going to take us back. You ready?

Chuck Bryant: Okay.

Josh Clark: [music] So Chuck, this is August 1791, a little place that we now know of as Haiti. And what's just happened is a slave uprising - actually what is the only successful slave uprising in the world.

Chuck Bryant: Good for them.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: That's what I say.

Josh Clark: What happened was, earlier in August of 1791, a group of slave leaders and maroon leaders - maroons were runaway slave that had made it to the hills and were basically staging guerilla warfare against plantations and white colonists. They got together, and there was a ceremony that was performed in a place called Alligator Woods or bwakaymet [01:30.3].

Chuck Bryant: I've been there.

Josh Clark: Have you really?

Chuck Bryant: No.

Josh Clark: Oh, wow. Well, we're about to go there now, right?

Chuck Bryant: Yes.

Josh Clark: There's this Voodoo ritual that took place. And all the leaders basically pledged their support and dedication to this rebellion. And a week later, all hell breaks loose. Thousands of slaves revolt. They murder every white person they can find. Apparently, they paraded around from settlement to settlement with a white human baby impaled on a stake.

Chuck Bryant: I might draw the line there.

Josh Clark: Burned every plantation they could find and basically held a slave uprising. It's like you can only hold somebody down for so long before they turn on you.

Chuck Bryant: The human spirit wants to be free.

Josh Clark: Exactly, Chuck. And that's essentially what happened. The Haitian slaves rose up. They were unsuccessful, actually, in 1791, but historians say this is the point that started it all. And by 1804, Haiti was a free republic.

Chuck Bryant: Awesome.

Josh Clark: Yeah. But that meeting in the woods that started it all, the Voodoo ceremony. That instance and other slave rebellions that were based around Voodoo, have given the religion a bad rap among whites -

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, lots of things.

Josh Clark: - since then. It's kind of weird to think of, but our conception of Voodoo is almost entirely Hollywoodized, fictionalized, and fear based, based on this collective white distant memory of, "Well, this is what Voodoo is. Its babies impaled on stakes. This is what happens when you let people practice Voodoo." Chuck, actually that successful slave rebellion is what Pat Robertson was talking about famously after the Haiti earthquake when he said, "A long time ago, and people in Haiti don't like to talk about it, but they made a pact with the devil to get the French out. And they said, we'll give you our souls if you'll get the French out." And the French got out. So basically he was saying that Voodoo is devil worship and the successful slave rebellion is proof positive of it. And that's why the earthquake happened, in his opinion.

Chuck Bryant: And in Haiti they were probably like, "Who's this devil you keep talking about? We don't believe in that dude." This is going to be a lot of debunking going on today.

Josh Clark: Let's debunk, dude. Let's start talking about Voodoo.

Chuck Bryant: Okay. Let's do that.

Josh Clark: Right - now.

Chuck Bryant: Okay. Voodoo is a religion. A lot of people think it's just a bunch of hocus pocus, which is more like Hoodoo, which we'll get to later. But Voodoo is an actual religion. There's one god. It depends on where you are, if you're talking Voodoo. And even generationally speaking, there's a lot of differences.

Josh Clark: Yeah. Because there's no definitive holy text!

Chuck Bryant: No. No prayer book.

Josh Clark: It's an oral tradition. And it's a very subjective religion, too, right?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: It's very personal and it governs your day-to-day life. And it's also different. It has a different impact on every person.

Chuck Bryant: Yes, it does. So like I said, there's one supreme god. And depending on where you are, there'll be a different name. If you're talking Haitian Voodoo - we're basically going to cover African and Haitian in parts, I would say, wouldn't you?

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: Okay. So Haitian Voodoo, you're going to call this supreme god Bondyè. But in Voodoo, you can't talk directly to the main god. You have to go through one of the spirits called the lwa. And there are many lwa and they all have different functions, but it is hierarchal.

