Learn all about the Secrets of New Orleans Voodoo! New Orleans is famous for Voodoo ~ but what is New Orleans Voodoo? Is Voodoo still practiced today in New Orleans and where did New Orleans Voodoo come from and, ?
We hope you enjoy this fun primer on the secrets of New Orleans Voodoo courtesy of New Orleans Voodoo Priestess Ms. Kalila Smith, co-founder of Haunted History Tours of New Orleans! To learn more about New Orleans Voodoo, New Orleans Voodoo Spells, New Orleans Voodoo History, New Orleans Voodoo Rituals and more, check out the WORLD’S FIRST Authentic Voodoo App for iPhone and Android exclusively from Erzulie’s Authentic Voodoo of New Orleans!
New Orleans Voodoo is a collection of practices handed down through oral tradition from African slaves for the purpose of improving the lives of practitioners. New Orleans Voodoo has evolved over time from a largely African tradition to one that has been influenced by virtually every culture that has lived in South Louisiana, most notably Native American mystical traditions and French and Spanish Catholicism.
New Orleans Voodoo practitioners do “work” to help their clients and themselves to navigate the challenges of life more effectively. This work may consist of burning candles, praying to the angels and/or saints, making Gris-Gris (talismans), or other activities that are designed to influence the outcome of a person’s situation.
How did New Orleans Voodoo develop?
There is some dispute about the origins of New Orleans Voodoo. As one searches the Internet for information, one finds conflicting views about how New Orleans Voodoo evolved into what it is today. Our research indicates that New Orleans has had a rich heritage of African influence since the first slaves came to the French territory beginning in or around 1719. According to Gwendolyn Midlo Hall’s Africans in Colonial Louisiana: The Development of Afro-Creole Culture in the Eighteenth Century, the Louisiana territory, New Orleans in particular, was thoroughly Africanized. On pages 158-159, she writes about the reasons for the strong African influence:
The chaotic conditions prevailing in the colony, the knowledge and skills of the African population, the size and importance of the Indian population throughout the eighteenth century, and the geography of lower Louisiana, which allowed for easy mobility along its waterways as well as escape and survival in the nearby, pervasive swamps, all contributed to an unusually cohesive and heavily Africanized culture in lower Louisiana: clearly, the most Africanized slave culture in the United States.
Given these remarks, it is easy to conclude that the religious practices of Africans survived, in part, for the same reasons. It already has been established by others’ research that the numbers of slaves that actually came to North America straight from Africa were relatively small as compared to those sent to Latin America
(particularly Brazil and present-day Honduras) and the Caribbean. Further, the slaves in North America routinely were mixed up and sold off by the slave-owners, most likely on purpose, to discourage the slaves from banding together into tribal groups that might have given strength to potential uprisings. However, unlike in Haiti, where a long period of isolation after the Haitian Revolution afforded the culture an opportunity to flourish relatively undisturbed, the slaves of North America never had such a period during which to more fully reconstruct their religious practices. The constant watch of government and church officials made it more challenging to maintain the religious side of the African practices, particularly, after the Americans purchased the Louisiana territory. Hence, the organized and outward practice of the religions tended to fall by the wayside in favor of the “work,” which could be done individually and in private without arousing the suspicions of the authorities.
The major dispute that we have found in our research is whether or not the slaves that ended up thrown together managed to overcome language and cultural barriers to sufficiently to develop a solid lineage of Voodoo similar to what developed in Haiti or Santo Domingo. This question may never be adequately addressed. What we do know is that the strong African influences in South Louisiana had an impact on all segments of the culture, French, Spanish, Creole, and American.
Since African slaves and their descendants were the nannies, maids and confidants of many a slave holder (whether white or black Creoles) and the children, the ways of the Africans often made their way into non-slave culture in and around New Orleans in a way that may not have occurred in other parts of the US. It is not uncommon to hear accounts of non-blacks (women in particular) talking about the charms their nannies or chambermaids gave them to help them with some problem or another. Naturally, many of these charms were likely passed down by generations, even within the white families of Louisiana. How much has been lost is difficult to ascertain; fortunately, much has been retained through family lore.
Is New Orleans Voodoo the same as Haitian or Dominican Vodou?
Although Haitian and Dominican Vodou share certain components with New Orleans Voodoo, they are not the same. The fundamental difference seems to be less emphasis on the African religious traditions and more emphasis on the “work” in New Orleans Voodoo. The recent resurgence of interest in African religions throughout the US may change this, however, as more people from the US involve themselves in the traditional religious practices as practiced in the Caribbean, Latin America and Africa. Haitian and Dominican practitioners of Vodou honor their ancestors and the Loa, spirits that intercede in human life on a regular basis. In New Orleans Voodoo, there is largely emphasis on doing work, perhaps with the help of the Archangels and Saints of the Catholic religious pantheon.
What is the difference between New Orleans Voodoo and Hoodoo?
New Orleans Voodoo actually may be equated with Hoodoo in other parts of the country, although some would dispute this. Hoodoo tends to refer to the knowledge and practice of the “work” of the spirit without the strong emphasis on the religion. Voodoo, as practiced in New Orleans, tends to have the same emphasis, although some modern-day priests and priestesses initiated in Haiti, Benin, and other counties are working to bring back the emphasis on religion that has been lost over time.
People who practice Hoodoo in other parts of the country might be called root workers or root doctors as opposed to priests or priestesses of a religion. In New Orleans, practitioners of Voodoo may be called Doctor, Deacon, Bishop, Priestess, Queen, or any other number of titles. This may be, in part, because the influence of organized Christian religions on the region encouraged root workers to adopt titles such as these in order to establish their authority in an otherwise decentralized tradition.
Modern-day New Orleans Voodoo has been greatly influenced by a revival of interest in Voodoo that began during the late sixties and early seventies, in part due to tourism in the area, as well as the influence of Latin American and Caribbean cultures (particularly Cuban Santeria/Lukumi). It is not uncommon to find New Orleans Voodoo practitioners working with both the Orisha and the Loa.
Why are Catholic saints used in New Orleans Voodoo?
New Orleans was, until fairly recently, predominantly a Catholic city. One could argue that even now New Orleans is one of the most Catholic cities in the United
States. We have more Catholic churches per capita than almost every other US city of similar size. This is because until the Americans purchased the Louisiana territory, the controlling powers were either France or Spain, both historically Roman Catholic countries. Just as the African slaves in Haiti, Santo Domingo, and Brazil and the Natives of Latin America disguised their spirits under the Catholic saints, so did the slaves of South Louisiana. The major difference between what occurred in Latin America and the Caribbean versus South Louisiana seems to be the loss of the clear connection between the African entities and their catholic counterparts over time.
Is there an ethical construct in New Orleans Voodoo?
Technically, there is no standard of ethics in Voodoo; however, like all of life, we must remember that action leads to reaction. We would say use caution and do unto others as you would like others to do unto you. This does not protect you from evil intent; however, it protects your spirit from guilt which might weaken you if someone does do something that requires protective action on your part.
What do I do if I think someone has done work against me?
There are many spiritual remedies for such a situation in the New Orleans Voodoo tradition and it is ALWAYS best to consult with a Voodoo practitioner to determine the best course of ritual action. It will always help you to start your spiritual cleansings as well the moment you sense something has been done against you. It’s better to be safe than sorry as these types of negative works have a way of festering into a far more serious situation.