If the term “voodoo” immediately conjures up thoughts of pain-inflicting pin push dolls and evil curses, then you’ve watched one too many horror movies. While many countries around the world still practice this centuries-old religion, New Orleans Voodoo culture still receives a lot of attention here in the States. To clear up any confusion about what this practice is (and isn’t) here’s a closer look at the Voodoo religion.
Voodoo Origins in Louisiana
The original Voodoo practice was brought to Louisiana via slaves from West Africa. Finding themselves in a world completely different from where they came from, the Africans fused their religious rituals and traditions with those of the local Catholic population in Louisiana. This hybrid is known as Voodoo-Catholicism, a unique religion linked to nature, spirits, and family from the past. Voodoo flourished after the 1791 slave revolt in Haiti. Free people of color flocked to New Orleans, but they made sure voodoo remained an integral part of their culture despite being immersed in a completely new society.
Spirits play an important role in voodoo culture. Loas (loa in Haitian Creole) are the mediators between the Bon Dieu (good God) and humanity. Unlike the saints and angels of the Catholic world, Loas are not prayed to. Each Loa is served differently through specific songs, ritual symbols, dances, sacred rhythms, and unique approaches to service. With that in mind, no two Voodoo ceremonies or rituals are exactly alike.
These early rituals were known to have a strong effect on anyone in attendance. The Loas would communicate with the living through vivid dreams and even trances where the spirit would temporarily borrow a person’s body in order to manifest its characteristics.
Prominent Voodoo Figures in New Orleans
Two names you should know in New Orleans Voodoo culture are Doctor John and Marie Laveau. Doctor John, an African man from the Congo, was known for his keen ability to cure almost every ailment that was brought to his attention. He’s one of the first recorded (and credible) Voodoo priests as he had the innate ability to bring people of every race, color, and social status together at his home on Bayou Road where he hosted Voodoo ceremonies.
Marie Laveau (who was supposedly mentored by Doctor John) was the most famous, most powerful, and longest-reigning) Voodoo Queen.in New Orleans. She is known for infusing specific aspects of Catholicism, such as hymns and the Virgin Mary, into the Voodoo religion.
Voodoo in New Orleans Today
Voodoo is still practiced in New Orleans today to serve others and influence life events concerning spirits and ancestors. Some choose to engage in a personal ritual to banish feelings of depression or loneliness, to cure anxiety or an addiction, or to help the less fortunate.
If you’re curious about Voodoo, the city regularly hosts visitor-friendly ceremonies throughout the year, so research the current schedule of events before your next trip. In the French Quarter, you’ll find that many shop owners celebrate Hoodoo, the non-religious belief in Voodoo objects (including gris-gris voodoo dolls), so you can purchase spiritual baths, candles, incense, readings, and other knick-knacks without being tied to the religion itself. You’ll also find more legit shops, such as Botanica Macumba, that real practitioners use.
If you want to take a deeper dive, forget about visiting a New Orleans psychic. Take a trip to the Voodoo Spiritual Temple in New Orleans and have an authentic Voodoo reading with Miriam Chamani, a Voodoo Priestess with 24-plus years of experience. She specializes in personal readings, empowerment consultations, curse removal, weddings, lectures, blessings, and more.