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Voodoo in close up

Despite being widely practised, the voodoo religion remains covert, shrouded in mystery amid whisperings of possession, zombies and magic. But photographer Gael Turine has gained rare access to voodoo rituals, managing to capture the amazing traditions and present an up-close view of its practises.

Traditionally spelled ‘vodou’ or ‘vodrun’, often to disassociate the negative implications of Westernised ‘voodoo’, the religion’s rituals are usually inaccessible to the uninitiated, its teachings complex and largely passed down by mouth, its worshippers protective against prying eyes.

The syncretic religion was brought to Haiti with the Africans deported as slaves in the 16th to the 19th Century. Over time voodooists, as they are sometimes called, combined their worship with Christian practises enforced under slavery, which is why there are strong parallels between the Catholic and voodoo calendars.

Turine’s photographs were taken in Benin, Haiti and among diasporic voodoo communities in the USA, thus charting the religion's main trajectory. Her images show the objects and animals of ritual, followers in trances channelling “Lwa” (spirits or deities),and dancing wildly at annual festivals.

Most strikingly, Turine was admitted to Haiti’s Ville-Bonheur “Water Jump,” a gushing waterfall in which worshippers wash themselves and appeal to the Lwa of Erzulie.

Voodoo , a book charting the history of voodoo, extrapolating its more unusual characteristics, the influences of other religions, and illustrated by Turine’s stunning photographs is available later this month, published by Lannoo.

Click here to view Turine’s images and to find out more Warning! Contains nudity