Random Topic Tuesday~History of Voodoo In New Orleans

In hopes of inspiring our muses or keeping them motivated I have decided to start a Random Topic Tuesday.
I’ll pick a random topic and provide information and then you can take it and run with it however you like. Maybe it could be a trait you can add to your characters, back story, a scene setting or maybe it will spark other ideas for you and your muse. Or it could just be something enjoyable and informative for you to come here and read. Bring your muse with you whether they come willingly or you have to drag them kicking and screaming. Enjoy. 😉

Vodou is religion, culture, heritage and philosophy. It is a way of life and a way of dealing with life. It is art, medicine, language, music, dance, justice, storytelling, power and ritual.

There is a long history of Voodoo dating back to Christopher Columbus. It originated in regions of Africa before the Europeans started the slave trade, but it really came to fruition when there was forced immigration of African slaves that allowed for it’s development. But I’m telling you how it was brought to Louisiana.

In the research I have done, I found that Voodoo in New Orleans started in the early 1700’s when the colony of Louisiana was not yet stable. A majority of slaves were brought over from Benin, West Africa and according to a census that was done, the ratio of African slaves to Europeans was more than two to one, which allowed the culture to maintain a prominent position in the slave community. They had a vast knowledge of herbs, poisons, and the ritual creation of charms and amulets. They had their religious beliefs, cultural practices and language. These all became elements of Louisiana Voodoo.

The African culture was preserved because only a few number of white settlers were allowed the ownership  of slaves. In 1807 the Embargo Act ended all slave imports to Louisiana and there were laws prohibiting separation of families. Any child under the age of fourteen was sold along with both parents.The high mortality rate of slaves created a bond and kinship with the survivors of the slave community, which resulted in a strong African culture and spirituality that thrived in French Creole culture.

Acceptance of African belief allowed them to incorporate Catholic practices into Louisiana Voodoo.
Slaves had the belief in spirits which is central to Voodoo in Louisiana. The spirits preside over matters such as family, love, justice and everyday life situations. Once French Creole replaced native African languages, the spirits were no longer called by their original African names, but by the names of Catholic Saints. Many practices from the Catholic traditions were integrated into what is known as today’s New Orleans Voodoo.

Voodoo Ritual

Voodoo queens became fundamental figures to Voodoo during the 1800’s in the United States. The queens conducted ceremonial meetings and ritual dances and also earned an income by allocating charms, amulets and extraordinary powders to cure ailments, grant desires, and confuse or ruin someone’s enemy. 

Marie Laveau was the most noted Queen of New Orleans in the 1830’s. She was known for her goodness and kind acts. She never turned anyone away who needed help for the better. She would visit the sick and heal them. She served as an oracle that guided private rituals behind her cottage on St. Ann Street of the New Orleans French Quarter. Marie was Catholic and encouraged those who sought her direction to attend Catholic Mass. She is remembered for her skill and compassion for the less fortunate.

 Portrait of Marie Laveau

Marie Laveau died June 16, 1881 on a Wednesday. Visitors go to her tomb to ask favors and leave pound cake across the street with a statue of St. Expedite who is believed to expedite the favors requested of Marie. St. Expedite symbolizes a spirit that rests between life and death. Marie’s tomb has more visitors than that of Elvis Presley. She is not yet considered a Saint but there is a movement to have her canonized.

Once New Orleans became a tourist destination true Voodoo went underground during the 1830’s. Hexing and sticking pins into dolls became a twisted version of Hollywood’s perception that fueled people’s misconstrued beliefs about the religion. At around the same time, those that wanted to thrive from these misconceptions started businesses and charging money for  fake potions, powders and Gris-gris, which a true Voodoo follower would never do. I had a hard time finding the actual origin of Gris-gris but today they are
small cloth bags containing herbs, oils, stones, small bones, hair and nails, pieces of cloth soaked with perspiration and/or other personal items gathered under the directions of a god for the protection of the owner.

 Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo

Louisiana is an orally traditional religion therefore there is no sacred book or canon to follow. It evolves and changes with time in order to adapt to it’s surroundings. Louisiana Voodoo is a melange of beliefs combining elements of African, European, Indian and Roman Catholicism.

Those who follow Voodoo believe in one God and multiple inferior but powerful spirits that handle matters of daily life. The core God does not interfere with with someone’s daily life or spirits that preside over daily life. These spiritual forces which are now named after Saints interject in the lives of those that believe in them. A connection can be achieved through dance, music, singing, and the use of snakes, which represents Legba, who governs the threshold of the spiritual world. This is Voodoo’s main conduit to all others.

Legba Symbol

The serpent represents healing knowledge and connection between heaven and earth. The spirits of ancestors can also intervene in individual lives of followers.

Today, the main focus of Louisiana Voodoo is to serve others and influence the outcome of life events through a connection with ancestors, spirit and nature. A ritual that is held anywhere other than behind closed doors is considered disrespectful to the spirits and not a “true ritual”. Voodoo is used to cure anxiety, addictions, depression, loneliness and other life crippling ailments, helping the hungry, the sick and the poor.

Well, I guess that wraps up the first Random Topic Tuesday.
Until next time
~Live Happy

20 thoughts on “Random Topic Tuesday~History of Voodoo In New Orleans

  1. very interesting. i like the idea of the serpent connecting heaven and earth, as well as spirits accompanying us on our daily journeys. there's a lot in voodoo i can get into. thanks for this.

  2. Wow! I need your researching skills abilities! What a vast amount of info!

    I didn't come close to getting that much info on the gypsy culture for my WIP. I think I just suck at research, though. 🙂

  3. Ed~ Your welcome. I'm glad you could find the similarities that ties all spirituality together. The research I had done this really opened my eyes to many different facets of beliefs and how I can relate and use them also.

    Sherry~ Thank you. 😉

    Suzie~ Research is one of my favorite things to do. 😉

    I have a ton of info on the gypsy culture. It is a topic I researched for a few years and is quite interesting.

    If it's not too late, shoot me an e-mail on what you're looking for and maybe I could help you out if you'd like.

  4. Very fun and enjoyable post. The multiple deities seems to be something utilized by many cultures across the spectrum – perhaps a good equivalent would be the Greek mythos? Zeus being the big Kahuna while the others are prayed to/worshiped for specific attribute or help.

    Great idea for random topics! 🙂

  5. Kim~ Thanks, it does seem as though it's all related somehow.

    Leanne~ Thanks Leanne, thanks a lot. 😉

    Reforming Geek~ Ahhh, let the evil twin read it. Maybe combined you can come with something fabulous! Thanks RG.

    Marty~ Thanks. Now go do that voodoo that you do so well.

  6. G,
    Thanks for stopping by my blog. I'm now a follower of yours.

    Interesting topic on voodoo. A few years back when I visited New Orleans a tour guide told us a voodoo story that scared most of us. I'm not admitting if I was one of the ones scared, however. 🙂

  7. Nancy~ Thanks for stopping by and the positive feedback.

    Crimey~ Yay! Glad you're here. You'll have to share one f your scary stories with us on your blog someday.

    RC~ Good to see you again. That's a good idea. Thanks.

  8. Ah G! Awesome topic. I feel very informed and am letting go of the ridiculous notion of pins, dolls, and spells nonsense.

    Thank you for the research. I love learning new things.

  9. If you enjoy voodoo and aren't familiar with the old game 'Gabriel Knight, Sins of the Fathers' I'd recommend it for its intense voodoo presence and New Orleans sense of culture. I was captivated. 🙂

    Aside from entertainment, voodoo history can give insight to how cultural experience, superstition and limited education can roll together to result in a mishmash religion that to me seems to be the most powerfully spiritual belief to ever have been created. There seems to be an energy within it that emanates over time and distance. There is so much story potential there that has never really been tapped.

    New Orleans is on my todo list. 🙂

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