The religion of Vodoun as currently practiced bears little resemblance to its ancestral practice. Presently there are an estimated 50 million worshippers worldwide. The central belief of the religion is in spirit possession,* through which the gods speak to the devotees only for a short time during the ceremonies. However, the faithful believe that the work of the gods is present in all aspects of daily life, and that pleasing the gods will
gain them health, wealth, and spiritual commitment. Vodoun is almost universally practiced in Haiti, but also is practiced in many cities of the United States such as New York, New Orleans, Houston, Charleston, South Carolina, and Los Angeles. In the United
States it is recognized as a legitimate religion.
* Spirit possession is not recognized as a psychiatric or medical diagnosis by the DSM-IV or the ICD-10.
People alleged to be possessed by spirits sometimes exhibit symptoms similar to those associated with mental illnesses such as psychosis, hysteria, mania, Tourette's syndrome, epilepsy, schizophrenia,
or dissociative identity disorder, including involuntary, uncensored
behavior, and an extra-human, extra-social aspect to the individual's actions.
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