The practice of Voodoo as we know it in today’s society has its origins in Louisiana which derived originally from those who were brought there from Africa as a result of the slave trade.
Voodoo is a form of African folk magic that uses herbs, poisons and rituals utilizing charms or amulets to protect oneself from harm and the like which became a primary aspect of early Louisiana Voodoo.
The beliefs of the African slaves had to be adapted to match their surroundings. Being that their religion was perpetuated through oral tradition mainly, they didn’t have anything in writing and were able to morph their beliefs of their deities and spirits into the form of the Saints in Catholicism that were followed within the French Colony.
The followers of Voodoo believe in one spirit, which they call ‘vudu’, which can become involved in human affairs at any given moment. They can be seen as mischievous spirits or beneficent depending on the circumstances. The main focus however of Louisiana Voodoo is to serve others with the assistance of nature, spirits as well as the ancestors.
Voodoo practitioners are known for their use of human particulates such as hair, skin or nails within their charms and amulets thus creating a direct metaphysical link between the charm and the person they are working either for or against.
The combination of the Catholic influence over time made it possible for the slaves at the time to also use holy water from the church or candles and incense, even holy bread or crucifixes as part of their rites, which they believed added more potency. Often times they would evoke protection from Jesus or Jehovah as an adaptation of their one God represented in different forms.
Within the voodoo practice there are ranks, the primary of which is Voodoo Queen. This person would run ceremonial meetings or dances and would be able to actually earn money giving out magical powders, spells, and charms that were guaranteed to cure or curse, depending on the situation.
One of the most notorious Voodoo Queens is Marie Laveau, commonly known as the Queen of New Orleans. The moment that Marie came on the scene in New Orleans, she systematically overthrew the previously residing queens deeming them corrupt and became the solitary ‘ruler’ so to speak of the voodoo practitioners in that region.
Marie Laveau was known to be a kind of psychic or oracle, and to have performed many exorcisms. She encouraged the offering of sacrifices to spirits within the community and one of the most interesting facts about Marie is that she was also a devout follower of Catholicism and would often encourage her followers to attend weekly Mass. Many remember her as a compassionate woman whose desires stemmed toward helping those who were less fortunate.
In modern times, thousands upon thousands visit the Tomb of Marie Laveau in New Orleans to ask her for help or favors. It is said that if you draw three ‘X’s on her grave that your desire will come true. But remember that the Saint Louis Cemetery #1 is a heavily crime filled area, so make sure that you do not get stuck there alone after dark!
By Flo Saul
Nov 7, 2012