Haiti Made a Pact with the Devil-Disputed!

Haiti Made a Pact with the Devil-Disputed!

Summary of eRumor:

In the aftermath of the devastating earthquake in Haiti in January, 2010, Christian television broadcaster Pat Robertson made headlines by saying that Haiti had been “cursed by one thing after another” ever since the Haitian revolution of the late 1700’s when the Haitians “swore a pact to the devil.”

The Truth:

Robertson created a firestorm of reaction for his statements, which seemed to suggest that the earthquake may have been directly related to Haiti’s supposed agreement with Satan.

Robertson said, “They were under the heel of the French, you know Napoleon III and whatever. And they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said ‘We will serve you if you will get us free from the prince.’ True story. And so the devil said, ‘OK it’s a deal’. And they kicked the French out.”

There are several problems, however, with Robertson’s statement.

First, the Haitians were not fighting against the famous Napoleon III, who was not yet born and was not to come to power until the mid 1800’s.

But more importantly, the “pact to the devil” is not an event that is simple to pin down, although it has been a story that has been repeated, especially among Christian missionaries and writers, for many years. There are varying versions but they all conclude that during a historic meeting that led to the Haitian revolution, Satan was called upon for help in a Voodoo ceremony and there was a pig sacrificed on the occasion. Some popular versions also claim there is an iron pig monument to the ceremony in the capitol city of Port Au Prince, but that is rumor and the monument does not exist.

Roberson was referring to a meeting that is said to have taken place at Bois-Caïman (or Bwa Kayiman) near Cap-Haitien in Northern Haiti on August 14, 1791 and was led by a man named Duffy Boukman.

Historians seem to agree that such a meeting did happen but there is debate among some scholars about the details and especially the descriptions of the voodoo ceremony.

The event is an important part of Haitian history because it is regarded as the inspirational and organizational launch of Haiti’s War of Independence, which 13 years later marked the only place in the world where African slaves succeeded in ending slavery and building an independent country.

There is a lack of contemporary sources about the voodoo ceremony, however, and the first mention of it seems to be in a book published in 1814 by a French Doctor named Antoine Dalmas. He told of a feast or sacrifice held by black slaves that involved the sacrifice of a pig. He said it was held a week earlier than the Bois-Caïman gathering, however, and about six miles away at a location called Morne Rouge. There are other historic descriptions of the August 14 meeting that do not include the voodoo ritual and there is the suggestion that perhaps the two events got merged in later telling of the story.

Later accounts describe Boukman as a voodoo priest, and a prayer is popularly circulated that was allegedly prayed by Boukman during the ceremony, although that was attached to him long after the event and there are scholars who doubt that he actually prayed it.

Regardless, the Bois-Caïman event, including the voodoo ceremony and the Boukman prayer, has been embraced as an important part of Haitian history and has been retold by everyone from historians to the presidents of Haiti for many years.

Even if the story is true, Haitians object to the accusation that any of that meant that they made a pact with the devil. Satan is not a part of voodoo. They have their own pantheon of various gods representing everything from a creator to deities of rain, thunder, fire, and trees. It was the missionaries, they say, who called their religion satanic and who, then, regarded their rituals as pacts with the devil, but to say that they appealed to Satan and dedicated themselves to him is the result of layering Christian thought on Haitian history.

updated 01/18/09