Josh Clark: It is. And they're based on dead ancestors, ancestral spirits.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, and we'll get to that more in detail. But that's a big big part of Voodoo, the ancestry and spirits of the dead people.

Josh Clark: Right. And you were talking about comparing it to Christianity or Judaism or something like that. It's much easier to compare a pagan religion like Voodoo to a pagan religion like druidism than it is to compare either one to Christianity or Judaism.

Chuck Bryant: Al though there are some similarities.

Josh Clark: There are. Especially in Haitian Voodoo! But in African Voodoo, it's much more difficult to compare. So anthropologists still put it in this context of ways we can understand gods. But they're not gods. To Voodoo practitioners, those are not gods, they're ancestral spirits. The spirit world is as real as this world. So we may here or there call them gods accidentally, but that's just as close as we can come. You could compare them to Greek or Roman gods, right?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: They have different personalities and represent different things, but it's that shared pagan worldview that different parts of the natural experience are associated with different gods.

Chuck Bryant: Yes. Good point.

Josh Clark: Thanks.

Chuck Bryant: It's basically so white Christians can understand what we're talking about.

Josh Clark: Exactly. Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: So African and Haitian Voodoo, in both cases, it's really not a bunch of evil doing and spells cast upon one another. It's mainly used for good and to be a better person. In fact, you're counted on as a practice of Voodoo to be a good community member and a stand-up guy or gal.

Josh Clark: Right. Yeah. And remember that we said it was a personal and subjective religion. So when you're practicing Voodoo, when you are interacting with a Voodoo priest or priestess, you're seeking advice, guidance, and you're living your life by that. So there's actually - I guess, the whole evil aspect does exist.

Chuck Bryant: Bo.

Josh Clark: Bo in African tradition.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, that's the dark side of African Voodoo. It's called bo.

Josh Clark: Right. And Voodoo practitioners, a Voodoo priest, is called a houngan, right?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, an African Voodoo priest, right?

Josh Clark: Yeah, and an African and Haitian Voodoo priestess is called a mambo, right?

Chuck Bryant: Yes.

Josh Clark: A mambo. So the mambo and the houngan are not charged with carrying out Bo, which is evil spells, hexes - basically magic that does harm.

Chuck Bryant: Right. And they do use Voodoo dolls.

Josh Clark: They do. But this is not to say - and this is where it gets a little prickly.

Chuck Bryant: Henky?

Josh Clark: A little henky. The Voodoo priests and priestesses may not actually practice Bo, this black magic, but they have a working knowledge of it so they can oppose people who practice Bo.

Chuck Bryant: Yes, you have to understand something to fight it. That's the belief there, right?

Josh Clark: Right. So Chuck, let's talk a little bit more about ceremonies and some of the characteristics and traits that make Voodoo Voodoo.

Chuck Bryant: All right. Are we going to Africa or are we in Haiti at this point?

Josh Clark: Let's do Africa first.

Chuck Bryant: Okay.

Josh Clark: I mean, this is the cradle of Voodoo, right?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, like 6,000 years ago - that's where the word comes from. It comes from the Fon language, which was the kingdom of Fon. And that means sacred spirit or deity. And I think it was northwest Africa -

Josh Clark: It's north central West Africa. So it's West Africa - Ghana, Benin, and Togo are the areas of where these ancient kingdoms of Fon and Kongo were located. And this is the cradle of Voodoo.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah. And I've actually got a stat for you. They say that 30 million people in Togo, Ghana, and Benin still practice Voodoo today. And just to gauge where that falls in world religions, it's about double the number of Jewish people in the entire world.

Josh Clark: Wow. Is it really?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah. I mean, stats vary depending on whether you're an active practitioner of Judaism or if you were just born Jewish. But it's about double. So it ranks.

Josh Clark: Wow. It's also an official religion in Benin.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, 60 percent of the people in that country follow Voodoo still.

