In America, New Orleans is often associated with two
things: Mardi Gras and Voodoo. Although only approximately 15-20% of
the population of Louisiana practices the religion of voodoo (also
known as Vodou), its dark allure has captured the attention of many.
Tourists visiting New Orleans regularly seek out voodoo attractions and
shops selling voodoo-related items, tantalized by stories of voodoo
dolls, possession by evil spirits, voodoo curses, and zombies.
such fare undoubtedly serves to entertain tourists, it does an
injustice to the true meaning of traditional voodoo. Some sects of
modern voodoo are indeed occultist in origin, but traditional voodoo
has much more in common with wicca and Native American beliefs, and
Traditional voodoo is intended to help
practitioners achieve a higher state of consciousness through
trancelike communions with the natural spirits of the earth, called
Loa, and to attain peace and wisdom.
The reemergence of voodoo in
New Orleans and its widespread acceptance in Louisiana can be largely
attributed to Marie Laveau. Marie Laveau was the daughter of a
Frenchman, Charles Laveau , and a Caribbean, Marguerite Darcantel, who
was a practitioner of voodoo. Modern voodoo in New Orleans today is a
combination of Marie Laveau's practices and other influences from
Haiti, Christianity, and Native Americans.
While Marie Laveau was
certainly not the first nor the last voodoo practitioner to be held in
high regard, she was certainly one of the most influential during a
time period when voodoo was beginning to be accepted again.
Laveau was very well known for her expert knowledge of herbal remedies,
and was sought out for her preparation of gris-gris bags. These were
small pouches that contained a variety of herbs that were worn by the
recipient, and were intended for a number of purposes. The correct
combination of herbs could effectively ward off evil spirits or hexes,
bring good luck to the wearer, or to cause harm to enemies. Gris-gris
bags are still very common today in New Orleans, and can often be seen
being worn attached to individuals belts.
Marie Laveau also told
fortunes, captured evil spirits in specially prepared jars, and helped
cleanse a home of negative energy and bad luck. Her fame spread far
beyond the borders of New Orleans, and people traveled far to seek out
her services. Her gravesite is a popular tourist attraction, but is
well respected. Many who visit the location to pay their respects often
make a wish as well, believing that Marie Laveau was so powerful that
her spirit is still capable of granting help to those who require it.
of Marie Laveau, voodoo in New Orleans is taken very seriously, and
there are many who fear its power. Voodoo is not something to be taken
lightly and dabbled with by the uninitiated. It is a powerful force
best left to those who possess a strong understanding of its natural
aspects and are well versed in the sacred rituals.
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