The practice of Voodoo is probably as old as the African continent itself.
Sometimes written Voudou, Vodou,or Voudun,the word itself means God, Creator, or Great Spirit. It has been greatly distorted and misunderstood. Human sacrifices, vampires, dripping blood and devil worship all make the stuff of spooky novels and Hollywood movies. Yet none of these ever belonged to Voodoo. Voodoo is s religion that encourages its participants to better understand the natural processes of life and their own spiritual natures.
Louisiana Voodoo, also known as New Orleans Voodoo or Creole Voodoo, is an African religion displaced but found a new home in Louisiana. It combines rites from the traditional religions of West Africa, Roman Catholicism, and Haitian Vodou. The religion existed from the 18th century through to the early 20th, at which point it had died out. Then it experienced a revival in an altered form in the late 20th century.
Historical records reveal the names of various deities worshipped in Voodoo. Prominent among them were Blanc Dani, the Grand Zombi, and Papa Lébat. Spirits of the dead also played a prominent role in Voodoo. Some contemporary practitioners regard the religion as a form of ancestor worship. Historical accounts suggest that in the 19th century, Catholic saints played a prominent role although the 20th century with the revival the veneration of deities from other African displaced religions became more common.
In the early 19th century, many migrants fleeing the Haitian Revolution arrived in Louisiana, bringing with them Haitian Vodou, which contributed to the formation of Louisiana Voodoo.
Although the religion was never banned, its practice was restricted through a range of laws regulating when and where black people could assemble. Practiced clandestinely, it spread up the Mississippi River to Missouri.
During the 19th century, several prominent practitioners, such as Marie Laveau and Doctor John, attracted considerable attention. By the early 20th century, the public practice of Voodoo had heavily declined. After the 1960s, the New Orleans tourist industry increasingly used references to Voodoo to attract visitors.
Although originating among African communities in New Orleans, Louisiana Voodoo has included white participants since at least the 19th century. And, some contemporary Voodoo groups have a majority-white membership. The religion has long faced opposition from non-practitioners, who have characterized it as witchcraft and devil-worship, and many sensationalist portrayals of the religion have been featured in popular culture.
Voodoo and the New Orleans Saints
Practitioners sometimes performed rituals to deal with specific issues. in 1995, Voodoo practitioners held a ritual in the Bywater area of New Orleans to try to drive away crack cocaine abuse, burglaries, prostitution, and assaults. In 2001, the Voodoo priestess Ava Kay Jones performed a rite to drive harmful spirits away from the New Orleans Saints football team in the hope of improving their performance.
Debora Ragland Buerk
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