Josh Clark: So this is an established religion. But one of the foundational tenants of Voodoo is that you can communicate with the spirits. And you communicate with the spirits to find out what you should do from the almighty deity, the supreme god.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah. They're the medium.

Josh Clark: Right. One of the other founding tenants of Voodoo is, you communicate with these people not in your head, not through prayer, but by the lwa actually possessing someone who then gives commands or says, "What are you doing? Why aren't you spending more time with your wife?" Things like that, right?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, we said that it's different in Africa and Haiti, and all over the world - and in different time periods. But that's one of the main through lines in all Voodoo is possession.

Josh Clark: Spirit intrusion - possession, right. The person who's bein possessed at the time is known as the horse. And what lwa is possessing him or her is known as the rider, right?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, that's in Haitian Voodoo.

Josh Clark: Oh, did I get ahead of us?

Chuck Bryant: No, that's all right. We can jump around.

Josh Clark: Well, that's really the bridge between Haitian Voodoo and African Voodoo, is that spirit possession exists. That's how you find out what you should do in your day-to-day life.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: Back in Africa, on the African side, some other commonalities between the two, Haitian Voodoo is African Voodoo Creolized.

Chuck Bryant: Yes.

Josh Clark: So let's get back to talking about African Voodoo. I did screw us up and I apologize, Chuck.

Chuck Bryant: Apologize to our fans.

Josh Clark: I'm so sorry, fans. Please forgive me.

Chuck Bryant: You never owe me an apology, buddy.

Josh Clark: So the ancestral spirits make up the lwa. You can take any object and concentrate it and it becomes a ritual sacred object, which is where the dolls come in. As you said, they're not used for harm.

Chuck Bryant: Well, they can be if you're talking bo. But it's definitely not like you see in the movies or The Brady Bunch.

Josh Clark: There's a lot of ceremonial dance.

Chuck Bryant: Yes, song.

Josh Clark: Spirits are invoked through music, percussion, that kind of thing. I know that, in both Haitian and African Voodoo, there is a gatekeeper. And his name, in Haitian tradition, is Papa Legua.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, I love that name.

Josh Clark: Yeah. And Papa Legba is the gatekeeper between the spirit world and the human world. And he's invoked at the beginning of every ceremony because you have to get him to open the gate so you can start communicating with the lwa and people can be possessed. And actually Papa Legba is one of the black men at the crossroad who bears a striking resemblance to our friend Mashimon.

Chuck Bryant: Oh, really? Interesting!

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: The crossroad, a.k.a. the Christian cross.

Josh Clark: In Haitian tradition, yeah.

Chuck Bryant: Right. We should go ahead and talk about that probably. If some of this sounds familiar, if you're thinking, "Papa Legba sounds sort of like St. Peter," and the crossroads sounds sort of like the Christian cross, there's a very good reason for that. It's because, once again, we go back to our friend Christopher Columbus, Hispaniola, and the fact that they brought slaves over to Hispaniola to work on the plantations. They brought Voodoo with them. And the problem there was, Columbus said, "No, no, no. If you're going to be a slave over here, you have to be converted to Christianity."

Josh Clark: That was the code noir. They French actually did that one.

Chuck Bryant: Oh, really?

Josh Clark: All slaves had to be baptized.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, forced conversion. So what they did was, in order to keep practicing Voodoo, they incorporated - and this was where my mind was blown. I didn't know they did this. They incorporated parts of Catholicism to mask the fact that they were practicing Voodoo. And it got all mixed up in what's called synchronization. So Catholicism and Voodoo working together! Crazy.

