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Haitian Vodou: Amazing Ceremonial Photos From LIFE.com (GRAPHIC IMAGES)

First Posted: 07/13/11 01:26 PM ET   Updated: 09/12/11 06:12 AM ET

Having traveled extensively in Haiti over the years, LIFE.com photographer Anthony Karen offers an inside look at Haitian Vodou, one of the world's most misunderstood religions.

For Karen, who has become known for his extensive documentation of "self-marginalizing" groups including the Ku Klux Klan, Vodou was a natural subject choice. "About 13 years ago," he told LIFE.com, "I was in a difficult, transitional point in my life. Out of nowhere, I felt Haiti calling to me. I traveled there, and saw two Vodou ceremonies in person. On the same trip, I discovered my passion for photojournalism."

To view Karen's incredible full gallery of a June 2011 Haitian Vodou ceremony, click here. (NOTE: Photos may be disturbing to some viewers)

Take a look at a selection of Karen's gallery, along with the photographer's thoughts on the ceremony, below.

All images and captions are shown courtesy of LIFE.com.

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Of Vodou's unique appeal and power Karen tells LIFE: "It's raw, and it's primitive. The harmonious singing and rhythmic beats of the drums can be hypnotic to an open mind. I'm not like a lot of photographers, who take pictures without so much as talking to the people they document. I've shared in plates of communal offerings, danced with the priests [Hougans] and the priestesses (Mambos), and I've downed my fair share of special religious elixirs with them. I won't even get into the cleansing ritual preformed on me involving the blood of a chicken."
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