The belief that Macandal was associated with Voodoo is circulated by followers of the religion, yet there are no documents that indicate Macandal was ever a practitioner of Voodoo or any religion or sect. Reports detail his dedication to higher thought and education. Most leaders of the Haitian Revolution, including Toussaint, were actually opposed to Voodoo and believed it substituted religious dogma and superstition for progress and education. Most revolutionaries throughout the world in the 18th century (the "Age of Enlightenment") were fighting for higher learning and science and trying to break the yoke of the Church.
Notably, Macandal was closely allied with a French Jesuit Priest named Father Duquesnoy, who secretly supported Macandal and fought with him against the slavers. Despite these facts, many prefer to rely on Alejo Carpentier's fanciful depiction of "Mackandal" which portrays him as a Voodoo Priest or Houngan. However, this novel diminishes Macandal and demeans Macandal's true brilliance, his organizing skills and world-changing goals. Carpentier's colorful tale is mostly fantasy relative to Macandal. It is obvious that Macandal's friendship and alliance with a "French, white, Christian" such as Father Duquesnoy was key to his objective and higher calling. Therefore, the claims that Macandal simply wanted all whites or all French killed is also a myth. The evidence depicts a courageous and extraordinary man who disregarded religion, race, sex, nationality and ethnicity to usher in a new and just government.
For over one thousand years, the Greek and Roman empires had battled against the Persian Empire for control of the Middle East. After the fall of Rome, the Greeks formed an alliance with Christian Arabs in order to defeat a series of Persian invasions. The Persians also formed alliances with Arab tribes, paying them to join the fight.
The Greeks believed that God was the Trinity, but Arab Christians rejected this idea, believing that God was a single entity. This dispute led to persecutions and assassinations and eventually the Arabs broke off their alliance with the Greeks. Regional power was now beginning to favor the Arabs, but in order for them to realize this power, they first needed to unite behind a common cause.
Mecca was an important religious center long before the appearance of Islam. Pilgrims journeyed from all over the region to worship the idols contained in its many sacred shrines. The most sacred shrine contained a black meteorite that was believed to have supernatural powers because it had fallen from the heavens.
Muhammad was born around the year 570 in Mecca. His father died before he was born and his mother died when he was still a child, leaving him to be brought up by his grandfather and later by his uncle. As a young man, he traveled with the trading caravans from Mecca to Syria. When he was 25, he married a wealthy older widow and became the manager of her business interests.
Muhammad developed a passion for religion. For years he studied and discussed the Jewish and Christian scriptures and spent much of his time contemplating God in the hillside caves outside of Mecca. He formulated his own uniquely Arab interpretation of religion, based loosely on the biblical scriptures but also incorporating Persian ideas.
Abraham was the mythical forefather of the Jews. His faith in one universal God was said to have been so strong that God promised his descendants possession of the land of Israel. But the Jews had twice been removed from the land, supposedly because of their disobedience to God, and the Christians were guilty of corrupting the faith by claiming that God had a son.
Muhammad believed that the Arab people were also the descendants of Abraham through his first son to an Egyptian slave girl. Muhammad figured that if he could teach the Arabs to embrace Abrahamís original faith in one God, then the Arabs could claim to be the rightful heirs to Abrahamís religious tradition.
When Muhammad was about forty years old, he started preaching to his family and friends. He called his new religion Islam (meaning ďsurrender to GodĒ). He claimed that it was not a new religion but rather an old one that had freed itself from the corruptions of Judaism and Christianity. Muhammad declared himself to be the last of the biblical prophets. Those who accepted Islam would be called Muslims.