Josh Clark: So even today, a lot of the lwa - where there was a lot of ready similarities between these ancestral spirits and Catholic saints. So St. Peter is associated with Papa Legba because St. Peter's the guy who's outside the gates to Heaven. Papa Legba's the gatekeeper to the spirit world. So they associate him with him. There is a god who is pretty powerful. He's a warrior, protector god called ogu. And he's associated with St. James who was a warrior, protector saint. So it's not a leap all the time. Sometimes it's a stretch. Like St. Patrick drove out the snakes from Ireland. He's associated with snakes in the Haitian tradition. So when you look at the underlying tenants, the overarching narrative of being able to communicate with spirits, invoking spirits through percussion, song, and dance, being possessed, and objects being able to be consecrated and become sacred, then that's Voodoo across the board. The Voodoo we're familiar with, that's Haitian Voodoo, which is mixed up.

Chuck Bryant: With Catholicism.

Josh Clark: Right.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, they said they even incorporated Catholic hymns and prayers.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: Crazy. Who knew?

Josh Clark: Tracy Wilson.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, she did. So Josh, you brought up rituals that they would perform to invoke the gods. And one of the tenants of Voodoo is, the gods will give you advice but you've got to take care of the gods, the spirits. And one way that you can do this is by animal sacrifice to appease the god, the spirit.

Josh Clark: Yeah. Now again, this is another ticklish aspect of Voodoo, isn't it? This is like, "Oh, they sacrifice animals and they're evil." It's like, "Well, you've got the sacrifice animals part right."

Chuck Bryant: Well, they used to sacrifice humans, too.

Josh Clark: Did they?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, it's been at least 100 years since any of that's gone on in Africa, they say.

Josh Clark: Huh. Chuck, with the animal sacrifices, there's actually a process as you can imagine. There's a process where - say you're going to sacrifice a chicken. And this chicken is washed in leaves to be consecrated and then it's fed from this ritual dish. And if it refuses to eat, then that means that the lwa has rejected that sacrifice. And the animal is set free. If it eats, it's like, "Okay, you're dead."

Chuck Bryant: Chickens always eat, though, from what I understand.

Josh Clark: Apparently, they don't. But it's not just chickens. I think this applies to goats, pigs, whatever is sacrificed. So if it eats, then it's like, "Okay, you're dead." If it's a goat or a pig, it's throat is slit. If it's a chicken, it's neck is broken. But it's a quick death. It's not tortured or anything like that. The blood is mixed in this calabash, like a big challis, bowl - with rum and syrup and salt.

Chuck Bryant: Yum.

Josh Clark: And then people will either take a sip or they'll make a crucifix on their head in blood. So that's the blood sacrifice. That's where the blood sacrifice ritual stands today.

Chuck Bryant: Oh, really? They still do it that way?

Josh Clark: Um-hum.

Chuck Bryant: Because Haitians still practice Voodoo like right out in the open. So Westerners might think its some weird hidden thing, but it's not like that at all.

Josh Clark: No.

Chuck Bryant: You also talked about - when you're possessed, I know there's a dance called the Dance of the Hooded Egungun. And apparently what happens is, when the spirit overtakes someone and they're possessed and they're dancing around, if you touch them, you die. That's what they say. So you have to stand in a circle and witness all of this and take part. But they're running all over the place, so you have to keep your distance.

Josh Clark: And also, while you're possessed, you're impervious to pain. You can't be injured.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, good point.

Josh Clark: And today I was reading an article from 2002 or 2004. This guy was talking about witnessing a Voodoo ritual in West Africa recently. And these guys were possessed by ogu - remember the warrior protector spirit? And they were cutting themselves with their knives, bloodletting, and weren't wincing or anything like that. Because apparently one aspect of it is you can't feel pain while you're possessed.

Chuck Bryant: Interesting. Well, and since you brought that up, we should probably go ahead and talk about why Westerners view Voodoo as some sort of evil awful thing.

Josh Clark: Right. In addition to the slave uprising, right?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, exactly. One of the reasons you just mentioned was there's a lot of self-injury that goes on. So Westerners see that and they think, "Those people are crazy. Look at them."

Josh Clark: Well, not just that. But blood making a real appearance.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah. Anything dealing with death, the fact that they believe that death is not necessarily a bad thing and the spirits are still living among us, guiding us. Westerners aren't typically down with that, either.

