New Orleans Voodoo

by M-Gillies

The making of Voodoo dolls, poppets, fetishes, and ritual effigies has taken place since antiquity. The practice of sticking pins in dolls has history in European folk magic, but its exact origins are unclear.

Reflecting the duality of the rattlesnake, in which its poison is toxic but also integral in order to cure the ailments it inflicts, Voodoo or Vodoun, has long found its roots in the trauma of other people.

The art of Voodoo, which encompasses culture, heritage, philosophy, art, dance, language, medicine, music, justice, storytelling and ritual; is seen as a way of looking at and dealing with life, in which it heals and destroys, is both good and bad, and is simple in concept but complex in practice.

Taking spiritual belief systems strongly influenced by the ancient Voodoo religion of Africa, the Vodoun religion of Haiti, the healing practices of Native Americans and the folk magic of Europe, the esoteric knowledge that forms the foundation of modern day magic, witchcraft and Voodoo began with ancient cultures and mystics.

Originating in Africa, it was Christopher Columbus who acted as a catalyst in setting the stage for the emergence of Voodoo in 1492, when countless Tainos were murdered in an attempt to enslave them during the colonization of Hispaniola.

As the slave trade between west and Central Africa began, the French acquired one-third of Hispaniola in 1607 and worked the slaves literally to death, with the average survival rate of slaves at the time being roughly 10 years. Because of this staggering number, the slave population was ripe for continual replenishment, and being diversified with many different tribes representing many religions, languages and belief systems, grew from several thousand to half a million.

Believing that by separating families and individual nations, the slave population would not unite as one people, the Africans found commonalities in each other’s religious beliefs and began practicing each other’s religious rites. Taking the surviving Taino Indians influence over the practice of healing arts, as well as the folk magic of European servants, the practice of Voodoo was soon masked in the beliefs of Catholicism.

Through this conglomeration of diverse cultural belief systems Voodooism flourished. Believing in the existence of one supreme god, practitioners of Voodoo gave offerings to Loa, spirits below the one supreme god. These Loa came in the form of family, love, happiness, justice, health, wealth, work, harvest, hunt, revenge, and to ensure the success in these areas, each Loa was given its own preferred offering.

During this time, the Catholic church began threatening the Voodooists by penalty of death and quickly drove its practice underground. However, in forcing the secrecy of Voodoo, practitioners began seeing similarities in their Loa to those of Saints and adopted Catholic traditions into their practice.

Meanwhile, in the Spanish Islands, the new religion was known as the Worship of the Saints, and while the practice of Voodoo was done in secret, it wasn’t until the infamous slave uprising in Haiti in 1804 that Creole planters migrated to the shores of southern Louisiana. It was here, in New Orleans that the slaves became avid practitioners of the ancient Vodoun and Yoruba religions, enriched and revitalized by the slave populations that grew.

As time passed, the New Orleans practice of Voodoo diversified further, taking on many subcategories such as Spiritualist Reverends and Mothers who formed their own churches, Hoodoos who practiced spells and superstitions, and traditionalists who use Voodoo as a positive search for ancient roots and wisdom.

While some have considered Voodoo as a mystical art embodied by the worship of Satan and heavily influenced by Pagan rituals, it wasn’t until the early 1930s when Hollywood commercialized the underground religious movement with its 1932 film, White Zombie.

Today, Voodoo has become a major tourist attraction in the city of New Orleans, with daily tours being offered to view the New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum, the St. Louis Cemetery and the New Orleans French Quarter, as well as shops catering the sale of charms, gris-gris, candles and powders.

Read more:

A Brief History of Voodoo Dolls | New Orleans Voodoo Hoodoo

More on Voodoo Dolls | MySendoff.com

A Brief History of Voodoo | Omplace.com

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