Muhammad preached that there is only one God and that he is almighty and all-knowing, and that he represents justice and fairness, kindness to orphans and widows, and charity to the poor. And although God is compassionate, he will inflict harsh punishment upon those who defy him. Muhammadís words had the power to stir the emotions of those who listened ..." -Ch.9
"Muhammad composed verses which were at first committed to memory by his followers and were later written down by scribes to form chapters of his holy book, the Koran. He claimed to have been given his revelations by an angel named Gabriel, although references to the angel in the Koran are vague and open to interpretation. Muhammad summarized the Jewish and Christian scriptures, adapting them to Arab ways. He offered the Arabs a simple interpretation of the Bible written in a style that was easy to understand." -Ch.9
"Muhammad rejected the importance of Christian forgiveness, instead preaching that revenge was the proper form of justice. He reasoned that crime would be discouraged by the fear of revenge." -Ch.9
"The Jewish tribes in Medina were naturally skeptical about his claim to be one of their prophets. They ridiculed him and later conspired against him. His early respect for the Jews turned into bitter resentment. He used his growing power to banish one Jewish tribe from the city. He later accused the remaining tribe of treachery in his war against the Meccans and the men of the tribe were slaughtered.... Having established an Islamic government in Medina, Muhammad introduced new laws and punishments which covered everything from ownership of property to marriage and divorce. Some laws promoted equality and social justice, while others were simply reflections of the existing culture of tribal warfare and harsh desert justice... The Muslims formed alliances with desert tribes and battled for control of the surrounding countryside. Jewish tribes offered fierce resistance against the growing Muslim army but were eventually defeated. Those who did not convert to Islam were put to the sword and their women and children enslaved." -Ch.9
"Muhammad preached that it was the duty of all Muslim men to fight for the establishment of an Islamic world empire. He said that defeated populations must accept Islam or be put to the sword. Jews and Christians were to be offered the alternative of paying a special tax for being non-Muslims... Muhammad later decreed that there should be no other religion in Arabia than Islam. Faced with a choice between conversion and death, some Christians chose to die, while many others converted their churches into mosques... The Koran contains laws for managing slaves. Muslim men were permitted to keep any number of female sex slaves. This provided a strong motivation for his followers to go out and conquer in the name of Islam." Ch.9
"Convinced that God and history were on their side, an army of warriors on horseback set out to complete Muhammadís mission to bring the entire world under the political control of Islam. Any gold or other riches taken from the conquered lands were to be shared among the Arab tribes, encouraging them to stay in the federation... The enormous riches gained from the early conquest had given the Arabs a luxurious standard of living. For the next few decades they feasted and made love to their slave girls until the population had increased sufficiently to make further conquest possible. Arab armies were soon pushing onwards in every direction... They captured all of North Africa and then moved north into parts of Spain and Portugal." -Ch.9
"Arabic became the common language of the Islamic Empire, and the surviving works of Greek science and philosophy were translated into Arabic... The Muslims established schools and libraries throughout their empire, and while the Church was prohibiting scientific inquiry in Europe, Muslim scholars were busy making important contributions to astronomy and medicine... While European mathematics was being held back by the use of unwieldy Roman numerals, Muslim scholars had adopted the decimal number system and were busy making progress in the development of new mathematical techniques like algebra." -Ch.9
In my historical fiction novel Black Millennium we pick up the story in the 15th Century just before the European ("Christian") slave traders and Portuguese warships reach the east coast of Africa to burn the new Muslim/Swahili cities to the ground and fill their ship's coffers up with gold and slaves. It is here, just before this cataclysm, that we meet Yasi, an African Muslim medical doctor from a village just outside of Kilwa, traveling along merrily with his mischievous young son....
Mackendal was not a Voodoo Priest or Houngan, nor did he practice Islam or Christianity though all these religions have laid claim on him to perpetuate religious ideology.
Makandal was not a Voodoo Priest or Houngan, nor did he practice Islam or Christianity though all these religions have laid claim on him to perpetuate religious ideology.
Mackandal was not a Voodoo Priest or Houngan, nor did he practice Islam or Christianity though all these religions have laid claim on him to perpetuate religious ideology.
Mark Davis is the foremost authority on Francois Macandal ©1996, 2008 All Rights Reserved