I just got back from an amazing week in Louisiana. It was my first time visiting, and I couldn’t have enjoyed it more. From Shreveport to The Big Easy, Louisiana was one of the most unique and friendly places I’ve traveled in the US. The occult, and what some might call fringe religions, always peak my interest. So, I was more than excited to learn more about Louisiana Voodoo.
To my disappointment, most of the ‘Voodoo Shopes’ in the French Quarter consist of tee-shirts and keychains. My search for gris-gris bags and authentic voodoo dolls, was all for naught. However, this was a trip with my family, so I’m certain if I had extended my reach beyond more touristy locales I would have had better luck. Still interested, I found myself in research mode, and I learned about true Louisiana Voodoo.
Louisiana Voodoo: The Origins
Voodoo came to America in the early 1700’s. Introduced to Louisiana by slaves from West Africa and Haiti, its original form was Voudon. However, Voudon became quickly intertwined with Christianity. Catholicism in particular was the religion imposed on slaves upon their arrival in the States. The saints of Catholicism melded well with the spirits of the Voudon religion, as a result Louisiana Voodoo as we know it today was created.
The Voodoo Belief System
Voodoo is a monotheistic religion. The followers of Voodoo believe in Bondye, the supreme God and Creator. More notably, they believe that Bondye does not interact in human affairs – and that they must communicate with him through the Loa (lesser deity spirits). The Loa are separated into three groups, Rada, Petro, and Ghede.
Rada Loa are mostly benevolent spirits, associated with creativity and sometimes with the color white. Petro Loa are more aggressive spirits, associated with darker matters, and sometimes the color red. Ghede Loa are carnal spirits, associated with death, and sometimes the color black.
Voodoo Traditions and Practices
Followers of Voodoo hold rituals, usually behind closed doors, to commune with the Spirits (Loa). These rituals are generally lead by a hougan (priest) or a mambo (priestess) and usually involve the following practices:
Dance plays an important role in Voodoo. Ceremonies and Rituals take place with music, most often loud drumming. Practitioners dance to the music in hopes of a possession buy the Loa.
Believers pray to the Loa. Most often they ask for good health or relief from anxiety. They pray to help the hungry and the poor.
Practitioners sometimes make sacrificial offerings to the Loa. This is due to a belief that the Loa can become tired and weak. Consequently, They offer animal sacrifices to transfer their energies back to the Spirits.
Voodoo Dolls and Zombies
The most sensationalized aspects of the Voodoo Religion are Voodoo Dolls and Zombies. While they both play a small roll in Voodoo, neither are quite what the media makes them out to be.
Stories of Zombies in Voodoo refer to someone brought back from the dead through magical means, as a shell of their former selves. No brain consumption required. And the term Zombi, originated from a specific Voodoo Loa.
Voodoo Dolls have been and are still used in Voodoo, just as poppets are used in other religions. Rather than being a only tool to harm others, most often practitioners use the dolls to focus beneficial energies on themselves or those they care about. It is also another way of connecting with a Loa, pinning the spirit to a physical form – which is why personal items are traditionally pinned to the doll. Voodoo dolls are one of many forms of representational magic.
I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about Louisiana Voodoo as much as I have. Let me know what you think in the comments!
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