Somebody's gotta voodoo it

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Mike Rowe's "Somebody's Gotta Do It" airs at 9 p.m. ET/PT Thursdays on CNN.

(CNN)Is there a religion in the world more misunderstood than voodoo?

Voodoo, more often spelled "Vodou" by its practitioners, is a "surprisingly robust religion that most people associate with a long series of stereotypes reinforced by Hollywood, literature and pop culture," according to Mike Rowe, host of CNN's "Somebody's Gotta Do It."
On Thursday's episode, Rowe travels to New Orleans to strip away the stereotypes with the help of Sallie Ann Glassman, who grew up a "nice Jewish girl in Maine" and is now a Vodou priestess, or mambo.
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It's predominantly practiced in Haiti, as well as Cuba, Trinidad, Brazil and the Southern United States, especially Louisiana. In fact, roughly half the Haitian population practices Vodou, according to the Central Intelligence Agency.
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    It combines elements of Roman Catholicism with those of western African tribal religions, and made its way to the Western Hemisphere via the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
    "The unity of all forces of nature is a central Vodou notion," according to Claudine Michel, a professor of Black Studies at UC Santa Barbara. "The connection between the living and the spirits, the Earth, the land and various bodies of water is important in that all work together to seek balance and restore harmony and rhythm."
    As Glassman explains to Rowe, for the slaves "the whole Vodou practice was a technology for reaching into that invisible world and pulling through great power."
    Though not ready to be initiated into Vodou's secrets, Rowe joined Glassman in making offerings to a few of the many Loa, or spirits of Vodou. A special offering was made to Legba the gatekeeper, who has a taste for rum and peanuts -- a trait Rowe admits to sharing.
    After his Vodou experience, Rowe notes "all religious rituals serve a practical purpose beyond the demonstration of faith. With Vodou, these rituals were a way for a completely powerless people to take back a little control over their own lives and you don't need to be enslaved to understand the importance of that."
    See more of Rowe's Vodou experience on "Somebody's Gotta Do It," Thursday at 9 p.m. ET/PT.
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