Anthropologist Laguerre here groups seven previous papers dealing with different aspects of voodoo from colonial times to the Duvalier era. The best chapters, which draw on field work, are those concerning pilgrimage, the Bizango secret society, and the Duvalier regime. Three chapters on the preindependence period, based essentially on printed works, are notably weaker. The earliest written, they take no account of most of the relevant historical work of the last twenty years or even of such ethnographic classics as Mintz and Price’s Anthropological Approach to the Afro-American Past (1976) or R. F. Thompson’s Flash of the Spirit (1983). Long-outdated ideas, such as Dahomey’s supposed dominance of the colonial slave trade, consequently are perpetuated.

Laguerre uncritically expounds familiar theories about voodoo’s links with rebellion and fugitive slaves and in general tends to present hypotheses as fact. He also ignores work on modern voodoo by Gerald Murray and Jean Kerboull, and he depicts the secret societies as by-products of cimarronaje with no consideration of African precedent. Although he breaks with earlier Haitian writers in stressing regional variation in voodoo, he does little to illustrate the point, and his argument that it was ecologically determined is not substantiated. Confident assertions about the religion’s pattern of development, its common and variant features, and slave resistance are supported by little evidence. The manuscript bibliography is a listing of miscellaneous documents partly copied from Vaissière’s Saint Domingue (1909). While the book, which is poorly copyedited, may serve as a useful introduction to the topic, it might mislead as well as inform.