Josh Clark: No, Westerners don't have a stomach for real blood, which is why wine is used in place of it or as a metaphor for it in the Christian tradition.

Chuck Bryant: Of course.

Josh Clark: And death is something that we don't like to think about or talk about in the West, either. Again, though, in the Voodoo tradition - and in a lot of other traditions - death is just a part of the natural order of things. And it's certainly not the end. I think in the West it's kind of viewed, even by the religious in some cases, as the end. And we don't really like to think about that.

Chuck Bryant: No. That's a good point. The other thing Tracy mentioned in here was from 1915-1935 the Marine Corps occupied Haiti. And during this period there were a lot of books and movies all of a sudden being written and portraying Haitian Voodoo as these crazy bloodletting people. So those became popular. One was called White Zombie in 1932. Around the same time, it had spread to New Orleans and Hoodoo became popular.

Josh Clark: Right. In the 19th century there were two women named Marie Laveau. And they were the most powerful women in Voodoo culture in the US.

Chuck Bryant: In New Orleans.

Josh Clark: Right. And one was the mom and was the daughter.

Chuck Bryant: Oh, was that the deal?

Josh Clark: The mom retired and died. The daughter disappeared. No one knows what happened to her. But after the second one disappeared, the followers split into factions. And one of the factions became Hoodoo. And Hoodoo became very powerful. And Hoodoo is a mix of bo, black magic, with Voodoo - or in the Voodoo tradition, I guess. So now we have Hoodoo, and that is what most people think of - when you think of Voodoo in the US, you think of New Orleans. And what we're actually thinking of is Hoodoo, not Voodoo.

Chuck Bryant: They should've named it something else.

Josh Clark: They should've. Like Chimichanga or something.

Chuck Bryant: Right. Exactly.

Josh Clark: So these misconceptions still abound. There was a paper in 1984 that apparently the physician who wrote it, or researcher who wrote it, still takes flack for. But it was titled Night of the Living Dead II: Do Necromantic Zombiists Transmit HTLV3/lAV During Voodooistic Rituals? So basically, do necrophiliacs who are into zombiism and are Voodoo practitioners, are they the reason for the spread of AIDS in Haiti? And actually, there is a certain element of public health to Voodoo.

Chuck Bryant: That's what I was going to say. That's one of the real concerns. It's not all of these Western misconceptions of taboos. Real concerns are that there is bloodletting and they freely bleed on one another.

Josh Clark: Or sharing the blood of an animal sacrifice. People drinking that - that can be bad stuff!

Chuck Bryant: Yeah. So that's a real health concern. Another really practical concern is a lot of - and we failed to mention this - the priests and priestesses, one of their main gigs is to practice folk medicine on the practitioners of Voodoo.

Josh Clark: Yeah. Because again we said everyday life! Voodoo is part of your everyday life if you were -

Chuck Bryant: Right. And some of these folk practices fly in the face of real medicine. So that's a concern here and there.

Josh Clark: I think we should replace the word real with Western medicine.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, you're right.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: You're definitely right.

Josh Clark: Thanks.

Chuck Bryant: Because I believe in a lot of Eastern medicine. I might look into Voodoo. That might clear up my -

Josh Clark: Sinuses?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah. Clear up my sinuses.

Josh Clark: Your sciatica?

Chuck Bryant: And like we said, death is a big big part of it. And the culture of fear it creates is something that's a big turnoff for a lot of - well it creates a culture of fear in the West.

Josh Clark: It is. But again, I think even informed educated people have misconceptions about Voodoo because it's been harangued so long in this country that people in the US just really don't understand what it is that's going on down there. And there's so many misunderstandings.

Chuck Bryant: Well, they think it's Hoodoo.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: They see Angel Heart -

Josh Clark: But even beyond that, even if you don't think it's Hoodoo, you're like, "Okay, well they're turning people into zombies." We did the how zombies work thing, and it's real down there. But that's not Voodoo. That's Bo, right?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, exactly.

Josh Clark: So it makes me -

Chuck Bryant: Sad for Voodoo?

Josh Clark: I guess a little sad for Voodoo.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: It makes me sad for the mambos.

Chuck Bryant: Well, it definitely has a stigma about it. And until I read all about it, I probably fell into that same trap. But then you start realizing, aside from spiritual possession and a couple of the other things, you're like, "It's not so different than other religions when you look it." And I think Buddhists actually - I think at times in Buddhism, there's spiritual possession going on there, too.

Josh Clark: Right.

Chuck Bryant: Christianity, no.

Josh Clark: Yeah, there is a good example in this article of spirit possession happening in the Buddhist tradition, right?

Chuck Bryant: Oh, really?

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: So that's where I heard it?

Josh Clark: Yeah. In 1959, the Dalai Lama was speaking with an oracle that was possessed. And the oracle gave him advice on how to escape the Chinese army successfully. That's spirit possession. But it's Buddhism and they don't sacrifice chickens. I think that that's kind of it. There's a lot of blood and death in Voodoo and people are afraid of it.

Chuck Bryant: Right. But I saw a thing on NPR today where one guy went down and spent some time with the Voodoo practitioners in, I think, Haiti. And he said -

Josh Clark: Wade Davis?

Chuck Bryant: No. Maybe it was Ira Glass. People are crazy. That's more Woody Allen than Ira Glass. But he basically likened the dark side, even the Bo, to the concept of heaven and hell in Western religion. And he said, "the whole point is to manifest the darkness so that goodness can overwhelm it." And it's the same in Voodoo as it is in Christianity. And you know, I said that Christianity, they don't believe in possession and all. Not quite true.

Josh Clark: Oh, yeah.

Chuck Bryant: Some Southern Baptists and Pentecostals believe that the spirit can overtake you in such a way. So I was not quite right there.

Josh Clark: But again, think about how those people are looked at from the same people who look at Voodoo as unseemly.

Chuck Bryant: Right. Good point. But what's going on now, though, is there's an outright war on Voodoo by missionaries still going there to convert them from what they say is a cult.

Josh Clark: Right. Or associated with the devil!

Chuck Bryant: Well, yeah. They associate it with Satan, which is ridiculous because nothing about Voodoo has anything to do with Satan. They don't even believe in Satan.

Josh Clark: Satan doesn't even exist.

Chuck Bryant: So this Western Christians putting all their stuff on them.

Josh Clark: Lots of hang-ups.

Chuck Bryant: Lots of hang-ups.

Josh Clark: Yeah, we Anglo-Saxon descendents really like to hang our hang-ups on other people.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: Let's stop that.

Chuck Bryant: Well, I mentioned Angel Heart. We should mention the movies real quick. Angel Heart - great movie. Hoodoo. Serpent in the Rainbow.

Josh Clark: Great movie. But, again, that was Wade Davis the anthropologist.

Chuck Bryant: Oh, that's who that was?

Josh Clark: And he's done a lot - yeah. Well, it was Bill Pullman playing him. But he's done a lot actually to cloud Voodoo, to continue these misconceptions rather than clear them up.

Chuck Bryant: Oh, really?

Josh Clark: Yeah. But he's made a lot of money along the way.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, good point. And then of course Live and Let Die! We like to talk about Bond.

Josh Clark: Love that one.

Chuck Bryant: There was some Voodoo in that.

Josh Clark: Best Bond ever, Roger Moore.

Chuck Bryant: Oh, god.

Josh Clark: It's so true.

Chuck Bryant: Roger Moore was awful, dude.

Josh Clark: Dude, Roger Moore was great.

Chuck Bryant: I grew up with Roger Moore, so I have that certain affinity for some of those films, some of his earlier ones. But it got to the point where it was just like a cartoon of himself. He was never the butt kicker like Connery was or the new guys.

Josh Clark: Yeah, whatever.

Chuck Bryant: Dalton, or - who's the new guy? Craig?

Josh Clark: All right. Well, if you want to learn more about James Bond and Voodoo, you can type James Bond and Voodoo into the handy search bar at howstuffworks.com. If that doesn't work, which I can pretty much guarantee it won't, just type Voodoo. Try that one. And since I said handy search bar at howstuffworks.com, it's time for listener mail.

Chuck Bryant: Josh, I'm going to call this ghost prisons for reals. Did you read this one from Will?

Josh Clark: Huh-uh.

Chuck Bryant: "Hey, guys. Just thought I would drop a line about my interaction with your recent ghost prisons topic," which we have yet to get a lot of flak for.

Josh Clark: We've gotten zero flack.

Chuck Bryant: I'm ready for some flack to come our way, though, at some point.

Josh Clark: Oh, people stopped listening a long time ago, Chuck.

Chuck Bryant: "I have met on several occasions a man by the name of Mamdouh Habib, who was very prominent in the Australian media for being an Austral citizen held at Gitmo. Through my conversations with him, it was clear that he had not only been contained at Guantanamo, but was also a subject to extraordinary rendition. He was captured by the US in Pakistan and sent to Egypt where he was held for six months and tortured. The torture, however, was ineffective because of the misadministration of drugs by US agents, which rendered him almost above feeling for most of the time." So they doped him up so much he couldn't even feel the torture, basically. Almost as if was under the power of a Voodoo spell!

Josh Clark: Or under the power of morphine.

Chuck Bryant: Right. "After six months, he was dumped back into Pakistan before getting picked up again and taken to Gitmo. It was apparently common policy for the US to first torture then imprison in Guantanamo Bay in order to use the torture findings. However, mainly due to the tireless campaigning of his wife, he was released from Guantanamo and returned to Aus. However, judging from the times I have met him, the experience will never leave him. In regards to the" -

Josh Clark: I wouldn't think so.

Chuck Bryant: No. You don't get over that.

Josh Clark: I was tortured, but I forgot all about it.

Chuck Bryant: But you want to come over for a barby?

Josh Clark: Yeah, right. No, for a slab of beer!

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, for a stubby. "In regards to the perception that Obama is better in terms of this stuff, it is unfortunately not the case."

Josh Clark: We didn't say that.

Chuck Bryant: "Gitmo has been replaced by Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, a prison even further from the public eyes. Keep up the great work, guys. Hope this finds you in good health."

Josh Clark: There is no way to end that softly. It was just like; we're going to stop here. Keep up the good work.

Chuck Bryant: So that comes from Will and he says, "Peace."

Josh Clark: Right on, Will.

Chuck Bryant: Thanks to you, too, my friend.

Josh Clark: So what do you want to call for, Chuck?

Chuck Bryant: I don't know. Something interesting! How about if you are a practitioner of Voodoo.

Josh Clark: That is excellent, Chuck.

Chuck Bryant: We want to hear from you.

Josh Clark: Yes, please do let us know. If you're a practitioner of Voodoo, we would love to hear from you. Let us know what's going on and what we got glaringly wrong or omitted. Because this one could use filling out a little more!

Chuck Bryant: What are they called? Voodooers?

Josh Clark: Voodoo practitioners.

Chuck Bryant: Voodooists?

Josh Clark: Voodooists.

Chuck Bryant: You know the line in Blazing Saddles? "Now go do that Voodoo that you do so well."

Josh Clark: Yes.

Chuck Bryant: Late Harvey Korman.

Josh Clark: Yeah. You can also follow us on Twitter, SYSKPodcast. We have a Facebook page that we like to hang out on sometimes. It's called Stuff You Should Know (website). And you can send us an email if you are into Voodoo at stuffpodcast@howstuffworks.com.

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